Saturday, December 26, 2015

Morals Village Hot Pot ("德莊火鍋") in Markham

What's better than having hot pot at home with friends and family on a cold winter's night? Not much. I can picture it now. My dining table - overflowing with plates of thinly sliced marbled beef, plump shrimp, fish balls, dumplings, cubes of soft and fried tofu, spinach and noodles - all fighting for space amongst strainers, chopsticks, dipping sauces, jugs of prune juice and soya milk. And of course the star of the show - the generous pot of bubbling broth in the middle of the table - cooking all night long. Ah, yes.

Alright, maybe there is one thing better than having hot pot at home with friends and family on a cold winter's night, and that's having hot pot with friends and family on a cold winter's night at Morals Village Hot Pot (Instagram: @moralsvillagehotpot, Facebook: Morals Village Hot Pot). Morals Village, with close to 600 locations in China, is an all-you-can-eat ("AYCE") hot pot restaurant with a lot to offer. Guests can chose from 12 different kinds of soup bases and six dipping sauces to get started. As for food? Oh man, so many options. Meat lovers can choose from slices of rib eye beef, beef tongue, hand-rolled pork, pork kidney, New Zealand lamb shoulder, marinated beef / pork, and 10 varieties of meat balls (you can also pay $3 extra for AYCE certified Angus beef). For everything else there's tasty stuff like fresh cuttlefish, shrimps and mussels, 20+ different kinds of vegetables, 7 tofu options, various innards, noodles...and more.

If all that doesn't impress you maybe Morals Village's space will. Unlike a lot of the dingy hot pot places in the suburbs Morals Village's interior is modern, spacious, and clean. Check out these comfy booths which are great for small groups.

So in a nutshell, you can enjoy Morals Village's AYCE menu thoroughly without ever getting bored, but if you're feeling particularly fancy you can also order from their Chef's Recommendation menu. Paying a little extra gets you premium cuts like Wagyu short rib slices and Kagoshima pork slices, seafood offerings like tiger shrimps, Alaskan snow crab legs, fresh oyster, Japanese scallops and abalone. 

In terms of drinks, aside from cold soy milk, pop, and the usual sour prune drink (a staple beverage for hot pot) Morals Village also serves freshly squeezed kiwi juice, pear juice, wintermelon tea, lemon juice and watermelon juice. I immediately opted for the juices; I've hated that prune juice ever since I was a kid >< The juices were delicious and very refreshing, perfect for hot pot.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Sweet O'Clock - Taiwanese Dessert Shop in North York

If you love soft and chewy textures like mochi and tapioca and shudder at the thought of sickly sweet chocolate desserts, then Sweet O'Clock in North York may be your key to dessert heaven.

Specializing in Taiwanese desserts, Sweet O'Clock (Instagram: @sweetoclock.tor, Facebook: Sweet O'clock) is all about the shaved ice, milk teas, boba (or tapioca), grass jelly, red bean, and of course, mango - dare I say, every Asian's favourite fruit?! What Sweet O'Clock prides itself on, however, are their “freshly made, cooked and served” taro balls, herbal jelly and tofu pudding.

There is a lot to choose from at Sweet O'Clock, and I really do mean a lot. The dessert shop's menu is separated into the 10 categories: Hand-made Taro Ball, Herbal Jelly, Creama, Cold Desserts, Signature Tea, Special Mix Tea, Fresh Brewed Tea, Pudding, Traditional Tofu Pudding, and Fresh Fruit Slush. Customers can even choose from 19 different toppings as add-ons such as barley, taro, peanuts, and various flavoured jellies, beans and puddings.

A real thick and tasty creama with lots of taro flavour. I loved it.

Herbal Jelly + Herbal Blended Ice + Taro Balls + Sweet Potato  Balls + Boba + Cream 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Seafood Brunch at Pearl Diver

Serving dinner seven days a week, lunch Monday to Friday, and Sunday brunch, Pearl Diver opened quietly this past summer on 100 Adelaide Street East. Although there wasn't too much buzz about the raw bar back then, the restaurant has been making a name for itself lately with its 100 oysters for $100 Thursday nights. Hmmmm I wonder how many oysters I can eat in one sitting? I feel the need to find out now. Right now.

While Pearl Diver (Twitter: @PearlDiverTO, Facebook: Pearl Diver) is a seafood-focused spot, their menu also offers numerous non-seafood items. The kitchen is headed by chefs Tom Malycha and Martin Zechel, who ensured that there's a balance of menu choices that appeal to both seafood lovers and meat lovers, with meat options like dry-aged beef burgers, PEI Rib Eyes, Ontario hanger steaks, and pork side ribs. I think this is fantastic because there were times when after indulging on a bunch of delicious oysters and clams at a seafood restaurant I found myself craving red meat - it's like my carnivorous side decided to suddenly emerge out of its shell right at that moment. It doesn't happen every single time but nevertheless, Pearl Diver gets a thumbs-up from me when it comes to that.

Not many of you may know but Pearl Diver has a sister restaurant in Beijing, China, called C Pearl. The eatery specializes in oysters and has been opened since Fall 2014.

I dropped by Pearl Diver for Sunday brunch and ordered my favourite brunch cocktail right away. This one has a clam garnish. Yum!

Dulse rimmed glass, fresh Horseradish & Quahaug clam

Friday, December 11, 2015

Lunch at Little Fin

I made my way to the financial district a couple of weeks ago for lunch at Little Fin (Twitter: @Little_Fin, Facebook: Little Fin) located at the Dineen building. First thing I noticed was suits everywhereee! Did you know I used to be one of them? Well, not literally in a suit but I was in finance ever since I graduated from uni until two years ago. I remember the rat race from Union Station every morning, and getting lost in The Path, and climbing that never-ending corporate ladder like it was yesterday.

Ah, memories. Anyway, back to Little Fin! This small seafood shop from The Chase Hospitality Group (the same people behind The Chase, The Chase Fish & Oyster, Colette and Kasa Moto) focuses on gourmet salads, fish sandwiches, and lobster offerings such as lobster poutine, lobster grilled cheese and lobster rolls. Little Fin is very small but there's still seating available...not many but it's there (more seating in the summer with the patio). It gets really crowded during lunch so a lot of people also do take-out there.

If you're in a hurry you can always grab one of these salads and eat at your desk ;) That day Little Fin had a cumin, carrot and chickpea salad for $3.50, and a radicchio and panzanella salad for $4.

Little Fin is also partnered with UberEATS, the newest door to door delivery service launched three days ago in Toronto. 

Poached shrimp & creamy avocado dressing
I really liked this salad. The crisp greens were well-dressed with a light and creamy avocado dressing. There was also a hard-boiled egg...plenty of shrimps too!

Monday, December 7, 2015

New Winter Cocktails at The Keg Steakhouse + Bar

Contrary to what some of you may think I actually really like The Keg. I go there whenever I feel like having a tasty piece of steak. I go with friends and family for casual dinners and for special occasions. The thing I like the most about the steakhouse is that it is very consistent - it doesn't matter which location I go to I know I'll be served their warm house-made sourdough to start, that their French onion soup will be just as cheesy as the bowl I had last time, and that their twice-baked potato will always be my favourite side. I also know that with my steak I would be sipping on a decently-priced glass of wine in a nice, comfortable dining room, and I would leave content and full all without putting a big dent in my wallet. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for supporting independent restaurants but truth be told, there's nothing that can replace The Keg in my mind.

Anyway, you know how I mentioned I like having wine with my steak? Like most people? ;) Yea, although I love cocktails I always stick to wines at The Keg, this is because I've tried a few of their cocktails on several different occasions and they were all less than stellar. They were either too sweet, not boozy enough, or both. So, when The Keg invited me to their new King West location (Twitter: @TheKeg, Facebook: The Keg Steakhouse + Barfor a cocktail tasting I was game. I was really curious to see whether their cocktails have improved 'cause in my opinion, there was really nowhere to go but up.

In celebration of the new season, The Keg has introduced 10 brand new cocktails and martinis. Between my friend and I, we tried five cocktails and one martini:

BOURBON MAPLE MARTINI (2oz, $11) - Woodford Reserve bourbon, maple syrup, fresh lemon and cranberry juice.
GINGER DARK AND STORMY (2oz, $11.5) - Gosling’s Black Seal rum, ginger syrup and fresh lime juice, simple syrup and a splash of ginger ale.
CRANBERRY MOJITO (2oz, $11.5) - Havana Club 3 Year Old rum, fresh lemon and lime juice, soda and muddled mint, cranberries and sugar.

CRANBERRY SMASH (1oz, $7.5) - Woodford Reserve bourbon, Chambord, Jägermeister, cranberry juice and simple syrup, fresh lemon juice and muddled cranberries.
KEG NEGRONI (3oz, $12) - Hendrick's gin, Aperol and sweet vermouth.
HONEY VANILLA MANHATTAN (3oz, $12) - Jack Daniel’s whisky, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey liqueur, red and white vermouth, Galliano and house-made drunken Bing cherries.

There's no question that The Keg has stepped up their cocktail game. You can now find pretty trendy cocktails and martinis there. One of my favourites was their spicy twist on the Dark and Stormy (made with fresh ginger) and albeit a bit sweet, I also enjoyed their Bourbon Maple Martini and their Cranberry Smash (I'm a bourbon girl). Both the classic Negroni and Honey Vanilla Manhattan seemed a lot boozier than I remembered ... which is, of course, a very good thing.

So. Much. Booze. NEED. FOOD!

Although I frequent The Keg I've never written about them. To be honest, I don't find writing about steaks particularly interesting which is why I've never blogged about The Keg, Ruth's Chris, Jacob's & Co., or Harbour Sixty. But I guess this is the perfect opportunity to do so! Because aside from the cocktails we also tried a new appetizer and a new cut of steak...

Sesame-soy seasoned Ahi served on fresh avocado
This was my first time having the tuna tartare at The Keg. Introduced in November 2014, the starter consists of well-seasoned ahi tuna cubes on a bed of smooth and creamy avocado served with crispy wonton chips.