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

Cafe Landwer (Toronto)

To classify Café Landwer into a type of eatery is difficult. Their menu is as eclectic as Pickle Barrel’s, a mix of Arabic, German, and American dishes that don’t seem to go together, but somehow is listed on the same page. Moreover, the food options are so extensive that it hardly seems like a café. It’s not until you learn about their history, it starts to make sense.

The company first started as Landwer Coffee (named after owner Moshe Landwer) as a roasting facility and coffee bar in Berlin. As the Nazi began rising in power, Moshe decided to move his family to Tel Aviv, well before WW2 would stop them and here  the roasting facility was re-opened and grew in prominence until it was finally sold to a larger conglomerate in the 1980s. Seeing the potential of the brand, Federman & Son’s expanded it into a chain of casual restaurants in Israel, which eventually went global with locations in Canada and the USA. Hence, their menu has Middle Eastern and German elements, with Western dishes like burgers and pizza added to please all.

While you’re waiting for the mains, a hummus bowl is a great starter. The shawarma version ($14) starts with a base of thick silky hummus, drizzles on olive oil, and fills it with juicy chunks of chicken shawarma that’s incredibly flavourful.

The one topped with four small crisp falafels ($13) is just as good. Café Landwer’s creations are fluffy and moist and have a lovely green hue from the pulverized herbs mixed into it.

At first, we nursed the piece of fresh from the oven stone-baked bread since the hummus to bread ratio seemed off. Boy was it good, the hot steaming bread with the cool shawarma hummus, and a slice of pickle. We were essentially creating our own sandwiches. Once the bread was done, our server offered to bring another piece ($1). This could have easily been a meal for one.

Landwer’s famous schnitzel ($19) is good with the pork pounded thinnly, the bread crumb coating applied lightly, and cooked just long enough so that everything is still moist. It’d be even better with more salt as it was under seasoned and really needed a condiment. The ketchup accompanying the fries seemed off, my husband ended up using the tzatziki from my main, better than nothing.

Generally, it seems like Landwer under seasons their dishes. While the grilled salmon ($23) had a lovely citrusy za’atar crust, it didn’t have a speck of salt. Even the Landwer’s rice, despite incorporating caramelized onions, lentils, almonds, and being so richly hued was rather bland. In hindsight, I wish I would have just tried to flag down a server to bring us salt… it’s such a common spice that would have really made everything much tastier.

With that in mind, on a return visit I rolled the dice on having Mediterranean shakshuka ($15.95) instead. There was no way a cast iron pan of stewed tomatoes with chunks of feta would be bland. Thankfully, the bet paid off and it was indeed as full flavoured as I hoped, the tomatoes nice and thick with some onion and big chunks of eggplant. My only mistake was asking for the eggs done medium, they arrived rock hard so there was no runny yolk to dip the hot pita into. Note to self: always get the underdone since the hot pan will continue to cook them.

A bit of pita was the tomato sauce topped with nutty tahini or the cool creamy lebnah was even better. I can see why Landwer’s brunch menu is so popular as this is where the mains shine. It only puzzles me why people bother to wait for a table when there’s an all-day breakfast section on their dinner menu - I’d happily have brunch for dinner any day. When the sun starts to go down, why not tuck into a hot pan of tomatoes and eggs with a fluffy yeasty warm pita? Sweet dreams, indeed.

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 1912 Avenue Road

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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!

Is That It? I Want More!

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Cucina Di Paisano (Toronto) for delivery

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

Since restaurants have been gradually opening for stage two and three in Toronto, I’ve gotten into conversations with friends and loved ones about why even dine in a restaurant, they all offer take out and some deliver. Isn’t it just convenient, not to mention safer, to just continue eating their food at home?

At first, I gave the easy answers: the food tastes so much better fresh (boy does it) and I’m already wracked with guilt about all the takeout containers I’ve used, anything to go back to less plastic waste (although, I know, even dining in means more waste lately from the one-use menus and the number of wipes discarded). But then I realized, it’s also about the connection you feel with the food.

It really came out when I settled in to try to write this post about my delivery experience with Cucina Di Paisano… yes, I can talk about the food and how it tastes, but other than that I felt very little connection to the restaurant itself. There were no past dining experiences I could re-collect and no feeling of nostalgia towards the dishes themselves.

So, to me, all I can describe is how their Caesar salad ($12 for large size) used way too much dressing, so much so that if I actually had romaine lettuce on hand I could have augment the salad by another 50% without skimping on flavour. And that despite the relatively higher price point for the salad, it was a bare bones interpretation of the dish: lettuce, sauce, a few croutons, and powdered parmesan instead of shavings.

On other dishes, they don’t skimp on the cheese, such as the garlic bread ($8), a hefty portion with six thick baguettes covered with ample amount of the dairy. Although, I would have traded some of the mozzarella for garlic as it just tasted like bread with butter and cheese.

While I didn’t taste their eggplant parmigano ($18), it’s another dish encapsulated with mozzarella and is made to feed two given you’re provided with so many pieces of eggplant, a side of penne big enough to feed a child, and an equal amount of vegetables. Paisano knew that cheese is the way to my husband’s heart (emotionally and literally) as he loved the dish.

Since the meal was being delivered, I moderated my expectations for the grilled salmon ($23) and knew it wouldn’t be a lovely pink doneness in the centre. Indeed, it was cooked through-and-through but still fairly moist, especially on the thinner end where there’s more fat in the meat. The simple lemon, basil, and olive oil was just enough to flavour the fish and compared to everything else the dish was a more manageable serving with crunchy vegetables (broccoli, peppers, and carrots) and the roasted potatoes that arrived overdone but nonetheless flavourful and creamy.

I guess it would be remiss of me not to mention that if you’re doing takeout, they have four great 2-for-1 options that are an economical choice. If it’s anything like their eggplant parmiagno, you may have enough food for a family of four. I wish I could do Cucina Di Paisano greater justice with this post, but try as I might, it’s difficult when there’s no connection to draw upon.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 865 York Mills Road
 Delivery: Uber and Doordash
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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!

Is That It? I Want More!

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CLOSED: Bodega (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 30 Baldwin Street
Type of Meal: Dinner

Bodega is a quaint bistro situated in Baldwin Village. The dining area, split into two rooms, is more spacious than it appears; swathed with traditional dark woodwork and white linens. Despite the hushed surroundings, service is surprisingly friendly and boisterous putting diners are ease to let loose.

Of course, their cocktail hour from 4 to 6:30 also helps. What a great deal of $5 pints, $6 cocktails and $7 wine. You’re allowed to choose from anything on their menu. I tried the strawberry tonic (regularly $9) a refreshing concoction with gin, muddled strawberries, grapefruit bitters, thyme and tonic water. It was delicious and I’d highly recommend.

Bodega has a fairly extensive menu with even a few Spanish dishes thrown in the mix. Their affordable $35 prix fixe dinner is hard to turn down, so the majority of our table ended up ordering from that. The rabbit terrine appetizer was a generous slab (much meatier than expected for a lean animal). It wasn’t overly gamey and went well with the pommery mustard, gherkins and plenty of pieces of crostini.

Most of my friends opted for the grilled flat iron steak for their main. Adorned with shallot butter and crispy Yukon gold frites it was a satisfying portion for everyone. My friend thoroughly enjoyed the frites, but the crispy coating (perhaps from being tossed in flour?) wasn’t how I generally prefer fries made.

The grilled salmon I had was a big portion covered with rosemary, mustard and maple glaze. The maple syrup definitely stood out, to the point that it was a tad too sweet for my taste. The menu notes the dish is accompanied with fingerling potatoes and vegetables (roasted carrots and snow peas). But, it made no mention of the creamy sauce covering the sides. Personally, I could have done without it as found the creamy cheesiness mixed with the maple’s sweetness to be an odd combination. But, the salmon itself was cooked nicely.

My friend ordered the roasted pork tenderloin ($24) off of their a la carte menu. As with all their dishes, it was a hearty portion. The pork was tender and I enjoyed the sage vinaigrette accompanying it, although I must agree with my friend who found it a bit strong.

To end we shared the lemon tart and crème brulee. The tart was delicious – sour enough to taste the lemon but with some sweetness to remind you it’s dessert. The shortbread crust was also excellent, buttery enough without covering up the lemon.

The vanilla crème brulee was a deep dish portion so you get plenty of the creamy custard. The sugar crust on top was a tad thick but well bruleed and caramelized.

All in all, Bodega has the old fashioned charm synonymous with traditional restaurants. It’s an ideal location for date nights or somewhere to bring the parents (unless they of course love blaring music and sharing small plates). I’m just glad it’s a good balance and also not too stuffy.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!