Showing posts with label grilled calamari. Show all posts
Showing posts with label grilled calamari. Show all posts

CLOSED: Pappas Grill (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 440 Danforth Avenue
Type of Meal: Dinner



It’s been a while since I’ve ventured to the Danforth for delicious Greek food. The Taste of the Danforth is a bit hectic for me, I’d rather go on a normal night where tables are plentiful and the crowds subdued. But, we were visiting for a reason: my friend and I were attempting to cultivate our artistic side and try out a Paint Nite class.

But, before the Picassos in us would come out, we had to fuel up on food and wine (at Pappa's a decent cabernet sauvignon only set us back $35 a bottle). The grilled calamari ($11.95) was cooked until it had a light smoky char and turned out tender. It was simply presented with olive oil, fresh thyme, bits of bell peppers, capers and a wedge of lemon. On one hand, I liked that the calamari was the star of the dish; but found the presentation a little lacking. Although, the spoonful of sauce in the middle was salty and flavourful so you really don't require tons of it.


Although hard to pronounce, the garithes me feta (baked shrimp with feta cheese; $12.95) was great for sharing. Inside were four plump sautéed shrimp topped with garlicky crushed plum tomatoes, red onion slivers and an ample portion feta cheese. 


It’s almost like a warm bruschetta but richer (likely from the butter and liquor added to it). With the sheer amount of sauce given there was plenty to slather on the soft white bread.


With all the starters, we ended up sharing an entrée. Visiting a Greek restaurant is my opportunity to have lamb – something they do so well. With four choices available we went with the roast leg of lamb ($18.95). The leg is a leaner cut but also tends to have a gamier taste to it (although not overwhelming).


Pappas gave such a big portion that I’m glad we shared as it’d be too heavy for one person. There were different cuts put on the plate, and the top slices where the meat also contained a thin sliver of fat and connective tissue was best. Although there was a lamb gravy jus that accompanies it, I personally wanted something more as it was slightly bland given there wasn’t much of a crust on the lamb itself. 

At Pappas it was my first experience with having baklava ($4.95) warm. I found it mellowed out the sweetness, but did cause the bottom to crystalize and stick to the plate. All in all, it was good but could have benefited from more ground nut mixture as I found it was predominantly phyllo pastry.


All the food and wine left us satisfied and ready to paint! I’ll be the first to say I’m not artistic – trying to get my hand to recreate what’s in my head is so hard. But, the instructors broke it down step-by-step and encouraged us to just have fun with it. Soon I started relaxing and just going with it – plus with paint if you make a mistake you can repaint over it. In the end, I was happy with my creation and it will look perfect in the guest bathroom. If you're interested in reading more about the Paint Nite experience, #Parv's post offers a better insight.


Pappas was better than I expected – I knew a restaurant that had to rely on Paint Nite activities to bring in customers likely isn’t booming with business. Portions and prices were reasonable, the service friendly and efficient, and the dishes tasted decent.

If only they didn’t cram all the painters into the top section of their restaurant (you wouldn’t want to experience if you’re clusterphobic) my friend and I could have even had more wine given their low bottle prices. Alas, the close quarters left no table space for glasses and certainly didn’t encourage us want to stay for another round of drinks after painting.  

Overall mark - 6.5 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!

Pappas Grill on Urbanspoon

CLOSED: Wildfire Steakhouse & Wine Bar (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 3438 Yonge Street
Type of Meal: Dinner




When my friend found a Groupon featuring a 4-course meal with wine at $175 for four people, it was deal hard to turn down. Having gone to Wildfire twice in the past (albeit about 3-5 years ago), I remember the restaurant was decent so happily agreed to join in.


Upon arriving, Wildfire looked familiar with the dark red and black colour scheme, yet appeared to be more lounge-like with the curtain of strings separating tables.  Even though we visited on a Friday night the restaurant was at most 70% full, which was surprising as in my past visits was packed. But, the unfilled capacity did ensure we had quick and attentive service the entire time.  Even though we were sat on the top floor, our waiter dutifully kept coming back frequently to check on us. In fact, a basket of airy warm bread and hummus was brought as soon as we sat down.


The first course was an appetizer platter to share amongst the table.  Ours consisted of shrimp cocktail, bruschetta and cucumbers topped with smoked salmon mousse. Served on a wooden cutting board it didn’t look overly impressive but the shrimp were decent and the bruschetta a good flavour.  Only the cucumber and salmon was a miss for me as the mousse was extremely fishy leaving a bad taste in my mouth.


Under all the greenery and julienned carrots is grilled calamari; really all the garnish is a bit much when it completely masks the main ingredient. After the poorly executed salmon mousse I was a bit apprehensive about my appetizer, especially when it didn’t smell the best when first presented. Thankfully, it was actually quite decent with a nice smoky char and a flavourful tomato, caper, olive and red onion salsa.  My fellow diners agreed it was a much better choice than the escargots they ordered which arrived unseasoned and bland.


Wildfire’s portion sizes are quite impressive. On a previous visit, I remember ordering the ribs and being astounded by how much they gave and having to take half of it home.  My friend ordered the ribs and it was nice to see the sizes haven’t changed at all … if anything it may have grown! The meal consists of a full rack of ribs layered over each other (hidden beneath the pictured two slabs is a third piece) and if finished would likely give you the “meat sweats”. Alas, the quality wasn’t the same – a bit dry and lacked the plumper juicy fall-off-the-bone characteristic of the past.


My New York striploin was also another large hunk of meat, dwarfing the accompanying roasted vegetables and scoop of roasted garlic mashed potatoes. By all accounts it wasn’t horrible, but certainly lacked any qualities that would make it worth the normal $40 price point. Quite frankly, it tasted like something I’d normally make at home and I’m by no means a great cook.  And like my own barbequing, the steak was overdone and not close to the medium rare I enjoy – at best the thicker part a medium but most of it bordering on medium well.


The housemade crème brulée was perhaps the best dish of the night. I enjoyed the higher ramekin so that there was more custard and less caramel crust.  The custard was rich, creamy and had a nice vanilla essence, while the crust easily broken with a spoon. Perhaps it could have been bought out of the fridge a little earlier to allow the bottom of the custard to warm up to the perfect room temperature, but other than that an enjoyable dessert. My friend’s caramel brownie cheesecake (sorry forgot to take picture) was also a rich, dense and delicious.


Below, I’ve calculated the savings you’d get from the Groupon. Certainly, the 50% sounds impressive but has been inflated as I don’t remember Wildfire being as expensive in previous visits. Whereas in the past it competed with the Keg, it’s now priced closer to Reds, Hys or Ruth Chris … which I’m sorry to say quality wise isn’t up to par yet. Nonetheless, the service was great, atmosphere comfortable and with the deal an enjoyable dinner. Overall, I was happy with the experience, but don’t think I’ll be returning anytime soon to eat at the regular menu prices.

Is Groupon worth it?

As a special feature of the deal blogs, I will attempt to calculate the savings being offered (based on my meal selection).

Groupon - $175 for 4 people = $43.75 per person (before taxes and gratuities)

Regular menu - $86.90 - hors d’oeuvres ($10*), wine pairing ($9), grilled calamari ($14.95), 10oz New York striploin ($40.95*) and crème brulée ($12)

Savings - $43 or 50%

* The hors d'oeurves and 10 oz striploin isn't on their regular menu; prices based on a wild estimate by me and the average of the 8oz and 12oz striploin mains.



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!
Wildfire Steakhouse & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon


The Richmond Grill (Richmond Hill)

Location: Richmond Hill, Canada
Address: 
10165 Yonge Street
Website: http://www.therichmondgrill.com/
Type of Meal: Dinner



Situated in a neighbourhood reminiscent of Unionville, it’s unlike the plazas filled with big box stores you’ll generally find in Richmond Hill. However, unlike the cobblestone surroundings, Richmond Grill’s window is plastered full of decals making it seem more like a fast food kabob place than an Italian restaurant. But, if you’re able to look past the tacky window and enter the restaurant, you’ll be greeted with an intimate and dimly lit dining room with bottles of olive oil adorning each table. Yes, its quintessentially Italian and with it comes tons of food and welcoming service.  

Soon after ordering, our waiter whisks out a basket filled with bread and crackers. As a warning, do not fill up on bread as the portion sizes at Richmond Grill are significant – and that’s putting it mildly.

Appetizers are meant to be shared or could easily replace a meal if you’re not overly hungry. My husband and I split the grilled calamari ($11.95; only half of portion shown below) and even a half size consisted of one and a half pieces. The calamari was tender and fresh; the charred smokiness was mellowed by the fresh warm salsa topping it (consisting of tomatoes, olives, capers, roasted garlic and red onion). I especially liked how the olives were freshly pitted and not too strong as to overpower the dish. The salsa was good with the calamari, on its own or would likely be even better atop bread (which I wanted to try it if weren’t for worry about filling up).


The mixed seafood linguine ($18.95) contained another piece of grilled calamari (I really should have planned my meal out better), two prawns, chunks of tender salmon, tons of mussels and unshelled baby clams throughout. The sauce, a simple fish broth, is exactly what I want with seafood pasta – just let the cooking liquid act as the flavour, too much tomato drowns out the wonderful natural seafood essence. A mix of julienned peppers, leeks, onion, snow peas and roasted garlic rounded out the dish adding some crunch to the pasta. If only the linguine was more al dente, the dish would have been perfect.


My husband’s grilled black angus striploin ($31.95) was a brimming plate of meat, fresh cut frites, thick slices of portobello mushroom and vegetables. He noted the steak was cooked well and the beef a nice tender cut. Alas, I was too excited to dig into the linguine and forgot to snap a picture of his meal. 

All in all, Richmond Grill offers great dishes at a low price. Trust me, come hungry as you will surely not be disappointed. Just try to look past the decals on the windows, not the greatest sight, and you will be in for a treat. After all, a restaurant that’s been in business for seventeen years must be doing something right.

Overall mark - 8 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
  • - 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!

Richmond Grill on Urbanspoon


The Beaconsfield (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 1154 Queen Street West
Website: http://thebeaconsfield.com/
Type of Meal: Dinner



The Beaconsfield makes me feel young. A dimly lit bar turned supper club, the music is way too loud and hipsters are everywhere. Indeed, they’re likely there for dinner and drinks prior to going to the Drake Hotel, which is right across the street. It reminds me of the nights my friends and I danced the night away at the Drake. Alas, I’m older now and happy to just have drinks across the street, away from the crowds.

Despite what their website promotes, the restaurant no longer offers a prefixe menu. But, prices are reasonable and portions huge so one really doesn’t need three courses. Instead, my friends and I decide to share a few appetizers to go with our mains.

The spring rolls ($6) needs more vegetables, as I found the glass noodles and wrapper overpowered everything. Also, the filling could benefit from the addition of soya sauce, sesame oil and pepper to give it flavour, rather than relying solely on the hoison or spicy thai sauce that accompanies it.


The grilled calamari ($14) was decent with two portions and plenty of grilled vegetables. It’s perfect for the health conscious as there’s no sauces. Despite being simply salted, the dish was still good.


But, the best was definitely the spicy southern mac n’ cheese ($13). Prepared traditionally with macaroni and cheddar, there’s a subtle hint of heat from sriracha added to it. The dish is topped with crushed Corn Flakes which gives it crunch, but also soaks up a bit of the sauce creating a lighter gratin topping.  


The Beaconsfield burger ($18) is a full meal! Served with a takeout container of average tasting fries and a bowl of mixed green salad (plain but well dressed), there are plenty of sides. Meanwhile, the burger contains a nice thick beef patty. Despite being cooked through, it’s still juicy and tender and topped with sweet oven roasted tomatoes, sharp cheddar and caramelized onions. All in all, a delicious and great value main.


My friend’s pan seared rack of lamb ($24) is worth noting, adorned with a flaming sprig of rosemary releasing a great aroma as it’s brought to the table.


In the end, growing up isn’t that bad. No longer do I have to deal with waiting in lines, crowds and aching feet at the end of the night. After all, enjoying a burger and wine with friends is a pretty nice alternative.


Overall mark - 7 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!

The Beaconsfield on Urbanspoon