13.8.14

Tip & Sip Cafe

http://www.thetipandsipcafe.com/

SHORT & SWEET



A great owner-operated breakfast spot in an otherwise bland strip mall facing a new residential development.

We stopped by on our way to Awenda Provincial Park for a quick brunch for seven on a Saturday. There were no other visitors, so we enjoyed the exclusive attention of well-travelled and talkative owner Toni (Antonio). Of the interesting details we noticed there were postcards under the glass of the tables indicating where the café's visitors came from. Quite a spread actually, most of the world map was covered. Besides that, the interior was clean and functional with almost terrace-like chairs. There was also a patio area, but it seemed to isolated and surrounded by concrete. A good idea but missing the greenery.

Our breakfast was not particularly sophisticated - a classic Western Omelet and a Sweet Club Sandwich. As far as the Omelet went were the oversized ham chunks and generous portion size. It was not burned or undercooked - very enjoyable overall. The salad on the side came with poppy seed dressing and shaved almonds - quite fancy. The sweet club sandwich was filling and yummy. The owners did not shy on ingredients: chicken, bacon, tomatoes were plentiful.

Tip and Sip Cafe on Urbanspoon

26.7.14

Super Burger

http://www.restaurantica.com/on/shelburne/superburger/23501404/

On our way to Dufferin Country, Ontario for a weekend getaway, we stopped for a quick lunch in Shelburne. On the intersection of Highways 10th and 89th there are several options, but visually Super Burger was an obvious choice for an authentic mom-and-pop shop, especially with that remodeled vintage TTC streetcar serving as an additional seating area for the restaurant.

APPEARANCE
It is hard to miss the 1980s streetcar, nothing particularly memorable besides that. At least as far as the outside appearance goes. Things are a bit more interesting inside. There are lots of bright colors and kids everywhere creating an upbeat atmosphere. A hint of vintage is felt throughout with old fashioned signage and fixtures. Overall - a typical diner with a bit of a twist.

NOSE
A very enthusiastic young man greeted us at the cash register after we waited in line for five minutes or so. We would not say the place was packed to capacity for a Saturday lunch, but there was definitely a sizable crowd inside. We ended up ordering a traditional banquet burger to benchmark against and a chicken souvlaki on a pita as a healthier alternative. With five families ahead of us waiting for their orders, we found ourselves with a few more minutes to wonder around.

SWIRL
A clean, but dated washroom has a map of Ontario right next to the entrance. Considering the worn out spot where the Super Burger is located, we concluded that a lot of people stop here on their way elsewhere. Like a tourist attraction of sorts. A cursory glance at vehicles parked outside confirmed our feeling – appeared that most dining folks were not from the area.

PALATE
We found a spot inside the decommissioned TTC streetcar. The seats were actually pretty comfortable and reproductions of vintage 80s ads made us feel like on a trip back in time. One thing ma cheri realized about half way through - the souvlaki did not taste like chicken at all and had a jucy red spot inside. It appeared that our chicken souvlaki on pita got confused with a pork souvlaki on a bun. It was not well cooked and the meat was of relatively poor quality. It was too late to take it back and we were in a rush. Their Banquet Burger with home-made sauce was of a great quality though! The bacon pieces inside were thin, but full of flavor. It came with a slice of melted cheese and of course plenty of toppings. The meat cooked to remain juicy, but with no raw beef taste. We happily devoured it.

FINISH
As confirmed by hoards of people taking photos by the TTC streetcar, Super Burger is popular. We would suggest their burger, but not the souvlaki from what we tried. We also saw a young kid taking back the onion rings. Not exactly sure why, but might have been because they appeared very, very greasy.

PS: the TripAdvisor ratings are higher for the neighboring Champ Burger… We will give them a try next time. They seemed to have recently re-branded.

24.7.14

Sariwon Korean BBQ

https://plus.google.com/107482240786754742941/about?gl=ca&hl=en

We were recommended this restaurant years ago, as ma sœur and I asked an elderly Korean gentleman (owner of a variety store) for his opinion. After getting over the formality to recommend a business, he wrote this restaurant down for us almost with a sense of pride.

APPEARANCE
Ever since we have visited numerous times, never leaving without a good impression.
From the outside, Sariwon Korean BBQ has a large curved window wall with red awning spanning on the side. Around, plenty of large Korean characters adore the facade, standing out on this large concrete plaza. The actual logo is on the second floor and somewhat less noticeable from the ground level when standing next to the restaurant.

NOSE
Our great experience starts from the entrance, after going through the large double doors, all the staff briskly greets you with a smile. Then comes the custom interior which curves and circles in harmony.
We had made a reservation, as the place is always full, plus we wanted a BBQ table. We walked around the interior to our table - with a clean BBQ insert in the middle and a high exhaust vent over it, looking like a stylized lamp.

SWIRL
Their menu looks classic and conservative - with a heavy leather cover and their clean logo ( flame on a plate drawn forming from ink-like stokes). Inside they are not too impressive apart from the plenty of professional photos. Unfortunately though, those photos are not that easy to match up with the dishes. However they do have english translations of all their items - yes, the names in latin letter for those brave enough to pronounce and also a brief description. We ordered a few appetizers to start TempuRa (shrimp and veggies), ChapChae (korean vermicelli with beef and veggies) and a chicken cashew dish (chinese style) I cannot remember the exact name of. Our meat options were: YangYumKalBi (korean style beef ribs marinates in special sweet sauce), SaengKalBi (fresh beef ribs), and ZuMulLuk (beef marinated in special Korean sesame sauce). We also had to try their korean beer - Cass. It was light and easy-going.

PALATE
All the small side dishes made their way to our table quite fast, accompanied by our appetizers. We all really enjoyed the ChapChae - korean vermicelli dish, it was almost salad-like. It made us wander why we mainly come here for BBQ. We need to their their main dishes more often. We later on ordered a wonderful dish which had the word "chinese" in its name. Also a big hit - chicken, veggies, nuts, sweet & sour sauce - although it sounds like it, not heavy at all.
And, by the way, all tables have a bell, so there is no need to run around to catch a waiter. We learned that the hard way.

But lets focus on our main entertainment - the BBQ. We had our waitress start the grill and elegantly lay our meats down for us. she also brought us scissors which we realized we use only at the end when the meat is cooked (not to remove any lovely juices). She also put a mushroom every time with the meat, I think that was to help gage how cooked the meat is. What makes this place unique is that everyone get a bowl of rice, two dipping sauces (a salty sesame one and a dark BBQ one) as well as lettuce leafs. Once the meat is cooked you dip it in one of the sauces and then wrap it in a lettuce leaf filled with rice and some side dish. It is delicious and healthy! The first time around we came here they had to teach us how it is done. 
Meat-wise, we started off with the fresh SaengKalBi. To be honest it was a bit too tight for me to enjoy chewing. Next the marinated ribs (YangYumKalBi) came thinly sliced with the bone at the very end - they were tender and delicious. Lastly the ZuMulLuk was also marinated and lovely. Makes my mouth water just recalling the experience.
I should note that our waitress was around to help us when the meat was ready too, at least for the first few plates.

FINISH
This time we realized that the space is rather large and there is a second floor which we have not ever gone up to visit yet. We also got worried near the end of our visit that they were closing down, however a few couples walked in and were welcomed warmly, so we relaxed.
It will be a hard trade with the delicious BBQ meats, but when we are back next time we really need to try more of their dishes. 

Sariwon Korean BBQ Restuarant on Urbanspoon

11.7.14

Portland Variety

http://www.portlandvariety.com

In the area where I work, this was a hard spot to miss. The previous place closed down some time ago and this longly anticipated substitute kept us in suspense. Definitely no ordinary "variety" store.

APPEARANCE
From the outside the whole place is colored black - walls, window frames, fence, all but the bright yellow awnings. Their contrite side patio has a few fancy tall tables and a ledge, but hardly anyone is ever there. I cant wait for the sit-down patio area near the back to open.

SWIRL
Mornings draw quite the line ups to their pastries and coffee, however Cheri and I wanted to have a full sit down breakfast. I should note, the place recently opened for sit down lunch and dinner - a la carte.
One can enter from both King Street and Portland, but watch your step as that entrance still has a window frame enough to make sure you are awake as you stumble on it. The front room is a warm grey with marble high tables and plenty of hand-written chalk items on the walls. For the time being, we ordered at the main line while ogling at the walls. We then asked that they bring us our plates at the restaurant sit down area. That area welcomed us with a teaching sign: "Waiting is an art, so is patience."

NOSE
This is one trendy place! We first noticed the unique incandescent light fixture - metal mesh cages with naked bulbs which came in various shapes with rustic adjustment knobs. Plenty of light marble table tops and caramel tan leather upholstery to freshen up the grey and blacks all around. A great addition are the extravagant flower arrangements at random places, and of course the large skylight. Overall - a very elegant interior, it felt to us like a modern take on 50s. All this was accented by ambient jazz music, and to be honest we through the way the room is set up would perfect for a small live jazz band once in a while.

PALATE
We ordered a tea and a coffee which came in regular paper cups with a neat hand-touch - stamped their their logo on the side. Our food did take some time to arrive. We got their "Quite Farm Eggs, Bacon, Aged Cheddar on Croissant "quite a mouthful to order. I sure hope they get more creative with their dish names. This dish was the size of a croissant, cut in half and stuffed with many thin layers of plain omelet, some cheddar and a tad of bacon for a taste. Regardless of it's size this dish was filling and heavy.
Our other choice was their Brown Rice Organic Oats Quinoa Porridge. That was great - not sweet but very flavorful. It came topped with hazelnuts, dried cranberries, and a few slices of strawberry. It was also quite tiny but delicious none-the-less.

FINISH
As we indulged in our dishes and enjoyed relaxing in the sunbathing interior, the place really felt like a dinner restaurant. We were reminded of a Chicago jazz bar we had gone to a while back. We would definitely be back to see how this ambiance transforms at night, must be quite the contrast.
Portland Variety Cafe on Urbanspoon

9.7.14

The Beast

http://thebeastrestaurant.com/

From a passerby's perspective, The Beast may appear like a definite spot where locals would hang out. Makes sense, the restaurant is tucked in on Tecumseth, away from the bustling King St. West and not even visible from there. Ma cherie spotted this place due to its logo, which was now hidden behind a big, sprawling tree. But we did know that The Beast is a popular place well known in the city for its original dishes, passion to use local meats and trying to utilize the whole animal.

APPEARANCE
A busy patio would probably be the very first thing to capture attention. To be honest, that might be the last thing capturing your attention as well. Besides the fact that you probably would
not expect a restaurant in this residential pocket, there is nothing else interesting about it from the outside. A generic metal fence, simple furniture (wooden table tops deserve attention though), uninspiring glass doors and wall-sized windows. The inside was a bit more exciting, there were a few animal drawings on the wall and a cozier atmosphere. People definitely preferred the outside on that July evening. Overall, some theming would have helped to make the place more memorable, but we were here to eat so enough about that.

SWIRL
Our waiter was very prompt to mention the 5-7 "happy hour" and that we have 5 minutes to order to take advantage of their great offer. So we ended up quickly getting a glass of their white, red and two more glasses of Cava. Would have been nice to let us get wines staggered rather than all at once, but rules… We also asked for Green Onion Pancakes with Black Bean mayo which arrived fast. This appetizer was dense, not a prominent onion green onion bite and topped off with crispy caramelized onion shaves. The pancakes reminded us more of a naan bread with some burnt spots and a distinct oil smell. The black bean aioli really made quite the difference to make this plate worthwhile.

NOSE
After the initial order rush, we had a bit of time to chart our next move. The menus appeared to be refreshed often, maybe even weekly. The choices were not very meat centered - we expected game meat based on their wordmark. Ma Cherie has a big fan of their wordmark - expressive type - impression on wild. Somewhat contrasting with the very tame inside environment. Our first choice was Grilled Lamb Liver with Quanciale, Red Onion, Nettle and Fregola – by the sound of it, the nightmare of people not fond of strong, heavy dishes. Second dish was Ontario Walleye Wrapped in Smoked Beef Tongue, Piquillo Fricassee and Salsa Verde on the side.

PALETTE
The Lamb Liver turned out to be exactly what we expected. It was a highly aromatic, opinionated dish best paired with a full bodied red. The portion is small (like all other offerings, to be fair), but the experience of digging into something out-of-the-ordinary was definitely present. We appreciated the addition of nettle and spinach, adding a deep green tone, as well as the fregola - to balance out the explosion of flavor. As far as the Walleye went, we found it slightly spicy. The thin crispy tongue wrap made sure the fish inside was tender. The bed of green salsa with red peppers accented the dish well too. Both options are worthwhile choices. We also received house made breads with butter on the house. These came on a branded carved wood board. Fluffy and soft, a great touch, but we wanted something else on top of it all. It ended up being a Poutine which took surprisingly long to make it to our table. Once again a small dish, it was of an interesting variety. Fried gnocchi replaced traditional fries. Bison ragu and cheese curds were very fresh and full of flavor. A must try for poutine lovers!

FINISH
If you are in search of an original spot away from the beaten path, The Beast should be on your list. The food is very original, somewhat on a pricier side, but worth the experience.
One more quick thing - to get to their small washrooms one must pass by the kitchen - literally. A glance at where the magic happens made the whole experience feel very much down to earth.

Beast on Urbanspoon