Showing posts with label Fine dining. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fine dining. Show all posts

Scaramouche Restaurant (Toronto)


Yes, you’re in the right place. It seems wrong, as you pull up to an apartment building, but Scaramouche is located in the corner of Benvenuto Place. From the outside, it seems like an odd location for a restaurant, let alone one that has operated in Toronto for almost four decades. Yet, when you make your way into the dining room and are greeted with the view of the city’s midtown parklands and skyline, the residential neighbourhood is forgotten.


Tip back the shot of chilled celery and parsley soup and it certainly feels like you’re in a restaurant… slightly creamy before ending with a spicy horseradish kick. Equally refreshing are the half a dozen oysters ($30), freshly shucked with a bit of the red wine mignonette.


It’s hard to describe Scaramouche’s menu, possibly Canadian with European influences. These elements came together with the gnocchi ($25), a special for the day, combining in-season white asparagus and wild leeks. It was a fantastic starter! The creamy gnocchi well toasted in a golden crust and huge chunks of duck confit strewn throughout, enough that a larger portion can easily make this a main. Lastly, pieces of spongy morels, adding a different texture and soaking in the delicious duck jus.   


Unbeknownst to me, my order of roasted St. Canut suckling pig ($43) was replaced with a seared Nagano pork loin ($38). I wish they would have informed me of the change as when you expect something capped with crispy crackling skin, the medallion was an instant disappointment. Note to the restaurant: always inform your customers of replacements, I would have gone with the duck instead.


While the dish didn’t wow me like the starter, it’s a solidly constructed plate.  The meaty piece of perfectly cooked pork paired well with the traditional trimmings: luscious parsnip purée and lightly pickled apple. The fingerling potatoes are sautéed with bacon to give it an extra zip.

On the other hand, a taste of my husband’s lamb ($49) left me wanting more. The tender chops were crusted with an herby salsa verde to keep it light. Every element of the plate – peeled cherry tomatoes, crunchy beans, and a lemony eggplant purée was enticingly refreshing and bright, screaming of warmer weather even though Mother Nature wasn’t completely agreeing with us. Forget the typical heavy lamb with gravy and potatoes, Scaramouche’s interpretation is exactly what I want.


For dessert, their coconut cream pie ($14) is well known. Three distinct layers of sweet coconut custard, light chantilly cream, and tons of white chocolate shavings – so much that it had to be swept to the side. In comparison to the rest of the pie, the crust it thin and delicate, but still incorporated enough butter that even a bit of the crispy pastry with the cream was delicious. This is a pie for coconut lovers as the custard contained A LOT of it.


I welcomed bits of savouriness from my husband’s cheese plate ($16) to balance out the sweet dessert. The Wookey Hole cheddar is described as being aged in lime stone caves in Somerset, England, where it’s said to take on an earthy taste. Truth be told, I couldn’t distinguish any mineral elements, but it was flavourful, without being overpowering, and had a light nuttiness.


The cheddar was balanced by a lighter 12-month Manchego from Spain where you taste the dairy while enjoying the harder slightly crumbly texture of the cheese. Of course, the cheese board arrives with typical condiments – interestingly a tomato chutney (instead of something fruit based), perhaps there was already enough fruit in the pear and cranberry bread crackers.

It’s taken me a while to make it out to Scaramouche. This year’s birthday seemed like an opportune time to finally make it out to the iconic fine dining establishment. Possibly, it was even a bit reassuring, since the restaurant is older than me. 

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 1 Benvenuto Place

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:

Scaramouche Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sushi Kaji (Toronto)


Before sushi became popular, when most people thought California rolls were the real deal, Mitsuhiro Kaji already started serving authentic offerings to those lucky enough for score one of the 30 seats in his quaint Etobicoke restaurant.  

After trying Yasu, Shoushin and Yunaghi, visiting Sushi Kaji, where Japanese fine dining in Toronto arguably began, was a pilgrimage that seemed important. Similar to the later two restaurants, Sushi Kaji’s omakase menus aren’t pure sushi; instead a mixture of small dishes and sushi - for an extra $30, they’ll also prepare a sashimi course.

Since it was our first visit, the takumi ($130) experience was in order. Instead of miso, Kaji presents a bowl of smoky butternut squash soup; a light consistency yet still incorporating a strong powerful flavour. While the broth was fantastic, the chicken meatball was rather neutral and needs to be enjoyed with the soup.


As the salads are presented, we’re advised the dressings are on the side so we can customize the potency of the flavours … of course, I ended up adding everything. Thankfully, the sugary sweetness of typical seaweed salads was missing, instead, Kaji pairs the seaweed with lemon miso that’s enhanced by slightly sweet radish slices.


Meanwhile, the daikon salad pays homage to the legendary Japanese knife skills – impossibly thinly sliced and crispy, so refreshing with a creamy sesame dressing.


The salad was a great cleanser before the sashimi. With a dusting of lemon rind on the sea bream and amberjack, the white neutral fish were refreshing. While both these fish are somewhat soft, the Spanish mackerel has a harder fleshy texture having a crunchiness to it, if fish could be crunchy.

Surprisingly, Kaji’s sashimi incorporates rich pieces of tuna belly, generally reserved for sushi, which melts in the mouth and best left as the last fish you’ll eat. The relatively large slices of octopus are tender, but left plain so you can still taste the seafood’s sweetness.


While the satsuma age, a deep fried seafood cake incorporating pieces of octopus and a slight zing from ginger, was tasty, it was the potato salad (yes, you heard right) that was outstanding. Instead of the typical chunks, Kaji shreds the starch into match sticks and mixes the potatoes with micro-fine diced onions, which really makes the side pop.


Lastly, before the sushi, a meaty plate of sautéed wagyu leaking its oily flavours onto the equally meaty oyster mushrooms. In the middle, were large chunks of soft braised short rib, lightened by a splash of chrysanthemum sauce. The dish was hearty and swoon worthy – momentarily silencing everyone at the bar except to sneak glances at how much their fellow guests were enjoying it.


Sitting at the bar allows you to witness Chef Mitsuhiro’s assembling skills. While the entertainment at other sushi bars is watching chefs deftly cut through fish like butter, when it comes to sushi at Kaji, the seafood is pre-sliced… hence why you’re really watching Mitsuhiro assemble the sushi piece-by-piece.

Nonetheless, it’s still an entertaining affair with the Chef’s elaborate gestures – with the salsa music in the background he could have been doing the flamingo with each arm flick. I was so entranced by the dance that I missed photographing the octopus – another slice of the tender flavourful protein, except in this case drizzled with olive oil and sprinkling of salt.

The following raw shrimp, in my opinion one of the worst ways to enjoy this seafood, wasn’t overly gummy as Kaji covered it with a lemony light cream sauce.  Yet, not cooking the shrimp does nothing to enhance its sweetness and the consistency raw shrimp is rather off-putting.

Tuna arrives next with the customary lean (akami) followed by the fatty belly cut (otoro) to highlight how the same fish can offer such different texture and tastes. The akami was a beautiful vibrant hue with a strong wasabi finish, while the otoro served whole (instead of chopped into little pieces) so you can really enjoy the marbling.


After a quick blowtorch to sear the top of the scallop, this piece was covered with melted butter with a strong kick of black pepper. Indeed, it’ll help mask any fishy tastes that the mollusk may have, but also covers up any of the scallop’s mild sweetness.


Surprisingly, after the octopus, Kaji also served calamari as well – in this case raw so there’s a sticky chewy texture, but very clean tasting. With raw ginger and finely sliced shiso leaf, it’s rather refreshing.


The following flounder (hirame) received a similar preparation with crushed shiso leaves topped with warmed olive oil and salt. A good tasting piece on its own, but too similar to the calamari. Sisho is such a strong herb, akin to a citrusy basil, that back-to-back it’s overpowering.


Unlike other high-end sushi establishment, at Sushi Kaji you do get a plate of soy cause and wasabi - rather than the chef swiping on the amount deemed optimal for each piece. Instead, Chef Mitsuhiro coaches diners on what to do (no soy or little soy). Still, some pieces, like the Japanese horse mackerel (aji) could really use a thicker soy and all the toppings makes it difficult to dip so would benefit from having a helpful swish from the chef.


The eel, heated through in the toaster oven with the sweet thick glaze, is absolutely delicious. Kaji tops it with lemon rind adding a great lightness to the otherwise richer sushi.


To end, a piece of spicy tuna maki. I commend the restaurant for trying to elevate such a common roll with chopped otoro without any of the dreaded tempura bits mixed throughout. It was certainly better, but the seaweed could be crispier (still rather chewy like the common versions) and the spicy mayonnaise also unexceptional.


Chef Mitsuhiro plays with different condiments, marrying Western and Asian elements, so you do get interesting tasting pieces at Sushi Kaji. However, a person can only enjoy so much olive oil and salt. Maybe I prefer sushi traditional, but I found oil and salt tasty with the scallop but really detracted from other items. The entire time I just wanted a swish of condensed sweet soy… where was it?!

So many chefs believe the most important part of sushi is its foundation – rice. Although Sushi Kaji’s rice is soft and creamy, it lacks the hit of vinegar I’ve grown to love. The temperature could also be warmer.    

Interestingly, the restaurant switches the tea before dessert for a lighter smoother blend. The sweets were pleasant but conventional: a scoop of vanilla ice cream on red bean paste and a run-of-the-mill gelatin textured panna cotta with chopped pears and shiso sorbet – someone really loves this herb!  


The restaurant’s bar seating arrangement is strange: despite there being empty chairs, they choose to sit everyone right beside the next couple instead of spacing everyone apart. Yet, for a first visit you need to sit at the bar, to fully immerse yourself in the experience. Just don’t expect any privacy.

Overall mark - 8 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 860 The Queensway

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:


Sushi Kaji Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Shoushin (Toronto)



Take it from a person who hated sushi as a teenager: quality ingredients and eating from the hands of a well-trained chef makes a HUGE difference. Having been introduced to “Japanese” cuisine in places like Memories of Japan or AYCE restaurants, I couldn’t understand why people enjoyed the spongy fleshy fish. But, it’s similar to expecting someone to like Mexican food after feeding them Taco Bell (no offense, the fries supreme is great, but the tacos? Not so much.)

Hence, when a Chef names a restaurant after the pursuit of craft, Shoushin translates to a Chinese phase signifying ‘a craftsman’s heart’, you know to expect a high caliber. Undeniably, my new found appreciation for the raw dishes have been cultivated after eating the real thing. Dining from the hands of a craftsman isn’t cheap, but just like having a fantastic steak, a good sushi meal should be reserved for special occasions.

Like other high-end sushi restaurants, Shoushin’s offers only omakase menus that changes based on ingredient availability and the chef’s whim. As a diner, you simply pick a price point ($80, $130, $160 or $250) and inform them about food allergies.

Wanting to try their sashimi, we opted for the Yuri ($130) menu. Consisting of two appetizers, sashimi, soup, sushi and dessert, it allowed us to sample a bit of everything.

The first appetizer, a tomato pod, showcased the artful plating that synonymous with Japanese cuisine. After the tomato’s juicy pulp is hollowed out, it’s used to make chilled agar-gar jelly noodles (a gelatin derived from algae). Topping the slick noodles were succulent pieces of East Coast Canadian crab; a dollop of tomalley added an extra richness. Completing the dish were cold asparagus and ponzu jelly, which made it a refreshing summer starter.

As the grating board was revealed and the wasabi root prepared, the anticipation started to build. We’re warned that the prized condiment shouldn’t be mixed into the soy sauce, instead you add a bit to the fish and then dip into the soy separately.


The sashimi was equally beautifully plated and with two slices of everything (except for the octopus), could be shared (Shoushin allows diners to choose different menus). Luckily, everything tasted as great as it looked (from left to right):

  • With bits of a chopped herb (could be shiso) topping the fluke (hirame) it was light and refreshing, slowly easing my taste buds into the meal.
  • The amberjack (kanpachi), while still delicate, had an almost creamy finish that’s really different from past experiences.
  • Although I couldn’t catch the Japanese name of the smaller fish, I could have sworn it was described as “chicken fish” in English. If it were, I could see how the name was derived as the fish’s skin had the chewy springy texture of a cold boiled chicken.
  • What a shame that there was such a small cube of the octopus. The tentacle was so flavourful and tender that I immediately wanted another taste.

Following the sashimi was a hot appetizer: a lovely sesame encrusted miso marinated black cod – just as flavorful and moist as the typical grilled version, but with a nutty crunch from the sesame coating. On the side, a pyramid of crown daisy vegetables, shredded carrots, and shiitake slivers mixed with tofu paste. I could have done without the side of vegetables as there’s a unique taste to the chrysanthemum greens that I’ve never acquired (also known as tung ho, it’s also frequently found in hot pot restaurants).


Before the sushi, a rich bowl of hot miso soup was presented. Earthier than the typical salty broth, it went nicely with Shoushin’s take on agedashi, which was was mixed with a glutinous flour so that the tofu had a chewy nutty bite.


Lastly, ten pieces of individually prepared sushi to finish off the meal – you will not leave hungry. Before getting into the heavenly ending, I must commend Shoushin on their overall client experience: their service attentive and friendly, but also incorporating small touches to ensure everyone is comfortable. For example, diners are presented with a thick wet napkin to wipe their fingers on after picking up the sushi, if they feel uneasy using their chopsticks to get the sushi from the counter (even I had to resort to picking up the red snapper).

The first bite of the intertwined slices of Japanese seabass (Suzuki) showcases Shoushin’s rice at its finest – warm, vinegary and a creamy consistency.


Although still good, the golden eye snapper (kinmedai) marinated in kelp would be even better if the skin was removed as I found it made the sushi chewy.


Chef Lin was quick to clarify that the next piece, butterfish (ibodai), was the real deal and not the manufactured escolar found in budget restaurants. Intrigued to try the real thing, I forgot to take a picture, but found that it was not buttery, rather having a light mellow finish. If anything, the striped jack (shima aji) should be renamed butterfish as it simply melted and was absolutely delicious for such an unassuming looking fish.


Shoushin’s tunas are out of this world in terms of creaminess: the lean cut (akami maguro) was velvety and flavourful; the medium (chutoro maguro) was equally luscious.


By the time the fatty tuna (otoro maguro) arrived, I was expecting butter heaven. Interestingly, the otoro was scraped into a paste and topped with sesame seeds, but was served a tad too cold so the fish’s oiliness and rich taste was rather muted.


The most surprising piece had to be the mackerel (aji). Despite not having a single green onion adorning the normally fishy sushi, Shoushin’s aji was clean and mild tasting, while still incorporating the meaty texture. It’s easy to make tuna taste good, but to heighten the mackerel to that level was astounding. Like his mentor, Chef Seiichi Kashiwabara from Zen, Chef Jackie Lin keeps his sushi simple and instead relies on the quality of the ingredients to shine through.


After having the Argentina shrimp (ebi), it seemed the sushi’s natural sweetness would have been a nice transition into dessert. So, it was a bit unexpected that the following hand roll would incorporate such a strong smoked tuna. Yet, it all worked and Lin’s perfectionist side was highlighted again as he encouraged us to eat it right away before the ultra-crispy nori became tough.


The customary sweet omelette (tamago) signaled the end of the sushi. Dense and incorporating a strong eggy aroma, I loved that you could see the layers of egg white and yolk to give it interest.


Normally, the desserts at upscale sushi restaurants are forgettable … assuming anything is even served. At Shoushin they have the customary ice cream – a house made roasted green tea version that’s okay but too icy. The matcha pudding, on the other hand, is fantastic with the smooth crème caramel like base, topped with sweet red bean paste, a chewy glutinous rice ball, apricot and an extremely strong matcha sauce. The dessert was delicious and different, a very satisfying end to the meal.


Although each menu can be accompanied with sake pairings, we found it’d be too much. Instead, the sake flight ($18) was the perfect amount – just enough to sip and try with the different foods.  


Overall, the dinner at Shoushin was impressive. Having already accomplished so much for a young chef, Chef Lin continues to strive to for perfection. When my husband commented on how delicious the rice was, our waitress passed along the compliment to Lin. His immediate reaction, without a smile, “It could be better” and went on to explain how the rice in Japan is aged for a year.


Make sure to get a seat at the sushi bar, it’s a wonderful opportunity to see the chefs at work and speak to Lin who divides his attention amongst everyone. Despite his serious nature, he even cracks jokes - after I commended the clean tasting aji, he kidded that he cleans it more than himself … immediately the entire bar erupts with laughter. What a surprising delight: having started as a stern fancy meal, it leaves me with a homey feeling and a full belly.

Overall mark - 9 out of 10 


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 3328 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:



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