The Kolkata Club (Mississauga)

Picture courtesy of Parv
Hement Bhagwani, the restauranteur who created the Amaya chain and Indian Street Food, recently opened a place that’s very different from his last two ventures: The Kolkata Club, a restaurant that’s influenced by the social clubs established during the British Raj period in India. Most clubs were exclusively for British officers and their families; while they would hire Indian citizens to work at the clubs, the workers weren’t allowed to eat in the dining room.
Then in 1907 the Calcutta Club opened, the first social club whose membership policy didn’t restrict based on race. Hence, when Hement started the Mississauga restaurant, he chose to pay homage to the more lenient Calcutta Club. When the British left India, the 'clubs' remained and was returned to the people, despite there still being an element of exclusivity. Today, the affluent are favoured. Luckily, dining at The Kolkata Club, in Mississauga, doesn’t require years on a wait list, a vast family fortune, or an impressive surname.


Kolkata’s menu is inspired by the choices found in India, often reinterpreted for the British palette, with their own twist. It also includes Asian options gleamed from India’s neighbours such as momos, dumplings popular in Tibet cuisine, filled with vegetables ($11.50) or chicken ($13.50). With the chicken ones sold out by 7:45pm, we stuck with the vegetable version. I was worried they’d be bland against the thick chewy dough, but the garlic vegetable medley was flavourful enough and works as a lighter starter. Served with gravy and chili sauce on a sizzling plate, generally found at chop suey restaurants, the momos developed a crispy crust and stayed hot.


Catering to British taste buds does mean dishes don’t incorporate a lot of spice. While my friend warned the Bengali chingri prawns ($18.50) would likely be spicy, the use of green chilis was subdued with the main flavours being the curry and a hit of something tangy. Personally, I would have liked this to be spicier - if only I stopped the waiter from taking away the chili sauce accompanying the momos, it’d be perfect! Yet, if curries could be refreshing, this dish fits the bill.


Luckily, we had an order of pulao ($15.95) and plain naan ($3.25) to soak up every drop of the sauce from the murg methid Dhabe wala ($15.50), which was aromatic, flavourful, and rich without being heavy. The menu describes the dish as being ‘country’ chicken, likely due to it incorporating large pieces of bone-in dark meat. In my books, this is the best cut for braised chicken – the bone adds flavour and keeps the meat moist – and I’ve always been partial to dark meat instead of white.  Needless to say, we finished this dish with gusto.

Picture courtesy of Parv
The chicken curry went well with the forest mushroom, truffle, and morel pulao ($15.95). While I couldn’t taste any truffle or morel, there was plenty of white mushrooms incorporated into the rice and when the bits of fried onion seeped into curry, they added another depth to the sauce.

Picture courtesy of Parv
While dining at The Kolkata Club during their first month operating, the kitchen was dealing with growing pains. Aside from the lack of chicken momos, the British Raj influenced steak roast was also unavailable. Nonetheless, both dishes require prepping ahead of time, hence stock outs are somewhat understandable. However, when the kitchen was too busy to make chai, an after-dinner drink that’s synonymous with Indian cuisine, it was a bit odd. Surely, even if the tea had to be steeped ahead of time and reheated later, it’s better than not serving it at all.
A hot aromatic drink would have gone well with the saffron mango cheesecake ($8.50), a contrast against the cool light dessert with a pronounced tropical mango taste. I did enjoy the generous sprinkling of saffron over top, its umami essence adding an interesting element to the cake.


These surprising twists are even evident in their cocktails. The aam panna mojito ($12.50) is described as the tangiest cocktail on the list. While still sweet, the drink is refreshing from the aam panna (or green mango drink) and well muddled mint. A hit of chaat masala gives the cocktail an almost savoury finish.

The Kolkata Club feels different compared to traditional Indian restaurants. Like the pictured social clubs along the restaurant walls, customers tend to come in larger groups and many dressed to impress. Dinner was a well-paced leisurely affair, lasting well over two hours for the three-course event. In the days where reservations come with two-hour seating limits, this laissez-faire attitude is a welcomed reminder of the good old days.  
Overall mark - 7 out of 10
Disclaimer: The above meal was complimentary. Rest assured, as noted in my mission statement, I will always provide an honest opinion.


How To Find Them
 Location: Mississauga, Canada
 Address: 488 Eglinton Avenue West

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!


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Wong Ming Hee 黃明記粥粉麵家 (Hong Kong)


There’s something about the wonton noodles in Hong Kong that’s better than our options in Toronto. While stopping in Wong Ming Hee for lunch, their owner offered a hypothesis to my observation – they use fresh noodles made with eggs (rather than other binding agents) so they don’t have to add gan suy to them to give the noodles a springy consistency. That additive alters the taste of the delicate noodles.

Of course, she warned, this does mean their boiled seasonal vegetables, in this case Chinese broccoli ($16), isn’t as crisp. It’s true, but the sizeable portion makes up for it.


Wong Ming Hee’s brisket noodles in soup ($33) was delicious – the beef tender, well seeped with flavour, and incorporating an even marbling of fat. The broth arrives hot and just salty enough to pair with the aforementioned springy egg noodles.


It’s much better than the squid and fish balls noodles in soup ($33). The squid balls are floury while the fish ball’s consistency a bit to bouncy for my taste. They get better as I leave them in the broth, which isn’t as flavourful as the brisket; maybe they need to be cooked longer.


While Wong Ming Hee doesn’t grace any travel guide lists of must-try noodle places, I was more than happy with their brisket noodles and not having to wait, even during the lunch hour rush. They were also one of the friendliest casual dining places we visited, the owner even asking if we wanted an extra bowl of broth when she saw ours was half depleted. A great find for stopping at after a walk-through Kowloon Walled-City Park.

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Kowloon, Hong Kong
 Address: 80 Kai Tak Road

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____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!


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  • On Lee Noodle Soup


On Lee Noodle Soup 安利魚蛋粉麵 (Hong Kong)


Located by the Pacific Ocean, it’s no surprise that fishing was and still is a major industry for the city. With access to fresh seafood, fish balls are a traditional food item you have to try in Hong Kong. On Lee Noodle Soup is one restaurant, frequently touted by bloggers and travel sites, as a go-to location.

Opening at 9am, there was already a line on our Sunday visit. Don’t worry, they’re a large restaurant with a number of communal seat-yourself tables holding six, so the queue was easily accommodated. On Lee is a well-oiled machine, noodles were flying out in less than five minutes, each bowl finished with a big ladle of soup and generous sprinkling of green onions.


The two items with rice noodles ($40) offered a taste of different toppings. Their fish balls are particularly delicate compared to the doughy versions we find in North America. Each bite sized sphere having an airy consistency with a light springiness to the bite. While the ones in Toronto often have a strong fish taste, these ones are lightly flavoured, akin to a freshly steamed fish.


Similarly, the shrimp wontons were also delicately packed, the smaller shrimp barely cooked through, although somewhat flavourless. Compounded by a plain soup base, a spoon of chili oil was really required to help add taste. Luckily, the rice noodles resisted getting soft despite sitting in the soup for at least 10 minutes (the broth is piping hot so I had to proceed cautiously). Moreover, despite looking like a small portion, a fair amount of noodles were packed into the bowl.

On the other hand, their braised brisket ($34) was terrible, the beef very tough screaming for some marbling, especially the few pieces were weren’t cut against the grain. Nevertheless, the soup base was much tastier, having that beefy soy sauce flavour and the thin wonton noodles incorporating a lovely chewy texture without the alkaline bite.


Shau Kei Wan, the district the restaurant is located in, lies on the far east side of Hong Kong Island. Although it seems out of the way, hopping on the inexpensive trams will get you there in less than an hour, On Lee Noodle Soup a further 10-minute walk from the station. While I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit the restaurant, if you’re going to take a long tram ride, you might as well make it a stop in Shau Kei Wan.

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Shau Kei Wan, Hong Kong
 Address: 22 Shau Kei Wan Main St E


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____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!


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Tim Ho Wan 添好運點心專門店 (Hong Kong)


How different could a har gow be? I wondered to myself after hearing about Tim Ho Wan, a dim sum specialist restaurant in Hong Kong, which has long held on to its one Michelin star. After all, in Toronto, most shrimp dumplings are similar, the wrapper sometimes stickier, but otherwise most are filled with crunchy shrimp that have little taste. They’ve become larger throughout my lifetime, some of them reaching golf ball status, but the bland crunchy shrimp has remained constant.

Therefore, to draw comparisons, we stuck with the basics at Tim Ho Wan; I wanted to see what these “specialists” could do! Getting back to the har gow ($28), they indeed differ - smaller in size, the steamed dumplings are delicate so you can taste the shrimp’s sweetness (these are also tinier) with the seafood not packed together. The wrapper is soft, but not gummy, and has an elasticity to its consistency allowing them to be easily picked up. So, I stand corrected, har gows can be different.


Their steamed pork dumpling with shrimp ($28) or sui mai follows a similar recipe for success: big chunks of pork (as opposed to being pulverized) and shrimp combined loosely so there’s a juicy succulence to the dumpling. Oh, how I want more. 


The wrapper for the vermicelli roll stuffed with BBQ pork ($25) is impossibly thin, yet withstands the large pieces of BBQ pork stuffed in it. Personally, I like the bigger pieces of meat and full springs of cilantro placed throughout - you can taste the ingredients.


Tim Ho Wan’s glutinous rice wrapped in lotus leaf is the old-school format arriving as one gigantic package: a thick layer of chewy sticky rice stuffed with chicken, Chinese sausage, and mushrooms. The longer cooking time helps the lotus leaf essence seep into the rice, but having this dish again makes me realize I prefer the new miniature versions. The rice is softer and overall the dish more flavourful because of the gravy minced meat mixture used. Of course, the traditional way of making the dish requires experience (as you need to ensure everything is cooked throughout) and there is more filling, but you end up with one or two pieces of protein and big hunks of rice. 


Forgetting we already ordered the glutinous rice, the steamed rice with spare rib and chicken feet ($27) was too much; sadly, the rice was wasted. Frankly, unless you’re with a large table, this is a forgettable dish, the spare ribs and chicken foot both fairly average.


A dish that graced every table was their signature baked bun with BBQ pork ($21). Fresh from the oven, they are piping hot and the thin bun containing a large piece of BBQ pork. There’s a sweetness from the sauce and pineapple crust you’d expect, but it’s well balanced with the meat’s savouriness. For those who like it sweeter, allow the bun to cool down and the flavours intensify.  


The pan-fried pork and chives dumplings were also delicious, the meat cut into pieces (rather than minced) with enough vegetables to create a lightness to the dim sum. It’s wonton wrapper was so thin that it’s barely there, merely forming a fantastic crispy crust over everything.  


With only four desserts to choose from, we decided against the signature tonic medlar & petal cake, instead going for the tried and true deep-fried sesame dumpling ($18). At Tim Ho Wan, aside from the red bean paste they also add a piece of banana, which when heated turns into a creamy consistency. 



In the end, what makes Tim Ho Wan so good? From my experience: thin wrappers, ingredients left in chunks, and well-balanced flavours. If you don’t want to wait, head their as soon as it opens on a weekday, you’ll walk right in and find a seat at a number of tables. It’s a quick meal with dim sum flying out of the kitchen, which runs like a tasty, dumpling-making, well-oiled machine.


Overall mark - 9 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: North Point, Hong Kong
 Address: 2 Wharf Rd (Seaview Building, GF)

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____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!

Amano Pasta (Toronto)


Amano consists of a pasta bar, café, and market. Within their small footprint in Union Station (in the concourse area close to York street) there’s a bit of everything: the “market” is really a shelf with cans and jars for sale; the café, a coffee bar, includes some takeaway items at the front; and the most sizeable portion of the establishment, the pasta bar, a sit-down dining area at the back of the restaurant.


While the menu isn’t overly long, there are enough tasty sounding options that makes deciding difficult. Their starters are relatively simple Italian staples. The arancini ($9; actually arrives with three) were decent, the best part was the molten smoked cheese centre. Yet, I found the risotto and in need of salt, so that the most prominent flavour doesn’t end up being the honey on the plate.


Nonna’s salad ($7) is a very lightly dressed pile of spring mix with cucumbers. A better salad option is the stuffed squash ($11), which also arrives with greens but also has an entire roasted squash with stracciatella, which makes it soft and savoury. Unlike the other starters, the squash doesn’t lack flavour thanks to the miso brown butter dressing, bread crumbs, and pomegranate sprinkled around.


Amano’s menu, not surprisingly, goes back to Chef Michael Angeloni’s Italian roots while blending in Canadian new world flavours. You’ll find this blend the most in the “not your nonna’s” options. The addition of the crispy shallots really makes the little ears ($19) dish pop, giving the pasta extra crunch and a zip of interest. Of course, the orecchiette is cooked perfectly and tossed with bite-sized roasted broccoli florets and plenty of cheese (white cheddar, aged gouda, and pecorino). It was a delicious main.


While you can’t taste the Dungeness crab or pancetta in the black trumpets ($22), the flower like campanelle pasta has a chewy al dante doneness and is vividly black from cuttlefish ink. Personally, I’d like the dish to have stronger seafood flavours, but realize it’s not everyone’s preference. In fact, with the healthy sprinkling of chives and mustard seeds, the dish has a surprisingly light taste.


For a more traditional option, Amano’s rigatoni is cheekily called fat tubes ($18). The beef Bolognese with parmesan is simple and not earth shattering, but hits the spot if you want a traditional hearty tomato-based pasta.


In terms of drinks, the Sophia Loren ($13) goes down way too easy thanks to the cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) and red wine, which covers the Pike Creek whiskey. It’s like grown-up sangria and works great as an after-meal cocktail.


Personally, I’d just go with another cocktail, in lieu of dessert. The leaning puff tower ($9) is really two profiteroles stacked on top of each other … that don’t even lean. They’re at least tasty cream puffs, stuffed to the brim with chocolate cream. It’s a dessert for chocolate lovers, with disks of it topping the cream puffs. It’s much better than the sweet cream ($7) or panna cotta, which tastes like Greek yoghurt - with the almond butter crumble and raspberry pieces, it’s like eating a parfait. Not terrible, but more breakfast than dessert.


I can overlook the disappointing dessert, it means more calories for delicious fresh made pasta.

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 65 Front Street West

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____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!


Is That It? I Want More!

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Amano Pasta Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Introducing Laine & Lola’s PONPON cookies!


Can I get a PONPON, PONPON, PONPON… can’t stop saying the name, it’s so joyful!

So, what exactly are PONPON cookies? It’s a new confection from Laine & Lola combining bonbons with polvaron, a Filipino-style shortbread cookie. The cookie doesn’t have the typical binding agent (generally egg) in it, so you’re left with a crumbly sweet that breaks apart on first bite and covers the tongue.

If you’re like me and never had one before, it’s like trying Poprocks for the first time. I was taken aback at first, when the mouth was blasted with the flavourful vanilla powder. As it melts away and dissipates, the flavour lingers slightly, not unlike the aftermath of sucking on a candy.


Given a box of their assorted flavours, the original (or vanilla) was a little plain for my tastes. Maybe it’s the drizzle of chocolate or the decorative flair, but the cookies and cream was my favourite, also the richest of the bunch. In general, the stronger flavoured PONPONs were the tastiest to me including the powerful (in relative terms) espresso, slightly bitter matcha, and coconut that didn’t strike me as the fruit on first bite. These are ideal for someone who wants something light and not overly sugary.


Elaine Schober, founder of Laine & Lola, used her grandmother’s long-standing recipe to create the confections. These new artisan cookies were launched at William Sonoma in Yorkdale Mall on May 5th with another pop-up schedule for this Saturday, May 12th, running from 11am to 5pm… just in time for Mother’s Day!  Afterwards, Elaine suggests following their Instagram account @lainenlola because a number of partnership discussions are currently underway. Can I get a PONPON?

Disclaimer: The above samples were complimentary. Rest assured, as noted in my mission statement, I will always provide an honest opinion.


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Website: www.lainenlola.com

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Yat Lok 一樂燒鵝 (Hong Kong)


Unlike my normal planned out itinerary, we went to Yat Lok simply because we happened to be in the area. I vaguely recalled the restaurant being notable for an achievement – awarded one Michelin star and a glowing recommendation from Anthony Boudain, as it turns out.

Everyone goes for the roast goose, so you’ll want to do a quarter or half order of it with a bowl of rice or noodles ordered separately. We made the mistake of simply ordering the roast goose with rice ($58) and it arrived with the undesirable upper quarter portion of the bird, the rib portion resulting in mostly skin and bones, since the meaty leg is left for the quarter orders.


Nevertheless, we could sample the glistening skin, as crispy as Peking duck, and taste the well marinated meat (from what little there was). It was good, I wanted more, and jealously eying the plump half orders everyone else had.

While the meat in the BBQ pork with rice ($58) could use more marbling, it was also thoroughly flavoured with a vibrant dark caramelized crust. Even the rice had enough of that lovely BBQ sweet soy sauce on it for interest.


The 1pm weekday visit meant we missed most of the lunch crowd, scoring one of the three empty tables. Regardless, the restaurant is packed with seats that are turned over quickly. Despite their accolades, you’ll get a cheap meal. Moreover, it’s one of the few Michelin starred places I could visit after hiking the Peak, slightly sweaty and with a patch of coffee spilt on my shirt, without feeling out of place.

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Central, Hong Kong
 Address: 34-38 Stanley St. (Conwell House, ground floor)

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____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!

La Cubana (Toronto)

Having been to Cuba twice, it’s a shame I’ve never had authentic Cuban food. Right or wrong, I chose to eat at the resorts, whose food is mediocre at best … I like to joke it’s the vacation you can go on without worrying about gaining weight.

One thing I do remember are the strong cocktails. La Cubana is no different, the el Paraiso ($12) is probably the lightest, a tasty combination of gin, muddled basil, and grapefruit juice.


Lucky to dine with someone of Cuban decent, she explained the difference between a cubano and medianoche ($9.99) is merely the bun, the later on a softer kaiser that’s not pressed so the pork version looks like a pulled pork sandwich. The restaurant doesn’t skimp on the meat, along with gruyere, red onion, cornichon, grainy mustard, and a chipotle mayo the sandwich is filled with flavours and the bun doesn’t stand a chance at holding in everything.


The medianoche’s filling is very similar to the pork shoulder ($15.99), so in hindsight we should have ordered either a different sandwich or main. Nonetheless, I did enjoy the slow cooked pork, which is nicely smoked and has a slightly sweet taste. I especially enjoyed the crunchy vinegar coleslaw on the side - just watch out for the rounds of jalapeno, the heat can really sneak up on you!


Main plates also arrive with hot tostones (pressed plantains that are deep fried) and rice with beans. The tostones are rather bland, a bit of the hot sauce helps, but the beans and rice goes perfectly with the meats. 


Especially the guava BBQ beef short rib ($16.99), tender and tasty with its sweet glaze. Topped with an herby chimichurri and frizzled onions, it was my favourite dish of the evening.


Although already filled, we decided to share a natilla ($4.99), the only dessert I’ve never had before. Described as chocolate pudding, it’s much better, the light creamy chocolate custard incorporating a balanced sweetness.


Although it’s disappointing that Cuban resorts don’t serve more local fare, I understand they’re faced with limited ingredient availability (since meat and fresh vegetables are scarce) and it could have been ill received from previous resort guests. Therefore, we’re blessed in Toronto to have La Cubana, somewhere you can sample a taste of Cuban cuisine. 

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 92 Ossington Avenue

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!


Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:


La Cubana Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato