Showing posts with label kimchi fries. Show all posts
Showing posts with label kimchi fries. Show all posts

CLOSED: LOV (Toronto)

LOV looks like your typical vegan hipster restaurant – sparkling white everything with hints of greens and natural contrasts. Just looking at the dining room makes you feel healthier. For a moment, you wonder if you should skip the wine and order kombucha instead… then you remember how terrible it tastes and order a bottle of Prosecco instead. They’re both carbonated - same same, but different.

Once you start with the wine, it goes downhill from there. Somehow, two orders of fries end up at the table. The LOV poutine ($11) looks great smothered with plenty of miso gravy and vegan mozzarella but tastes like fries covered with a flavourless thick sauce. Stick with the kimchi fries ($8) instead, which at least has the fermented cabbage and a creamy sesame dressing for interest.

Perhaps an order of Brussel sprouts ($9) to keep everything healthy? They’re deep fried and smothered with way too much of that tangy buffalo sauce.  

And then the Zen salad ($16) arrives and the guilt momentarily washes away. It’s a tasty combination of konjac noodles, shredded vegetables (cabbage, lettuce, daikon, carrots), and the extras thrown in for flavour and contrast (chilis and cashew). Maybe healthier options are better at LOV as this was the best of the starters. I thoroughly enjoyed the refreshing cilantro and mint elements. What? Am I a secret healthy eater?

Then I take a bite of the mushroom risotto ($19) and taste my favourite dish of the night. Done traditionally, the creamy rice and peas would have been good, but is made even better with the roasted oyster mushrooms. Okay, so perhaps I haven’t turned into nutritionist.

Yet, the LOV lasagna ($19) didn’t really excite. While the pasta looked delicious smothered with the vegan mozzarella and cashew cream, it tasted bland. The best part of the plate was perhaps the Caesar salad.

The gnocchi di casa ($20) was an interesting take on the classic Italian dish, except at LOV it’s made with sweet potato and buckwheat so there’s antioxidant and fibre strewn throughout the dish. The sweetness did help balance the hemp, basil and arugula pesto, which by itself could have been too strong.

Aside from the risotto, it’s the coconut curry ($18) that impressed. Who would have thought cubes of squash and carrots with a blanched kale could be so delicious when smothered in a cashew and coconut milk curry?

You should definitely heed the advice of those working at LOV, they know what’s tasty. Our choice of desserts, the crème brûlée ($8) and cheesecake ($7) were both good, for vegan alternatives, but run-of-the-mill.

Our waitress highly suggested the chocolate carmelita ($5), a dessert I didn’t think I’d enjoy, but had me reaching for another bite. It’s like having a chocolate butter tart bar but with the texture (and lack of stickiness) of a date square. Our table can certainly sing it praises.

For a place that looks so healthy, LOV’s menu does have its fair share of comfort foods. But perhaps what’s most surprising is how much I enjoyed and even preferred the “healthier” options. Maybe the surroundings were rubbing off on me. Could it be, one day I may actually order kombucha? 

Overall mark - 7 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 620 King Street West

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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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Han Ba Tang (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 4862 Yonge Street
Type of Meal: Dinner

Han Ba Tang isn’t the easiest name to remember, unless you’re Korean perhaps, so look for a light green sign amongst the strip of ethnic restaurants along Yonge and Sheppard (you’re close when you’re at the Frog). It’s a jovial atmosphere attracting younger patrons and is more reminiscent of downtown than the suburbs of North York. 

As a warning, you may not want to visit if you’re planning to go out afterwards as ventilation is poor and your clothes and hair will reek of food.

The taco fad continues on their menu. Since Estrella Taqueria closed across the street, North York may support another restaurant trying their hand at it. Han Ba Tang has five flavours available (kalbi, chicken breast, spicy pork, chilli shrimp and asparagus) in single ($4-$5) or trio formats ($10-$11).

If you want to try more than one flavour (and get the trio deal) there is the HBT Tacos deal for $10 including the kalbi, chicken breast and asparagus. The restaurant should just considering charging $11 (the most you’d pay for three of the kalbi tacos) and allow patrons to customize to their liking as the sound of asparagus tacos just doesn’t appeal to the carnivore in me.

My friend and I ended up sharing the kalbi ($5) and chili shrimp ($4) tacos. For me, the kalbi was the highlight with tender strips of beef in a sweet flavourful sauce. The crunch of the coleslaw and sharpness of the raw onions went well with it. The chili shrimp was too over battered for my taste and lacked the spiciness I’d expect from its title.

The kimchi fries ($10 for the small size shown below) is a starred and circled dish on their menu. Presumably, this means it’s the chef’s recommendation as a “must-have” item. Regrettably, this shouldn’t be the case. If you want saucy fries, then sure try out the dish. There’s plenty of gravy, mayo, mild kimchi and green onions on it. But, it’s a far cry from the sour spicy fermented cabbage taste I was expecting.

My favourite dish (and the sole one I’d consider ordering again) was the spicy seafood soup ($10 for a small with an extra $2 for adding instant noodles). Of course, there's nothing fusion-like about it but sometimes tradition wins. The broth was filled with a deep seafood essence and had just the right amount of heat to cause you to sweat a little. Filled with a generous portion of mussels, shrimp, blue crab and vegetables everything tasted fresh and made-to-order. Who knows, I may come back and just order a bowl of this to myself – a satisfying and comforting meal on a cold winter’s night.

I'm also glad there’s now a place nearby that offers inventive cocktails rather than bottles of beer or soju and ginger ale. We watched as the bartender intensely crafted the HBT old fashioned ($10) by cutting up fresh citrus, heating up the peel and swiping it across the lip of the cup.

But, what caught our eyes more was the canisters of soaking soju. What a beautiful display in front. So, we decided on the soju flight ($15) giving us a choice of three of the six flavours (pineapple, strawberry, apple cinnamon, cucumber, citrus and ginger). 

Our waiter suggested the pineapple, strawberry and apple cinnamon. These babies are dangerous as they’re so easy drinking! The apple cinnamon was surprisingly good and would be such a great after dinner drink over the holiday season – wonder if Han Ba Tang could legally sell me a bottle?

Service is friendly but disheveled despite being opened for months now. Getting seated was a bit chaotic. No one seemed to know where to sit guests – at least three people became involved before someone finally decided how to sit three tables of two.

Moreover, promised sitting times don’t appear to be communicated amongst staff – the gentlemen who seated us noted they’d need the table back after two hours but the women (who appeared to be the owner) came over after just over one hour to pressure us to get the bill. Luckily, we had received and finished our food by that time; but, my friend who just received another beer had to finish it hurriedly. To avoid all the confusion, I strongly suggest making a reservation before heading to the restaurant.

Other than the seating fiasco, everyone was pleasant throughout the evening. Food and service came at a good pace and individuals frequently checked on us to ensure needs were met. In the end, I’m glad Han Ba Tang opened up in the neighbourhood and wish more non-chain, not completely ethnic restaurants will join suit. 

Unlike downtown, you won’t pay $15+ for a cocktail or be subjected to ridiculously small portions. But, there also won’t be the fancy phone charging stations seen at Speakeasy 21. I say who needs something that fancy when an outlet, plug and hand drawn sign works just fine?

Overall mark - 7 out of 10

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more -

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!