Showing posts with label dumplings. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dumplings. Show all posts

Orote (Toronto)


There's something about a tasting menu that gives me a thrill - it's oddly freeing to detach myself from decisions and just be ready to experience. Almost like a rollercoaster for eating where I strap myself in for a ride and hope the track is enjoyable.

Orote presents a six-course menu ($78) where there are some decisions: a choice of main course  and whether you want any of the supplementary ingredients and courses. It's not overly exhaustive, I settled on the fish and as a table we decided to add on everything we could. Let the ride begin.

It starts off slowly, as we made our way up the dinner hill. The thinly sliced pork belly with boiled daikon and pickled parrilla leaves is a dish that's better as a whole than each of the individual parts. Yet, the kitchen needs to work on balance: there's too much parrilla so the acidity overwhelms the delicate pork belly and the chunk of irregularly cut daikon makes it really difficult to create a roll. If these ingredients were smaller, the diner would have a better opportunity to taste the paper-thin pork belly and its dusting of savoury shrimp powder. 


We begin to pick up steam when the skewer of lobster and pumpkin robata arrives. It was fantastic, each bite augmented with black garlic and bits of walnut. The spices and grilled preparation gives the lobster such a unique taste that I couldn't register the protein during the first bite, wow was it meaty. 


As we make our way to the top of the plunge, I'm momentarily skeptical of the "salad" course... there's an awfully large portion of what looks like unadorned leafy greens. We're told to make sure to dig to the bottom where we'll find poached mussels and a wonderful consommé. All in all, I didn't mind the  leafy greens and sticks of daikon, it made for a nice cleanser between the grilled lobster and the following dumplings. I just wish the greens were quickly blanched so it wouldn't cause the rest of the dish to cool down so much. Make sure you get every drop of the lovely soup. 


I was thrilled with the two plump mushroom and tofu dumplings. On its own it may seem a bit plain, but as I broke them apart and had bits of it with the bonito dashi, it was delicious. If there's one thing Orote does well it's their soups - they seriously should consider having a larger soup course. For this dish we added shaved truffle ($10) but it didn't make that much of a difference. Give me an extra bowl of dashi any day. 


For the main, I opted for halibut, a nice thick meaty piece that was cooked superbly. It just needed more seasoning - there was so much sesame sauce on top of the fish, yet it added more of a creamy texture than flavour. Even the broth served with the halibut wasn't as strong as the previous dishes. All in all, the main was fine, but not overly exciting. 


Had I known, I would have gone with the pork loin, which was way more flavourful and tasty. The pickled kale made me think of the dish as a lighter and less greasy form of braised pork belly with preserved vegetables, the Hakka mu choy cow yok (from the Cantonese dialect). The pork also went better with the bowl of miso yolk rice ($4), which I forgot to take a picture, but imagine a bowl of steamed sticky rice topped with shaved egg yolk and way too many green onions. 


The shared add-on dishes were sprinkled throughout the ride. Orote's chicken ssam ($12) consists of large mounds of cold shredded chicken topped with a slice of daikon. You can't really wrap it up like bo ssam, so it is slightly strange the dish is named chicken "wrap". I recommend including some of the pickled greens on the side: it would give the chicken more flavour and would provide diners with ingredients to make chicken ssam two ways.


If you're sensitive to salt, Orote is actually a great place to dine at as even the truffle rice cake and perilla seed ($25), described to us as a really creamy rich dish, wasn't overly heavy or powerful. Sure, the sauce was thicker compared to the broth that adorned other dishes, but it wasn't creamy in the traditional sinful sense. If anything, the best part of the dish wasn't it's "creaminess", truffle shavings, or the perilla seeds... it was the soft chewy pieces of rice cake.


Overall, the ride ended on a high: I thoroughly enjoyed the barley cream dessert, which is like a really fluffy panna cotta topped with finely grated chocolate shavings, puffed buckwheat, and black sesame. Creamy and light, it had a great texture that I wanted to savour, yet also wished I could just pop half of it into my mouth and allow the delicate sweetness to flood my taste buds.


The newly opened Orote offers a wonderful tasting option for those who are looking for a healthier meal that doesn't leave you feel stuffed and heavy. I can certainly see Actinolite's influences in Chef Kwangtaek Lee's menu. Though I urge Chef Lee to consider bringing in even more of his Korean influences into the dishes, especially in the mains and add-ons to really give it some pizzazz. As it stands, Orote is nice and solid, but there's the potential to make it really thrilling. 

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 276 Havelock 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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Owl of Minerva (Toronto) for delivery

Note: Prices in post are based on regular menu prices and may be higher when using delivery services

Aside from soup-based noodles, a comforting dish I crave in the winter is pork bone soup. There’s almost a primal sense of survival in picking up the massive hunk of bone in your hands and trying to get to as many of the meaty bits as possible, dissecting and sucking until it’s picked clean. Kam ja tang is served in most Korean restaurants, but Owl of Minerva introduced the dish to me and it’s where I return for a fix.

As difficult as it is to transport, Owl does delivery and takeout - the kam ja tang ($10.99) is vacuum sealed so that no drop of the fragrant soup is lost. Without the hot stone bowl, it’s warm on arrival, so we always re-heat it in a pot before tucking in. It needs to be enjoyed in its full glory: blistering hot, burning the fingers, and stinging the tongue. No pain, no delicious gain.

While waiting for the pork bone to re-heat, snack on an order of gu man du ($10.99). The deep-fried dumplings still surprisingly crispy and hot despite also being entombed in plastic. Truthfully, I’d much rather Owl switch to a piece of tin foil to wrap the beef dumpling instead of using so much plastic. We can all benefit from less waste and if someone wanted to re-heat the dumplings in the toaster oven, the tin foil will even save the customer a preparation step.

Back to the pork bone. Once it’s bubbling hot and placed into a bowl, here’s how I like to enjoy my kam ja tang: I help cool it slightly by placing a couple of pieces of kimchi into the bowl. I prefer the fermented cabbage hot and enjoy that extra bit of umami spice that the sauce adds to the broth. Then, it’s a hands-on marathon – first picking off the easy bits of meat with chopsticks, before switching to the primal eating ritual described earlier.

In between it all, I place bit-sized pieces of steam rice on a spoon before adding some broth to the utensil and getting a delicious mouthful of the salty garlicky soup. Some like to add all the rice into the broth and mix it with the meat, creating a Korean congee. I like mine separated, bite by bite. To each their own.

Once the pork bone is done, it’s down to the cabbage with rice. And if I’m feeling particularly ravenous, the hunks of soft potatoes will round out the meal. A meal from Owl of Minerva leaves you stuffed and almost uncomfortably full. It’s my quintessential meal during the winter, where a girl needs to eat to survive. 

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: Various locations (we ordered from Yonge and Finch)
 Delivery: Uber, Skip the Dishes
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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never order again
  • 6 - decent for delivery and takeout, but there's better
  • 7 - this is good, for delivery and takeout
  • 8 - great for delivery and takeout, it's almost like you're in a restaurant
  • 9 -  wow, it's like I'm eating at a restaurant
  • 10 - I'd happily order this for delivery or takeout instead of dining in any day!


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CLOSED: Surely Up Vegetarian Hot Pot (Richmond Hill)

During the winter months, I’m constantly craving a good hot pot meal. A bowl of boiling broth in front of me releasing an umami aroma, ingredients slowly being cooked, and voila a make-and-eat dinner is borne. There are abundant hot pot options across the GTA, both a la carte and all-you-can-eat (AYCE), but Surely Up Vegetarian Hot Pot is the first one I’ve found that’s completely meatless. 


It’s also the first one that has their ingredients presented on a conveyor belt, so you don’t need to try and flag down a staff member to get an extra order of anything – except for desserts as those seem to be slow to make it onto the belt.


The dining room is small but space is efficiently used. About twenty seats are placed in an oval around the conveyor belt, with a large mesh bag (for jackets) and a small shelf (for bags and phones) situated underneath the bar table. It makes you feel like you’re dining in Japan.


Up until end of February of the 2019-2020 holiday season, Surely is encouraging people to go vegetarian by offering a special $19.99 AYCE rate that includes a choice of soup base (mushroom or tomato), sauces, iced tea, and plum juice. It’s a fairly good deal from the regular $21.99, which includes the soup, but there’s an additional $1 for sauces and extra for drinks. In either case, if you want to go for the rare precious mushroom broth, it’s an additional $5.99.


In reality, there’s already tons of mushrooms spinning around as hot pot ingredients that you could easily make your own fungi broth. Grab anything you want from the conveyor and if you’re not sure what it is, underneath the dishes lies a sticker with the ingredient’s name. There are a few items where there’s an extra cost, these are clearly marked.


We mixed and matched to our heart’s content – tons of vegetables (oh watercress my beloved leafy green), mushrooms (enoki and shemeji goes so nicely with the broth), and even some mock meat for good measure (the mock shrimp balls and colourful dumplings were both good).


If you’re really hungry as you’re waiting for things to cook, there’s even a selection of ready-to-eat items such as warm tea eggs (these need a bit of extra flavouring added on) and mock duck floating around.


For me, the best part of the meal is tucking into a steaming bowl of noodles, at the end, and drinking the cooking broth with the noodles. The soup condenses down and is teeming with flavours. The frozen knife cut noodles at Surely is a nice change from the typical udon or instant noodles (although these are offered as well).

However, the worst part of the experience is all the plastic wrap being used to cover each and every dish – talk about a waste for a restaurant that’s encouraging people to go meatless! Of course, Surely needs to make sure things are hygienic, but the majority of the ingredients need to be cooked in scalding boiling water anyways, so it really doesn’t need to be covered. For the rest, they should invest in reuseable plastic domes to protect the plates. In fact, it’s the guilt of discarding all this plastic wrap that discourages me from visiting Surely Up more often.



Nonetheless, what I like most about hot pot is being able to spend time slowly catching up with a loved one. There’s no waiting around for ordering or dishes to arrive, and you eat at your own pace. Having hot pot is such a warming tradition that makes the winter months a bit more bearable.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Richmond Hill, Canada
 Address: 420 Highway 7


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!


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Garleek Kitchen (Toronto)

Garleek Kitchen momos

If you like intimate family run restaurants, Garleek Kitchen will definitely provide that cozy experience. The dining room consists of less than ten tables, and on a weekday visit, the entire operations was run by a single person - quite a feat to be host, waiter, and chef. To keep things simple, their menu is displayed on a television and cutlery & key condiments are found on the table.

Meanwhile, most of the time, the proprietor is in the kitchen, making everything to order including the momos. These dumplings are the delicious pouches I remember most from past Tibetan meals. With the option to steam, pan fry, or deep fry the dumplings, we tried them two ways – pan-fried and steamed  

The chicken pan-fried momos ($8.99) definitely hit the spot. The toasted crust adding a nice contrast compared to the soft top of the dumpling. While the nub in the middle of the dough was a bit too thick, the white meat chicken filling was juicy and savoury. So good the spicy dipping sauces weren’t even required.


They were needed for the steam vegetables momo ($7.99). While the chunky chili sauce added heat and extra flavour, the dumplings could still use more salt. Nevertheless, the filling consisted of an interesting combination of vegetables, which Garleek should consider leaving some less cooked (everything was rather soft) so the texture will vary.


Nepalese chicken chow mein ($8.50) is made from thin chewy noodles cooked on a hot flattop so it develops a crust on some strands. Like Cantonese chow mein, there are the crispy and soft bits within the plate, but Garleek’s is less oily and isn’t topped with sauce allowing the noodles to remain crunchy. I loved the aromatic wok hay of the dish, but the chicken needs less time on the grill as it was overdone and dry.

Garleek Kitchen chicken chow mein Toronto

Despite running with only one person, Garleek provides attentive service. Along with the noodles, the chef brought out a chilled bottle of hot sauce and warned that it was “crazy spicy” – heed the warning but you’ll want to try some anyways. He also checked on us at regular intervals and was around when something was required. This warm intimate experience is what makes dining at small proprietors a great event.


Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 1500 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!

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Garleek Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Dim Sum Queen (Toronto)


Aside from being an opportunity to gather friends and family, dim sum is also an excuse to gorge and indulge. Steamer-after-steamer and plate-after-plate of the small bites get placed on the table… just as quickly, it seems, things disappear. Who can keep track of what actually gets eaten?

When Dim Sum Queen opened in the neighbourhood, I had my doubts about its authenticity. From the outside, it looks nothing like a traditional Chinese restaurant and even the name seemed dubious. Yet with the limited dim sum options by my place and the fact that they accept reservations (!), we tried and we conquered (the steamers and plates that is).

Dim Sum Queen does not offer an early bird special, instead, dishes are always charged at the same rate: M ($4.50), L ($5.30), and XL ($6.50). While they don’t have any dishes sized as small, there is a fair selection at the medium range (for example, most of their buns). I'd opt for the BBQ pork (M) ones over the pan fried pork and vegetable (M) as the filling is much tastier. While the BBQ pork is stuffed with large pieces of meat in the traditional sweet sticky sauce, the pan fried buns lacked flavours and needed more vegetables. Moreover, weren’t fried long enough to develop a nice crust.


In general, a lot of the pan fried items could use more time in the pan. Their grilled turnip cake with preserved meat (M) was actually made really well with tons of ingredients and big chunks of turnip, but its lukewarm temperature couldn’t do it justice. The pan fried chicken pot sticker (L) was rather run of the mill, but with the right crunch against the soft filling, it could have been better. Out of all these types of dishes, the pan fried chives shrimp & cake (L) was the tastiest, maybe because its thinner wrapper requires less time on the flattop.


The wrapper on the shrimp dumpling har gow (L) is thicker than I typically like, but the shrimp was well-cooked so it retains its sweetness. For tables with odd numbers, the shrimp and snow pea leaves dumpling (L) may be a better choice as you get a similar shrimp filling but it’s balanced by the vegetables to give it an extra texture and flavour element.


While the pork and shrimp dumpling siu mai (L) doesn't look quite as nice as competitors (lacking that pop of colour on top), it tastes just as good. Dim Sum Queen is made for those who don’t eat pork as they also offer siu mai in tangerine beef (M) and chicken shitake (L) alternatives. The chicken has a similar texture but milder taste and I rather like the slight earthiness from the mushroom. Meanwhile, the beef is in a paste form and has a springy texture – similar to the steamed tangerine beef balls but denser.


Dim sum wouldn’t be the same without an order of rice rolls, the BBQ pork (L) was tasty and contained enough filling. For something different, the vegetarian spring roll version (M) uses a crunchy deep fried spring roll, which makes for such a great contrast against the soft silky wrapper.


While the steamed sticky rice with meat in lotus leaf (L) could use more filling, for what was there, it was flavourful. 


A bowl of the shrimp dumpling in soup (L) (sometimes known as Shanghai dumplings in other restaurants) is also great during the cold weather as they’re steamed in the bowl arriving piping hot. The plump shrimp are further enhanced by crunchy black fungus slivers.


Dishes that should be taken off the menu are the green onion pancake (M) and red bean pancake (M). The dough is much too dense, especially for a green onion pancake that’s normally known for the flaky layers. Moreover, the filling in each is so sparse that they really don’t taste like much.


On the other hand, dishes you should order are ones consisting of a sticky glutinous flour exterior that’s deep fried. The sesame seed and lotus paste balls (M) made fresh so they’re piping hot. What makes them stand out is the glutinous dough – it’s rather delicate so it’s not too dense but still has a lovely crispy crust. In the sesame seed ball, you bite through to be greeted with a lotus paste that’s thinned so it has a silkier texture but still a nice amount of sweetness.


For a savoury version, the deep fried meat & shrimp dumplings (M; 2 orders shown below) is similar but instead filled with bits of pork, mushroom, and shrimp.


While I wouldn’t say every dish at Dim Sum Queen is a hit, what I love that you’re able to visit on a whim and not have to wait. On busier days (think holidays), they still let you book reservations so it’s a great option for larger tables. Having been twice, on busy and slow days, the food and service quality remained consistent.

So, I take back my initial judgment. Maybe their name, signage, and dining room doesn’t look like a typical Chinese restaurant, but their food tastes just as authentic. 

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 3241 Yonge Street

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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Noodle & More (Toronto)


Walk around Toronto and you’ll find tons of small restaurants that aren’t opened by “celebrity” chefs or widely covered in mainstream and social media. I’m intrigued about these establishments. Often the owner is also the chef and generally this is where you can taste real authentic non-fussy cuisine.

Since the restaurant is called Noodle & More, it’d be unwise to visit and not order noodles. We’re advised their stewed beef hand-ripped noodles ($13.99) is one of the most popular dishes. The broth is beef and soy sauce based with a light spicy note in the background, flavourful enough that you didn’t need to add anything else. While the diced beef were rather small pieces, they were well braised and tender. Yet, the standout was the hand-ripped noodles arriving as thick ribbons, almost like knife cut noodles but longer and slightly thinner. Surprisingly, they could withstand sitting in the soup for a decent period of time without getting too soft and doughy.


Unfortunately, I couldn’t say the same for the fried noodles with beef ($11.49), which was too soggy for me. The noodles were simply too thin compared to the sauce. Moreover, the dish needed something crunchier to contrast against the soft noodles; while there were bean sprouts and green onions, these were also cooked too long so didn’t add a textual contrast.


Combining the fried noodles with some of the stir fried vegetables with garlic ($9.99) helped. These were cooked nicely, the vegetables retaining a vibrant colour and crunch. It was also a surprisingly sizeable portion, which with all the other carbs helped balance the meal.

As the pan fried chicken, cabbage and mushroom dumplings ($10.49) arrived at the table, memories of making paper snowflakes in kindergarten flashed through my mind. Except, at Noodle & More the snowflake web is created from caramelized dumpling juices. By itself, the dumplings’ filling needed more seasoning, but once you dip them into the tableside condiments, it gets better.


Aside from the hand pulled noodles, the dumplings are also made in-house, which you can witness by the window. In fact, their sister restaurant (located on Dundas West) is known for these creations. It’s called … wait for it … Dumpling & More!


The savoury Chinese crepe ($6.50) needs to be eaten quickly or the crispy wonton cracker in the centre gets stale. From the areas that retained the crunch, it goes nicely against the thin egg omlette and lettuce, bits of green onion and cilantro add a freshness to the wrap. Hoisin sauce was smeared on the crepe for a bit of sweetness, but would be nice if more was provided on the side so eaters can add to taste.


For something really flavour, the malatang ($12.45) is great, if you’re in the mood for a spicy dish. A variety of vegetables are combined with tofu, black fungus and Spam in a bowl of chili laced broth. It’s not nearly as spicy as what you can find elsewhere, the heat mostly coming from chili oil rather than the Sichuan pepper that numbs and scorches. For me, it was the perfect level of spiciness as anything more would be inedible. The dish would be even better if there’s the option of adding noodles.


Truthfully, I’d probably never would have stopped by Noodle & More if it weren’t for the Eatibl app, which allows a user to book a reservation online. While this doesn’t sound revolutionary, but what makes an Eatibl reservation different is that depending on the time of the reservation, diners get a discount. For example, at Noodle & More, a 4pm seating means you’d benefit from a 20% discount, while other times 10-15% off the final bill. A great option for those who have non-standard routines (i.e. students) or are not picky about when they eat.


Otherwise, it’s just a great excuse to check out some of the little known Toronto restaurants. There’s tons to discover, some event at a steep discount.

Overall mark - 7 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: 402 Bloor 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: