Monday, November 29, 2010

District Modern Japanese Bistro

District is a "Modern Japanese Bistro" on Queen Street East. What do these three words, when put together, mean anyway? That was what I was wondering before going to District. I have never seen the words "Modern" + "Japanese" + "Bistro" in the same sentence. 


From District's website:


"DISTRICT blends sleek and sexy design with modern and authentic Japanese cuisine.  The result is a tempting and tantalizing fusion of sophistication and flavour in an elegant yet intimate lounge like setting."


OK. That sentence does not clarify anything for me as I was still confused after reading it. So many fancy words jumbled up together. I was particularly perplexed about the restaurant being  "modern" AND "authentic" but ALSO "fusion" O_o


Although I sound pretty weary of District, I'm gonna let you know, right of the bat, that I was pleasantly surprised by their quality of food, presentation, and decor. However, I still can't say I totally agree on the "authentic" part - not that I'm a Japanese food connoisseur or anything, but I'm pretty sure that some of the items I ordered that night were not "authentic" Japanese dishes but were more so "fusion".


I got to District at 5:30pm and was the first customer there. Actually, the entire Riverside area was very quiet. 



There's absolutely no indication whatsoever that District is a Japanese restaurant (or forgive me, "Bistro") by its decor. Nothing at all screams "Japanese" to me. The restaurant was very narrow; what you see is what you get, basically a row of tables on the left and a big bar on the right. The bar is very beautiful with the wood and mirror on the wall. The blue lighting beneath the bar is also pretty neat. 




Friday, November 26, 2010

Stonefire

I'm hardly in downtown on weekends that's why I'm always on the look out for new places to dine in the 'burbs. And in 'burbs, I mean Markham and Richmond Hill, and sometimes Scarborough too, which I refer to all as simply "Uptown" haha. You may have a different definition than me, which is understandable but considering that I'm in Mississauga, everywhere else that is not in the west end, or downtown, is termed "Uptown"  for me (except the Yonge & Eglinton area which I call "Midtown"). If I'm not in ANY of those areas, I simply do not know where I am =D 


My friend Adrienne recommended Stonefire to me a couple of months ago. It is located in Thornhill, near Hwy 7 & Bathurst. I'm excited since besides the big chains, such as Moxies, Milestones, Alice Fazoolis, etc) I'm oblivious to non-chain restaurants in Uptown for casual dining.


Once I walked into Stonefire I already feel good about it because it has an open kitchen. Haven't tasted their food yet but open kitchens are always a +1 for me. However, I can't say the same for their wooden floors. It looks a bit out of place for me; the thought of those chairs dragging on the floor haunts me.



The layout of Stonefire also seems a bit awkward. I think it's because I'm not used to seeing restaurants these days as just one giant rectangular space with booths on the sides and tables in the middle. I mean, I see that in Chinese restaurants all the time, but not in lets say, those chain restaurants I talked about before. I don't think I would feel too comfortable dining in the middle like that couple there - I would feel "exposed". Is it just me?




Wednesday, November 24, 2010

beer bistro

I can always count on beer bistro for a good meal; I've never had a bad experience there. I also love their Belgium frites - they are to DIE for! beer bistro is very consistent in serving good quality food with very reasonable prices, which is precisely the reason why they are always packed. beer bistro is great for happy hour too; you will see a lot of "suits" during after-work hours because of its proximity to the financial district. And of course, who wouldn't like a pint (or more) of their favorite beer after a long day's work? beer bistro is very busy during lunch time too; it's a great place for a casual, nice lunch with colleagues (or whoever).


beer bistro's beer list is very impressive (given their name, they better be!) and for those who are novice beer drinkers like me who may feel overwhelmed by their vast selection of beer, beer bistro breaks it all down for you; beers are separated into different categories such as: quenching, crisp, bold, spicy, robust, appetizing, smoky, gluten-free, cider, fruity, etc. 



Pairing suggestions are also available on the menu for those who are not feeling too adventurous (that would be me sometimes).


I usually order Fruli Strawberry from Belgium at beer bistroEven though I'm more a wine drinker, it just feels wrong ordering wine at beer bistro, you know? However, I do loooove my fruity drinks haha. This time around I wanted to try something different, so I went for the McAuslan Apricot Wheat. Still fruity, which I like, but I think I will stick to Fruli next time =) My boyfriend ordered the Hacker-Pschorr Edelhell from Germany. 





Monday, November 22, 2010

Portico

I met up with Joshua (Twitter: @JoshuaLenon, Blog: Illegitimate Sun) for lunch last week at Portico. Joshua has this great thing going, called #beyond140, where he would get together with his Twitter pals over coffee or lunch/dinner to get to know them better. I think it is an awesome idea given that Twitter is so restrictive (with its 140 character limit) and a lot of Tweetups nowadays end up to be huge gatherings (i.e. with more than 20 people, at least). Although these Tweetups are great for networking, it is hard to get to know anyone really well. So this is where #beyond140 comes in. Anyway, check out Joshua's post about our lunch here.


Portico is a small restaurant at Yonge and Richmond, literally a block away from my work place. I've never heard of, or seen, this restaurant before, so I was excited when Joshua suggested to try this place out. I was even more excited when I checked out their website and saw that its executive chef is Chinese!  Ano Choi (the picture is from Portico's website). A short bio also described how Chef Choi's cooking is inspired by his experiences in Hong Kong and at other hotels in Toronto (Portico is located in Cambridge Suites Hotel). 





Sunday, November 21, 2010

HugTO's Cookies & Champagne Party Invite


I got my ticket, have you? If not, you better hurry because this is Toronto's BIGGEST Cookie Exchange and it's only 9 days away!


VIP gift bags valued at $100 are still available but they are disappearing fast! For more information, visit ccparty.hipurbangirl.com.


I will be baking some delicious cookies to share with other HUG too :) Honestly, networking with other Hip Urban Girls in Toronto with champagne and cookies?! It doesn't get better that that =D







Friday, November 19, 2010

The Lobster Trap

I'm sure many of you (and I do mean many) got the dealfind coupon to The Lobster Trap last week ($39 for an $80 voucher). A total of 6,912 coupons were sold by the time the deal was done; that's the most coupons I've seen sold ever on these deal sites! The deal was especially appealing to me because it was only a week or two ago that I drove by the restaurant and thought "I still haven't been to The Lobster Trap!". I've heard so much about this restaurant ever since I immigrated to Toronto, so I was absolutely thrilled about this dealfind deal.


I thought it would be nice to treat my parents for dinner at The Lobster Trap before their month-long trip to Asia next week. My friend, Steph, warned me that the wait was over an hour for her when she went last weekend (the restaurant does not take reservations). Baring that in mind, I thought it would be wise to go on a weeknight, LATE on a weeknight at that, to avoid the crowd and the rush hour traffic. Well, traffic turned out great when we left the house at 7:30pm. HOWEVER, when we got to The Lobster Trap around 8pm, there was still a long wait. We waited close to 45 minutes on a late Thursday night. What gives?!


I'm sure the coupon was the main reason why The Lobster Trap was packed last night. I can't even begin to imagine how it is like there on weekends. So a warning everyone, avoid weekends if possible.



Lobsters accompany you as you wait for a table. Or, you can think of it as they are waiting to be eaten by you.




Monday, November 15, 2010

Menchie's Yogurt - What's Your Mix?

I was invited by the lovely Mary Luz Mejia from Sizzling Communications to the first ever  "Menchie's Blogurt Fest" held at Menchie's first Toronto downtown location on 511 Bloor St. W. last Saturday. Bloggers (15 teams in total) were invited to create their own Menchie's Fro Yo combination where a panel of judges would select three bloggers with the most delicious Fro Yo combo. Awesome prizes include the iPod Shuffle (1st prize), a whole month's supply of Menchie's [a maximum of 10oz per day] (2nd prize), and $50 worth of Menchie's (3rd prize). I will start off by saying that I did not win *BOO* However, I met a lot of great bloggers, tasted a lot of yummy Fro Yo, and took home a cute Menchie's apron ^_^


Before last weekend at Menchie'sI had two unforgettable fro-yo experiences: the first one was at Yogurtland in the States:



The second one was at yeh! in Montreal (see my blog post here).


For the longest time, I was waiting for Toronto to open a yogurt place just like Yogurtland or yeh! - in all honesty I am actually surprised that it took us this long! People nowadays ask for more than just good tasting frozen yogurt, you know? We demand a fun and interactive experience too! 

I remember it was so fun standing in front of the yogurt dispensing machines, just like a little kid at a candy store, knowing that I had the choice of whatever flavor of frozen yogurt I wanted. It was about having that control that made it so satisfying (maybe i have control issues hehe). Anyway, my prayers were answered by this fella.




Friday, November 12, 2010

Mercatto

Must warn you that this post is definitely not one of my most exciting ones - basically my friend Julia and I went to Mercatto one day after work, ordered two pizzas, shared it, and left. No drinks, appetizers, no dessert. BORINGGG right?! Why did I even bother blogging about it then? Well because 1) I had my SLR with me so I took some pictures that are decent enough to show, and 2) because I really, really, love pizza (check out my Pizzeria Libretto post if you haven't already).


If a restaurant has pizza on their menu, my eyes will immdiately scan through the list of pizzas they have. If nothing interests me and I don't end up ordering pizza, in the back of my mind I will always wonder how their pizza would've been like. 


Mercatto has 3 locations in downtown Toronto - we went to the Bay Street location. It was a weeknight around 5:30pm, still bright and hot out (it was August at the time). Summer! Where did you go? *sigh*~


Mercatto seems to be a nice place to stop by for some happy hour drinks and food. Very casual atmosphere with a warm decor (I always associate wood with warmth hehe). I find that I tend to like places with chandeliers too....it automatically gives off a level of elegance and...class.





Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Spicy Eggplants with Minced Pork

It has been several months since I've cooked anything. Literally, MONTHS. You've probably noticed that for the past few months I've only been blogging about restaurants (compare my "Dining Out" page versus my "Cooking" or "Baking" page lol).


I totally miss cooking though (and baking). I usually go on a hiatus when its close to exam time, and recently, my hectic work schedule also played a factor. I've traveled quite a bit too during the summer, so that's another reason. Oh and another reason would be that I only get to cook when I'm over at my boyfriend's place during the weekend (usually Sundays at that). Anyway, those are all the reasons. I have no idea why I feel the need to explain/justify myself but nonetheless, last Sunday, I decided it was time to get my "cook on" again. 


One of the dishes I made last Sunday was this Spicy Eggplants with Minced Pork (魚香茄子) from Christine's Recipes. I totally love her blog. Why? Because she has many authentic Chinese dishes with recipes that are written in ENGLISH, which is VERY IMPORTANT TO ME =). I've been following her blog for quite a while now and there are so many dishes I want to try to make from her site.



The name of the actual recipe on her blog is "Spicy Eggplant with Minced Pork in Clay Pot". I do not own a clay pot (nor do my boyfriend) so I made do with just a regular pot, and left out the "Clay Pot" part from the title of my post.

This Spicy Eggplant with Minced Pork dish has always been one of my favorite Chinese dishes because I love eggplant (only the thin, long Chinese eggplants though) and spicy food. The combination of sauce, the spiciness, and the soft eggplants in this dish just makes it so appetizing, especially with rice! This is very dangerous thought because you may end up eating many many bowls of rice ^_^



Monday, November 8, 2010

Fantaxia Restaurant - A Private Taste

Fantaxia is a Chinese restaurant located in a small strip plaza, "Skymark Plaza", in North York (3555 Don Mills Rd, Unit 5). The restaurant itself is pretty hidden so you may not notice it right away; it is between Subway and No Frills. 


Fantaxia is different than your typical Chinese restaurant because it is a "Private Kitchen" or "私房菜" ("Sze Fong Choy" in Chinese). Popularized in the late '90s in Hong Kong, the first private kitchens often had meals in the chef's own apartment consisted of one menu, a few tables, and one seating per evening. Diners had to book weeks ahead, sometimes even months. Nowadays,  private kitchens do not operate like that but rather have became more varied, more established, and operate as small restaurants. However, a few golden rules still remain for private kitchens: 


1) They do not prepare menus for customers to choose from;
2) They only offer one to two seatings per night; and 
3) They do not have any form of advertising - recommendations are largely word-of-mouth. 


Exclusivity is what makes private kitchens special. Private kitchens generally provides homemade dishes with a sense of being at home in a cozy, intimate, unpretentious, and friendly environment. 


Like I said, you gotta call ahead of time if you want the special menu. It was my Mom that called for the reservation. They will typically ask you how many people are coming, what your budget is, if there is anything that you like or not like (i.e. type of meat, allergies, more light dishes or spicy or fried foods etc.) and they will customize the menu for you. I'm not sure if Fantaxia take walk-ins.


That night we brought our own wine.  



Our menu consisted of 8 courses. All the menu items have really poetic names. For example, one of the dishes listed below translates to "Boat with Full Harvest". Good luck trying to figure out what that is =)


Soup with Fungi and Fish Belly - It was thick and hearty with lots of fungi & fish belly. Great start to the meal.


Fried Oysters - This was soooooo tasty!  One of my favorite dish that night. Each oyster is rested on a piece of small slice of bread, which in turn are on a bed of crispy leaves. The sauce was incredible.




Thursday, November 4, 2010

Oliver & Bonancini Café Grill - Yonge & Front

This post is way overdue, and I mean WAY overdue. The first half of this post is from my friend, Adrienne's birthday back in July. I honestly don't know why I didn't blog about the dinner sooner; really no reason at all so don't be bias when you're reading this, it's not like I was dreading it because the food was bad hehe. Maybe at the back of my mind I knew I was going to come back to this O&B for another friend's birthday? So that the two events can be combined into one "Duo Birthday O&B" post? Whatever the case may be, my second time at this O&B location was indeed for my friend Jenn's birthday party several weeks ago.


This is O&B's entrance from the inside. They have another entrance beside their patio.




By the way, the majority of the pictures in this post will be from my first visit to O&B since thats the time I brought along my SLR; the pictures from the second dinner was taken with my iPhone. 


Why the difference in gear? Well for Adrienne's birthday, it was an intimate small dinner with only me, the birthday girl, and my foodie friend Cindy - my dear friends who are already used to my foodie tendencies of taking pictures before they are allowed to eat anything on the table. For Jenn's party, it was a big party with a lot of new faces so I didn't want to seem like a weirdo by taking pictures of food like a mad woman. I like to make friends too.




Moving on. I really liked the decor at O&B. I love the huge wine rack at the entrance. It had a casual vibe but not TOO casual.




Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Canoe

I have never been to Canoe before last Friday. This seems to be surprising for many since I'm supposedly such a "foodie". I don't know, Canoe has never been on my "to-eat" list of restaurants. A lot of people go to Canoe during 'Licious, but for those who are in-the-know, Canoe is one of the most, if not the most, difficult restaurant to get a reservation during 'Licious. It also doesn't help that 1) I do not own an American Express credit card, and 2) Given #1, I am not the kind of person to redial day-in and day-out just so I can get a reservation (or in hopes of one - getting through may not guarantee a table). Doesn't help either that Canoe is pricey; if you've been following my blog, you would know I've never been too keen on super expensive and pretentious restaurants. Last, but not least, I do hear from some people say that Canoe is over-rated - not sure what they mean but I never bothered to find out more either. Whatever the case may be, due to some of the above reasons or all of the above reasons, I've never been to Canoe.

Well, obviously, I went last Friday. Not with my significant other or friends, but with colleagues. Work was crazy hectic for the last two weeks, and since last Thursday was the deadline (we all worked 24-hour straight in the office), the bosses thought it was time to treat ourselves to a nice lunch. It was also a colleague's birthday, so my bosses a.k.a. the-ones-who-would-pick-up-the-tab, decided to go "all-out" and Canoe was chosen.

It was the Friday before Halloween and Canoe had this giant pumpkin out front, nothing else. I thought it was kinda awkward - either they go all out with the Halloween decor, or have none at all. 




To more important things.

We got a table by the window so we had a superb view. My boss ordered a bottle of white wine right away and the bread came immediately afterwards. I gotta say the service was meticulous, attentive, and friendly - not snobby at all. 


Without further adieu, here are the appetizers (note: we did not share appetizers; we each got our own).

Cumbrae Farms Steak Tartare: Cookstown Chips & Forbes' Wild Flavours - I ordered this appetizer thinking "how big could it be?". Well I was wrong - it was really the size of a burger patty, or bigger. I did not expect this portion for an appetizer from Canoe - I expected, maybe half? The steak tartare (or what I like to call "beef sashimi" hehe) was very delicious. The different ingredients mixed in with the steak tartare along with the chips gave the whole appetizer various textures to the palette (if it was just the steak tartare itself it would've been really boring - just stickiness/mushiness). The saltiness of the egg and the seasoning of the veggies also gave the whole dish a lot of different flavors. I was genuinely full after this.