Meals with D

Date Visited: Winterlicious dinner on Wednesday Feb 11, 2015
Company: Reservation for 6

Canyon Creek Chophouse was the restaurant I chose for this year's Winterlicious dinner with university friends. It was between that or Joe Badali's which were right next to each other and in hindsight, I probably should have chosen the latter. It was a packed night when I entered the restaurant around 6:45PM, they didn't have our table ready until 7PM on the dot. We were seated at a table in the far most corner of the large maze-like restaurant close to the kitchen. Our table for 6 was a very tight squeeze and was probably meant for only 4. When we were looking at the menu, we noticed that they didn't even give us the Winterlicious page and had to wait a long time for a waiter to return and then request it. Once we ordered, we got some warm, fresh bread with honey butter to start, so delicious.

For the appetizer, I got the Potato Dill Soup, creamy potato, diced garlic pickles, with sour cream, chives, and fresh dill. The presentation was nice and the soup looked pretty good but after the first few sips, all you can really taste is pickle. I didn't even read that it would have little pieces of pickles in the soup, I thought it was just going to taste of dill. It was a really weird combination and just didn't work for me. Near the end of the bowl, all that was left was basically pickles. The proportions were really off and the broth and potatoes were lost in the flavour.

I ordered the Peruvian Chicken, marinated and grilled double chicken breast, roasted red jacket potatoes and red peppers in aji amarillo chili sauce with jalapeno crema for my main. I was thinking about getting the Striploin but the waiter told +Gisele that it came medium-rare and they couldn't change that?? I'm glad though because when we did get some steaks, they were all different portion sizes. The Chicken looked like the better option, larger portion and lots of colour on the plate. Unfortunately, it didn't taste as good as it looked. The chicken was really dry and rather plain, they tried to dress it up with the sauces but made it too spicy. There were a lot of flavours from all the sauces but I'm not quite sure what I was eating as you couldn't taste the chicken at all. The fresh peppers were a random and unnecessary addition to the plate. The only redeeming part of the dish was the potatoes which were a bit crispy and everyone at the table seemed to enjoy them.

Finally, for dessert I ordered the Chili Chocolate Pot de Creme. I was warned prior to my visit that that dessert it has a kick to it but I was still intrigued and wanted to try it for myself. The chocolate taste of it was great, rich and thick, but the chili slowly creeps up at the back of your throat. It kind of scared me so I only had it in small bites while others downed the thing and got the kick all at once. I really wish it didn't have the chili part because it did taste pretty good but left a weird taste in my mouth.

Our waiter was also the hardest person to get a hold of, +Stephen was coming late and we wanted to put an order in for him but he was no where to be found. +Gisele said it was the worst service she's ever experienced. He was always friendly when he was around, but he was never there. Either way, I don't think it could have redeemed our meal at Canyon in any way. It's sad that the best part of the meal is the free bread and honey butter.

Food: 0.5/5 - Terrible meal, didn't enjoy any of the three courses.
Decor: 2/5 - Very standard looking chain restaurant.
Service: 0/5 - So bad, I'm not even sure if we had a waiter.
Willingness to go back: 1/5 - I would never recommend it to anyone but I've seen so many great reviews on this place so I could be convinced to return.
Overall: 1/5


Canyon Creek Chophouse on Urbanspoon
Date Visited: Dinner on Saturday Feb 7, 2015
Company: Kitchener reunion with +Krystal

During a trip down to Kitchener for a birthday party, +Will and I met up with +Krystal prior to the festivities for a catch-up dinner. We were staying at a hotel in the city so after looking up some places nearby for food, we came up with the Bent Elbow. Luckily, Krystal had been there before and said the place was awesome! We walked down the street from our hotel and got a table for 4 to wait for Krystal's arrival. The place was a good size with a comfortable number of tables, most of which were already full. Our waitress introduced us to their beer bible which listed their draught and bottle selection, one on each page. When Krystal arrived, we all ordered a beer to start... it took a while to look since there was quite the selection. And because their taps are always rotating, the first one I picked was already out. I ended up getting the Wellington Chocolate Stout recommended to me by the waitress and I enjoyed it a lot.

For the menu, they have different specials everyday and everything is made in-house according to the waitress. We decided to all share a Chili Poutine to start (one of their specials) and we were told we made a good decision. The portion was hefty when we saw it and just looked incredible in general. The chili was deliciously meaty and a great pairing for the thick cut fries. There was also cheese in between the fries and layer of chili which melted nicely with the heat. It was a good size to share but got us a bit too full prior to our main meals arriving.

For my main, I got the Grilled Cheese of the Day, Brie, Apple and Ham (? from what I remember) with a Mediterranean Salad. The flavour of the grilled cheese was great, loved the sweetness from the apple. My only complaint was that the bread was a bit hard, near the end I was just tired of chewing. The salad was also great, lots of colourful ingredients in there that were fresh and not too much dressing. It would have been a better meal if I hadn't stuffed myself from the poutine and beer!

Our waitress was also the sweetest... very helpful and knew how to make conversation rather than making it awkward. It almost had a small town feeling from how friendly she was. I'm impressed that this place has only been around for like 2 years, great low key spot to enjoy some good beer and food with friends!

Food: 4/5 - Extremely fresh, creative rotating menu, and reasonable prices.
Decor: 3/5 - Liked the layout, nothing stood out too much, standard looking bar.
Service: 5/5 - Best service I've gotten.
Willingness to go back: 4.5/5 - I would definitely try to make a trip back if I was in the area!
Overall: 4/5


The Bent Elbow on Urbanspoon
Date Visited: Winterlicious Dinner on Sunday Feb 8, 2015
Company: +Will

Will and I had originally planned to have a Winterlicious lunch at Le Papillon on Sunday but we ended up cancelling the reservation late minute. We were still in Waterloo and just decided to stay for lunch there instead. I really wanted to try their famous French Onion Soup which was one of the entrees during lunch and not dinner so I was pretty disappointed... Once we got back to Toronto in the afternoon, we Netflix-ed The Interview and then realized it was dinner time already! I suggested we just find somewhere nearby to grab Winterlicious and Will was actually down to try Le Papillon's dinner menu so we headed here for some french cuisine even though I couldn't have the soup.

We've never really noticed the location before even though it's in an area we walk by quite often. Upon entering the restaurant, you really get a rustic feeling from the high ceilings, brick walls, and dark wooden accents. It also came off a bit fancier but with some charm to make it less itimidating. We were placed at a table near the bar which separates the front and back sections of the restaurant. You can't really tell how large the restaurant is until you enter the back section. Our waitress was very sweet and gave me the best news of all when she said that you can switch the appetizer soup for the French Onion for an extra $5. We got some bread to start but it wasn't the best. It was hard and dense and the packaged butter was rock hard.

But of course I had to order the French Onion Soup to start, it's considered one of the best in the city. The bowl didn't look very large but it was actually very deep. I tried to get a photo of some cheese drooping and soup underneath but as soon as I punctured the top, the soup burst out and almost overflowed. The broth was the perfect thickness, temperature, and taste, I was very impressed. The cheese was gooey but most of it sank to the bottom and I was left with a lot of difficult cheese to eat at the end. My only complain was the little burnt pieces of cheese at the top, I could really taste the burnt flavour even after it being drenched in the soup.

For my main, I ordered the Duck Confit, duck leg confit with wild berry sauce, potatoes and market vegetables. I don't think I've had proper duck confit before so I was pretty excited to try it. The presentation was very appealing, the leg was larger than I was expecting and placed on a colorful bed of sides and sauce. The leg was very tender and the sauce accompanying it was just superb. The combination of the creamy mashed potatoes, sweet sauce, and some duck was just heavenly. Definitely up there on one of the most memorable dishes I've ever had. I wish I hadn't been so full from the soup to fully enjoy every bite of it.

For dessert, I went for the Traditional Cheesecake which was topped with some whipped cream, fruit sauce, and chocolate sauce. The slice of cake I got was pretty small (not that I needed more), like the smallest slice they could cut for someone. The taste was good but didn't blow by mind, it could have been more creamy and cheesier. The graham cracker bottom had an excellent flavour though. I also wish they had a bit more fruit drizzle on it as I got one piece of berry and it gave the cheesecake some personality paired together. The waitress also wouldn't take my dish until I finished my last bite of cheesecake, it was hard but I did it. She was super friendly and also said I picked the perfect menu :)

Food: 4.5/5 - Amazing meal, haven't stopped thinking about it since.
Decor: 3.5/5 - Very spacious, warm, and romantic.
Service: 4/5 - She was a bit chatty but extremely friendly and not annoying.
Willingness to go back: 4/5 - Definitely, I'm a bit intimidated by french cuisine though so Winterlicious was a good time to go.
Overall: 4/5


Le Papillon on Front on Urbanspoon
Date Visited: Winterlicious dinner on Tuesday Feb 3, 2015
Company: Annual Licious meal with the high school girls.

Again this year, the girls were down for a Winterlicious meal in Toronto to enjoy one of the many great restaurants in the city. +Krystal was the one who picked out Milagro, a Mexican restaurant on Queen from looking at their enticing Winterlicious menu. Unfortunately, she herself was not able to make it to the dinner but we gladly still took her up on her suggestion and booked a table for 5. Our reservation was at 6:30 but unfortunately, 4 of us were 40 minutes late coming from Oshawa and left +Clare to fend for herself at the restaurant.
When we finally arrived, our waitress was quick to ask us if we wanted anything to drink. Even though it was Margarita night, none of us took her up on the offer and went straight for the water already on the table. We also got 2 plates of Chips and Salsa for the table shortly after. The tortilla chips were very crispy but also greasy, the napkin at the bottom was covered in oil. You couldn't really tell when you were eating them though, very delicious still. The salsa was also mild, light, and refreshing, very different from what you would get the store.

For my appetizer, I choose the Ensalada Cesar as I heard good things about it here. It was served with a ton of Parmesan on top, whole Romaine lettuce leaves, and a large crouton in the middle... a little different from what you would normally see but I loved how different it was. I think my salad could have used a bit more dressing, it would have made the cheese easier to stick on. The leaves weren't that fresh either, needed a bit more crisp to the bite.

For the main dish, I ordered the Filete Poblano, grilled rib eye steak in a creamy poblano and white wine sauce with diablo potatoes. I was pleasantly surprised at the size of the steak and overall heftiness of the meal, there was a lot of food on the plate. The steak was very tender and cooked with perfect grill marks on the side. I had no idea what Poblano was but the sauce was a light but still creamy. The potatoes were in a sauce that was a bit oily but mixed well with everything else. It was topped with a bit of fried onions which added even more flavour and complexity to the dish. There was a lot going on with all the spices which gave me the indication that it was authentically Mexican. When I was finished, I just had no idea what I had just eaten was there were so many new flavours introduced to me .

For dessert, they ran out of the one I wanted, so I went with the Mousse de Mango instead since everyone else was getting the Flan. The small bowl looked to cute when I got it, filled to the brim with a thick yellow paste. The mango flavour was amazing and very prominent. It was almost like a yogurt dessert and topped with some chili spices to give it a kick.

Food: 3.5/5 - Awesome authentic Mexican food at the price we paid, salad wasn't great though.
Decor: 3.5/5 - Very traditional looking, the lady 2 tables away was talking so loudly though.
Service: 3.5/5 - Really happy with the service except it took forever to find our waitress for the bill.
Willingness to go back: 3.5/5 - For sure!! They have a few locations too.
Overall: 3.5/5

Milagro Cantina on Queen on Urbanspoon
Date Visited: Dinner on Saturday Jan 24, 2015
Company: Walk-in for 6

The boys were in downtown Toronto for a suit-fitting all day on Saturday so I met up with them for dinner before seeing American Sniper. We were going to the Scotiabank Theatre in the entertainment district and just down the street was the Fifth Gastropub. I had no idea this was the same location where Easy on the Fifth was in the upstairs. The guys arrived around 5:30PM and got a table for 6, it was very empty when I arrived shortly after. The restaurant looked very cozy with wooden furniture and warm lighting.

Their menu offers an interesting and wide selection of dishes to choose from. I opted for the 5th Burger because I didn't think I could go wrong with it. It took a reasonable amount of time for our dishes to arrive, +Stanley ordered the Duck Confit so they warned us it would take a bit longer. The Burger didn't look like it had very much sauce or toppings on it. From the first bite, I could tell it was very lean and wasn't juicy at all. It tasted fine but it was very plain and needed some flavour. I wasn't a fan of the fries either, they were way too hard and overcooked.

Our waitress was fine except that when she asked if we wanted anything else, but she was distracted talking to +Alex and ended up just bringing us our bills even though some of us were craving some dessert. It was a little awkward to bring it up then so we just let it go...

Food: 1.5/5 - The burger was nothing special, very disappointing for a gastopub.
Decor: 2.5/5 - Good atmosphere and ambiance but we were seated at stools with no backs when the restaurant was empty??
Service: 2.5/5 - It was OK but considering the place was empty, nothing outstanding.
Willingness to go back: 2/5 - Wouldn't go out of my way but it does have a nice selection of beer if you're in the area.
Overall: 2/5


Fifth Grill & Terrace on Urbanspoon
Date Visited: Dinner on Thursday Jan 15, 2015 
Company: +Stephanie

After our first pho date, +Stephanie was craving for more so we decided to go again another night I was in Scarborough for work. There's a ton of Vietnamese restaurants in Scarborough so I decided to look up what the best one was for pho. I saw Pho Vietnam come up few times in Google and it was fairly close to our area so we decided to check it out. Trying to find the place wasn't very difficult as it has a huge brightly lit sign of the restaurant name. Upon first glance, you can tell this is a more modern and glamorized pho place compared to the usual hole-in-the-walls. The size and layout of the restaurant was very standard though with order sheets still at the table.

We ordered Large Pork Spring Rolls to start and they actually didn't even come until after we got our pho! I didn't think that the Spring Rolls would be as large as they were, we definitely could have done with just a small! The flavour and texture were on point, so crispy on the outside and meaty on the inside. The sauce we were given was a little too sweet for me, we were trying to figure out what it was as we still have no idea. Really wish we got them earlier to enjoy them on their own first. The pickled carrots and radish on the side were good to cleanse the pallet but I wish they were more fresh.

I ordered my classic Rare Beef and Beef Balls pho and the broth was very clear. I noticed later that all the pho was rolled up in a ball at the bottom which is probably why the broth looked like it had nothing in it. I found the meat a tad too lean and tough to chew. I thought that they didn't even give very much but a lot had sunken to the bottom. The cut of beef wasn't the best for pho. The noodles were also thicker making it heavy and very filling, and not as glassy as I like them. The broth was good but altogether, it was a very mediocre bowl of pho.

2.5/5 - OK food, nothing outstanding and probably overrated.
Decor: 3.5/5 - Very chic designs.
Service: 3/5 - Fast service, fairly nice.
Willingness to go back: 2.5/5 - Probably would go back, awesome spring rolls!
Overall: 3/5

Website: n/a

Pho Vietnam Family Restaurant on Urbanspoon
Date Visited: Lunch on Saturday Jan 3, 2015
Company: Walk-in for 7

After a failed attempt in going to the Scandinavian Spa during our Blue Mountain weekend, the girls and +Brian decided to just hangout in the Village for a while and grab a late lunch awaiting a call for spa availability. We had a larger group but they didn't have any trouble trying to find us a seat, probably because it was just after the lunch rush. I was pretty hungry but was really craving the French Onion Soup so I got some Sweet Potato Fries on the side also. 

Our waitress was not friendly at all when we were putting our orders in, we assumed that it was because she was already getting a decent tip on a large group. When she came with our Soups, she didn't even care that she was spilling half of them on the table by the way she was carrying them. There was also a hair in someone's meal. Not happy at all with the service we received. 

As for the food, the French Onion Soup looked pretty good and cheesy but it wasn't that hot when we got it. It tasted fine but I really wish it was hot. I also didn't enjoy the Irish soda bread, it was my first time having it so I don't have much to compare it to. The Sweet Potato Fries were also OK, I asked for some mayo on the side but she said it would be $2 extra! I thought that was a bit excessive so I said no. Nothing outstanding about the fries, very standard.

The atmosphere was nice at the restaurant, very cozy pub feeling with lots of wooden decor like a cottage. When we finally got our bills, there was no tip charged already so we really had no idea why the waitress was so rude to us...

Food: 2.5/5 - OK meal, over-priced but not surprised since it was in the Village.
Decor: 3/5 - Cozy and rustic bar.
Service: .5/5 - Awful.
Willingness to go back: 2/5 - Limited options in the Village but I'd avoid this place for sure.
Overall: 2/5


M.J. Byrne's Irish Pub on Urbanspoon