Buonanotte 3rd Anniversary Event (Toronto)

Buonanotte Toronto

On a dim street, set between nightclubs, Buonanotte’s exterior isn’t overly flashy, until entering and you’re met with high ceilings, glitzy décor and a large statement bar. The venue is normally a resto lounge, yet easily transforms into an event space for corporate parties or even a cocktail/food station style wedding.

Their third anniversary party simply promised “eats”, but when a whole roasted pig gleamed from a warming station, I knew we were in for a treat. Especially, when I scored an extra piece of its crispy skin to tuck into a bun loaded will chunks of pork slathered with truffle aioli and arugula.


A large pizza oven churned out blistered thin crust pizza. The slice of margherita was too heavily sauced, creating tons of flavour but rendered the crust soggy, but did have adequate amounts of gooey fior di latte and basil.


Having gone to a growing number of large-scale media parties, I commend Karyzma and Buonanotte for thoughtfully situating the food. The stations’ layout helped avoid lineups and allowed guests to sample “like” items together. Moreover, when food was first brought out, servers also circulated with hors d'oeuvres of tuna spoons, grilled octopus and other canapés; so most guests continued to sip their drinks and chat, alleviating the crowds forming at the buffet areas.

After some lighter bites, my friend and I made our way to the food stations finding a great selection. Heartier options such as the farfalle del Mediterraneo, a cheesy ragu-stype pasta, and sizeable meatballs were delicious. The risotto, a daring item to serve as a buffet, retained a creamy consistency but was overly salted.


Buonanotte certainly knows how to prepare seafood. The branzino was graced with a crisp skin and salted enough for flavour without consuming the fish. Crisp lightly floured rings of fried calamari were popular amongst the crowd and addicting to munch on.


Yet it was the perfectly cooked and seasoned prawns that impressed me most, a wonderful compliment to the roast beef (a nice medium doneness for such a large crowd) allowing me to do a take on surf and turf.



It’s a great venue for large groups. With two bars and numerous servers circulating, I was never without a drink or left with dirty plates. Plus, the restaurant gives a vibe that it’ll morph into a loungier locale after dinner service dies down; a DJ perhaps even enticing diners to dance and work off all those calories. Whether you’re there for food, drinks or the atmosphere, just go with a good attitude ready for fun – after all, as Buonanotte’s name implies, they’re wishing you a “good night”.  

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 19 Mercer Street

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Elegance Chinese Cuisine for Dinner (Markham)

Elegance Chinese Cuisine

When a banquet dinner to celebrate my mother’s birthday was required, Elegance Chinese Cuisine, the restaurant we generally go to for dim sum, came to mind. The restaurant is a gem, tucked in a quiet plaza so there’s plenty of parking during the dinner and the service attentive, not only during dinner, but throughout the entire process. From the moment I called in to make the reservation, Andy (their General Manager) was helpful at ensuring the menu was catered to meet our party size.

The banquet meal I chose normally feeds ten ($668 inclusive of taxes and gratuities), but with the exception of three dishes where I added on additional pieces, the existing menu was more than enough to accommodate four extra people.

Having located myself far away from the “serving station” and our server being so diligent at portioning dishes, most of the pictures within this post will be for the single serving. Sadly, they’re not photogenic, but hopefully provides you with an idea of the ingredients in each dish.

The skin on the roasted suckling pig was divine, very thin and crispy so it could shatter with a light pressure. The warm pieces of juicy pork contrasted with cold marinated jelly fish and sweet seaweed salad.


One of the large prawns in the seafood with vegetables plate was missing. Upon telling our server, they apologized and had it quickly supplemented (complete with an extra portion of vegetables) so the replacement dish wasn’t unadorned. Both the prawn and squid was just cooked through and the celery and snap peas crispy and fresh.


Interestingly, Elegance’s deep fried crab claw (hot, moist and a fair size) is each served with a hollowed out cucumber holding a mango and whipped cream filled crepe. They don’t exactly go together, but when eaten separately isn’t weird either. We all rather liked the early dessert in the meal.


Normally, I wouldn’t order shark fin, but this came set in the menu. The braised shark fin soup was chocked full of minced seafood in the thick umami broth.


The whole abalone was delicious having been slowly braised to that it was infused with flavour. Trying to describe abalone to a family member, I’ve synthesized it to the steak of the seafood world – if you can imagine a tenderloin having a scallop and oyster twinge to it.


Both the steamed chicken with superior soup and steamed green bass were decent – cooked well so the moisture remains and not overly seasoned so the chicken and fish shone through.


The lobster could have been stir fried a bit less as they were a little shrunken in their shells. But, the sweet and savoury Maggic sauce lightly coating each piece was tasty and not too overpowering.


Elegance jazzed up the rice dish by mixing wild and jasmine rice together, giving it a pretty contrasting hue. Egg white, shrimp and diced Chinese broccoli completed the fried rice, but a bit more salt would help.


The braised e-fu noodles had plenty of mushrooms (enoki and prince) mixed into the oyster sauce laced spongy noodles. Slivers of snow peas help to add crunch and colour.


For dessert, a bowl of coconut black glutinous rice soup, which was surprisingly sweet for a Chinese restaurant. On the side were petit fours of chewy soft almond cookies and a sticky pastry filled with red bean paste and tossed in dried coconut.


Since we were celebrating a birthday, we had to have an order of birthday buns (Elegance threw in on a complimentary basis). They were made fresh before dinner, arriving pillowy soft and filled with lotus paste – these were seriously the best birthday buns I’ve ever had.


Each bun is shaped into a longevity peach, decorated with a pink dye and green flour leaves. According to Wikipedia, they’re supposed to represent the peaches of immortality, a mythical fruit produced every thousand years and grants immorality. What a great way to live eternally, dining on good food amongst family and loved ones.

Overall mark - 9 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Markham, Canada
 Address: 20 Gibson Drive


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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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Elegance Chinese Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Colette Grand Cafe for Brunch (Toronto)

Brunch at Colette Grand Cafe

After Splendido closed, a place for a luxe brunch also disappeared. But, when a friend suggested visiting Colette Grand Café for a celebration, it was apparent that someone’s filling the void. At $54 a person, the pricing certainly points to luxury; but being a buffet, I had doubts whether the food could be executed with precision.

Colette’s buffet consists of two areas: cold options surrounding the bar and hot foods set up separately further into the dining room. Along the bar, there’s a seafood station, salad bar, antipasto, charcuterie & cheeses and the dessert area.

As a lover of the sea, the shrimp and crab claws peeked my interest; they were already peeled and prepped so eating was a breeze. The accompanying cocktail sauce had a strong horseradish bite and interestingly incorporated some herbs (mint perhaps)? The seafood salad of calamari, imitation crab and shrimp was also refreshing, but a tad sour.  


Within the chafing dishes were breakfast staples - eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes and French toast, just a few of the options. When the fried chicken was being replenished, the smell made me take a piece. Thankfully, it tasted as great as it smelt: succulent, crispy and surrounded with a well-seasoned crust. You could make yourself a great chicken and waffles at the restaurant.


The carving station was serving a moist salmon wellington, which had nicely seasoned mushroom and spinach layers, but the pastry too thick and not cooked through so it was left as a clump rather than rising to flakiness. It was still delicious, if you just ate the inside.  


Luckily, the roast beef wasn’t overcooked, but needed a stronger rub given the meat wasn’t served with au jus (there was mustard and horseradish).


Being an upscale French restaurant, Colette’s hot buffet filled with American diner favourites was off-the-mark for me. Why make pancakes when there could have been crepes? Is chicken and waffles really the most appropriate, when mussels and frites more culturally correct?

For a country that is known for their delicious desserts, this was the most disappointing course at brunch. Although everything was beautifully presented, many simply lacked taste. Of the things I tried, the square of green tea cake was passable but the eggy French toast from the breakfast area was much better.


There was a yoghurt parfait that could easily pass as dessert – the dairy thick and creamy, fruit compote sweet enough, and granola buttery and spiced like crumble.

An honourable mention to the bread basket filled with crispy soft baguettes (went perfectly with the selection of soft cheese) and flakey chocolate croissants.


Included with brunch are all non-alcoholic drinks including coffee, tea and juices; these could easily add $7 onto any meal. I rather enjoyed the strawberry and passion fruit juice, which seemed freshly made and free of added sugars.

Overall, Colette is a great atmosphere, especially to celebrate an occasion (there were about five birthdays on our visit). A personalized card and cake lit with an impressive sparkler was a nice gesture. Despite having a constant stream of customers, we weren’t rushed and felt welcomed to sit and chat after the meal (the ideal time to enjoy their selection of Sloane herbal teas).



Service is the one area I’m glad Colette deviates from French origins. Unlike the stereotypical French reputation, the restaurant’s servers were gracious, warm, and friendly.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 550 Wellington 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!


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  • Colette Grand Cafe for dinner (coming tomorrow)


Colette Grand Café - Thompson Toronto Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Cantina by Campbells is giving away free soup!


Mother Nature has been kind to Torontonians this winter, yet there are still evenings when the wind picks up and an unescapable shiver runs through my body.

For those also stuck with a chill, you’re in luck if you’re traversing the Queen and Spadina area! Campbell’s has set-up a pop-up eatery at 501 Queen Street West. At The Cantina, you’ll be treated to four bowls of delicious soup concocted by the Rock Lobster King, Chef Matt Dean Pettit. A garnishes bar allows diners to add a host of ingredients to their soups to really make it their own … feel free to load up on as much fried noodles as you’d like!

Best part, if what you’ve sampled is delicious, pick up the recipe pamphlet and recreate the soup using Campbell’s broths, soups and soup kits. Attending as a guest of Foodaholic, I had the opportunity to actually cook two of the soups with Chef Pettit; aside from chopping vegetables and chicken, it was relatively easy to whip up. Now that I’m armed with chicken broth and the Thai and Rice soup kit, I’ll be attempting to recreate the Thai chicken and rice khao soi at home.


Campbell’s points out that soup is a dish that’s served worldwide and brings people together. As such, Chef Pettit looked globally for inspiration for his soups:

Spicy vegetarian ramen – inspired by the Japanese noodle dish where the hearty broth is just as important as any other ingredient. Visitors can top the vegetarian broth and ramen with a host of ingredients including hard-boiled egg slices, green onion, nori, bamboo shoots and carrots. Of all the soups this was the lightest and really refreshing to me.




Creamy tomato black bean taco – a Mexican inspiration using creamy tomato soup, tomatoes, black bean, onion, cumin and lime. With all the spices you can only imagine how great this soup smells! On top some crunch tortilla chips for contrast and chili lime crema.


Thai chicken and rice khao soi – my favourite soup of the night, using the soup kit (containing rice, dehydrated vegetables and spices), along with chicken broth, egg noodles, shallots, garlic, curry powder, coconut milk, mushrooms. On top tons of crunchy egg noodles that when combined with the soft noodles and rice has such a nice contrast.



Roasted beer can cream of chicken – the soup that had an unexpected kick of heat likely on account of the rub used on the roasted beer can chicken. It’s a hearty meal in a bowl made from cream of chicken, carrots, onions and celery. But, it’s the pieces of crispy chicken skin and chives on top that kill it.


 

The Cantina is a spacious brightly lit environment with tons of whimsical pictures and artwork made of old fashioned soup cans. It was from the event I learnt that the company has been operating in Canada for 85 years! A few communal tables are situated at the front providing the ideal opportunity for strangers to meet and talk while enjoying their meal.

Don’t forget to get a sticker and apply it to their mural on the wall: each dot represents a can of soup that’ll be donated to the Daily Bread Food Bank. Campbell’s is aiming to give at least 15,000 cans to the Toronto charity, I’m sure they’ll reach that goal in no time. Here are the pertinent details on how you can visit the Cantina:

Date: February 2 – 21, 2016
Time: 11am-8pm on Monday to Friday and 11am-7pm on Saturday/Sunday
Location: 501 Queen Street West

I bid you good eats and remember: We All Soup!


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 501 Queen Street West

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TOT - The Cat Cafe (Toronto)

TOT The Cat Cafe Toronto

FINALLY! Toronto’s first cat café has successfully opened despite the red tape and hesitant landlords across the city. Having contributed to a couple failed crowd sourcing start-ups, the thought of a feline friendly café was but a distant dream. So, when TOT quietly opened on College Street, steps from the lively Kensington Market district, visiting the establishment instantly became my New Year’s goal.

After waiting so long, Toronto’s first cat café is … better than nothing, but definitely not as heavenly as I imagined. Firstly, the cats are segregated into a room beside the dining area, that you’re allowed to bring drinks into, but feels more like visiting a fancier adoption chamber than café.


During our morning visit, the three kittens were still sleeping and one of the house rules is to not wake the animals. 


Watching them sleep and not being able to play with them is excruciatingly difficult, it’s like dangling a lollipop in front of a kid. The only benefit of arriving early is there’s virtually no wait and we were able to stay in the room for double the allotted 20 minutes.


However, when the cats finally awoke, it was quite fun watching them stretch, eat and play. Ranging from 2 to 6 months, they are awfully cute and surprisingly patient with being petted by multiple strangers.  


TOT’s menu offers a selection of drinks ranging from $2 for a bottle of water to $5.15 for a large specialty drink. The Calico macchiato ($4.35 for a small) I ordered had a decent shot of espresso capped with creamy foam and a sweet drizzle of caramel. After purchasing a drink my name was added to a clipboard awaiting a call to enter the room.   


There was also a selection of sweets (cheesecake, butter tarts and cookies), fruit cups, yoghurt, veggies and dip, premade sandwiches and soup. Everything looked fine but no different from what you’d find in a cafeteria.


I really want TOT to do well… in fact, I NEED the place to succeed. So, to the owner: please do something to increase your bill totals so the business thrives (and opens more locations)! You have to make the food appealing so the café becomes a place where people stay and eat.

Given the establishment’s proximity to Kensington Market, use that to your advantage! Offer a couple of Wanda’s Pie in the Sky desserts, make toasted bagels using the wood fired ones from Nu Bagel and offer savoury easy to heat options like beef patties. There doesn’t seem to be a kitchen, could a catering service with a local restaurant work for more substantial plates during peak hours?  

Additionally, TOT definitely needs more cats, I dream about being surrounded by cats… not surrounding a cat with other people. To be fair, an employee explained they normally have five (still not sufficient) but since some were adopted they hadn’t been replaced. Which brings me to the best part of the café … you can adopt the cats!


Coming from the Toronto Humane Society, these cute balls of fur are in need of a loving home. What a great opportunity to spend time with them to access their temperament; if you have children they can even come along to get acquainted with the cat.



Although, TOT didn’t live up to my dreams, I nonetheless enjoyed the visit. Given I can’t have a cat at home, playing with one elsewhere is the next best thing. Unfortunately, bringing home a kitten would be one take-out item my husband wouldn’t be pleased with.

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 298 College Street

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TOT the Cat Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato