Showing posts with label duck confit. Show all posts
Showing posts with label duck confit. Show all posts

CLOSED: East Thirty Six (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 36 Wellington Street East
Type of Meal: Dinner



To clarify, East Thirty Six is not affiliated with Lucien or the Oyster Bar which previously resided at the space. The menu and ownership is completely new. Indeed, when you walk inside, the dining room has been updated with a large illuminated bar and more size appropriate furniture. It actually feels airy and spacious compared to the former supper club.

The large bar works well as East Thirty Six wants to be known as a place for cocktails. For the after work crowd, on weekdays from 4-7 there are happy hour specials - $5 for a Mill Street beer or mixed drink and $8 for a martini. Alas, despite a tall refreshing looking cocktail being displayed on the happy hour menu, there are no deals for these. However, their martinis are a nice substitute, my French martini was deliciously made with vodka, Chambord raspberry liqueur and pineapple juice.


Drinking the night away could get messy without food, so two friends and I opted to share several of their offerings. The bone marrow ($16) was our favourite. It was well-done, smooth and even had some excess oil for dipping. Some may find it overcooked but I personally prefer marrow cooked through so there's no bloody pieces. Flavoured with an herb mixture and salt it was great to spread across the grilled bread. On the side, a dish of smooth chicken liver parfait to include a slightly sweet element to everything.



The smoked sweetbreads ($15) was another great find. Tender pieces of battered sweetbreads were cut into nuggets and deep fried crispy. On the side a great smoky and vibrant poblano and romesco sauce that went well with the neutral sweetbreads. On the bottom a simple slaw with some pistachio mixed throughout. A great easy to share plate for large groups.

 

Generally, we found their larger "mains" were good but the small plates which arrived earlier were better. Overall, the mains had great flavours and were artfully composed but, with the exception of duck confit, were a tad overdone. The shortrib ($21) needed a jus drizzled over top to give it more moisture as we found it dry for a shortrib. The accompanying spicy potato, arugula pistou (similar to pesto made with garlic, olive oil and arugula), sweet corn and turnips were nice and gave the dish an Argentinian flare.


The Berkshire pork belly ($20) was beautifully presented with a ricotta salata (a salty ricotta cheese which has been pressed and dried) topped fried egg. I thoroughly enjoyed the crispy pan fried gnocchi and broccoli sides, which with the egg were the dish highlights. The pork belly, while nicely flavoured, was tough to cut through. The skin could be thinner or rendered more as it was a bit chewy. Perhaps even just blow torching the top prior to serving would help to crisp up the skin.


One of my favourite dishes is duck confit ($23)… but it does mean I've had many versions of it throughout my lifetime. East Thirty Six's was decent and delicious - the duck tender, hot and flavourful. The sous-vide cooked duck egg was a great touch, adding a silky, creamy sauce over the pecorino semolina "grits". On the side were plump maitake or hen-of-the-wood mushrooms. Overall, the best of the three meaty dishes, in my opinion.


Our fellow diners also ordered a variety of dishes. Some of the interesting ones I snapped pictures are below. The octopus ($23) looked great and was served with smoked potatoes, a creamy tonnato sauce, olives and red mustard.


The cauliflower ($8) could be a great side with the meaty dishes with it slightly toasted and flavoured with capers, preserved lemon, brown butter, hazelnut and parsley.



I welcome East Thirty Six to the neighbourhood. They take reservations, service was great and there’s plenty on the menu to meet all desires. And of course their happy hour menu doesn’t hurt as well.

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10

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____________________________
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!

East Thirty-Six on Urbanspoon


CLOSED: Montecito (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 299 Adelaide Street West
Type of Meal: Dinner



Amongst all the construction and scaffolding along Adelaide, Montecito’s window filled building is an oasis of calm. With its two stories and a covered patio there’s plenty to observe. Even the faux “windows” on the back wall kept us entertained. Each showcases a video display with footage of views from co-owner Ivan Reitman’s home in Montecito, California. Every movement is subtle and you don’t fully realize it’s a video until a bird flies by or it switches to the traffic scene.

The Californian theme continues on their menu, which has plenty of meat, vegetables and Italian creations. And Italian seems to be what they do well as the meatballs ($19) were fantastic! The dish was so nicely balanced – the meatballs fairly dense but still tender and the polenta, tomato sauce and parmesan complementing each other. Serving them with creamy and buttery polenta was such a great idea; I loved slathering it and the smooth tomato sauce onto the meatball.


The prosciutto, peaches and mozzarella salad ($14) is a nice lighter dish for the summer time. It’s simple but allows the eater to focus on quality ingredients – paper thin cured prosciutto, sweet peaches and soft fresh mozzarella. Don’t be afraid to get a bit of everything in each bite. It’s when all the tastes and textures work together; especially if you like the sweet and salty elements.


I rarely order roasted chicken ($24) at a restaurant. But, when its owner Chef Jonathan Waxman’s signature dish it’s hard to resist. What makes it so special? Well, for one it’s unbelievably juicy! My knife glided through it as easily as cutting through scallop (of course it helps that the chicken was deboned). But, the tenderness comes at a price – the middle of the chicken breast was ever so slightly pink. By no means was it raw, but being a little squeamish about under-cooked poultry, I decided not to chance it. Luckily, the portion was huge – you receive half a chicken – so leaving a bit behind didn’t matter.


The chicken’s skin was crispy and the salsa verde flavourful but not overpowering. Served with a frisee salad it’s good for mixing into the salsa verde oils and chicken juices that leak onto the plate. If you haven’t had the jw chicken before, it’s well worth a try.

My friend allowed me to try an ample piece of his Muscovy duck confit ($28), which would have been what I’d normally order. Also very tender, flavourful and having an extremely crispy skin, it was a good duck confit. I would have preferred less duck fat left under the skin as it was a little glutenous for my taste.


To end, we did not order the baked Alaska, which is served with a big Stay Puft marshmallow figurine (a homage to Ivan Reitman’s Ghostbuster films). Instead, we opted for a chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich ($10) which arrived quickly without the fanfare (although our friendly waiter did offer to bring us the doll anyways if we wanted).


The cookies were chewy and soft. Sandwiched in between was pistachio ice cream which became overpowered by the chocolate syrup so ended up tasting more like almond. But, it was still delicious and I liked that Montecito makes the sandwich ahead of time and refreezes it so it doesn’t melt too quickly.

All in all, Montecito is a welcomed addition to Adelaide. Prices are reasonable, the dishes delicious and portions a good size. They have plenty of different sized tables and areas to accommodate larger groups. It already proved itself to be a popular destination during TIFF.  I sense that as the holidays start arriving, it will be popular with the corporate crowd as well.


Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


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
  • - 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!

Montecito on Urbanspoon

CLOSED: Estrella Taqueria (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 4899 Yonge Street

Type of Meal: Dinner



Estrella Taqueria isn’t located on Dundas, Queen or King West but rather in North York at Yonge and Sheppard. Taking over the former Smokey Joe’s, it’s a big restaurant occupying over 4,000 square feet and seats 280 inside and another 130 on their rooftop patio. Unfortunately, we visited in the winter so we couldn’t see the patio, but will be interesting to see how this outdoor oasis is updated next year.

From the moment we entered, the staff was friendly and efficient. Frederik, our waiter was great - very friendly, attentive and generally smiles at all times. Service was definitely not an issue at Estrella as everything came as ordered and we were in and out in less than 40 minutes. What they were lacking was good food, the most important part of any restaurant. In reading the few reviews available, people noted the guacamole was plain and in general the appetizers a disappointing, so we decided to play it safe and ordered six tacos to share. 


Of the bunch, the short rib taco ($5.50) was the best.  The beef was a decent size, pretty tender from being braised in cola and fairly flavourful. The addition of chimichurri and chipotle aioli provided a good balance of heat and freshness.  Topping the taco were slivers of yukka chips, which would have been even better if they were crispy to add some contrasting textures.


Even the elote de tortitas ($4.95) had some promise. Being the sole vegetarian option, it consisted of a big corn fritter flavoured with black bean puree, pico de gallo and chipotle aioli.  If only the fritter was shaped evenly, cylinder rather than football, it would have allowed the fritter to cook uniformly.  Unfortunately, the middle of our fritter was underdone so you could taste raw batter, whereas the sides were cooked well and enjoyable.


Sadly, anything that’s worth eating stops there.  The oyster taco ($5.50) was dismal and made from such small oysters that they could have been clams for all I know - the cornmeal batter was more plentiful than any actual seafood.  Overall, it was rather tasteless despite it having a miso/celeriac remoulade; the sauce simply has to be stronger (or at least saltier). The thought of pairing it with green tomatoes is commendable since if the oysters were big enough this condiment would let them retain dominance while still adding some freshness to the taco.  



The taco de panza’s ($4.95) pork belly, although described as being slow braised, was pretty tough and should be classified as boiled at best.  The fat wasn’t rendered enough so that it was still white and hard which made it inedible.  Despite the menu noting the taco containing guajillo sauce, cilantro and queso panella, nothing really stood out except for the large portion of cabbage (also quite bland) on top.  I actually had to resort to squeezing the lime on it hoping to add some taste. 


On the other hand, the baja fish taco ($4.95) was extremely spicy (likely on account of the pickled chilis mixed with chipotle aioli).  This would have been nice if the deep fried snapper wasn’t so small and dried out. There was no flakiness at all and appeared to be frozen based on the crumbly consistency and slight fishiness. Sorry for the somewhat dim picture quality, but should give you an idea of how small the fish is. Usually, most competing tacos I’ve had the fillet is longer than the shell; at Estrella you could hardly see it under the slaw.  Let’s be honest, snapper is a pretty inexpensive variety of fish, with a $5.50 price tag they could easily offer a larger piece using fresh fish and still make a profit.


The last taco I tried, duck confit ($5.50), ended the meal on a low.  Normally, I expect duck confit to be tender and flavourful on account of slow cooking duck in its fat.  Estrella’s version was shredded and dry so it’s almost like eating rehydrated duck jerky mixed into coleslaw.  The flavours were also pretty lacklustre and needs something (maybe a sweet and spicy bean paste) to wake it up.  Estrella should consider slicing the duck rather than shredding to help retain some moistness and allow the customer to actually taste the duck’s essence.  


In general all the tacos were pretty small and about the size of a cd or dvd (readers younger than 20, you’ll likely have no idea what these are so please refer to google images for a photo and description). Thankfully, they do use corn tortillas, rather than the softer wheat ones, but when the taco didn’t have enough sauce on the base they ended up cracking and falling apart – especially the taco de panza. Usually, other taquerias would use two layers and more sauce to prevent this from happening, so this is something Estrella should consider.

For the quality and size, the tacos were significantly over-priced so really you’re paying for the surroundings more than food.  I’ll admit, the atmosphere is nice and an improvement from the former tenant. There’s a large bar on the bottom floor and a section with two ping pong tables in the back (no one actually playing on our Saturday visit). Conceivably, all this space that is non- revenue generating would need to be subsidized by food and drink sales; so, the tacos are a poor value if you’re only going to eat.  

In the end, Estrella is only a superficial improvement from Smokey Joes. It’s disappointing as I frequent the area and was hoping for a good non-chain restaurant. Who knows, maybe I’ll return for drinks in the summer and check out their rooftop patio.  But, it’s doubtful that food would ever be a big draw to visit again.

Overall mark - 4 out of 10

Like the blog? You can now follow me on twitter for notifications - 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!







CLOSED: Estrella Taqueria (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 4899 Yonge Street

Type of Meal: Dinner



Estrella Taqueria isn’t located on Dundas, Queen or King West but rather in North York at Yonge and Sheppard. Taking over the former Smokey Joe’s, it’s a big restaurant occupying over 4,000 square feet and seats 280 inside and another 130 on their rooftop patio. Unfortunately, we visited in the winter so we couldn’t see the patio, but will be interesting to see how this outdoor oasis is updated next year.

From the moment we entered, the staff was friendly and efficient. Frederik, our waiter was great - very friendly, attentive and generally smiles at all times. Service was definitely not an issue at Estrella as everything came as ordered and we were in and out in less than 40 minutes. What they were lacking was good food, the most important part of any restaurant. In reading the few reviews available, people noted the guacamole was plain and in general the appetizers a disappointing, so we decided to play it safe and ordered six tacos to share. 


Of the bunch, the short rib taco ($5.50) was the best.  The beef was a decent size, pretty tender from being braised in cola and fairly flavourful. The addition of chimichurri and chipotle aioli provided a good balance of heat and freshness.  Topping the taco were slivers of yukka chips, which would have been even better if they were crispy to add some contrasting textures.


Even the elote de tortitas ($4.95) had some promise. Being the sole vegetarian option, it consisted of a big corn fritter flavoured with black bean puree, pico de gallo and chipotle aioli.  If only the fritter was shaped evenly, cylinder rather than football, it would have allowed the fritter to cook uniformly.  Unfortunately, the middle of our fritter was underdone so you could taste raw batter, whereas the sides were cooked well and enjoyable.


Sadly, anything that’s worth eating stops there.  The oyster taco ($5.50) was dismal and made from such small oysters that they could have been clams for all I know - the cornmeal batter was more plentiful than any actual seafood.  Overall, it was rather tasteless despite it having a miso/celeriac remoulade; the sauce simply has to be stronger (or at least saltier). The thought of pairing it with green tomatoes is commendable since if the oysters were big enough this condiment would let them retain dominance while still adding some freshness to the taco.  



The taco de panza’s ($4.95) pork belly, although described as being slow braised, was pretty tough and should be classified as boiled at best.  The fat wasn’t rendered enough so that it was still white and hard which made it inedible.  Despite the menu noting the taco containing guajillo sauce, cilantro and queso panella, nothing really stood out except for the large portion of cabbage (also quite bland) on top.  I actually had to resort to squeezing the lime on it hoping to add some taste. 


On the other hand, the baja fish taco ($4.95) was extremely spicy (likely on account of the pickled chilis mixed with chipotle aioli).  This would have been nice if the deep fried snapper wasn’t so small and dried out. There was no flakiness at all and appeared to be frozen based on the crumbly consistency and slight fishiness. Sorry for the somewhat dim picture quality, but should give you an idea of how small the fish is. Usually, most competing tacos I’ve had the fillet is longer than the shell; at Estrella you could hardly see it under the slaw.  Let’s be honest, snapper is a pretty inexpensive variety of fish, with a $5.50 price tag they could easily offer a larger piece using fresh fish and still make a profit.


The last taco I tried, duck confit ($5.50), ended the meal on a low.  Normally, I expect duck confit to be tender and flavourful on account of slow cooking duck in its fat.  Estrella’s version was shredded and dry so it’s almost like eating rehydrated duck jerky mixed into coleslaw.  The flavours were also pretty lacklustre and needs something (maybe a sweet and spicy bean paste) to wake it up.  Estrella should consider slicing the duck rather than shredding to help retain some moistness and allow the customer to actually taste the duck’s essence.  


In general all the tacos were pretty small and about the size of a cd or dvd (readers younger than 20, you’ll likely have no idea what these are so please refer to google images for a photo and description). Thankfully, they do use corn tortillas, rather than the softer wheat ones, but when the taco didn’t have enough sauce on the base they ended up cracking and falling apart – especially the taco de panza. Usually, other taquerias would use two layers and more sauce to prevent this from happening, so this is something Estrella should consider.

For the quality and size, the tacos were significantly over-priced so really you’re paying for the surroundings more than food.  I’ll admit, the atmosphere is nice and an improvement from the former tenant. There’s a large bar on the bottom floor and a section with two ping pong tables in the back (no one actually playing on our Saturday visit). Conceivably, all this space that is non- revenue generating would need to be subsidized by food and drink sales; so, the tacos are a poor value if you’re only going to eat.  

In the end, Estrella is only a superficial improvement from Smokey Joes. It’s disappointing as I frequent the area and was hoping for a good non-chain restaurant. Who knows, maybe I’ll return for drinks in the summer and check out their rooftop patio.  But, it’s doubtful that food would ever be a big draw to visit again.

Overall mark - 4 out of 10

Like the blog? You can now follow me on twitter for notifications - 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!







Le Sélect Bistro (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 432 Wellington Street West
Website: www.leselect.com/
Type of Meal: Dinner

Located on a quiet street between a night club and an office building, you wouldn’t think there’d be a charming French restaurant nearby.  Le Seléct Bistro is a delightful surprise, with its quaint patio and accented staff.  Also a great spot to bring wine aficionados as the restaurant boasts an 80-page wine list which changes seasonally.  Patrons can get a glimpse of their 10,000+ bottle cellar while visiting the restrooms in the basement.

My first choice for a main, the bison steak frites, was disappointingly sold out on my visit.  In the end, I opted for the 3-course price fixe meal ($35) instead which offers a choice of soup or salad, selection from three mains and two desserts. 

Le Seléct’s house salad (salade maison) isn’t just your regular spring mix based salad; theirs packs an assortment of greens, kale and beat slices.  The oil vinaigrette coating everything is tart but enjoyable, not sweet at all for being honey mustard as noted on their menu.

My friend ordered the French onion soup (soupe à l’oignon gratinée) ($10.95), which arrived covered with a gooey layer of cheese and is would be perfect for cheese lovers as its the ratio to soup was extraordinary.  The two slices of crostini packed in the soup stayed surprisingly crispy despite being soaked in the broth.  The broth itself was good but lacked the rich onion flavour I expected.


The steak frites (bavette d’aloyau aux echalotes) arrives haphazard looking on the plate.  Despite the poor presentation, the steak itself was perfectly cooked to a medium rare and tender.  However, I found the beef under seasoned; there was some caramelized onions topping it but they were a bit too sweet for my taste.  The frites were thin and crispy, which I happily gobbled up.   


The duck confit (confit de canard) ($27.95), is the better choice and is also offered with the price fixe menu.  The skin was rendered to a wonderful crispiness.  Although the duck itself was a bit underseasoned, the dish at least had a demi-glace with it to dip at your leisure.  A side of thin crispy green beans and triangle of potatoes au gratin presented with the fowl were equally adequate.


To end I opted for the crème brûlée.  The custard was smooth and not overly sweet, which I prefer. But, the torched  layer of sugar topping it was way too thick; to the point that it was difficult to break through.  An almond glazed chocolate biscotti accompanies the dish, which is equally hard but would have been good with a cup of coffee.


Ultimately, the food at Le Seléct isn’t outstanding but is respectable.  I enjoy the selection and hope to try to bison steak in the future, likely a better option given it being sold out.  Overall, I enjoyed their atmosphere with the comfortable curved booths and the unhurried service.  Le Seléct is a good venue to take things slow and pretend you’re in France somewhere where life is meant to be enjoyed one glass of red wine at a time.


Overall mark - 7 out of 10



Like the blog? You can now follow me on twitter for notifications - 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!
For further general discussions about this blog please refer to http://gastroworldblog.blogspot.com/2012/09/welcome-to-gastro-world.html





Le Sélect Bistro on Urbanspoon

CLOSED: Fare Bistro (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 1097 Queen St EastType of Meal: Dinner

The dark, jewel-toned candlelit restaurant certainly resembles a classic bistro and makes a great date location. However, with limited seating, you should make a reservation to avoid disappointment.  On the night of my visit with girlfriends, we found a similar crowd - groups of friends catching up over glasses of wine and traditional French cuisine.

We decided to start with their appetizer of the day, pork belly with tempura shrimp ($14). The shrimp was the better of the two proteins but I wouldn't consider it to be tempura - more like lightly battered. The pork belly, although crispy, was too lean for my taste; a thin layer of fat would have given it more flavour and contrast to the crisp skin.

I ordered the duck confit with a black current glaze ($26). It was refreshing to have a confit that wasn't overly salty so that the taste of duck could still be enjoyed. The meat was very tender and went well with the black current glaze. The skin could be rendered more as most parts of it were slightly soggy. Surprisingly, the crisp green beans accompanying the dish were one of the most enjoyable parts - perfectly cooked and flavoured.


Duck confit with black current glaze (1)



You can't be at a bistro without trying the steak frites ($27) which is what one friend had. The frites were exactly what I like - fresh potatoes fried until they are crisp on the outside but still dense and flavourful in the middle, only lightly salted. The strip loin (?) was a generous portion and tender but lacked the stronger "black Angus" flavour I prefer.
Steak frites (2)

My other companion had and the daily risotto ($25), on this day was with lamb and goat cheese. Keep in mind I'm basing this review on only one bite - I must say it's not what I like. The tangy goat cheese didn't merry well with lamb and risotto in my opinion. Its slightly grainy texture ruined the creaminess of what I enjoy about risottos.
Given I don't have a sweet tooth, I rarely order desserts. But, my friends are very different from me, so we ordered two things to share. If anything, I thought their desserts were the highlight in the meal.
  • The chocolate terrine was a cross between a ganache and mousse and was a melt-in-your-mouth creamy texture. It also went wonderfully well with the raspberry and vanilla custard sauces that decorated the dish.
Chocolate terrine (3)
  • The blackberry upside down cake was my favourite. Cooked in a skillet, the dish was served warm and topped with generous amounts of sweet black berries which baked right into the cake. I thoroughly enjoyed the plump blackberries popping in your mouth and combining with the sweet warm vanilla cake.
Blackberry upside down cake (4)
Dinner for three with a bottle of wine and three cafe au laits came to $199.
 
Overall mark - 7 out of 10

____________________________
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!

Photo Sources:
  1. Duck confit with black current glaze - Sifu Renka (http://www.flickr.com/photos/sifu_renka/3690301665/in/set-72157620999191360)
  2. Steak frites - Fare Bistro (http://www.facebook.com/FareBistro)
  3. Chocolate terrine -  Sifu Renka (http://www.flickr.com/photos/sifu_renka/3690301665/in/set-72157620999191360)
  4. Blackberry upside down cake - Yelp (http://www.yelp.ca/biz_photos/fare-bistro-toronto?select=XbBQ-z8j3BnUQgtZ855v0A#AgZCmkXh-s8Gc8D-wfjGyg)