Byblos (Toronto)

Byblos offers a vast selection of cuisines under the Eastern Mediterranean umbrella. Consisting of countries such as Greece, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, Israel and Cyprus, there is seafood from the Mediterranean Sea and a variety of spices creating flavourful dishes.

Their house labneh ($11) was rich and delightful, but too filling if you’re only a table of two. The strained yoghurt was impossibly smooth and decadent - you’d think you’re eating ice cream if it weren’t room temperature. Honey comingles with the olive oil so there’s a hint of sweetness against the pure oily sheen. As you dip the warm barbari, tasty on its own, the bread’s toasted grains gives the smooth topping a nutty bite.

Byblos Toronto: Lebneh

Widely written about, Byblos Turkish manti dumplings ($14) are nothing like the typical meat filled varieties from other cultures. These are delicate and bite sized – food for a princess - the mere smidge of smoked eggplant inside gives off such a powerful flavour that you’d swear there’s meat. Sitting in warmed yoghurt, the creamy sauce is further drizzled with molasses so the dish could be dessert if it weren’t for the hit of unexpected spiciness.

Byblos Toronto: Turkish dumpling

At first poke, the Spanish octopus ($19) seemed rubbery and overdone. Although its skin was a bit hard to permeate, upon chewing, the seafood was surprisingly meaty and tender. On the bottom, the urfa biber chili vinaigrette was tasty providing a light smokiness reminiscent of harissa and each tendril sat on a wedge of fingerling potato so as you cut through there’s a starchy surprise.

Byblos Toronto: Spanish octopus

The Persian rice ($24) was beautiful,the gorgeous yellow colour and the wafts of spices drew me close, beckoning me to eat spoon after spoon despite feeling full. With the decent amounts of small fried Laughing Bird shrimp and fried pieces of sujuk, a Turkish sausage that tastes like prosciutto, the rice is another filling but should be experienced dish.

Byblos Toronto: Persian rice

Joel, our server that evening, was laid back and attitude almost like he’s inviting you into his home. He cautioned that with a small table it’d be hard to share many dishes and would warn us if we ordered too much. However, his last push of asking if we wanted something to nibble on was really not required, as the resulting labneh excessive, disappointingly leaving us too full to enjoy Byblos raved about desserts. Note to self: always trust your first instincts.  


Byblos Toronto: gulab cocktail

Luckily, the virgin gulab ($6.25) was so tasty that it could be dessert… well … almost. The cocktail was refreshing and utterly enjoyable even without the rose infused vodka. Just be sure to stir well as the tart lemon juice sits on top and pomegranate syrup sinks to the bottom. The pieces of gulab (red rose) and rose water gives the drink an aromatic quality. What a wonderful concoction to ring in the warm weather, cheers!

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 11 Duncan 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:


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


Morals Village (Markham)

Morals Village

If you’ve never tried dining at an all-you-can-eat hot pot restaurant, I can best describe the experience through the senses. Starting with the sounds you’ll hear: after settling there’s the frenzied ordering as diners chime out the ingredients they want, “For sure we need beef, wontons, fish balls, shrimp, pork, tofu, udon … oh and some vegetables - watercress and spinach please!”


The staccato ordering will be followed by an impatient hum as individuals wait for everything to arrive and the pot to soup to come to life with the bubbling steam. At Morals Villages, they run as a well-oiled machine. On both visits, as soon as all guests arrived our order was quickly taken, pots whisked out shortly thereafter and given their personal sizes didn’t take long to reach cooking temperature.

With eleven soup bases ($2.50 - $8), some with three levels of spiciness and the split feature ($3.50 for two choices), deciding can be difficult.


Personally, I prefer the neutral ones (such as chicken broth) given you can always add flavours through the plethora of sauces. Which leads me to the varied tastes you’ll experience: the metallic tang from the quickly poached beef; the saltiness of the soy, nuttiness of the sesame paste or spiciness of the sha cha sauce; and you can’t forget the wonderful unami essence of the soup after all the ingredients meld together.


Weekday pricing at Morals is as follows: $25.99 for adults, $19.95 for seniors and $13.95 for those under 13. An extra $2 per person is charged for weekends and holidays. Of course, you also have to add on the price of the soup.

Additionally, there are tons of upgrades such as an extra $3/person to switch from regular rib eye slices to the Angus short rib. Having tried both you can taste the difference from the short rib – the meat more flavourful especially with the ribbon of thin lard running throughout. Yet, it’s not astronomically changed so the regular rib eye tastes perfectly delicious.


For those who really want a feast there are luxury ingredients sold individually such as Alaska snow crab legs ($19 for 8), abalone ($6 each) or fresh oysters ($3 each). The “deal” would be their special platter ($9), which consists of 5 slices of wagyu short rib, 5 slices of Kagoshima pork and 6 tiger shrimp skewers.  

Even the tablescapes at Moral are a sight to behold - the wonderful contrast from the soups and ingredients popping against the black background (see title photo). There’s also the lovely hues from Morals limited dessert menu: green tea ice cream or golden deep fried buns with creamy condensed milk for dipping.  


However, the experience is best described by how you feel at the end: the warm fullness that hugs your body or the dewy glow on the skin from the free facial that occurs throughout the meal. For me, it’s the memories of past experiences that’s the most precious.

Inevitably, it’s my first hot pot encounter that’s the most vivid: seated around the kitchen table with just my parents and immersing food into a simple bone broth. There wasn’t a hundred ingredients to choose from yet the dozen we laid out already seemed like a lot. Indeed, the large shared electric red pot took much longer to heat up than the quick mini induction ones at Morals.

The laid back pace of hot pot makes me remember something that holds true for all dining experiences - it’s not necessarily about what you eat, but who you share it with.  

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 8333 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:


Morals Village Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Join me while we sip at Silver Spoons (Toronto)


Toronto offers a variety of food events. Some, like Taste of Toronto, are huge busy multi-day affairs featuring big names. Others, such as Curry Fest, are smaller and serve a specific niche. This May, Christiane Tetreault is introducing Toronto to a new event, that’s intimate yet still offers the variety of Leslieville.

After the success of her Eastside Pop-up Markets, she’s creating Silver Spoons, a two day affair that will marry food, wine and art. As participants nourish their physical and creative hunger, they can leave knowing they are helping others as well: the event aims to raise $10,000 for Second Harvest, which will provide 20,000 meals to those in need.


Event Details

Date: Friday, May 13 and Saturday, May 14, 2016
Time: Friday (7pm – 11pm) and Saturday (noon – 11pm)
Location: District 28 at 28 Logan Avenue
How: You can purchase your tickets in advance online

Within the open industrial space, Silver Spoons will be bringing together Leslieville restaurants, local artisans, wine tastings and craft beers. It’s not all about the food and drinks, you can expect there to be art, interactive digital floor games, and music (live and DJ) to dance the calories away.

District 28: Photo Courtesy of Silver Spoons
I’m looking forward to this new event and hope to discover and support local businesses.  When Silver Spoons tweeted that Sandy Aleksander would be one of the vendors, the promise of salty and spicy charcuterie already got me salivating.

Charcuterie: Photo Courtesy of Sandy Aleksander
In the end, it’s also great to know that after I leave full, Silver Spoons will be donating a portion of ticket and art sales plus all the silent auction proceeds to Second Harvest. If you want to join me, grab some friends and get your tickets below. Cheers!

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 28 Logan Avenue





Indulging in the Early Mercy Experience

Early Mercy Toronto

Descriptions such as welcoming, laid-back, or whimsical rarely comes to mind when envisioning nightlife in the King West area. Rather I think back to evenings of waiting in line wearing hemlines that were embarrassingly short, hoping a stern looking bouncer or person holding a clipboard is in a good mood.

Early Mercy TorontoHence, when Early Mercy’s media invite arrived with images of its brightly lit rustic environment, I was intrigued and happy to see that it wouldn’t be another so-called exclusive and dress-code driven establishment.

The bar is huge and situated squarely in the middle of the room. With the ample frontage, the wait was never more than one person deep and I didn’t see people trying to wedge their way between others to claim real estate on the bar’s ledge.

Although I’m glad my dating days are behind me, Early Mercy would be a great venue for first dates: there are plenty of elements in the room to keep conversations flowing. For example, the word wall where sayings such as “in your wildest dreams” can be deciphered or you can start a drinking game using the portraits of Che Guevara, Mahatma Gandhi, John F. Kennedy and Winston Churchill hanging above the plaid booths (thank me later for giving you four to start).

Early Mercy Toronto - wall of sayingsEarly Mercy Toronto - famous plates

Of course, when all else fails, knocking back a few of their easy-going cocktails, named after famous personalities, can help boost your courage and keep things interesting. The Lincoln is a vodka lemonade that’s spritz up with ginger ale.

Early Mercy Toronto - drinks

Under normal circumstances, Early Mercy will have a rotating menu curated by Toronto caterers and on a weekly basis invite in local food trucks. For the event, Provisions served up small easy-to-eat bites where you could quickly pop it in your mouth and get back to mingling. Their take on popcorn shrimp (a fritter laced with pieces of shrimp and spices) and deep-fried grilled cheese (a crunchier mozzarella bite) were fantastic and had me reaching for more.

Early Mercy Toronto: Provisions popcorn shrimpEarly Mercy Toronto: Provisions deep fried grilled cheese

The venue is also available as an event space for corporate and social functions – the 3,500 square foot lounge area holding up to 400 and patio squeezing in another 150. As for the food, you’re welcomed to use one of Early Mercy’s preferred caterers or bring your own.  

Once Toronto enters into the summer months, I can’t wait to go back and check out their large street-side patio. People watching with a cold drink in hand sounds so enticing right now.

Early Mercy Toronto - patio

Early Mercy’s name stems from the establishment’s motto: sunrise forgives. With that in mind, listen to the word wall and “push your luck” and “try to forgive” when someone admits that they “crashed your party”. After all, who knows what exciting things will happen that night? Remember, if you make a fool of yourself and no one catches it on their phone, the sunrise does forgive.

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 540 King Street West

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


Early Mercy Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Wilbur Mexicana (Toronto)

Wilbur Mexicana Toronto

You know Wilbur Mexicana is serving something good from the constant line that forms at its doorway – having passed by the eatery on numerous occasions, I’ve never seen it clear. So, when a casual meal was required, after an event in the King West area, this bustling restaurant came to mind. Part of the growing quick-service industry, the concept is simple: grab a menu, order, sit down anywhere with your sign on display and they’ll bring the food to you.

Wilbur Mexicana Toronto

Not realizing that every meal already comes with crispy warm non-greasy tortilla chips, we started with the guacamole and chips ($5), which came shortly after settling down at one of the large communal tables. For the price, Wilbur provides a relatively large cup of the rich creamy dip, a simple combination of avocado, cilantro and lime juice.

Wilbur Mexicana - guacamole and chips

For those who can’t decide between seafood or meat, the S&T burrito ($12) solves your dilemma since it contains both brisket and shrimp. What a hefty burrito, its grilled tortilla brimming with rice, beans, peppers, onions, jalapeno, cheese, sour cream salsa and lettuce. All the ingredients were fresh and delicious: a good portion of the soft shredded beef, the hot shrimp just barely cooked through and even the rice retaining its individual grains and giving off a fragrant aroma.  

Wilbur Mexicana - S&T burritoWilbur Mexicana - S&T burrito

The bulgogi taco ($4.25) was stingy with the beef, although what was on there was well marinated and tasty, but did contain plenty of crunchy red cabbage and pear slaw. Not remembering the taco contained sriracha, the blast of spice was unexpected but contrasted nicely with the otherwise sweeter elements.

Wilbur Mexicana - bulgogi taco

In a way, it’s such a shame that the burrito and taco were already so flavourful, really not requiring additional salsa or hot sauce, since Wilbur Mexicana has such a great selection of both. The salsas range from a mild pico de gallo (which was delicious with the chips) or sweet pineapple to more lethal pureed sauces that hide devilish chilies such as ghost peppers. Even the middle-of-the-range asada, made from smoky chipotles, already had enough of the burn quotient for me. With the jalapeno in the burrito and sriracha in the taco, I didn’t even bother venturing to the hot sauce shelf.

Wilbur Mexicana - crazy range of hot saucesWilbur Mexicana - fresh salsas

I rather enjoyed the laid back brightly lit environment at Wilbur. You wouldn’t necessarily go there for a long meal filled with meaningful conversations. But, for a quick bite or a re-fueling while doing a King Street bar crawl, I can’t think of a better place.  

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 552 King 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!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:


Wilbur Mexicana Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Simply Snacking: Trader Joe's Giant Peruvian Inca Corn


Corn is such a versatile vegetable: eaten simply off the cob; munched on after being popped; or crunched on after being deep fried as in the case of corn nuts. As much as I enjoy these hard corn snacks, there’s always those few kernels that are way too hard and you begin to worry about chipping a tooth.

While scouring the snack aisle at Trader Joe’s, a bag of Giant Peruvian Inca Corn caught my eye. These babies are like corn nuts on steroids, each kernel equivalent to four of the normal ones. Of course, these aren’t the normal North American variety, but rather the choclo stock from the Incas, bred for their massive size.



They still have that trade mark salty crunch, but the inside is hollow providing a crisper break. 


After being toasted the normal sweetness of the corn caramelizes and takes on a nutty flavour – hence corn nuts! What an addictive snack, that almost makes me want a cold malty beer.


MORE: Back to Simply Snacking


How To Find Them 
 Website: http://www.traderjoes.com/
 Approx. Price:  US$1.79

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

Kookminhakgyo (Toronto)

Photo courtesy of Jes Lin
Finding authentic Korean restaurants in North York isn’t difficult, every step along Yonge between Sheppard and Steeles presents another option; what’s hard is choosing between all the choices. If it weren’t for a recommendation, I would have never stumbled into Kookminhakgyo – the store front is small and the plaza it’s situated in hidden amongst larger buildings.

Yet, it’s well known amongst locals as the restaurant had a constant stream of customers in hopes of settling into one of their ten circular tables, allotted on a first-come-first-serve basis. Kookminhakgyo’s surroundings is sparse but functional: the stainless steel tables easily cleaned and you can get messy on; the cushion lifts on the seat to protect coats and bags from smelling like food; and décor reminds you of a school or teenager’s room but uncluttered.


Not knowing how long it’d take to receive our food - quite quickly it turns out – we assumed an order of gaeran mari ($8.99) would be required. The Korean omelette was essentially just egg with green onions served with ketchup. I would have thought there’d be something more to it (chopped kimchi, a spicy paste), really anything to make it more “Korean”.  Nevertheless, as a plain omelette it was still tasty with its many layers and slightly gooey center.  


In terms of the actual BBQ, the Kookminhakgyo set ($57.99) will make any pork lover’s heart flutter, a large platter of the animal’s skirt meat, shoulder, jowl (or cheek) and belly (both with and without skin). Depending on your hunger, it’d be sufficient for three to four people.


It was the ideal dish for a first visit, to allow us to try everything and gauge what we like. The large slabs of pork belly were too heavy for me (although the fat renders off on the hot grill) and the jowl desperately needed seasoning. But, the large shoulder slices were a nice balance of moisture from the fat and meat and the skirt meat chewier but at least flavourful.  

I’m always partial to beef so we also ordered some beef skirt meat ($23.99), a decent sized portion cut into strips to allow you to easily wrap in lettuce.


After ordering, a flurry of side dishes, banchan (cabbage and radish kimchi), sauces (spicy and sweet bean paste), add ons (garlic oil, marinated jalapeno & onion) and lettuce appear. For our table of six, we received two orders of the garan jjim (regularly $6.99) a lovely fluffy steamed egg that would be fantastic with rice and a spicy soybean paste soup with bean sprouts.


Other than beer and soju, a popular drink diners ordered was the Bokbunja ($23.99). If you enjoy ice or dessert wines, you’ll like this Korean fruit wine made with black raspberries; as one friend describes it tasting like an alcoholic Ribena. It’s certainly an easy going drink, but awfully sweet to go well with grilled meats, for dessert perhaps.


Overall, it was a fun meal as meat was tossed on the grill, small plates passed around and hot meat wrapped in lettuce and topped with sauce and fixings. Yet, Kookminhakgyo has a limited menu (no kalbi) and the meat isn’t marinated so you really couldn’t eat it plain. Of course, some items such as pork belly can rightfully be left neutral, but the skirt meat and jowl would really benefit from a marinade. The small tables also make it hard for them to offer additional varieties of banchan; these small dishes are a highlight to having Korean BBQ! I was certainly missing the crunchy cucumbers, sesame laced bean sprouts and chewy soy beans.


Nonetheless, they did have fantastic service: staff frequently checked in on us to ensure depleted banchan and lettuce was replenished swiftly. After all, with their limited tables, serving food quickly and getting diners in-and-out is important – the whole meal lasted about an hour. So, you may not get the full experience, but the restaurant is a great option for those who want Korean BBQ but not sitting around for hours.

Overall mark - 6.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 6016 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:


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