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

Amal for Lunch (Toronto)

Perched over Bloor Street, Amal’s dining room is an oasis of calm with coastal tones and lattice walls coaxing me to stay for a leisurely lunch. Indeed, if the timing allowed, I could lounge there for an entire afternoon - with no pressure to order and eat quickly, Amal gives you the luxury of time to relax and enjoy.

Everyone seems to start with a cold mezze sampler platter ($27), three large mounds of prettily adorned dips where we opted for baba ghanoush, garlic labneh, and the lesser-known muhammara. The later is a zesty concoction made from a base of fire-roasted red peppers spiked with spices and diced walnuts that creates a bit of texture.

The muhammara a stark contrast against the cool and creamy labneh where toum (a garlic sauce) and mint tones down the acidity of the yoghurt while giving it an extra boost of flavour. Still, I enjoyed the more traditional baba ghanoush the most where the roasted eggplant with thick and pronounced, just lightly seasoned with lemon and tahini.

While their skewer platter arrives with a thick hummus, I found the garlic labneh went perfectly with the chicken tawok ($22 for full platter, pictured in the post is an extra skewer added on for a lesser price). The morsels of grilled chicken breast were juicy with a faint herb and garlic finish, but the creamy labneh just gave it an extra burst of flavour, like a milder and creamier tzatziki.

Yet, what made us swoon was the beef tenderloin skewer ($24), the outer cubes cooked a perfect medium rare that seemed to cut like butter.  They were great on their own, with a sprinkle of the chopped grilled onions and parsley, or even with a smear of baba ghanoush. The kitchen should consider leaving space between the cubes of beef as I did find the inner cubes too rare, likely since they had less contact with the grill.

With a choice of rice or fries, our waiter smartly suggested the spuds since they’d be easier to share. The potato wedges were wonderfully hot and crispy but could use a bit more seasoning. Luckily, we had plenty of dip remaining to dunk the fries into.

I have a feeling that the front-of-the-house and kitchen are in close communications, customizing the experience to the diners. The pace of our meal was timed perfectly, with the main hitting the table just as we had slowed on the mezze and was focused more on wine and conversation instead. Beside us, a group of business diners, who were eating more ferociously, saw the procession of dishes speed up. At Amal, the diners seem to dictate the pace of the meal, which is merely a mark of great hospitality. 

Overall mark - 8 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 131 Bloor Street West

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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
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  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!

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Hornito and Sauza Tequila's Cinco De Mayo Event

Until Hornitos and Sauza tequila invited me to participate in their Cinco De Mayo event ($20 including five drink tickets and all the food), I had limited knowledge on the May 5th celebration other than it being a festive day filled with sombreros, tacos and tequila – a party day not unlike St. Patrick’s!

Aside from the parties, it’s seen as a day for participants to embrace the Mexican culture and the delights they’ve gifted the world. It wasn’t until educating myself on Wikipedia about Cinco De Mayo’s significance that I discovered it’s really a holiday to commemorate the day General Ignacio Zaragoza lead the Mexican army to win the Battle of Puebla. The army was poorly equipped to fight against French forces, so when they experienced victory, the day was used to symbolize unity and perseverance of the underdog. What a great representation!

Since the LCBO led event was my first time observing Cinco De Mayo I didn’t know what to expect, other than being warned there’d be PLENTY of tequila! We arrived early and were treated to delicious cocktails including a guided DIY citrusy Paloma and a scrumptious professionally created mango margarita.

The sit down Hornitos tequila tasting was eye opening: I sampled the mixer friendly Plata, sipping quality Reposado and the Black Barrel, which was oaky and fragrant – if you enjoy Scotch or whiskey this is the tequila with the peatiness you’d enjoy.

Hornito's Black Barrel tequila

Luckily, Valdez was also preparing a number of Latin eats to balance the alcohol. The empanadas were a highlight, its crispy fluffy corn meal crust stuffed with plenty of spiced minced beef studded with potato.

Valdez: empanadas

On every table were bowls of chips with creamy guacamole and salsa, the typical tortilla chips expanded to include crispy plantain, yucca, taro, corn and potato varieties.

Valdez: chips, guacamole, salsa, mango margaritas

It was difficult, but we nabbed the fragrant seared beef skewers we saw circulating the restaurant. It was worth loitering around the open kitchen, the sticks of meat flavourful, piping hot and juicy.

Valdez: grilled beef skewers

There were other eats: messy spicy hot chicken wings in a slightly sweet BBQ sauce and salty chorizo tacos topped with peppers, onions, goat cheese and chipotle mayo. All doing their magic to keep the tequila at bay.  

Valdez: chorizo tacosValdez: BBQ chicken wings

Little did I know this event would be my last chance to eat at Valdez’s starter restaurant. Shortly after the event, the 606 King West location was shuttered as the restaurant moves to a larger four-floor space down the block. The food was good, I could definitely be convinced to return.  

At the end of the evening, participants left with a loot bag filled with Paloma mix (that I swiftly used that weekend), a comfy Hornitos skull t-shirt, cool sphere ice cube molds, and a recipe booklet, all in a trusty LCBO bottle separating carrier bag.

Thank you Hornitos and Sauza for introducing me the holiday’s traditions. Until next year, Feliz Cinco De Mayo!

Disclaimer: I attended the event on a complimentary basis. Rest assured, as noted in my mission statement, I will provide an honest opinion. 

How To Find Them
 Location: Valdez in Toronto, Canada
 Address: 606 King Street West

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