5.11.14

Le Saint Tropez


http://www.lesainttropez.com/

For many months, Cheri and I walked by this strip of restaurants and couldn't help but notice the older gentleman with the furry puff hat at the front inviting us in, in all kinds of weather. We have meant to accept his invitation for some time now.

APPEARANCE
After walking in through the corridor and not climbing the stairs to Marcelo's, we were met by a heavy curtain, behind which was the warm, yellow Le Saint Tropez dining room. It was quite lively for a chilly Wednesday night.

NOSE
We read their daily menu board, like in a true French bistro. Apart from the listed specials they also had an appetizer and dinner prix-fixe menu as well as an a la carte menue.
As we settled in, we noticed small art nouveau elements around us - hangers, lamps, details. There was also a very inconspicuous live music - a lady playing the piano and softly singing. It added to the warmth.

SWIRL
They had an elaborate wine list, but the best part is that they had different recommendations by the glass (also offered as 1/2L). We decided to trust their choices and got 1/2L of the Saint Tropez recommended Merlot from Languedoc as well as a glass of the Chef's recommended Pinot Noir from Pays d'Oc. The first is what we'd recommend as being more unique and flavourful, as the Pinot did not live up to our expectations.

PALATE

We snacked on some baguette with butter as we waited. First to arrive was the Terrine de Maison. Two thick slices of their chunky house made pate. The dish came with some veggies, mini pickles and herbed crostini. We also got their daily soup - Chicken & Barley. It was also quite a significant amount of food - smooth with chunks of chicken, carrot and onion.
One of the main dishes we enjoyed was Penne au Saumon Fume, sauce rose. A filling meal with plenty of salmon, in tomato onion cream sauce, slightly on the salty side. I should note, I had a taste of their Medallion de Porc (Demi glacé aux pomme), it was another amazing option.
As part of their daily special, we also had their Smoked Duck. The 5 thin slices were full of flavour, beautifully balanced with blueberry compote, picketed chanterelles, chives and a radish salad. Artistically presented, for its petite size.

FINISH
We savoured our dishes in the light piano music ambiance. It was beyond what we expected. Le Saint Tropez was able to take us back to France indeed.
We couldn't resist their desserts. We shared the creation du chef - a dark chocolate mousse cake with raspberries and a thin merengue bottom layer. Smooth and slightly sweet, we had a some Merlot to finish off. We are big fans of dark chocolate with a medium-bodied red wine.
We'll be back!
Le Saint Tropez on Urbanspoon

27.9.14

Mildred's Temple Kitchen

www.templekitchen.com/

SHORT & SWEET
Mildred’s Temple Kitchen actually claims it started the brunch trend in Toronto. All the way back in 1989, in a Toronto West End Warehouse District. Just for that it might be worthwhile to check out. Now they moved a large location by the railroad tracks in bustling Liberty Village. The place looks a lot smaller from the outside, it is truly one of the biggest brunch joints we have been in. An interesting mix of a post-industrial space adorned with Victorian style art.

Why a temple? Because one is to worship flavor. That’s what we did by ordering Scones & Biscuits with home-made Peach Jam. The scone was fresh, citrusy with blueberries inside. Biscuit had layers of fresh buttery - croissant like dough. A bit heavy for our taste, but not a bad breakfast choice. The second item we got was Veda's Choice: a Croissant Benedict with salmon. We enjoyed the dish throughout although the croissant (instead of English muffin) was difficult to eat. Some great hollandaise sauce was on there. The benedict was accompanied by a much needed salad on the side. One more thing, the properly poached egg makes it or breaks it for us in terms of enjoying the benedict. All was good here. The dishes are pricier than your regular breakfast fare in Toronto.


There was light music humming in the background and the whole atmosphere a touch chaotic. Sound carried in the vast open space. Plus there was a bachelorette party happening nearby adding to the ambiance. We would have normally preferred a quieter place for our breakfast, although can understand that the energy might help some folks wake up. One last touch, the small tables outside have a tiny patch of artificial grass and gnomes guarding the forks and napkins…kind of neat.

Mildred's Temple Kitchen on Urbanspoon

18.9.14

La Stella

http://www.lastellarestaurant.ca/

There are lots of places to eat in Toronto you will never find out about unless someone tells you or it is advertised somewhere. That was the case with La Stella for us. We got a Groupon to go and check it out.

APPEARANCE
We actually passed La Stella twice before finally figuring out where it was. Not very distinguishable from the outside to be honest, the sign was a bit too high to notice from the street level and, despite having oversized windows, the dimmed light from the inside did not draw attention. The logo itself was generic and suffered lack of color.

NOSE
We were greeted by a pleasant waitress as we walked in. While the restaurant seemed to have a history, it lacks character. A side glass door opening into the building lobby delivered too much light and felt out of place too. We also did not like the two large screen TVs with CP24 on the walls...creating somewhat of a commuter atmosphere, taking away from the more relaxed ambiance.

SWIRL
We were pleasantly surprised by the reasonable prices. The first choice would have been Chicken liver pate (gherkins, and crostini), but they were out of it so we went straight into mains. New Zealand lamb rack (Fleur de Dijon) and Duck Confit were the items we chose. A 2011 Santa Carolina Chilean Merlot seemed like a good match for our mood and the dishes.


PALATE
We had some warmed up bread on the table with whipped butter - just a standard baguette. Nonetheless something to nibble on while waiting. The wine arrived first. It was a good value bottle. Aged enough and not overly oaked, we noticed hints of plum, blackberry and some spice notes. The lamb came rosemary crusted and served with a potato gratin. It also had mint-honey sauce, adding some fresh sweetness to the mix. The pieces of lamb themselves were cooked just enough to remain juicy, but not to feel raw. The meat was not too herbaceous or too gamy. It was made in a simple way with red wine sauce (a good compliment), steamed veggies (a refreshing touch) and a potato which was interesting, but felt a bit pre-cooked. It was definitely a treat worthwhile. The duck confit stood up to the competition well: sweet potato mash, and sherry jus accompanied the meat creating a unique flavour mix ideal for a wholesome dinner. The dish was complemented by a salty sweet potato and tender, cooked to perfect softness, steamed veggies. Ma cheri was a big fan of this dish.
For dessert we got their Creme Brûlée which was a bit too thick and heavy for our taste.

FINISH
We were also recommended Calamari & Tiger Shrimp, Salmon Tartar or Flat Iron Steak. La Stella has a relatively low rating online, we enjoyed the food and would see it as underappreciated overall. The dishes are very good value for the money. The biggest issue for us was a cockroach we saw in the washroom... We let the waitress know and she promised to pass the information to management. We are confident that will get addressed, La Stella is worth coming back to for good food.

La Stella Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

31.8.14

El Furniture Warehouse

http://www.blogto.com/restaurants/el-furniture-warehouse-toronto

We decided to check out this years' open street festival on Sunday morning. Cheri and I went on a unique graffiti tour, organized by the Toronto Tour Guys. We ended this adventure with a fun group of people at El Furniture warehouse. Our tour guide recommended this spot and joined us. He gave us a bit of history of the place - started our by boarders in BC. $5 plates what else is there to ask for?

APPEARANCE
Not much from the outside - black & white, all caps sign with a fun circle logo. This sweet joint has a trendy and unpretentious interior - signs, some skateboard decks, custom made pipe lights, and skateboard videos on all TVs. Overall there are plenty of warm incandescent lights and wood, definitely perfect for a winter visit. It also has a retractable garage door for their small patio, opening up to the street.

NOSE
Once we settled in we realized how such a place makes money - drinks are pricer than meals, and almost all meals offer updates for an additional cost. The menu was condensed in one long page, text heavy but organized. The menu had a few items that resonated with us - Beer for the Chef (a happy ending for the hardworking peeps in the kitchen) as well as an end note "buy a meal for the less fortunate for $4.95".

SWIRL
Their booze selection was quite local. We decided to try their Augusta Ale. Our waitress was quick and friendly to take our order. We got their Maple Bacon Potato Skins, Union Street Noodle Salad and Roasted Turkey Sandwich.
We really enjoyed our random company as we waited.

PALATE
We really expected small tapas, but our dishes were a healthy size and looked great! The Union Street Noodle Salad was very interesting. It included marinate chicken, chow main noodles, suet choi, green onion, pea shoots, avocado, and cucumber. It was topped with toasted almonds and sweet ginger-awesome dressing. Absolutely delicious.
Next, the Maple Bacon Potato Skins were everything you would expect.
Lastly, the roasted turkey sandwich was made with a solid amount of meat with macho sauce, Swiss cheese, honey mustard, some veggies all on cranberry sour dough. It came with a side of salad/soup. All that good stuff for $5!

FINISH
We had an awesome time - the vibe, the food, the service and the price! We will be back!

El Furniture Warehouse on Urbanspoon

21.8.14

Bombay Palace

www.bombaypalacetoronto.com/

We visited Bombay Palace for a quick dinner after work on our way uptown. The restaurant is conveniently located on Church and Wellington. It is hard to miss and there is plenty of street parking after 6 pm. Apparently, there is also parking validation, but we were too much in a hurry to find all the details out.

APPEARANCE
There is a huge sign above the entrance visible from afar. As we walked in, we felt submerged into old traditional surrounding. Faint piano music greeted us along with red carpets and humming of multiple fans pushing a bit stale air around. The furniture appeared antique, tables had sheets of glossy paper covering the table cloth which appeared odd to us.

NOSE

A very pleasant waiter attended to us within a few minutes, dropping off a worn out menu. We found the selection overwhelming. There were definitely a lot of vegan or gluten / nut / lactose free options to choose from. It, however, was not immediately obvious to us which dishes were spicy or not. As we were blankly staring at the menu, as our water and rice breads for snaking arrived.

SWIRL
We ended up interrogating the waiter on what choice will be less spicy and he recommended Onion Bhajis (aka Bombay Palance’s Legendary Onion Fritters) and Chicken Korma. The air around us was got stuff as we waited for our food – open windows are great, but sometimes air conditioning is the option to go. There were quite a few people in the dining room. Some tourists from US, a large South-Asian family, a few couples scattered around. At the same time, it was about 30% full. There might be a lot more people coming out to check out their lunch and dinner buffets.

PALETTE
We were in a hurry and asked to expedite our order. It did arrive in under twenty minutes indeed. The Onion Bhajis were served with a side of mint sauce and tomato paste. A very flavorful and filling choice, onions were deep fried with chickpea flour, cilantro, curry batter. Our Korma had a lot of sauce with not as much chicken as we expected. Large chunks of garlic decorated the dish. It was still spicier than we would have preferred. The meat was tender and the sauce made an excellent dip for the garlic naans we also ordered. The naans had tons of oil with some herbs sprinkled on the top. Definitely filled with aroma, but not for everyone. For semi-dessert we took chai tea with milk. It was warm and quite sweet.

FINISH
We feel somewhat hesitant to go to a new ethnic food place sometimes. There are food options we never heard of, tastes we did not yet experience… on top of that, there is a layer of tradition guiding though how all this should be consumed properly. Bombay Palace is a friendly place for a person looking to get more acquainted with South Asian cuisine. We would recommend to shakeup the waiting staff for more information about their dishes – they were not too forthcoming in our opinion. At any rate, a worthwhile restaurant to check out at a very convenient location.

PS: our cheque came in an adorable vintage box with a built in calculator. It looked like an expensive jewelry of a medieval maharajah was tucked away inside it just a few moments ago. That is if there were calculators in medieval India, of course. Still, charming!
Bombay Palace on Urbanspoon