Showing posts with label Hot pot. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hot pot. Show all posts

Hana Don Japanese Cuisine & Bar (Markham)


There’s something in the hospitality air lately - I have been receiving great service at restaurants I normally wouldn’t expect it from. It started as soon as I entered Hana Don, a lady advised a high-top table was available, but if I was willing to wait a few minutes there would be a more comfortable one she’d seat us at further into the restaurant. 


The friendly and helpful attitude continued throughout the evening and not just from one person but three great ladies: people came by to check on us, offered suggestions on how to best eat dishes, and the restaurant even provided plastic bags for customers to store their masks (we didn’t use them, but I finally had to ask what the cellophane bags were for). They even started us off with complimentary bowls of miso soup. Maybe they were just happy things were opened again and they could see people in-person, I hope the friendly attitude continues as it’s infectious and makes the dining experience so enjoyable.


 


Hana Don sells a huge variety of sushi by the piece, including katsuo a.k.a. bonito or skipjack tuna ($4 per piece), which isn’t a popular item elsewhere. There’s something about the meaty textured fish with the light smoke ring that makes for an interesting bite. At Hana Don it was a little fishier tasting than pieces I’ve had previously, but it also didn’t arrive with a glaze brushed onto the fish - the slightly sweet and salty barrier that balances the bonito flavours. They did try to temper the stronger fish with chopped scallions, it was nonetheless a decent bite to start off the meal.


 


What you’ll find missing from this post is a review of donburi, the focus of Hana Don’s menu. Sadly, it’s not a dish I enjoy. Don’t worry, these are described and reviewed ad nauseum on Yelp and Google so think of this post as helping you decide what other dishes to add on. The grilled black cod with sakiyo sauce ($16) was delicious – the flesh moist and flaky and the skin perfectly crisped. The thicker pieces helped to create a meaty tender portion and I liked that it was cut in two to make it easier to share. The sake miso sauce was nice and light without that blast of sweetness that can sometimes make it taste like you’re eating black cod with honey. Finishing the dish was a tube of pickled ginger, that I almost mistook as a straw, and was great for cleansing the palette.


 


If you’re hungry, go for the beef sukiyaki ($45) a huge pot filled with beef, mushrooms (meaty fresh shiitake, prince oyster mushrooms, and enoki), vegetables (bok choy, napa cabbage, and alfalfa sprouts), grilled tofu, and noodles. While the beef looks really marbled, once it’s cooked through it tastes lean and a bit tough so it’s best to eat the slices quickly. You round out the pot by cracking raw eggs into the sukiyaki broth and blending to create a slightly sweet egg drop soup. In retrospect, this was way too much food for two of us, so we left with full bellies and a doggy bag. They tried to warn us, but it’s such a good addition for a cold winter’s night.  


 


We might have been able to finish everything if we skipped the momo aburi oshizushi ($18) as there were a lot of pieces and each a fair size. Sandwiched between the sticky rice was a creamy tube of avocado and it’s all topped with salmon and a reserved portion of kewpie, which I preferred as when there’s too much mayo the rice becomes oily and heavy. An ingenious addition was the finely chopped cucumber and mango salsa garnish adding a lovely crunch and freshness to something that could be too heavy. 


 


Overall, our 7:30pm reservation allowed us to stay past two hours to leisurely eat and converse, and Hana Don did a good job at ensuring dishes came out in a good succession – we always had something to eat without having everything arrive at once. I hope this streak of amazing service continues as we all stay in the same good mood of being able to be out and eating/working again.

Overall mark - 8.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Markham, Canada
 Address: 9255 Woodbine Avenue
 Website: http://hanadon.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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CLOSED: Surely Up Vegetarian Hot Pot (Richmond Hill)

During the winter months, I’m constantly craving a good hot pot meal. A bowl of boiling broth in front of me releasing an umami aroma, ingredients slowly being cooked, and voila a make-and-eat dinner is borne. There are abundant hot pot options across the GTA, both a la carte and all-you-can-eat (AYCE), but Surely Up Vegetarian Hot Pot is the first one I’ve found that’s completely meatless. 


It’s also the first one that has their ingredients presented on a conveyor belt, so you don’t need to try and flag down a staff member to get an extra order of anything – except for desserts as those seem to be slow to make it onto the belt.


The dining room is small but space is efficiently used. About twenty seats are placed in an oval around the conveyor belt, with a large mesh bag (for jackets) and a small shelf (for bags and phones) situated underneath the bar table. It makes you feel like you’re dining in Japan.


Up until end of February of the 2019-2020 holiday season, Surely is encouraging people to go vegetarian by offering a special $19.99 AYCE rate that includes a choice of soup base (mushroom or tomato), sauces, iced tea, and plum juice. It’s a fairly good deal from the regular $21.99, which includes the soup, but there’s an additional $1 for sauces and extra for drinks. In either case, if you want to go for the rare precious mushroom broth, it’s an additional $5.99.


In reality, there’s already tons of mushrooms spinning around as hot pot ingredients that you could easily make your own fungi broth. Grab anything you want from the conveyor and if you’re not sure what it is, underneath the dishes lies a sticker with the ingredient’s name. There are a few items where there’s an extra cost, these are clearly marked.


We mixed and matched to our heart’s content – tons of vegetables (oh watercress my beloved leafy green), mushrooms (enoki and shemeji goes so nicely with the broth), and even some mock meat for good measure (the mock shrimp balls and colourful dumplings were both good).


If you’re really hungry as you’re waiting for things to cook, there’s even a selection of ready-to-eat items such as warm tea eggs (these need a bit of extra flavouring added on) and mock duck floating around.


For me, the best part of the meal is tucking into a steaming bowl of noodles, at the end, and drinking the cooking broth with the noodles. The soup condenses down and is teeming with flavours. The frozen knife cut noodles at Surely is a nice change from the typical udon or instant noodles (although these are offered as well).

However, the worst part of the experience is all the plastic wrap being used to cover each and every dish – talk about a waste for a restaurant that’s encouraging people to go meatless! Of course, Surely needs to make sure things are hygienic, but the majority of the ingredients need to be cooked in scalding boiling water anyways, so it really doesn’t need to be covered. For the rest, they should invest in reuseable plastic domes to protect the plates. In fact, it’s the guilt of discarding all this plastic wrap that discourages me from visiting Surely Up more often.



Nonetheless, what I like most about hot pot is being able to spend time slowly catching up with a loved one. There’s no waiting around for ordering or dishes to arrive, and you eat at your own pace. Having hot pot is such a warming tradition that makes the winter months a bit more bearable.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Richmond Hill, Canada
 Address: 420 Highway 7


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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CLOSED: Spicy Mafia (Markham)


Before the holiday season who really needs all you can eat? I don't know about you, but with a month of copious consumption ahead, I know my limits. So many hot pot restaurants drives consumers towards over eating with the promise of bringing dish after dish of whatever you want (within a two hour limit). Sure, sometimes you want to stuff your face, but on other occasions, it’s nice to just enjoy a meal without worrying about getting your money’s worth.

Spicy Mafia is a new hot pot establishment. From the owners of Morals Villages, an aforementioned AYCE, their limited portions will allow you to enjoy the bubbling pot without spending too much time or calories.

It’s a simple concept, you choose from a standard list of items. First, the all-important soup base: most are $12.99 with the exception of the ultra-hot exclusive spicy version that’s a $1 more. Having tried the milder signature “ma lat” spicy soup, it already had me downing water and soon left the tongue numb. Perhaps I’m a light weight as the waiter noted they've had to tone it down for the "north American" palette.


Personally, I prefer the house made pork bone, which consists of a strong bone broth essence and goes nicely with the noodles after being infused with the other ingredients. They also have a tomato version of the pork bone, for those who want an extra vitamin boost.

Then you have a choice of ingredients:
  • A starch - vermicelli, rice noodle, instant noodles, rice or Japanese udon (for an extra $1). The rice vermicelli is my go-to as it resists getting overly soggy;  
  • A meat - lamb, pork or beef; and
  • Two dipping sauces from a choice of eight items.
Afterwards, every person gets a standard bowl of fixings: spam, imitation crab, Hong Kong style red sausage, a shrimp, tofu puff, napa cabbage, lettuce, lotus root, a small cob of corn, seaweed and enoki mushrooms.


Overall, the meat is rather skimpy with a mere five slices, while the other proteins (spam and red sausage) fine but not the typical ones I’d choose (where are the fish balls)?


If you only order the standard package, you’ll likely leave hungry. However, there’s the option to add on additional items – most $1.50 a serving with the exception of meats that are $2.50. In the end, even if you need a few more, the meal shouldn’t be too expensive (compared to $30 price tag Morals will set you back). Plus, you won’t feel guilty about over indulging. After all, sometimes you just need to show restraint and not leave in a food coma. 


Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Markham, Canada
 Address: 20 Gibson Drive

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:





CLOSED: Morals Village (Markham)

Morals Village


If you’ve never tried dining at an all-you-can-eat hot pot restaurant, I can best describe the experience through the senses. Starting with the sounds you’ll hear: after settling there’s the frenzied ordering as diners chime out the ingredients they want, “For sure we need beef, wontons, fish balls, shrimp, pork, tofu, udon … oh and some vegetables - watercress and spinach please!”


The staccato ordering will be followed by an impatient hum as individuals wait for everything to arrive and the pot to soup to come to life with the bubbling steam. At Morals Villages, they run as a well-oiled machine. On both visits, as soon as all guests arrived our order was quickly taken, pots whisked out shortly thereafter and given their personal sizes didn’t take long to reach cooking temperature.

With eleven soup bases ($2.50 - $8), some with three levels of spiciness and the split feature ($3.50 for two choices), deciding can be difficult.


Personally, I prefer the neutral ones (such as chicken broth) given you can always add flavours through the plethora of sauces. Which leads me to the varied tastes you’ll experience: the metallic tang from the quickly poached beef; the saltiness of the soy, nuttiness of the sesame paste or spiciness of the sha cha sauce; and you can’t forget the wonderful unami essence of the soup after all the ingredients meld together.


Weekday pricing at Morals is as follows: $25.99 for adults, $19.95 for seniors and $13.95 for those under 13. An extra $2 per person is charged for weekends and holidays. Of course, you also have to add on the price of the soup.

Additionally, there are tons of upgrades such as an extra $3/person to switch from regular rib eye slices to the Angus short rib. Having tried both you can taste the difference from the short rib – the meat more flavourful especially with the ribbon of thin lard running throughout. Yet, it’s not astronomically changed so the regular rib eye tastes perfectly delicious.


For those who really want a feast there are luxury ingredients sold individually such as Alaska snow crab legs ($19 for 8), abalone ($6 each) or fresh oysters ($3 each). The “deal” would be their special platter ($9), which consists of 5 slices of wagyu short rib, 5 slices of Kagoshima pork and 6 tiger shrimp skewers.  

Even the tablescapes at Moral are a sight to behold - the wonderful contrast from the soups and ingredients popping against the black background (see title photo). There’s also the lovely hues from Morals limited dessert menu: green tea ice cream or golden deep fried buns with creamy condensed milk for dipping.  


However, the experience is best described by how you feel at the end: the warm fullness that hugs your body or the dewy glow on the skin from the free facial that occurs throughout the meal. For me, it’s the memories of past experiences that’s the most precious.

Inevitably, it’s my first hot pot encounter that’s the most vivid: seated around the kitchen table with just my parents and immersing food into a simple bone broth. There wasn’t a hundred ingredients to choose from yet the dozen we laid out already seemed like a lot. Indeed, the large shared electric red pot took much longer to heat up than the quick mini induction ones at Morals.

The laid back pace of hot pot makes me remember something that holds true for all dining experiences - it’s not necessarily about what you eat, but who you share it with.  

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 8333 Kennedy 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!


Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this: