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Thursday, November 20, 2014

El Catrin Destileria

Date Visited: Dinner on Friday Nov 14, 2014
Company: Reservation for 6 (but actually we had 8)

+Stanley was back in town once again and planned a group dinner to catch up with everyone. I suggested El Catrin in the Distillery District and a lot of people seemed to also been wanting to check out this spot. El Catrin opened last summer and I've been hearing some mixed reviews of all different aspects of the restaurant. Apparently, you can only make a reservation online for 4 people here and we had about 8 confirmed attending. Stanley called in closer to our date and changed our reservation to 6 which we were allowed to do... we had 2 were coming later into the night. I was the 6th person to arrive on the Friday night, and found the entrance a bit confusing...I had no idea the entrance was behind the infamous heated patio. Nonetheless, I searched the area which actually wasn't that huge and found my friends in a half booth/half chairs table. We were luckily able to squeeze another on the booth and fine another chair for our extra 2 people who came later, our waitress was very accommodating even though it was very busy.

The waitress explained the menu to us and said that their portions are a bit smaller because they're for sharing. For us, we just decided to get 2 orders each :). But to start, we got the Guacamole which was made for us table-side and served with unlimited tortilla chips. It was really awesome to see someone mixing the ingredients right in front of us, a little awkward but still cool! The flavour was great, we got it spicy so I couldn't taste the lime as much but I think they have a great recipe. There was also some salsa and limes on the table that apparently were there when my friends sat down but didn't have any chips, maybe they were for tacos? Each of the salsas were different with varied levels of spiciness.

For my first order, I got the Vegetarian Mini Burritos with Sautéed Corn, Zucchini, Tomato, Mushroom, Tofu, and Black Bean Puree.  The Burritos were so small and cute, they almost looked like Taquitos, the 4 pieces were quite a bit of food though and good for sharing and sampling. There was nothing really special about them, just a bunch of cooked vegetables stuffed in a tortilla and grilled. The salsa is what really gave it some life as the vegetables were bland otherwise. I tasted a lot of mushroom and corn but it was interesting as unlike a real burrito, there was no rice or even much bean puree to hold it all together.

For my second order, I got the Tacos (which I've heard great things about)! +Laura+Brian, and I all got different kinds so it worked out perfectly that we could each try one of the Baja, Gobernador, and Pollo Con Mole Tacos. The first one I tried was the Baja Taco with Crispy Fried Cod and Chipotle Lime Coleslaw, the fish was very tender and light, not too greasy. The coleslaw paired nicely with the fried fish and added all the flavour it needed. It was a pretty decent sized filet, I wasn't very hungry after finishing it. Next, I went for the Gobernador with Sauteed Shrimp, Lobster, Chipotle Aioli, and Black Bean Puree which was my original order. I found the texture interesting, very creamy but with the bean puree, it wasn't all smooth. I was impressed on how much filling you were given in the taco because shrimps were dropping everywhere. The seafood was fresh and cooked perfectly. Lastly was the Pollo Con Mole Taco with Pulled Chicken, Crema Fresca, Cotija Cheese, Xni-Pec, on a Corn Tortilla unlike Flour like the rest. I didn't really enjoy this one, the chicken was a bit dry and dull, and I didn't like the Corn Tortilla either. I was also very full at this point and not sure it I just needed to stop eating...

Lastly, I'll talk about the lovely drinks I ordered. They have an an awesome assortment of tequilas and I couldn't resist trying some of their cocktails. In the beginning of the night I started off with a Watermelon Fire which was very tasty and the name speaks for itself. It was very refreshing and a great choice for the watermelon lover. Later in the evening, I went for the Cucumber Devil. I love cucumber drinks so I couldn't resist ordering this one. It had the flavour I was expecting but also a lot of kick! There's peppers in there so not suited for those who can't handle spice, none of my friends enjoyed it. Also, the drinks all price around $10 so not the cheapest of dinners.

Food: 3.5/5 - Better than I was expecting, I don't think it's as overpriced if you know what to order and have people to share with. 
Decor: 4/5 - Loved staring at that colourful mural all night long, felt like I was in old town Mexico
Service: 3.5/5 - Surprisingly good, very accommodating to our large group and good wait-time between each course.
Willingness to go back: 4/5 - Definitely left with a good impression and would like to return.
Overall: 4/5

El Catrin Destileria on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Hunter's Landing

Date Visited: Dinner on Friday Oct 17, 2914
Company: +Will

+Will and I were heading to +Ishraque's new place for the night and decided to have dinner at a restaurant nearby. Luckily for us, Hunter's Landing is just down the street and it was a restaurant which I had either heard of before or read reviews on because the name sounded familiar. I later realized that it's the location where they have the epic Caesar, "The Cure". Unfortunately for me, they're only served during brunch on Sundays... but the rest of their food still looked good too.

We were seated at the top level of the restaurant and I noticed walking though that the place was very large with ample seating throughout. The decor was very modern and chic, catered to the yuppy downtown crowd. The menu was decently priced for a gastopub and a variety of dishes to choose from. For drinks, I wanted to try one of their Beer Cocktails and ordered the Creem of Dublin (Creemore + Guinness). It took a while to get our drinks, maybe because of our location, they were coming from downstairs? But mine was very interesting since the Guinness was clearly sitting on top so it was like drinking one then the other.

I ordered the Signature Fish Tacos with Grilled Pineapple & Jicama Slaw, Avacado, Cheddar, and Smoked Chilli Sauce. It was an appetizer so I wasn't sure how large it would be but I thought three was enough (you could add another taco for $4). Luckily, I was right as the tacos were quite large and stuffed to the max! The flavour of the slaw was very bold and perfect amount of acidity to sweetness. I actually thought the Jicama were radishes while eating them but now looking it up, they're actually Mexican radish. They were very overpowering in the overall taco and took away from the rest of the flavours, by the 3rd taco I was a bit tired of the flavour. It helped cleanse the pallet but I think they went a bit overboard with it. The texture of the fish was flaky and soft, great contrast to the crunchy slaw. I didn't have much of the chilli sauce on site because I wasn't quite sure how to add it in, but it tasted pretty good.

I also had a bite of +Will's Pulled Pork Pizza and the BBQ sauce tasted really good. Overall, the place has a great atmosphere and decent food, nice gem in the neighbourhood.

Food: 4/5 - Impressed with the food!
Decor: 4.5/5 - Loved the different levels and perfect noise level and lighting.
Service: 2/5- Service was nothing special, didn't really check on us.
Willingness to go back: 4/5 - Ummm I need to try The Cure!
Overall: 3.5/5


Hunter's Landing on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Momma's Family Restaurant

Date Visited: Dinner on Oct 7, 2014
Company: +Joslynn and +Caroline

The Oshawa girls and I decided to get together for dinner and a cheap Tuesday movie after deciding we all wanted to see Gone Girl. The movie was around 7PM so we had to find somewhere for an early dinner close to the theatre. I wasn't feeling the chain restaurants on Tauton so I decided to do some searching for other things in the area. There aren't many known restaurants in Oshawa I haven't been to at this point but I did find Momma's Family Restaurant in the Five Points Mall. I haven't heard of the place before but it had positive reviews on the internet despite not having much internet presence.

Five Points Mall isn't a very busy mall (if you can even call it a mall) so I'm sure I've passed by it on my odd occasional visit. I wasn't even sure where in the mall it was located, I found a sign outside and just parked outside the entrance. The girls said they did the same but it happened to be where I was closer, to the Target. The restaurant was right where we entered and was bigger than I had expected (not sure what I was expecting), it looked almost like a smaller East Side Mario's. Their sign said to seat ourselves so we grabbed a booth mid-way back.

They had an interesting selection of menu items, quite extensive but not sticking any one theme... had some Greek and Italian features. We all decided to share a Large Caesar Salad which was actually massive! There was 3 of us and we couldn't finish it. There was tons of parmesan and dressing which I enjoyed. There was also lots of bacon bits but I didn't like that they were the artificial kind and very crunchy. The lemon on the side was a great addition to add more flavour to the salad. I thought it was very delicious.

I couldn't decide between a few things on the menu for my main but +Joslynn was getting Lasagna already so the waitress said I could have a bit of hers when I asked for a recommendation. I decided on the Chicken Breast Parmesan with Baked Potato (I think that's what it was). I wasn't sure what to expect from the description, I thought I'd get something saucier rather than chicken with a layer of sauce and cheese. The chicken itself wasn't bad, don't think it was fresh but tasted fine. My criticism would have to be on the sauce, it had an odd flavour which tasted like the Chef Boyardee canned pasta sauce. I tried the Lasagna also and it had the same sauce which I found too creamy and thick. The cheese was nicely melted on top but was very unconnected to the chicken with the sauce inbeween. The baked potato was also fine, nothing special about that, came with butter and lots of sour cream. The side of coleslaw was tasty but not as sour as I would have liked. It was an interesting dish paired altogether, I was surprised how full trying to finish it because it didn't seem like that much food.

Food: 2.5/5 - Not the best food I've had but fairly cheap and reasonable.
Decor: 3/5 - Very cute and spacious with pictures of different mothers all around.
Service: 3/5 - Pretty quick and waitress checked up on us appropriately
Willingness to go back: 1/5 - Don't think I'll be returning soon on my own accord.
Overall: 2.5/5

Website: none

Momma's on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Cafe Mirage

Date Visited: Brunch on Sunday Sunday Sept 14, 2014
Company: Walk-in for 5

The morning after +Clare's housewarming in North York, we all went for brunch in Sheppard Centre at a place she's been wanting to check out for a while. The Cafe Mirage is primarily known for their desserts from what she knew and also from what I pulled up from the internet. We were pretty excited for bunch as it looked very legit from what we could tell... What a surprise we had...

When we arrived the restaurant was basically empty, I surprised how big the location is with an entrance from Yonge Street as well as the Sheppard Centre. Their menu is quite extensive with a bit of a Mediterranean focus with their main dishes. There was lots of choose from and look at with their book of a menu and we took a while to decide what drinks/breakfasts to get. I finally decided on my classic Back Bacon Breakfast and Vanilla Milkshake.

So for some reason, half the drinks came in one batch then the server had to go back to make the rest of the drinks. She later told us that their drinks person was late that day but there was a lot of people around in the back that could have helped? The Milkshake was actually very delicious though, very thick and good amount of ice cream :). Maybe the desserts/drinks is what they should stick with because our meals were not good at all. Our plates were huge and I got 2 small, thin, overcooked pieces of back bacon, and some stingy scrambled eggs (they say 3 in the menu but there's NO WAY that was 3 eggs). They could not have plated this breakfast any worse to make it look more empty. The rest of the meals didn't look any better either, the quality was not fresh and everything was overcooked. Also, some of the peanut butter they gave us was already opened and got over the rest of the jams. If I was a waiter there I would be so embarrassed to serve this plate to a customer.

After we had eaten, we were literally sitting for about half an hour before we had to wave a waitress over to clear our plates and get the bill. The service was horrible and it's not like they weren't there, they were just walking by and ignoring you. Needless to say, I did not tip very well and was glad to get out of there. I'm very intrigued by their desserts though, how can they look so good while my breakfast was so bad?

Food: .5/5 - AWFUL BREAKFAST, milkshake was only redeeming part.
Decor: 3/5 - Very spacious and modern black and silver decor.
Service: .5/5 - Again, SO BAD. (not the worst I've had though)
Willingness to return: 1/5 - No way I'd come here willingly unless someone dragged me out for dessert... which I'm very actually interested in checking out.
Overall: 1/5 

Cafe Mirage Grill & Lounge on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 10, 2014

O&B Canteen

Date Visited: Brunch on Saturday Sept 13, 2014
Company: Walk-in for 6

On the second weekend of TIFF, we somehow decided to go to the O&B Canteen for Saturday brunch. For those of you who don't know, it's a restaurant attached to the TIFF building and also very close to where most of my friends live downtown. +Will and I were the first to arrive and they said it would be a 20 minute wait. We hung out in the TIFF building and found a spot to sit and wait for everyone since we had a beeper which would call us when our table was ready. We waited over our 20 minutes and decided to go back to ask what was up with our table, all they told us it would be ready soon. It was very busy but they didn't seem too concerned that we had been waiting along time already and they weren't giving us anymore information than we had 30 minutes ago. When we were finally seated we got a nice corner table surrounded by their large windows.

I wasn't very impressed with the selection they had for breakfast/brunch, it was a tad limited overpriced. I decided to go for their $17 Canteen Burger with bacon, aged cheddar, pickled jalapeño, herb mayo, and hot house tomato. Our waiter had a bit of attitude but tried his best in getting us all our drinks and orders. I wanted to order an orange juice but it was $5, no way I was going to pay that. I know that it was O&B but I couldn't justify it knowing it would be a small glass. We had some nice conversations while we were waiting for our food and I had to help +Gisele pick a movie to see for TIFF. We left a bit to look at the schedule outside when +Rosemarie texted us that our food was there!

I was impressed with the look of my burger, the portion size was better than I had expected and the herb mayo sauce smelled awesome. The burger was very lean and less juicy than I would have liked but all the toppings were delicious together. It was better than the average burger and very meaty, the herb mayo was awesome (I want that recipe!). The fries were also great, lightly salted and crispy. There was a lot of mixed reviews of everyone's dishes at the table. They all seemed pretty good although the Gnocci portion looked a little small for +Will although +Gisele claims that she ordered it last week and couldn't finish it.

Food: 3/5 - My burger was pretty good but had higher expectations for the menu.
Decor: 3.5/5 - Loved all the natural lighting and modern decor, the isles are a bit small though and you have to go upstairs the TIFF building for the bathroom.
Service: 1.5/5 - Not vey impressed, a bit snooty.
Willingness to return: 2/5 - I would return if it was suggested but I can't think of a good occasion where I would to suggest going there again, neither the food or prices were enticing enough.
Overall: 2.5/5

O&B Canteen on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

George Street Diner

Date Visited: Breakfast on Saturday Sept 6, 2014
Company: +Will and then +Stuart

Will and I had previous attempted to go to the George Street Diner one other time before, but on a late Saturday morning, the wait can be pretty long for this small restaurant. We saw The F Word recently which had a few scenes in there so we decided that we had to try again! We attempted to get there before 11AM this time since we had to go to Riot Fest all day and needed to do some drinking beforehand also. We were lucky that even though we were sat at the bar, another group was just leaving their table and we were able to quickly grab it before anyone else came into the diner. It took a few minutes for someone to come clean the table though and ask us for drink orders. The waitress didn't realize because she sat us at the bar which is kind of our fault for not saying anything... but also hers because like I said, this place is not large. It worked out because +Stuart joined us later on at the table, but they don't have any thing to accommodate a party larger than four. I enjoyed the diner atmosphere with the bar on the side and a row of booths but there's hardly any walking space in between the two, I don't know how they can work here!

We asked what kind of drinks they had and and I ordered a Caesar and +Will got some white wine and lemonade combo called a Ramona Shandy which were actually the only 2 drinks they told us so I'm not sure what else they have. Their Caesar is definitely one of my favorites I've had in the city so far, very simple but with some character too. Not very much hot sauce in it but it really lets you taste the veggie flavour, perfect vodka amount, and the bean was a cute garnish. I also tried the Ramona Shandy but it wasn't really for me, not sweet enough.

Their breakfast menu is quite limited to the staples dishes you're used to seeing at any restaurants with some Daily Specials written on the chalk board up front. I decided to go for one of those, their Special Omelette, I read that it had some Spinach and Goat Cheese in it and that was good enough for me. Unfortunately though, the cook that took my order messed up and made me a Western Omelette instead as I noticed when my plate came. Both the waitress and cook apologized thoroughly about it and said they can make me a Special Omelette but I hate wasting food and just felt bad so I just had the Western Omelette I don't mind Western's but it's sometime I can make at home very easily so I'm not very inclined to order it out. Overall, it was made very well, the omelette was pretty big but their large plate made it look a bit empty. It would have been nice to have some cheese in the omelette as its just quite plain otherwise with the ham, onion, and peppers. They gave us some jam on the side for our toast which was pretty tasty and home-made I assumed. The home fries were large, season pieces but I think they could have given a bit more. Their portion size left you comfortably full, I finished my whole plate along with the drink and didn't have to stuff myself. At less than $20 including tax+tip for my meal, I really can't complain as you really do get your money's worth, but it is kind of hyped up to be more than it is.

Food: 3.5/5 - Not the classiest joint but you get pretty good food for the price, very typical diner.
Decor: 3/5 - Love the red outside and interior decor but it's just so small!
Service: 2.5/5 - It was so-so, a few mishaps but they weren't awful.
Willingness to go back: 3/5 - It's so close to Will so I'm sure we'll try to go again if we want some cheap breakfast... if the line isn't too long that is.
Overall: 3/5

The George Street Diner on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Shipwreck Lee's

Date Visited: Lunch on Sunday Aug 31, 2014
Company: +Will

Will and I went to Tobermory for the Civic long weekend and enjoyed an adventurous few days in the quaint and beautiful town. Tobermory is actually quite small and all the main restaurants and shops are in a central location which made finding places to eat pretty easy. We knew we had to try their local White fish while in town and the most visible spot for fish and chips was Shipwreck Lee's. It has a huge outdoor patio with an AYCE Fish and Chips sign so it's really hard to miss while entering the harbour area.

We went to the entrance and saw a few spots opened so we seated ourselves, the pirate dressed waiters were quick to notice and brought us menus and waters. This would be great on a sunny day but unfortunately it was a cloudy weekend so the patio was a bit chilly. As we were looking at the menu, our waiter explained to us that their special was the Georgian Bay White Fish & Chips which is fresh and right from the waters here. The AYCE is Alaskan White Fish which is frozen. We both ordered the 1 piece which was $12.95.

As we were waiting we smelled other orders of chicken and ribs which made us even hungrier, and the portions were very large. We also enjoyed seeing tourists being entertained by the pirate waiters, doing little tricks and posing for photos. Even though it's a pretty tacky spot, the waiters play into their parts and have a fun time doing. It's a good spot for families as they have a kids menu and they would enjoy the show the waiters put on. They're also pretty quick with turning customers over as I assume they get really busy. Our wait wasn't very long and we both got our plates with a packet of tartar sauce on the side.

Cutting into the fish, it broke through easily and unveiled a juicy white filet. The fish was very tender and soft, it melts in your mouth. It doesn't have a very 'fishy' flavour, I think anyone would enjoy this. I was also very impressed on the lack of greasiness the fish had, it didn't soak my fries with more oil. The fries were okay, pretty average but perfect portion size because I was left very satisfied.

Food: 4/5 - Great fish and chips, would recommend to everyone!
Decor: 3.5/5 - Tacky but fun at the same time, great for the summer.
Service: 4/5 - Super quick and the waiters are very knowledgeable.
Willingness to go back: 4/5 - Definitely would return if I was in Tobermory.
Overall: 4/5

Website: none