Showing posts with label gastro world. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gastro world. Show all posts

Blackshop (Cambridge)

Location: Cambridge, Canada
Address: 595 Hespler Road
Website: www.blackshop.ca
Type of Meal: Dinner



Blackshop is located on a busy street with plazas of motels, retail stores and restaurants.  Despite the chaotic big box store surroundings, the restaurant is beautifully decorated with a decent sized patio and various dining areas each with its own comfortable design and charm.
Excited to see goulash ($7) on the menu, I ordered it as a starter.  Sadly, it was a huge disappointment.  There was so much wrong with it that I’m surprised no one tasted it and decided it was unfit to serve! 

Firstly, it was a tepid temperature and had absolutely no flavour.  My fond memories of the goulash I had in Germany and Austria was a flavourful hearty stew with a hint of spice from the paprika.  Blackshop’s goulash was completely tasteless and I had to add a liberal portion of salt just to give it any flavour.  Worst of all, the consistency was overly thick and had a grittiness to it.  My only hypothesis for this awful texture was the thickening agent they used was not diluted into a slurry or tempered prior to adding it to the boiling liquid.  Regardless, they should immediately remove this from their menu.
My husband’s Caesar salad ($8) was much better and judging by the number of other patrons who ordered it is the safer bet as an appetizer.
Luckily, their entrees were an improvement and arrive in huge portions.  The short ribs in the beef bourguignon ($24) were tender and topped with a thick hearty sauce with tons of sliced mushrooms.  The smooth and creamy mashed potatoes went well with the relatively lean beef. 
Their menu descriptions are surprisingly detailed and described the beef bourguignon to be accompanied with “carrot flowers”.  I was interested to see what these would be given I didn’t think carrot tops sprout flowers.  In reality, they were just regular carrots cut into blossom shapes.  
My husband opted for the featured fresh fish of seared tuna ($35).  Apologies for the blurry photo but I had to quickly snap a photo before he dug in. Three decent sized portions of tuna arrived, which by itself was bland but when combined with the miso broth was flavourful.  This is an excellent dish for the summer with the light ginger & onion flavours and medley of carrot, bok choy, napa cabbage shiitake and enoki mushrooms.  I only wish they blanched the vegetables prior to serving as raw bok choy and enoki mushrooms have an unpleasant spongy texture.

Blackshop did have pleasant friendly service.  Our waiter, despite having to look after a large number of tables, was attentive and repeatedly checked in to make sure we were okay.  I’m sure if I could have brought myself to send back the goulash they would have addressed my disappointment.  Overall, Blackshop is a comfortable restaurant with large portions and perhaps would be a good place to order a simple lunch on their patio.  My only advice is to stick with the basics (the steak frites looked decent) and leave the more ethnic dishes to other chefs.


Overall mark - 5.5 out of 10


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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!
For further general discussions about this blog please refer to http://gastroworldblog.blogspot.com/2012/09/welcome-to-gastro-world.html





Blackshop! on Urbanspoon

Cho Sun Ok (Thornhill)

Location: Thornhill, Canada
Address:  7353 Yonge Street
Type of Meal: Dinner

Although Cho Sun doesn’t offer an extensive menu, they do offer many of the popular dishes with a concentration on cold noodles given a quarter of their menu is dedicated to naengmyeon combos.

Given Cho Sun’s focus, we had to start with a bowl of bibim naengmyeon (spicy cold noodles) with a side of galbi (beef short ribs) ($17.95).  My first experience with this temperature challenged carb was at Dahn (http://gastroworldblog.blogspot.ca/2013/03/dahn-thornhill.html) and found it refreshing with great textured noodles. 

At Cho Sun, we decided to try the spicy version, which instead of being in a broth sits in a spicy dressing made from gochujang (red chili paste).  Disappointingly, it wasn’t very spicy despite the sauce’s scary shade of red.  Rather, the noodles were sweet with a hint of heat at the end.  Cho Sun also serves it with arrowroot noodles which are less “springy” in texture, comparable to a thinner soba noodle.  Sadly, that amazing texture of Dahn’s clear noodle, the highlight of the dish, was missing.




 

The naengmyeon can be purchased alone or with sides of various proteins.  We selected galbi which was flavourful but unfortunately a bit “grizzly”, so although tender, was tough to bite through.


 

Another popular dish is the seafood tofu soup ($8.95) which is really a hearty stew eaten as a main.  Cho Sun’s was chocked full of ingredients including silken egg tofu, small pieces of calamari, shrimp, scallops and mussels. Served with a bowl of black rice (actually purple in colour), it’s a filling and comforting meal.  A thick savoury spicy stew, it’s served in a piping hot stone bowl where it retained its temperature throughout the whole meal.  The tofu soup was my favourite dish for the night. 

 

Cho Sun’s steamed dumplings ($6.95) arrived in thin wrappers and stuffed with plenty of pork and vegetable filling.  Although served with a side of dipping sauce, neither was really flavourful so ended tasting bland.  Either the filling or the sauce needs to be saltier to bring some zip to the dish. The dumplings could be improved by serving them in a warm steamer basket, rather than a cold plate, so they could retain their temperature better.


Like most Korean restaurants, a variety of side dishes also accompanied our meal.  They were all some sort of vegetable (turnip, eggplant, watercress, bean sprouts, cabbage), which went well with the predominantly carb and protein dishes we ordered. I only wish they gave us more, given it seems like they serve the same amount regardless of table size.


Overall, Cho Sun serves a good selection of staples but doesn’t execute any of them to an extraordinary level.  Nonetheless, during our week night visit they were surprisingly busy with a constant stream of predominantly Korean clientele.  So, although I wasn’t impressed, Cho Sun must be meeting someone’s expectations?


Overall mark - 6 out of 10


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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!
For further general discussions about this blog please refer to http://gastroworldblog.blogspot.com/2012/09/welcome-to-gastro-world.html





Cho Sun Ok on Urbanspoon

CLOSED: The Grove (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 1214 Dundas Street West
Type of Meal: Dinner



Articles about the Grove proclaim it as modern British cuisine with a fine dining flair; but, I didn’t get that impression. It’s multi-course a la carte menu allows you to choose three ($40), five ($50) or seven ($60) courses from a selection of eight savoury and three dessert dishes.  To me, the dishes didn’t seem very “British” but rather what you’d find in any continental or wine bar type restaurant.  Perhaps Britain and Toronto are just converging along the same dining styles; nonetheless, I was a bit taken back by the customary sounding options.

After ordering, the Grove started us off with two amuse bouche of deviled eggs with blood pudding crisps and whole radishes with a lemon aioli type dip.  The deviled eggs were enjoyable with a hint of heat and mustard, while the blood sausage crisp added a nice contrast against the smooth egg yolk. 




Maybe it was done intentionally, but there were stark differences between the amounts of seasoning used on the seafood vs. grains.  The seafood was under seasoned while the tagliatelle (with the spot prawn) and the rye berries (with the Guinea fowl) were overly salty.  Only the meats were seasoned to a suitable level.  Conceivably, this phenomenon could arise if chefs have their own station, but, you would hope the executive chef and platers would taste the foods and realize the different seasoning levels.


The Albacore tuna was fresh and had a nice simple summer taste with the shaved fennel, slices of radish and splash of lemon.  However, since all these ingredients are relatively tame, there was nothing exciting to the dish.  If the tuna had just been crusted with spices or topped with a light sauce it would have helped.  Possibly, even the basil emulsion accompanying the guinea fowl would have worked well with this dish.
Similarly, the Lingcod was cooked to a flakey buttery texture but was bland despite the foam topping it.  Couldn’t the foam have been flavoured and salted to improve the cod’s flavour?  I enjoyed the fiddleheads accompanying the dish; it was my first time trying them and found they have an interesting taste resembling asparagus and broccoli. 


In the end, I guess it’s all a matter of preference. I found the fish under seasoned but my friend liked that she was able to taste the delicate natural flavours of the seafood itself.


The spot prawn was the better seafood dish, in my opinion.  The prawn was just barely cooked through so the meat retained a sashimi texture despite being warm.  The prawn was left unseasoned so that its sweetness shone through, but at least it was served with buttery uni and a very salty tagliatelle (this could have been toned down).  The pasta was made for bacon lovers given its equal noodle to bacon ratio.




The Grove’s meat dishes were the highlights. The Guinea fowl was cooked perfectly with crispy rendered skin and juicy tender meat.  A lovely basil sauce was included which brought back a lighter summery feel to the dish.  My only complaint was the excessively salted rye berry risotto. 
Hands down the best dish of the night, agreed upon by my dining companions, was the onglet (aka hanger steak).  The meat, despite being a thicker cut, was cooked to a wonderful medium rare and extremely tender.  A lovely essence permeated the entire dish through the use of fermented garlic.  The addition of the bone marrow vinaigrette was brilliant at contrasting against the richness of the heavy meat.


Throughout the mains they also brought out complimentary side dishes including fried chips and buttery brioche.  The fried chips were the first British taste I had that night. Various sized chunks of home fries arrived piping hot, crispy and sprinkled with sea salt.  The curry ketchup also paid homage to the growing popularity of Indian food in Britain.


The loaf of brioche was a hit at our table.  Hats off to the chef who made it rise to new heights to become light as air in the middle and so buttery that it melts in your mouth.  The sea salt topping the bread was great so that the pat of whipped butter accompanying wasn’t even required.
Alas, the famed Eton’s Mess wasn’t available on their summer menu.  So, for dessert I opted for the creamy goat cheese topped with a paper thin crustini, rhubarb compote and a thick delicious piece of honey comb.  The Grove had me with the honeycomb, what could be more perfect with creamy cheeses?
The Grove has an interesting combination of hominess and elegance.  The dining room is unfussy with wooden tables, mismatched chairs and exposed brick, dishes are served on mismatched plates and the staff are cheerful and friendly. To simplify things they offer on one type of water – ice from the tap.  However, even with this casualness they still change cutlery with every dish and refold the linen napkins when you step away; reminding you that you’re not in a regular pub.
As a warning, prepare to give yourself time for the meal; we were surprised to find that we ended up being there for three hours!  But, sometimes that’s nice when you just want time to talk and catch-up without rushing through the meal.
So many critics hail the Grove as inventive and one of their top new restaurants of 2012.  Sure, the dishes were good but I didn’t find them that imaginative or outstanding.  In the end, the Grove to me is sadly like an over hyped movie – you like it however can’t help but feel let down when you can’t understand what the mania is all about. 
Overall mark - 6.5 out of 10




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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!

Hapa Izakaya (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 602 College Street
Website: http://hapaizakaya.com/
Type of Meal: Dinner


Following on the success of Guu, Japanese izakayas (sort of like the North American pub) have been popping up all over Toronto.  Hapa Izakaya is another Vancouver chain that’s set foot in Toronto’s Little Italy neighbourhood. 


Fair or not, everyone will compare Hapa to Guu, so here’s my take.  Firstly, the ambiance is nothing like Guu - it’s not small, uncomfortably intimate and brightly lit.  Hapa is much larger, offers non-communal sitting and swathed in black walls and candle light.  They have a better bar scene and feels like a place where you can actually sit and enjoy drinks - what an izakaya should be.  Known for their attractive staff members, Hapa could be considered the Japanese equivalent to Moxies. 


What I like most about Hapa is the ability to make reservations and not have to share a table.  Maybe I’m strange, but unlike all the Guu diehards, something about waiting 1-2 hours for a table only to sit cheek-to-cheek with strangers repulses me.  What happened to the good old days when I could eat when I want to, get my own space and actually hang up my jacket and bag on the back of a chair?  When did going to restaurants feel like eating in a food court?  Alas, I will stop my rant here and get to the food.


Hapa could definitely work at improving its menu descriptions as dishes arrived with surprise ingredients.  Luckily, none of us were vegetarians or lactose intolerant or these surprise ingredients may not be welcomed.  The vaguest dish was the goma-ae ($4.99) where the menu describes it asseasonal vegetables with goma-ae dressing”.  In reality, the only vegetables in the dish are some green beans and the majority consists of diced fish (salmon?) and feta cheese. 


However, since we had no objections to protein or dairy we happily dug in; well, after requesting a spoon which strangely did not come with a bowl based dish.  The feta was some of the creamiest I’ve ever had and goma-ea (sesame dressing) adding a hint of nuttiness.  The dish was tasty and flavourful and would have been great if there was something to eat it with like some lettuce wraps.

The bintoro ($9.99) consisted of thinly sliced seared Albacore tuna, sitting on top of slices of red onion, radishes and sprinkled with fried garlic and ponzu. Another appetizing dish but could be improved by soaking the onions to get rid of the over powering onion sting.


Our tour of tuna continued with the tuna avocado salsa dip ($9.49) containing chopped Ahi tuna, avocado and tomatoes marinated with ponzu and copious amounts of sesame oil. I would have preferred the tuna to be in more pronounced pieces and the sesame oil toned down, but I guess this is a salsa vs. tartare.  Regardless, the dish was a hit with my friend.  Hapa serves their tuna dip with plantain chips which is a nice alternative to taro.  


The halibut taco ($7.49), more of a burrito than taco, was an interesting mix of ingredients including battered halibut, bacon bits, shoestring potatoes, lettuce and roasted jalapeño tartar sauce.  Given halibut is such a delicate tasting fish it did become lost in the taco.  Although not one of my favourites, it’s a decent value dish given its heartiness and somewhat lower price point.


One of my favourite dishes of the night was the gindara ($11.49).  Something about a simple piece of fresh miso-marinade cod just tantalizes my tastebuds.  On the menu gindara is described as “baked sablefish, sake-miso marinade”, I just recently learned that sable fish is also the black cod we may be more familiar with.  Although nowhere as good as Blowfish’s black cod (you can go here to read my love affair with theirs - http://gastroworldblog.blogspot.ca/2012/11/blowfish-toronto.html), Hapa’s was still decent.


Moving away from fish, we tried the beef short ribs ($12.99).  Hapa cut up the ribs into many smaller pieces so this dish is optimal for large groups.  The ribs were covered with a nice sweet apple-soy marinade but over cooked so ended up being tough.


When a chipotle beef curry ishi-yaki ($9.99) is being cooked and served you will know it.  The aroma is intoxicating as it arrives sizzling in the hot stone bowl.  Like bibimbop the waitress mixes it up at the table but then smears it against the sides of the bowl and suggests leaving it to allow a crust to develop.  We left it for about 3-5 minutes, seemed pretty long as I just wanted to dig in, and after that time there was a slight crust. Although the chipotle curry sauce was not very colourful, it was surprisingly flavourful. I liked the flavour it added to the rice, but found the beef non-existent.  The ishi-yaki is another example of a “surprise” dish as digging through the rice we found pieces and eventually a huge glob of melted cheese.  Cheese with curry isn’t a natural combination but I liked the addition as the rice became creamy.


Hapa also offers a “Fresh Sheet”, which is a seasonally changing menu.  During our visit, we decided to try four things off of this menu.

Izakayas are normally not known for sushi, this is left to sushi restaurants.  Indeed, we should have followed tradition as I found the two rolls we tried subpar. The rice was over cooked so that it has a gluey texture to it.  Hapa’s volcano roll ($9.99), described as spicy on the menu tasted sweet despite the abundance of red sauce.  In reality, it’s just a tuna roll stacked into a volcano shape and topped with red “lava”.  The crab tempura roll ($10.99) was slightly better as the rice was wrapped in nori and deep fried so added some texture.  I also liked that the crab was actual snow crab and not imitation fish paste, but it wasn’t spread evenly along the roll as the end piece barely had anything while the middle chocked full.


Another dish I thoroughly enjoyed was the mentaiko kimchi udon ($9.99). Mentaiko is marinated fish roe (pollock or cod) and when mixed with cream results in a seafood alfredo tasting sauce.  Mixed into chewy udon noodles and topped with spicy kimchi the dish was a highlight for the night.


Although being stuffed, we ordered one Annin panna cotta ($4.99) to share. A great fushion of coconut milk based custard, sweet maple syrup and ripe berries.  The custard was pudding smooth and with the thin maple syrup also had a crème caramel resemblance.  

In the end, if you choose to view Hapa as another Guu you will be disappointed since they’re different and have their own distinctive qualities.  In my opinion, the food was comparable but the other benefits (reservations and an actual table) add a lot to my enjoyment.  So, I encourage you to not have set expectations and just go and experience Hapa Izakaya on its own distinct merits and offerings.


Overall mark - 7 out of 10

Special thank you to V for taking the photos for the night. They are much more artistic than the ones I normally snap!



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




Hapa Izakaya Restaurant on Urbanspoon

CLOSED: Fishbar (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 217 Ossington Avenue
Type of Meal: Dinner

For those who don't like fish, don't let the name fool you, Fishbar has more offerings than just flounder. The menu consists of a cacophony of seafood with almost all species included with the exception of crab the night of my visit.

Like many of the West end downtown restaurants the dining room is a long narrow rectangle layout. The decor also follows a similar pattern of high/low wooden tables and a feature bar along one wall.  But, a nice difference is the storefront glass which slides open to give those near the window gets a dining el Fresco feel.

Fishbar's menu is tapas style which is always a foodie friendly option to allow trying multiple dishes.  First up was a healthy portion of New England style fried clams ($8) and hand cut fries ($6).  According to Wikipedia, New England style clams are dipped in evaporated milk prior to coating with all purpose, corn and pastry flour. The coating was fairly thin and could stand to be crispier and the clams warmer in temperature.  In my opinion, the clams tasted a bit bland and could have used a sprinkling of salt to add a taste of the sea.  Of course, it may be because they were served with the fries which were topped with nori salt and were served with a miso aioli, much stronger in flavour which could have over powered the lighter clams.




The tilapia in the Equadorian tilapia ceviche ($13) was fresh and went well with the sweet mango and pineapple salsa on top.  But, there was nothing exciting about the flavours – none of the robust citrus and spicy notes that I enjoy.  Additionally, the fish was over a tad over “acidified” as the texture began to turn rough. 




On the other hand, the tuna sashimi ($14) was topped with a liberal smear of sweet soy glaze so had a stronger savoury taste. However, I found the toasted almond slivers to be a strange mix with the tuna; but this is a matter of taste as one friend liked the hint of crunch it added. I would have preferred strips of toasted nori instead but guess that is a safer combination.




There’s nothing I enjoy more than the smell of garlic butter, which is all I could smell when the Sicilian gnocchi ($16) arrived.  It had a wonderful essence mixed with the prawns, tender baby shitake mushrooms and wilted arugula. Nonetheless, it’s the gnocchi that fell short for me.  I’ve realized that I don’t like ricotta based gnocchi as it’s much too mushy for my taste.




Our final dish of grilled calamari ($12) showed some redemption as the briny olives & capers mixed with hints of citrus provided some much needed bold flavours.  The calamari was also cooked to a suitable doneness that didn’t leave it rubbery and tough.  




The Fishbar, despite not being a new restaurant, does have some kinks to work out in terms of staffing levels. The evening of our visit it took close to half an hour to get wine and a full hour before our first dish arrived.  The waiter explained they were short staffed and thanked us for being patient on many occasions but didn’t really offer an explanation as to why they were inadequately staffed to begin with. 

After reading some reviews on Urbanspoon, it appears the slow and inconsistent service is a problem they’ve been plagued with in the past.  While past patrons cited problems with “attitude”, we didn’t encounter that during our visit.  Alas, it was only the slow service that remains.  Luckily, management can easily attempt to appease customers by offering a complimentary starter – even if it were just a basket of bread which can still go a long way to curb grumpy hungry customers.

All in all, the Fishbar is good for those who like ingredients prepared simply so that the tastes of the components themselves stand out.  Personally, I prefer bolder tastes so found most dishes lacking a few touches.  A good news story for the environment is that Fishbar is part of the Ocean Wise program and serves sustainable seafood.  Of course, this also means you’ll likely not find sea bass on their menu anytime soon.   Overall, the food is satisfactory but with slow service and relatively high pricing there are better competitive options available around town.

Overall mark - 6.5 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!

Yamato Japanese Restaurant (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 24 Bellair Street
Website: http://yamato.sites.toronto.com/
Type of Meal: Dinner

Wanting a decent, but not overly expensive teppanyaki dinner, we headed over to Yamato. It’s a Japanese method of cooking food on a flat iron surface in front of guests.  Chefs often juggle the cooking utensils and make their food preparation a show before you eat.

Yamato has a number of protein options - I opted for the rib eye teppanyaki ($30).  Each meal begins with a simple green salad (consists of ice burg lettuce and a creamy & lemony house made dressing) and clear onion soup (a savoury and flavourful consommé like broth that was a nice change from the regular miso).


To begin, the chef made the fried rice (supplement of $5) - otherwise the meal comes with a bowl of steamed rice.  Get the fried rice; it was the highlight of my meal! Cooked in garlic and herb butter, the rice absorbs it and has such a rich flavour.  Sprinkled throughout are micro pieces of carrots and green onion giving the rice some fresh and crispy contrast.  Overall, it’s well flavoured and has a hint of smoke from the soy sauce being caramelized from grilling.


Meanwhile, the rib eye was okay; cooked to a nice medium rare but the teriyaki sauce covers all the meaty flavour.  Additionally, Yamato should have cut the steak into slices rather than cubes as the presentation gave me the feeling of eating dog food.  There`s an accompanying dish of garlic soy and mustard dipping sauces but were so watery and the terriyaki so strong that you really couldn`t taste them.


The side dish consists of a stir fried mixed medley of mushrooms, zucchini, carrots, peppers and bean sprouts, once again overpowered with copious amount of garlic butter.  However, always a good show to see the volcano onion demonstration.


All in all, Yamato offers a decent meal at a reasonable price.  During my next visit, I would request the chef to leave out the sauce and garlic butter in my main so that the ingredients can retain their natural flavours.  Unfortunately, it may be too much to ask the chef on how to cut up the steak, so the dog food feel may remain.   



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





Yamato Japanese on Urbanspoon

CLOSED: Hawthorne Food and Drink (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 60 Richmond East
Type of Meal: Dinner

Hawthorne is a restaurant with a social mission - to give individuals who work there some paid interning experience to allow them to cultivate skills to get a permanent position.  Not all their staff are made up of temporary workers, only about half, but it’s a great idea to give people the practice and reference to use for another restaurant.

An interesting concept Hawthorne developed is the four square meal – four small dishes that are a part of one larger dish providing the customer with multiple courses.  Sadly, upon getting there, I was advised they no longer offer this during dinner service as they are focusing more on other dishes.  Certainly, I agree they do need to work on improving their dishes (more on that later), but I highly ask management to reconsider their decision of removing the four square off the dinner menu.  Based on my experience, it appears the chefs are able to execute better on small dishes than their mains, offering customers something you excel at is important at cultivating returning customers.  So, perhaps the four square can be Hawthorne’s differentiator and where it shines.  As it stands now, I found the “other dishes” disappointing.

The highlight of the night was the crispy fried quail ($10).  Served in a small bucket, four pieces of quail were battered in a thick crust, deep fried and then dipped in a thin honey sauce.  At first, not knowing there was a watery honey glaze over the quail, I thought the glistening fowl was too oily, but upon taking the first bite, the juicy, crispy quail was a pleasant surprise.  On the side is a dill (?) sauce which I found wasn’t required given how much flavour the quail already had itself.


The fish and chips ($9) were six smelt fish set in a cone with a house-made fries, ketchup and tarter sauce.  Smelt are small sardine sized fish with less bones – only a narrow spine of them.  Overall, the dish isn’t something I’d order again, the smelts were a bit “fishy” tasting and the fries were run-of-the-mill.  I did enjoy the home-made condiments but this isn’t enough to like the dish.


Our final shared small dish was the beet and beef tartare ($14).  The presentation of this dish was attractive; a mixture of bright colors from the red beef & beet mixture and a vivid yellow egg yolk.  Not normally a fan of tartare, Hawthorne’s version wasn’t bad and had an interesting texture with the sweet slivers of beet.  The grainy mustard was also a wonderful addition and went well with the beef. But, I found the cut of the beef strange – in strips rather than diced. It’s not particularly pleasing when you get hunks of meet that are somewhat stringy and tough to chew through.


My main, the Peking duck pho ($18), was the worst dish of the night.  The duck should not be labelled as Peking duck as this is specific to a type of crispy skinned fully cooked duck that’s cut into pieces where it’s predominantly skin.  Hawthorne’s version is under seasoned, the skin is soggy and cooked medium rare which causes the duck to be tough and challenging to chew through. 


The soup should not be compared to pho which is generally a piping hot bowl of flavourful broth.  Hawthorne’s soup, although a dark colour, had no richness to it and was just dark soy sauce and sesame oil mixed with water.  To make things worse, it was a tepid temperature.  The picked pumpkin slices just didn’t go with anything at all and should have been left out.  Under no circumstances should you get this dish.  Based on what other tables were getting, the beef cheek or steak and frites looked much better.

After the unsatisfactory mains we really didn’t want to risk getting dessert.  But, Hawthorne offered a small sweet ending with the bill.  Each person received two cubes of lemon jelly which were very tart but cleansed our palettes and awoken the taste buds.  I only wish Hawthorne can build in that depth of flavour to some of their other dishes.




Hawthorne’s saving grace is their amazing staff; our waiter was knowledgeable of the dishes and its individual ingredients.  He was great at explaining what the unheard of ingredients really meant.  Their dining room is also comfortable and has a light and airy feeling with its large unadorned windows. The contemporary environment is minimalistic but still comfortable with its wooden and slate accents.  If only the dishes can be improved, at this point I’d likely never return, maybe for lunch just to try the four square.



Overall mark - 5 out of 10



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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!
For further general discussions about this blog please refer to http://gastroworldblog.blogspot.com/2012/09/welcome-to-gastro-world.html







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The Doctor's House (Kleinburg)

Location: Kleinburg, Canada
Address: 21 Nashville Road
Website: http://thedoctorshouse.ca/
Type of Meal: Dinner


The Doctor’s House is situated in the quaint village of Kleinburg, north west of Toronto.  If you haven’t had a chance to visit, I would suggest going for the view and charm alone. The house is aptly named as historically was occupied by doctors and didn’t become a restaurant until the 1970s.  The dining room has lovely wooden beams and tables placed in nooks and crannies. 

Given its traditional roots, we had better luck with the classic dishes (Ceaser salad, steak and lamb) while the “newer” dishes (calamari, Kobe burger and osso bucco) were a bit lack luster.       

After ordering, a wonderful dish of warm bread was brought to the table.  I love bread and this one tops the list.  Topped with olives, roasted garlic cloves and sitting in an olive oil and spice mixture the bread was amazing.  So much so that we got another order of it!

 

To start I had the jumbo shrimp cocktail ($15) which consisted of three large prawns with cocktail sauce and a mayo.  I thought it was fine and liked the size of the shrimp.  They could have provided a bit more cocktail sauce as I had run out of it after the second shrimp. 


My husband had the Ceaser salad ($12) and noted it was good.  Our friend, on the other hand, ordered the calamari fritti ($14) and was disappointed given they tasted and looked like the frozen ring type.  If a restaurant is to offer calamari it really should be made fresh and battered in house.

My main of pan roasted rack of lamb ($48) was great.  Two pieces of thick lamb chops were encrusted in a flavourful herb and spice mixture.  The accompanying cabernet sauvignon reduction was a nice consistency and went well with the perfectly cooked chops.  Buttery mashed potatoes and sautéed vegetables (zucchini and peppers) also came with the dish.

 

The Kobe beef burger ($28), my husband’s main, was dry and a bit bland.  The burger did come with a side of caramelized onions, but needed some type of sauce to give the beef more taste and moisture.  Accompanying the burger was freshly made fries that were average.


Their tiramisu (I believe is $9) was rich and thick.  I liked that it was in cup rather than cake form to seal in the moisture.  I like mine to have a bit more espresso soaked lady fingers so that it’s super moist but the Doctor’s House version wasn’t bad.  The vanilla wafer chip on top was also good.


The flourless chocolate cake (also may be $9) was very rich and appears to be made from dark chocolate so wasn’t overly sweet.  The slight bitterness went well with the sweet vanilla ice cream.  They certainly gave a generous portion of this dessert, so it’s a good one for sharing. 

 

It did take us a while to get seated on the night we went, about 5 minutes, as the hostess wasn’t at the podium when we arrived.  But, when she did, she sat us quickly and was friendly and courteous. 

As a warning, this isn’t the place to go to for a quick bite; you have to have time and be willing to wait. The Doctor’s House is an old school restaurant where courses are brought out slowly – they are not looking to turn over tables multiple times a night, you can really sit back and enjoy the company of your friends and family. 


Overall mark - 6.5 out of 10


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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!
For further general discussions about this blog please refer to http://gastroworldblog.blogspot.com/2012/09/welcome-to-gastro-world.html






The Doctor's House on Urbanspoon