Showing posts with label corn. Show all posts
Showing posts with label corn. Show all posts

CLOSED: Doma (Toronto)

Doma offers an array of dishes they describe as "Korean with French inspiration or French with Korean influences". To keep things fresh, their menu changes monthly and only a few favourites from the previous month are carried forward. It’s a pretty democratic way to create a menu; as staff ask diners about their favourite dishes, the menu should be curated around the taste of customers.

Most people partake in their tasting menu where for $65 a person you try everything. In reality, for the sake of fairness, it’s really your democratic duty to sample it all so you can give a well-informed opinion on your favourite dish. If you’re not up for the task, the prices per dish have also been included in this post.

Within a short while of ordering, an amuse bouche is brought out. Being an acorn jelly, the actual jelly is neutral, so you’re greeted with a hit of spice from the finely diced kimchi and pickled onions with a slight saltiness added by the soy dashi. A refreshing summery start.

Meanwhile, the yook hwae ($18), a beef tartare that’s spiked with the spicy gochujang, is filled with flavours: of course there’s a bit of heat, but this is fairly delicate and balanced with sweet pear gel and pickled honey; black garlic aioli adds a lovely savoury creaminess. 

The long strips of beef, instead of the customary diced pieces, takes getting used to as it’s difficult to scoop the tartare and causes the entire pile of meat to come off in one bite. Hence, you’ll need the aid of a fork and it’s best to break the rice and seaweed chips into smaller pieces to create one-bite portions. Nonetheless, the tartare tastes good and I enjoy the little pieces of cauliflower and broccoli mixed in for crunch. The chips are also kept neutral so they add texture without competing on flavours.

More than one staff member told us their grilled octopus ($20) is the sole dish that’s been on every menu since the start. In my opinion, this needs to be tweaked or retired. Sure, the slaw of cabbage, bell peppers, cucumber, pear jelly, and seaweed is good – it’s that mix of sweet, sour, and spicy flavours that’s synonymous with Korean flavours. Even the pickled grainy mustard on top really adds a pop to the salad. But then, the actual octopus, although meaty and tender is just SO sweet. If octopus can be rendered into a chewy candy, it’d resemble what Doma serves.

Instead, they should keep the sam gye tang ($24), a great rendition of the French chicken roulade where medallions of dark meat is stuffed, rolled, and then baked until the skin crisps up. The Asian flavours are brought in with the stuffing: a mix of ginseng, dates, and more meat. It’s tender and flavourful, and with a dollop of fragrant ginger and scallion paste even better. White and black fungus is added for crunch and also helps to soak up the oriental herb infused chicken veloute sauce in all its crevices. Of all the dishes, this was the greatest at amalgamating the French and Asian flavours in one plate.

If Doma doesn’t keep the uhsun mandoo ($26) forever on their menu, I’ll be seriously mad. What a seafood lover’s delight with a piece of wonderfully cooked white fish (could be pickerel), a large sweet prawn, and the best part, a mandoo, which is a Korean dumpling filled with crab encapsulated in a ravioli pasta. Each of the individual proteins already have sufficient flavours, but then you smear on onion or pea puree and the ingredients change again.

While the sweet potato rice cakes ($16) were good – a base of chewy Korean rice cakes filled with a creamy sweet potato puree - it could have been the dish that French flavours are featured more prominently. The European influence was in there with a light sprinkling of parmigian, but it didn’t really add much and everything else was more Korean focused. The tofu and pork belly ragout spooned onto the rice cakes is similar to the sweet bean paste sauce found in ja jang mein. In lieu of the ragout, it would be interesting to pair the rice cakes with a creamy sauce or replace it with a thicker beef bourguignon instead.

For being glazed in gochujang, I would have expected the pork belly ($26) to be spicier. Instead, it merely tastes sweet and savoury, especially with the grilled nectarines accompanying the dish. Overall, the flavour that was missing from Doma’s dishes is something spicy. Indeed, there was a bit of it from the kimchi in the amuse bouche, but afterwards everything else was void of the taste that is so popular in Korean cuisine. The pork belly could have been the opportunity to showcase spice, even if it was merely incorporated into a side dish with the meat. 

Nonetheless, I’m glad Doma invested in using a premium part of the pork belly where the meat and fat alternates in layers (rather than having one thick piece of each), it makes the pork belly less heavy and the flavours better-rounded.

When it came to dessert, the Korean influence flew out the window. The first dessert, an ode to corn ($10) wasn’t even French and instead best described as North American. Sweet corn ice cream is combined with salted caramel popcorn, sponge cake, and corn kernels. The sweet and salty dessert was good and the honey truffle sponge cake an interesting pulled fluffy texture. Nonetheless, it was a bit disappointing that it had nothing to do with Doma’s vision.

While the apple tarte tatin ($10) is definitely a nod in the French direction, it once again has no Korean influences (unless the country loves marshmallows). The dessert was just so sugary ... when there’s caramel sauce one doesn’t need marshmallows on top. Despite looking decent, it was just too sweet and even the fruit was overpowered.

While Korean cuisine isn’t known for desserts, there are still some notable dishes. Chewy glutinous rice creations, similar to mocha, could have been filled with fruit and topped with Chantilly cream to make a Doma appropriate sweet. With so many renditions of red bean paste encapsulated desserts (whether it be pan fried, baked, or deep fried), surely something French could have been incorporated into the pastries to give it a fusion twist.

Don’t get me wrong, with the exception of the octopus and apple tarte tatin, I was pleased with the taste of Doma’s August menu. If our waiter didn’t feel the need to explain that restaurant is known for French and Korean inspired creations, I could have just accepted the dishes as presented. But, if they really want to be known for marrying the two cultures, more dedication is required at ensuring every dish (not sure some) really showcase the spirit of each culture’s cuisine. Otherwise, it’d just be another mixed continental restaurant , which are a dime a dozen.

Overall mark - 8 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 50 Clinton 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!

Is That It? I Want More!

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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

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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!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:

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

Alinea (Chicago)

Location: Chicago, USA
Address: 1723 N Halsted St 
Type of Meal: Dinner

Simply put Alinea is inventive and strives to provide a unique experience for their guests. Their reservation “ticketing” system is an economist’s dream – the price varies depending on the day and time you book. This means a table at 5pm or 9pm on Tuesday would be less expensive than a table for Saturday at 7pm.

The spaces are sold online ahead of time with patrons paying for food costs up front by purchasing tickets. We were able to secure the second cheapest table (a weeknight at 5:15pm) and with the mandatory 20% gratuity and taxes it totaled $298 per person. You decide on the drinks later - we opted out of the wine pairing and instead ordered glasses of champagne and wine ($24 each) and my husband added a hefty portion of cognac to end the night ($30).

The intrigue begins the moment you walk in the door. After finding the non-descript doorway (look for some valet gentlemen) you enter a dark hallway. Slowly, as your eyes adjust fuchsia pink lights start to shine and guide you along the way. We weren’t sure where to go; luckily, someone slid open the door to the left and welcomed us into the dining room.

As we were brought to our spacious table, we immediately noted the floating rhubarb suspended above us. Having read plenty of reviews about Alinea, I know everything has a purpose. However, not having read a post about their 2014 summer menu, it was unclear what the rhubarb was for and when we’d find out. Alas readers, you must also wait until later on in this post.

We started with osetra caviar, a delicacy second to only beluga, which was simply presented with complimenting ingredients. The briny caviar was paired with a puff of foam tasting like bread with its yeasty baked properties, a tangy gelee and a smooth savoury cream. It set the mood of things to come – each plate containing lots of intricate ingredients that diners can try separately, in combinations or altogether. Through trial and error we soon realize having everything as one was the tastiest choice. 

When a big nest was placed in front of us, I assumed it would be for another dish to come. But, the waiter advised that two pieces of dehydrated salsify were hidden amongst the twigs and we had to use touch to find them. The long thin root vegetable was dried to the point it blended perfectly into the nest and could only be found by its softer texture. The nest was a dish that puts diners at ease - yes it's fine dining but playing and touching your food is not prohibited. After finding the twisted salsify we happily munched on the salty preserved vegetable jerky which reminded me of Chinese dried mustard greens (“mui choy”).

It may be hard to decipher in the picture, but the next dish was served to us in our palms; the platr resembled a napkin and was designed to be held. So, even though we were seated we felt as if we've entered a dinner party and hors d'oeuvres were being passed around. Tender pieces of skate (a fish) was paired with brown butter crumble, floral & herb stems and lemon oil. The skate was so soft it tasted like crab and contrasted well with the crunch from the brown butter and brightness of the lemon and herbs.

The fourth dish was my favourite of the night. It appeared as roasted corn on the cob sitting on a burnt piece of wood. The smoky aroma were incredible and eating by a campfire was the image that entered my mind. Except Chef Achatz wouldn’t just serve an ear of corn! His version consisted of a bottom layer of creamy manchego grits flavoured with truffles and sherry. Then on top were niblets of perfectly reconstructed corn. Anyone who has cut corn off the cob knows how messy it can get; imagine the skill Alinea’s chefs must possess to be able to do it in a way that it can be reassembled so well.

It’s hard to go wrong with truffles and sweet corn, but when there’s also creamy grits with sharp manchego … it’s just so good! This is one of those dishes I’d want to eat on my death bed – with a lobster and fries on the side.

To follow, another deconstructed mix-and-match dish of sweet barely cooked lobster. It’s paired with curry cream, coconut dots, earl grey cream, crunchy puffed rice, cucumber, lobster bisque cream and what looks like fish roe but ends up being grape fruit. I could go on forever about how everything tastes given the plethora of choices. My husband really liked this dish. Personally, I found it delicious, but a bit of a shame, as the lobster became secondary to the other ingredients.

A centre piece of logs arrived and was lit on fire. As always, there’s no mention of what it’s for and thus our brainstorming begins. 

However, before we could decide, orange “chicken” was served complete with take-out carton and plastic bag. In lieu of chopsticks a split cinnamon stick was given and lit on one end so the essence permeated the air. The meat was actually nuggets of veal sweetbreads which tasted like very tender and juicy chicken. Deep fried and placed on a thick orange sauce with plenty of vegetables on top it was a dish of varying crunchy textures. I loved the fried chive blossoms mixed in to give it a rich grassy taste. Not having had much orange chicken in my life, I would eat it more if it tasted like this.

Our detective skills prevailed when we realized our next dish was likely already in the fire. Our suspicions were confirmed when the server came with a cutting board and picked up the platter of burning “logs”. Inside the fire were hidden pieces of wagyu beef and parsnip.

Served on a charred piece of wood, the smoky essence continued throughout the course. On the side was a squid ink ravioli filed with creamy parsnip puree, some bitter tasting mousse (could be the black trumpet mushrooms) and crunchy pieces of kombu. All the sides were fine but I found really weren’t required. The lightly cooked wagyu was the highlight with its warmed through temperature and delicious marbling. Eating it alone and savouring its rich juices were enough for me.

After such a strong dish, Alinea presented a palate cleanser of lily bulb, flowers, rambutan and tart caviar lime segments. This certainly was a stunning looking dish. The floral and crunchy lily bulb segments were good but became too much after several spoonful. Undeniably, my tastebuds felt amazingly clean afterwards and my breath smelt great. Word to the wise, don't have wine immediately afterwards as it ends up tasting like vinegar.

At last the rhubarb was removed from the ceiling and shaved into the next course. The crunchy tart slices were paired with braised rhubarb, celery root and a celery ribbon (?) flavoured with a creamy mousse on the bottom. A nice lighter dish after all the heavy ones. 

The following two courses became heavier again. First, a crispy fried pig ear accompanied by Asian pear, black garlic puree and black fungus (?).  The condiments, other than the pear, were a bit salty for my taste. But, the pig ear had a delightful chewy texture to it. At other restaurants it often gets fried so long that it’s dried out and resembles pork rind more than anything. 

Our server brought out a vase and added nitrogen so that smoke started billowing out. All this just to add a stir fry aroma while we ate the next dish! The duck sculpture, once opened, contained small steamed foie gras dumplings. They were tender and smooth but due to their richness compounded my already full feeling.

I love duck and this didn't disappoint as the wok contained a thick cube of breast with crispy skin. Again, another dish that could have been toned down a bit in terms of salt but had so many nuggets of delicious elements including a fried croquette. Indeed, this was a very heavy course and personally would have liked the duck to be served earlier so I could enjoy it even more.  

My husband and I were happy to see fruit presented next as by this point we felt we couldn’t eat another bite. Little did we know that this was only the first of four desserts! Luckily, Alinea began with a refreshing pressed watermelon marinated with strawberries so the melon actually tasted of strawberries as you bit into it. Accompanied with strawberry and avocado powder, the avocado added a touch of savouriness - a great transition.

The blueberry dish was whimsical and played on a variety of tastes and textures. Honestly, I found it a bit disjointed and not something I’d want to eat again. The bubble gum flavoured nest in the middle was unique as it was cold and melted in your mouth. But, it had to be eaten quickly as it started turning into a sticky gel otherwise. The violet meringue pieces were also nice on its own but I found didn’t go as well with the other ingredients.

Alinea’s signature dish is their edible balloon. Handed to us by the server, we were advised everything was edible except for the metal pin weighing it down. We followed instructions and pressed our lips against the balloon until the sugar melted and we could suck out the helium. After laughing in a chipmunk voice I ate the sticky green apple balloon and munched on the delicious fruit string.

By this point, we thought our night was over and were pleased with the experience. But, once everything was whisked away our server came back with a rubber mat and covered the table top. Then, various small dishes were brought over and left at the far end of the table. The ingredients were just a jumble of powders and liquids so we had no idea what was going on … when all the sudden Chef Achatz himself walks up to our table!

Immediately, he pulls out a ring and places it in the middle. One by one he announces the ingredients and makes the base. Then adds nitrogen infused liquid chocolate on top so that it bubbles away and solidifies.


It was such a treat to see something being made in front of us and was like watching an artist paint. Except, instead of paint, Chef Achatz used cold ice cream crystals, brown butter brittle, hazelnut meringue clusters, crème fraiche and finished everything off with a sprinkling of fairy dust (a.k.a. shimmering sugar). By the end, it looked almost too beautiful to eat.

We were truly marveled by how he got the violet syrup to form perfect squares without using a cookie cutter!

The milk chocolate cake was really good – this is coming from someone who normally stays away from chocolaty desserts. A cross between an ice cream cake, mud pie and brownie it was warm and cold all at once. This last dish truly pushed our experience to a whole other level and left us in awe.

Alinea is not for everyone. If you prefer simply prepared ingredients left in their natural essence this isn’t the place for you. The flavours are intense with some elements being very sour, sweet, salty or bitter. Indeed, almost every dish had a mixture of textures and some ingredients meticulously prepared to change its normal structure. Certainly, if you’re not up for “playing” with your food and creating your own combinations from the deconstructed dishes you may leave frustrated.

But if you want to eat with all five senses and be entertained with every course along the way than go to Alinea. Their website describes it beautifully, “It’s not a restaurant … at least, not in the conventional sense”. It’s a dinner theatre with the servers, Chef Achatz and the dishes themselves being the actors. It’s an art gallery with each dish painstakingly crafted to please the eyes before the palate. And finally, it’s an experience that forces patrons to pay attention and talk about what’s happening in front of them. In an age where children play with electronic devices and adults are watching mounted tv screens while eating, perhaps it’s this togetherness and being in the present that makes Alinea truly special.

If you want to find out more about Chef Achatz amazing story, read his book 'Life, On the Line'. To try your hand at recreating some of these dishes (or just to look at the pictures), pick up the Alinea cookbook.

Overall mark - 9 out of 10

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more -

Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • - 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!