Smith Bros. Steakhouse Tavern (Toronto)



Aside from The Keg, Torontonians don’t have a lot of options for reasonably priced steakhouses, especially those where weekend reservations aren’t painful to secure. Hence, when pictures of Smith Bros. Steakhouse Tavern prime rib starting flashing across my Instagram feed, I vowed to visit the Scarborough restaurant the next time I was craving beef.

Indeed, the prime rib platter ($35) arrived looking just like the pictures I’ve seen. A behemoth 12oz slab of medium rare beef with just a small drizzle of au jus placed on when it arrives so that it doesn’t completely cook through the meat while transporting the dish. Don’t worry, a generous ladle arrives on the side so that there’s plenty of salty beef sauce for dipping prime rib or Yorkshire pudding into. The pudding, although has a lovely taste, was a bit too hard.


Smith Bros. also has a selection of 28-day aged steaks. The seafood sirloin ($35) looks much smaller than the prime rib, but since it’s a rather lean cut (less wastage) and topped with a rich poached lobster and shrimp in brandy cream sauce, it’s a rather rich, so being smaller doesn’t hurt. It’s served with a choice of potato (fries, garlic mashed potatoes, or baked potato). Their fries even makes the shoestring variety seem fat - it’s sort of like a softer and thicker Hickory Stick. While I would have preferred them thicker, it’s not too bad.


While all the mains arrive with starches, there’s nothing green and healthy, so an order of the seasonal vegetable for two ($8) helps to balance the meal. It’s nothing fancy: large hunks of broccoli with little done in terms of preparation other than steaming.


Smith Bros. Steakhouse follows a similar model to the Keg – spacious restaurant, serves hot fresh bread, and has warm and friendly service. Except you’re able to make reservations on weekends without blackout periods and the dining room is brightly lit, so perhaps a better option for families. I left satisfied and feeling like I had my fill of beef for at least a month. Best of all, I got it all without having to pay $55+ for a steak.

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 880 Warden Avenue

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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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Smith Bros. Steakhouse Tavern Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Yunshang Rice Noodle House (Toronto)


My first impression of Yunshang Rice Noodle involved the nose – it smelled SO comforting. It’s difficult to describe without experiencing it, but the dining room is encapsulated in a fragrant but clean smell - almost like tucking your nose into freshly cleaned sheets that comes out of the dryer. That is, if a Bounce sheet was replaced by slow cooked bone broth.

The aroma made me even hungrier for the bowl of crossing-the-bridge noodles I was about to tuck into. A popular dish from Yunnan in China, Yunshang is serving it from March 15-31, 2019 to celebrate the grand opening of their newest North York location (unfortunately, at the single location only). It’s limited to 50 sets per day with the exception of the first weekend where they will be giving out 100 sets for free on the 15th and 16th, so if you want to experience the dish, head in early - the giveaway starts at 6pm!

Undoubtedly, heads turn as the large wooden platter is set on the table. Each step of the Yunshang bridge rice noodle ($19.99) is filled with something to enhance the bowl: half a lobster tail, shrimp, French kiss oyster from Diana’s Seafood, a plump scallop, sliced beef, quail eggs, fish cakes, imitation crab sticks, enoki mushrooms, Chinese lettuce slivers, and egg tofu.


Similar to the traditional noodles, a large bowl of boiling broth is brought out along with raw or lightly cooked ingredients. Diners are then supposed to add all the ingredients into the broth, allow it to cook for a minute, then add the noodles and stir to create a hearty bowl filled with varied ingredients.


Yunshang has changed the recipe to adapt to Canadian taste buds. Firstly, the traditional layer of chicken fat floating on top of the soup, which is used to insulate the heat is eliminated for health reasons. Secondly, while the typical dish tends to be more meat based, they’ve added seafood to create diverse flavours.

With a choice of five soup bases, I highly suggest having one bowl with the original base. It may sound plain compared to options, but I really enjoyed that deep bone broth taste.

Michael, store manager of the North York location, explains that as soon as chefs arrive in the morning, a large pot is filled with pork and chicken bones, seafood, and other spices and cooked for 12 hours to create this broth. After skimming off the fat, they allow the broth to sit overnight so that the sediments settle to the bottom and they’re left with a clear consommé the following day. Yes, it takes an entire day to create the broth, therefore to not try it in its simplest form would be a shame.

If you’re dining with someone else, I’d suggest getting one of the other bases to mix into the perfect combination. For a second bowl, we ordered the Yungshang rice noodle soup with spicy sauce ($9.99). It would have been much too spicy on its own (despite being only two chilis) but diluting it with some of the original base allowed us to create a base that had pronounce chili flavours without inciting a coughing fit.


While the ingredients in the regular noodle soup are not nearly as luxurious as the bridge noodle, there was nonetheless a nice mixture of meat, seafood, and vegetarian products – the corn a great sweet contrast in the soup. Even with all the cold ingredients added, the broth remained really hot, thanks to the heated stone bowl.

The rice noodles (lai fun) can get a bit soft in the soup, so if you like them nice more al dante, I suggest adding them gradually as you eat the noodles. Being fairly neutral, it really takes on the flavours of the soup base and the ingredients you’re eating with it.

Despite coming with a sizeable portion of the silky noodlesYunshang offers free refills for anyone who’s really hungry or just wants to have noodles with every last drop of soup. They are serious about making sure customers leave full, noting the hungriest eater tucked back seven bowls in one sitting! If you find the soup is getting depleted, you can order more of that for an extra $2.


While the noodles are the draw, their menu also has a variety of cold and hot dishes. Sure they’re labelled as “snacks”, but the portions are fairly large and can easily be shared amongst four people. While I found the batter of the salty popcorn chicken ($6.99) too powdery and dry for my taste, the deep fried squid tentacles ($6.99) really hit the spot and were tasty enough that I didn’t need the spicy mayo that arrives on the side.


For those who prefers something lighter, there’s also a selection of cold dishes such as offal’s in chili sauce or vegetarian items such as fresh seaweed tossed with soy sauce and shredded cucumber with garlic.

Being my first experience having bridge noodles, I was intrigued on how its name was derived. Unfortunately, there’s no definitive origin for a dish that’s been around for over a century, rather Wikipedia offers two suggestions:

The first being a wife crossing a bridge to bring her husband his daily noodles found that the soup became cold and the noodles soggy. Therefore, she separated the ingredients and ensured there was a layer of oil on top to ensure when her husband ate the noodles, they were at its best.
A less dreamy explanation suggests the “bridge” is actually just the act of transferring ingredients between small containers to the bowl. Call me a romantic, but I’m going with the devoted wife.


While Michael thinks they will offer the dish on “special occasions” – perhaps during the opening of their next five stores (the closest being a Mississauga location) – due to the prep work and food costs it’s definitely something that won’t be regularly available. Whether you’re a romantic or just someone who wants an awesome food pic, make sure you head to Yunshang’s North York location before March ends.

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: 5285 Yonge 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:



Yunshang Rice Noodles Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Crown Jewel Fine Dining for dim sum (Toronto)


For as long as I can remember, weekends were a time for gathering family members (whether it be one other person or the entire 20 member gang) for dim sum. The meal consisted of varied bite-sized  dishes and desserts weren’t reserved as the last bites… eat it first, who cares!

As I’ve grown, dim sum has changed from a weekly to bi-weekly affair, but acting as the conduit for gathering family members, that hasn’t changed. How dim sum is enjoyed has morphed - lunch used to take longer as you waited for the must have dishes to be wheeled from carts to your table. With the exception of one or two restaurants, everyone has moved to the ordering method so waiting and surprises are things of the past.

To be fair, I don’t mind the transition, made-to-order food is hotter and fresher. You also rarely leave disappointed. Crown Jewel Fine Dining offers a decent selection at competitive prices: S for $3.50, M for $4.50, and L for $5.50, but on non-holidays if you order before 11am, S-L dishes will be $3.50.

Where Crown differs is the size of their dim sum. Their steamed shrimp dumpling har gow (L) and steamed shrimp & pork dumpling siu mai (L), are huge and about 50% larger than other restaurants while the taste is still relatively consistent.


Some dumplings could use more seasoning. The steamed vegetable dumpling (L) is a great vegetarian option containing snow pea shoots and prince mushroom slivers, but desperately needs salt. Similarly, the seafood dumpling in soup (L) is fairly bland despite containing chunky portions of various seafood and mushroom.


I’m glad restaurants are starting to offer more vegetarian options. A pumpkin congee with chestnut and corn (L) seems to grace most menus and truthfully is quite delicious. At Crown, they leave some pumpkin pieces strewn throughout the congee so it ends up having more texture and bite. The chestnuts also make the congee savoury.


If you prefer your congee with meat, the traditional pork and preserved egg (L) is available. At Crown, the pork is shredded rather than diced, which may make it easier for some to eat.


Of course, there are a host of other family favourites including steamed beef balls with vegetables (S), which were a little dense for my taste; silky steamed BBQ rice rolls (M) that had me reaching for seconds; and flavourful steamed curry cuttlefish (M), although the quality varies depending on the visit.


What surprised me the most were their buns, something I normally don’t order but in a large family setting someone’s bound to want. The Crown Jewel BBQ pork buns (L) have a slightly sweet crust and is stuffed with chunky pieces of BBQ pork – they’re similar to the ones you’ll find at Hong Kong’s Tim Ho Wan. These are now a must-order dish for me. 



The steamed lau sha custard buns (M) were also tasty, the fluid milky egg custard specked with pieces of salty egg yolk so it added a bit of saltiness without becoming overboard.


The deep fried shrimp spring rolls (L) arrive with a beautiful fried lattice on the bottom. However, the filling had little to no shrimp and instead tons of pork and a fragrant herb that I can’t identify.


Larger tables may want to “splurge” for an order of the clay pot rice ($8.80). It’s at least two times the size of what you’d find elsewhere and a bit of rice helps settle the stomach after the heavier proteins. There’s three versions to choose from but the ground chicken and octopus patty is one that’s generally not found elsewhere.


With so many of the dishes being larger than competitors, the mango pudding (M) was shockingly sparse with two palm sized gold fish in the order. The Chinese description also notes it arrives with ice cream - in reality it’s canned whipped cream, but admittedly an improvement over evaporated milk.


Not all desserts were small. Crown certainly doesn’t skimp on the beans in their clear red bean jelly (M); the dessert was bricks of soft beans solidified in a lightly sweetened jelly. The coffee and cream jelly (M) was also a sizeable portion and had a hefty kick of coffee flavours.


If you need an excuse to gather a group, why not look into trying dim sum? There’s tons of options and doesn’t cost much to try something new. My family has been doing it for decades.

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 325 Bamburgh Circle

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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Other Gastro World posts similar to this:



Crown Jewel Fine Dining Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Kub Khao Thai Eatery for lunch (Toronto)


It’s surprising how many people know about Kub Khao Thai Eatery in spite of its location hidden behind a gas station. It’s the original place, in Scarborough, to get authentic Thai food.

Their quick lunch specials, served from 11am to 4pm (including weekends), offers great value with six mains accompanied with crispy wontons and a choice of tom yum soup or mango salad. The crispy wontons are filled with a pork and arrives with a sweet chili sauce. Little two bite nuggets that are great for tiding you over until the mains arrive.


The tom yum is fairly large and in the traditional spicy and sour broth are tons of fresh Shanghai bok choy and napa cabbage so you’re eating a full serving of vegetables right at the start. Kub Khao certainly doesn’t skimp on fresh produce – their mango salad has the customary julienned bell pepper and red onion, but is further enhanced with crunchy carrots and refreshing mint and coriander.

A popular order is their pad Thai chicken ($9.95), the rice noodles getting plenty of wok hay and tossed with bean sprouts, tofu, scrambled egg, and chives in a tamarind sauce that has a nicely balanced sourness. I love the finely ground peanuts, which melds into the noodles rather than being large pieces you need to chew through.


The pad karee shrimp ($11.95) is fiery red. Dig to the bottom of the bowl and you’ll get the little pieces of chili to match – thankfully, the coconut milk calms down the heat. While there aren’t tons of shrimp, there is plenty of flavourful curry to spoon over steamed rice. I just wished there were more vegetables in the dish.  


Four “street lunch” options aren’t accompanied by the wonton and starters but is a full-sized main. The chicken noodle curry’s ($11.95) broth was a khao soi and green curry love child. The bowl arrives brimming with ingredients including bell peppers, bean sprouts, eggplant, green beans, bamboo shoot, and onion, a refreshing bite against the rich spicy soup. A bit of pickled cabbage adds an unexpected tanginess and along with all the protein (chicken and a hard-boiled egg) makes a filling lunch.


If there was a best service station restaurant award, in my books, Kub Khao is the winner.

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 3561 Sheppard Avenue East
 Website: http://kubkhao.ca/

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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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CRU (Toronto)


LBS has switched out their three letters for three new ones … CRU. With the change, the menu’s morphed from similarly priced seafood options to a more standard format. No worries, their spacious banquette seating environment and large bar still remains.


CRU’s menu now straddles a variety of proteins and cultures. Items such as the burrata ($19) and brown butter gnocchi ($23) have an Italian influence, although updated with different spices. The burrata is covered with a date compote, honey, tangy za’atar seasoning, and tons of micro greens to give the creamy cheese a Middle Eastern flair. It’s rather refreshing, but better suited for summer months; I was craving something more comforting and sinful.


The brown butter gnocchi ($23) was more satisfying – well flavoured plump soft nuggets in a savoury brown butter sauce with earthy chestnuts, crunchy lightly pickled cauliflower, and briny capers thrown in. The gnocchi is a richer dish and works well for sharing.


Their starters are the more adventurous options. Thumbnail sized caviar doughnuts (complimentary order shown below; normal order is $16) takes a dense cake batter and glazes it with sweet crème fraiche. It’s kept savoury by decorating the pastry with radish, chives, and, of course, caviar. If you like sweet and salty combinations, this one will blow the typical bacon and maple glaze version out of the water.


I was actually fooled by the vegan ‘nduja (complimentary order shown below; normal order is $11) where the spicy salty spread did taste like the pork version – the only difference being it was much smoother. Topped on crispy grilled bread, slices of pickled fennel and dill were a good attempt to balance out the powerful spread. If the smokiness was toned down a bit, the ‘nduja may be even better.  


CRU’s mains were definitely what impressed our table with the aged duck breast ($29) being the favourite. The combination of gamey duck meat, thin sliver of fat, and well rendered crispy skin made for a tasty bite. As the juices and fat melded together on my taste buds, I instantly wanted another bite. Paired with soft confit squash and some pumpkin seed crumble, the dish definitely had a fall/winter flair.


Some people may find the Angus striploin ($33) a tad chewy but I enjoyed the well seared crust and deep beef flavours. Even the glazed celeriac, paired with the dish, was a treat. Usually the root vegetable is served in a puree form, its flavours diluted by cream, butter, or stock. Left whole, so that its natural tastes were prevalent, it made for an interesting side - imagine something that has the texture of turnip but the after taste of celery.


While we knew not to expect Chabrol caliber apple tart tatin ($10), the deconstructed version was a letdown. There was way too much cinnamon apple filling and the puff pastry is better described as thin crispy wafers than pastry. Good luck trying to spoon any of the compote or ice cream onto the thick spoon provided. The dessert was disappointing and messy.


Go for the millionaire’s tart ($12) instead. Indeed, it’s a rich dessert given it’s constructed with chocolate ganache, caramel, and hazelnut ice cream. But, the ganache is made with dark chocolate so the sugariness of the tart is restrained. It was lusciously flavourful and left my taste buds feeling like a million bucks.


In general, CRU’s dishes are packed with flavours. Each element on the plate holds its own and together packs a powerful punch. It’s certainly a change from the safe fare at LBS. CRU food is here to make a statement.

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 100 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!

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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

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:



Capra's Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato