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

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



Is That It? I Want More!

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

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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CLOSED: Entice Culinary Lounge (Toronto)

Entice Culinary Lounge’s current menu incorporates an assortment of cultures and flavours. Normally, I’m skeptical … really, can a chef actually master such different dishes and create something delicious? Truly, the creations aren’t traditional or authentic (such as our main of Korean beef ribs), but the menu reads like the popular dishes from each custom curated into one. The result: it’s not easy deciding what to order because so many items sound enticing.

Even as the cast iron calamari ($15) was presented, I could tell it was cooked perfectly - the hot pan gave it a quick sear, leaving the protein tender.  Since the squid wasn’t grilled, there’s not a strong smoky flavour, instead, the crispy garlic pesto shone through. Dots of fried capers were a nice contrast and the diced lemon segments a tart surprise, rather than the typical lemon wedge.

Despite the beef patties being cooked through (ideal for those who are squeamish about pink meat), the sliders ($15) were still juicy thanks to the bacon lardon pieces mixed into the beef. The flavourful patty held up against the slice of sharp cheddar, tangy pickles, and chili mix on top.


Entice’s mains certainly don’t lack flavour. The Korean beef ribs ($27) had the customary sweet garlicky soy marinade with the caramelized barbeque char. Even the shoestring fries were topped with ample amounts of chopped kimchi for a sharp acidity; the spicy pungent vegetable means you definitely don’t need ketchup. Meanwhile, the vinegary Asian slaw was cooling, cutting against the rich tacky ribs.


The sea bream ($27) was an excellent suggestion from our waitress, the fish’s skin so crispy it could have doubled for a chip, while the mild fish still moist. On the bottom, the zucchini noodles were light and satisfying; the roasted rapini and fennel adding an earthiness to the otherwise summery dish. Yet, I couldn’t help marvel over the lemon squeezing gadget – helps keep fingers citrus free while extracting so much juice from one thin slice.


Even the desserts were tempting. Since we couldn’t settle on one, we had the peanut butter Nanaimo ($10) and pumpkin fritters ($10). The Nanaimo arrives deconstructed, the plate includes all the staple ingredients: milk chocolate, coconut chocolate cookies and a peanut butter cream. As an added bonus, there was a light coconut sorbet that had virtually no sweetness except for the natural coconut milk.

Although deconstructed desserts look pretty, I’m always disappointed with the final output – the ingredients are everywhere and in the wrong proportions. Even though I try to get a bit of each element, the ultimate outcome is never as good as having the actual dessert. In this case, I really wanted a taste of the dense creaminess generally found in the dessert, but ended up tasting coconut sorbet mixed into hard cookie bits.

Luckily, the simple pumpkin fritters hit the spot. The warmth helped permeate the spices within the dough so you can smell and taste the cloves and cinnamon. They were also dense enough that even as the maple ice cream was melting, the fritters didn’t become soggy, rather it just seemed like a pool of sauce for the doughnuts.


For those who prefer drinking their sweets, Entice even has a selection of dessert cocktails: the il ciocclato sounds like an adult hot chocolate (complete with marshmallows) and the smashing pumpkins a warmed rum drink incorporating pumpkin puree and sweet potato syrup.

For cocktail aficionados, you need to try the liberations at Entice Culinary Lounge. The city has really stepped up with great drinks and Entice doesn’t disappoint with unique and exciting concoctions. The entire bar staff came together to develop ideas for the menu and even make many of the syrups and infusions for the drinks.

Take the Beauty and the Beast ($14), the cocktail starts with Pinot Noir that reduces by a third before adding hibiscus syrup and further concentrating in half. It’s put together with a shot of scotch (what I like to think is the Beast of the cocktail), except the Pinot Noir mellows the mixture and the drink tastes of Christmas morning. Inside, the cocktail is adorned with an edible hibiscus flower, which reminds me of the Chinese red preserved plums. Although the sprig of rosemary used as the stem of the flower is a clever idea, I found it overpowered the drink’s aroma; to really appreciate the cocktail, I ended up removing the rosemary. 


1001 Nights ($14) was concocted for the owner’s mother, who enjoys a tasty drink that’s not overly sweet. Somehow, she and I have the same taste. You can tell there’s tequila in the cocktail but along with Amaro Nonino, sage and cucumber, it’s but a whisper in the background.

What I appreciated most about the drink was the use of saffron, which is rarely incorporated into cocktails. The prized spice was to pay homage to the mother’s Persian heritage, with large strands frozen into the ice cube so that as it melts the spice melds into the drink. Even the sugar surrounding the rim is infused with saffron so that it’s the first taste that hits the tongue.

Justin Cleva, new Executive Chef of Entice, reveals that diners can expect the menu to change in December: with the cold weather, they’ll be adding comfort foods, but done in the elevated Entice fashion. Who knows, maybe it’ll become a collaborative effort again. If it’s anything like inventiveness of the cocktail menu, we’re all in for a treat.

Overall mark - 8 out of 10
Disclaimer: The above meal was complimentary. Rest assured, as noted in my mission statement, I will always provide an honest opinion.


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 1036 Queen 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!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:



Entice Culinary Lounge Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

East Thirty-Six's cocktail hour (Toronto)


As you toil away at your job, the promise of an after work drink is so enticing … a carrot leading you to the end of the day. There’s no shortage of establishments across downtown Toronto that will supply you the drink, but to find a place that allows reservations, is cozy and friendly, and offers everything at reasonable prices is rare.

Hence, when I first heard about East Thirty-Six two years ago, the promise of $8 martinis beckoned (regular pricing also included in this post). Every day from 4-7pm, you can head there for a cheap but still expertly made martini ($8) or mixed bar rail drink ($5). If you’d rather keep it simple, they also offer $5 pints.


The St-Germain ($13) is my typical go-to cocktail with a gin base enhanced with St-Germain elderflower liqueur. The addition of sweetened lemon juice keeps it fresh while the cava makes everything light and bubbly.


Meanwhile, if you enjoy gin and tonics, you have to try the Apothecary ($13). Combining two gins, the classic Hayman’s London dry and their sloe gin variety (steeps the liquor with sloe berries so there’s a vibrant red colour), the drink takes on a lovely pink hue without the use of overly sweet cranberry juice or grenadine. With a hint of rosemary mixed with lemon, I love the citrusy herbal flavours in the cocktail.


As the cold weather begins, the Night Capp (spelling mistake intended) couldn’t come quick enough. By combining coffee vanilla infused bourbon, macadamia nut syrup and a freshly brewed hot shot of espresso, before being topped with hot foamed milk, the drink separates into layers. You don’t expect the nutty macadamia flavour, but it works to add interest. What a delicious concoction that’s perfect for something to warm you up or accompany dessert.


East Thirty Six also has a great food offering. On Monday to Wednesday during 4-7pm, they also offer $1 oysters. The so called ‘buck-a-shuck’ is served with a vinegary mignonette and fresh horseradish. You can also add on some warm olives ($5) - plump and flavoured with citrus and garlic, to round out the snacking.  


Their fries ($6) are also fantastic, thick and potatoy hot from the fryer. I could skip the extra calories that comes from the crispy chicken skin (a nice treat if you like pork rinds), but wouldn’t skimp on the creamy lemon aioli.


While sampling the new cocktails at their launch event, renditions of normal menu items such as lamb sliders, generally offered in a burger format ($16), was also served. It’s fantastic. The thick juicy patty slathered with ‘green goddess’ (a citrusy guacamole with an herb I can’t place), smoked onion and melted goat’s milk gouda. I could have easily gone for seconds but they were popular and quickly disappeared.


The octopus ($25) was meaty and tender; even the fingerling potatoes and onion getting some smokiness to meld into the seafood.


So as you go from meeting-to-meeting, plug away at a spreadsheet, or read that long boring document for the umpteenth time, just remember: the day is almost over and East Thirty-Six’s cocktail hour is just steps away.

Disclaimer: The above tasting was complimentary. Rest assured, as noted in my mission statement, I will always provide an honest opinion.


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 36 Wellington Street East

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


Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:


East Thirty-Six Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato