Thursday, November 27, 2014

Hand to Mouth - A Kamayan Dinner at Lamesa Filipino Kitchen [VIDEO]

Ditch the knife, fork, spoon, chopsticks or whatever cutlery you use to eat. Free yourself from all that nonsense and just eat with your hands, folks. That's how it's going down at the kamayan dinners at Lamesa Filipino Kitchen, where food is presented on lush, green banana leaves and eaten by hand. Available every Sunday for $40 per person you can now experience an interactive, one-of-a-kind hands-on eating celebration.

The kamayan tradition is something that the owners and chefs at Lamesa (Twitter: @LamesaTO, Facebook: Lamesa) grew up with. Their parents would eat with their hands at home; it was a way for them to connect with their culture in a new country like Canada. At Lamesa, co-owner Les Sabilano and chefs Rudy Boquila and Joash Dy hope to bring people closer to Filipino culture with their kamayan style dining. So, what can you expect?

“Instead of the food simply being piled in the middle of the table, our chefs attempt to create beautiful presentations live, in front of guests. It all starts with an empty banana leaf covered table. Our chefs then begin to add one item at a time while explaining to guests how each component is made and how to eat it..." explains Sabilano.

Still confused? No sweat, I got it all on tape my phone when I visited Lamesa for a media dinner. Even if you're not confused just watch the video, okay? I spent a lot of time editing the thing :)

Don't hesitate nor think twice about this - just make a reservation now. It's that good and I'm that confident that you'll enjoy it. Most of the time I only post pictures but because I knew photos won't do this dinner justice, I had to take a video. Visually, I should have already sold you on this but I'm sure you're wondering "How about the food?" Let's just say it was extremely easy - almost too easy - to stuff my face nonstop with food (so un-lady like of me!) even with five other people at the table whom I've never met before in my life. Without utensils I felt completely ravenous; like a cave woman I was already ripping apart those adobe chicken wings even before I finished swallowing all that delicious garlic fried rice. I probably looked like I haven't had a morsel of food in days. I admit it was difficult to dig in at first, as in, I didn't want to ruin the beautiful masterpiece in front of me. Also I didn't want to be that person who couldn't wait two more seconds until everybody at the table was ready to eat. All that went out the window once I noticed someone reach out for a sisig lettuce cup, and the rest is history. Some time later (I apparently lost all track of time) what was left on the table in front of me were chicken bones, oxtail bones, and empty clam and mussel shells. I felt slightly embarrassed but I didn't care. I was full and happy. The end.

Click here for more information on the kamayan dinner at Lamesa. For reservations please email

*This meal was complimentary. The opinions and views expressed on this post are my own*

Lamesa Filipino Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Seafood Feast at Catch

Please people. Do yourself a favour and venture north of Bloor to 744 St. Clair Ave. where you'll find Catch, one of my favourite seafood restaurants in the city right now.

Open Tuesdays to Sundays at 5 PM for dinner and Sundays from 11 AM to 3 PM for brunch, Catch (Twitter: @catch_toronto, Facebook: Catch) is a friendly neighbourhood restaurant serving high-quality, refined seafood dishes at affordable prices. Head chef Matty Cowan (formerly of Simple Bistro) is incredibly original with his menu and brings creative combinations of ingredients, flavours and textures together, showcasing seafood in new and interesting ways. Have you ever had octopus meatballs? Or an octopus-based bolognese? How about a "Fishermans Pie" - a twist on the "Shepherd's Pie" - that's made with lobster, scallops and shrimp? I certainly have not.

Ian Moores is currently making some very tasty craft cocktails at Catch.

The view from my seat at the bar. I love the space here; it's intimate, warm and cozy, and I love the modest open kitchen at the back. I'm also obsessed with that wooden ceiling.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Win a $100 Gift Card to a Restaurant of Your Choice with Zomato - CLOSED

Are you using Zomato yet?

Zomato (Twitter: @Zomato, Facebook: Zomato), the popular online and mobile restaurant search and discovery service, has finally made its first push into North America last month in - you guessed it - Toronto! Currently present in over 100 cities serving over 30 million monthly visitors globally, users of Zomato can access the website and mobile app to search for places to go out for a meal, get home delivery, catch up at a cafe, or enjoy the local nightlife. Zomato's core content features include menus, photos, and geocoded coordinates for restaurants; users can rate and review restaurants, as well as create their own network of foodies.

Providing in-depth information for over 11,000 restaurants in the Greater Toronto Area, one can browse through restaurant information, read and write restaurant reviews, share pictures, and build a personal network of people whose opinions they trust. Zomato’s award-winning mobile app allows users to discover restaurants around them based on their physical location, in addition to providing information for all restaurants in the city. 

To celebrate the launch of Zomato in Toronto, I'm giving away a $100 gift card, courtesy of Zomato, to one lucky winner of this contest. The $100 gift card can go towards a restaurant of YOUR CHOICE. Have a restaurant that you've always wanted to try but is out of your price range? Or having trouble figuring out where to take your foodie friend for his/her birthday? Or you simply want to splurge on yourself because you're just that amazing? Whatever the case may be, here's your chance!


1) Follow me (@foodieyu) on Twitter;
2) Sign up for a Zomato account at or via its mobile app;
3) Follow me (@foodieyu) on Zomato; and
4) Let me know in the comments section of this blog post your Twitter name and your Zomato name.

That's it, you've now entered the contest!

To increase your entries and your chances of winning, tweet the following sentence exactly as shown:

Win a $100 gift card to a restaurant of your choice from @foodieyu & @Zomato! #Zomato #fjczomato

1. Your tweet (i.e. extra entry to the contest) is valid only if you have completed steps 1 to 4.
2. You may tweet the above up to three times a day for the duration of the contest. Each tweet counts as one extra entry. Re-tweeting others do not count as an entry. 
3. The tweets are tracked by the #fjczomato hashtag. If you don't see your tweet in the hashtag stream it means there is no entry from you. Read this to find out the possible reasons why your tweets are not showing up
4. Restaurant of choice has to be located the Greater Toronto Area.

Contest starts on Monday, November 24th and ends on Monday, December 1st at 12PM. 
One lucky winner will be chosen randomly from and I will announce the winner on Wednesday, December 3rd. 

GOOD LUCK!!! ^_^

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Saint Lucia Dinner with Top Chef Fan Favourite Chef Nina Compton

Winter is technically still one month away but I seriously don't remember the last time I felt this cold in November, nor do I remember ever being stuck in traffic for three hours from the city's first snowfall of the year (and that's snowfall not snowstorm). Methinks it's gonna be a long winter. Then again, at least I'm not in Buffalo.

Ah, what a perfect segue into the #SaintLuciaNow Dinner in the Moonlight. No, I wasn't in Saint Lucia last week (oh how I wish I was!) but I was invited by Saint Lucia Tourist Board (@saintlucianow) to attend a dinner last Monday at St. James Cathedral's Deanery hosted by Saint Lucia's Culinary Ambassador, chef Nina Compton. 

If you're not familiar with Saint Lucia, it is one of the Windward Islands of the West Indies, nestled halfway down the Eastern Caribbean archipelago. Saint Lucia is known for its natural beauty and diverse attractions, including the signature Piton Mountains, a tropical rainforest, and one of the world's few drive-in volcanoes. The island's culturally rich offerings include the bustling marketplace in the capital of Castries, quaint fishing villages along the coastline, and the annual Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival. I also want to add that it's currently 30 degrees there. Just take my money and get me a ticket to Saint Lucia STAT!

As for the food, Saint Lucia’s culinary profile is diverse from upscale dining to street food. Saint Lucia has some of the finest grade of cocoa in the world and sources fresh food from their land and sea offering - a true farm to table experience. And who is better to educate us about Saint Lucian cuisine than Saint Lucian chef Nina Compton?

Celebrity chef Nina Compton (@nina_comptonis the daughter of Sir John Compton, the late Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, and was the runner up and fan favourite on the most recent season of Bravo’s TV’s Top Chef. A graduate of The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, Compton began her professional journey at Daniel in New York City, working and learning alongside Daniel Boulud and Alex Lee. She has trained in French, Caribbean and Italian cuisine, and is a self-proclaimed "gnocchi queen". Compton recently left her post as Chef de Cuisine at Scott Conant's Scarpetta at the Fountainbleau Miami Beach to take some time off to travel. At the Saint Lucia dinner, Compton shared with guests a delightful meal inspired by her native Saint Lucia, but first things first, a drink is in order. Compton gave us a quick demonstration of her signature cocktail, the Cocoa Tea Martini


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Kujira Japanese Cuisine

Promising Japanese fusion cuisine and, according to its website, where "Eastern flavours meet Western modern fusion", Kujira on 12 Cumberland Street opened its doors a little bit over two months ago in upscale Yorkville. Chef Kevin Hyunki, formerly of Nomé Izakaya, helms the kitchen in the new 56-seat restaurant. Kujira's detailed menu starts with soups and salads, followed by sushi and sashimi, and ends with cold and hot tapas from the sushi bar and kitchen, respectively. All in all, Hyunki's plates are pretty, innovative and unique. Keep in mind that Kujira (Twitter: @JapKujira, Facebook: Kujira Japanese Cuisineis not an "izakaya" (i.e. a drinking establishment that serves small cheap plates of food to accompany drinks) but an eatery serving Japanese tapas, or shareable plates, that can be enjoyed with a group of friends. Needless to say, Sapporo and sake are always welcomed.

Tucked in a few steps below street level, floor-to-ceiling glass panels open the restaurant to its modest patio out front. Kujira is no doubt an excellent spot for people watching in the summer :)

The natural woods - from the floors, wall paneling, to the custom tables and chairs - give a warm and cozy feel to the restaurant.

Don't you love the detailing on this teapot?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Winners of the 2014 Gourmet Food & Wine Expo Giveaway are...


Congratulations Nicole, Diana and James! You've all just won a pair of tickets to this year's Gourmet Food & Wine Expo VIP Preview Night on Thursday, November 20th, from 6pm - 10pm! Please email me at :)

I also want to say a big THANK YOU to the 56 contestants who participated in the contest

Here's a snapshot of the Excel spreadsheet where I tracked the #gfwefjc hashtag from day one of the contest. The tracking was done using chronological order, as in, #1 was the first person to enter the contest. To enter, the person had to tweet "Hey @foodieyu I want to win a pair of tickets worth $90 to the @GFWE VIP Preview Night! #GFWE #gfwefjc". Each person could tweet once a day for the duration of the contest. Once the contest was over and everybody's entries were accounted for I checked to see if they follow me (@foodieyu) on Twitter. Below is the list of the 117 valid entries:

I used "True Random Number Generator" from to pick the three winners for me.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Fall Menu Preview at Earls Kitchen + Bar

I was invited to Earls Kitchen + Bar's new fall menu tasting several weeks ago at their 150 King Street West location (@earlskingst). In case you are not aware, all of Earls' menus are designed by a group of talented, award-winning chefs called the "Chef Collective". Here's a quick introduction about this group of elites.

It all started this summer when Earls (Twitter: @earlsrestaurant, Facebook: Earls Restaurants), a Vancouver based, family owned restaurant group, opened a brand new Test Kitchen in Vancouver. Although the kitchen is not only open to the public, it asks for feedback as they test new dishes - it is the first chain restaurant in North America to let the public in on how they create unique new dishes and methods those dishes are created with. 

(Photo Credit: Earls)

Instead of working with a small team of in-house culinary development chefs with guest chefs and chef consultants contributing a menu item, or with a “celebrity chef” putting their name on the entire menu, Earls decided to hire some of those consulting chefs to work for the company, some full time, some part time, but to have all of them work together collaboratively. Their talents are vastly different, yet equal, as are their positions in the kitchen. They noticed dishes that started with a brilliant idea from one chef could be elevated even further by another, or the reverse, a complicated fine dining recipe one chef brought to the table could be simplified and reworked to make a great Earls dish. Chefs working together brought new ideas, new cooking techniques, new ingredients and new inspiration into Earls Test Kitchen, so instead of a group of chefs working individually, it was a group of chefs working collectively. 

Meet the Earls Chef Collective

A series of Earls Chef Collective videos.

These awesome chefs flew in to Toronto to join us for the menu tasting and I had such a great time chatting with chef Dawn and chef Hamid during dinner! Anyway, enough about the chefs, right? Here's a look at what I got to taste that evening:

Lobster & prawn salad, capers, parsley, lemon, aioli, grilled brioche

Hoisin hot sauce, cilantro, roasted peanuts

Monday, November 10, 2014

Omakase at Yasu Sushi Bar

Opened merely just six months ago on 81 Harbord St. at Spadina, Yasu has already received a slew of positive write-ups and reviews from food bloggers and food critics in the city. So what makes this place so special? For $80 per person excluding taxes and gratuities, Yasu serves each guest 18 pieces of nigiri and a dessert. And no, you don't get to choose what sushi you want in this tiny 12-seat restaurant, it's omakase, which means you simply sit down and give full control to the chef - he is the one deciding what you'll eat. 

There are two seating times available at Yasu (Twitter: @yasutoronto, Facebook: Yasuevery evening at 6:00PM and 8:30PM (they don't accommodate for walk-ins). Don't be overly diligent and arrive early because they will literally lock the door and force you to wait outside until it's 6:00 PM / 8:30PM on the dot (I really hope they'll do something about this "policy" come winter time). Lastly, a credit card is needed to when you make your reservation. Any cancellations, no shows or reduction in the number of parties made less than 24 hours will be charged the full price of the dinner plus HST unless they are able to fill your seats. 

There are 10 seats at the bar and a two-top by the window.

Taped on the wall behind the chef is a list of fish and where they are from. It's safe to say that most, if not all, of the fish you'll be having that evening will be on that list.

Two chefs work behind the counter and they hardly talk to one another (or to guests for that matter) and if they do talk, they talk in very hushed tones. Generally speaking, the atmosphere at Yasu is very quiet, subdued and borderline sterile...similar to an art gallery.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

2014 Gourmet Food & Wine Expo Giveaway - CLOSED

I'm giving away THREE PAIRS of tickets to this year's Gourmet Food & Wine Expo VIP Preview Night on Thursday, November 20th, from 6pm - 10pm! Each pair of tickets is valued at $90.

The 20th annual Gourmet Food & Wine Expo, held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (North Building), will take you on a food and beverage journey around the globe. Sip and savour your way through international gourmet cuisine, exotic delicacies, incredible wines, cutting-edge cocktails, stunning craft beers and much more.

VIP Preview Night admission on Thursday, November 20th, offers a sneak preview amongst the city's most elite guests. It is the first night of the Expo and the first chance that attendees get to try the samples and see all the exhibitors.


1) You MUST be following me (@foodieyu) on Twitter


2) Tweet the following sentence, exactly as shown, nothing before or after it: 

Hey @foodieyu I want to win a pair of tickets worth $90 to the @GFWE VIP Preview Night! #GFWE #gfwefjc

1. For your entry to be valid, you need to tweet the above sentence exactly as shown
2. You may tweet once a day for the duration of the contest. Re-tweeting others do NOT count as a valid entry
3. Contest is tracked by the #gfwefjc hashtag. If you don't see your tweet in the hashtag stream it means there is no entry from you. Read this to find out the possible reasons why your tweets are not showing up

Contest starts on Sunday, November 9 and ends on Sunday, November 16 at 12PM. 
Three lucky winners will be chosen randomly from and I will announce the winners on Sunday, November 16. 

GOOD LUCK!!! ^_^