Toshi Ryoriten (Richmond Hill)


Do you remember your last meal at a restaurant before being quarantined? Mine was an exquisitely long two-hour omakase affair ($90 a person for the Toshi course) in celebration of my father’s birthday. Over a bottle of chilled light sake, we sampled, drank, and conversed … beside each other. All while we dined in front of a chef who handled the ingredients without a mask or gloves. Wow, how things can change in a blink of an eye.


Toshi Ryoriten isn’t afraid to start boldly: right out of the gate we’re served a sashimi of two tunas and shima aji (?). Usually, there’s a build up of dishes until the tunas are presented - I didn’t mind this procession, having a rich taste of fish within the first bites. They were all a great temperature and thickness, the way you want sashimi to be. I just wish someone described the dish to us, instead of just having the sushi chef drop it down and walk away.


Dinner then switches to hot eats, a cube of tofu incorporating seaweed and slivers of crunchy lotus root. Fresh from the fryer, it’s hot and the tofu’s edges are remarkably crispy against the silken centre and the thickened sauce adds flavours without making it soggy. If they made this into a tofu steak, I could eat this instead of sirloin any day.


Clean and crisp uni (sea urchin) and ikura (salmon fish roe) generously tops a sphere of warm rice and makes for a big flavourful bite that’s creamy and leaves an oceany umami essence to the tongue.


The grilled yellowtail looked better than it tasted; sadly, the lean fish was overcooked. And after the amazing egg tofu, the crispy rice “biscuit” was surprisingly dull and bland. The best part of the dish was the blanched spinach, at least it’s cold and refreshing. 


After all the starters, the nigiri experience begins – eleven pieces of bite-sized sushi made at a well-scheduled pace. With about 3-5 minutes between each piece, it’s enough time to admire (and photograph) and converse, without feeling like an overdrawn affair. 

The medai (seabream) was a nice start. Meaty but light, the fish reset the palette for the rest of the meal.
Toshi’s ika (squid) was a tad dry from the blowtorch, so it ended up being sticky as I chewed the sushi. While not necessarily terrible, it’s also texture that’s rather unexpected. Perhaps it just needed a stronger glaze on top, the quick brush of soy sauce was not nearly enough. 


The kanpachi (amber jack) was incredibly good. I just couldn’t make out what the black bits were on top – it’s salty but doesn’t have that crunchiness of volcano salt. Once again, a bit more direction and conversation from the chef would be nice.  


I love when raw salmon is warmed. At Toshi, the salmon is seared slightly developing a mild smokiness and the heat melts the fat. The akaebi (sweet shrimp) was a nice follower, but like the ika could use a bit more seasoning.


While the shima aji (skipper jack) looked like a lot of the earlier white fishes, the texture is surprisingly “crispy” for a fish and a nice contrast against the other softer consistencies. 


Hopefully, you’re not a light eater, as Toshi saves the most decadent pieces to end. Of course, there’s the otoro (fatty tuna), the fish world’s equivalent of high fat butter, with its flavourful oil that oozes and coats the tongue. 


After a sip of sake, a liberally toasted hotate (scallop) adds a lovely sweet contrast. This followed by an even sweeter unagi (sea eel), which like some of the torched counterparts was a bit overdone. 


I hate that I really enjoyed the foie gras - it’s not an ingredient I support for ethical reasons. Scoring the fatty duck liver helps create these grooves that holds onto the oils; and for once the long lick from the blowtorch really helps to add a lovely smokiness without overcooking the ingredient. If you think otoro is rich, this piece brings it to a whole other level. 


To end, you’re offered a hand roll or maki. I end traditionally with the hand-held form that incorporates bits of tuna and green onion. The seaweed needs to be toasted more as it was a bit chewy to get through. In hindsight, the maki form may be a better choice. 


The best decision was to add on a chawanmushi ($9.50) and suggest it be served right after the nigri procession. While it doesn’t have that intoxicating aroma that escapes as the lid is lifted, the egg custard is piping hot and a lovely silky consistency. Other ingredients make their way into the steamed egg: mushroom and spinach stems on top and hearty cubes of shrimp and chicken on the bottom. 


As part of the regular Toshi course menu, the small bowl of soba with dashi broth ends the savoury items. Normally, I’m not a huge fan of tempura bits in soup, but these were added at the last minute, so it doesn’t arrive as a soggy mess. And mixed with the green scallions, everything works, down to the last hot drop.


Instead of the typical ice cream, Toshi serves tofu cheesecake for dessert. It’s surprisingly creamy and dense for tofu but lacks any discernable flavour. At least the whipped cream imparted some sweetness.


If you’ll be seated at the sushi bar, make sure to request to be sat on the right-hand side of the bar. Relegated to the left corner, we were essentially ignored by the chef who only speaks to the four people directly in front of him. 


And while it’s nice to see the chefs’ technique, Toshi ruins the experience by leaving a huge platter of fish to be broken down right by the sink on the left. Halfway through the meal, it’s finally put away, but makes for an unpleasant backdrop for those who have it in their eyeline. In terms of the environment and the chefs’ hospitality, this was one of the worst omakase experiences I’ve had.

Still, looking back on the dinner, I’ll only have fond memories. Dinner at Toshi Ryoriten was an unhurried relaxing public affair I can’t wait to eventually enjoy again. As a last pre-COVID meal, this was a great ending.

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Richmond Hill, Canada
 Address: 1380 Major Mackenzie Drive East

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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!

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LOV (Toronto)


LOV looks like your typical vegan hipster restaurant – sparkling white everything with hints of greens and natural contrasts. Just looking at the dining room makes you feel healthier. For a moment, you wonder if you should skip the wine and order kombucha instead… then you remember how terrible it tastes and order a bottle of Prosecco instead. They’re both carbonated - same same, but different.

Once you start with the wine, it goes downhill from there. Somehow, two orders of fries end up at the table. The LOV poutine ($11) looks great smothered with plenty of miso gravy and vegan mozzarella but tastes like fries covered with a flavourless thick sauce. Stick with the kimchi fries ($8) instead, which at least has the fermented cabbage and a creamy sesame dressing for interest.


Perhaps an order of Brussel sprouts ($9) to keep everything healthy? They’re deep fried and smothered with way too much of that tangy buffalo sauce.  


And then the Zen salad ($16) arrives and the guilt momentarily washes away. It’s a tasty combination of konjac noodles, shredded vegetables (cabbage, lettuce, daikon, carrots), and the extras thrown in for flavour and contrast (chilis and cashew). Maybe healthier options are better at LOV as this was the best of the starters. I thoroughly enjoyed the refreshing cilantro and mint elements. What? Am I a secret healthy eater?


Then I take a bite of the mushroom risotto ($19) and taste my favourite dish of the night. Done traditionally, the creamy rice and peas would have been good, but is made even better with the roasted oyster mushrooms. Okay, so perhaps I haven’t turned into nutritionist.


Yet, the LOV lasagna ($19) didn’t really excite. While the pasta looked delicious smothered with the vegan mozzarella and cashew cream, it tasted bland. The best part of the plate was perhaps the Caesar salad.


The gnocchi di casa ($20) was an interesting take on the classic Italian dish, except at LOV it’s made with sweet potato and buckwheat so there’s antioxidant and fibre strewn throughout the dish. The sweetness did help balance the hemp, basil and arugula pesto, which by itself could have been too strong.


Aside from the risotto, it’s the coconut curry ($18) that impressed. Who would have thought cubes of squash and carrots with a blanched kale could be so delicious when smothered in a cashew and coconut milk curry?


You should definitely heed the advice of those working at LOV, they know what’s tasty. Our choice of desserts, the crème brûlée ($8) and cheesecake ($7) were both good, for vegan alternatives, but run-of-the-mill.


Our waitress highly suggested the chocolate carmelita ($5), a dessert I didn’t think I’d enjoy, but had me reaching for another bite. It’s like having a chocolate butter tart bar but with the texture (and lack of stickiness) of a date square. Our table can certainly sing it praises.



For a place that looks so healthy, LOV’s menu does have its fair share of comfort foods. But perhaps what’s most surprising is how much I enjoyed and even preferred the “healthier” options. Maybe the surroundings were rubbing off on me. Could it be, one day I may actually order kombucha? 

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 620 King Street West
 Website: https://lov.com/en/

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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!

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Paluto Restaurant (Dubai)

Thank you to Parv for all these pictures!
Who would have thought that amongst a desert there are waterfront markets? Yet, that’s exactly what you’ll find in Deira in Dubai – a sprawling multi-wing facility where you can buy seafood from one area, vegetables and spices from another, and even find restaurants to cook the seafood for you along the waterfront.

It seemed like a novel idea and had us visiting Paluto Restaurant by Chef Boy Logro (a celebrity chef from the Philippines) one afternoon. In reality, the link to a well-known chef doesn’t seem like a necessity for a place where customer purchase their own ingredients, fish mongers clean it for them, and all the chefs do is cook it (either fried, grilled, or in soup form) for AED25/kg. Aren’t we all our own chefs at this point?

Patrons then wait around for an empty table and their food to be prepared. There’s a hunting-and-gathering feel to the meal, except I guess the hunting is fairly easy when it’s all laid out on ice and in tanks amongst the stalls. It’s a part of the meal that we skipped, since we didn’t visit the Waterfront Market early enough to source our own seafood.

Truth be told, I was glad we missed that part of the experience as seeing things swim and wriggle before breaking bread is the least of my desires. Plus, going after the general rush, meant there was no queue so we could sit and enjoy drinks (the serve yourself fountain pop variety) while we waited for the food preparation.

As the mixed seafood platters arrived – one tossed in lemon herb and the other in a sweet chili (both AED149), we started salivating at the combination of blue crabs, shrimp, and mussels. This was sure going to be a messy lunch that had some reaching for the plastic gloves.



The two sauces were so different – the lemon herb a bit too mild and needed more seasoning, while the sweet chili having a fiery heat that could be too much for some. Of the two, the chili drew me in and had me spooning the thick sauce over the unlimited rice that arrives with the meal. Still, the seafood itself was mediocre; while the shrimp were nice, the crab wasn’t cleaned properly (who leaves the gills on?) so there was a musky after taste and the mussels no different from the frozen variety found in supermarkets.

Personally, I preferred the simpler varieties. The deep-fried prawns (AED49 for 12) done with and without batter were delicious. A hot sweet nugget that I could have had a dozen to myself.



Even the grilled fish (AED149 for a large size) had potential… nice and meaty, but, sadly overcooked. The chili soy sauce on the side helped flavour and hydrate the fish a bit.


Perhaps the most surprising was the vegetable Hakka noodles (AED29), long chewy egg noodles tossed with julienned vegetables and enveloped in a lovely wok hay. They were so good that we added another order.


With fresh seafood, it’s smart to remember that simple is best. Dipped into hot oil or a faster lick on the grill is all you need. When in doubt, just remember K.I.S.S. – keep it simple, stupid.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
 Address: In the Waterfront Market (Al Khaleej 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!

The Beach House (Dubai)

I have a love-hate relationship with outdoor dining. Being able to enjoy nature and its beautiful views are certainly the elements I love, but the bugs and pollution are things I’d rather avoid. In Dubai, al fresco dining seems to be everywhere. The most idyllic setting of the trip was at the The Beach House, an ocean-side restaurant inside the Anantara The Palm Resort.

As I gazed into the crystal blue man-made waters on the shaded patio, in a comfy cushioned chair, the environment is so calming – ah… relax… and breathe.

A plate of the linguine allo scoglio (AED110) just adds to the whole experience – seafood pasta while by the ocean – can you eat anything else?

The al dante linguine was well tossed in a light marinara sweetened with sundried tomato and incorporates a bit of heat from chilis. White wine broth thins the sauce to keep the tomato from getting too tangy. Chunks of shrimp, calamari, mussels, fish, and scallops gets tangled into the pasta, so you get a bit of seafood with every bite. Just swirl and enjoy.

In lieu of a boring green salad, we added a side of roasted vegetables (AED30) that arrives hot and in a pool of peppery olive oil that’s great for dipping leftover focaccia into. Can lunch be more wonderful?

What a perfect January meal. The weather, an ideal temperature, and not a bug in site. It makes me want to stay longer and not rush into the afternoon and evening of site seeing we have set out. This is what luxurious vacations are all about! 

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
 Address: In the Anantara The Palm Dubai 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!

Mineral (Toronto)


Who would have thought that Toronto Life’s first R&D Night for TL Insiders would be the only one I attend until the summer? When we sat down at Mineral in January, still freezing and cold, for their special five-course meal with beverage pairings ($139 inclusive of taxes and gratuities), we could still dine in and social distancing wasn’t even on the Torontonian radar. Note: Regular menu prices are included in the post and portion sizes may be smaller given the dishes were shared amongst three people.

Mineral is a Midtown newcomer offering Filipino dishes that’s infused with other cultures. Yes, dare I use the F-word? It’s fusion.

There’s Japanese elements in my favourite dish of the night, the seafood noodles ($26). The squid ink pasta tossed in a white wine (?) broth that gets creamier when the uni gets mixed in, creating a simple sauce with a pleasant briny ocean taste. They don’t skimp on the seafood with large prawns and chunks of scallop, a fried shrimp head tasty to munch on if you’re not squeamish about eating that sort of thing.


Similar Asian flavours continue with the pineapple and kombu ($9), the fruit intensifying from being roasted and then topped with a kombu (kelp) chili oil that’s reminiscent of a milder XO sauce, adding a sense of umami and heat to the dish. Who would have thought fruit could be so savoury?


Their roasted duck leg ($28) is less Chinese BBQ and closer to duck confit. Except, in lieu of a red wine jus it sits in a lovely peanut curry and is paired with steamed rice… if only there was more of the sauce for the grains! If you wanted a bit more flavour, a red crab paste sits on the side, which was rather light for something that’s so intensely red.


The side of miso wok fried broccolini ($18) was a great idea, the seasoning adding an unexpected richness to the vegetables for something that looks like it’s just topped with almonds. A bit of citrus gives it a fresh finish, pairing well with the richer duck.  

Two dishes that seemed more traditional were the first and last bites. We started with an ensaymada ($3), a sweet egg bun topped with melted aged white cheddar and smoked butter. Oh yes, it’s looks and sounds decadent, but somehow just works together without becoming heavy



For dessert, a dense sponge cake with a bit of syrup, crème fraiche, and a crumbly topping. 


By that point, being five drinks in, the dessert was finished in a blur and we giddily continued the conversation not wanting to leave. It was a simpler time, a more social time, a time I can’t wait to get back to.

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10
Want to become a Toronto Life Member? If this event sounded great, don't miss out on the fun. Toronto Life is providing Gastro World readers a $25 off discount code to become a member!

Just use discount code GASTROWORLD at the Toronto Life Member checkout and the discount will be automatically applied.
Email me if you join and let me know the next event you'll be attending. Maybe we can meet in person!

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 1027 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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The Kasap Turkish Cuisine (Dubai)


As you’re sitting on The Kasap’s patio and taking in the man-made views of The Pointe, it feels like you’re somewhere Mediterranean, maybe even Turkey, just somewhere far from desert life. The restaurant should be thankful there’s such a great outdoor atmosphere as sitting on the lowest level of the patio also means you’re forgotten and service is slow at best.

Once we were able to get an order in, the food arrives at a quick pace; in no time a dish of vibrant babaghanoush (AED22) arrives with soft toasted pita. While the dip was refreshing, the eggplant flavour was masked by the other vegetables and it could really use more salt.


In general, most dishes were under seasoned. The minced beef Turkish-style flatbread (AED49) screamed for spices – parsley, salt - anything to cover the meat’s gaminess that was so off putting I couldn’t have more than a slice. How is beef even gamey, surely this must have been mutton?


If anything, what impressed me most about the dish was the presentation: the long plank placed on can so other dishes could be placed underneath. Such a genius idea for efficient space use that must make city planners swoon.

Thank you to J for this photo

The most flavourful dish was the adana kebab (AED58), the tender and juicy skewers have a hit of spice that really sneaks up on you. We used our fair share of the yoghurt and pickled cabbage to help calm the heat.


It also went well with the kale and pomegranate salad (AED34), which was tossed with bits of bulgur and a simple lemon and olive oil dressing. The kale just needed a good massage to break down the tough fibers.


Where I was happy with The Kasap’s restrained flavours was with the baklava (AED32). Normally, it’s a dessert that’s so sugary it makes my teeth ache – figuratively, not literally. The Kasap’s was still infused with plenty of honey but it was sticky without being too sweet. I also liked the liberal sprinkling of pistachios, which adds such a nice nuttiness to the dessert.


If all else fails, eat elsewhere and visit the restaurant for a drink. They offer a wide selection of juices, the Kasap special (AED29) a fruity blend of passionfruit with apple and orange. All our drinks tasted great, if only they arrived colder.



That’s when we could have really gotten the tropical experience of icy drinks, blue waters, and tons of sunshine. After all, with the Atlantis in the background, you could even daydream about being transported to Bahamas. Desert, what desert?

Overall mark - 6 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
 Address: The Pointe
 Website: http://thekasap.ae/

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: