Showing posts with label eel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label eel. Show all posts

Tachi (Toronto)


Hidden behind a screen to the left of Shari is a stand-up sushi bar that promises freshly made sushi served in less than thirty minutes. The 12-piece omakase menu ($55 per person) changes depending on ingredient availability and like their sister restaurant Shoushin, is served piece-by-piece with condiments pre-added to ensure the sushi is eaten at the ideal temperature and flavour.


Interestingly, the meal started with hotate, a piece that historically is lightly torched and served at the halfway point. At Tachi, the scallop is left unsinged. Light and refreshing, it worked well as the first bite.   


The chef then presented us with grouper (habuku) with seaweed sandwiched between the fish and rice, which added a nice depth of flavour. Maybe it was due to our early reservation, but Tachi’s rice is warmer than most resulting in a creamier texture, which is balanced by vinegar. Their rice was perfectly seasoned.


Popular pieces that grace many omakase menus followed. First, the seabream (madai) a soft and meaty lighter fish. Followed by kanpachi, the fleshy fish is slightly fuller flavoured but still has a fresh clean texture.


During the middle of the meal the three tunas with varying fatty levels arrived: the akami was vibrantly coloured and flavourful; the chutoro builds in richness; and the otoro, which was leaner than some other restaurants, but still deliciously melt-in-your mouth.


After the flavourful otoro, it can sometimes be hard to find pieces that are equally rich. The smoked bonito or katsuo was a lovely choice, bits of green onions adding a refreshing bite.


The chef pounded the octopus (tako) with the back of a knife, so the seafood was well scored, tender, and as soon as it hit the mouth, the octopus’ flavours erupted onto the tongue.


Having had great experiences with horse mackerel or aji at Shoushin, we had to add it to the meal ($7 supplement). Like Shoushin, it was just as delicious… they seriously know how to prepare this gamier fish well.


If a piece of sushi could be refreshing and thirst quenching, the juicy salmon roe (ikura) would be the poster child. For those who are squeamish about fishy tastes, rest assured, the juices are salty and clean.  


The sea water eel (anago) was soft and sweet from the sugary glaze. It was a good alternative to dessert as surprisingly Tachi does not end off with a piece of tamago.


Instead, the last piece was a tasty tuna hand roll (temaki) with green onion mixed into the fish for even more flavour.   


Even though the meal was done in 25 minutes, both chefs took the time to have a conversation with us, keeping the experience warm and friendly (when it could have turned into a robotic task of making and eating sushi). A stand-up sushi meal is definitely something to experience, just bring some cash (for tipping) and make reservations to score one of the limited eight spots. 

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 111 Richmond 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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Don Alfonso 1890 (Toronto)


Don Alfonso 1890 originates from Sorrento within the Amalfi Coast of Italy. The Mediterranean restaurant has been awarded two Michelin stars and is known for their extensive wine list. While I haven’t visited the original location, it’s described as a picturesque boutique hotel that even has an onsite cooking school. In comes the Liberty Entertainment Group (owners of Casa Loma, Liberty Grand, etc.) who convinced Chef Ernesto Iaccarino to partner with them to open the new Toronto outpost. Of course, Chef Iaccarino will stay in Italy, hence the Toronto kitchen is led by Chef Saverio Macri, who trained with Chef Iaccarino for months.


Set in the former Rosewater Supper Club, the space is even lighter and brighter than before. Sitting in the soaring dining room, you can’t help but feel a sense of tranquility and awe. A few large art pieces draws interest, but otherwise the space is relatively neutral, so you can focus on the food.


In keeping with Don Alfonso’s tradition of using local ingredients, dishes like the Manitoba bison and Nova Scotia ling cod has been customized for the Canadian menu. However, they do import some ingredients to retain the Amalfi Coast flavours. For example, the olive oil that’s carefully poured onto the bread plate (with an indentation that separates the oil) is from Tuscany, a great pairing with their airy and salty focaccia. Also make sure to get their hot crispy mini baguette, this goes wonderfully with the truffle butter.


The 8-course tasting menu ($150 per person with vegetarian option available) consists of five savoury and three sweet dishes, wine pairings are an additional $100.

A collection of canapés arrives on a tree limb shaped plate, where the actual canapés are meant to resemble fall foliage. Each bite is different: yellowfin tuna tartare and parsley crisp a light start; bison tartare with chili chip resembled typical beef tartare; sea urchin with squid ink crisp finishes off with a bitter bite; and finally, meaty and refreshing rockfish ceviche with turmeric crisp, my favourite of the bunch. While each canapé is quickly finished in two bites, it must take a long time to make four different toppings with four different flavoured chips.


Admittedly, when I first saw the ice creamed eel course my stomach turned. Yet, what arrived was pleasant and tasted like a salty cream, not unlike Cesar dressing without the cheese and garlic. Once mixed into the wild rose scented tagliatelle, which by itself is also powerful, the saltiness and the floral flavour worked remarkably well. However, I’d suggest adding the creamed eel gradually into the pasta as the ratio given is unbalanced – for Don Alfonso, doubling the pasta and reducing the creamed eel by a third is advisable.


For some protein courses, dishes allow diners to flavour the meat to their preference. The seared Muscovy duck breast comes with three sauces: a balsamic reduction, a star anise glaze, and royal gala apple purée. It’s a nice touch to be able to mix-and-match to my liking – surprisingly, I enjoyed the star anise glaze the most. The duck was beautifully seared, if only there was more duck and less sauce.


Where the sauces didn’t work as well was for the bison. The San Marzano tomato and red chili reduction was a splitting taste of Frank’s Red Hot and the salsa verde, something that normally goes well with steak, just didn’t pair well.


With the bison wrapped with swiss chard, mozzarella, and a buttery bread crust, the dish was a cross between beef wellington and chicken cordon blue. While my husband believes a chimichurri would go well with it, I think a simple jus mixed with a sweet element (like a berry or current) would have been great – perhaps a little safe, but at least tastier. Luckily, the meat was flavourful enough on its own that I didn’t need the sauce, it was merely disappointing that the meal didn’t end stronger.

For other dishes, we’re told to aggressively mix everything together… to have the elements individually would be too plain. Sure, the mackerel in the vermicelli di gragnano was done beautifully and clean tasting, but once combined with caramelized onions, Alalonga tuna purée, and crunchy Silician pine nut pieces, it was even better. Some patrons may find the dish salty; for me, it was perfect. So much so, that I may go back for a larger plate from their a la carte menu ($28).


The menu describes the merluzzo as having a ‘crisp’ herb skin. While it was a thick sauce formed with six herbs, the skin on the ling cod wasn’t crispy. In fact, it really didn’t taste like much - if anything, the zucchini puree under the fish was stronger and gave the protein flavour. Regardless, it was a lovely lighter dish, adding some vegetables into the meal.


A sizeable portion of Ontario strawberry sorbet arrives as a palette cleanser, in between the savoury dishes and dessert. The pistachio glass is a nice decorative touch.


Dessert begins with something traditional, a Neapolitan sfogliatella, consisting of a flakey phyllo pastry filled with tons of cinnamon infused cream. So much pastry cream that it felt like we were having cinnamon mousse - I say more cone, less cream! Moreover, the amarena cherry glaze should be drizzled around the plate, given it’s an acquired taste (depends if you enjoy maraschino cherries), which I would have preferred to avoid.  


The last dish ends with a bang … or billowing smoke. A tray of petit four arrives with dry ice in the centre, which makes for a great presentation while keeping the sweets cold. The pastry of the deconstructed cannoli was delicious, the nuts adding a great crunch, but the almond cream wasn’t for me. My favourite was the creamy hazelnut semifreddo, which went particularly well with cappuccino. And the last bite, a silky olive oil truffle on a crunchy pistachio biscuit, a rich sweet ending that’s also notably balanced.  


Although $150 tasting menus are widely found in major cities worldwide, in Toronto it’s still one of the pricier options. Aside from the sturgeon caviar (used sparingly with the ice creamed eel), the ingredients aren’t particularly luxurious, so why does Don Alfonso command the price?

Aside from the tie-in to the Michelin-starred restaurant, likely due to the sheer amount of people working. A team of two assembles the canapes dish, which as the evening progressed expanded to three – three people to scoop premade toppings onto crisps. Every table is served in unison, no matter how large. And even opening a bottle of wine is an elaborate affair with the sommelier wheeling over a cart (complete with lit candle), slowly removing the cork, pouring the wine into a large crystal decanter, before presenting the cork on a silver platter and pouring the wine.

Or maybe it has something to do with all the tableware they need to purchase. Every course is served on a customized vessel with matching silverware, believed to showcase the characteristics of the dish. 

In other words, Don Alfonso offers an over-the-top experience that’s rarely found elsewhere in the city. They make you feel special … where else are you offered a tour of the kitchen and wine cellar before leaving the restaurant? It’s the place to go for a special occasion or when you really want to impress someone.



For a glimpse of the experience, you can also visit the second-floor lounge where they offer an a la carte menu, a mix of some tasting menu dishes and others created especially for their smaller kitchen. You may not get served in unison and the wine may not arrive elaborately with a cart, but you can try the tasty vermicelli di gragnano mackerel.

Overall mark - 8.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 19 Toronto 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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Celebrating #Canada150 at Shoushin (Toronto)


Aside from the beautiful land, what I love most about Canada is our diversity and that we’re generally a country that celebrates multiculturalism. Being a child of immigrants, my parents left their families and travelled here for university. Of course, it wasn’t easy – getting comfortable with the language and having to work harder to prove their worth – yet, they love their decision and would never return to Hong Kong … Canada is home.

Hence, when it came time to celebrate Canada’s 150 anniversary, forgoing the typical BBQ and celebrating with Shoushin’s special Canada omakase ($150), served until the end of July 2017, seemed like the patriotic thing to do.

The first bite from the dinner is the mozuku, a refreshing start with finely cut seaweed slivers mixed with a sweet vinegar. Its consistency is a bit slippery, but since the seaweed has little flavour, it’s not off putting. Garnished with tomato pulp, grated ginger, and daikon slivers, these add a nice crunch and additional flavours to the starter to keep it interesting.

As a first experience goes, the lobster sashimi wasn’t horrible. Although it’s not something I’d want to eat again, the east coast crustacean actually had a crunchy consistency and wasn’t soft and gummy as expected. Chef Lin notes that lobster sashimi is really about the texture as it has little taste. He was right; while it was simply adorned with seaweed salt and wasabi, I still couldn’t taste much sweetness (something that seems to develop when it’s cooked).


The aroma emitted from the grilled unagi is heavenly, the perfume of sweet caramelized soy that makes you want to dig in right away. Since the eel is from Quebec, it’s much larger and hence meatier than the typical unagi found on rice or topping sushi. Glazed with mirin, soy sauce, and chocolate (if I heard correctly), it’s sweet and peppery thanks to the chilli berries on top. It would have been even better if it were cooked a touch less as I found one piece a tad chewy and dry.


Before the sushi procession begun, a bowl of nyumen arrives, the kelp and bonito infused broth swimming with silky somen noodles, crunchy snow peas, and earthy re-hydrated shiitake mushrooms. The dish is simple but wonderful, the soup ideal for readying the palette for the raw seafood that follows.


Starting light, the first piece of sushi was a Japanese flounder. While it’s a meaty fish, there’s an interesting almost fluffiness to its consistency.


Though the west coast big reef squid’s slightly sticky chewy texture isn’t the greatest, it’s not repulsive either and likely due to the thicker slice given. After getting past the consistency, it’s a nice light squid with the main flavours stemming from the swipe of soy on top.


The golden eye snapper is always a treat, even as a milder fish, there’s still a prevalent flavour to it and pairs rather nicely with the vinegar mixed into the rice. As commended in a previous post, Shoushin makes excellent rice: it’s heavier on the vinegar so that grains actually have flavour and the temperature is spot on (warm enough to enhance the fish without changing the temperature).


Shoushin also makes amazing horse mackerel sushi! Since the fish is cleaned so well any gamey fishiness is removed. On this occasion, they added a healthy sprinkle of green onion on top creating an extra zip to the sushi. It’s by far the best horse mackerel I’ve had.


Midway through the 11-piece sushi meal the tuna parade starts, following the leanest to fattiest sequence. The lean blue fin tuna has that vibrant red colour that’s so mesmerising. Meanwhile, the warmer rice with the medium chu toro was fantastic, causing the tuna taste to cover the tongue and linger even after the piece was finished.


Typically, the fattiest piece of the tuna comes from the otoro or tuna belly. In this case, Shoushin introduced me to the fattiest part of the tuna’s back, which still melts in the mouth and has a much stronger flavour.


After such lovely pieces of tuna, the gizzard shad was out of place. Having had it before, this piece was overly salty and the skin too thick – it felt like I was chewing forever when I just wanted to swallow the salty fish down.


The east coast surf clam wasn’t any better. At first it had a crunchy texture emitting a sweetness, but as chewing continued, the clam finished off with a fishy aftertaste. Take my advice: chew and swallow quickly, this isn’t one for savouring.


Thankfully, the following east coast scallop was better: with a hint of seaweed salt and lemon on top, the ingredients helped augment the scallop’s sweetness. Not having been blow torched, you could still taste the seafood in a delicate manner.


In lieu of the traditional hand roll, a piece of sushi topped with pop-in-your-mouth Canadian fish eggs arrived. With a light dusting of yuzu zest on top, it was a cold and refreshing ending.


Of course, we were also served a piece of tamago, which Shoushin does so well. The beautiful layers and rich delicately sweetened egg is the perfect bridge between sushi and dessert.


Whenever they serve some sort of rendition of a green tea pudding, that’s what I have for dessert. The matcha flavoured jelly is generally accompanied with a sweet red bean paste (a staple in Asian sweets) and a chewy unfilled glutinous rice ball. In this case, the Canadian theme continued with the pool of maple syrup on the bottom, helping to add a sweetness to the dessert.


While not as impressive as their general Yuri tasting menu, this one was still decent. However, for something classified as a special “Canada celebration” menu, it’s disappointing that less than half of the dishes were made from Canadian ingredients.

Understandably, sourcing an entire Canadian menu for sushi may be difficult, but at least the individual courses such as the seaweed (from Okinawa) and somen noodles (presumably from Japan) should be Canadian related. Either they could be sourced from Canadian ingredients (wouldn’t we produce seaweed?) or replaced with something signifying our country (an Angus beef tataki would have been delicious).

Without a doubt, I love Canada for its diversity. Nonetheless, perhaps refined sashimi and sushi should be left for other days of the year.

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 3328 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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Fishman Wharf Seafood 漁人碼頭 (Markham)


When your restaurant’s named Fishman Wharf Seafood, there shouldn’t be customers wandering in hoping to get an amazing sweet and sour pork or sizzling beef plate. Indeed, the establishment’s focus is seafood, but in particular, Alaska king crab, which was a bit of a letdown as I really had a hankering for a lobster tower, without the added expense of the crab, and there little options for the tower without the aforementioned crab royalty.

Moreover, many set meals also includes shark fin and when asked if they can substitute it with something (perhaps crab meat?) the answer is no, but they can serve it on the side so those who would rather not have it can have their rice plain. Substitutions are definitely not encouraged.

You really need a group of at least six people to fully enjoy the restaurant – if you can round up a table of ten, even better. They’re known for their set meals and do offer a la carte dishes, but a tower can easily cost $100 on its own, so purchasing everything piece meal is definitely an expensive choice. Also, the restaurant assumes everyone at the table is a hungry teenager as our lobster seafood set for six ($258) was more than sufficient for seven of us; if we didn’t stuff our faces, the dinner could have even accommodated an eighth, despite the waitress urging us to add on a chicken.

The soup and dessert are the slow boiled varieties, both not overly exciting – pork with leafy dried vegetables for the soup and a papaya with white fungus for dessert - but at least flavourful and hot enough.


What I was there for was the eight pound lobster tower, for an extra $10 we changed the preparation ‘fried garlic’ to ‘Hong Kong style’ having heard it’s much tastier. The later still had tons of garlic, but also incorporated deep fried small whitebait fish and a bit of spice. Overall, a decent dish: the lobster not overdone, enough flavour without completely overpowering the seafood itself, and piping hot.


With a salted egg yolk batter covering the deep fried Vancouver crab, it’s different. At first almost offending, the oily powdery crust grew on me and the rich yolk contrasted well against the sweet crab – not unlike a less salty sharp cheese with seafood.


Despite being named deep fried eel, the ingredient likely only underwent a quick flash fry and then was stir fried with chilies and green onion. Normally, the eel has a gamier taste, but the stronger sauce helped mask this and was a tasty sauce.


Although the clam cooked in wine was rather plain (generally I prefer them stir fried with black bean sauce), after all the heavier deep fried dishes, it was nice to eat a less oily one. It’s a shame you can’t really sip the cooking broth – unless you like the taste of pungent Chinese cooking wine.


The steamed grouper was done in the “traditional” method with Chinese wolfberries (adds a light sour element) and black fungus. Also executed affably, but could use a little more soy sauce.  
Even Fishman’s vegetables incorporate seafood, the boiled yu choy incorporating slivers of dried cuttlefish (?) on top. It’s fine, but didn’t actually help enhance the dish.


To end, a large platter of shark fin fried rice. It wasn’t what I expected - a pyramid of fried rice in a pool of crab meat laced shark fin soup. Despite being morally against the shark fin, I have to admit the dish was delicious. However, with so many other elements, the shark fin really isn’t required; personally, I believe slivers of the spongy soft and crunchy bamboo innards (or jook sun) would be even better with the rice.  


Some things to keep in mind: they take reservations but only for large groups and payment is debit or cash only… not abnormal for Chinese establishments. After the meal, I certainly felt I had my fill of seafood.  Lobster, crab, eel, clams and fish … satisfied.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Markham, Canada
 Address: 4080 Steeles 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:


Fishmen Wharf Seafood Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato