Capra's Kitchen for brunch (Mississauga)


If you’ve ever flipped through Canada’s television networks sometime over the last two decades, you’ve likely seen Chef Massimo Capra cooking or judging something to do with food. Big smile, small glasses, and the signature bushy curly mustache, he has the bubbly and booming personality that’s hard to forget.

To try his creations off screen, viewers used to visit the famed Mistura in Toronto. Then in 2016 he left and went back to his native Mississauga to open Capra's Kitchen, a more casual family-friendly restaurant.

Their weekend brunch menu has so many options that it makes it hard to decide between breakfast and lunch. But something about the eggs Massimo ($16) called to our table; three out of four of us decided it’d be our main and we weren’t disappointed.


A hot skillet arrives containing a fragrant tomato sauce topped with two poached eggs, which were thankfully cooked long enough so the yolk was molten but not too runny. A piece of bread dipped into the egg and then topped with thick tomato sauce and sweet caramelized onions was exactly the start to the day I needed.

The sausage and tomato sauce also works remarkably well. Capra’s coil is nicely roasted, the meat lean but flavourful. A piece speared with some of the breakfast potatoes and, of course, dipped in the low-acid tomato sauce makes for another tasty bite.

While we all barely finished the eggs Massimo, a bressert (brunch dessert) for the table was a must. The ricotta pancakes ($14) were a great choice, three fluffy thick pancakes smothered in a refreshing blueberry sauce, crunchy almonds, and lightly sweetened whipped cream. As if it wasn’t enough, maple syrup arrives on the side so you can really make the dish a dessert.


Mississauga isn’t my neighbourhood, but if it was, Capra’s Kitchen would be the spot I’d visit regularly. Breakfast is an important meal of the day, and when you want it hearty, you’ll want eggs … Massimo style. 

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Mississauga, Canada
 Address: 1834 Lakeshore Road 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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Capra's Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Mango Tree Thai Fusion & Sports Bar (Markham)

Thank you to Parv.ca for a number of these photos
If you visit Mango Tree Thai Fusion & Sports Bar expecting authentic Thai food, you may leave disappointed. Really, their name should be a dead giveaway there’ll be a deviation: there’s a fusion element and Thai restaurants aren’t known to be sports bars. Once you get off the elevators, on the second floor of the commercial building, and walk into the huge dark space, you know authenticity doesn’t matter. With the black walls, colourful mural, large television screen, and huge bar, it seems like it’ll will morph into a club at any moment.


There are certainly “sports bar” offerings on the menu such as obligatory fried chicken wings ($13 a pound) or burger sliders ($12) that get a Thai twist with the tamarind sauce used on them.

Some dishes tread the line between bar and Thai food. The MT spring rolls ($10) filled with a ground beef and pork mixture dotted with finely chopped carrots, onions, and coriander, the denser filling reminding me of Filipino lumpias. Or the coconut milk fried shrimp ($15) where you could really taste the coconut, but the cream they dip the shrimp into before coating the shrimp could be thinned  as the crust was a tad thick. In both instances, the filling and batter would benefit from more seasoning as by themselves the finger foods were plain, but improved with sauce. 


Then, there are dishes you’d expect from a Thai restaurant. The starter tom yum soup ($6) was a large bowl of hot and sour broth teeming with lemongrass and other aromatics. It’s certainly spicy, but not overwhelmingly; the heat balanced off with vegetables like bean sprouts that also add a bit of crunch. Opt for the vegetarian version, as the deep fried tofu is great for soaking up the spicy soup.


The mango salad ($9) takes relatively sweet green mangoes and tosses it in a light shrimp paste for a savoury element. I enjoyed the fried shallots garnishing the salad, which adds a nice earthy crunch.


Of all the mains, the chicken green curry ($14) was perhaps the most authentic tasting and our favourite main of the evening. As a warning, Mango Tree uses dark meat giving the dish a gamier taste. It also contains chunks of eggplant (great for soaking up the liquid) and peppers. If you like it spicier, dig to the bottom as the chopped pepper pieces seems to sink to the bottom of the rich coconut curry.


My friend’s description of Mango Tree is great: it’s like a HK-style Thai restaurant (similar to HK-style Western cafes or cha chan tangs). Essentially, they are Thai dishes but with a Chinese influence. For example, the khao soi ($14) switches out the spicy yellow broth for a milder soup base that has a heavier coconut element. Moreover, the egg noodles are replaced with flat chewy ones that almost have a hand-pulled quality to it. 



To cap the bowl off, a fried pineapple ring that gives the noodles a sweet element. I would have preferred the khao soi spicier; but then the menu, which showed no chili peppers beside the name, was accurately depicting the dish. In retrospect, had I known I would have asked for it to be made at the spicy level - Mango Tree offers customization options for most mains where you choose the protein as well as the spiciness level.

The MT boneless pork chop ($20) didn’t have much of the lemongrass and garlic flavours I expected based on the menu’s description. Rather, the sweet tamarind barbeque sauce flavour was prevalent and sparked the whole HK-style Thai café discussion to begin with – it had that thick sweet and sour sauce flair that’s not unlike the Cantonese style pork chops (except less sugary). Personally, I’d prefer the pork chop thinner to allow the marinate to permeate the meat more and the barbeque glaze toned down to let some of the herb’s flavour shine through.


No meal should end without an order of the Mango Tree sticky rice ($11). It takes time to prepare but the wait is worth it as the sticky rice arrives warm and when combined with cool sweet mangoes and thick coconut cream, I felt momentarily transported to Thailand. Had I known how delicious the dessert would be, I’d skip the appetizers and have an entire order of the sticky rice to end.


Kevin, co-owner of Mango Tree, explains they wanted the restaurant to be different. Of course, they serve food. But, it’s more than that. They want a space where people can visit, hang out, and enjoy each other’s company. Indeed, that seemed to ring true for our visit; while the food arrived quickly, we were left with our mains well after the forks went down so we could just relax and lounge.

We took that opportunity to sip on cocktails, my mango Bellini ($10) went down so easily, a concoction of mango puree with soda water, balanced out with citrus but so fruity that the rum melts away. For a unique drink, the Phulay sunset ($11) sounds like a tropical explosion of orange and pineapple juice with coconut cream, but the addition of ginger gives the cocktail an interesting zip.


The weekend crowd was so varied from a boisterous table of women celebrating an occasion, families, couples, to other groups of friends catching up. A lot of tables stayed for a long time, ordering more bites and drinks to keep the night going. Just like Mango Tree intended.

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: Markham, Canada
 Address: 7850 Woodbine Avenue (2nd 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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Pho V Express (Toronto)


Walking along Avenue on a piercingly cold day, seeing Pho V Express was like seeing a water mirage in the desert. While it’s definitely new to the area, stepping through the doors I couldn’t help but get a sense of déjà vu. There’s colourful blue and green lanterns hanging by the window, rich dark high top tables, and décor hanging on the walls that’s generally not found at pho places. Yet, I felt like I’ve seen the set-up before.


It wasn’t until the owner launched into a lengthy monologue explaining Pho V Express only uses organic meats (while striving to do the same with vegetables) and non-MSG broth that I remember why I’ve heard it before. Glancing down at the logo on the sticker holding together the chopsticks it finally clicked - this is the second location of Pho Vistro.

It’s confusing why they decided to change the name for their uptown location - Pho Vistro actually sounds better and seems to be a better fit with the neighbourhood. Also, to be an “express” version of the original, things need to be faster. From my experience, the service speed was exactly the same.


Regardless, the hot bowl of noodles hit the spot. Maybe it had something to do with the frigid temperatures, but the classic beef pho ($11.50) was tastier than I remember: the broth richer and more seasoned. Compared to other establishments, it certainly tastes healthier. The soup doesn’t merely rely on bone broth, rather also contains star anise and cinnamon that gives off such a lovely aroma. The soup is so flavourful that I didn’t even need siracha sauce; after using a small dollop at the start, I refrained from adding more as I found took away from the broth’s natural flavours. 


Their beef is also leaner. A combination of brisket and rib-eye round, the brisket goes really well with the noodles but the round is shaved so thinly that it breaks apart and tastes grainy, especially when you near to bottom half of the bowl (the granules in the soup is a bit off putting). In the future, I’ll have to remember to ask if I can only get brisket.

Another ingredient that will take some getting used to, is the spindly Ontario bean sprouts. Whereas sprouts in other restaurants are added for a textual element, these lack crunch and taste a lot like alfalfa sprouts giving a slightly bitter grassiness to the pho.


The fried chicken spring rolls ($5.50) contained a lot of colourful thinly grated vegetables but minimal chicken. The lack of meat isn’t a problem for me, but the addition of mung beans gave the otherwise delicious roll a slightly mushy and coarse texture that you don’t normally expect when biting into a spring roll. Be warned.


Pho V Express is a good option for vegans as their rolls and most of the noodle dishes are offered with a vegan preparation. And it’s sort of nice to leave the restaurant feeling warm, full, and feel like you’ve enjoyed something healthy. 

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 1923 Avenue Road

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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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Coppi Ristorante (Toronto)


Coppi’s dining room is a tribute to Italian cyclist Fausto Coppi and you’ll notice elements of the sport throughout: from trail posters; spokes on the wall; to, my favourite, a whimsical fish made from bicycle parts. It’s an interesting choice of décor for a restaurant whose menu and overall ambiance is nothing like a sports bar. Rather, diners should expect classic Italian dishes that have a heavier focus on seafood.


Their signature dish, the pesce al sale ($43), takes a whole fish and bakes it encrusted in salt. Wheeled out still in the salty tomb, the fish is quickly filleted and dressed in a light lemon butter sauce. 


While the dish looks huge, after fileting the meat what’s leftover is smaller than you’d expect, but nonetheless sufficient as a main for one. The sea bass was remarkably moist and tender with such a clean taste that even someone who doesn’t like fish could be converted.


The risotto frutti di mare ($44) serves two, but with a few appetizers this could be stretched for three people (pictured below is a single portion). Dotted throughout the risotto were bits of clams, shrimp, squid, octopus and bay scallops all evenly disbursed so each bite had a couple of seafood items and helped to thoroughly scent the rice. Tuck in as soon as it arrives as it’s a lovely consistency but a tad more cooked than normal; should be it left longer, it may become too soft.


Coppi offers a variety of appetizers but truthfully the choices are rather safe and nothing seemed overly exciting. Their Caesar salad ($15) is heavy on the anchovy and light on garlic, making the flavours subtler and ideal for those who want a lighter tasting version of the salad. The burrate caprese ($19) is simple combination of quality ingredients: a decent portion of burrata mozzarella, grape tomatoes, and rich and bright olive oil that went especially well with the warm heavily salted baguette.


Personally, I rather have an appetizer portion of pasta instead. The pappardelle in the mare d monte ($18) arrives as silky slightly chewy ribbons and the sauce a light combination of shrimp, mushrooms, and tomato. It’s a great blend of sweet seafood, earthy fungi, and just a hint of something fresh.


The spaghetti used in the chitarra tirreno ($26 for a main portion) is interestingly square-shaped and could be a tad more al dante. Regardless, the san Marzano tomato sauce mixed with all the seafood tastes wonderful and is that lighted umami-laced tomato sauce I love with seafood pasta.


Seeing the baba di ricotta ($13) we were instantly intrigued to try an Italian version of rum baba, a traditional French dessert. A funnel of sponge cake is wrapped around sweetened ricotta, which is a great addition. However, the cake is hardly “soaked” in the rum syrup mixture as described on the menu and any rum flavour is non-existent. When I order this dessert, I want that hit of alcohol against the tongue before the sugar shines through! This is better described as sponge cake filled with ricotta and drizzled with sugar water.


Coppi’s tiramisu ($13) uses most of the typical ingredients (lady fingers, espresso, and mascarpone cream). Yet, seems to leave out the zabaglione layer so the dessert is creamy and sweet but doesn’t have that rich egg custard that really makes the dessert. It’s a bit disappointing when tiramisu at an upscale Italian restaurant is only a touch better than one found at the supermarket.


There are a number of Italian restaurants to choose from around the Yonge-Lawrence neighbourhood. Coppi’s menu trends towards being an upscale establishment and offers excellent mains and decent appetizers but passable desserts. What truly sets Coppi apart is the ambiance: space exists between tables and the table itself is also larger (where they sit two people, in other restaurants it’d hold four). The timing of dishes is also well-paced to allow a brief pause between dishes, but still quick enough to keep things under two hours. It’s a place that you’ll want to stay and catch up longer with guests. Just load up on the delicious pasta, maybe you won’t even need dessert.

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 3363 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!


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Coppi Ristorante Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Aoyama (Toronto)


In a small plaza sits two storefronts – Aoyama and Aoyama VIP. Enter to the one on the left and if you’ve made reservations, chances are you’ll be escorted back outside and into the VIP one. Yes, it’s a bit strange that they’re not connected, but when you want to expand and the opportunity arises (albeit not directly beside your existing restaurant), you need to seize the availability.

Just ordering your meal can take time if you’ve never visited. There’s a leather bound menu that already has numerous options, but then you’ll also want to sift through several laminated loose pages, and there’s even a wooden board with drawn images that gets circulated with other a la carte items.


Indeed, the cheeky wooden board drew us in to try some of their hand rolls ($3 for spicy tuna and $3.50 for spicy salmon). Having been spoiled by ones that chefs insist on handing you and having you eat right away, I did find the seaweed chewy and a bit tough to bite through. However, for the price, these are great, a pretty generous portion of fish wrapped in seaweed, although the spicy mayo needs to be spicier.


During the weekend, Aoyama offers a “sushi set upgraded weekend special” ($125) that comes with a more sushi and luxurious appetizers, compared to their regular option. To begin, there’s a sharing platter of small eats containing chawanmushi (a savoury egg custard), lobster tempura, yakitori skewers, other small nibbles, and a pot of seafood consommé.   


Normally, chawanmushi is served hot. At Aoyama, it’s cold so ends up being denser and almost the consistency of a savoury flan. The temperature and jellied soup takes some getting used to, but it tasted good, the dashi (?) flavours seeping through. Finishing it with a teacup of the umami-filled seafood consommé is a nice combination.

Plump pieces of lobster tempura is dressed with the all-colour-no-heat spicy mayo. Nonetheless, the lobster was cooked nicely, it just needed a bit of salt or something else to dip it into. Surrounding the dish were pods of dry edamame and tempura burdock root that was cold but tasty to nibble on.

What makes yakitori skewers delicious is when they’re hot off the grill and you can smell and taste the smoky caramelized glaze. In the platter, the chicken and scallion yakitori were cold (having been brought over from the other store) so the chicken became hard and the sauce congealed and lumpy. Really, Aoyama should consider replacing these with a starter that doesn’t need to be hot.

Something to consider when you make a reservation: what is important about the meal for you? Is it hot food or a comfortable sitting environment? While the VIP room is spacious and has an ambiance of a brightly lit piano lounge, there isn’t a kitchen so food is transported over in a non-insulated metal container arriving lukewarm to cold. To get the best of both worlds, you’ll want to order cold items when sitting in the VIP area.

Luckily, the huge plate of sushi that’s part of the set menu can withstand the frigid journey. That evening, it contained two types of tuna, the fattier toro and the regular blue fin variety; sweet soft pieces of unagi (barbequed eel); surprisingly clean pieces of aji (horse mackerel) that’s further topped with tons of ginger and green onions; tried and true kampachi,  salmon, and salmon maki; a decent take on tamago (egg) that had the flavours but not the lovely layers; as well as generous portions of hotate (Hokkaido scallop), ebi (raw shrimp), and uni (sea urchin).


In terms of the sushi rice, something I’ve really started to learn to enjoy, it had a great consistency but needs more vinegar and could benefit from being warmer. The rice is an important element to get right given it’s such an integral part of sushi.

Since the set meal lacked vegetables, an order of the wakame salad ($6), ice berg lettuce tossed in a creamy sesame dressing and topped with a sweet seaweed salad, was welcomed and helped add that freshness we were craving.


Off the a la carte menu, the seafood zousui ($18), a Japanese-style congee, was beckoning during the cold winter night. Pieces of shrimp, salmon, crab, a fair-sized scallop and various mushrooms gave the dish a lovely sweet seafood essence.


The rice sits at the bottom of a clear seafood broth, rather than being boiled for hours so that the grains combine with the soup, so you’re able to taste just the soup and then also have it with the soft rice. Indeed, the broth is king and despite being tepid had a warming property to it. If there was more seasoning and the seafood was added near the end of the process (so it doesn’t become rubbery) it’d be even better.

A bowl of tempura udon ($13) also seemed like a good choice. While the broth is rather run-of-the-mill, it was at least hotter than all the other dishes and the noodles chewy and springy. Something about ending the meal with a hot bowl of soup really suits me.


The VIP room was so comfortable that after two hours we still wanted to stay. A round of desserts helped extend the experience a little longer.


Deciding on the black sesame mochi ice cream ($4.30), it arrived two to an order. The small ping pong sized mochi needed a few minutes to rest as at the beginning it was tough to cut through. A thin chewy layer of glutinous rice flour pastry encapsulates plenty of ice cream. While it was pretty, the dessert lacked sesame flavour and tasted more like vanilla ice cream. For real black sesame ice cream you’ll want to stick with the ice cream with red bean paste ($4.50) combination.


Once the store between Aoyama and Aoyama VIP vacates, they can finally combine everything into one continuous restaurant. At that point, patrons finally won’t need to decide between quality of food or atmosphere. Until then, choose carefully.  

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 2766 Victoria Park 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!


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GB Hand Pulled Noodles (Toronto)


Torontonians have an affinity for noodles. Whether it be pasta, pho, udon, or ramen; as soon as the weather gets cold, a hefty portion of the comforting carbs is something I yearn for. The new kid in town is the Lanzhou hand-pulled noodles. Chefs take a giant ball of dough and slam it onto a hard surface … fold, pull, and then repeat until it gets elastic and forms into long strands.


They’re then pulled to various levels of thickness. At GB Hand-Pulled Noodles, it ranges from super thin to extremely wide with five other options in between. Hearing people order before me, I decided on the medium wide, which is one notch under the widest side of the spectrum.

Visiting during a weekday lunch, the place already had a queue of ten at the door. But, the line moves fairly quickly since they have streamlined operations that would make many automated facilities proud. However, the waiting process is a bit haphazard given they don’t give out numbers – you just wait in line and remember who is before and after your table. Once you get near the front, they will ask for the number of guests and as a table is about to clear, you’re handed a laminated menu so you place your order before even being seated.

Within minutes of taking our seat the appetizer arrives. The Lanzhou spicy beef shank ($8.99) consisted of seven long slices of tender lean beef are tossed in a peppercorn laced chili oil, which looks fiery red but has a very mild heat. My coworker describes it perfectly – you taste the spice on your tongue but not in the throat.


Since we visited on a Friday, I ordered the braised beef tendon noodles ($13.99), a dish only available Friday-Sunday. Perhaps it was the first day of the weekend, but about a quarter of the pieces were still hard to bite through and didn’t offer that lovely chewy gelatinous texture. The smaller pieces were well braised and tasty.


Nonetheless, it really doesn’t matter as I was there for the carbs. GB’s noodles are one of the better options I’ve had in Ontario, the dough evenly pulled so even the medium wide noodles didn’t become chewy in the centre but mushy around the edges. Moreover, they stayed fairly chewy throughout the meal as it took me a while to attempt to get through the huge portion … alas, I had to just finish the beef and leave the noodles, a practice my parents have engrained in me as a child.

The broth itself was fairly simple and clear, most of the beefy flavours coming from the braised tendon liquids that get spooned into the bowl. Adding some of the chili oil at the table and it became a rich soup that went so nicely with the doughy strands. The bowl is finished off with blanched bok choy, turnip slices, and a sprinkling of scallions.

I love all the hot steaming bowls of noodle options we have across the city. With the cold weather descending upon us, I’ll be tucking into bowls of the stuff for weeks to come.

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 66 Edward 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:



GB Hand-Pulled Noodles Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato