Dreyfus (Toronto)


On my last two visits to Montreal, I’ve tried to secure a reservation at Joe Beef with no luck. Not even when I offered to go on a waiting list - the famed restaurant could never fit me in. Consequently, when I heard their chef de cuisine, Zach Kolomeir, was leaving Montreal to head to Toronto to open Dreyfus, there was hope that I’d finally try their no-nonsense French creations.

A group of girlfriends and I tried to get a reservation at Dreyfus; once again, securing a table for four was impossible. So, I finally changed tactics and decided to visit with my husband instead. Finally, I was able to secure a Saturday sitting without a hitch. Sure, it took half a year, but I was finally on my way.

Once you see the dining room, it’s understandable why acquiring a spot for more than two people is so difficult.  There’s only two larger tables in the whole place and then a row of singles that I guess could be pushed together to form larger tables, but for whatever reason are kept separate. It’s very intimate seating – you will over hear your neighbours’ conversation and most likely need to push your table to touch theirs to get in and out if you’re seated on the bench.

In a nutshell, the restaurant is cozy. This goes for the esthetics, temperature, and service. Your experience will be elevated if you’re served by Keegan deWitt. It’s rare that I try to figure out who our server is, but this guy is AMAZING – Dreyfus, do whatever you need to keep him. Keegan exudes passion without being preachy, is attentive without being annoying, and his knowledge of wine puts most sommeliers to shame.

In fact, a love for a wine is an important quality for working at Dreyfus. They don’t have a wine menu. In fact, there’s no drink menu period. So, our first interactions with Keegan revolved around what we wanted to drink: flat water and a bottle of wine.

We answered a few questions and he comes back with four bottles. In a succinct two-minute presentation, he goes through each bottle explaining their flavour profiles and the wine’s region, ending off with the cost of each one. Prices vary from $85 to $250 and we decide on the Domaine Viret Mareotis ($125). The first sip confirmed that Keegan got us.

So, when he came back to ask what we wanted to order and provided us the option of letting him ‘bring us an experience’, how could we resist? Again, he asked a couple of questions about dietary restrictions and how hungry we were on a scale from 1-10 (a 7 seemed safe) and that’s all we had to do.

It helps as they tailor the size of the starting nibbles to the table. Normally, the first three dishes are $16 each (unclear how many come with each), but for our table of two it was trimmed down to a smaller portion of one or two each (the perfect amount) and the prices also lowered to $12.

The canapes de topinambours ($12 for 2) went so well with the wine. Roasted Jerusalem artichokes forms the base of the canapes, instead of bread, giving the dish a creamy finish and a warmth that’s so lovely for the winter months. Forget trying to hold this in your hand as the artichoke is smothered with light tangy cheese and a warmed sardine that adds a nice muskiness against the slice of ham on top.


There were spinach dip oysters ($12 for 2) topped with feathery parmesan cheese, a dish that sounds heavy but actually quite nicely balanced. Oysters aren’t normally something I enjoy, but the mollusk was covered with so many things that it didn’t have a prominent in taste.


You can’t go wrong with the pommes dauphine ($12 for 4). These lovely potato puffs are as light as air – like a savoury honey cruller for those who have been around a Tim Horton’s. They’re fluffy and aromatic, by itself a delicate and creamy choux pastry, but arrives with thick crème fraiche topped with micro cubes of shallots and a generous portion of caviar. It takes the dauphine to a whole other level of decadence that made us swoon.


A skewer arrives and we’re advised the white chunks in the brochette de lotte ($24) are monkfish. The dense meaty fish was tasty, but perhaps could be cooked a touch less. Yet, any mild protein that sits in such a tasty sauce could do no wrong. It’s described to us as curry, but so light that it reminds me of a thicker and richer bouillabaisse. We must have been looking at the remaining sauce longingly, as a staff member asked if we’d like some bread, which was met with a resounding yes.


While I don’t know a lot of French, one word I do remember is cheval - on account of religiously visiting the now defunct Toronto night club. So, when the tower of filet de cheval lyonnaise ($33) arrived, I pushed thoughts of My Little Pony out of my mind and decided to just enjoy the dish. To be honest, if you didn’t know what cheval means, you’d think its veal or a light beef that’s tender and lean. The silky red wine jus keeps any gaminess at bay.


Dreyfus knows their way around a spud as the lyonnaise potatoes sandwiched between the cheval and the egg are heavenly. Essentially, they are thinly sliced potatoes that’s pan fried in parsley butter (forming lovely toasted edges) and mixed with well-caramelized onions. Just imagine scalloped potatoes, but even better, in my opinion. Mixed with some egg yolk and au jus, I probably could have a plate of the potatoes with eggs and been a happy camper.


To end, this main is smartly paired with an endive salad ($17). Dreyfus’ version of a Waldorf salad, the dish is one I normally detest - fruit (apple) mixed with nuts (walnuts) and topped with a blue cheese dressing? Yuk! Maybe it was the warm wine flowing through my veins, but it all worked together, including the thinned blue cheese dressing that adds tang without funk. Plus, the rosettes of curled cheese were so nice and creamy that I had a second and third helping.


After everything came, we assessed and indeed Keegan was true to his word – at the beginning he noted he’d make sure we’re satisfied but not disgustingly full. Rejoice, there was still room for dessert.

Once again, there’s no menu, instead another server explains she’s the walking dessert menu and lists off three options. The pear strudel ($11) sounded rather plain, but seemed like a dish I’d enjoy. Oh boy, did I enjoy it!


It took a while to arrive because it was being reheated and/or cooked. My first taste: crispy layers of phyllo pastry, warm chunks of cinnamon tossed pears, and creamy whipped cream. It was heavenly, the dessert I didn’t know I wanted to myself. My husband must have sensed something… after a few bites, he smartly left the remaining strudel with me.  

Find a lover or a buddy, hell, even a stranger off the street. Just book a reservation for two at Dreyfus! Whatever you do, do not visit with more than three people as you’ll be squished into a booth at the front of the restaurant that makes a sardine can look spacious; looking at the three couples packed in the table gave me shudders as I flashed back to an unfortunate incident at Grey Gardens.

Also, visit with an empty stomach and an open mind. And, there should be a level of trust as dining omakase style is the way to go. Just don’t be a hero and think you’ll share the strudel, that decision was the only mishap of the evening.

Overall mark - 9 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 96 Harbord 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:





Mr. Miyagi (Dubai)


Let’s be honest, you go to Mr. Miyagi for the fun environment, not the food. It’s a cool looking place that looks like it’s been decorated by an organized hoarder: umbrellas lining the wall, picture frames everywhere, and a stamp collection adorning every table lamp. There’s a bar at the back of the restaurant, so after dinner you can stay for the party. The food, on the other hand, is decent, at best.  


The tastiest thing of the night was the shrimp crackers (AED19) hanging on the table lamps, the bag begging to be ripped apart and eaten before the other items arrive. The crackers are the real deal, flavourful with the deep essence of seafood, much like what you’d find in Thailand.


So much better than the Dynamite shrimp (AED45) that’s essentially deep fried shrimp tossed in a crap load of Miracle Whip. A really heavy starter that’s probably beloved, if you like that tangy zesty mayo wannabe.


If things aren’t great, smother it with condiments seems to be the mantra at Miyagi. The sushi aburi roll (AED55) is not flame torched, but rather drowned with avocado cream so you can’t taste an ounce of the salmon wrapping a huge piece of rice.


The Dragon roll (AED55) was even worse; it must have been pre-made earlier in the day as the rice was hard and dry. The menu describes it as being tataki style, which generally means lightly seared at other restaurants. At Miyagi, it translates to fully cooking the salmon and tuna to the point that they taste like they came out of a can, and of course drizzling so much sauce over it that they hope you can’t tell the difference.


There was a chance that the beef sisig (AED49) could be better – at least the flavours were nice – but the meat still so over cooked rendering it like eating bits of leather on crispy wonton crackers.


Of the mains, the curries are the safest bet. Both the green and red versions were decent (AED59 for chicken and AED65 for shrimp), but neither really packing much heat. Not even the red one, which had three chilies listed beside it on the menu, unless you actually have a bite of the bird’s eye chili.



Nonetheless, they’re better than the mee goreng handmade egg noodles (AED49). What it lacks in wok hay, Miyagi tries to make up for dumping more sauce on, but even that couldn’t rehydrate their dry hard tofu. Sadly, I’ve whipped up better noodles at home on a week night with a bottle of store-bought Szechwan sauce.


Aside from the shrimp chips, the only saving grace of the evening was the fact that it was Lady’s Night and our waiter was so friendly and attentive.

Interestingly, for a country that doesn’t allow alcohol to be served outside of hotels, the ones that do sell spirits also offers all-you-can-drink options. At Mr. Miyagi, on Wednesday nights their Lady’s Night menu provides women a choice of two dishes and two hours of unlimited drinks for only AED99. So, the fact that our waiter was on the ball with refills meant I developed a nice buzz even before the food arrived. Not enough for me to actually like the food, of course, but still a memorable night.

Overall mark - 5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
 Address: Media One Hotel

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:
  • Asian District

Mr Miyagi's - Media One Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Urban Hakka (Toronto)



As you walk by Urban Hakka, don’t be surprised when the dining room looks empty. Unfortunately, the restaurant inherited a long narrow set-up where the seating area is split into two with a bar in the middle. During the cooler months, they smartly sit guests in the back, where it’s slightly warmer and everyone is hidden from view – a disservice if someone is peering in and deciding whether they want to dine at the place.

The shrimp pakora ($13) is a great way to start the meal. Its batter is applied with enough to cover the large prawns without being overly thick. Although how long the pakoras are fried needs to be standardized – one night it was absolutely perfect creating crispy parcels of prawns, while on a follow-up visit it’s golden but the centre slightly underdone so each bite finishes mushy. While it isn’t overly flavourful, the spicy Thai basil chutney that comes with it is absolutely delicious.



This same chutney goes really well with the Hakka style rice noodles ($12), which is very plain by itself, but is a good choice to pair with other saucier dishes in lieu of rice. They’re essentially like Singapore noodles without the curry.



Urban Hakka’s Singapore noodles ($12) gets the Hakka touch with a healthy dose of curry powder, probably 2 to 2.5 times the normal amount you’ll find at Chinese restaurants. It’s not terrible, but creates a rather strong dish where you’ll only need a small portion.



Luckily, they provide a big bowl of rice with the rest of the dishes and even offers refills if it gets empty. You’ll need the rice to accompany the Manchurian chicken ($12), which packs a flavourful punch. With a choice between wet and dry, we stuck with the recommended dry and it was fantastic - still a moist dish with each morsel of chicken covered with a salty, spicy, aromatic rub that appears to be made with freshly pureed ginger, garlic, and a host of other spices.



Hakka cuisine is essentially Chinese-style cooking outside of China. In Toronto, it tends to signify Chinese dishes with an Indian influence. At Urban Hakka, the dishes that lean towards the Indian side of the spectrum is a lot better, while the Chinese side falls flat. For example, the General Tao chicken ($12) essentially tastes like sweet and sour, which could be overlooked if it wasn’t so saucy that the batter is rendered mushy and it tastes like you’re eating gluey sweet chicken.



The sesame crispy beef ($14) is better, but extremely salty and is too powdery so you taste the flour and corn starch. If you’re going to get a “crispy” protein dish, stick with the crispy chicken ($14), which is cut into larger pieces and not as heavily coated. Nonetheless, eat quickly. When it arrives, scalding hot, the sauce is fantastic; once it starts to cool it begins to crystalize and tastes like candy coated chicken.




I can’t help but notice how their poorly laid out dining room affects the experience. The food delivery companies keep stomping through the dining room to the kitchen in the back, which is distracting when the restaurant is so silent.

Urban Hakka wants to create a serene environment, the décor is posh and there’s jazz music playing in the background. If they’re going to create a tranquil space than they have to go all in and get rid of the distractions… mainly all the people walking by within inches of a diner’s table. Simply ask the delivery people to wait by bar and have a staff member get the food from the kitchen (this could be a problem as the place is already understaffed) or ask the delivery people to go to the kitchen through an outside door (likely the more realistic choice).

Otherwise, Urban Hakka can drop the jazz music all together and just create a livelier loud environment. When I eat Hakka cuisine I’m going for the bold loud flavours. It doesn’t hurt if the restaurant has a vibrant loud environment to go with it.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 3305 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:


Urban Hakka Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Asian District (Dubai)


I will forever be grateful to Asian District for saving our New Year’s Eve celebration in Dubai. To make a long story short, because of the ineptitude of a Platinum List event coordinator, we found ourselves being told on the night of - at 9pm (!) - that the event was cancelled. Imagine … standing in your New Year’s best, in a foreign country, and being told that you need to find something else. Certainly, it’s not the end of the world, but surely ruins a buzz.


After a few frantic calls, Asian District saved the day and was able to provide us with an outdoor table so we can celebrate the night and watch the fireworks display. Better yet, they didn’t even raise their prices above the typical AED395 a person for the all-you-can-eat and unlimited house drinks deal. Indeed, it turned into an indulgent evening of food and drink.

Asian District offers an AYCE menu where the dishes are brought to your table. For those who don’t want to consume to the max there is an a-la-carte option as well (prices included in this post for information). It’s an extensive menu covering Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and Vietnamese cuisine so getting through the booklet can be a time consuming affair. So, let me help you with some of the top dishes of the night:

You can’t go wrong with the chicken green curry (AED62). It’s a safe choice and ideal for those who want that flavourful coconut sauce without too much heat.


Their dynamite roll (AED38) isn’t a typical maki filled with a tempura shrimp. Instead, it’s like an elevated spicy salmon that made us want another bite.


The wasabi prawns (ADE72) was a decent dish, plump deep fried battered shrimp tossed in a light wasabi mayo, I just wish I had them hotter – the perils of eating outdoors. Even the salt and pepper squid (AED56) was good, if you don’t mind that the batter is a bit too thick.


Other dishes could have been done better. The skin on the Peking duck (AED88 for a quarter) was so soggy that it tasted like you’re having reheated roast duck in the microwave.  At least their garnishes and wrapper were made thin enough.


The chicken skewers (AED56) needed more satay; there was very little flavours other than the peanut sauce.

While the pad Thai’s (AED56) flavours was okay – a nice balance of sweet and sour – the noodles stuck together in a clump and there seemed to be something missing from the dish, it could have been a lack of fish sauce as there wasn’t that lovely umami essence.


If you’re going to have pho, I’d skip the protein and just go vegetarian as the beef in the beef pho (AED46) was way too thick. The broth is a cross between the traditional bone broth and the soy sauce laced beef noodle variety. While not terrible, it’s just not what you’re expecting when you have a spoon of soup.


In general, I found Asian District relies too much on soy sauce. The hot and sour soup (AED32) incorporated so much of the condiment that it wasn’t edible.


Given we visited on New Year’s Eve, it’s difficult to gauge their service levels. That evening, it was slow and they forgot a dish (the plain stir fried bok choy I was craving), but the restaurant was completely packed. And we were disappointed that the desserts never arrived, so we couldn’t taste the mango sticky rice the other tables were raving about. Nonetheless, their staff was friendly and they were on point with bringing out the drinks.

At the very least, they saved the night by feeding us a filling meal, plied us with tons of alcohol, and provided an amazing vantage point for fireworks. Thank you Asian District for a wonderful New Year’s Eve.  

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
 Address: The Pointe, Palm Jumeirah - Al Mirziban

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:

  • Mr. Miyagi

Asian District Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Campechano (Toronto)

Campechano is a great place for vegetarians and meat eaters alike. Their menu contains options for both and items are sold by piece, so everyone can order whatever they want.

Most tables start with the guacamole ($8) where it arrives with two cups brimming with thin crispy chips, which they refill if you finish the tortilla before the dips. The salsa roja is great, with just a bit of spice and plenty of zest. It leaves the guacamole feeling fairly neutral, jazzed up with pomegranate - an interesting twist, though personally I do enjoy my dip without fruit.


If you’re feeling hungry than order a sencillo sopes ($6) for yourself; otherwise, it’s hearty enough to share. The tortilla is thicker and soft, almost like naan but not oily. A layer of refried beans is spread on top with lettuce, cheese, and two types of sauce covering the pillowy tortilla. A different alternative to Campechano’s tacos, but not nearly as exciting.


If you can handle spice, the hongo ahumado ($6) has a healthy kick of fiery sauce drizzled on top. This heat was unexpected as the taco’s description made it sound earthy tasting, from the smoked mushroom base, with a hearty finish, thanks to the white bean puree. In reality, aside from the spice, it's rather fresh with plenty of herbs sprinkled over top and very tasty, despite all the water you’ll have afterwards.


On the other hand, the healthy sprinkling of cotija cheese on the rajas ($5) makes the roasted poblano peppers taco richer than you'd expect. Additionally, the peppers aren’t spicy at all, instead having a deep earthiness. With little bits of corn added for bite, this was another tasty taco.


Campechano’s dining room is small and cozy, so try to make a reservation. Regardless, there seems to be plenty of walk-ins and on our weekday dinner visit, the wait wasn’t long… their service is friendly and efficient so most tables turn over quickly.

Becoming a flexitarian has been a breeze with restaurants like Campechano. Their vegetarian tacos are so delicious that I definitely don’t miss the meat. 

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 504 Adelaide 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:



Campechano Taqueria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

COYA (Dubai)

Special thanks to Parv for so many of the photos in this post
You’ll find COYA on a busy cul de sac of restaurants at Dubai’s Four Seasons. After getting through the queue of cars being dropped off with the valet and the throng of people making their way to the many establishments in the area, the actual restaurant is a welcoming serene environment.

The colourful bar and dining room works well with the restaurant’s Peruvian menu. Quirky artwork adorning the wall is great for starting conversations and keeps the atmosphere fun and cheerful. There’s still an air of sophistication to the décor – the colours are done in rich jewel-toned hues and with lux velvet. And it’s the attentive service and little touches, like the mini shelf for purses that retract from the chairs like a CD player, which reminds you that you’re still at the Four Seasons.


COYA’s ceviche are one of the most ordered dishes and I can see why. The pargo a la trufa ceviche (AED88) uses chunks of tender red snapper that are gently marinated with a not-too-citrusy ponzu and jazzed up with chives. Even the truffle oil, an ingredient that can sometimes get overpowering, was present in scent and only slightly lingered on the tongue. Absolutely delicious and a great start to the meal.


The salmon tacos (AED60) may be more accurately described as a tostada: cubes of salmon and avocado sitting on a crispy fried tortilla. Once again, the dish didn’t lack flavour, but the strong ingredients (in this case the aji amarillo chilli) added just a bit of heat still allowing us to taste the fish.


While the pulpo rostizado (AED92) is described as a ‘small dish’, the portion was just as big as some of the mains. The protein was prepared wonderfully - you barely need to bite to get through the tendrils of roasted octopus. Yet, there’s something topping the creamed potatoes that wasn’t my cup of tea – the garlic chips and bits of olives covering the silky spuds gave it a bitter finish.


COYA offers tons of seafood on their menu. The lubina Chilena (AED180) leans towards the Japanese influences of Peruvian cuisine tasting like miso black cod rather than anything to do with the aji amarillo described on the menu. Nevertheless, the fish is cooked beautifully and it was a tasty rendition of miso cod.


I would go back for an entire langosta iron pot (AED158) for myself. The rice a luscious risotto that stays warm in the clay vessel. It’s everything I want with a risotto – creamy texture, just enough moisture, and filled with lobster essence with a bit of pea shoot for freshness.


COYA prepares chicken well, their pollo a la parrilla (AED148) arrives as four pieces of juicy and tender boneless meat with a fiery looking sauce covering it. Don’t worry, the aji panca is all look and no spice, instead adding a smoky flavour and aroma to the fowl. For me, how well a restaurant prepares chicken is a marker of their chefs’ talent. After all, it’s a protein that needs to be cooked thoroughly and has a rather neutral taste.


It’s not like the bife angosto wagyu (AED460), the beef so well-marbled that even being a sirloin cut there was plenty of flavourful fat covering the tongue. It’s left a ruby rare and stays that way as the grill it arrives on is all for show and isn’t actually heated. While the steak was tasty enough on its own, COYA’s chimichurri is something else – ultra fresh and the micro cubes of onion creating a great contrast against the rich meat.


Make sure to save room for the churros de naranja (AED52), they are the best I’ve ever had. The pastry’s centre is fluffy and creamy while the outside delightfully crispy. I had my doubts as the menu described them as orange and lime churros with a milk chocolate and dulce de leche sauce – fruit and chocolate should be kept separate in my books. Luckily, all the citrus seemed to lie within the dip so I ate the churros by itself and they were exquisite.


In a city where buildings and new restaurants and being constructed at a mile-a-minute I can see why COYA is still busy and respected since its opening in 2014. What a great meal for the senses, for both taste and sight.

Overall mark - 9 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
 Address: Restaurant Village Four Seasons Resort 

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:

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