Showing posts with label cocktails. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cocktails. Show all posts

Wolf in the Fog (Tofino)

When you visit Wolf in the Fog’s ‘About’ section on their website, the first write-up focuses on Tofino rather than on the chef or the restaurant. The “Who” comes afterwards, briefly speaking to the pack that leads the restaurant’s kitchen, front of the house, and bar. They don’t brag about being named Canada’s best restaurant by Enroute in 2014 or its current seat on Canada’s 100 Best (#48). Their laid-back attitude is likely a microcosm of being in Tofino, where everyone I met is so friendly and seemed to genuinely just love life.

It's hard to miss Wolf in the Fog’s two-floor building with its prominent location in the middle of downtown Tofino. The restaurant creates a great atmosphere, especially if you’re seated on the second floor, near the window and can also take in the view of Tofino’s harbour.

One glimpse of the glistening bar and I knew it would be a cocktail night for me. And with their ever-changing bar menu, it’s certainly an area they are focused on. The cockatiel ($16) sported a whimsical crest of citrus feathers and was refreshingly light compared to the stronger cedar sours that my friends ordered.

Thanks to a suggestion from our waiter, two of the sides acted as a great starter: spot prawns and garlic bread. The prawns ($18) swam in a garlicky butter and with the delicate shrimp deshelled, they were ready to snack on like a fancy popcorn shrimp. Its suggested pairing with garlic bread ($8) was unnecessary as between the bread and butter became too garlicky overtaking the sweetness of the prawn. Instead, I opted to have the shrimp first and saved the bread for dipping into the sauce. Trust me, you’ll still want a serving of the carbs, which was like a fluffy focaccia with crispy edges and plenty of shaved Parmesan on top.

The tornado rolls inspired presentation of the potato crusted oysters ($19 for 3) was unexpected, but a safe preparation for those who are squeamish of raw oysters. And since the shellfish was smoked, the dish seemed like it incorporated bacon despite not having any meat. Seriously, if I hadn’t seen the menu, I would have thought I was popping a bacon wrapped scallop tornado roll into my mouth.

We stuck with seafood even for the mains. The baked Tofino halibut ($48) was cooked well, although I could have done without the crispy breadcrumbs as it made the fish gritty. The accompanying gnocchi were a great chewy and soft consistency, smothered in a delicious zesty marinara mixed with chili and tapenade butter. While I’m not sure the gnocchi went particularly well with the halibut, each element was great on its own.

Although the pork belly in the Thai pork belly and clams ($38) could be softer, it was still tasty especially dipped in the yellow curry. As for the clams, despite being sizeable, the curry did cover its natural flavours but the shellfish itself was cooked nicely. Overall, I can’t help but think the dish is missing a fresh element. The sliver of bok choy was a start, but another herb or vegetable would have really pulled everything together.

We were blessed with a huge slice of the Basque cheesecake ($14) to finish. Given its height, I wasn’t surprised the cake’s texture was fluffy and light. Call me suspicious, but the burnt finishing seems too perfect… almost like it was blowtorched rather than baked. Previous Basque cakes I’ve had were marked by cracks and bulges, Wolf in the Fog’s cake was so nice and smooth.

Cakegate aside, I thoroughly enjoyed the dessert, but could have done without the overly tart fruit preserve and crunchy almond clusters. When the cake is good just leave it alone. When in doubt, keep things natural like Tofino. 


Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Tofino, Canada
 Address: 150 Fourth Street


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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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  • Pluvio

Té (Toronto)


There’s a cheekiness to Té that I enjoy. The French flair added to “tea” to form their name, the unexpected breezy décor that flies in the face of traditional Korean restaurants, or even the silent black and white Sailor Moon that graces the television in their bar area. Té is different and certainly won’t please everyone.

Starting with the rustic look of their kimchi devilled eggs ($7 for 3). The yolks are mixed with sesame oil and kimchi paste, instead of creamy mayonnaise, creating a stiffer paste to pipe back into the egg white. I could certainly taste the nutty oil that always makes my taste buds sing, but would have liked more of the gochujong as there wasn’t much heat to the egg. In fact, aside from the sesame oil these tasted like any other deviled egg. Swapping the bacon bits for chopped kimchi may give it that element it’s missing and make the dish vegetarian-friendly to boot.

Similarly, the kimchi was lost within the ricotta, mozzarella, and parmesan mixture in the toasted kimchi ravioli ($13). Chances are any ingredient wouldn’t be able to hold up against the swiggle of honey wasabi pesto piped on top of the crispy ravioli as the wasabi was so pungent and overpowering. Some reviewers rave about this dish, but I found the panko crust made it too dry and the pasta was overly chewy. It’s not one I’d order again.

The bulgogi sliders ($15) were good with a pile of thinly sliced sweet-soy marinated sirloin topped adorned with a perfectly cooked quail egg, which is runny so makes for a messy first bite. The sliders would be even better if there wasn’t wasabi in the mayo (Té’s chef certainly loves wasabi) and the buns were warm and toasted.

If you really want to try the bulgogi I’d opt for one of the main dishes instead. Té’s bi bim bap ($17) follows a traditional recipe where the beef is accompanied by cold sesame-marinated vegetables and a fried egg. They swap out the white rice for nuttier purple rice instead and Té’s sweet chili sauce is thicker and spicier than other ones I’ve tried.

Sadly, the bi bim bap wasn’t presented in the typical hot stone bowl. That vessel is so important as it creates the crust on the bottom of the rice and the heat warms up the cold garnishes and sauce so that once everything is mixed together the flavours really melt and meld together.

There’s plenty of bulgogi on top of their mac and cheese ($18) and the pasta was excellent as well. I enjoyed the creamy gooey cheese sauce and the parmesan panko crisp on top adds a lovely textured crunch for those who want an extra pop of flavour.

Other stand-out dishes were the following small plates. The braised pork crostini ($14) features a juicy hunk of five spice-soy marinated pork belly that seeps into the crusty toasted bread. It’s simple but such a lovely bite.  

The pork belly and kimchi lettuce wrap ($14) was also a hit. In this dish, the pork belly is thinner and grilled to give it a lovely caramelized crust. Sitting on a layer of kimchi, pickled daikon, and crispy lettuce with a sweet garlicky chili paste the wrap is a lovely balanced bite and one of the better ssam I’ve had.

And you really can’t go wrong with freshly fried chicken ($9 for 2 pieces of $16 for 4 pieces) that arrives steaming hot and begging to be eaten. I’m glad Té left off the typical sweet, sour, and spicy red sauce and kept the chicken lightly dusted with five spice seasoned flour. It keeps the skin crispy and the chicken was juicy enough to not require any sauce.

It’s remarkable how much they create in-house, including a handful of baked goods. The butterscotch caramel cheesecake ($6) wouldn’t have been my first choice for dessert, but I’m glad we went with our server’s suggestion as it was a nice blend of sweet and gentle saltiness, and smooth cake with a bit of crunch from the toffee bits.

For those who’d rather drink their dessert, Té has plenty of cocktails to choose from at $14.50 each. The mango black Té is their play on a mango bubble tea except spiked with Scotch for a boozy adult take on the classic drink. It’s a tad gimmicky as the drink isn’t executed well given the mini tapioca pearls are rather hard and the straw not thick enough to actually allow them to pass with the tea.

The bobaless drinks were more my style, having sampled a lovely vivid-pink strawberry with Proescco cocktail that really hit the spot and their seasonal feature drink that is almost like a mojito incorporating lemonade so that it’s extra refreshing.

As a warning, service can be a tad slow, for drinks and food, as everything is freshly made - I wouldn’t dine there if you’re in a hurry or starving. Té should consider creating a banchan platter for the table, which they could split in advance into little dishes stacked on top of one another allowing servers to just grab-and-go. Patrons may be a little pissed that they’ll be charged for it (banchan is normally complementary at Korean restaurants), but at least it will help ease the wait and can even double as a “bar snack” for cocktails. They could even add their flair to the name… parTé platter perhaps?

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 70 Ossington Avenue


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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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The Lockhart (aka the Harry Potter inspired bar) (Toronto)


The Lockhart’s connection to Harry Potter has been blown out of proportion by the media … they are not a “Harry Potter bar”. Even the owners warn visitors they are merely a bar with elements inspired by JK Rowling’s famous story – a tribute or theme bar it’s not.


Sure, you’ll find Pop Toys of the characters amongst a lot of other references on the walls. The downstairs washroom area is decorated with beautiful murals, the staircase leading to the basement with pages from the book. Let’s just say you’ll be entertained if you’re waiting for a stall. Even some of the mixers pay homage to the books – a shot of marauder anyone?


Just don’t expect to see the movies playing (the only TV in the bar is actually a chalkboard) or even the movie scores to serenade you (there was an awesome 90s slow jams and R&B playlist).

Of course, it didn’t stop me from ordering the Betterbeer ($11.50), a drink that looks like a milkshake but tastes like a lightly creamed ginger beer. The cinnamon-infused toasted butter washed Sauza meant I couldn’t even taste the tequila... talk about being befuddled. Despite being creamy, the drink finishes light from the carbonated beer. I don’t get the significance of the toasted marshmallow, but it was delicious nevertheless.


Cocktails like the Botanist ($12) and Royal Tea ($10.75) are simply beautiful. While I normally love cucumber and floral based drinks, the Botanist was even too much for me. The Royal Tea is a mellower choice with no floral essence other than the sprig of Baby’s Breathe used for garnish. It reminded me of a spiked lemonade iced tea with the refreshing raspberry rooibos infused Absolut peach with lemon.


If you enjoy a savoury Ceasar ($12), you’re able to customize the spice level and I find it has a mellower finish. The generally overpowering Worcestershire is nicely restrained.


Their mixologists must be busy with potion's homework as The Lockhart also makes the syrups and infusions used within the cocktails. Creating so many of the inputs does mean their menu is condensed and carefully curated. It seems a trip to Hogsmeade is in order.   


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 1479 Dundas Street West



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The Lockhart Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

CLOSED: Uncle Mikey's (Toronto)


If you arrive at Uncle Mikey’s between 5-7pm, get ready for an affordable meal. Not surprisingly, their happy menu offers drink specials ranging from $6-$8, the soju negroni ($8) strong enough that you’ll feel buzzed after a few. The soju works great in the drink, giving it a smoother finish with the same kick.


There’s also a selection of small plates. The kimchi jeon ($5), an onion and cabbage pancake, is made with glutinous rice flour and spread thinly so the centre is chewy while the outer edges turn crispy. No kimchi is in the batter, rather the vinegary and spicy flavours come from a dipping sauce so even a non-spicy food eater can enjoy the plate.  The chicken wings ($5) were also hot from the fryer and quickly tossed in a lightly sweetened sauce. Pieces of pickled choyote (a neutral vegetable) helps cut through the greasiness of both dishes.


From their regular menu, the kimchi rice bowl ($9.50) is a nod to bibimbap, but not nearly as good since it doesn’t arrive in a hot stone bowl. Yet, it still has all the tastes and textures of bibimbap, including thinly sliced sesame oil laced cucumber, nori slivers, scallions, and crispy onions. Interestingly, Uncle Mikey uses stewed kimchi, which is mellower and heartier than the raw version. For an extra richness, we added an onsen egg ($2.50) where the yolk is creamy and cooked through.


Oh boy was the oxtail gnocchi ($15) good … crispy deep-fried nuggets slathered into a thick shredded oxtail ragu. Even though they were burning hot, I couldn’t eat these cheesy nuggets fast enough - in a flash, the delicious gnocchi were done! The meaty pulled ragu was also tasty and is a versatile sauce that could go on almost anything.


Uncle Mikey’s has a “hipster” vibe. If you’ve watched Shameless, their depiction of hipster places is extreme, but I’ve encountered my share of bad service from “too cool” attitudes and annoying clientele; so, while this draws some people to a restaurant, it’s a feature I have reservations about. Luckily, our waitress Emma put me at ease, her welcoming attitude brought a light-hearted feel to the dinner – almost like we were stepping into cool Uncle Mikey’s home.

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 1597 Dundas Street West
 

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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La Carnita Eglinton (Toronto)


As an establishment you have to decide: are we going to be a full-service restaurant or casual walk-in? Once you start taking reservations and proceed to warn patrons about the 15-minute grace period and two hour seating limit, you’ve slated yourself into the full-service category. It also means you need to spring the extra minimum wage hours to hire a host or hostess.

Upon arriving at La Carnita, we awkwardly waited at the empty hostess stand. After two food runners passed us with no acknowledgement and a line of other diners started forming, my husband approached the bartender to inquire about a host, only to be told that they have one and to just go back and wait.

A waitress passes dangerously close to us, takes one look and decides to walk back the other way. Finally, after a few minutes, someone who must work downstairs at Good Fortune (he’s in a tropical shirt while La Carnita staff swathed in black) stops and greets us. He’s cheerful and advises that they all “share” in the job – oh poor delusional soul, you most certainly do not.  That same waitress that avoided the line in the first place, suddenly approaches and offers to show us to our table if the other guy tells her where to seat us. Take a deep breath, stay calm

From there the service improved, the waitress that seated us quickly took our drink orders and provided good suggestions. The Peach Don’t Kill My Vibe ($13) she liked was rather refreshing filled with fruity flavours that hid all hints of alcohol. Whereas, the Spring It On ($13) we chose ourselves had none of the promised St. Germain or cucumber - it’s really best classified as gin with simple syrup.

Yet, when I wanted another cocktail and stopped one of the runners, I was informed he couldn’t take the order and would go find someone else. After five minutes and no follow-up, I decided to skip the second drink, our food would be finished soon anyways.

Having ordered practically all the tacos, their fish ones reign supreme. The best was the grilled fish tostada ($9.95) which starred a thick slice of perfectly cooked Arctic char; it was still jewel-tone in the centre. The light smokiness from the grill went well with the sweet corn salsa and hint of Diablo's Fuego hot sauce in the background. But, it’s messy. The crispy tostada has no chance of holding up against the heavy fish – consider replacing it with a regular tortilla wrap instead.


The In Cod We Trust ($5.79) combines the typical deep fried battered fish with crunchy red cabbage and green apple slaw. There’s plenty of flavours thanks to the lime crema and “Voltron” sauce (a spicy soy drizzle). Sure, fried fish tacos are practically a staple item at every family restaurant in Toronto, but La Carnita does them well.


Although it was included in the menu description, I wasn’t expecting the coconut milk used in the tostada de ceviche ($7.95). Hence, at first bite was thrown off by the sour cream taste and consistency of the ceviche. In hindsight, it wasn’t terrible, incorporating plenty of cubed tuna and bits of tomato and cucumber. It just didn’t look appetizing and if it weren’t for the crispy shell, the mixture would be way too soft.


I’d go back for the pollo frito ($5.79), a thick crispy chicken tender smothered in a nutty sweet mole, hot sauce, crispy green cabbage, and refreshing pico de gallo. It was way better than the carne asada ($6.79) which despite having great flavours, I still couldn’t get over the odd soft texture of the meat (too much powdered tenderizer perhaps?)


The daily special ($5.25) wasn’t any better. That evening featuring pulled pork with mango salsa. The spicy salsa was delicious, but even with all the flavours couldn’t save the terribly dry pork.


If you craving meat, I’d go for the ancho BBQ wings ($15.95), the crispy edges smothered in a poblano lime barbeque sauce that’s thick and flavourful, almost like mole. With seven to an order, there’s also plenty to go around.  


By the end, I wasn’t sure whether to stay for a slice of the Sweet Jesus ice cream cake or just grab something on the way home. Our waitress was awfully friendly and the food came at a respectable pace. Yet again, we did have less than half an hour left to the strict two-hour seating limit. In the end, we decided to leave while things were still good. 

On the way out, sure enough, another line had formed by the hostess stand. Poor patrons, where’s the delusional guy in the tropical shirt when you need him?

Overall mark - 6.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 130 Eglinton Avenue East

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:


La Carnita Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

29 Février's Don't Forget the Date Event


Thoughts of maple syrup, for me, always revolved around its taste (a rich complex sweetness), how it’s made (collecting the sap of maple trees during cold months and painstakingly boiling it until it reduces many times over), or its tie-in to Canadian cuisine.

Then, in February, 29 Février held an event to launch their Don’t Forget the Date campaign - the occasion now adds fighting Alzheimer’s to the mix. Although studies researching the prevention benefits of the sweetener is still beginning (in 2016 two studies found maple syrup extract prevented damages to certain proteins found in brain cells), purchasing maple syrup from 29 Février will benefit the cause: 5% of Maple-in-a-Tree product sales will be donated to the Canadian Alzheimer Societies.

François Décarie, 29 Février’s President, was inspired to support the cause after his mother was affected by the disease. He recognized the toll it has on their loved ones, leaving him wanting to do something to give back. My own grandmother has recently been touched by Alzheimer’s, although, thankfully, it’s still in its infancy and she’s still able to live an independent and fruitful life. Nonetheless, hearing the diagnosis was scary and my mother and her siblings have definitely re-arranged their lives to ensure their mother has additional support. I get it, I’ve experienced it, and I’m glad Décarie’s doing something to help.


Having the launch event at DISH Cooking Studio was the ideal venue to make us think outside the pail. Sure, maple syrup tastes so good with desserts, but just like any other sweetener, it can be incorporated into a plethora of recipes. Even before we began eating, the lightest golden maple syrup made its way into the cocktails: topped with Prosecco and squeeze of lemon or added to whiskey to temper down a Manhattan.       


For hors d'oeuvres, it was used to caramelize pineapples and brushed onto roasted golden beets to further enhance the ingredient’s natural sweetness. Adding savoury elements like gorgonzola and pistachio dust helped to keep the bites from getting overly sugary.


To end, Head Chef Gabriela Neda, whipped up a popular maple main: seared salmon glazed with the syrup (in this case combined with grainy mustard) and topped with a caper aioli to keep it savoury. The sweetness of the syrup just goes so well with the oily fish.


As luck would have it, the event was held on Pancake Tuesday so we also experienced the four varieties with its favourite companion. For desserts, François suggests using the amber variety that has a deeper taste, but is still light enough as to not overpower the dessert. Indeed, this is also my typical go-to syrup to have around the house.   


As you switch to the darker grades, the molasses taste starts to shine through followed with a lasting after taste. These are generally used to marinade meats or as a glaze on seafood but would also make a fantastic rich caramel sauce for some desserts. Having tasted the ‘very dark’ – the newest grade that was previously only sold to restaurants given the small quantities made – it has such an intense and almost earthy flavour that it’d be perfect for brisket and other heavy meats.

Before the event, I assumed that darker syrups were simply boiled longer causing the sugars to caramelize further. Although the dark ones are cooked a little longer, François explains that it’s really tied to when they harvest the sap: the earliest batches create the golden syrup while the last taps makes the very dark. Live and learn, who would have known that not only the terroir of the tree matters, but the timing as well?

I must admit, now that a can of the amber Maple-in-a-Tree sits on my counter, I’m more inclined to trigger the tap and use the maple syrup (rather than having in jumbled with the multitude of other condiments in the fridge). It’s a reminder of our Canadian staple and Février’s action against Alzheimer. Don’t forget the date. 


How To Find Them
 Price: $39.99 for one or $139.99 for all four
 Website: http://29fevrier.ca/dont-forget-the-date/?lang=en or through Costcos for members

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