Showing posts with label beef. Show all posts
Showing posts with label beef. Show all posts

Zen Sanuki Udon (Toronto)



While many Japanese noodle shops are small and cozy, Zen Sanuki Udon is palatial with a spacious and airy dining area. To the point they could add more tables given they’re at capacity so quickly – pretty much every table was filled when they opened at 5:30pm. More seats shouldn’t detract from service levels: they employ a lot of staff so that food arrives at a quick clip and there’s always people standing around waiting to serve.

Speed is important when you’re selling noodles in broth. At this Zen location, their menu is based around hand-made sanuki udon from the Shikoki region, which is square-shaped and thinner compared to the cylindrical thick ones found elsewhere.

I expected springy chewy noodles, but they arrived fairly soft for udon. If anything, they tasted like the hand-pulled noodles found at the neighbouring Magic Noodle, which while not terrible is also a dime-a-dozen in the Markham area.


The ebi-ten udon ($16) allows diners to try the dashi broth made with a combination on konbu, bonito flakes, and dried baby sardines in a neutral form. Not surprisingly, there’s a rich umami flavour and it’s just salty enough without becoming overwhelming.

But then they ruined by broth by throwing in so many tempura bits that as you’re sipping the hot soup, every mouthful is filled with mushy batter. A spoonful would have been fine, but it seemed like there was equivalent tempura bits to noodles. As much as I commend chefs who use food scraps to eliminate waste, they should serve them in a separate bowl so diners can add it to broth themselves.

Bits of lemon zest adds a refreshing element to the udon, but the citrusy taste could also be strange for some customers, especially if you’re hoping for soup that’s really hearty and savoury. Who knows, perhaps it’s just something they include during the summer months to lighten everything?

The tempura was kept separate and arrived hot and crispy. While the shrimp a good size and deliciously sweet, I would have liked a light sprinkling of salt on everything as the vegetables were bland so you had to dip it into the broth, rendering the crispy crust soggy, to add flavour.


Their beef udon ($17) is like having bulgogi with udon, the meat thinly shaven and even has the same marinated sweetness. Call me a traditionalist, but it’d be much better if the beef was served in thick slices, similar to the pork shoulder cut you find with ramen.


Large portions is something you won’t find at Zen; if you don’t have a light appetite, add the $3 to upsize the bowl. Even their sides are miniscule: the kamo (duck) roast ($14) only had five slices, which is surprisingly when the actual duck udon already contains four pieces. It’s a satisfactory side, the freshly grated wasabi a lovely addition, but the actual duck could be more flavourful and less chewy.

 

With Zen’s history of serving solid Japanese cuisine, their soft noodles, over garnished broth, and puny portions is rather disappointing. Which is dangerous since udon seems to be the next “it noodle” opening across the city. With competition, there are better options, in my opinion, to tuck back a bowl.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 3720 Midland Avenue

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
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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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Kinship (Washington)


Kinship is a restaurant where they want diners to feel connected. There are aspects to the environment that help: a quiet atmosphere so you can actually have a conversation; and the tables are narrow enough that you’re physically closer to each other. Of course, the act of breaking bread already creates a connection. Especially, if dishes are shared amongst the table - there’s a “for the table” section of the menu dedicated to this.

It’s also a Michelin starred restaurant that doesn’t feel stuffy. You feel welcomed in jeans and they actually offer an à la carte menu with enough choices that you don’t feel forced into a tasting option. They’ll walk you through the menu’s layout, the dishes arrange into sections such as ingredient, indulgence, craft, tradition, and for the table. Truthfully, I don’t remember the nuances of the segments other than tradition is the historical favourites.

The best dish of the night was a “craft” selection. The short shell crab tempura ($24) was stuffed with a bit of herb puree, delicately battered and cooked to perfection. The batter was crispy but seasoned with just enough flavour to not cover the crab. With the seafood being so hot, the coolness of the relish made from garlic chives, shiitake, chili pepper and jicama was such a great contrast – refreshing and spicy. 


Having worked at the French Laundry and Per Se, Chef Eric Ziebold is no stranger to sauces. You’ll find a variety of them used in the spring chickpea falafel ($16) dish: a light yoghurt lebneh, rouille mousee, and a bright cucumber vierge. You’ll need these sauces as the falafel itself, albeit a fluffy texture, doesn’t stand out much in terms of taste.


Meanwhile, the cauliflower terrine ($15) is thick and remarkably tastes like chicken liver mousse. Yet, the accompanying crunchy carrot and fennel salad was much too sweet and didn’t really add to the dish. A long lentil cracker covers the plate, but with the richness of the terrine you really needed more than one.


The chilled ponzu braised celtuce ($16) is a love it or hate it dish, which for me fell into the later camp. The main ingredient, the celtuce (a celery lettuce) was sparse and so fried that it could have been any leafy green. The crunchy daikon slices were the most prominent taste and sadly the rice cakes were hard cubes of rice (not unlike a stale sushi pizza) instead of the chewy Korean rice cakes I was expecting.


Luckily, the meal ended off strong with a huge slab of grilled piri piri beef ($74). With different thicknesses along the tri tip, it naturally creates a selection of meat with varying doneness. Like it medium? The middle piece is for you! A bit more well done? Go for an end piece. While the cut of meat is a bit leaner than I normally like, it’s nonetheless flavourful and tender.


It’s stunning to look at as well, sitting on a bed of bright braised yucca studded with sweet peppers and carrots. For some extra flavour apply a liberal spoon of the red chili chimichurri, it’s delicious. A bowl of creamy polenta also come with the dish – silky and creamy it’s made even better with, you got it, more chimichurri.


If that isn’t enough, warm house-made Parker house rolls sits on the side. They are soft and buttery, eat them while they’re hot.


As my first dinner in Washington, Kinship was decent but lacked the well-rounded impressiveness of other Michelin restaurants. The soft shell crab was absolutely delicious, but then the celtuce is such a bipolar dish that didn’t really excite the table (except with one guest). Yet, Kinship is centrally located and as Michelin starred restaurants go, offers an affordable menu with a fair number of options. And that first meal, did make me feel more connected with my colleagues before the start of the conference. I guess Kinship achieved its purpose.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Washington, USA
 Address: 1015 7th Street NW

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:

  • Succotash
  • Oyamel Cocina Mexicana

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

BlueBlood Steakhouse (Toronto)


If you haven’t visited Casa Loma lately, you’ll be surprised by how much has changed. Once a destination for tourists, elementary school trips, and weddings, the attraction now houses an escape room and BlueBlood Steakhouse, a sprawling restaurant occupying three rooms on the main floor. When an eatery is set in a castle, there’s undoubtedly opulence and the price points to match. At BlueBlood, staff gush about the caviar and wagyu tasting flight, menu items that not every average non-noble can afford.


Even with steaks as mains, we started with the prime steak tartare ($26). For raw meat, it was surprisingly tender and despite the dish incorporating cured duck egg and house made pickles, the tartare was mellow tasting. The only disappointment was the for-show-only bone marrow; the tartare didn’t seem to incorporate any of the ingredient.


It’s unclear whether the restaurant forms the crab cakes differently depending on the number of people sharing the dish - the jumbo lump crab cake ($24) ended up arriving as three, making it much easier to split - kudos to the kitchen if there is that level of customization! This would help explain why the crab cakes were rather thin, which results in an oily starter since there’s so much breadcrumb coating. While it would help if they were drained better, the fresh hot cakes were good, especially with a smear of the light dill aioli.


For a steakhouse, their steak selection isn’t the greatest. While the menu includes a lot of high end options such as wagyu and shared cuts like a tomahawk, there’s not that many reasonably priced personal-sized portions. For my favourite cut of steak, the ribeye, BlueBlood only offered three choices with none in the dry-aged category. Settling on the 14oz wet aged Erin, Ontario ribeye ($65), it was tender and flavourful, but would be even better if it were a smaller thicker cut. While lying on the hot plate, the thin steak soon became medium in the middle and well done on the edges.


At first, the 16oz dry aged centre cut striploin ($75) tasted great given it had such a rich flavour from being dry aged. But, after two slices the ultra-lean beef soon became chewy and heavy. Personally, I find lean cuts, like striploin, aren’t the best for dry aging. The evaporation of moisture causes the beef to toughen, albeit concentrating the flavour.




Perhaps, this is a cut that benefits from a sauce. We chose to forgo them and rely on the salt selection instead – the smoked salt goes particularly well with everything.


While petite in size, the 8oz barrel cut Nebraska filet ($65) was tasty with its strong beefy flavour. Given the filet is another lean cut, it was suitably wet aged and remained tender. Truthfully, while the steak looked dwarfed compared to our other choices, the portion was adequate; especially if you’re ordering appetizers and dessert, you won't leave feeling glutinous.


Trust me, you'll want the sides, especially the lobster mac ‘n’ cheese ($20) where the pasta was done perfectly and the cream sauce not overly thick so remained molten throughout the meal. The dish incorporated enough lobster to go around and I went back for seconds and thirds.  The garlic mashed potato ($14) was also silky without relying too heavily on cream, the garlic essence was present but restrained. I could have done without the cheddar espuma sauce that accompanied the broccolini ($16), since all the other dishes were already so rich… at least it was kept to the side so there were plenty of plain roasted pieces to choose from.


The baked Alaska ($28) for two could easily feed four, a honking rectangle of Neapolitan ice cream covered with sponge cake, Prosecco ice, and meringue.


My first and only experience with this flaming concoction was as a child on a cruise ship, therefore to see the rum being poured from pot-to-pot before setting the dessert ablaze brought back memories of my youth. Is it the yummiest dessert? Probably not, you order it for the show and if you want a boozy adult ice cream cake.

Thank you Parv for these amazing photos
Before leaving for the evening, a box of Avoca dark chocolate caramel truffles arrives, in the shape of sapphires. For some, diamonds are a girl’s best friend; for me, at a steakhouse, it’s a nice piece of ribeye.


Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 1 Austin Terrace (in Casa Loma)

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:


BlueBlood Steakhouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Potman Hotpot (Toronto) 锅匠火锅

If you’re lucky enough to live in Toronto, you’re probably experiencing the cold touch from Mother Nature like the rest of the city. Of course, you could complain and hibernate, or rather embrace the Canadian mantra and go out there and have fun! Alas, me and winter activities requiring balance will never align, so I take the opportunity to indulge in hotpot instead.

Potman Hotpot is a new entrant and thanks to a BlogTO video has attracted a host of visitors – arrive before 6pm or make a reservation to avoid standing uncomfortably in their non-existent waiting area. The video showcases the meal to be a feast, which of course is possible, but you’ll pay for it as Potman is not all-you-can-eat.

Take the time to thoroughly go through their two-page menu as there’s a lot to choose from, starting with a choice of nine broths. If you’re indecisive, the split pot allows you to choose two flavours ($5.99 for small or $9.99 for large); financially, the large one doesn’t necessarily save much unless you’re sharing amongst more than two people.

For my first visit, I split the pot between homemade pork bone soup, which surprisingly incorporates a host of Chinese herbs resulting in a smooth creamy finish, and sweet tomato ox bone soup. In the future, I’ll stick with just the tomato broth (by itself $4.99 for small or $8.99 for large) as it adds a lovely flavour to all the ingredients so sauces aren’t even necessarily required.


Nonetheless, each person will be charged $0.49 for condiments, but allows them to mix-and-match from 19 items. Overall, what’s provided is sufficient, but Potman should consider giving the soy sauce in a pourable container (rather than the actual dipping dish) as after a few dunks the broth already starts to dilute everything.


While you can opt for a seafood platter, without a description of what comes with the dish it seemed safer to order the items we enjoy most. The shrimp ($5.99) was relatively good value with six large ones to an order… much better than the jumbo scallop ($2.99), which is essentially one scallop cut in half. Moreover, the small scallop pieces tended to get lost in the broth and became overcooked.


Most diners opted for the meat platter, but being carnivores, we stuck with single orders of the Angus beef ($6.99), pork ($4.99), and ox tongue ($6.99). My first time trying tongue in hotpot, I enjoyed the fattier cut that creates a flavourful bite – perhaps an alternative to the luxurious wagyu that costs $14-$50 a portion.


Where a platter works is for the vegetarian items ($7.49 for choice of 5 items) and the meat balls ($7.99 for a mix of 15) given Potman allows diners to choose what’s included in the mix. For the vegetarian items, you don’t get a lot with the leafy greens since they take up so much space, but for compact ingredients like wintermelon it’s a sizeable portion (these are also great for hotpot since they can be forgotten in the broth without ruining the vegetable’s texture).


For the meat balls there’s a choice of handmade or regular – I went with the regular machine-produced version and they were still very good. The cheese ball was our hands down favourite, very unique and I loved how after biting through the springy crust there’s a creamy molten cheese centre that’s enhanced with a sweet corn flavour. Their shrimp ball is also different holding shrimp roe in the centre – just be careful biting into it given the juices are hot and will squirt out.


Another one of my go-to ingredients is the fish tofu ($2.99), at Potman theirs is smooth while incorporating a rich fish flavour. The fish noodles ($1.49) isn’t the squeeze from a bag version, but rather comparable to wonton noodles with a chewier finish. While still tasty, the fish flavour is mild and somewhat lost if you add broth. Personally, I enjoyed the udon ($1.49), especially with the piece of ox tail accompanying the tomato soup base, it cooks relatively quickly without becoming mushy and goes so well with the tomato broth. On the other hand, the Korean rice cake ($1.49) breaks apart too easily and gets mushy in a matter of minutes.


While ordering a feast can get expensive - our indulgence costed $50 a person including taxes and gratuities (although to be fair we over ordered) - not being all-you-can-eat means staff have more time for service. Our food came out very quick (even add-ons) and our pots were constantly refilled to avoid it drying out. The service was excellent compared to other hotpot establishments. Moreover, there isn’t the pressure to stuff yourself silly, although with all the choices, that can still be difficult. 

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 633 Silverstar Boulevard

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:

 Potman Hotpot Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ (Toronto)


With so many Japanese restaurants with a rendition of Gyu or Guu in their name, keeping them separate can be confusing. At the corner of Church and Jarvis, sits Gyu-Kaku that’s more barbeque house than izakaya… it also has nothing to do with the popular Vancouver chain. Instead, Gyu-Kaku is part of a 650-restaurant worldwide franchise (though none located in Japan), started in LA.

Although their menu focuses heavily on barbequed proteins, there are also a number of izakaya-like dishes on their a la carte menu. If you’re indecisive, choose from the “BBQ course” meals available - we went with the meat lovers for two ($60). With “meat lovers” in the title, you’d expect there to be tons of protein. Served in two stages, based on cooking time, it’s a smart way to avoid overcooking the meat. The first round included yaki-shabu beef, toro beef, and kalbi chuck short rib. With these thinner cuts, we were advised to cook them 30-60 seconds per side.


Since the yaki-shabu is the thinnest, these were done in no time. Depending on the slice, they were a bit chewy, given the brisket is also rather lean. Despite the thick layer of fat on the toro, it was also a tougher cut of beef, but as you chew through it, the melted fat covers the tongue mixing with the sweet caramelized glaze to create a lovely sauce. Meanwhile, the kalbi is a combination of the two, my favourite of the bunch.

All the meat arrives marinated and flavourful. However, if it’s not strong enough or you want to change the flavour profile, bottles of sweet, spicy (really sweet and spicy), and ponzu (slightly sour) dipping sauces are also available at every table.


As we reach the finishing point, a second helping of meat arrives including bistro-hanger steak, New York steak, and spicy pork. These thicker cuts require up to two minutes per side – since we’re getting full, waiting longer is a welcomed break. Taking the longest to cook, the thick slices of New York steak are good, but should have a peppery coating instead to give it that charbroiled taste. Meanwhile, the spicy pork definitely had a kick, which sort of sneaks up on you and gets you at the back of the throat before you realize what’s happening.


By far, our favourite protein was the bistro-hanger steak. It’s tender, juicy, and has a real full-bodied flavour. While good on its own or with a bite of over-watered sticky rice, I particularly enjoyed the hanger steak tucked into a piece of lettuce salvaged from the salad.

There were a few vegetable dishes included in the meal, but it’s not a lot. To start, a bowl of Gyu-Kaku salad - leafy green lettuce topped with shredded daikon and a creamy miso dressing. During the meal came a bowl of hot salty edamame and a foil packet of corn that’s re-heated on the grill. We also added on an order of kim chee ($4) to the dinner, since the crunchy spicy cabbage goes so well with barbequed meat.



As if there wasn’t already enough protein, an order of chicken karaage accompanies the meal; the deep fried nuggets of chicken really juicy and not too heavy given they’re only dusted with a light coating of flour.


To end, a scoop of ice cream (green tea, vanilla, or black sesame) - the coldness a welcomed respite after the hot barbeque meal.

The restaurant is a little warm, but thankfully not smoky. Gyu-Kaku uses a special grill that sucks the smoke into the bottom of the table and out through a vent; even with over a dozen of them in use, the restaurant was relatively smoke-free and I left not reeking of cooked meat. Staff are also regularly replace the metal grill plate (ours was changed three times), which also cuts down on the smoke and ensures the later slices of meat don’t have burnt pieces of sauce on them.

Compared to traditional Korean barbeque restaurant, Gyu-Kaku’s service is impeccable; staff checked in at regular intervals, we never had to ask someone to re-fill our water or bring more sauce. Gyu’s yakiniku dining is quite enjoyable. Thanks to the comfortable spacious tables and ingenious smoke sucking equipment, I can get my fill of grilled meats without smelling like it.     

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 81 Church 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:


Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato