Mary Be Kitchen (Toronto)


Mary Be Kitchen is light, bright, and airy … pretty much an Instagrammer’s dream. With the sparse wooden table tops and touches of white and blue, I can just imagine the number of strategically placed purse, sunglass, book, and food photos that will soon be geotagged against the restaurant.

Something about the atmosphere makes me want a pretty drink. Normally, for breakfast, I stick with a hot pot of English Breakfast. But, after seeing the atmosphere, I switched to a latte instead … actually, on second thought, make that a lavender latte ($4.95).



I don’t know what I was thinking: aside from the flora in a gin-based drink, it’s generally an ingredient I wish was left out. But, everything is so darn pretty that I felt the need to order the girliest morning drink they served. For the first half, while hot, the aromatic element went nicely with the warm milk and golden tasting espresso. Maybe I do like lavender, I thought to myself. Once the latte became cold and I’ve already had so many sips, I remember why it’s a nauseating ingredient.

Mary Be follows the fast-casual concept, ideal for the weekday lunch crowds in the Yonge and St. Clair neighbourhood. On weekends, it’s still an easy-going place: order, receive a number, find any empty table, and soon the food comes to you. Their menu consists of various salads, proteins, stews, and breakfast items that you can order separately or mix-and-match. The menu is limited to breakfast options on weekends with several other brunch choices.

The dahl and eggs ($13.95) is part of their brunch menu. A big bowl of red lentil curry where the pulse is soft and thick. Mary Be’s dahl has the customary hit of spice but also a tanginess that’s mellowed by fresh diced tomatoes. I only wish it was hotter, especially since the two poached eggs were so runny that a hot stew could have cooked them more. If you’re like me and enjoy the yolk oozing and creamy instead of leaking upon first poke, ask for them to be done medium.



With a sizeable piece of grilled organic multigrain sourdough toast and a side of leafy greens you’ll leave stuffed, but not feeling glutinous. In fact, I left feeling healthy – not in a juice fast sort of way, rather like I had a well-balanced hearty filling meal that also happens to be plant-based. Despite not having an ounce of meat, I stayed full until dinner after the 9am breakfast.

Don’t worry, for meat eaters, Mary Be does serve protein (they source their chicken, beef, and bacon from Beretta Farms). It just so happens they offer a lot of vegetarian options as well. These recipes were developed by owner Sarah Huggins, a long-time food blogger, who’s made her healthy recipes into a restaurant. Talk about living the dream. Maybe that’s why Mary Be Kitchen’s dining area is so white and heavenly.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 21B St. Clair 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!


Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:


Mary Be Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Sushi Bar (Toronto)


The Sushi Bar’s name isn’t distinctive; in fact, it’s not even accurate, since their menu extends way beyond sushi. They’re actually an izakaya … but I guess The Izakaya Bar would be confusing to those not versed in Japanese cuisine and redundant. So, we’ll go with The Sushi Bar.


While the sushi is decent, it’s not their strongest dish. We tried the special of the day, an aji ($8), and it’s not something I’ll re-order. Having had my fair share of horse mackerel, the fish was cut too large making it impossible to eat in one mouthful, which meant you had to bite through the chewy meat. Moreover, it wasn’t meticulously cleaned so the strong fishy essence remains. There weren’t even enough condiments to cover it up: the dot of green onion was insufficient and the fish could benefit from a swipe of a sweet soy reduction (the regular soy sauce is simply too salty).


Their maki rolls are better, the Red Dragon ($15) was beautifully presented with vibrant salmon slices topped with tempura bits, fish roe, and green onion – although the roll would be more appropriately named as Orange Dragon. Sadly, it looked better than it tasted. It was a bit chewy and seemed like the rice, nori, and shrimp tempura portion was prepared ahead of time and the roll assembled later; or maybe the rice simply lacked rice vinegar and the tempura batter's consistency too thick.


Of all the sushi, the spicy salmon ($6) was a hit: I loved the big chunks of salmon and the spicy mayo seems to be mixed with a tiny bit of cream cheese to give it a thick silky finish.


The tuna tataki ($11) starts off strong with beautifully sliced seared tuna sashimi with grated ginger garnishes on top. The bed of radish and carrot salad was also shredded to a delicate texture. Yet, it was so bland for tataki, merely a bit of citrus and drops of soy. The tuna rub could be more pronounced or at least add more ponzu to everything. The only saving grace was the freshness of the tuna.


Thankfully, the chicken yaki udon ($13.50) was tastier, the thick chewy noodles glistening with sauce and when mixed with the nori simply delicious. The chicken and vegetables could be cut thinner so it combines better with the noodles and eaten together – a small fault I can overlook.   


By far the best dish of the evening was the black cod ($10). It arrives without an ounce of sauce, but the fish is so well marinated that it floods the mouth with a lovely salty sweet essence – sauce be damned! Flaky, moist, and beautifully prepared, on return visits I’m having an order of black cod with a bowl of noodles in soup.


Although they’re no Uncle Tetsu, The Sushi Bar’s Japanese cheese cake ($4.50) was a satisfying finish – not as buttery, but incorporates a stronger cheese taste since it’s denser. Of course, cheese cake is also a dessert that’s often found in izakayas than sushi bars, but we’ve already established – it’s an izakaya.



Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 3365 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:

The Sushi Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Fancy Chinese Cuisine 利嘉盛 for dinner (Markham)


It’s rare for a Chinese restaurant to be fully booked on weekends; yet, if you don’t make a reservation at Fancy Chinese Cuisine, chances are you’ll leave disappointed. Located in a plaza with an infuriatingly lack of parking, the restaurant’s décor has little pomp despite their name. While it’s not fancy, per say, the dining room is brightly lit, clean feeling, and comfortable. 

Their pick and choose set meals are popular, starting at $79.95 for Peking duck plus three other dishes to $109.95 for the premium choices (green bass, crab, and lobster) plus five other dishes. For our table of three, the lobster with three add-ons ($89.95) already yielded enough leftovers.

The star of the dinner was four pounds of lobster done old school: stir fried with ginger and onion. These aromatics tossed with crustacean is a perfect combination – enough to flavour the lobster without covering its natural sweetness. Chopped into large pieces, the lobster meat stayed juicy and succulent.


For larger tables, the stir-fried clams in black bean sauce is more of a nibble than something filling. At Fancy, theirs had plenty of wok hay and the black bean sauce’s saltiness was spot on. In fact, what impresses me most about the restaurant is how well dishes are seasoned, at least to my taste. As some Chinese restaurants tone down flavours in an effort to be “healthier” and senior-friendly, I just want one that fulfils the flavours of my youth.


While the fish in the stir-fried sole filet was a bit messy looking, it wasn’t overdone and the celery and snow peas the requisite crispiness.


The sole non-seafood dish of the meal was the sweet and sour chicken with pineapple. Truth be told, I prefer the moister chicken to pork, which sometimes can get chewy. Once again, the sweet and sour sauce was well balanced and had me reaching for just one more piece, despite being stuffed.


Complimentary soup (pork bone broth with carrots and white fungus) and dessert (sweet red bean soup and cookies) rounds out the meal. They’re your run-of-the-mill offerings done solidly.


If you’re in the market for reasonably priced authentic Cantonese fare, Fancy Chinese Cuisine fits the bill. Heed my advice and make a reservation for 6pm or earlier, otherwise you’ll be stuck circulating the parking lot (with little options for alternative spots) for the evening. And no, Fancy does not offer valet.

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Markham, 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


TYC by Sanjeev Kapoor (Toronto)

TYC by Sanjeev Kapoor

TYC or The Yellow Chilli is the sole Canadian outpost of a chain that amalgamates a variety of Indian dishes from Chef Sanjeev Kapoor’s journey across India. In reviewing the restaurant’s website, it publicizes their aim to serve food in a hygienic atmosphere. I don’t know what to think of this… shouldn’t this be the minimal standard of any establishment? I’d hope all restaurants want to be hygienic and it’s not something exemplary to highlight like a mission statement. Yet, while waiting for my friends to arrive, I noticed the neighbouring table’s banquette was marked with muddy shoeprints and within minutes a waitress arrives apologizing (despite it not being my table) and cleans off the offending marks.  


With my love for samosas, I had to try the starter and TYC has three to choose from: vegetarian, chicken, or mutton. The aloo makai samosa ($6) was filled with potato and corn (according to the menu). In reality, I couldn’t decipher the corn amongst the mashed potato filling, which lacked texture and interest. Moreover, it wasn’t even accompanied by sauces, despite not being overly flavourful. Luckily, we stopped the waitress from taking away the tamarind and creamy dill sauce served with the complimentary crispy papadum to use with the appetizer. I’d rather have the vegetable samosas from Samosa King any day.


One of their best sellers is the lalla mussa dal ($13), a dish of black lentils slow cooked over 36 hours to get to that melting consistency. Interestingly, their website also boasts about their use of state-of-the-art equipment – I guess they haven’t started using the Insta-pot yet. Nonetheless, the dish is very hearty and with the long cooking period, the pulse turns into a silky creamy concoction that was delicious by itself or sandwiched in naan.


Butter chicken ($17) has never been a dish I’m overly fond of and TYC reminds me why: the tomato sauce is way too sweet, the chunks of chicken not overly tender, and the “butter” sauce heavy but not in a heavenly way. After a spoonful, I stuck to the fish tikka masala ($23) where the tomato sauce has a nice tangy kick and the tandoor cooked fish left flaky and tender.


Just stay away from the butter chicken, if you want butter have their butter naan ($3.95; two pieces pictured) instead. The bread is hot, soft and chewy, and glistens with the ingredient.


The spiciest dish of the evening was the murgh noormahal biryani ($15) – thankfully, they brought out raita to accompany the rice, I certainly had my fair share of the cooling yoghurt. The biryani was peppered with spices where the heat slowly builds and permeates the taste buds to a delicious finish. I’d just leave out the fried onions – presumably crispy if eaten right away but over time becomes chewy and hard against the moist grains of rice.


So why a yellow chilli? The menu’s cover letter from Sanjeev explains this, “Years ago, on the streets of Meerut, my mother’s hometown, I bumped into a yellow chilli … with one bite … an idea was born. My restaurant, The Yellow Chilli, came into being.” Since then, the chain has grown to about 100 outlets and its foray into Canada. I had high expectations: while some dishes were good, none were outstanding and hardly the delicious journey I’d expect for an Indian chain.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 55 Eglinton Avenue East

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:


TYC - by Sanjeev Kapoor Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Adrak (Richmond Hill)


Adrak isn’t a place you simply stumble upon. Located at the base of an office building, in the dark you merely see their glowing sign - if you’re looking for it – then still need to drive around the block to enter the complex at the back of the building. While the restaurant doesn’t benefit from a direct view from Hwy 7, they do occupy sizeable space and is one of the poshest Indian restaurants I’ve visited in Toronto. Adrak also has a contemporary vibe: there’s no glint of red or gold, instead the comforting dark browns and cool creams that is reminiscent of a steak house … if a steak house features a huge tandoor oven in their open concept kitchen.

Diners are treated to an amuse bouche to start, a fried cheese ball that’s could be an arancini topped with a spiced curry. It’s unclear if the bite is authentic, but who cares, it's tasty.


Adrak’s menu is extensive, containing several dishes rarely found elsewhere. Feeling adventurous, we picked out a couple of unfamiliar appetizers to try such as the stuffed potato wheel ($15) where a potato is hollowed out, coated with poppy seeds, and stuffed with a cheese and spinach mixture. While it tastes pretty good, I could do without the raisins used in the filling and the coating could use more seasoning.


The soya malai chaap ($13) is sometimes referred to as vegetarian chicken in Indian cuisine, as the soy protein is molded to resemble pieces of meat. To me they look like Jerusalem artichokes (or sunchokes) covered in mayonnaise. While the ingredient has a dense texture, it doesn’t resemble the consistency of tofu. Again, the appetizer could benefit from more spice as after getting past the creamy sauce, the inside was fairly bland, except for a light smokiness from the charcoal oven. I’m glad it was accompanied by a tart chutney and plump soy bean salad, which helped give the malai chaap some flavour. Perhaps, even something as simple as including more of the sauce for dipping would help.


Aside from the “vegetarian chicken”, we also had an actual chicken starter. The chicken seekh kebab ($18) is a sizeable portion and smelled great, but the texture took some getting used to – the consistency ground down to a paste, rather than minced. Personally, I would prefer if it contained more bite and at the risk of sounding like a broken record, more flavour.


When I picture Indian food, it’s usually something that’s packed with exotic spices. Therefore, when all the appetizers were so muted, it was a strange start to the meal. While I’m glad we branched out to try new dishes, there’s a reason why starters like samosa and chaat are popular.

Luckily, as we got to the mains, the flavour level increased … perhaps the appetizers merely were preparing the taste buds for what’s to come. The gobi aloo & peas ($16) had a strong hit of masala and heat, the roasted cauliflower adding a further smokiness to the dish. Wrapped in a thin roti this could have easily been a delicious vegetarian main.


The smoky baingan bharta ($18) was accurately named given the eggplant was grilled over charcoal adding a smoldering taste and smell. Along with onions, tomatoes, herbs, and chilies, the mixture was great for dipping bread into and could easily work as a starter. In fact, most of the bread basket ($8), for me, went towards this dish. Containing a piece of butter naan, garlic naan, laccha parantha, and tandoori roti, the bread basket was a great sampler, but the soft chewy naans stole the show.


Huge pieces of soft and tender paneer were in the saag paneer ($17)… Adrak certainly doesn’t skimp on the cheese! Along with the thick spinach base, the dish was rich and filling.


The Goan-style seafood curry ($25) incorporated interesting flavours: predominantly sweet and sour with a creaminess from the coconut milk and a light heat. Yet, it was more fish than seafood as both spoons contained flavourless white fish... where's the shrimp and scallop? It's a dish that goes well, perhaps even needs, steamed rice. On its own or even with the naan/biryani, something seemed off.


To be fair, the vegetarian biryani ($17) doesn't need any more sauce, even by itself it was moist (without relying on oil) and flavourful. With tons of vegetables (green beans, onion, tomato, and peas), in lieu of the customary chicken or lamb I normally have the rice with, it's nice to eat something lighter. 


Even on the dessert menu there were some unfamiliar choices: the dinner provided my first taste of kesar phirni ($8) a slow-cooked vermicelli pudding flavoured with saffron. While it was mushy with no distinct bits of the noodle, the cashew pieces added crunch helping to improve the texture. Once again, the raisins could be left out; Adrak should really consider calling out this ingredient on their menu as it's generally insights a love/hate relationship with people. 


Surprisingly, even with our weekend dinner the restaurant wasn’t busy – perhaps due to their hidden location. Most of the diners were large groups with 10+ people; Adrak’s long tables and open concept design is great for hosting large groups and semi-private parties. Their service was also exemplary and one of the better restaurants for accommodating dietary restrictions. In fact, it’s the closest option for a fine dining Indian restaurant I’ve visited in the city. And, if you have diners that don’t like spice, at least they can stick to the appetizers.

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Richmond Hill, Canada
 Address: 15 Wertheim Court
 Website: http://adrak.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:


Adrak Indian Restaurant & Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


#Contest: Spoil a loved one with Days of Wine & Chocolate in #NOTL this February!


Stumped on what to do to celebrate Valentine's? If your loved one enjoys chocoate and wine, taking them on a day/weekend trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake is the perfect gift. Over weekends in February, twenty wineries across the region are pairing their delicious wine with a chocolate delight. Having looked through the listing, a few stuck out in particular:

  • With the cold weather, what could be toastier than a lovely lobster bisque topped with white chocolate shavings and a glass of Chardonnay Reserve from Rancourt?
  • Strewn seems to be serving an entire meal with their merlot paired with a savoury chocolate trio: mushroom with chocolate sauce, cocoa dusted pork, and potato chip dipped in dark chocolate.
  • I love ribs! Pondview's glazing pork back ribs with a chocolate infused BBQ sauce and serving it with a glass of their Bella Terra Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.
Having attended a similar event in 2017, Sip and Sizzle, it was a great time - eating and drinking the day away at so many wineries.

You can experience a similar tasty day every weekend in February (Friday, Saturdays, and Sundays). Pick up the touring passport for $45 (plus taxes and fees) or a designated driver’s version for $25 (plus taxes and fees) that includes non-alcoholic drinks and you’re entitled to a taste of food and drink at each of the 20 participating wineries, valid all month long.


The Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake want to give a Gastro World reader a chance to experience it themselves. The winner will receive two passes (valued at $90 plus taxes and fees) to use anytime during the event. Please note, transportation and accommodations are not included. Simply enter below.

Entries will be accepted until January 29, 2018 at 12:00 AM. Sometime the following day, I will contact winners through email with further details. Accordingly, please make sure you enter a valid email address in Rafflecopter contest site. Cheers!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


How To Find Them
 Location: Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada

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

Shangri-La for dim sum (Markham)

Shangri-la dim sum in Markham

Toronto has no shortage of dim sum restaurants, but Shangri-La Banquet Hall touts theirs as one of the few where you’ll eat in a ballroom – their Esna Park ballroom to be exact. With no early bird specials on weekends, it’s also the place to go if you refuse to wait or have a large table and want to make reservations. While their regular prices will set you back $3.20 for S, $4.20 for M, $5.20 for L, $6.20 for XL, and $7.20 for SP (along with $2 a person for tea), if you order before 11am on weekdays, any of the S, M, or L dishes are all $3.20.

One of my favourite dishes is the large dumping with soup. At Shangri-La theirs is filled with abalone and conpoy and sits in supreme soup (SP). While the dish is expensive compared to other restaurants, it’s also huge and can easily feed four. The soup has a nice rich essence and the abundant seafood inside wasn’t too overcooked; yet, the broth could use more seasoning.


Their dumpling with shrimp (XL) and sui mai with fish roe (L) were both solid renditions of the staples, much larger than what you’d find elsewhere. While I didn’t try the har gow, their pork dumpling was springy and juicy with a generous dollop of roe on top.


If the shrimp in the har gow was cooked to the same doneness as the chives and shrimp dumpling (L), it would be spot on. Personally, I prefer the addition of the herby chives to the dumpling, which gives the dish more flavour.


While the bovine tendon (L) had that nice soft chewy gelatinous texture you want with beef tendon, the sauce contained a twinge of sourness that threw me off. It seemed like they added red vinegar to the marinade or to sweet potatoes at the bottom of the dish. In fact, a few of the steamed dishes had a filler, whether it’s sweet potatoes or the yam noodle bundles in the cuttlefish. Understandably, lining a dish is common for early bird special periods, but when customers are paying full price these fillers are disappointing. After all, I never pair black bean spare ribs with sweet potatoes.


Nonetheless, despite the yam bundle, the cuttlefish in curry (L) was well steeped with flavour - I rather enjoyed the hint of spiciness permeating the sauce.


The spare ribs in black bean sauce (M) and BBQ pork bun (S) were both average: it would be nice if the black beans on the spare ribs were mixed throughout rather than dolloped over top and the buns needed more filling.


Don’t miss out on their rice rolls, while they’re not as thin as establishments specializing in the dish, at Shangri-la the texture and thickness is still better than many dim sum places. The shrimp and leek (XL) and shitaki mushroom & chicken (L) both had adequate amounts of filling so it doesn’t feel like you’re eating mouthfuls of pastry.


Meanwhile, the rice roll with dough fritter ($5.20) showed interest with the pork floss on top, but the actual fritter needs to be hotter and crispier – taking one that’s been delivered in the morning and wrapping it in a fresh rice roll is not sufficient.



Generally, I don’t order spring rolls at dim sum, but their shredded chicken and crispy taro (M) version was yummy. Especially since they’re made-to-order arriving piping hot and the filling nicely balanced between the meat and earthy taro. Maybe it has something to do with eating in a ball room … somehow it makes everything taste fancier.


Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 50 Esna Park 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:


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