Showing posts with label inexpensive. Show all posts
Showing posts with label inexpensive. Show all posts

Xin Jiang Restaurant 西域食府.清真 (Markham)


Xinjiang is a region in northwest China that shares its borders with Tibet, Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, and India (amongst others) and after centuries of migration is now home to several ethnic groups. This multiculturalism makes its way into their cuisine, with a host of preparation methods and ingredients that’s unlike the food in other parts of China.

A common dish for the region is roasted kabab. At Xin Jiang Restaurant, the Xinjiang style BBQ lamb kabob ($2.49 each) is probably their most popular dish - every table seems to have a plate of gleaming metal skewers. It’s not something I normally gravitate towards but decided to try it anyways given Zomato/Yelp reviews say it’s one of the best in the city. The skewer was smaller than anticipated, but well prepared so the lamb was just cooked through and tender. Not surprisingly, there was a gamey taste, but it wasn’t overpowering given the meat was covered with enough slightly spicy and curried dry rub.


The wrapper on the steamed lamb and onion dumplings ($9.99) was too thick and  still cracked, allowing the juices to escape. For such a popular dish to Northern Chinese restaurants, it was poorly executed. Their menu had limited flavours to choose from; if I had a choice, I would have ordered something else. Aside from the onion, the filling could really benefit from other herbs or vegetables to compliment the lamb.


Xin Jiang’s menu is vague on what’s in the handmade noodle with beef ($12.99). An Uyghur dish, based on lamian, it uses a similar flour-based pulled noodle that tends to be thicker. The dish ended up consisting of boiled noodles tossed with a spicy soy meat broth and chunks of bell peppers, tomato, hard onions, and beef. The chewy noodles were enjoyable, I just wish there was more of it compared to all the other ingredients.


Seeing the spinach with firm tofu at a neighbouring table, it looked refreshing compared to the heavier dishes we ordered. Being a last-minute add on, I didn’t read the menu description and was greeted by a cold dish incorporating a tangy vinegar taste … sort of like spinach with pickled tofu. While refreshing, it’s best in smaller quantities, as like pickles it’s also very salty.


Given Xin Jiang is a smaller restaurant, all the aromatic smells co-mingle in the rectangular dining room - you will reek of food afterwards. However, they surprisingly have a lot of staff working, so customers are well attended to. My palette hasn’t quite developed for Xinjiang cuisine yet, but with a menu that rivals Pickle Barrel, maybe I’ll have to go back and explore more.

Overall mark - 6.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Markham, Canada
 Address: 3636 Steeles Avenue East (in Metro Square)

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:

Xin Jiang Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Aka-Oni Izakaya (Toronto)


While I do love expertly crafted sushi, made piece-by-piece and eaten at the optimal temperature, these meals are reserved for special occasions. Generally, I’ll limit my sushi and sashimi intake to “fancier” establishments - perhaps I’m being overly cautious, but low prices and raw seafood seem like a bad combination. Yet, I can still get my fill of cooked items at reasonable prices. The newest find is Aka-Oni Izakaya, a restaurant that offers an array of affordable lunch bento boxes amongst other dishes.


Standard items arrive with each bento meal:
  • Scalding miso soup that contains so much miso paste that it stays emulsified. A lone clam can be found at the bottom, surprisingly not overdone.
  • Simple green salad dressed with a tasty soy, lemon, and ginger dressing.
  • A daily appetizer, which in our case were two deep-fried gyozas. They’re of average quality but at least hot and freshly made.
  • A bowl of rice, even adorned with a bit of seaweed salt for extra flavour.
  • And for dessert, pieces of cut-up fruit (with the bento) and a scoop of black sesame or green tea ice cream (served afterwards).

Rarely are you able to find surf-and-turf for under $20. Aka-Oni’s take bento ($18) meets the challenge with a wee tempura lobster tail and small steak. While the lobster is frozen, you can still taste some of the lobster’s sweetness … it helps when the chef shows restraint with the batter. It’d be even better if it were cooked less.


Surprisingly, the Angus steak arrived pink-in-the-middle medium despite being cut so thinly. Simply grilled, it tasted like beef and was tender.


A generous portion of the saba shioyaki arrives in the matsu bento ($16), but does require a generous squeeze of lemon and grated radish to mask the light fishy essence (not abnormal with mackerel). Moreover, I thoroughly enjoyed the enoki stuffed beef rolls. Some may find it a tad salty, but the flavours were perfect at complimenting all the neutral crunchy mushrooms.


There aren’t bento boxes during dinner, but there is a set meal for those who like crab and sashimi. Not feeling too hungry, we stuck with some sharable dishes that spanned their entire menu. With two pages of kushiyaki skewers, we opted for the Negima chicken thigh ($2.25) and Matsusaka pork jowl ($6.99); both cooked well remaining tender, incorporated enough of the sweet and savoury glaze, and had the requisite charbroil flavour. Just don’t expect very large skewers, each containing four to five small bites at most.


For something more substantial, the grilled squid with unagi sauce ($9.99) is a better option, especially since it also uses the same glaze and has a smoky grilled flavour. With plenty of pieces to go around, the squid is of course chewier than meat but great for munching on with drinks.


I liked the freshly fried tempura prawn that’s used in the dynamite roll ($7.50), nice and crispy and still warm. Aka-Oni does a good version of the popular maki, wrapped in thin layer of rice and seaweed with the customary avocado, tobiko, cucumber, and spicy mayo.


We finished with a bowl of Hakata black garlic ramen ($11.99) selecting the thicker noodles to hold up against the stronger soup. While I would have liked the noodles to be cooked a touch less, the broth was thick and filled with flavours without relying solely on salt. While not overly large, the restaurant didn’t skimp on the toppings, including a thick slice of pork belly chashu, half an onsen egg, corn, bamboo shoot, thinly sliced black fungus, fish cake, and seaweed. It could rival a bowl served at traditional ramen restaurants downtown.


While you’ll never dream of Aka-Oni’s dishes (a nod to Jiro), they’re well prepared and decent quality for the low price. Besides, it’s one of the few places where the dishes arrived looking like the menu’s picture, if not better. Thanks to Aka-Oni, I can eat well while saving up for meticulously made sushi.

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 633 Silver Star Blvd

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:



Aka-Oni Izakaya Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Menya Musashi 麺屋武蔵 (Hong Kong)


Menya Musashi is a Japanese ramen chain that hasn’t entered the Canadian landscape. Widely known in Tokyo, it started in Shinjuku and have won various awards since. While it’s a relatively new entrant compared to a host of other noodle shops in Japan, Menya Musashi was one of the first to offer customization options adapting their offering based on local tastes – using the same soup base in white (plain), red (spicy), and black (scallion oil) versions. Yes, it may seem like something that’s done widely now, but before the turn of the century, when it opened in 1996, stores had little choice.

To try the original base, you’ll want the shiro bukotsu ($78) that leaves the soup plain. It’ll allow you to truly taste the creamy tonkotsu broth, which combines pork bones, chicken, and bonito into a rich flavourful soup. Oh yes, I could taste the pork, but despite being thicker, Menya Mushahi’s broth is not oily and didn’t taste heavy.


Meanwhile, for a bit more flavour, the kuro bukotsu ramen ($78) adds a scallion, onion, and garlic oil into the broth. While I was a bit self-conscious that the black particles would be all over my teeth, it still didn’t stop me from finishing the fragrant soup.


Indeed, Menya’s soup base steals the show, but the other elements are good too: their noodles thick enough to have a soft chewiness and the half egg a lovely soft boil. I would prefer the pork to be thicker as it becomes lost in all the other toppings (green onions, spinach stems, and a sheet of nori).

Compared to the strong creamy ramen, the Musashi dumplings ($38) are delicate; the pork and cabbage filling lightly bound together so there’s an airy quality to the gyozas. They’re good, compared to the typical frozen variety.


With a host of Japanese ramen chains making their way into North America, it’s just a matter of time before Menya Mushashi joins the group. I’m glad I had the opportunity to try their signature tonkotsu broth without the lines.

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Wan Chai, Hong Kong
 Address: 30 Harbour Road

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!


On Lee Noodle Soup 安利魚蛋粉麵 (Hong Kong)


Located by the Pacific Ocean, it’s no surprise that fishing was and still is a major industry for the city. With access to fresh seafood, fish balls are a traditional food item you have to try in Hong Kong. On Lee Noodle Soup is one restaurant, frequently touted by bloggers and travel sites, as a go-to location.

Opening at 9am, there was already a line on our Sunday visit. Don’t worry, they’re a large restaurant with a number of communal seat-yourself tables holding six, so the queue was easily accommodated. On Lee is a well-oiled machine, noodles were flying out in less than five minutes, each bowl finished with a big ladle of soup and generous sprinkling of green onions.


The two items with rice noodles ($40) offered a taste of different toppings. Their fish balls are particularly delicate compared to the doughy versions we find in North America. Each bite sized sphere having an airy consistency with a light springiness to the bite. While the ones in Toronto often have a strong fish taste, these ones are lightly flavoured, akin to a freshly steamed fish.


Similarly, the shrimp wontons were also delicately packed, the smaller shrimp barely cooked through, although somewhat flavourless. Compounded by a plain soup base, a spoon of chili oil was really required to help add taste. Luckily, the rice noodles resisted getting soft despite sitting in the soup for at least 10 minutes (the broth is piping hot so I had to proceed cautiously). Moreover, despite looking like a small portion, a fair amount of noodles were packed into the bowl.

On the other hand, their braised brisket ($34) was terrible, the beef very tough screaming for some marbling, especially the few pieces were weren’t cut against the grain. Nevertheless, the soup base was much tastier, having that beefy soy sauce flavour and the thin wonton noodles incorporating a lovely chewy texture without the alkaline bite.


Shau Kei Wan, the district the restaurant is located in, lies on the far east side of Hong Kong Island. Although it seems out of the way, hopping on the inexpensive trams will get you there in less than an hour, On Lee Noodle Soup a further 10-minute walk from the station. While I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit the restaurant, if you’re going to take a long tram ride, you might as well make it a stop in Shau Kei Wan.

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Shau Kei Wan, Hong Kong
 Address: 22 Shau Kei Wan Main St E


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:



Yummy Dumpling House (Toronto)


After finding Sushi Bong was closed, I stumbled onto their neighbor, Yummy Dumpling House, located at the same North York condo building base. Yummy’s cozy dining room only holds fifteen at capacity, but this doesn’t seem to be a problem as the restaurant wasn’t overly busy during our Sunday lunch. It did have a steady stream of a couple tables coming and going, which is good as the kitchen is a one-woman operation (another wraps dumplings while a gentlemen greets and serves).

We’re given small dishes, which I assumed were for holding a dipping sauce, but turns out is also the plate for eating. As the steaming Chinese cabbage and pork dumplings ($8.50 for 15) arrives, the first dumpling, slippery with water, was a bit difficult to maneuver without any real dishware or spoon. Nevertheless, I was eventually successful and took a bite of the scalding dough.


Personally, I prefer dumplings steamed (the wrapper is thinner and hence results in more juices and flavour), but for being boiled these were decent – the wrapper still on the thick side but the filling incorporated enough ginger and spices to stand out.

Eat the pan-fried pork dumplings ($7.98 for 8) while they’re hot, as the thin layer of crispy caramelization on the wrapper is delicious. After a while, with the condensation and being piled onto a small plate, they start to get soggy. Some of the wrappers did break so the juices (one of the best parts of the dumpling) escaped. But, the couple of intact ones I had were tasty - Yummy Dumpling House really gets the seasoning right.


If you like Peking duck, give their flavoured pork wrap ($5.98) a try. The wrapper is thicker but has that same chewiness as the Peking duck counterpart. Lightly toasted with crispy edges, it holds thin slices of roasted pork covered with sweet hoisin sauce and fresh scallions. In the end, it has a Peking duck essence but isn’t oily and much heartier.


The experience reminds me of the need to just get out and explore restaurants. I’m guilty of it: relying on reviews or Instagram pictures to decide on where to eat. However, this limits the opportunities of stumbling across little hole-in-the-wall places where you can support mom-and-pop establishments that can’t afford media events. So set a date and grab someone to just take a stroll; find a small place that you’ve never heard of and just walk in. It may not be perfect, but at least you’ve supported a budding local entrepreneur.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 5 Northtown Way (Unit 16)

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:


Yummy Dumpling House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Ancila's Indian Cuisine (Mississauga)


Dining at Ancila’s Indian Cuisine is sort of cryptic, so you'll just have to roll with it. Starting with the reservations: the restaurant accepts them, but I’m told to make sure to cancel, if necessary, as they won't take another reservation for that time. This led me to believe that the dining room is tiny, when in reality it’s a fair-sized establishment. Upon entering, I see one large table is occupied being served by a waiter; not in a rush I wait patiently and it wasn’t until a women (presumably Ancila) leaves the kitchen that I’m addressed and instructed to sit wherever I like.

She returns to the kitchen and as I’m sitting there – without water, cutlery, or even a menu – I begin to wonder what’s going on. Finally, when my friend arrives, Ancila comes back to the table and things get clarified. We’re advised there are no printed menus; instead, she'll ask questions to come up with an order: On a scale from one to ten, what is your spice tolerance level? Are you vegetarian? Of the proteins are there any you particularly enjoy? Do you have any dietary restrictions?

With that we decided on a creamy medium spicy vegetarian dish and a spicier tomato based meat offering along with rice and naan. Ancila then went back to the kitchen to prepare everything and didn’t return until later to check on our experience.  

There was plenty of paneer in the tikka masala ($11); soft and fresh, it’s contrasted by a slight crunch from the bell peppers and onion. Being a thicker sauce, this went well sandwiched in between the warm toasted naan.


The mutton in the karahi ($12) was cooked well; stewed until tender with the collagen around the bone starting to break down. Cooked to a level-7 spiciness, the tomato, ginger and coriander sauce was hot enough to cause the tongue to sting and bring heat to your face. When too much sauce was spooned onto the rice ($3), a forkful of cooling raita ($2.50) helped calm it back down.


A downfall from not having a menu is not realizing all the options available. For example, for the sides, aside from rice we also ordered butter ($1.50) and garlic ($2.50) naan (any difference between the two is slight). However, after finding their menu online, I realize they also serve flakey paratha and flavourful briyani, I wish we had those instead.

It’s a quaint restaurant and with their no-menu system feels like you’re dining in Ancila’s home. “Let me make you a bit of food, what would you like?” it sort of feels like. The dishes take a while to prepare but what comes out is piping hot and made-to-order. Just be mindful about adding items too late in the meal, depending on the time, they may not be able to make dishes as even the samosa dough is made fresh. 

Like dining in a home, it’s a calm unhurried experience – there for a later dinner, Ancilia assured us to take our time and chat more, despite the restaurant being closed. What started off a little puzzling ended up being a good experience.

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Mississauga, Canada
 Address: 6905 Millcreek Drive

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:

Ancila's Indian Cusine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Maiz Latin Food (Toronto)


With my love for small family run restaurants, I wish… just wish … I could rave about Maiz. The restaurant has the makings of what could be a niche neighbourhood spot: it’s the only one in the area serving Latin food, the dining room is casual but comfortable, and with the roll-up windows and dark décor it has a Queen West coolness.

If only they didn’t push the arepas ($11) so much. Having had them delivered through Ubereats and at the restaurant, they certainly taste better in person. Yet, despite the amount of pulled chicken, guacamole, and cheese stuffed into the maize flour toasted shell, the pastry was still tasteless and dense. Perhaps if it were fluffier, thinner, or contained more salt in the dough it'd be better. The thick la negra salsa, which is dark and flavourful like olive tapenade, could have helped augment the arepa if it weren’t served so cold, shocking the taste buds.


The pabellon ($15) is better, especially if you need a filling meal. The plate is heaped with black beans, rice, fried plantains, pulled beef, and a miniature arepa. The actual protein was decent and has a lovely hint of spice in the background, but I still prefer the pulled chicken, which is more succulent and flavourful. Overall, the dish really needs something saucy and the pulled beef is where the moisture comes in; everything else (except the rice) was dry and heavy so it screamed for sauce. 


I’d go back for the corn-shell pulled chicken tacos ($12 for three), which could easily be made into a meal with a shared appetizer or side. Although simply adorned with cilantro, onion, and sour cream (we added oaxaca cheese for extra $1.50), they were tasty and the perfect three bites. 


I always try to order the “traditional” dishes during a first visit to a restaurant. Therefore, it could be a shared disappointment in Maiz and me that I didn’t like the arepa and pabellon more. Instead, it was the mainstream tacos that won me over. Oh well, the stomach wants what it wants.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 3220 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!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:


Maiz Latin Food Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Artisan Noodle 老碗 (Toronto)


Having walked by Artisan Noodle on numerous occasions and seeing waiting throngs, it’s apparent the restaurant’s good. Of course, its small dining room that seats less than 20 people likely isn’t helping alleviate the long lines either. Trust me, if there’s only a couple of people ahead of you, the wait is worth it.

Surprisingly, for such a small establishment, they have a surprisingly large menu dedicated to the biang biang hand-slapped and pulled noodles originating from China’s Shaanxi province. The namesake biang biang mian ($8.99) features the noodles topped with a cacophony of ingredients: diced root vegetables, tomato, beef, scrambled egg and scallions. You mix everything around vigorously creating a light dish suitable for warm weather. My husband enjoyed the dish, but its lukewarm temperature and absence of soup made me want something else.


If you can handle the heat, the spicy stewed beef noodle soup ($9.99) is good. The beef broth salty and satisfying, the noodles simply adorned with tons of tender beef, scallions and cilantro. I only wish the spiciness wasn’t derived from chili oil as the slick layer of it floating on top made it difficult to enjoy the soup.


Artisan’s noodles are a remarkable length (good luck trying to eat it in a mouthful) and unlike the knife shaved style, their thickness remains consistent throughout. Springy but still soft, the noodles are substantial and leave you full afterwards.


A great first experience with biang biang noodles. So good that I plan on returning to Artisan Noodle to try the stir fried version. Hopefully, we’ll be lucky again and miss their long lines.

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 5421 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!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:


Artisan Noodle Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Wooffles & Cream (Markham)

Wooffles & Cream

It’s inevitable, even with a busy mall’s distractions, when the Hong Kong egg waffle’s caramel aroma enters the nose, I become entranced in its melodic lullaby. Sweet dreams seem near but waiting ten minutes for a fresh batch feels excruciatingly long.

At Wooffles & Cream, you’d be lucky if the wait is under ten, given the waffles are made to order and there’s no hurrying their production time. Even with only a few people ahead of us, it took 20 minutes to get the delightful desserts.

Both the waffle and ice cream is $3.50 each; combining them won’t fetch you a discount, but makes the dessert that much better. Between four of us, we shared the original wooffle with matcha green tea and the black ‘n’ white sesame with vanilla - the perfect amount to satisfy without feeling glutinous.

A slightly crisp shell, airy inside and a mix of sesame to add interest; if we didn’t just have dinner I could easily have one to myself – breaking off a bubble and slathering it with ice cream before enjoying it. As my mouth settles into the warm memory foam waffle, the comforting spongy snack relaxes me – eyes momentarily flutter shut and a satisfied exhale follows.



Childhood memories of simpler times play out as each bubble prolongs the idyllic mood. With our hectic lives, society certainly deserves a luxurious catnap, even if it happens in a crowded suburban mall.

How To Find Them
 Location: Markham, Canada
 Address: 8360 Kennedy Road (inside New Kennedy Square)

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog


Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:



Wooffles & Cream Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato