Showing posts with label gumbo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gumbo. Show all posts

CLOSED: The Boiling Harbour (Vaughan)

Wow how things have changed in Vaughan! Normally I only visit the city, a short drive from Toronto, when going to Wonderland so it’s shocking to see how developed and thriving the area’s become. Even the culinary scene is growing – aside from the chain restaurants and authentic Italian joints, a wealth of diversity is springing up. This summer, a new entrant joins them: Boiling Harbour brings the Louisiana boil to Vaughan!

In the Southern states, a seafood boil is not merely a dish, but rather a social event bringing together communities, friends and families. You should definitely keep with the tradition and arrive in a group so you can try numerous items.

During the opening event, we sampled skillfully prepared snow crab legs ($18.95/lb), large meaty mussels ($10.95/lb) and head-on shrimp ($12.95/lb) so you can really enjoy the seafood essence. The Harbour sauce (a mix of garlic butter, lime, pepper and Cajun spices) was just spicy enough at the medium level and thankfully not overly salty or oily to detract from the seafood.

Some of the add-ins are a tad pricy (corn for $1 or sausages for $6.50 apiece), but the sweetness of the corn goes so nicely with the hot spicy broth and I like that Boiling Harbour used fresh ears (at least during our summer visit) compared to the chewy frozen variety.  

Having had gumbo ($9) in New Orleans, the hearty flavourful stew at the restaurant is impressive. In particular, it was a smart idea to cook the shrimp separately so they didn’t turn rubbery and there was enough okra to thicken the broth but not turn it slimy. The gumbo is fantastic and is better than the ones I sampled in Louisiana.

The lobster mac & cheese balls ($15.95 for three) are huge and great for sharing. Although the mixture doesn’t contains tons of lobster, the pasta was cooked well and there’s enough sauce so that the insides are gooey when the crispy crust is broken.

Once you see an order of the loaded lobster fries ($28.95) go by, you’ll want it. It’s a serious dish with an entire boiled lobster that’s flash fried and drizzled with garlic butter and aioli. There’s definitely enough lobster to share, but it’s so good that it’ll be hard not to devour the other half. As if it weren’t enough, the crustacean sits on a bed of hot Cajun fries – perfect for dipping into the boil sauce.

Dinner at the Boiling Harbour was delicious and I truly love the experience. It’s a shame, as the one thing that keeps me from frequenting these restaurants is the amount of waste generated – the boil is served in food safe poly bags, other items in Styrofoam or paper plates, and all the utensils are plastic. Every person even received a small plastic container of salt and pepper … the barrel of them on display really doesn’t go with the seafood friendly theme.

I understand, disposables are easy: there’s nothing to wash and little up-front investment. To be fair, Boiling Harbour isn’t the only restaurant that relies the ease; competitors do this as well. Although I’m not an environmentalist, I still care about what we do to the Earth – after having a delicious meal, the worst feeling is the guilt felt while staring at all the waste you’ve created.

So, I’d encourage restaurants to gradually improve their impact: like those individual salt and pepper containers? That can easily be replaced with shakers that’s given when requested – seriously, the food is already well-seasoned, I don’t see why it would be needed anyways. Then as cash flows allow, start purchasing utensils, re-usable plastic serving platters, cups, and transparent pails to serve the boil in (the photographs would turn out much better than bags).

If only the entire experience wasn’t so wasteful, I’d certainly go back more frequently. I already have a hankering for another helping of boiled crab legs, loaded lobster fries and gumbo. Maybe next time I visit there will be real utensils, then I can leave feeling full and guilt free.

Overall mark - 8.5 out of 10
Disclaimer: The above meal was complimentary. Rest assured, as noted in my mission statement, I will always provide an honest opinion.

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 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 3175 Rutherford 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!

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Peche Seafood Grill (New Orleans)

Location: New Orleans, USA
Address: 800 Magazine Street
Type of Meal: Dinner

Earlier in May 2014, Pêche Seafood Grill was presented with the James Beard Award for best new restaurant. It’s quite the accolade beating out three establishments in New York City and one in San Francisco for the title. Good news seems to travel fast as Pêche was definitely the busiest and buzziest restaurants we visited on the trip. Locals and tourists alike eagerly awaited for their tables with over a dozen individuals with no reservations sitting at the bar.

The dining room has a noticeably casual vibe with minimalistic wood tables and fisherman themed walls. Seafood is what Pêche is known for but does have skirt steak and chicken available for those who prefer ‘turf’ to ‘surf’. Being a seafood lover, I of course stuck to the surf based dishes which all sounded delicious and enticing.

Despite having gumbo twice during the week-long trip already, I gave it one last chance at Pêche to see if there’d be an improvement over the previous ones which I tried and found subpar. The verdict is I do enjoy seafood gumbo ($9) … but only to a point. Indeed the rich thick flavourful soup filled with seafood and spices is wonderful, but the pieces of oyster, shrimp and crawfish themselves are not the best after being stewed for hours - they develop a mushy powdery texture. It may help if chefs try using dried oysters and shrimp (often found in Asian cuisine) to develop their soup base first and then add fresh shellfish just before it's served. I'd imagine the soup would still have that wonderful essence but leave the fresh seafood cooked well. Nonetheless, the gumbo at Pêche was by far the best of the three I’ve tried so if you’re going to have it anywhere it should be here.

A dish that’s a phenomenal value was the gulf shrimp from the raw bar ($12). We were surprised how many came with it (believe there was a dozen) and each were such a large size. Simply boiled and served cold with horseradish laced cocktail sauce it's nothing extraordinary but for the price a great dish to share amongst the table. 

One of the special dishes for the night was the chili tuna crudo ($10). The tender fish was cut into thick squares and served sashimi style.  To jazz it up, it was topped with chili oil, a lovely chili salt (which I wish there was more of) and diced crunchy jalapeño. All this may sound dominating but it was actually well balanced and didn’t overpower the tuna at all. Pods of edamame added crunch and freshness to everything. Overall, it was a decent dish. 

The best dishes were the hot ones. The first, crawfish and jalapeño capellini ($14), contained many pieces of sweet crawfish cooked in a simple garlic butter sauce with a bit of jalapeño for heat. I easily could have eaten a whole bowl of this myself! Admittedly, the pasta could have been more al dante but even when soft was still delicious. 

Another good dish was the smothered catfish ($16). Two thick fillets were breaded and pan fried than smothered with a gumbo like gravy and served with rice. Despite being smothered in sauce the dish wasn't too salty and had just the right amount of flavour. You do want to eat this quickly as once the catfish sits in it too long the crust gets mushy, but really this is a matter of taste.

All in all, Pêche was the best meal of the trip and didn't disappoint. Our neighbouring table ordered a whole grilled fish which looked and smelled amazing. Alas, not for us as it was a fairly large portion and with only two of us and one visit we wanted to try more items. But worth a try on a return visit. The seafood was fresh and the staff laid back and attentive. A definite stop for those who are living or visiting the city. 

Overall mark - 8.5 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!