Kost (Toronto)


Even on a chilly Spring day, the atmosphere in Kost is warm and sunny – the bright palm tree dining room a taste of Miami when you can’t hop on a plane. The restaurant is inspired by the Baja Peninsula, the land that brought the city amazing fish and shrimp tacos. Kost’s menu has a similar vibe; the dishes filled with vegetables, bright colours, and vibrant flavours.


Leaning more towards lunch than breakfast at brunch, the Ahi tuna steak sandwich ($21) was calling me. The sandwich was fantastic: the fresh soft brioche bun studded with sesame seeds; the Ahi tuna incorporating a lovely seasoned seared ring; and there was plenty of crunch and flavours from the pickled red onion, a Baja slaw, creamy avocado, and lemon mayonnaise. Each bite was an explosion of tastes. The dish would have been perfect if they didn’t run out of fries by noon. The substituted home fries were fine but denser and heavier; not nearly as good as thin fries.


In terms of breakfast, the Kost breakfast ($16) is a hearty choice. It arrives with the customary two eggs, bacon, and potatoes. The Baja influence comes through with the green chorizo, toasted tortilla, and pico de gallo.


Given the mains aren’t overly large, you’ll have room for dessert. Our table thoroughly enjoyed the pineapple upside down cake ($10), the cake nice and moist. On the side, the rum anglaise and sour cream ice cream adding an extra creamy sweetness to the dessert.


Surprisingly, the tres leche cake ($10) was fairly dry and bland for something that’s supposed to be soaked in three different types of milk. Nonetheless, it’s good if you think of it as a caramel sponge cake and with the toasted almond ice cream it gets better.  


I was so comfortable in Kost that I didn’t want to leave. If only our table could transform into a large hammock, I could lie there all day and down more Prosecco. Alas, we stared at Lake Ontario one more time being leaving… if I squinted to blur the view of the naked tree branches, I could have sworn we were somewhere tropical.


Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 80 Blue Jays Way, 44th floor

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


Akira Back (Toronto)


Despite sounding like a Justin Timberlake song, Akira Back is named after a notable American chef, who’s also the co-owner of his first Canadian restaurant. Chef Back is known to blend Japanese cuisine with other cultures; at the Toronto restaurant the tradition continues with Spanish, Korean, and Chinese influences in the dishes we sampled.

Set in the new Bisha Hotel, Akira Back’s entrance is to the left of the lobby. On the second floor, the elevator opens onto a carbon black room with a warm wood sushi bar at the very back … there’s a bit of a light at the end of the tunnel feel.

Their menu also uniquely offers the same dish at different price points, where the cost varies depending on the ingredient used. For example, an aburi can range from $17 for whitefish to $35 if it’s topped with wagyu. I like the concept, diners can find an option that’s “affordable” or, if they really enjoy aburi, order all three.

Many tables were getting the crispy pork belly maki ($14). Despite it arriving with a bottle of overly salty soy, you don’t need it, since every element of the maki is already flavourful: from the melt-in-your-mouth pork to the creamy coleslaw and a thick apple miso. Akira’s chefs don’t shy away from using a fatty piece of pork; the centre of the maki is literally a cube of well rendered fat adjoined with a shard of crispy skin. If you like suckling pig, this is it in maki form.


The baked crab hand roll ($16) also didn’t need any other condiments thanks to the lightly-spiced dynamite mayo used inside. I enjoyed the thick piece of crab leg meat against the soft rice and delicate soybean paper wrapper. While the rice itself could use more vinegar, the consistency was spot on.  


Trying to decide between the cold and hot octopus options, our waiter suggested the octopus crudo ($19). Arriving as large meaty slices, it was tender enough and had a nice natural sweetness. The minced tomato salsa on top made it messy to eat, but paired nicely with the octopus.


The only disappointing dish was the 48-hours wagyu short rib ($32): it was no different compared to a run-of-the-mill short rib, something tender to begin with. The dish was likely cooked sous vide, on the lowest possible temperature, as after 48 hours the inside was still pink. While I can’t be certain I’ve had real Japanese wagyu, what’s used at Akira can’t be it. The meat simply didn’t incorporate the intense marbling you’d expect from the ingredient – there was one very lean cube and another with a thick layer of fat – but had the fat evenly distributed.  


While a bit oily, the kimchi and bacon fried rice ($11) hit the spot… you can taste the heat from the kimchi! Paired with the cooling crudo, it’s a pretty good combination.


Akira’s desserts cater to ice cream lovers – every plate arrives with a small sphere of ice cream or gelato. However, the descriptions can be a little vague. Wanting a richer dessert, I went with the black sesame cheese cake ($12). I should have known that Japanese cheesecake is super healthy and the dish arrives with cubes of what taste like black sesame tofu. Tossed with cubes of black sesame sponge cake, even the pastry was not overly sweet. The most decadent part of the dessert was the soybean powder ice cream, which was more milky than creamy. If you want a light and not sweet dessert, this is the one to order.


Meanwhile, the apple harumaki ($12), something that sounds fruity, ended up being the heavier dessert. Caramelized apple pieces are wrapped in phyllo or soy bean wrapper and deep fried creating a sweet spring roll. It was great, especially when it’s hot, and not too indulgent despite being deep fried.


Akira Back is not authentic Japanese cuisine and the price points are higher than other Japanese fusion restaurants. Like ICONINK’s other restaurants, you go there for the ambience and a night out. This would explain why even on Tuesday the restaurant didn’t become busy until after 8pm. It’s where you go to be seen… Akira’s bringing sushi back.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 80 Blue Jays Way, 2nd floor

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:



Akira Back Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Reverie at the Park (Toronto)


Amongst the city façade of College Street, Reverie’s signage stands out as a lush green garden. It fittingly presents Reverie at the Park, a place where they want patrons to feel like they’re in a “daydream”. Plus, feel like you're in a park: from the tree root sculptures hanging from the ceiling to the wrought iron gate you walk through to get to the tables. It’s like a walking through a trippy park, at night.


Behind the helm is Executive Chef Jef Edwards, who truly embodies the millennial mindset by learning how to cook, incorporating molecular gastronomy no less, through YouTube! If that weren’t a feat, the kitchen also operates without a walk-in fridge or freezer, to ensure ingredients are fresh. In the winter months, they also draw upon ingredients they’ve preserved through smoking and pickling.


Even their bread ($6) is made in in-house; a non-greasy focaccia paired with bone marrow butter and dandelion pesto. You’d think both condiments would be strongly flavoured, but they were rather muted, a light beefy taste in the butter and hint of bitterness in the pesto. Both are in serious need of seasoning.


Reverie’s menu aims to celebrate Canada’s diversity, incorporating local ingredients. It’s the new-age Canadian cuisine movement with the fusion of other cultures thrown in. The venison croquettes use deer, a Canadian game meat, and incorporates earthy spices. Get through the crispy crust and you’re greeted with a dense flavourful interior, it’s like eating a delicious deep-fried meat ball.


With the smoked beef tartare and enoki ($17), the actual apple wood smoke is faint, especially when you add the powerfully tasty fermented mushroom mustard on it. It allows the diner to really taste the beef tartare and the herbs mixed throughout. In fact, they also grow some of the herbs and produce used at the restaurant – on the roof during the warmer months and by the kitchen with special lights over the winter. 


The dish is pretty, the tartare shaped like a log in a hollowed bone with sprouts of enoki mushrooms peeking through. The “moss” is leftover dehydrated greens… I’m a huge fan of kitchens that try to reduce food waste, it’s an example that other restaurants should emulate.

I don't know what I liked better, the surf or the turf portion of the next dish. The mushrooms looks a lot like the scallop it’s paired with, except firmer and almost has a meaty taste. The sea scallops ($17) are cooked perfectly, most of the flavours coming from the thinly sliced piece of prosciutto on top. 


Both the mackerel and artichoke in the next dish is left raw. The mackerel lightly cured with salt, but otherwise you’re left with a clean meaty tasting fish; so refreshing I would have thought it’s sea bream.


The gnocchi & ricotta ($17) is a house favourite and I can see why. The gnocchi are soft but still has bite and is well toasted to give it a caramelized exterior. Mixed with spinach cream, edamame, charred heart of palm, and ricotta, it’s a hearty but not overly heavy dish. Reverie’s menu focuses on sharable dishes, to make the meal more social, but this is one I could easily have all to myself.


While the veal was slightly overcooked in our last savoury dish, it was still juicy and tender. Surprisingly, I couldn’t taste the porcini in the aligot, an ingredient that’s normally rather flavourful. Our table agreed the predominant flavour was the roasted shishito pepper, which isn’t necessarily bad, rather the dish would be more aptly named as veal with shishito.


If you like inventive desserts, try Reverie’s mushroom and honey chocolate tart with black truffle. It takes some getting used to, the taste of spongy earthy raw mushrooms with the sweet silky chocolate ganache. While I don’t like sweet desserts, even I couldn’t finish the tart. Maybe if the mushrooms were thinner, so the taste isn’t so powerful, it’d be better suited as a dessert.


Who would have thought that pop-up dinners would turn into a restaurant celebrating a one-year anniversary? Ask Chef Edwards, I’m sure he’ll think there’s a dream like quality to it.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10
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: 569 College 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:


Reverie at Weldon Park Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tsujiri (Toronto)

Toronto’s affinity with Japanese restaurant brands continues. First there was ramen, followed by cheesecake, and in 2016 came ice cream and baked goods when 150+ year old Tsujiri opened. Since then, Tsujiri has expanded to various locations across the city, their menu focused on matcha or green tea. While customers can purchase the powder for tea, most visitors are there for their green hued desserts.

You can’t go wrong with the Tsujiri matcha sundae ($7.50), the creamy soft serve well flavoured with green tea and a hint of sweetness. Digging around the cup you’ll find a chewy glutinous rice ball, a soft braised chestnut, sweet red beans, and crunchy bits for contrast. It makes for interesting bites – having the ice cream by itself and then in combination with a host of other ingredients. The sakura short bread is lightly scented with cherry blossom, prettier to look at than eat.


For something lighter, the matcha daifuku ($5) is delicious. The thin coating of glutinous rice filled to the brim with green tea whipped cream. It’s a bit messy, but oh so good.


Who knew being good to the body can be so tasty? If I’m going to have ice cream, might as well get the antioxidants to combat aging as well!


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 4909 Yonge Street

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


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

Awai (Toronto)


As a person who eats meat, a completely plant-based menu generally doesn’t excite me. While I like vegetables, and know there are many ways to prepare them, I can’t help but anticipate a boring dish or worry the chefs will rely on fat and deep frying to make it taste good. At Awai, every dish is vegan and can be made gluten-free by request. After sampling eight, they were all flavourful without depending on fats. In fact, Awai’s whole cooking philosophy aims to use an ingredient’s natural flavours without manipulating it heavily.

A flatbread seems to always makes its way into the meal, thanks to their prominent wood burning oven. Ours was topped with babaganoush incorporating a healthy dose of cumin, sour tamarind (?) reduction, dressed greens, and nuts. While the flatbread was tasty, the gluten-free version, which arrives on a potato rosti, was even better with the slightly crunchy bits.


Our table couldn’t get enough of the porcini soup ... it smells heavenly! Thick and creamy (from cauliflower purée in lieu of cream), there was also a slight kick to the broth from mountain peppers. I could have easily had three more bowls of the concoction.


Of course, there was a salad. Thankfully, it was pretty tasty with the wild mustard greens and other leafy vegetables tossed in a white kimchi dressing, sprinkled with togarashi, and mixed with the fennel pesto along the plate. While the apple confit chips were a powerful pop of flavour, it'd pair better with dessert; on the salad, the hard and chewy shards stick to your teeth and was annoying to pick out amongst the greens.


I love how the kitchen draws upon so many cultures to create the menu. From India, the khichdi was a lovely warm mixture of ground rice, lentils, and potatoes mixed with spices and a bit of heat. On top, a contrasting cold sweet and tangy root slaw, gave the dish interest and a beautiful colourful crown.


My favourite dish was the truffle mushroom ravioli: the pasta soft and chewy, filled with chopped mushrooms and sitting in a lovely cauliflower puree. Underneath was another healthy portion of roasted oyster mushrooms. Between this and the soup, our table agreed that Awai knows how to prepare fungi.


While I like phyllo pastry, as a cannelloni wrapper it doesn’t work. Perhaps there was just too much of it compared to the edamame mixture inside, every mouthful just felt like you were eating crispy phyllo. While the dish was pretty to look at and their heirloom vegetables roasted wonderfully, it was passable.


Thankfully, we requested one more savoury dish and ended off on a high note with the humita, a steamed corn cake that reminded me of a tamale but with more spices. For even more flavour, it was accompanied by a lovely rich mole and crunchy bits to contrast against the softer humita


Personally, I could have forgone dessert for another bowl of porcini soup. The elderberry oat tart was dry and mealy while the linden berry and cherry pavlova square was only a touch better thanks to some moisture and more sugar. The soup on the other hand… perfection.


The astute Gastro World reader may notice there’s no prices above. This is because Awai runs on a pay-what-you-can concept for their food (there are set prices for liquor). It’s an interesting concept where diners are encouraged to decide on a meal's worth. While I didn’t find the experience troubling, it does make the paying process a bit awkward and longer. After our waitress explained the concept, our table strategized and agreed on $70 per person. Unbeknown to the first person paying, their machine also doesn’t have a tip feature, so make sure you ask them to add it on at the same time. 

With that said, by the time this post is out, there will be prices. In early March, Awai announced they would be ending the “experiment” as many found it confusing and stressful. Instead, they will offer a prix fixe menu. It’ll be interesting to see how much the restaurant owners value their food – for a place that makes vegan dishes tasty, it may be a lot.

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 2277 Bloor Street West
 Website: http://www.awai.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:


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

BlueBlood Steakhouse (Toronto)


If you haven’t visited Casa Loma lately, you’ll be surprised by how much has changed. Once a destination for tourists, elementary school trips, and weddings, the attraction now houses an escape room and BlueBlood Steakhouse, a sprawling restaurant occupying three rooms on the main floor. When an eatery is set in a castle, there’s undoubtedly opulence and the price points to match. At BlueBlood, staff gush about the caviar and wagyu tasting flight, menu items that not every average non-noble can afford.


Even with steaks as mains, we started with the prime steak tartare ($26). For raw meat, it was surprisingly tender and despite the dish incorporating cured duck egg and house made pickles, the tartare was mellow tasting. The only disappointment was the for-show-only bone marrow; the tartare didn’t seem to incorporate any of the ingredient.


It’s unclear whether the restaurant forms the crab cakes differently depending on the number of people sharing the dish - the jumbo lump crab cake ($24) ended up arriving as three, making it much easier to split - kudos to the kitchen if there is that level of customization! This would help explain why the crab cakes were rather thin, which results in an oily starter since there’s so much breadcrumb coating. While it would help if they were drained better, the fresh hot cakes were good, especially with a smear of the light dill aioli.


For a steakhouse, their steak selection isn’t the greatest. While the menu includes a lot of high end options such as wagyu and shared cuts like a tomahawk, there’s not that many reasonably priced personal-sized portions. For my favourite cut of steak, the ribeye, BlueBlood only offered three choices with none in the dry-aged category. Settling on the 14oz wet aged Erin, Ontario ribeye ($65), it was tender and flavourful, but would be even better if it were a smaller thicker cut. While lying on the hot plate, the thin steak soon became medium in the middle and well done on the edges.


At first, the 16oz dry aged centre cut striploin ($75) tasted great given it had such a rich flavour from being dry aged. But, after two slices the ultra-lean beef soon became chewy and heavy. Personally, I find lean cuts, like striploin, aren’t the best for dry aging. The evaporation of moisture causes the beef to toughen, albeit concentrating the flavour.




Perhaps, this is a cut that benefits from a sauce. We chose to forgo them and rely on the salt selection instead – the smoked salt goes particularly well with everything.


While petite in size, the 8oz barrel cut Nebraska filet ($65) was tasty with its strong beefy flavour. Given the filet is another lean cut, it was suitably wet aged and remained tender. Truthfully, while the steak looked dwarfed compared to our other choices, the portion was adequate; especially if you’re ordering appetizers and dessert, you won't leave feeling glutinous.


Trust me, you'll want the sides, especially the lobster mac ‘n’ cheese ($20) where the pasta was done perfectly and the cream sauce not overly thick so remained molten throughout the meal. The dish incorporated enough lobster to go around and I went back for seconds and thirds.  The garlic mashed potato ($14) was also silky without relying too heavily on cream, the garlic essence was present but restrained. I could have done without the cheddar espuma sauce that accompanied the broccolini ($16), since all the other dishes were already so rich… at least it was kept to the side so there were plenty of plain roasted pieces to choose from.


The baked Alaska ($28) for two could easily feed four, a honking rectangle of Neapolitan ice cream covered with sponge cake, Prosecco ice, and meringue.


My first and only experience with this flaming concoction was as a child on a cruise ship, therefore to see the rum being poured from pot-to-pot before setting the dessert ablaze brought back memories of my youth. Is it the yummiest dessert? Probably not, you order it for the show and if you want a boozy adult ice cream cake.

Thank you Parv for these amazing photos
Before leaving for the evening, a box of Avoca dark chocolate caramel truffles arrives, in the shape of sapphires. For some, diamonds are a girl’s best friend; for me, at a steakhouse, it’s a nice piece of ribeye.


Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 1 Austin Terrace (in Casa Loma)

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:


BlueBlood Steakhouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato