Yin Ji Chang Fen 銀記腸粉 (Markham)


If you’re claustrophobic and have an aversion to sitting in close quarters, Yin Ji Chang Fen is not a restaurant to visit. Each table’s real estate is used to capacity – during peak periods a table that fits four will not be given to three – so it’s best to go in even numbers.

What makes people return is Yin Ji’s chang fen or rice noodle rolls. Unlike the versions you find at dim sum, Yin Ji’s is thin yet still retains a hint of elasticity to resist breaking. Each order arrives as one massive rice noodle that’s filled with toppings. The marinated beef and shrimp rice roll ($5.75) incorporated diced pieces of soy sauce laced beef (as opposed to the soft patty found elsewhere) studded with plump shrimp.


You can add an egg coating (additional $1.25), which gives it a light wash on top of the actual rice noodle. Having had it with the BBQ pork and chive roll ($4.75), it does give the dish an added depth of flavour (and perhaps helps the soy sauce stick better), but takes away from the silky feeling of the rice roll itself.


Most people also add on a bowl of congee - the typical order seems to be a congee and chang fen per diner - and their Lai Wan ($5.50) version is popular. There’s the customary seafood (shrimp and white fish), since Lai Wan is a seaside village in China, but also includes BBQ pork slices, pork rind slivers, crunchy peanuts, thinly sliced egg, and a hefty dose of parsley (in lieu of spring onions) that really awakens the congee.


Their shredded pork and gold preserved egg congee ($5) was also decent, with enough of each ingredient. Some reviewers find their congee bland, but I found it adequately seasoned and the abundant toppings give it sufficient flavours - it’s not out-of-this-world but at $5 a bowl is good enough.


The menu includes other dim sum as well. Their sticky rice wrap ($4.50) arrives two to an order, each almost double the miniature versions found at dim sum restaurants. The glutinous rice is filled with mostly meat (seems to be pork in lieu of the traditional chicken) and arrives piping hot.


From the moment you enter, there’s a sense of frenzy … as if you’ve stepped into a night market street vendor instead of a strip mall in Markham. The environment takes some getting used to, but that chang fen … once you’ve had it a Yin Ji, dim sum will never be the same again. 

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Markham, Canada
 Address: 7010 Warden 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:

Yin Ji Chang Fen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Yummy Dumpling House (Toronto)


After finding Sushi Bong was closed, I stumbled onto their neighbor, Yummy Dumpling House, located at the same North York condo building base. Yummy’s cozy dining room only holds fifteen at capacity, but this doesn’t seem to be a problem as the restaurant wasn’t overly busy during our Sunday lunch. It did have a steady stream of a couple tables coming and going, which is good as the kitchen is a one-woman operation (another wraps dumplings while a gentlemen greets and serves).

We’re given small dishes, which I assumed were for holding a dipping sauce, but turns out is also the plate for eating. As the steaming Chinese cabbage and pork dumplings ($8.50 for 15) arrives, the first dumpling, slippery with water, was a bit difficult to maneuver without any real dishware or spoon. Nevertheless, I was eventually successful and took a bite of the scalding dough.


Personally, I prefer dumplings steamed (the wrapper is thinner and hence results in more juices and flavour), but for being boiled these were decent – the wrapper still on the thick side but the filling incorporated enough ginger and spices to stand out.

Eat the pan-fried pork dumplings ($7.98 for 8) while they’re hot, as the thin layer of crispy caramelization on the wrapper is delicious. After a while, with the condensation and being piled onto a small plate, they start to get soggy. Some of the wrappers did break so the juices (one of the best parts of the dumpling) escaped. But, the couple of intact ones I had were tasty - Yummy Dumpling House really gets the seasoning right.


If you like Peking duck, give their flavoured pork wrap ($5.98) a try. The wrapper is thicker but has that same chewiness as the Peking duck counterpart. Lightly toasted with crispy edges, it holds thin slices of roasted pork covered with sweet hoisin sauce and fresh scallions. In the end, it has a Peking duck essence but isn’t oily and much heartier.


The experience reminds me of the need to just get out and explore restaurants. I’m guilty of it: relying on reviews or Instagram pictures to decide on where to eat. However, this limits the opportunities of stumbling across little hole-in-the-wall places where you can support mom-and-pop establishments that can’t afford media events. So set a date and grab someone to just take a stroll; find a small place that you’ve never heard of and just walk in. It may not be perfect, but at least you’ve supported a budding local entrepreneur.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 5 Northtown Way (Unit 16)

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:


Yummy Dumpling House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pukka's Taste of Goa Dinner (Toronto)


As my love for Indian food deepens, I want to learn more about cuisines specific to India's different regions. After all, in such a large country with varying climates, the dishes that develop should draw upon ingredients from the area. Just like there’s no single definition for Italian, French, or Chinese food, Indian food can also vary greatly from region to region.

Hence, when Parv informed me about a Goan feast by Pukka through UFeast ($70), I was intrigued. After all, so much of what we generally eat is from Northern India (think butter chicken) that it’d be an excellent opportunity to taste something different.

Entering Pukka, there were at least 40 people in attendance, also excited to tuck into the special menu Harsh Chawla and Derek Valleau designed exclusively for the gathering. While Pukka’s normal menu is inspired by the North, for this event, they looked to the coastal area in the West creating a menu that’s spicier than their traditional offering but still following their principles of using ethically sourced meats and building flavourful dishes.

Accompanying the feast were wines from Rioja, a north central region in Spain. Famous for their Tempranillo, this was a chance to taste some of their other varietals. Before the meal, we sipped on a 2016 Hacienda Lopez de Haro Rosado, a rosé for those who don’t like the sweeter wine; I found it much dryer, but still giving off a fruity essence.

With the appetizers we continued with the lighter wines with a 2016 white and rosé from Baron de Ley, the refreshing white went especially well with fried appetizers like the vada. The lentil fritters were plain on their own but were the perfect vessel for enjoying the accompanying sauces: herby coconut chutney and a hot sambar, a fragrant lentil vegetable stew that we couldn’t get enough of – as the commercial says… I put that s**t on everything.


The beef croquette had a great thin crunchy exterior and was filed with minced beef, onion, and other spices. The spicy tomato chutney really had some heat with it; thankfully, the coconut chutney from the vada helped to cool my tongue when I went a bit gung-ho with the spicy sauce.


In Canada, we’re well versed with a samosa. so when the chamuças arrived the pastry pyramid looked familiar, especially with the tamarind sauce. But once you got inside the filling was more orange - my best guess is it was a spiced yam with carrot slivers given there was sweetness to it.  


Pukka’s aloo chana chaat is the best chaat I’ve had! While it incorporates different sauces, their version shows restraint so the condiments aren’t the entire experience (my general dissatisfaction of most chaats I’ve had). Plus there are tons of contrasting textures: soft diced potatoes, meaty chickpeas, juicy pomegranate seeds, and crispy vegetable strings. Each forkful was delicious and if it weren’t for worrying that I’d be too full for the mains, seconds would definitely be in order.


As the dinner progressed into the mains, three red wines arrived allowing us to mix-and-match with the dishes: a 2014 Beronia Tempranillo Rioja, 2012 CVNE Cune Crianza, and 2012 Beronia Reserva. The Tempranillo didn’t disappointment with tons of berry flavour amongst faint tannin. The Beronia Reserva was what I enjoyed the most, a more robust wine that held its own against the spicier foods. 

In general, we learnt that fruity wines help to cut through the spices, much like fruit chutney. It was ideal that they’re all found at the LCBO and at under $20 a bottle, picking one up for future meals won’t break the bank.  

The mains started out innocent enough with the chicken cafreal, which reminds me of tandoori except with more herbs ending with a coriander finish. It’s not overly exciting and a bit bland compared to the appetizers, but was nonetheless tender and a nice “break” before getting into the really hot dishes.


And the heat started coming, first in the pork vinha d'alhos, where the spiciness was tempered with garlic and vinegar so it’s still bearable. The pork belly was outstanding, braised until it turned into a soft pool that melted onto the tongue, helping to protect against the spices. On the other hand, there was no respite with the prawn balchao – from start to finish the tomato sauce had a fiery kick! From what I could muster, the prawn was cooked nicely; the sauce was just too much for me.  


Hence, it was smart to end the mains with a coconut pumpkin curry, its creamy sauce helped to numb the pain from the prior dish. Surprisingly, it was a delicious – here I thought pumpkin would be too sweet and bland. Yet, with mustard seeds and enough salt, the dish stayed savoury and went so nicely with the steamed basmati rice.


After all the spicy mains, the cooling ice cold bebinca was a great choice for dessert. The cake wasn’t too sweet but even a small slice left me sedated thanks to the creamy coconut milk, ghee, and egg custard layer between the cakes.


At $70 a person (inclusive of taxes and gratuities), I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of food and wine we were served at the Pukka’s Goan feast. Not only did I get a chance to catch-up with friends but we met some interesting guests as well – after a few glasses of wine people definitely started letting loose!

Sounds like fun? You can check out UFeast using my referral link and get $10 your first meal.

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 778 St Clair Avenue West

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:


Pukka Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Ancila's Indian Cuisine (Mississauga)


Dining at Ancila’s Indian Cuisine is sort of cryptic, so you'll just have to roll with it. Starting with the reservations: the restaurant accepts them, but I’m told to make sure to cancel, if necessary, as they won't take another reservation for that time. This led me to believe that the dining room is tiny, when in reality it’s a fair-sized establishment. Upon entering, I see one large table is occupied being served by a waiter; not in a rush I wait patiently and it wasn’t until a women (presumably Ancila) leaves the kitchen that I’m addressed and instructed to sit wherever I like.

She returns to the kitchen and as I’m sitting there – without water, cutlery, or even a menu – I begin to wonder what’s going on. Finally, when my friend arrives, Ancila comes back to the table and things get clarified. We’re advised there are no printed menus; instead, she'll ask questions to come up with an order: On a scale from one to ten, what is your spice tolerance level? Are you vegetarian? Of the proteins are there any you particularly enjoy? Do you have any dietary restrictions?

With that we decided on a creamy medium spicy vegetarian dish and a spicier tomato based meat offering along with rice and naan. Ancila then went back to the kitchen to prepare everything and didn’t return until later to check on our experience.  

There was plenty of paneer in the tikka masala ($11); soft and fresh, it’s contrasted by a slight crunch from the bell peppers and onion. Being a thicker sauce, this went well sandwiched in between the warm toasted naan.


The mutton in the karahi ($12) was cooked well; stewed until tender with the collagen around the bone starting to break down. Cooked to a level-7 spiciness, the tomato, ginger and coriander sauce was hot enough to cause the tongue to sting and bring heat to your face. When too much sauce was spooned onto the rice ($3), a forkful of cooling raita ($2.50) helped calm it back down.


A downfall from not having a menu is not realizing all the options available. For example, for the sides, aside from rice we also ordered butter ($1.50) and garlic ($2.50) naan (any difference between the two is slight). However, after finding their menu online, I realize they also serve flakey paratha and flavourful briyani, I wish we had those instead.

It’s a quaint restaurant and with their no-menu system feels like you’re dining in Ancila’s home. “Let me make you a bit of food, what would you like?” it sort of feels like. The dishes take a while to prepare but what comes out is piping hot and made-to-order. Just be mindful about adding items too late in the meal, depending on the time, they may not be able to make dishes as even the samosa dough is made fresh. 

Like dining in a home, it’s a calm unhurried experience – there for a later dinner, Ancilia assured us to take our time and chat more, despite the restaurant being closed. What started off a little puzzling ended up being a good experience.

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Mississauga, Canada
 Address: 6905 Millcreek Drive

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:

Ancila's Indian Cusine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Craft beer lovers, Northern Maverick Brewing Co. is Now Opened!


In Ontario’s carefully controlled liquor industry, it’s hard to imagine how one can actually be a maverick and fully become a free-spirited company. One way to inch free of the chains is to open a brewery, where there are still rules and taxes, but creations can be freely shared without the threat of being hidden in the back or requiring expensive listing fees, since the Beer Store is actually owned by three large global beer manufacturers (and not our government).

Hence, it’s no surprise that with the rise in popularity of craft beer, there has also been an increase in craft breweries. The newest entrant is Northern Maverick Brewing Co. a sprawling 11,000 sq. ft. establishment that includes a restaurant (complete with huge patio), beer store, beer school, and of course brewery.


Their menu focuses on Canadian sourced casual eats. With the gleaming red slicer, their house made charcuterie arrives paper thin, making you want just one more slice. Everything is cured perfectly so it’s not too dry nor overly salty. Although truth be told, the savoury spices didn’t go well with the Vienna lager as it brought out so much of the beer’s bitterness. Sticking with one of their wines may be a better choice.


You could really create a nibbling feast for your party by adding a cheeseboard as well. With seven different cheeses available (sourced across Quebec and Ontario), there everything from a gooey brie to a harder cheddar, these go much better with the bubbly beers.


In a heartbeat I’d return for another Jamaican oxtail patty ($6), the flaky pastry is filled with tender braised oxtail incorporating habanero heat to have you reaching for a cold drink after finishing it.


Five seasonal beers are offered on tap; during the opening there was a dry hopped sour, Vienna lager, American pale ale, Indian pale ale, and a hefeweizen. What Northern Maverick strives for is to create aromatic brews that focus on flavour and smell, but is still balanced and delicious.

Having sampled a few of the craft beers, my favourite was the Heart of Tartness ($8.50) that contains strong refreshing notes of citrus and fruit – after something heavy, it’s a great way to cleanse the palette. The Gosezilla ($8.50) is also interesting having a lighter tartness but ending with a savoury element thanks to the hint of coriander.


Northern Maverick makes a mean cocktail as well – taking a traditional concoction and giving it a twist. The Travellers Mojito starts with the typical rum, mint, and lime juice, but then adds rose water, cardamom, and honeydew to give it an exotic tropical spin. Meanwhile, the Dry Hopped Daiquiri contains plenty of Mount Gay Black Barrel rum, but is mellowed with orange blossom water and a slightly bitter hops syrup.


Reading the blog write-up posted by Northern Maverick’s founder Jason Kaptyn, you can feel the passion and the blood, sweat, and tears it took to get them to the opening. I can’t wait until their beer school opens and I can learn more about beer and food pairings – for those who are especially gung ho they’ll even teach you how to create something at home. In the end, Jason just wants to share his love of craft beers with everyone else. As he sums up, “In short, we will do our best to provide the learning experience that, once upon a time, captured our hearts and led to our brewery in the first place.”

Disclaimer: The above drinks and food were sampled on a complimentary basis at their grand opening event. Rest assured, as noted in my mission statement, I will always provide an honest opinion.


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 115 Bathurst Street

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog


Maiz Latin Food (Toronto)


With my love for small family run restaurants, I wish… just wish … I could rave about Maiz. The restaurant has the makings of what could be a niche neighbourhood spot: it’s the only one in the area serving Latin food, the dining room is casual but comfortable, and with the roll-up windows and dark décor it has a Queen West coolness.

If only they didn’t push the arepas ($11) so much. Having had them delivered through Ubereats and at the restaurant, they certainly taste better in person. Yet, despite the amount of pulled chicken, guacamole, and cheese stuffed into the maize flour toasted shell, the pastry was still tasteless and dense. Perhaps if it were fluffier, thinner, or contained more salt in the dough it'd be better. The thick la negra salsa, which is dark and flavourful like olive tapenade, could have helped augment the arepa if it weren’t served so cold, shocking the taste buds.


The pabellon ($15) is better, especially if you need a filling meal. The plate is heaped with black beans, rice, fried plantains, pulled beef, and a miniature arepa. The actual protein was decent and has a lovely hint of spice in the background, but I still prefer the pulled chicken, which is more succulent and flavourful. Overall, the dish really needs something saucy and the pulled beef is where the moisture comes in; everything else (except the rice) was dry and heavy so it screamed for sauce. 


I’d go back for the corn-shell pulled chicken tacos ($12 for three), which could easily be made into a meal with a shared appetizer or side. Although simply adorned with cilantro, onion, and sour cream (we added oaxaca cheese for extra $1.50), they were tasty and the perfect three bites. 


I always try to order the “traditional” dishes during a first visit to a restaurant. Therefore, it could be a shared disappointment in Maiz and me that I didn’t like the arepa and pabellon more. Instead, it was the mainstream tacos that won me over. Oh well, the stomach wants what it wants.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 3220 Yonge Street

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:


Maiz Latin Food Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Patisserie Sebastien (Toronto)


From the outside, Patisserie Sebastien, a neighbourhood French bakery, doesn’t seem too Parisian. However, once you open the oversized door (perfect for strollers and assisted walkers), the smell of tantalizing buttery pastries and comforting espresso mixed with milk instantly greets you.

Sebaastien’s is busy but not in an overwhelming manner: there’s always someone occupying the handful of tables situated around the windows but I’ve never had to wait. If you’re there for just a sweet and drink, a row of stools by the coffee bar entices you to stay and enjoy the concoctions in their full glory. In fact, I highly recommend you stop and eat the pastry there as certain ones are not nearly as magnificent once suffocated in a paper bag and left sitting around at home.

At the restaurant, the canale ($2.95) has a wonderfully caramelized crust and airy sweet cakey custard centre… the ideal two bites of sweetness with a hot frothy cappuccino. Once they’re brought home and especially if they’re left overnight, they’re still good but becomes chewy.


Go early on Saturday for your best chance at getting one of their French doughnuts ($2.95). Even then, sometimes they can quickly run out when families run in to grab a dozen for the cottage and there won’t be another batch on Sunday. Sebastien’s take on a cronut, these doughnuts are sinfully delicious with layers of flaky buttery pastry with a crispy sugary crust. By far my favourite doughnuts in the city.


Their butter croissant ($2.25) incorporates the same airy dough but really needs some condiments as it’s not really flavourful. For those who like croissant sandwiches, this is ideal for stuffing with cheese, vegetables, and meat. Similarly, the chocolate croissant ($2.50) is not nearly decadent enough. With only two slivers of chocolate along the middle of the pastry, you don’t always get some with each bite – if there was a bit drizzled on top the pastry would be better.


I prefer the apple Danish ($3.10), topped with numerous thin apple slices and a sweet earthy almond paste underneath. This is a pastry you generally can’t find everywhere else.


For a light lunch, Sebastien also offers sandwiches, soups, and quiches. The baguette used as the sandwich’s base is delicious – soft, chewy, and has a lovely bread aroma; it’s a crusty bread that’s not hard so you won’t have the jagged shards that can cut your mouth.

Meanwhile, the sandwiches’ fillings can be improved. The Parisian ($9.50; half order pictured below as they thoughtfully split it for us) uses French style ham, gruyere and mustard. Nothing is strong enough so the flavours sort of just meld together: the ham isn’t smoked and the gruyere also fairly mild. The only saving grace is the lovely mustardy creamy vinaigrette on the salad … if devil's egg can be made into a dressing.

The legume sandwich ($9.50) could be good if the eggplant was hot. Maybe it’s me, but biting into a bun and being greeted by an ice-cold vegetable is a letdown, no matter how creamy the goat cheese.


Sebastien’s French onion soup ($8.95) has all the elements to satisfy without the guilt factor. In lieu of the cap of cheese and bread, a few slices of gruyere is laid on top so it slowly melts without leaving a pool of oil. Baguette croutons are served on the side so you can add them gradually to the soup to help retain some crispiness. Given the accompaniments are lighter, the broth gets a chance to stand out - it’s not overly salty so you can enjoy the sweet onions.


Of all the brunch dishes, my favourite is their individual quiches – combining a bite of flaky crust and savoury egg with each bite. Their quiche Lorraine ($9.50) incorporates plenty of ham and cheese so is flavourful and creates nice gooey bites with caramelized onion for sweetness. The quiche’s crust is flakey but still light enough to not feel heavy, especially when balanced with the same mustardy aioli vinaigrette salad that’s served with sandwiches.


What I like most about Patisserie Sebastien is that there really is a Sebastien. When it’s busy, he’s generally in the kitchen, preparing the baked goods, sandwich, quiche, and soup orders. Once in a while, he’ll make his appearance in the dining room, bringing over the food in a quiet non-opposing manner. It’s impressive the number of confections one person can create for a bakery. Splitting a soup and French doughnut with my own quiche, that’s my go-to weekend lunch treat. 



Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 3306 Yonge Street


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:

Patisserie Sebastien Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato