Showing posts with label Antipasto platter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Antipasto platter. Show all posts

12 Tables (Toronto)


Google classifies 12 Tables as an Italian restaurant, which to be fair makes up the majority of the dishes on their menu. However, in speaking to the owner, she noted the restaurant is actually European; in fact, they chose to use a generic name (12 Tables) so they can showcase many nationalities. The husband and wife duo has experience with the culinary industry - back in Poland they owned six restaurants, each offering a different type of cuisine. After arriving in Canada, they decided to focus on one restaurant but still prepare an array of dishes.

Despite 12 Tables’ informal atmosphere, dinners start with an amuse bouche and end with a lemon sorbet to cleanse the palette between the mains and dessert. The amuse bouche changes, on one visit a tasty bite of roasted beet with a creamy avocado mascarpone dressing and another a piece of seared beef. Both arrive with warm soft bread that they bake daily in-house. All this makes for a labour intensive day, no wonder they’re only opened for dinner!


Save some bread if you order the beef tartare ($19) as it doesn’t arrive with crostini. Even with the bread, the dish takes getting used to as the soft tartare against soft bread isn’t the greatest combination (even with a slight crunch from the raw onions). Aside from having something crunchy to spread it on, I’d also prefer the beef cut into bigger pieces so it doesn’t resemble pulverized meat. Regardless, the flavours were spot on and the onions a great addition.


For a crowd, the signature antipasto for two ($27) is a good option with a changing assortment of cured meats, cheeses, and vegetables. The salty cured meat and cheeses are good, but what really stood out were the hunks of grilled eggplant slathered in a garlic dill sauce, juicy sticks of marinated beets, and the large pieces of pickled artichoke. In fact, I wish they offered a vegetarian version of the antipasto platter as the vegetables were definitely the highlight.


12 Tables calls out on their menu, the fact the carbonara ($19) contains no cream. I can understand why, with all the aged cheese, bacon, and parmesan, it tastes like a really rich creamy pasta. Personally, I would have liked more black pepper to help balance the flavours and a splash of stock to thin out the sauce. But, I guess most people who order carbonara craves a dish that’s sinful and hearty, this definitely fits the bill. 


On the other hand, the arrabiata ($19) is the complete opposite. The dish is filled with al dente penne tossed with a thick tomato sauce that has such a delicious angry bite. Given it’s a smaller portion and lighter, you’ll want to add on a heartier appetizer if you get this as a main. The baked eggplant ($16) is a great choice. Two big thick slices of grilled eggplant sandwiching gorgonzola cheese studded with grape tomatoes and smothered with tomato sauce. All together it’s a creamy combination and the lighter blue cheese, which normally isn’t an ingredient I enjoy, pairs well with the earthy eggplant and tangy sauce. Although, if I had the option to substitute the gorgonzola for mozzarella or ricotta, I’d still make the switch.


Yet, my favourite pasta has got to be the frutti di mare ($27) and will be my go-to order during weekends. The linguine is done perfectly and tossed in a chunky tomato and onion sauce filled with seafood: three large prawns, a plump scallop, a passable section of crab leg, calamari rings, clams, and tons of mussels! Best yet the seafood was not overdone and cooked with the sauce to really infuse it with the seafood essence. 


Most of the starters and mains we tried still leaned heavily towards an Italian heritage. Their desserts is where it expands into different European territories, with a small but varied selection: strawberry pavlova, chocolate soufflé, a tart, and gelato. Excited for the soufflé ($12) what actually arrives would generally be considered a molten lava cake. While it was a very good rendition of the dessert – hot, rich, and filled with chocolate flavour without being sugary – the molten centre isn’t the same as an airy soufflé.


They’re a great neighbourhood restaurant, the service outstandingly friendly. My husband, who worked in Europe for a couple of years, noted it did remind him of the restaurants he visited while travelling around. At the end of the meal, they even offered us a shot of lemoncello or Zoladkowa Gorzka (an herby orange liqueur), a digestive to start the digestion process.


I urge the chef to expand the menu to include more non-Italian dishes, something from Poland would be great! Until then, I’ll be returning to enjoy the seafood pasta, with a shot of Zoladkowa Gorzka, which ends the meal with a warm fuzzy feeling.


Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 1552 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!


Is That It? I Want More!

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Nola (New Orleans)

Location: New Orleans, USA
Address: 534 St. Louis Street
Website: http://www.emerilsrestaurants.com/nola-restaurant
Type of Meal: Lunch



Shortly after hopping off the plane, we went over to Nola for lunch, one of Emeril Lagasse’s restaurant that takes the latest reservation. It was going to be our first taste of Creole cuisine and would set the benchmark for meals to come. Indeed the bar was set high as the classics we ordered were great and left us wanting more.

Nola’s rustic exposed brick dining room is opened and laid back. Despite arriving late into lunch service, many tables were still occupied with glimpses of dishes to come. To begin, we couldn’t help but order a mint julep ($10) a quintessential Southern drink, made with sweet bourbon, simple syrup, water and muddled mint. Nola definitely doesn’t skimp on the bourbon!


Shortly after ordering we were brought a selection of warm breads. The first a jalapeño cornbread was delicious with specks of jalapeño and soft without being oily. The simple ciabatta was fluffy and soft, great for wiping up the appetizer's sauces.


The first to arrive was the pork cheek boudin balls ($10) and is what I’d like to think of as Southern risotto balls. Rice and sausage meat are mixed together with a variety of spices. Deep fried so that it has a crispy exterior and soft moist interior these were very good. Topped with sweet marinara and a slightly spicy creole mustard aioli each ball packs a burst of flavour.


While the shrimp in Emeril’s barbequed gulf shrimp ($12) were only average (a bit small when it’s supposed to be the star ingredient) the sauce shines through. It’s sweet but has a hint of spice at the end, it was enjoyable with our ciabatta bun or the soft doughy rosemary biscuit which accompanied it.


The shrimp and grits ($19) was amazing and a must try in my opinion! Certainly, the grits were so well done that I was sadly disappointed when they were ordered a second time with breakfast at another restaurant. Nola’s grits were thick and creamy with dollops of smoked cheddar melted throughout to make the grits rich and decadent. The dish was further topped with pieces of toasted applewood bacon (adding salt & smoke) and small pieces of crimini mushrooms. The slightly spicy red chili butter glazed shrimp were also delicious, its plump meat going well with the smooth grits.


The duck confit pizza's ($12) crust was light and airy almost like naan mixed with Neapolitan dough. For a dish with duck confit topping it the pizza wasn’t too strong with just a bit of oil on it. It was also surprisingly flavourful, from the addition of truffle oil and parmesan cheese, despite looking sparse and bland when first brought to the table. Nonetheless, I would have liked more duck on it as there wasn’t much on each slice. The egg was satisfactory but really didn't add much in this case except for a nice pop of colour.  


To end we shared a trio of crème brûlée. It was a number of desserts in one as each brûlée had another mini dessert topping it - fresh sweet berries with the vanilla, a chocolate almond biscotti with the mocha and a coconut truffle with the coconut. Normally, the mocha would be my favourite but this one was too strong and reminded me of Reisin candies (something my grandmother always had at her house and I detested). Meanwhile, the vanilla bean, made with real vanilla pods, was nice and flavourful my favourite of the three. The coconut added to the last brûlée is something I normally wouldn’t like but actually turned out to be quite delicious. All in all, a good dessert for sharing.



Service at Nola was friendly and efficient; our waitress Fallon was a pleasure bringing out sharing plates as required. Overall, Nola was a great introduction to Creole cooking and made us look forward to the bold rich flavours to come. 

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


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____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • - 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!


Nola on Urbanspoon


F'Amelia Ristorante (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 12 Amelia Street
Website: http://www.famelia.com/
Type of Meal: Dinner



Situated on a quiet street in Cabbagetown, F’Amelia was opened by two best friends, John Dawson and Todd Vestby, who also live in the neighbourhood. Even from the outside, the homey feeling begins as the restaurant is situated in a quaint looking converted house on a residential street. The dining room consists of three separate rooms so no matter where you’re sitting it feels intimate. An open concept kitchen showcases the wood burning pizza oven and plating area so you feel like you’re almost part of the process.

Their bread arrives in a tin container containing sticks of focaccia and toasted pizza dough. The focaccia was the highlight with bits of lemon and herb mixed into it adding a nice aromatic essence. Meanwhile the charred soft pizza dough with crunchy sea salt went well with our charcuterie board. Indeed, almost everyone seemed to be getting one of their cheese and meat boards, we were no different sharing the five salumi/terrine and three cheese one ($28).


Firstly, the five meats. The most intriguing was the guanciale or cured pig cheek; paper thin the meat and fat melts in your mouth but the rub on it is an acquired taste and not appealing for our table. While the thyme and rosemary flavoured strips of pancetta were nicely flavoured, they were a tad fatty and waxy for my taste. A chicken liver mousse piped along the breadsticks was light and sweetened so it was almost a dessert with a chocolate caramel essence to it. Fried pig ears with a tartar sauce was good, I just wished there was more of it. Finally, the pork terrine was so richly flavoured that I was reminded of eating a sausage with grainy mustard a good ending.


The three cheeses for the night consisted of pieces of Monforte Dairy Toscano, a firm sheep milk variety made in Stratford resembling a milder parmaggiano reggiano. Next, a really aged French cheese that was much too strong for me and most of the table. The soft buffalo mozzarella was of course my favourite, cold and creamy seasoned simply with olive oil, pepper and salt. Additionally, the platter had berry compote, tasty onion jam, a great pot of spicy pickles (green beans, red beets and cucumber), pieces of sesame grissini (cracker) and some of the longest bread sticks I’ve ever seen.


A great dish for the spring and summer months is the bigoli ($23). Thick chewy noodles are tossed with seared white shrimp, grilled zucchini and arugula pesto tasting so fresh! The onion blossoms add a hint of colour and flavour leaving me wanting more. It’s a dish I highly recommend.


The seafood saffron risotto ($28) was a daily special and had a nice taste but the rice too soft. Little pieces of diced celery added crunch to counteract the mushiness; the crunchiness was something I enjoyed but others at the table found took away from the creaminess of the risotto. However, the scallops were perfectly crusted and cooked, the highlight of the dish.


The cavalo comune pizza ($20) has two cheeses (fior de latte and goat cheese), salty specks of proscutto cotto, sweet caramelized onions and wilted spinach. With all the cheese, I poorly left it to try last so by then the cheeses had hardened. Nonetheless, it was still delicious and contained a significant amount of high quality ingredients with each slice having an even coverage of all items.
  

A table favourite was the diavola pizza ($15). With a fair amount of fresh red hot chilies and slices of spicy soppressata there was a definite heat to it. But, it was toned down with thick pieces of fior de latte and basil. The pizza’s flavour was well balanced and enjoyable. The crust was thin, soft, crispy and could easily be held; a product of being quickly cooked in an exceedingly hot pizza oven. Despite the fair amount of sauce on the diavola, the crust didn’t get soggy at all and retained the chewiness you’d want from a nice dough.


To end, we shared a roasted pine nut and honey cake ($9). Served warm it is similar to pecan pie except lighter. If only the shortbread crust was thinner and there was more filling it would have been perfect. Normally I love the floral essence of lavender but F’Amelia put way too much of it into the lavender cream; it literally tasted like I was eating hand cream or soap and should be left off the dish.


F’Amelia redeemed itself with one of the best tiramisus ($9) I have had at a restaurant. Moist, creamy and containing enough espresso, the tiramisu was well balanced in its sweetness. Certainly the better of the two desserts for the night.

 

Past reviews I’ve read about F’Amelia claimed service was their one downfall with inexperienced staff and slow service. This has certainly improved with our waitress being knowledgeable, offering suggestions and overall attentive enough. Since we were by the wine wall, another waiter periodically came by and made friendly conversation, not hesitating to jump in when we wondered what certain elements of a dish would be. In the end, it was a good dinner. With the neighbourhood’s quiet surroundings and the connecting patio and wine bar, I sense F’Amelia would be a great summer time destination.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10

Like the blog? You can now follow me on twitter for notifications - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog

____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • - 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!

F'Amelia on Urbanspoon