5.9.14

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

15.8.14

Hogtown Smoke

http://www.hogtownsmoke.ca/

We went to Hogtown Smoke on Friday evening for a family get together. Our unique options around the area were somewhat limited. Our initial choice would have been a traditional pub, but all for the better – Hogtown Smoke turned out to be quite a delight! They asked that we call and hour ahead of time to save us a spot.

APPEARANCE
The smallish façade is not difficult to pass without noticing. Their hog illustration does not get as much attention as one would hope. There is no front patio, but two large windows open right out to create the second best thing for the folks crammed inside. It looked a bit tight to us walking in. Perhaps that was driven by the fun interior - metal buckets as lights, brick walls and plenty of colourful paintings for sale. We should note, people were not dressed as casual as we hoped. Either way.. the trick here is their marvelous back patio! The large semi-covered area feels like someone’s backyard (which it might have originally been actually). The narrow alleyway access increases the coziness of the whole experience. We spent quite a few minutes surveying the surroundings before even getting to the menus. The tall tables are made from unfinished wood with distinct grain on the sides. There are a few metal signs hanging on the barn-wood cladded walls. The bar was a few steps away and next to it, the holy grail of Hogtown Smoke, the huge smoker. Later, out waitress told us they keep it running all day.

NOSE
The menu itself had organs (we believe) in the background, stealing a bit too much attention from the text. A much more expressionistic hog illustration than the store-front sign, really added a good feel to it. There is a funny bit about hot wings eating competition (win – get a picture on the Wall of Fame, loose – pay $50 and be condemned to the Wall of Shame). The beer menu was considerably more epic. From a distance it looked like a stone tablet with large uneven writing detailing their craft beer offerings. Important to mention, there are only craft beers here – no Stella or Guinness to choose from.

SWIRL
We ordered a Pig Out Platter for 5-6. While the over $100 price initially deterred us, it turned out to be enough for our crowd of 6. A few extra sides were ordered as well, as the portions are tiny. We went for a couple of different coleslaws, a cornbread and a few baskets of fries. Surprisingly, our food arrived in under fifteen minutes. The meats came on a large wooden board, almost overflowing with goodness. The 4 meats we picked their pulled pork, wings, harder chicken and beef ribs All plates were made of aluminum, giving an additional authenticity boost to our experience.

PALATE
The first thing snatching people's attention was the rack of ribs. The meat was cooked perfectly to the point it slid sliding off the bones. We found that the chicken wings were also of a another grade compared to what one would normally find in a standard pub. The half chicken was not particularly interesting – simply well cooked meat, although a bit dry. Perhaps the brisket would have been a better choice. Last but not least - the pulled pork was amazing. All these meats came arranged on a unique wooden platter.

FINISH
Hogtown Smoke is definitely a place to visit with family or just friends looking for something slightly out of the ordinary. We compared this place with one of our favourite west end spots – Barque Smokehouse. Hogtown Smoke wins in terms of its patio and attention to detail, looses in terms of its sides (smoky popcorn and roasted corn were a big plus for us). Overall, Hogtown Smoke is one of the best places we visited in Toronto's east end so far.

PS: a family of raccoons decided to pay us a visit throughout the dinner. They found their way to the patio rafters above us and hanged around there for almost an hour, less than ten feet from us. Probably a testament to how attractive the smoked meat smell is…

Hogtown Smoke on Urbanspoon

8.8.14

Melt Grilled Cheese

http://www.meltgrilledcheese.com

What an awesome idea - a spot specializing in gilled cheese. As soon as my coworker recommended this tiny joint, we made plans to visit it. A great location too - right across the movie theatre.

SHORT & SWEET
An orange oval with a bold slab serif typeface, the branding is really not memorable and neither the rustic wood glued on the glass. However the food made up for any disappointments. There are quite a few options, including a poutine section and milkshakes!

PALATE
We got their Toronto Tuna and Godfather. For both we had the choice of whole grain or sourdough bread. We picked the latter. The lady put on all the dressings and started one of the 6 large panini grills. It did take a bit longer than we expected, but it was worth it. Our Toronto Tuna came with roasted peppers, mozzarella, cheddar and mayo. It was delicious. As for the Godfather, I did have to return it as we had the choice of grilled or crispy chicken. The poor lady must have forgotten which one we picked. I must note she was busy and overwhelmed. The Godfather was very italian - cheddar, mozzarella, prosciutto, chicken, herbed tomato, pesto and a hint of balsamic vinegar. The sour-dough intensified all the already strong flavors. Pass by at the end of the line - there is a wooden box of home-made sauces to try - Sweet & Spicy Thai, Horseradish Mustard and Roasted Garlic.
We really enjoyed our sandwiches in paper boxes on their few tiny wooden tables and chairs outside. Be prepared as this meal is heavy. Made us both very sleepy for our beach volleyball game after!

PS: oh and just in case you were wondering - there is a big sign saying NO WASHROOM (no exceptions). I guess they can get away with that being a tiny joint.

Melt Grilled Cheese on Urbanspoon

2.8.14

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.