Taverna Mercatto (Toronto)



If it weren’t for Taverna Mercatto’s proximity to work, the ACC, and Roger’s Centre, I wouldn’t have found the spacious restaurant. Their shaded patio is popular for after work drinks and unlike other Financial District places, you don’t need to get there before 5pm to secure a table. Needless to say, I’ve had my fair share of wine at the place.

Whereas it’s an excellent location for liberations, their food leaves me wanting. Their appetizers aren’t bad and I could make a light meal from the arancini ($11) and misticanza ($9); the later a spring mix salad with celery, radish, and an amazing salty aged sherry vinaigrette. The arancini has a nice crispy crust, is stuffed with provolone cheese, and smothered in a thick spicy tomato sauce. Although the cheese is melted, the risotto ball could be hotter.   


Taverna Mercatto’s pizzas, on the other hand, is a mess. Like their Eaton Centre location, the margherita ($15) arrives looking promising – wonderfully thin, golden toasted edges, and a fair amount of toppings (in this case fior di latte and basil). However, as soon as you reach to grab a slice the centre barely holds together and the waterlogged crust is evident. Good luck eating this without a knife and fork. 


Overall mark - 6.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 120 Bremner Boulevard

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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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Taverna Mercatto Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Artisan Noodle 老碗 (Toronto)


Having walked by Artisan Noodle on numerous occasions and seeing waiting throngs, it’s apparent the restaurant’s good. Of course, its small dining room that seats less than 20 people likely isn’t helping alleviate the long lines either. Trust me, if there’s only a couple of people ahead of you, the wait is worth it.

Surprisingly, for such a small establishment, they have a surprisingly large menu dedicated to the biang biang hand-slapped and pulled noodles originating from China’s Shaanxi province. The namesake biang biang mian ($8.99) features the noodles topped with a cacophony of ingredients: diced root vegetables, tomato, beef, scrambled egg and scallions. You mix everything around vigorously creating a light dish suitable for warm weather. My husband enjoyed the dish, but its lukewarm temperature and absence of soup made me want something else.


If you can handle the heat, the spicy stewed beef noodle soup ($9.99) is good. The beef broth salty and satisfying, the noodles simply adorned with tons of tender beef, scallions and cilantro. I only wish the spiciness wasn’t derived from chili oil as the slick layer of it floating on top made it difficult to enjoy the soup.


Artisan’s noodles are a remarkable length (good luck trying to eat it in a mouthful) and unlike the knife shaved style, their thickness remains consistent throughout. Springy but still soft, the noodles are substantial and leave you full afterwards.


A great first experience with biang biang noodles. So good that I plan on returning to Artisan Noodle to try the stir fried version. Hopefully, we’ll be lucky again and miss their long lines.

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 5421 Yonge Street

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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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Artisan Noodle Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Lobster Burger Salad (LBs) (Toronto)


Lobster Burger Salad, shortened to “LBs” but pronounced “pounds”, opened quietly in the Financial District this summer. Nonetheless, my food loving friend caught sight of their wrought iron lobster signage and we were immediately excited. However, with the luxury ingredient, prices would be steep so who knew when we’d have a special occasion to try the place?

Trying to combat the mentality where lobster needs to be charged at expensive market prices, LBs devised a menu with four mains all costing $22: a 1.25 lb lobster, lobster roll, lobster salad, and the sole non-seafood dish … the 6oz. bacon cheese burger. There’s also a lobster poutine ($20) for sharing and a selection of larger 2-6 lb lobsters ($75 - $185).

I wasn’t leaving LBs without having the lobster, so the 1.25 lb dinner was a good choice. The crustacean arrived separated with shells split, eating it was a breeze. There was more than enough melted butter accompanying the dish, but really with sweet succulent lobster meat, I rather have it plain. And it was cooked well, not a rubbery bit at all.


Although I wouldn’t suggest using them for the lobster, LBs also offers a selection of premium sauces (truffle aioli, lobster butter or gravy) for an extra $4 as a special fry dip. Personally, I found the side fairly salty already, so it really didn’t require any further condiments. What a delicious combination: lobster and fries.

My friend’s lobster roll looked great with its butter toasted bun and ample amount of meat. Since the roll is offered at their takeout window during lunch for $16 (including chips), I’ll need to arrange a lunch date soon.  

While the mains are relatively affordable, LBs cocktails is where margins are made. The citrusy grapefruit cordial in the rich girl ($16) goes nicely with the lobster and the mezcal is spiked with a mellow chili so there’s an interesting aftertaste that turns an otherwise plain drink into something special.

As soon as you step into the restaurant the smell of cooking shellfish is intoxicating - perhaps one of my favourite food scents. With plenty of seating and reservations accepted, enjoying a lobster could not be made any easier.

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10



How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 100 Yonge Street

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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!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:


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


Lisa Marie (Toronto)


With the Elvis Presley motif on the wall, it’s clear where the inspiration for Lisa Marie’s name came from. As Kitchen Project notes, the King enjoyed Southern stick-to-your-rib food, exactly what the restaurant serves. But, where Elvis didn’t like strange foreign sounding ingredients, Lisa Marie uses things like kimchi or queso fresco, extremely popular ingredients in their own native lands, to jazz up the King’s favourites.

As part of the Summerlicious menu ($28 for dinner, regular prices listed in post below), kimchi was used in the Alabama tailgaters ($11) and Seoul fried chicken ($19); both meaty dishes filled with flavours. The tailgaters have nothing in common with the steak of the swamps, rather is sliced beef and aged cheddar, rolled up and wrapped in bacon. They’re salty and tender, not as heavy as I expected. Although the kimchi became lost, there was a light chili garlic sauce on the green beans, which helped to cut through the grease.


A pile of cabbage kimchi sat beside the Seoul fried chicken. If it’s too spicy, the sweet red sauce covering the dish helps calm the sting. The bone-in pieces of chicken were juicy and the breading substantial enough to withstand the thick glaze so it retained its crispiness.


Soft creamy queso fresco made its way inside the flautas ($9), combined with white cheddar cheese for the stringiness. The tortillas cylinders were crispy to contrast against the molten cheese, it was a nice starter topped with crema and a refreshing roasted tomatillo sauce.


Lisa Marie’s carne asada ($19) incorporated tons of char on the pichana steak, yet remained a moist medium inside. The smoky meat was complimented by creamy guacamole, heirloom cherry tomato salsa and of course the soft crumbled queso fresco. Of all the dishes we had that evening, it was actually the lightest, even incorporating grilled shishito peppers for a further portion of vegetables.


I can’t leave Lisa Marie without having some pad thai fries ($5) - fries tossed in a very spicy pad thai sauce with crunchy raw bean sprouts to cool the zing. They’re normally fantastic, but were lukewarm that evening so a tad less impressive.


Elvis must really have a SWEET tooth, as all the desserts were fairly sugary. After one spoonful, I couldn’t have more. The Elvis ($7) is like a Southern trifle, boozy zambaglione dotted with bananas and French toast. Of the three being offered, it was the tastiest to me.


The small skillet was really cute for the s’mores, but its heat did little to melt the milk chocolate chips on the bottom. Mixed with Nutella and topped with toasted marshmallows, I assure you it’s as sweet as it sounds. The graham crackers were closer to a hard shortbread, so all together the dish really didn’t remind me of s’mores at all.


You certainly need a cup of milk after having a bite of the homemade Oreo: a crunchy chocolate cookie filled with the sweet cream that’s synonymous with the famed cookie.


Although the desserts weren’t for me, all the savoury dishes from Lisa Marie’s Summerlicious dishes were absolutely delicious. Everything was full of flavour and certainly stick-to-your-ribs - you’re not leaving hungry… the King would approve.

Overall mark - 8 out of 10
Is Summerlicious worth it (based on my meal selection)?
Summerlicious - $28
Regular menu - $37 - Alabama tailgaters ($11), fried chicken ($19) and dessert ($7)
Savings - $9 or 24%
How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 638 Queen Street 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!

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Lisa Marie Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Welcoming the all new Mary Brown's


Mary Brown’s Famous Chicken and Taters has undergone a rebranding, complete with new logo: Mary's lost her bonnet and sports a blowout bob instead. If you live in Toronto’s downtown core, it not surprising if you’re not familiar with the fast-food chain. Growing up in Scarborough, I’ve had my fair share of take-out from the Canadian restaurant, generally located in the suburbs.

Subsisting solely on the chicken and taters as a child, the grand re-opening party was my first taste of their chicken pop-ins ($5.39), Big Mary sandwich ($5.49), and poutine ($7.99)! My how Mary’s evolved with the times.

The pop-ins and poutine could easily be combined to make a winning combination: the chicken bites moist and well breaded, while the poutine smothered in hot gravy so the gooey cheese curds really gets a chance to melt. Put the two together and you’d have an epic poutine!


Meanwhile, the chicken patty on the sandwich is thick and actually a slice of chicken breast – it can flake a part and isn’t the formed burgers found at some competitors. Although the Big Mary sandwich provides a choice of regular or spicy, the latter is really just the addition of sriracha mayonnaise on top. Presumably, using the same patty is much easier for their operations, but takes away from the spicy experience as the spices aren’t actually worked into the batter.


As for the taste of their famous bone-in deep fried chicken and taters itself ($6.99 for three pieces and taters)? It was just as salty and moist as I remembered … the dry non-greasy skin giving way to the hot chicken juices. However, I think Mary’s done something to the breading recipe as it’s not nearly as crusty and crunchy as in the past.


Indeed, their prices are a couple dollars higher than the Colonel, but the quality is also a step above. After all, even without the bonnet, Mary can cook … honest to goodness.

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: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 3199 Dufferin Street

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Mary Brown's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

OMAW (Toronto)


While OMAW’s name is not an acronym, for me it summarizes my experience: Oh My! Ah… Well? Let’s start with the “Oh my!”, my initial reaction when I heard Toronto Southern food master, Chef Matt Blondin, was back in a permanent location serving his famed shrimp and grits! Having last eaten the dish almost five years ago during Blondin’s last weeks at Acadia, I still fondly remember the luscious comfort food.

As soon as Omaw’s menu was placed in front of me, I anxiously scanned the one-sheeter, almost missing it as the grits was hidden in the description, rather the dish simply labelled gulf prawns ($15). The grits didn’t arrive until halfway through the meal and when the small bowl was finally presented it looked good, but seemed saucier than I remembered.  



Numerous media outlets report that these are indeed the same shrimp and grits from Acadia. Then why does it taste different? Sadly, dining at Acadia was before I started documenting my food adventures, but this dish didn’t bring back the iconic Blondin cooking I yearned for.  It’s still good with a smooth consistency packed with flavours on account of the pimento cheese, jalapenos and smoky broccoli. It just somehow lacked the hearty grittiness of the grain itself… ah well.

Before our meal began, a bowl of complimentary lightly pickled cucumbers arrived, a refreshing snack to munch on as I marveled over the sabbatical ($15) cocktail. If you’re into not-overly sweet, citrusy (shiso and lime) drinks with a surprising twist (ginger, habanero, and herb saint), do yourself a favour and order the drink. Despite the differing ingredients, they combine together so nicely and the lingering kick from the ginger and habanero leaves me wanting more.



With the restaurant’s small plates menu, sharing is encouraged or you could mix-and-match to create a customized tasting menu. The aged wagyu ($17) is gorgeous and reminiscent to a dish served at Alo



Also incorporating tons of tastes - from the creamy aioli, soft pea relish, and not overly heavy beef fat vinaigrette - the dish is decent but I couldn’t help but crave a crispy element. The crumbles of buttered popcorn could have done it but somehow didn’t. The small hot pancakes the chef suggests rolling thin strips of the beef onto is a good idea, but may work better if served thinner with crispy edges.

Two forgettable dishes include the beef shortrib ($15), wonderfully cooked and tender but lacked interest, and the Kentucky fried squid ($13), which were so thin the dish tastes like cornmeal fries slathered with mayonnaise (in this case an Alabama white sauce that’s a mayonnaise based BBQ). The crunchy slivers or melon rind on the squid were noteworthy, something the dish needs more of.


Nonetheless, the dinner wasn’t a complete disappointment. The crispy jambalaya ($9) was fantastic and a must-try if you love arancini (fried risotto balls). The flavourful rice incorporates diced tasso (a fattier cut of smoked lightly cured pork) and is covered with a prawn powder before being deep fried and served sizzling hot. What I wouldn’t give to pop one into my mouth right now.



The turkey & dumplings ($15) was also satisfying, the fowl itself rather sparse but the dumplings lovely and not unlike a pillowy gnocchi. Drink every last drop of the flavourful broth spiked with black truffle oil, it’s salty but oh so satisfying.



OMAW isn’t where you’ll find low key Southern home cooking, but with Chef Blondin you should expect a spark of pizzazz and opulence. Regrettably, the Matt magic didn’t cast a spell on me this time. Ah well.  

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 88 Ossington Avenue
 Website: http://omaw.ca/

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:



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


Delysees (Toronto)


It's easy to see why mini desserts are gaining popularity - éclairs, once the size of a shoe, have shrunken into a petite pastry easily contained within a palm. Things become cuter and you don’t feel bad having one … two… okay maybe three.

Recently, I’ve had one of those nights. Delysées threw a summer rendezvous event showcasing their line of miniaturized desserts. Bringing along a sweet loving friend, I had intentions of only trying five things and relying on the expert’s opinion instead. Yet, when I caught sight of the intricate pastries encased in beautiful hues, I started reaching for more.

Chocolate lovers should adore their mousse cake and dark chocolate truffle “Rocher”. The cake was fluffy as air incorporating a slight peanut butter finish to the sweet - quite nice. Chocolate and I have our moments: in general I don’t love the ingredient, but when the dessert’s right it can be delicious. I had my doubts about the oversized Rocher, but it turned out to be astonishingly light in the centre while still feeling indulgent.


I may not be a wedding planner, but Delysées’ collection of Grange of Prince Edward desserts (a limited edition menu of items infused with their wines) would be perfect for the occasion. Although it’s difficult to decipher in the picture, their champagne macaron is dusted with edible sparkles! Brides, please try to contain your excitement.


Then there’s éclairs in every hue and texture: a vibrant red one filled with Sloane raspberry cream, a “soft” cloudy looking coconut, and a whimsical meringue filled with a lovely lemon cream.


Yet the most jaw dropping has to be blinging éclair fully encased in gold (inside is a hazelnut chocolate mousse).


For me, the tastiest is the plain white one – so clean and unassuming looking. The jasmine yuzu cream piped inside is utterly refreshing and perfect after a heavy meal. Although the tea and citrus both aren’t strong flavours, their tastes were still rather pronounced and delicious.


Delysées’ cakes are quite the sight, especially the flourless dark chocolate dome drizzled in blue and pink stripes.


The cheesecakes were not overly heavy: the inside incorporating a fluffy almond tofu texture. I only wish the graham cracker crust on the bottom was thinner given the dessert is so delicate and the thick base finishes it like a granola bar.


For those who want a shot of booze with their dessert, they even have a line of parfaits crowned with a squeeze of liqueur. An earthy pistachio paired with a whiskey or a crunchy almond cream with Grand Marnier?


Their mini choux or cream puffs were also tasty. Instead of the typical sweet whipped cream, this was filled with real Madagascar vanilla bean cream.


Although more understated than the other offerings, Delysées’ tarts are worth a try: the crust is crunchy yet flaky and the fillings the most flavourful of all the desserts. Pictured below is the dark chocolate & salted caramel and the roasted pistachio. I also tried the fresh lemon tart, which was refreshing and balanced.


Overall, the majority of Delysées’ pastries aren’t overly sweet and appear to be flavoured naturally (rather than tasting very strong from the use of artificial extracts). It’s a matter of preference: as a person who doesn’t like overly decadent desserts, it’s perfect. However, if you yearn for the sugary flavourful explosion that can only be subdued with milk, you may be disappointed.

Regardless, Delysées’ new mini collection includes TONS of choice – the above is only a fraction of their overall menu. So, you’ll have to sample and judge for yourself. The fact that they’re the size of a silver dollar? Well, you can just have a few more.    

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


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 780 King Street West

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