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Toronto recommendations?

Toronto recommendations?
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  • Post #31 - November 11th, 2009, 11:05 pm
    Post #31 - November 11th, 2009, 11:05 pm Post #31 - November 11th, 2009, 11:05 pm
    Any specifics regarding type of food?

    One place I recommend, particularly for visitors to the city, is Canoe.
  • Post #32 - November 12th, 2009, 6:04 am
    Post #32 - November 12th, 2009, 6:04 am Post #32 - November 12th, 2009, 6:04 am
    Search and you shall find - viewtopic.php?f=15&t=21689&hilit=toronto
    Hors D'oeuvre: A ham sandwich cut into forty pieces.
    - Jack Benny
  • Post #33 - November 12th, 2009, 11:30 am
    Post #33 - November 12th, 2009, 11:30 am Post #33 - November 12th, 2009, 11:30 am

    Canoe or Suser Lee will be the two finalist. I will let you know how it was upon my return.
  • Post #34 - November 12th, 2009, 12:23 pm
    Post #34 - November 12th, 2009, 12:23 pm Post #34 - November 12th, 2009, 12:23 pm
    Try to make room for Chiado on your list. Great place, great neighborhood and uniquely Portuguese.
    Last edited by JeffB on November 12th, 2009, 5:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #35 - November 12th, 2009, 1:47 pm
    Post #35 - November 12th, 2009, 1:47 pm Post #35 - November 12th, 2009, 1:47 pm
    Susur is closed. The chef is now in NY and runs it under a different name.
  • Post #36 - November 12th, 2009, 1:48 pm
    Post #36 - November 12th, 2009, 1:48 pm Post #36 - November 12th, 2009, 1:48 pm
    The type of food? Anything innovative and interesting. We have no dietary restrictions. We would like to have our minds blown away if you will.
  • Post #37 - November 12th, 2009, 6:27 pm
    Post #37 - November 12th, 2009, 6:27 pm Post #37 - November 12th, 2009, 6:27 pm
    Chiado has great fish of all sorts.

    I've also heard very good (and some negative) things about Colborne Lane. Unfortunately I haven't been back to visit TO in a few years so I have yet to try it myself. If you do check it out, please report back!
  • Post #38 - November 22nd, 2009, 10:24 pm
    Post #38 - November 22nd, 2009, 10:24 pm Post #38 - November 22nd, 2009, 10:24 pm
    Well, I went to the Black Hoof. If you are a fan of the Bristol, Old Town Social,Modo and the Publican this place is for you. Scallop Carpacio with render marrow, think scallop confit, House made meats, lardo, capricola, duck liver mousse, horse, bison, duck proscuitto, sweet breads with polenta, Testa with pickled Chantalle, roasted bone marrow. each dish was amazing. Well portioned. Perfectly seasoned and masterfully prepared and presented.

    The Black Hoof is a restaurant to watch. The Chef a young man named Grant is something special.
  • Post #39 - June 16th, 2010, 8:49 am
    Post #39 - June 16th, 2010, 8:49 am Post #39 - June 16th, 2010, 8:49 am
    Going to Toronto next week for a couple days! Will be staying near Markham but plan on hanging out in Richmond Hill and downtown Toronto. Haven't been since I was a little girl so I'm really looking forward to eating lots of Chinese food! For some reason I strongly remember their vast selection of tasty beef jerky lol

    Dim Sum! Lai Wah Heen keeps popping up so I guess I have to give that place a try. Maybe also a more casual one for another day? Ambassador Chinese Cuisine? Ding Tai Fung Shanghai Dim Sum?

    I remember watching in the windows as chefs would pull noodles for noodle soups. The noodles resembled chow fun noodles but weren't cut as wide, and I got them with cuttlefish balls and shrimp balls (homemade I think) in clear broth. I think it was in a mall (not the Pacific Mall) but I can't remember where...I want to have that bowl of noodle soup!

    Does anyone have a recommendation for a great seafood Chinese dinner? I want lobster with yee-mein (sp?), abalone, etc.

    Is there any non-Chinese restaurant that I need to visit? I've been researching "best of Toronto" places, but there are so many so if anyone feels strongly about one, I would really appreciate it! Maybe new American, a little upscale, good place for a date, around $100 for two? Open to any cuisine though. Is Nota Bene good? I think it's a sister restaurant to Splendido?

    Thanks so much for any help!
    Last edited by spiffytriphy on June 16th, 2010, 3:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #40 - June 16th, 2010, 10:32 am
    Post #40 - June 16th, 2010, 10:32 am Post #40 - June 16th, 2010, 10:32 am
    If the weather is nice, you could have a lovely stroll through Baldwin Street Village (just south of UT), which has some great bar terraces, several excellent restos, and: one of the best Chinese bakeries I've ever been to. Really a fine strolling neighborhood.


    Yung Sing Pastry Shop
    22 Baldwin Street,
    Toronto, ON, Canada
    (416) 979-2832‎
    Sooo, you like wine and are looking for something good to read? Maybe *this* will do the trick! :)
  • Post #41 - June 22nd, 2010, 10:58 am
    Post #41 - June 22nd, 2010, 10:58 am Post #41 - June 22nd, 2010, 10:58 am
    You must've just been to Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar (JKWB) in time, they closed in October or so. It was fantastic eating there at the chef's bar though... :( ... He has two other restaurants, I think the newest is Gilead Cafe & Bistro, which gets pretty rave reviews. Then there's also a cafe at the Gardiner museum. JKWB itself was bought by some chef-foodie-investors and has or is being reinvented as something else though
  • Post #42 - June 23rd, 2010, 10:26 pm
    Post #42 - June 23rd, 2010, 10:26 pm Post #42 - June 23rd, 2010, 10:26 pm
    Had a great weekend in Toronto! On our way to Canada, we stopped at Zingerman's in Ann Arbor. While I thoroughly enjoyed the corned beef and pastrami sandwiches as well as the charming atmosphere, I think that $28 for two sandwiches (the small size) is a little much. I'm glad I got to try it though, and now I can say I've been there. The gelato wasn't good. Way too liquidy. Skip it.
    J.J.'s Pastrami Special.
    Jon & Amy's Double Dip.

    Saturday night we had dinner at Nota Bene, a contemporary American restaurant in downtown Toronto. Parking lot across the street from the restaurant. I loved the atmosphere (space is modern and people are dressed upscale casual but aren't pretentious or stuffy) and the service was formal but friendly. The food looked and tasted great. BYO sans corkage fee after 9pm. The total for two appetizers, two entrees, two desserts, and two chocolates before tip was $125. Well worth the money! After dinner, stroll around downtown and enjoy the night.
    Softshell crab.

    Sunday we went to Ding Tai Fung Shanghai Dim Sum in Markham, Ontario. The xiao long bao were SO MUCH BETTER than Chicago's. We ordered ours filled with pork, crab, and dried scallop. So good. My favorite were the steamed open dumplings filled with sticky rice and pork. If you go, you must try these! The pan fried dumplings with minced beef and Chinese leeks were also delicious. The Shanghai noodle stir fry with pork and cabbage was also tasty. I think the noodles were housemade. This and Nota Bene were my favorite meals of the trip!
    Steamed dumpling filled with sticky rice and pork.
    Xiao long bao.
    Pan fried flat dumpling with minced beef and Chinese leeks.

    Dinner Sunday was at Guu Izakaya. The lively atmosphere was the highlight. The servers warmly (and loudly) greeted each customer who came in so there was continual Japanese yelling throughout our dinner. The food was good, but nothing mind-blowing. My favorite bite was the roasted green tea cheesecake we ordered for dessert. Dinner which included a sangria-sake cocktail, beer, and large hot sake came to $90 before tip. Very reasonable. Definitely a fun experience!
    Roasted green tea cheesecake.

    Monday we had Cantonese dim sum at Ambassador Chinese Cuisine in Richmond Hill. Everything was freshly made and well-executed. The fried dishes weren't greasy.The steamed dishes weren't mushy. Everything was fantastic. Large, spacious, clean. The servers spoke English and were very friendly.
    Chinese fried dough wrapped in rice noodle with dried shrimp and scallion.
    Steamed rice noodle with shrimp.
    Steamed squid in XO sauce.

    Monday night we explored Korea Town. Much cooler than Chicago's. We had dinner at Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu. The menu is very focused (i.e. small), but they're known for their tofu stew dishes. The seafood tofu stew was so satisfying and incredibly cheap. $8. My dolsot bibimbap was $7. Also very good. They only give you four panchan, but like Cho Sun Ok, it's quality over quantity. Cheapest meal on our trip. If I lived in Toronto, I'd probably be a regular lol
    Dolsot bibimbap.

    We stayed in Richmond Hill so Ding Tai Fung and Ambassador Chinese Cuisine were only a few minutes away. The drive to downtown Toronto was less than 30 minutes so definitely manageable. I miss Chinese food already…

    Nota Bene
    180 Queen Street West
    Toronto, Ontario

    Ding Tai Fung Shanghai Dim Sum
    3235 Highway 7 East
    Markham, Ontario

    Guu Izakaya
    398 Church Street
    Toronto, Ontario

    Ambassador Chinese Cuisine
    280 West Beaver Creek Road
    Richmond Hill, Ontario

    Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu
    691 Bloor Street West
    Toronto, Ontario
    Last edited by spiffytriphy on December 21st, 2010, 6:55 pm, edited 6 times in total.
  • Post #43 - June 24th, 2010, 9:53 am
    Post #43 - June 24th, 2010, 9:53 am Post #43 - June 24th, 2010, 9:53 am
    Any good Mexican?
  • Post #44 - June 24th, 2010, 10:16 am
    Post #44 - June 24th, 2010, 10:16 am Post #44 - June 24th, 2010, 10:16 am
    There's no decent Mexican in Montréal, simply because there are so few Mexicans. (Salvadorans, Peruvians, etc. different story.) So far as I know, there aren't that many Mexicans in TO, either. But it's an interesting question...

    Sooo, you like wine and are looking for something good to read? Maybe *this* will do the trick! :)
  • Post #45 - June 24th, 2010, 10:34 am
    Post #45 - June 24th, 2010, 10:34 am Post #45 - June 24th, 2010, 10:34 am
    I was kidding!!
  • Post #46 - June 24th, 2010, 10:40 am
    Post #46 - June 24th, 2010, 10:40 am Post #46 - June 24th, 2010, 10:40 am
    Ah, good. I couldn't figure why YOU (= JeffB) were asking that question... now I know. Duh.
    P.T. Barnum was right.


    Sooo, you like wine and are looking for something good to read? Maybe *this* will do the trick! :)
  • Post #47 - July 18th, 2010, 8:41 am
    Post #47 - July 18th, 2010, 8:41 am Post #47 - July 18th, 2010, 8:41 am
    I'm heading to Toronto in a couple of weeks. Other than spiffythrifty's recent experience, does anyone else have some recent recommendations? We're staying downtown in the "entertainment district", so anything close to that area would be much appreciated. Also, we're going to Markham for a business meeting, so we may have a lunch opportunity in tha area. Also planned is a side trip to Niagara on the Lake for one night (and the falls).
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #48 - July 18th, 2010, 1:37 pm
    Post #48 - July 18th, 2010, 1:37 pm Post #48 - July 18th, 2010, 1:37 pm
    We spent a day in Toronto during a recent trip to Buffalo. We had a mid-afternoon snack at Ding Tai Fung. We ordered the crab & pork and the dried scallop & pork. The latter definitely shined over the crab & pork. I cannot even taste or see the crabmeat. Made me wonder if they gave me the plain pork instead. How I long for xiao long bao this good in Chicago!

    I noticed that there is another location of Congee Wong 2 doors from Ding Tai Fung. I wish we could've stopped there as well. I haven't been to Congee Wong in 4-5 years now, but it was always on our list whenever we used to visit Toronto more regularly. Here is a brief write up from my last visit.
  • Post #49 - July 22nd, 2010, 4:56 pm
    Post #49 - July 22nd, 2010, 4:56 pm Post #49 - July 22nd, 2010, 4:56 pm
    I really wish I'd been more into food back when I spent 6 weeks in training in Pickering (2004 time frame), I missed out on a lot of good places to check out. I did get a "tour" of Toronto with one of the guys I was working with, and that was a lot of fun. One thing I really was amazed at is how smoothly the train ran from Pickering to Toronto. I've been on a LOT of trains here in the Chicagoland area and they can't hold a candle to the way the trains ride up there. It was more like floating on air.
    The most dangerous food to eat is wedding cake.
  • Post #50 - November 29th, 2011, 12:51 pm
    Post #50 - November 29th, 2011, 12:51 pm Post #50 - November 29th, 2011, 12:51 pm
    The problem with visiting places like Toronto or the San Gabriel Valley, is that it becomes hard to eat Chinese food anywhere else.

    Congee Wong and Ding Tai Fung (note non-actionable extra "g") are both excellent, but there are at least a dozen smaller places in the same strip mall that look equally promising. I wish I'd had more time to explore; as it is, it will be hard to visit again and not go back to either of the two "anchors". The menus are so vast with so many interesting choices that one could spend weeks eating at each and not come close to trying everything.

    In the city proper:

    Chinese Traditional Bun serves fantastic hand-pulled noodles and handmade dumplings. The "xian cured pork sandwich" is also delightful.

    Hong Kong Island is an excellent Chinese bakery. There may well be better ones in Toronto or Markham, but not in Chicago. The condensed milk buns were especially good, but everything was extremely fresh and in many cases still warm.

    Deeply unimaginative name aside, Pomegranate is a very nice Persian place, albeit the kind of Persian place that makes you pay for bread and olives. Nonetheless, the stewed lamb shanks were delicious, as was the fessenjan.

    Fresco's in Kensington Market makes wonderful fish and chips, or, if you are so inclined, poutine. I was not so inclined, but the halibut was top notch (cod and haddock are also available) and the fresh-cut fries were just right. Wonderful place.

    Chinese Traditional Bun
    536 Dundas St W
    Toronto, ON
    (416) 299-9011

    Hong Kong Island Bakery
    336 Spadina Ave
    Toronto, ON
    (647) 351-2657

    420 College St
    Toronto, ON
    (416) 921-7557

    Fresco's Fish & Chips
    213 Augusta Ave
    Toronto, ON
    (416) 546-4557
  • Post #51 - January 12th, 2012, 11:09 pm
    Post #51 - January 12th, 2012, 11:09 pm Post #51 - January 12th, 2012, 11:09 pm
    I recently spent the New Year's weekend in Toronto. The nature of the visit was primarily family oriented, so we only had exactly one afternoon to explore. We hit up the outrageously fun and radical General Idea retrospective at the AGO and found ourselves right nearby Chinatown.

    I did not figure that we would have much time to seek out good chow, so I had done 0 research. We hit the streets with empty bellies and relied on the basic signifiers of: 1. crowded 2. with at least a majority of Chinese patronage, and 3. perhaps some awardy looking things in the window. When I saw this happening in a window, it seemed like a must-do.


    Entering the restaurant, this scene looked promising as well:


    The place was packed at 4 in the afternoon, so we felt confident in our decision, especially after we saw impressive plates of dumplings flying around the dining room.

    Some dishes on the menu were familiar from Ed's, so I figured the cuisine here was of a northern/ Beijing provenance. This might be a completely ignorant conclusion though. Our server was incredibly accommodating and quite funny, so he worked with us on ordering.
    We ordered:

    Mandarin ham with garlic cucumbers

    This dish was definitely not to my girlfriend's tastes and pretty challenging for me too. I'm not big on thick, cold pieces of gelatin and this dish was exactly that- pressed meats in an aspic. It was porky for sure, but not seasoned much. The cucumbers were great with a serious raw garlic burn. We finished the cucumber and about 1/3 of the meat.

    Stir fried tofu noodles

    Our server warned that this might be too hot for us with its strips of jalapeño, though those Canadian chiles hardly phased us. A very satisfying and comforting dish though, great chew to the tofu, pleasant heat, and a light gravy.

    But we were seduced by the looks of those dumplings and that was the main event. My gf was enticed by the lacy edges on the plates of fried dumplings we saw whizzing around so we had to order them. I really appreciated that you could order a plate of 3 different flavors, since there were about a dozen filling options. We opted for spinach and wood ear mushroom, minced pork and shrimp, and pork with chives.

    Assorted fried dumplings

    These were perhaps the best dumplings I've ever had. The freshness sang- loosely wrapped, toothsome, and those amazingly lacy crunchy edges. I wish I had watched the ladies fry these, because I am still trying to figure out the lattice that bound these guys together and crisped into that amazing lace- run off starch from the dumplings or an added eggy mixture to the pan? Irresistible, we dispatched of these quick. The fillings were very fresh and simple.

    A lacy edge money shot:

    I hope to spend a lot more time exploring Toronto on my next visit. I;d say we did pretty well for a totally off the cuff, unprepared lunch though. These dumplings are killer.

    Dumpling House
    328 Spadina Ave
    Toronto, ON M5T 2E7
    (416) 596-8898
  • Post #52 - January 29th, 2012, 8:12 pm
    Post #52 - January 29th, 2012, 8:12 pm Post #52 - January 29th, 2012, 8:12 pm
    In Mississauga, there is quite possibly my favourite Pakistani barbecue joint outside of Karachi. In fact, Bar B Q Tonite justifiably takes its name from the legendary Karachi barbecue restaurant, BBQ Tonight.


    The kitchen is a glass-encased cube on view for the dining room, and I wish I'd gotten a picture of it, because it's essentially an oversized aquarium smoker. I don't know how this place manages to stay open without violating every possible fire hazard, but rest assured you'll walk out alive, with a happy belly, smelling of tandoori smoke for days.

    The kebabs, particularly the reshmi (spiced ground chicken) and seekh, are delicately hand-formed and cooked over a charcoal fire with great care so as to attain that perfect texture of tenderness without falling apart. My personal litmus test is being able to take a piece of bread and pinch off a chunk without resistance, yet without obliteration. Platters of kebabs come out on sizzling cast iron platters that, if one exercises some restraint and patience, will caramelize the bed of onions the kebabs come perched upon. A few cooked onions, a slice of raw onion, and a dip in some raita.

    seekh kebab, chicken tikka

    reshmi kebab, afghani tikka

    tandoori naan

    keema naan

    lamb chops

    chicken tikka, lahori fish

    The Afghani tikka, in its relative simplicity of spicing, is one of my favourites. The Lahori fish, a pan-fried kingfish, also highlights their use of poppin fresh spices and a skilled hand at the stovetop. A better example of that is their maghaz masala (brains), among my favourite versions anywhere, it's a bit chunky, studded with chiles and caramelized bits and, again, it's comes down their excellent spicing - I suspect they frequently make up fresh batches of roasted spices, something most Indo-Pak restaurants fail to do (stale Shan packets abound).

    maghaz masala

    The real standout item here, though, is the bihari kebab. My uncle was a lifelong bihari kebab-walla of some renown in Karachi and never had we encountered a bihari kebab that matched his expertise, until here. This is a weird kebab that I've only later in life been able to appreciate, but it's I believe a cut of beef from the leg/thigh region, that is marinated for a long period of time in yogurt, raw papaya (tenderizer), spices and mustard oil, then grilled on an open charcoal fire. The result is an almost mushy, yet juicy texture of beef, from the long papaya marination. Key is striking the right balance of texture, which is not a trivial task when you consider the multiple variables in this equation.

    bihari kebab

    While they do have kata kat on the menu, the few times I've inquired they've not had all the offal-y bits on hand for the traditional style. I'm looking forward to trying their nehari and kata kat out one of these days. While not listed on their menu, they do also offer a great breakfast combo of paya, nehari, channa, halwa, puri, etc, though I do not recall pricing.

    BarBQ Tonite
    35 Dundas Street West
    Mississauga, Ontario
  • Post #53 - February 21st, 2012, 4:45 pm
    Post #53 - February 21st, 2012, 4:45 pm Post #53 - February 21st, 2012, 4:45 pm
    Desi BBQ - Exhibit B: Patna Kabab House

    The Patna Kabab House is somewhat legendary in desi circles in the Greater Toronto Area for not only bihari kababs, but also nihari and barbecue in general. Patna is the capital city of the Indian state of Bihar which, of course, is the place from whence bihari kababs came. Rather dumpy in decor, it seats a surprisingly large number, and I'm told they have a crowded house every night, despite their bare-bones service (plastic utensils, no waitstaff, etc). I stopped in at an early hour and while I had the restaurant to myself, they were conducting a continuous stream of takeout the entire time.

    First thing that struck me was that everybody ordered the nihari. I'd planned on ordering it anyways, but it was good to see it wasn't just website wanking, these guys have good reason to be touting their nihari. Not as fiery as my mamas, this is mere stylistic preference, but this is as fine a bowl as they come. I think you can make out how marrow-laden the gravy in the picture. Spectactular nihari, accompanied by "Milky Naan", which is a robust naan made with milk, yogurt and eggs. A little goes a long way for mopping and sopping.



    Milky Naan

    Another interesting curry was the Shahjahani Kabab Curry, which are seekh kababs cooked in a spicy tomato-based curry. This dish came out before the barrage of kababs and, while I enjoyed it, I hadn't realized just how good the actual kababs were until I was able to try them on their own. It's almost a crime to dunk these kababs in anything other than a small dab of raita. Nevertheless, even as a purist I'll admit it was tasty.

    Shahjahani Kabab Curry

    Getting down to kababusiness. Most of the kababs can be ordered per piece, which allows for a larger sample size. Spices are special ordered from Pakistan and then custom blended by the chef to stamp each kabab with their own unique spice signature, which, coupled with a skilled hand at the fire, is really what sets Patna Kabab House apart from the rest.

    The Bihari Kababs are justifiably famous and at least as good as the above-mentioned bihari kababs at BarBQ Tonite - they use top round cut and attain the perfectly tender texture toeing the line of mushiness, but stopping just short. The bihari kababs spend just enough time on the fire to pick up a kiss of smoke and yet retain full juice (bihari kababs are very prone to drying out, hence no strong char here).

    Silky Kababs (aka reshmi kababs), aptly named, are ground, practically whipped, chicken kababs with an impossibly smooth interior.

    Silky Kabab & Bihari Kabab

    Gola Kababs, golf ball sized beef kababs, are much more assertively spiced, denser and take on a greater char-smoke flavour.

    Gola Kabab & Seekh Kabab

    Darbari Kabab, an interesting lamb-chicken mix, should be a requisite order - lamb flavour predominating while carrying the (plastic)spoon-tender texture of the chicken.

    Darbari Kabab

    Darbari Kabab innards

    I really wish the kitchen was on full-view to watch the chef constantly adjusting, tweaking, twisting and turning meats like a yakitori master at work. The entire kabab package - from which spices are used, the grind of meat, the choice of meat, how much smoke or char treatment the kabab gets - is all very carefully thought out for each style. The texture, snap, spicing and smoke make for some of the most sensational kababs to be had.

    This is the pretty much the kind of place many of us are constantly on the quest for. The specialists, the masters of their craft. The guy who spends a lifetime making one thing and is eternally in pursuit of perfection and shibui.

    Patna Kabab House
    1885 Lawrence Ave East
    Scarborough, Ontario (aka 'Scarberia')
  • Post #54 - February 21st, 2012, 4:59 pm
    Post #54 - February 21st, 2012, 4:59 pm Post #54 - February 21st, 2012, 4:59 pm
    Man, those pictures from PKH have made me hungry, Nab... Do you know if there are any beer-league tournaments in Scarberia?... gotta find an excuse to go... ;-)

    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #55 - February 21st, 2012, 9:42 pm
    Post #55 - February 21st, 2012, 9:42 pm Post #55 - February 21st, 2012, 9:42 pm
    Funny you should say that, Tony - yesterday I had my first taste of horse at La Palette in Toronto (while there was a mild rally protesting the consumption of horsemeat outside the window from whence I ate) and the thoughts of tandoori meats and horsies running through my mind I thought of you on this very subject.

    Plenty of reason to make the trip. :D

    Horse Tartare

    La Palette
    492 Queen Street West
    Toronto, ON
  • Post #56 - March 12th, 2012, 8:55 pm
    Post #56 - March 12th, 2012, 8:55 pm Post #56 - March 12th, 2012, 8:55 pm
    Toronto kababbery continues .....

    Lahore Tikka House - the other LTH (not really)

    Gerrard Street was once the Devon of Toronto, the aorta of the Indo-Pak community. Bootlegger Bollywood, paan shops, streetside chaat, and the only tandoors in town. I remember as a kid walking the street on weekends, the entire strip would come alive at night - the lights, the godawful music, the stank-ass air, the old geezers with their paan-rotten teef, the cold dusty bottle of Pakola in my paw ... I may as well have been in Karachi.

    As far back as I can remember, Lahore Tikka House was a Gerrad Street stalwart, and a family favourite. At that time, they were located in a tiny, narrow dump of a space, but were serving up the Lahori-style homecooking that would bring a tear to the eye of an ex-pat. Ultimately, success caught up with LTH (heh :wink: ) and they've sinced built a large stand-alone restaurant a bit further down the street seating at least a hundred, making it one of the largest restaurants on the strip, and easily one of the busiest. So busy they've opted out of table service - instead, after pushing a few aunties out of the way and finding a table, you place an order with the cashier who'll give you a table number, and then you just hope for the best.

    Probably one of the few nice features of the restaurant, other than the rickshaw out front, is the chaat-stand inside, which serves some crispy fresh snacks to whet the appetite.

    chaat papri

    pani puri

    Surprisingly, and suspiciously, orders come out lightning quick and it is apparent that food is not cooked to order. For some things, like the slow-cooked curries, that's okay, but otherwise you just hafta roll the dice and hope your kababs happen to hit the fire at the right time. The Afghani chicken tikka was recently the best bite of bbq to be had - nicely spiced, crispy and juicy bone-in chicken. Otherwise, the kababs are a krapshoot - rubbery seekh kababs and dry & tough lamb boti tikka on a recent visit.

    chicken tikka

    seekh kababs

    lamb boti tikka

    Afghani chicken tikka

    A nice touch are the blistered and salted chiles that come with each dish as well as with salad, raita and chutney. Which reminds me - the raita is essentially water with a splash of milk in it. Really the worst raita I've ever encountered.


    The non-BBQ items fare a bit better. In particular, the maghaz (brains) masala is quite good, though the nehari feels a bit rushed, careless and lacking in soul.

    maghaz masala


    LTH is not what it once was, and we're not heartbroken. Like Chinatowns across the country, a lot of the Indo-Pak action has moved out into the burbs now, and has become a much larger entity than what Gerrard could have ever hoped for. But Gerrard St still has a pounding pulse, and we still enjoy making the trip because there is nowhere else in Toronto where you can get that same authentically dumpy experience that many of us call home.

    Lahore Tikka House
    1365 Gerrard St East
    Toronto, ON
  • Post #57 - July 22nd, 2012, 5:05 pm
    Post #57 - July 22nd, 2012, 5:05 pm Post #57 - July 22nd, 2012, 5:05 pm
    One would think that finding a good rendition of niu rou mian would be a relatively easy task wherever a sizable Chinese community exists such as the San Gabriel Valley (SGV) in SoCal, Richmond and Vancouver in BC, or in the NY boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn. However, that just ain’t the facts. You may find places that serve this Chinese workhorse soup with a sensationally tasty & toothsome handpulled noodle or might find one that has a well-balanced natural broth but good luck finding a place that puts it all together.

    Niu rou main is usually composed of a beef broth and typically seasoned with star anise, tomato, garlic, ginger, scallion, chiles, and Szechuan peppercorn and contains a flour noodle, chunks of beef shank, some spinach or bok choy, then topped with cilantro, scallion, and/or zha cai (Szechuan pickled vegetable).

    On a recent roadtrip to Toronto, Trix and I based ourselves just outside the city in the town of Markham, where Asians, mostly Indian/Pakistani and Chinese, represent over 50% of their total population. In such an Asian-rich area, we hoped to find some great examples of various Asian eats.

    After our trip, we both agreed that the standout discovery there, besides the amazing vegetarian dim sum at Graceful Vegetarian Restaurant, was undoubtedly Mei Nung Beef Noodle House. From the moment you walk through the door, where you’re smacked in the face with nuclear aroma clouds of stankeh tofu, you immediately know that this is going to be a real deal Taiwanese experience. And after you take a quick look around the room to see what the predominantly Asian clientele is eating, it becomes abundantly clear that Mei Nung’s forte is their niu rou mian.

    The noodles are handpulled - a complete prerequisite for any truly serious niu rou mian. Mei Nung does not feel the need to pull their noodles in public but in the privacy of their own kitchen. Just one bite of these slightly tangy, toothsome noodles tells you they’re truly in the major leagues of noodle making. Equally impressive, however, is Mei Nung’s broth. It is elemental; having a primary flavor profile strongly based around beef bone and not primarily relying on the spice component. The soup doesn’t knock you over the head with strong star anise overtones or heaps of garlic like so many other inferior renditions.

    The symbiosis between noodle and broth here is magical. Even their homemade zha cai (pickled greens) creates another pleasant dimension to the soup. However, what really put this experience over the top was their homemade chile oil, infused with a high concentration of bone marrow. When coupled with their beautifully roasted chiles, this experience is brought into the stratosphere!


    Mei Nung Beef Noodle House
    3229 Hwy 7 E Unit 15
    Markham, ON L3R 3P3
    (905) 477-8388
  • Post #58 - August 1st, 2012, 3:16 pm
    Post #58 - August 1st, 2012, 3:16 pm Post #58 - August 1st, 2012, 3:16 pm
    Made it to Toronto for a long weekend recently and I must say we ate well. It's an extremely multicultural city, and the variety of foods is impressive.

    St Lawrence Market




    No trip to St Lawrence Market would be complete without sampling a peameal bacon sandwich. Peameal Bacon is back bacon (Canadian bacon, much leaner) rolled in corn meal. There are a couple shops in the market famous for the sandwich and we got to try one at Carousel Bakery and one at Paddington's. Carousel was much more popular and they grabbed your sandwich from a pile after you ordered. The bun was bland and the meat itself was rubbery and lacking in flavor. Paddington's was quite the opposite. There was no line, they cooked the bacon to order, and they top it with honey mustard and onions before they serve it. The bread was pretty ordinary once again, but the meat was quite tasty and the condiments were an important component of the flavor profile. It's not a great sandwich, but it's something worth picking up when you're at St Lawrence Market. The market itself is bustling. There are dozens of different butcher and cheese shops. I was a little disappointed by the fruits and vegetables, but the meats and fish looked great.

    Smoke's Poutinerie



    We got to try a couple different poutines in Toronto, and the best by far was at Smoke's. You can see them cutting the potatoes in the back and the fries are fried to order. They construct the poutine in layers so you get gravy, curds, and spuds in every bite, even at the bottom where many other poutines become a soggy layer of starchy potatoes. I particularly liked that the gravy was thick so it stuck to the fries and the curds were melted throughout. Not sure why so many places miss these details that seem so easy to get right, but Smoke's got it right on. I can't imagine a more satisfying post bar meal (all the poutine shops are open late for just that reason).

    Bar Chef



    I've read that Barchef gets very crowded on Saturday nights, so we showed up a little after 6PM and had the place to ourselves. It's a good thing too, because their brand of molecular cocktails is pretty demanding on the bar tender and I can't imagine how overwhelmed they get later in the night when the orders are coming faster than they can make drinks. The drinks are pretty pricey, but I understood given the complexity of the preparation. Really, each drink is more like a course at a molecular gastronomy restaurant. I could easily imagine these drinks showing up on the menus at Alinea or Schwa. The first drink I ordered was the Black Truffle. The cocktail itself was a mixture of coconut, elderflower, and gin, though it wasn't too sweet at all. The spoons had a mixture of "truffle snow" and smoked salt. The result was a pretty savory dish that blended the umami of the truffle with the brightness of gin beautifully. It was quite satisfying, particularly since they give you four spoonfuls of the truffle foam. The second drink was a mixture of cherry, lavender, and olive, though it was quite briney. The concept behind the course was that you take a sip of the drink with each of the accompaniments, and each brings out a different flavor in the drink. When you took a bite of the cherry leather, it accentuated the olive flavors in the drink. When you took a bite of the olive, it accentuated the cherry flavors in the drink. It was pretty interesting and I appreciated the creativity. It's a unique concept and I thought it was well executed even though I'm not sure I'd return unless I'm with someone who really wanted to experience it. They also serve a Manhattan that they smoke to order with live coals. Pretty impressive presentation. It's more show than great drinks, but I enjoyed the show.

    The Black Hoof



    The Black Hoof is probably Toronto's most famous snout-to-tail restaurant, and it opened to great fanfare a couple years ago. Based on my single experience there, I have to say I think the place deserves all the good press it has gotten. I genuinely enjoyed every dish we were served, but a couple really stood out as memorable. The horse tartare (pictured above) was served with a bright citrusy sauce, crispy potatoes, and enough herbs to accent the meat without overpowering it. I've had horse a couple times, but this is the first time I can say I really enjoyed the subtle, but gamey flavor particularly since the textures played so well together in the dish. Also memorable was the blood custard that was mixed with dark chocolate and topped with shaved fennel. The custard was rich and smooth and balanced the slightly metallic flavor of the blood with a little sweetness to great effect. The poached mackerel was excellent as well. So many times poached mackerel has all the fishy flavor poached out of it. This preparation nailed it with perfectly flaky, fishy flesh, crispy skin (finished with a torch I assume), and a light, citrusy tartare sauce on top. I like fishy fish, and this mackerel was on the money. If I had to gripe, the local beers were pretty lousy and I would've appreciated a couple vegetable-focused dishes even if they had some meat in them, just to round things out, but that's picking nits. I enjoyed the meal a lot and would recommend it to anyone.

    Dumpling House



    We elected to stay in Chinatown precisely so we could discover places like Dumpling House. As we were walking down Spadina, we saw two people furiously rolling out dough and folding dumplings. They were going pretty much all day, the same two, probably for 10 hours if not more. So we figured we had to give the place a try. When we ordered a sampler, someone had to go to the kitchen in the back to fetch the freshly made stuffings we requested. I guess most people stick to the standard pork and cabbage, which they have in a gigantic bowl next to the dumpling makers. The dumplings were folded to order and boiled as we watched. They were pretty much spot on. Dough that was thick enough so it was chewy but soft and stuffings that were assertive (plenty of white pepper). We tried the shrimp, the pork and chives, and the lamb. Everything was good, and fresh, as you'd expect.

    Mother's Dumplings



    Mother's is the most famous dumpling shop in Toronto's Chinatown, and the place fills quickly after it opens. They make quite a show of rolling out all the dough in the middle of the restaurant. In the interest of mixing it up, we ordered the lamb shui mai and the soup dumplings (Xao Long Bao) along with some pan fried dumplings. The lamb shui mai were pretty uninteresting. The lamb was underseasoned and not particularly lamby, and the wrapper was lost under all the bland meat. The soup dumplings were too thin so they tore easily, and even when we were super careful not to tear, there was almost no soup in the dumpling. Also there was an unmistakeable coconut flavor which really didn't work for me. The dumplings, on the other hand, were excellent. They were fried perfectly so the edges were crispy but the dough was still soft and served with a vinegary hot sauce that was awesome. We looked around and saw all the tables had ordered dumplings and scallion pancakes (that looked great) so I have to think we ordered wrong. Still, some damn good dumplings to be had in Toronto.

    Lai Wah Heen



    When you research "best dim sum in Toronto", inevitably Lai Wah Heen will make the list. It's located in the posh Metropolitan hotel, and the dining room is nice without being stuffy. The clientele was mostly business people, though there were some tourists in shorts. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but our overall impression was that more effort was spent on presentation than on flavor. That's not to say the food wasn't tasty, rather that it wasn't memorably delicious dim sum. The dumpling wrappers were delicate and the fried dishes were crispy and greaseless. The lobster dumpling was shaped like a lobster and the fried taro was shaped like a camel. Everything was good, nothing was great. Though I should mention that I kept reading about how expensive it was, and I didn't feel like it was that bad at all. I think it ended up being 30 dollars per person and we left fully satisfied. Sure that's more than most dim sum joints, but nothing noteworthy for an upscale lunch.

    India Paan & Cold Drink House



    I have to preface this review by saying that we walked all the way to Little India from downtown. It ended up being a much longer walk than we expected (the tram is super convenient and we took it on the way back) so I had worked up quite an appetite when we arrived. This was late afternoon and we were still planning on getting dinner so we didn't go all out, but when we walked by a restaurant making chaat to order on the street, we had no choice but to order a couple chaats and chow down. Man did these snacks hit the spot. The sev puri (pictured above) were excellent. The shells were particularly crispy so they popped when you bit into them and the tamarind sauce was tangy and pretty spicy. We also got the papri chaat which had nice, crunchy papri wafers and a seriously spicy mint chutney to counter the cooling, sour yogurt. This was exactly the carbo-loaded snack I was looking for after a long walk. The neighborhood reminded me a lot of Devon though remarkably there were nowhere near as many Desi-owned shops and restaurant.

    Sugar Marmalade



    They claim to be Toronto's first Hong Kong Style dessert shop. My wife was eager to try one of the coconut milk desserts so we stopped in and ordered the house special. It has grass jelly, sago, tapioca, and something they call yogurt bubble all floating in a bowl of coconut milk with sweetened condensed milk and topped with vanilla ice cream. This dessert was firing on all cylinders. The range of textures was incredible, each bite featured a different combination of chewy, gooey, and cooling. The yogurt bubbles popped when you bit into them and released a tangy (presumably yogurt-based) liquid. The menu features a wide range of fruit and coconut based desserts and simple egg and toast preparations. Toronto's Chinatown is seemingly full of interesting little shops like Sugar Marmalade.

    Mashion Bakery



    We tried probably 6 different pineapple buns on this trip, and Mashion was the best of the bunch. I fell in love with pineapple buns when I was in Hong Kong earlier this year. When made well, the top is slightly sweet and crunchy while the bun is moist and soft like a pillow with a distinct yeastiness. All the baked goods at Mashion were pretty good, but their pineapple bun really reminded us of our favorite from our trip to Hong Kong. Note that we went early in the morning when the buns were still hot from the oven, no promises about later in the day. Also, don't pay attention to the grand opening sign, as far as I can tell it's been there since they opened over a year ago.

    Patty King



    I'd read a lot about the Caribbean food in Toronto and enjoyed an excellent roti in Missisauga a couple years ago, so getting some street roti was high on my list for this trip. We got to try a couple different rotis, but remarkably, our favorite came from the unheralded Patty King which is located in Kensington Market. It's a total dive complete with no AC and flies buzzing around the counter. Most of their business is grab and go doubles and beef patties that they have pre-made sitting in warming trays. We went for the chicken curry roti which was stuffed with a seriously spicy and earthy stew. The roti itself was dusted with corn meal and had an awesome springy texture that actually stood up to the stew so it didn't spill everywhere. I'd like to head back to Patty King to try their other rotis and grab a beef patty or two while I'm at it.

    El Almacen



    Even with all the different ethnic foods we got to try on this trip, perhaps the most unique experience for us was sipping yerba mate at El Almacen. Toronto really stood out to me as a place where it was remarkably easy to find great and interesting food without having to do too much research. We discovered so many great spots on this trip just by walking around the neighborhoods and trying whatever looked good. As we were walking down Queen Street, we were thinking about stopping somewhere to get a cup of coffee and relax before dinner. I spied a cafe specializing in yerba mate, which I had read about but never tried before, so we figured we'd give it a try. We ordered two mates served in the gourd and the barista informed us that this drink is typically shared by friends. It was great of her to steer us correctly, because it really was cool to share the drink, handing the gourd back and forth while people watching on a nice sunny day. The drink itself is a type of tea that is typically served in South America. You fill the gourd with powdered mate leaves and top it with hot water. It is sipped through a metal straw that has a filter at the bottom so you don't suck up leaves. One gourd yielded probably ten servings of tea and took close to an hour to get through. It really was the perfect afternoon relaxation activity.
  • Post #59 - August 1st, 2012, 3:31 pm
    Post #59 - August 1st, 2012, 3:31 pm Post #59 - August 1st, 2012, 3:31 pm
    An excellent post, Turkob! Toronto is a place that I really enjoyed, and your post made me recall how much I'd like to go back.

    How was the yerba mate? Does drinking that much give you any kind of caffeine buzz?
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #60 - August 1st, 2012, 3:33 pm
    Post #60 - August 1st, 2012, 3:33 pm Post #60 - August 1st, 2012, 3:33 pm
    stevez wrote:How was the yerba mate? Does drinking that much give you any kind of caffeine buzz?

    It has a pretty unique taste. A little sour, a little herbal. I'd say I enjoyed the taste, but the experience was more memorable than the flavor. The caffeine rush is minimal, and I'm VERY sensitive to caffeine.