Showing posts with label lamb. Show all posts
Showing posts with label lamb. Show all posts

CLOSED: Taste of Uzbekistan (Toronto)


Uzbekistan, a country part of the former Soviet Republic, is no major tourist destination even though it was formerly a stop along the Spice Route. It’s a cuisine that many Torontonians would have never tasted until Djovikhon Buzrukov opened Taj Restaurant in a North York strip mall.

With its success, a second location dubbed Taste of Uzbekistan has now opened in the Yonge Lawrence Village. A larger space, the signage has a palatial quality to it and makes it feel like you’re about to get a taste of royalty.

So, it seemed off brand when a humble plate of babaghanoush ($8.99) was presented with a side of tandoori non in a plastic diner basket. Where the starter lacked in presentation, it’s made up in taste: eggplant grilled lightly and seasoned with lemon juice and oil. So simple, yet when produce is fresh all you should taste is the lovely creamy eggplant.


The bread, made in-house in a clay tandoori oven, could be toasted a bit less as the thinner middle portion became hard and cracker like, while the thicker ring stayed in the softer doughy form. Who knows, maybe this is how it’s meant to be made offering two textures, but it’s the softly toasted part that went so well with the babaghanoush.  

How dishes are presented seems to indicate items are meant to be shared. Each arrives as soon as they’re done, so if guests order their own main, there could be a significant lag until the entire order arrives.

A dish they recommend highly is the plov ($15.99), a traditional Uzbek dish that’s typically prepared on special gatherings. It’s touted on the sign outdoors, on their menu, and even when you ask them for their advice. Certainly, it’s a comforting plate that I could imagine an Uzbekistan family gathering on a weekend to enjoy.


Rice is cooked with onion, carrot, raisins, and cumin so it gets a lovely colour and aroma. Thankfully, the raisins are used sparingly so that it doesn’t sweeten the rice, merely creating moisture in the dish. Chunks of tender lamb are strewn throughout adding an oily richness to everything else. As I tucked into forkfuls of the rice, thoughts of biryani came to mind, but in a mild form. The side of achichuk salad compliments the plov, the fresh tomato and crunchy cucumbers giving the dish a fresh cleansing element.

Conversely, the overdone kazan kebab ($19.99) was forgettable, the lamb lacking moisture or flavour. In fact, the best part of plate was the salty sliced potatoes cooked in a cast iron pan so that it fries at the edges creating a crispy scallop potato like side without the heavy cream, cheese, and butter.



Taste of Uzbekistan’s service isn’t bad, but is a tad off. Before I could even sit down, our waiter asks for a drink order, so I quickly respond water until I have a chance to settle. Yet, you come to realize there’s no beverage menu so wait around until one is produced. 


The only saving grace are the generous wine pours; the glass arrives filled to the brim. And with enough wine, for me, everything gets better.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 3249 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!


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The Feast of St. Lawrence (Toronto)


Just imagine dining outdoors on Front Street with two hundred fellow guests. That's two long tables tucking into a six-course meal prepared by some of the best restaurants the St. Lawrence neighbourhood has to offer. Better yet, indulge in all this food and drink and support Second Harvest, a leading charity that rescues food that would otherwise go to waste and diverts it to shelters and food banks. A noble foundation that not only helps the hungry but also helps the environment.

If this sound like a cause you can get behind, than you can't miss out on the Feast of St. Lawrence. Taking place on August 9, 2019, the evening begins with oyster and charcuterie stations to wash down drinks as you mingle and listen to a jazz band performing in Berczy Park. 

Restaurants will also be serving hors d'oeurvres, such as Hawthorne's sous vide trout with Ontario saffron velouté topped with caviar. The bit of smokiness in the fish with the salty finish from the caviar makes this a great pairing with white wine. And yes, you heard right, there is a farm in Ontario that cultivates saffron!


Batch's beef tartare arrives in its own container, a crunchy shrimp chip that's deep fried until fluffy. Inside, the Korean inspired tartare is mixed with kimchi and Asian pear so that you get a bit of heat and sweetness. They say it's the perfect bite to pair with their IPA, which cuts the fat from your tongue. Wine, beer, and that cute dog fountain? What a way to begin.


Afterwards, the feast consists with six courses, all paired with Ontario wines. Having sampled four of the six dishes, there is certainly variety as chefs pay homage to the local ingredients Ontario offers in the summer.

Farm'r starts their salad with thick slices of roasted peaches that will just be hitting shelves in August. The bits of mint, salty feta, and peppery arugula helps balance out the sweetness and makes a delicious combination with quinoa. 


Trust me, you're in for some good food. Having tucked into a sample of Cantina Mercatto's smoked corn sugo cavatelli, the light cream base with chewy pasta, which is almost reminiscent of a tiny gnocchi, is absolutely delicious. There’s meaty chanterelles, a bit of heat from birds eye chilies, sweet corn kernels, and refreshing pea shoots. The dish is so good I went back for a second sample.


Having done a quick preparation of Cirillo’s Academy’s grilled octopus, it seems like such an easy dish to create …until Chef Cirillo actually describes how they make the octopus: slow braising it with stock mixed with its own liquids, breaking it down to remove the inedible pieces, and then finally finishing sections on the grill. You’re left with meaty bites of octopus mixed with quickly seared tomatoes, chickpeas, and arugula. It’s a nice bridge between the pasta and the heavier main.


Normally, serving 200 guests lamb done two ways would be quite the feat. But, the Omni King Edward Hotel has served large numbers of guests for decades. While I would have liked the lamb belly fat rendered a bit more, the meat was so tender. Meanwhile, the lamb chop was done a perfect medium and has a lovely salty rub.


To keep the dish summery, they finish it off with a lovely pea puree and sweet charred leeks. And if you’re hesitant about having lamb due its potential gaminess, the salty spiciness from the accompanying andouille and crouton side will surely balance it out.

The night continues with whisky cocktails from CC Lounge's onsite whisky bar and if you're too full, you can just dance throughout the evening… it’s not often you can dance along Front Street.


And if you need a little post-dinner activity, try to find the birds that are part of the dog fountain. Hint: the cat is looking at it. Once you discover this hidden sculpture you'll be a St. Lawrence insider. 

Disclaimer: I attended a media event to try the dishes above, but I'm am not being paid to promote the event. Rest assured, as noted in my mission statement, I will always provide an honest opinion.


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada

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

Mayrik (Toronto)


While downtown Toronto is filled with the O.G., new trendy, and fancy restaurants; and Scarborough, Mississauga, and Brampton are home to very authentic eateries; mid-town Toronto melds the two together to form a collection of restaurants that draws on traditions, but adds an element of familiarity as well. In no way is this comment meant to be a disparaging remark: mid-town restaurants offer a safe space to try different cuisines without feeling uneducated.

I’ll fully admit my experience with Middle Eastern food is still in the elementary stages. Since it essentially encapsulates Arab, Persian, Jewish, and Turkish food (to name a few), there’s a wide array of flavours, ingredients, and dishes to taste.

Mayrik serves Armenian dishes that are inspired by Chef Sebouh Yacoubian’s maternal kitchen, but updated with his own flair. For example, octopus ($32) isn’t something that you normally find on Armenian menus, but Mayrik prepares it excellently, on account of Chef Yacoubian’s lineage with the Greek Mamakas Tavern. It’s tender enough that a dinner knife slides through easily and grilled lovingly so the seafood develops a smokiness and the tendrils become crispy.


Both meaty and delicate, the octopus is simply seasoned, but add some of the mild harra sauce and it gets even better. Sitting on a bed of eech, a bulgur wheat salad, I can’t say it really compliments the octopus, but I guess isn’t a terrible choice either. The eech just seems to be missing something – more salt and even some of the tabouli would be nice.

The babaghanoush ($8) is the healthiest and freshest version I’ve ever tasted, the base merely well-roasted eggplant with a splash of olive oil and seasoning. Topped with a tabouli that’s equal parts parsley and bell peppers with a light splash of lemon, it helps to give the dish some crunch and freshness. The pink ribbons is a date tahini adding an element of sweetness while the pine nuts fairly neutral creating something to chew on.


Each dip arrives with two toasted pitas that are freshly prepared and hot – be careful when pulling these babies apart. The bread really hits the spot and would be even better if some of the dried parsley is substituted with salt.

Surprisingly, it’s the humble shawarma ($26) that elicit the most excitement at the table. A stunning affair with another hot fresh pita (thinner and more toasted) that’s topped with decadently oily and tender pulled lamb neck … make sure you have a piece of the meat solo before adding any accompaniments… it’s so good.


Mayrik keeps the condiments separate so you decide how much chimmichurri, pickled red onions with sumac, tahini, and pickles to include in the shawarma. My husband was able to add tahini to his heart’s content while I loaded up on onion and pickles, which I found help cut through the lamb’s richness.


Sharing is essential and this dish is fairly heavy. The lamb neck is loaded with oil, so although it can get messy, I suggest picking up the wrap and eating it taco style so the oil can drain out the other end. At least a tablespoon was left on the plate after I finished my half.

Plus, you need to save room for the kunefe ($16). The dessert consists of fine semolina dough baked with cheese and some custard creating a cross between a flan, cheesecake, and gooey cheese all melted into a pan of deliciousness. It’s certainly sweet owing to the brown sugar topping and the orange syrup that gets poured at the table. It’s rich enough to share amongst a table of four; a quarter is all you really need.


The other great thing about dining midtown is the calmer pace. Especially on weekdays when people just seem to have more time and there’s no reminder that meals can only last for two hours. At Mayrik, our waitress was helpful, in particular helping to navigate through the Greek wines, which I’m also inexperienced with. It’s my chance immerse myself in a new cuisine, without feeling like a dunce.

Overall mark - 9 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 1580 Bayview Avenue

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:


Mayrik Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Scaramouche Restaurant (Toronto)


Yes, you’re in the right place. It seems wrong, as you pull up to an apartment building, but Scaramouche is located in the corner of Benvenuto Place. From the outside, it seems like an odd location for a restaurant, let alone one that has operated in Toronto for almost four decades. Yet, when you make your way into the dining room and are greeted with the view of the city’s midtown parklands and skyline, the residential neighbourhood is forgotten.


Tip back the shot of chilled celery and parsley soup and it certainly feels like you’re in a restaurant… slightly creamy before ending with a spicy horseradish kick. Equally refreshing are the half a dozen oysters ($30), freshly shucked with a bit of the red wine mignonette.


It’s hard to describe Scaramouche’s menu, possibly Canadian with European influences. These elements came together with the gnocchi ($25), a special for the day, combining in-season white asparagus and wild leeks. It was a fantastic starter! The creamy gnocchi well toasted in a golden crust and huge chunks of duck confit strewn throughout, enough that a larger portion can easily make this a main. Lastly, pieces of spongy morels, adding a different texture and soaking in the delicious duck jus.   


Unbeknownst to me, my order of roasted St. Canut suckling pig ($43) was replaced with a seared Nagano pork loin ($38). I wish they would have informed me of the change as when you expect something capped with crispy crackling skin, the medallion was an instant disappointment. Note to the restaurant: always inform your customers of replacements, I would have gone with the duck instead.


While the dish didn’t wow me like the starter, it’s a solidly constructed plate.  The meaty piece of perfectly cooked pork paired well with the traditional trimmings: luscious parsnip purée and lightly pickled apple. The fingerling potatoes are sautéed with bacon to give it an extra zip.

On the other hand, a taste of my husband’s lamb ($49) left me wanting more. The tender chops were crusted with an herby salsa verde to keep it light. Every element of the plate – peeled cherry tomatoes, crunchy beans, and a lemony eggplant purée was enticingly refreshing and bright, screaming of warmer weather even though Mother Nature wasn’t completely agreeing with us. Forget the typical heavy lamb with gravy and potatoes, Scaramouche’s interpretation is exactly what I want.


For dessert, their coconut cream pie ($14) is well known. Three distinct layers of sweet coconut custard, light chantilly cream, and tons of white chocolate shavings – so much that it had to be swept to the side. In comparison to the rest of the pie, the crust it thin and delicate, but still incorporated enough butter that even a bit of the crispy pastry with the cream was delicious. This is a pie for coconut lovers as the custard contained A LOT of it.


I welcomed bits of savouriness from my husband’s cheese plate ($16) to balance out the sweet dessert. The Wookey Hole cheddar is described as being aged in lime stone caves in Somerset, England, where it’s said to take on an earthy taste. Truth be told, I couldn’t distinguish any mineral elements, but it was flavourful, without being overpowering, and had a light nuttiness.


The cheddar was balanced by a lighter 12-month Manchego from Spain where you taste the dairy while enjoying the harder slightly crumbly texture of the cheese. Of course, the cheese board arrives with typical condiments – interestingly a tomato chutney (instead of something fruit based), perhaps there was already enough fruit in the pear and cranberry bread crackers.

It’s taken me a while to make it out to Scaramouche. This year’s birthday seemed like an opportune time to finally make it out to the iconic fine dining establishment. Possibly, it was even a bit reassuring, since the restaurant is older than me. 

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 1 Benvenuto Place

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:

Scaramouche Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Maezo Restaurant & Bar (Toronto)


Maёzo opened two months ago and already the venue has hosted a number of birthday and corporate events. Their spacious open-concept dining room with fold away windows is certainly conducive for large groups, but the well-spaced tables and booths also allow for intimate dinners – I, for one, am glad to not hear neighbouring conversations. Owner, Amit Sukhwani, wants patrons to be comfortable (thanks to his history of hospitality from Aruba) and is bringing to Canada the flavours of India with a twist.


For example, for mac ‘n’ cheese lovers, their masala macaroni ($8) will hit the spot. It’s not as sinful as the typical mac ‘n’ cheese, but the masala sauce still incorporates enough cream to make it satisfying, without being too heavy. The sauce has a manageable level of spiciness and is balanced out by the tomato’s acidity. Sharing is encouraged as the appetizer is substantial – it could even work as a main. Amit laughs when I comment on the size of the bowl, he agrees it’s a generous portion and does so to ensure no customer leaves hungry.


The monsoon basket ($12) arrives filled with crispy pakoras encapsulating a variety of vegetables within the batter - spinach, onion, potato and carrots from what I could make out. They’re dropped in oddly shaped balls allowing for a bunch of jutting edges creating more crispy surface space. The appetizer arrives with the traditional sweet and sour tamarind chutney, but if you order the lamb, they are go equally well with the chimichurri sauce.


Although I enjoyed all the accompaniments with the lamb chops ($28) – the spicy rice is like “dirty rice” to another level and the chimichurri a cross between the tangy Argentinian variety and the spicy Indian mint chutney – the actual lamb is merely decent. The meat is rubbed in a nice medley of spices, but needs to be saltier. Moreover, the thick slices combined with the bone located in the middle of the chop means the centre arrives rare and makes it difficult to cut with a regular dinner knife.


I generally don’t like butter chicken – often it’s too creamy or just tastes like tomato sauce. So, when I took a bite of my husband’s butter chicken ($18) I was pleasantly surprised with the well-balanced sauce. The family recipe the dish is based on doesn't go too crazy with the cream, instead also incorporating various spices to give it interest. Moreover, the cubes of chicken breast are juicy and tender. The gravy goes especially well with the spicy South-Indian tomato rice accompanying the lamb, Maёzo should consider having an “upgrade” option for those who want an extra flavor bomb. 


Amit explains that Maёzo, in Sindhi, means fun – a feeling he hopes guests visiting the restaurant will experience. The cheerful Top 40 pop songs that play throughout the dining room certainly creates a jovial atmosphere. Their weekday specials may also help - on Monday to Friday (from 4-7pm), the restaurant has $5.99 drink specials (bottled beer or a glass a house wine) and appetizers are 10% off. It’s a great opportunity to gather a group of friends and head to their central downtown location for a night of maёzo.

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10
Disclaimer: The above meal was complimentary. Rest assured, as noted in my mission statement, I will always provide an honest opinion.


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 67 Richmond Street West

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:



Maezo Restaurant & Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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!

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