Meals with D

Date Visited: Lunch on Saturday Mar 7, 2015
Company: Walk-in for 2.
Anith and I were planning to meet up for lunch to catch-up after his recent trip to California. We decided on Desiam in the Whitby Plaza per his suggestion. I had previously gone there once, a long time ago with my sister. I didn't remember much from the meal at the time but my sister said that the Pad Thai was amazing. I'm in the particular area a lot and have always been meaning to return so I was glad when it was suggested. 

There's a lot of construction going on in the complex but all the shops are still open. We entered to a fairly large, empty restaurant with lots of colourful decor. There is seating on either side of the main entrance and we were lead to the right side closer to the kitchen. Their menu was very large with tons of options so it took us a while to look through everything. Our waitress kept on coming back to us to see if we were ready but never were :(. I finally just decided to get the Veggie Pad Thai after a lot of deliberation and Anith got Bangkok Spicy Noodles. I also ordered a Thai Iced Tea, not really know what it is but thought it might be good. Anith ordered a Mango drink and when we first got the drinks, I thought mine was his. It was opaque and orange coloured which I wasn't expecting. I thought it would be a transparent liquid but turns out there is some milk in there. It was rather sweet and I'm not really sure what flavour it consisted of. I wasn't sure how authentic is was, it kind of tasted like powdered bubble tea drink... it didn't taste bad though considering I had no idea what I was getting.

We started with a Kanuck Roll as an appetizer. It was really hot upon arrival and stuff with ground chicken and various vegetables inside. I really enjoyed the filling, it had a good mix of ingredients inside almost like Sheppard's pie. The plum sauce gave it a sweet touch. It was an unique, delicious, and crispy spring roll.


Finally comes our main dishes... Anith didn't think his looked very appetizing at first but actually tasted really good. I found my Veggie Pad Thai very saucy and sweet. The vegetables were fresh and noodles cooked perfectly but just the flavour was very overpowering. It was a lot of food and finally I had to give up on finishing it. I didn't take it home just because of all the sauce, I wish they just went a bit lighter it and I might have felt better about eating it.

All-in-all, it was a very filling meal all for less than $20. Not my favourite Pad Thai but if you like your noodles on the saucy, sweet side then you should definitely check it out.

Food: 2/5 - OK meal but not spectacular Thai food.
Decor: 3/5 - Really cute restaurant with lots of Thai trinkets.
Service: 2/5 - Our waitress was pretty annoying and not very friendly.
Willingness to go back: 1/5 - Wouldn't want to go back unless I was in the plaza and wanted Thai.
Overall: 2/5


Desiam Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon
Date Visited: Lunch on Friday Mar 13, 2015
Company: Take-out for myself

A co-worker of mine who lived in Jamaica for a few years always mentioned the take-out place near our work where she always gets Chicken Sandwiches. I decided to check it out myself one day when I was leaving the office around lunch time and was heading downtown to work from Will's the rest of the day. It's a really small hole-in-the-wall spot in a plaza beside KFC and can only fit about 5 people to line up in before gets too tight. You order through a window to the kitchen where the guys are prepping the food for you. And for the month of March, they had a Small Jerk Chicken Dinner on special for $5. :)

I put in my order and stood back a bit to the window while the other people in line ordered. It got a bit busy around noon and it seems like there were a lot of regulars who knew what they wanted. Their soup was asked about but the guy was not down after he heard it was Goat Head... There were only two people behind in the kitchen, one taking the orders and the other making the food. It took about 10 minutes to get my order and I was quickly out of the packed room to head downtown.

The meal was still decently hot after the 30 minute drive to Will's. The chicken was very tender but didn't have as much kick as I thought jerk chicken would. The sauce wasn't powdery but rather moist and juicy. The rice was a bit bland and dry, it just had some beans in it and no sauce. I got a lot of rice compared to everything else. Even the coleslaw was minimal. The flavour was there but needed just a but more sourness to it. Overall, I can't really complain for $5, it was really worth it. It didn't have the authentic Jamaican flavours I was expecting but seemed they had a loyal following of regulars who enjoy the food.

Food: 2.5/5 - Good value but not an outstanding meal.
Decor: 1.5/5 - Small, white room but does the job.
Service: 3.5/5 - Quick and easy.
Willingness to go back: 2/5 - I wouldn't order that again but I'd return if I was feeling for something different then I usually eat.
Overall: 2.5/5

Website: none

Negril on Urbanspoon
Date Visited: Dinner on Saturday Feb 28, 2015
Company: A sick +Will

I had been watching the dates for Piola's All-you-can-eat Gnocci nights for a while now to see when the 29th would fall on a good weekend to attend. Luckily for the month of February, they decided to have Gnocci night on the 28th which happened to be a Saturday instead of skipping it altogether! I made a reservation for 2 for the 7PM seating and patiently awaited for the date to come. Unfortunately for Will, he started to get sick that week and still wasn't feeling 100% on the Saturday. We were debating skipping it and trying again next month, but in the end Will thought he could still eat a decent amount of gnocci.

We drove to Piola because it is quite a ways from us on Queen West. We found parking easily on the street but had a bit of trouble with finding the right entrance to the restaurant. Apparently the left side is not where the entrance is and the different coloured building to the right is also Piola, much to my mistake. We waited a few minutes after we told them of our reservation and were then taken to an open room in the back. There was some confusion on our table as we were moved a bit later to a smaller table for 2  right in the middle of the room instead of a table for 4. There were a huge group of older Italians which took up a lot of the area so I think they were trying to sort them out.

We didn't have drink menus on the table or anything so we ended up just getting waters. About 15 minutes after 7PM, a waitress came out of the kitchen with a huge bowl of gnocci and started going to tables. They would come up and tell you what flavour they had and we would tell them if we wanted any or not. Then they would scoop a bit on your plate and go on to the next table. It was a really fun experience to anticipate what we were getting next and trying all of them.  The speed at which them came was a bit slow at first but it allowed you to enjoy the food and some conversation as well. They started flowing more heavily at the end but by then I was starting to reject them. There were about 9 flavours we got to try before they started repeating.

The gnocci itself I thought was good, very squishy and softer than I remembered them. Will said the texture is usually like that and only the size was a bit smaller than normal. I would have liked to taste a bit more potato in them though, I felt like it was all dough. I've ranked the flavours and what I thought about them below:
Favourites:

Rose - This was my favourite of them all just because the flavour was mellow, sweet and not too prominent. Great combination of creaminess, tomatoes, and cheese.

Sage & Butter - This one looked like it had no sauce but packed a good punch of flavour. Never tried anything like it before and really enjoyed it.

Ham & Tomato
- Second one we got and compared to the Tomato & Mozzarella, it tasted so much better. Very smooth and creamy with a nice lightness added from the tomatoes.


Bolognese - The bolognese had lots of minced meat in the tomato sauce. Interesting flavour, a bit sweet almost like Chef Boyardee.




                                                                                 Neutral:
Ham & Mushroom - Nothing too special about this one. Had it third after the Ham & Mushroom so it was almost the same except I thought the sauce was heavier.

Tomato & Mozzarella - This is the first one we tried, the tomato flavour was too sour and very little mozzarella.

Didn't like:

Four Cheese - A little disappointed by this one, not enough cheese flavour to be honest. 

Puttanesca (spicy tuna, olives, capers, onion, tomato) - Wasn't sure what it was when we first got it but could definitely tell there were olives from the colour and some kind of seafood from the taste. Not a fan of either tuna or olives.

Basil Pesto - The texture was the biggest turnoff, too grainy.

After dinner, I didn't want to have gnocci for a long time. Now, I can't wait to have it again. I noticed though that I favourited the ones with mild flavours that let the gnocci do the talking, which is a good sign I think! Fun setting to enjoy so authentic Italian food in a well organized manner. All in all, we paid $25 each to stuff ourselves silly with little dough dumplings of goodness.

Food: 4/5 - Lots of hits with the flavours, amazing AYCE experience
Decor: 3/5 - Very rustic, wooden walls everywhere with colourful tables. Lots of space.
Service: 3/5 - Impressive flow of food, no one was going to go home hungry. Some of the servers looked like they hated their lives though and others were hard to understand what flavour we were getting.
Willingness to go back: 4.5/5 - Totally, their pizza looks amazing too! So many Italians there, it must be legit.
Overall: 3.5/5

Websitehttp://www.piolatoronto.com/

Piola on Urbanspoon
Date Visited: Lunch on Saturday Feb 14, 2015
Company+Will

For Valentine's Day, Will and I had tickets to see Cannibal! The Musical at Panasonic Theatre for the 2PM show. The play was in the Yorkville area so I researched and found 7 West Cafe, a quaint restaurant to have lunch beforehand. The building was interesting looking... 3 stories, black exterior, and in line with other stores that look more like houses. We entered and headed up one story to find a table in an area which looked like a classy cafe with baked goods on the counter and sun shining in through the large windows. The area was pretty cramped but luckily it wasn't too full or noisy.

They had a menu with brunch specials and I ordered a Mimosa to start which was priced at about $10. When we got it, it came with a mini bottle of Champagne, small jug of orange juice, and a small glass to pour yourself. Will was glad he didn't order himself one as it was great for sharing. It lasted us the whole meal and I loved that they let you decide the proportions yourself.

For the mains, we ordered one of the breakfast specials, Fruit Waffle and a classic, Pesto Pita Pizza to share. The Pesto Pita Pizza had Pesto, Sun-dried Tomatoes, Mushrooms, Chicken, and Mozzarella with a side of House Salad. It was a big and colourful plate of delicious looking food when we got it. The Salad had some chickpeas in it which was a nice touch from what one would normally see in a house salad. But other than that, it just had some garden greens and nothing else of substance. The Pizza was great though, lots of chicken and good proportion of pesto. Overall it was a filling dish which left you feeling slightly healthy.

The Fruit Waffle we got came with blueberries, strawberries, apple/banana sauce and whipped cream. The Apple/Banana sauce was a great for the waffle as it sustained us without needing any maple syrup. It wasn't too sweet and tasted home-made. The overall waffle was good but there were a few holes throughout so they probably could have used more batter. We got a nice balance of sweet and savory with our choices so I really enjoyed switching between the two dishes.

7 West would probably be a go-to spot of mine if I lived in the area, and it helps that it's open 24/7! It has a chill, European vibe to it but I'm sure it gets hectic at night. Cool spot for a date though, very intimate. The service was a little slow though and our waitress was always disappearing. I'm not sure if she had to go and run to the other floors to pick up food but she wasn't always around.

Food: 3.5/5 - We got pretty lucky with our orders but all fresh and tasty.
Decor: 3/5 - Unique decor and great ambiance, just a little small.
Service: 2/5 - It was okay, we didn't need much but she didn't really check up on us.
Willingness to go back: 3.5/5 - Would definitely go back if I was in Yorkville but would be cautious of the space they have.
Overall: 3/5

Website: http://www.7westcafe.com/

7 West Café on Urbanspoon
Date Visited: Lunch on Tuesday Jan 27, 2015
Company: Myself

After talking about Vietnamese Sandwiches at pho dinner last week, I was craving one ever since. Luckily, there is a shop right by my work that my aunt told me about. She brought some banh mi over to my house for lunch last year and I forgot how good they were as I hadn't had them since I was a kid. I decided to check the place out during my lunch break and grab a sandwich to eat at the office. 

The location is in a huge plaza beside the T&T Supermarket and among all the Asian stores, it's easy to miss unless you knew it was there. I walked in and it was half groceries half sandwich/made-to-order with lots of ladies were there making fresh sandwiches in front of you. I ordered a Spicy Vietnamese Assorted Sandwich for just $2.25 and they had it there in hand immediately. They had a lot of different options of sandwiches so I'd try something else next time but I wanted to just go for the classic.

I headed back to the office to eat and enjoyed how compact everything was inside the fresh bun and not falling apart. The size was good for me but I'm sure some people could easily eat two. The Spicy part of the sandwich is just adding some jalapenos inside which I probably won't do in the future. Everything tasted as it should otherwise but the bread was definitely my favourite part. When I saw them making it, the only sketchy part was the mayo which looked like it was out in the air for a while and starting to harden. All the other ingredients tasted fresh.

Food: 4/5 - What a deal for $2.25, classic Vietnamese Sandwiches, nothing else.
Decor: 3/5 - Bigger than I thought it would be, lots of things to buy also.
Service: 4.5/5 - So fast, no nonsense.
Willing to go back: 5/5 - Will be a go-to spot for lunch when I'm in the office now.
Overall: 4/5


Nguyen Huong on Urbanspoon
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

Website: http://canyoncreekrestaurant.ca/

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

Website: http://www.thebentelbow.ca/

The Bent Elbow on Urbanspoon