Canis Restaurant (Toronto)

From the moment the bread arrived, I knew we were in for a treat. If you’ve sworn off carbs, good luck turning down a piece of Canis’ heavenly warm sourdough. It’s the perfect combination of slightly tangy dough, airy innards, and a smoky salty crunchy crust.


I’d already be satisfied with the sourdough plain, but then swipe on the silky ricotta with an oily pool of chimichurri and the bread rises to another level. How did Chef Jeff Kang know the key to my stomach? I slather more onto the bread, trying not to be greedy, but wanting to wipe every last morsel from the bowl. What’s the other dish? Oh, a subdued garlic butter … it’s no ricotta.


Feeling particularly ravenous, we added two “snacks” while waiting for the four-course menu ($60) to start. The oysters ($12) for the evening were four creamy Malpeque with a light daikon mignonette, which added enough acidity to cut through the seafood but wasn’t overpowering.


Rather than the typical balls, the cauliflower falafel ($4) were in cylinder form so there was more crispy surface area. The chickpea mixture was nutty and fairly moist, but what brought it up a notch was the squiggle of eggplant puree and dots of pickled cauliflower on top (those cauliflower florets stole the show).


The only miss that evening was the scallop: the onion mignonette and shaved horseradish too strong, completely drowning out the delicate seafood. The dish might as well have used a cheap raw fish, I wouldn’t have taste the difference. Meanwhile, if the sauce was more subdued (perhaps a diluted yuzu and olive oil), the alternating layers of supple scallops and crunchy radish would have been delicious.  


Conversely, the beef tartare, a dish that’s normally lends itself to strong flavours, was prepared simply. The steak was cut into larger chunks and sparingly seasoned - garlic aioli added creaminess and flakes of something dark added a wonderful saltiness. In lieu of bread, crunchy julienned turnip sat on top providing the same crunchiness, but also a adding a refreshing lightness to the starter.


Included in the squid was a sizeable portion of the actual protein, cut into thick slices so there’s a meatiness to the dish. Thanks to the lonza, it became a rich appetizer, the cured pork adding a mellow smokiness. Tucking into the bottom, you’ll notice a thick but subdued squid ink sauce – infusing an umami sense to the dish, but does paint a black film onto your teeth (just remember to swish with water afterwards).


Canis likes to hide their meat, giving me the feeling that I’m digging into a salad – when really what waits underneath are flavourful strips of pork jowl, which is oh so tender but also incorporates a bit of chewiness from the collagen and fat. Yet, to the rest of the world, I’m just eating forkfuls of shredded Brussels sprouts tossed with jalapeno, pickle, and garlic flakes.   


One meat dish Canis doesn’t hide is their duck for two. In fact, Chef Kang brings the glistening duck breast tableside for patrons to admire before it’s whisked away for slicing and plating. There’s much to admire: the skin is crispy and intricately scored glossed in a caramelized honey crust; the fat is rendered but there’s still a enough left underneath so there’s a lingering richness on the tongue; and the meat is aged so the chewiness of the duck’s meat mellows out and can be cooked to a medium rare without turning tough.


The sides are equally delicious: the sunchoke purée a play between sweet and savoury; the roasted sunchoke slice perfectly done so it’s creamy inside and crispy around the edges; and for another taste of duck, a shredded duck confit cooked with wheat berries resulting in an intensely meaty risotto (I enjoyed it’s savoury taste that counteracts the sweet duck jus).



Truthfully, I’d love to try Canis’ other mains (sablefish and beef shortrib during our winter visit), but with the duck so good, it’d be a difficult decision as I’d hate to miss experiencing the meat again.

Choosing from the restaurant’s desserts is a challenge as other than three ingredients, there’s no description on what form the sweet comes in (i.e. cake, pie, ice cream, etc.) The “quince, buttermilk, hazelnut” turns out to be buttermilk snow with stewed quince and chopped hazelnuts on the bottom. It’s refreshing and could be a great palette cleanser, but hardly satisfying as a dessert.


Meanwhile, the “pear, koji, almond” was closer to my idea of a dessert.  Stewed pear, cut into small pieces and left with a slight crunchiness, is sandwiched in between crispy sheets of tissue thin pastry. Our waitress explains koji is mold commonly used in South East Asian countries for fermentation – you can’t really see it in the dish and it’s unclear what it does (I did find there was a preserved plum (chan pui mui) taste to the dessert). Whatever it does, it’s delicious and I’d like to think gets the digestive juices flowing.


At least they presented me with an espresso canelé with the bill – it has the requisite sweet sugary crust and soft airy centre . It satisfied my sweet tooth.


Canis isn’t in-your-face Canadian - the wooden minimalist décor doesn’t have a stich of plaid or a single stuffed animal in sight. Yet, dining there reminds me of our country, from the staff’s diversity to the friendly non-pushy attitude. Even their dishes are portrayed in an understated way – the pork jowl and beef in the tartare aren’t the first things you see, rather it’s the humble but delicious turnip and Brussels sprouts; once you dig deeper, you get a whole new experience.  


And you must experience Canis and their duck (assuming you’re not vegetarian or allergic) at least once. If you need an excuse, just consider it your patriotic duty. 

Overall mark - 9.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 746 Queen 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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Canis Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Café Belong (Toronto)


Nestled within the Evergreen Brickworks, Café Belong benefits from its proximity to the year round farmer’s market. Perhaps perusing the fresh food stalls beforehand influenced my meal choice, but their vegetarian dishes sounded fantastic and I didn’t miss an ounce of meat!

Replacing ham, the sautéed kale and mushrooms eggs benedict ($23) incorporated plump mushrooms that provided a meaty bite. As the poached egg oozed over everything, the molten yolk was captured into the not overly done kale’s crevices, making for a cleaner dish.  A layer of sweet caramelized onions sat on top of the doughy soft buttermilk biscuit; it was a bit sugary for my taste, but thankfully the buttery hollandaise helped to add back a savoury element.


Although the frittata ($19) is listed under the “cold kitchen” section of the menu, it still arrives warm. The cubes of roasted butternut squash at the bottom makes the egg dish heartier and I rather enjoyed the grilled red onion and wilted spinach that adds a bite and colourful contrast to the frittata. Just make sure to smear on some of the creamy goat cheese (?) purée from the plate, the tangy saltiness makes for a great addition.


A perfect “dessert” for sharing is their fluffy pancakes ($20 for three). It starts with the requisite eggy and buttery batter and is topped with ricotta, granola and stewed apples. Personally, I found the crunchy granola clusters detracted from the pillowy soft pancakes, but it did pair nicely with the large soft cinnamon apple chunks. The toppings aren’t overly sweet, so you’ll want to pay the extra $4 for warmed maple syrup – pancakes  aren’t the same without this wonderful nectar.


If you’re like me and tend to opt for meaty options during brunch, I encourage you to head to Café Belong and give our plant-based friends a try. After all, maybe Meatless Mondays could easily become Botanical Brunch Saturdays?

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 550 Bayview Avenue (at the Evergreen Brickworks)

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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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Other Gastro World posts similar to this:


Cafe Belong Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Fancy Chinese Cuisine 利嘉盛 for dim sum (Markham)


I may have found a new go-to place for dim sum: Fancy Chinese Cuisine. However, I’m hesitant to label the restaurant with the title as its predecessors over the last few years gradually were replaced – mainly as the wait times during their special pricing hours became unbearable. 

Fancy also has the special (between 8:30am – 11:30am or after 1:30pm) where anything classified as small, medium or large is $2.98. Nonetheless, even if you dine during the prime lunch period (11:30am – 1:30pm) prices aren’t much higher: medium dishes are $3.28 and large/special sizes a mere $1 more for $3.98.

These relatively stable prices means there’s less people rushing to get in before 11:30; most visits we were seated within a short wait when arriving before 10:00am. Finally! A place that caters to my impatient personality.  

Fancy also executes dim sum in an OG fashion. Sure, they’re not shaped into Instagram friendly flowers or animals, but they do offer strong flavours and traditional elements. The shrimp dumpling (har gow) and pork dumpling (siu mai; both L) are solid versions of the favourites – the shrimp not overcooked and the wrapper relatively thin on the har gow while the siu mai has the customary juicy pork mixture studded with shrimp.


The shrimp and chives dumpling (L) is also decent: a large size and the chives adding a herby element to the dumpling.


Rather than layering peas or watercress under the steamed beef ball (S), the chef opts for a sheet of parchment paper instead, which makes separating the balls a breeze. The recipe could use a bit more coriander, but the consistency was bang on. Personally, I prefer the beef ball Chew Chow style (M), essentially the same meat balls but served in a broth with watercress. The soup is your typical salty MSG version, but keeps the beef warmer and moister.


With seven fillings available for rice rolls, there’s something for everyone. Having tried the steamed shrimp (L) and BBQ pork (M), they’re both good: enough ingredients so each bite has filling and slits made to allow the soy sauce to permeate further. Although the rice sheets are on the thicker side, the wrapper was still silky and soft.


On the other hand, the fried Chinese dough rice roll (M) was terrible, where the dough fritter was either stale or so over fried that it shatters into oily shards.


Similarly, the conpoy with dumpling in soup (L) was a disappointment. The dish was overcooked rendering the shrimp into small bites of rubber and the actual wrapper mushy.


Normally considered an extra-large dish at other restaurants, you can still order the beef tendon in special sauce (L) at the special pricing. Tendon has a soft chewy gelatinous texture that’s an acquired taste – even for myself, it wasn’t until my adult years that I started enjoying the dish. Fancy’s “special” sauce is a cross between the sweet red sauce used with chicken feet, a spice (perhaps curry?), and tons of garlic. The dish certainly doesn’t lack flavours.


Similarly, the cuttlefish with curry sauce (M) is one of the more powerful ones I’ve had over the last few years.  


The chicken and mushroom steamed rice (L) is served in the typical clay pot. Despite skimping on the soy sauce (a mere tablespoon), there’s sufficient amounts of chicken, black fungus and golden needle (a Chinese herb) to make up for it.


While the mixed meat and seafood congee (L) looks plain, once you dig into the bowl you’ll find a decent portion of fish and pork rind mixed throughout – both white ingredients that simply blends right into the rice. The salted pork and preserved egg congee (L) offers more contrast and I’m surprised by the large pieces of meat and egg within it, it seemed as if every spoon was filled with the ingredients.


Fancy’s dessert offerings, on the menu, does seem skimpy with five choices. However, it’s augmented by options pushed around in carts, so you may want to save room for those. The dumpling with black sesame paste (S) was sweet enough with plenty of coconut, peanut and sugar inside. I loved the sesame casing, which was soft, chewy and fresh.  


How wonderful it feels to have a place to regularly visit again. I appreciate the short waits for a table and my parents love the small touches such as asking whether you want a newspaper with the meal (complimentary and yours to keep afterwards). It’s friendly and comforting, a restaurant you’ll likely find me at most Sundays, on a going forward basis.

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 7750 Kennedy Road

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:


Fancy Chinese Cuisine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Szechuan Legend 半畝園 (Toronto)


Gather a group of ten before heading to Szechuan Legend as their set meals, especially on weekdays when they are even cheaper, are an amazing deal. The $198 weeknight non-spicy menu had enough variety to satisfy.

Of course, you’ll get your seafood fix with a medium four pound lobster done “fishermen wharf” style (essentially deep fried and then stir fried with garlic and chilies). It’s a nice change from the traditional ginger and onion and adds a spicy salty kick to the lobster. Afterwards, the tomalley is used in the fried rice, giving it a sticky and rich (albeit slightly fishy) essence.


The crustacean parade continue with two Dungeness crabs simply done with ginger and onion. Both seafood dishes are decent – not overcooked and incorporates enough seasoning without overpowering the seafood.


Although it’s not really Szechuan, a large steamed golden tilapia, is also included to counteract all the fried dishes. Again, the cooking time is bang on so that the fish flakes away from the bone without the texture turning tough.


Other seafood dishes completing the meal includes a Peking style sea cucumber – a sea creature that despite its name is not actually vegetarian. Normally, I’m not a fan of its soft blubbery texture, but at Szechuan Legend it’s chopped into small pieces and quickly stir fried (rather than braised) keeping them crunchy. Lastly, a plate of vermicelli noodles containing a fair amount of seafood and vegetables; it could use more salt as it’s colourful but tepid.


A favourite for my family is Peking duck, so we were in luck when the set menu included one done three ways. Traditionally, the highlight is the slices of skin cocooned in flour wrappers. They’re fine at Szechuan legend – the skin crispy (to the point the duck may have been flash fried) and the wrappers impossibly thin. Yet, the duck needed more seasoning as without the hoisin sauce, it’d be pretty bland.


On the other hand, the lettuce wraps and duck bone soup arguably steals the show. Large chunks of duck meat is reserved for the stir-fried lettuce wrap mixture and the Styrofoam rice noodles are left out in favour of crunchy vegetables and water chestnuts. There’s little meat within the duck bone soup, but the restaurant adds soft cubes of tofu and quickly boiled napa cabbage to make it hearty. A hot boil of soup is a nice toasty way to end off the meal.


The sole vegetable dish included with the set meal is stir fried baby bok choy with shrimp… boring and rather unforgettable compared to everything else. For this reason, we added an order of the stir fried lotus root ($8.99), which has a great crunchy refreshing texture.


The execution on the crispy half chicken ($8.99) varies. Since we had a larger table, we ordered a full chicken and each half arrived separately. The first looked man-handled and was starting to border on dry, while the second better but the breast a tad undercooked. Even so, we all agreed the sweet and spicy sauce accompanying the chicken was fantastic and helped mask the flaws.


In need of more starches, the seafood fried rice cakes ($8.99) were a nice change from noodles. The chewiness of the rice cakes pairs nicely with the crunchy black fungus; pork slivers, shrimp and napa cabbage completes the dish.


On both visits, dessert consisted of red bean soup. The restaurant’s rendition incorporates what looks and smells like Baby’s Breath. Given a limited amount of sugar was used in the dessert, there was little flavour to hide the floral taste. Nonetheless, despite tasting strange, the red bean soup did have a digestive effect after a heavy meal.


Even without the lower pricing, I’d suggest visiting on a weeknight. The restaurant is generally understaffed so service tends to be slow even when the dining room isn’t full. All the same, Szechuan Legend is a respectable restaurant; for the most part, the food is tasty despite being affordable. You’ll leave full and satisfied … just with a floral aftertaste in your mouth.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 3280 Midland 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:


Szechuan Legend Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato