Showing posts with label live music. Show all posts
Showing posts with label live music. Show all posts

HuTaoLi Music Restaurant & Bar 胡桃里音乐酒馆 (Markham)


Let’s just say HuTaoLi Music Restaurant and Bar is unlike any Chinese restaurant I’ve ever been to. There’s flora sprouting from the ceiling and trinkets galore. I almost feel like I’m entering a brighter version of Rainforest Cafe minus the massive animals.

Yet, things feel rushed. The dishes come out way too quickly, so take it from me and order in waves. Otherwise, it's impossible to fit everything on the table and the enjoyment level starts depleting as you scramble to divide everything onto the side plates, only to have to scarf it down to make room for more.

From what I can remember, the sliced beef and tongue in chili ($9.99) actually contains beef tongue and tripe, thinly sliced so it’s tender and sits in a flavourful oil that’s spicy but not overwhelming. If offal makes you squeamish, the lotus root with special chili sauce ($6.99) offers a similar flavour and a great refreshing crunch.


Probably one of their most photographed dishes is the house special roast chicken ($16.99), which arrives with a lot of glitz – the chicken sitting in a wooden bird cage, the top opened with a flourish. As great as it looks, it’s really just deep fried crispy chicken in a much smaller and disheveled format. At least it’s a good rendition of the dish, the meat moist but cooked through and the skin crispy.


Their spicy stir-fried shrimps ($18.99) deserves more credit with its generous portion allowing there to be plenty to split amongst a table. It’s another powerful tasting dish, especially if you dig to the bottom and get pieces of the numbing Sichuan peppers.


HuTaoLi has some really interesting options like the durian pizza ($17.99) where the fruit adds an element of sweetness against the salty cheese and really works. The durian’s aroma isn’t too strong but is definitely present and actually meld nicely with the cheesy essence. Overall, it’s a surprisingly tasty dish, if only they swapped out the store bought pre-made pizza crust with an oven-toasted version that’s thinner, chewier and crispier… this would be a dish to contend with.


Others didn’t work quite as well like the Spanish style roasted rice with squid ink ($22.99). Really, other than the shallow iron pan it arrives in, it’s nothing like paella. The rice is darkly coloured but there’s no ink flavour. I can only describe the pineapple chunks topping the rice as strange and mildly off-putting. It’s a dish, which for me, really really doesn’t work.


I’d much rather have the simple things like the stewed mixed vegetable ($10.99), where HuTaoLi incorporates daikon and cucumber for a bit of crunch. With all the other heavier dishes, it was really nice to have something fresh to balance the meal. 


Switch out the Spanish style roasted rice for the brown sugar crispy rice cake ($7.99) instead. What a fantastic dessert incorporating sticks of chewy glutinous rice that has a light crunchy crust. The brown sugar syrup adds just enough sweetness but keeps things light enough that I could have downed an order to myself.


HuTaoLi’s main draw is, of course, the live music. This starts after 6:45pm when a soloist takes the stage crooning Mandarin songs while playing the piano. We heard that later in the evening a band takes the stage and 9pm onwards the place turns into a bar.


Since it’s located in Markham, someone will likely need to drive. Luckily, HuTaoLi has a decent non-alcoholic drink selection, the mango pineapple coconut juice ($7.99) refreshing and tasty to sip on while listening to music.



If only there was more time in the evening to really take everything in and enjoy yourself. Amongst the flora wonderland and soulful ballads, it’s a place where you want to stay and really enjoy yourself. Too bad the rushed service emits a pressured feeling to pay and get out. Even though HuTaoLi offers live music, but it sure doesn’t feel like a music bar.  

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Markham, Canada
 Address: 3760 Highway 7 East

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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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Hutaoli 胡桃里音乐酒馆 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

CLOSED: 120 Diner (Toronto)

120 Diner

Based on my experience, 120 Diner should really be considered a music lounge as opposed to a diner. On Friday evening, a singer who was part of Music Can Heal, serenaded us with mellow songs which washed away the weekday worries and left us in a meditative trance. The restaurant also features jazz, cabaret, comedic acts and even karaoke nights if you want to grace the stage (here’s the full calendar). 

Similar to music lounges, they offer a variety of cocktails. Two of their in-house concocted mixes look similar but couldn’t be more different.
  • The Burning Ember ($7.10), the same signature red as the tables, is their take on a vodka cran with a splash of ginger ale for bubbles.  
  • Meanwhile, the White Freezie ($9.75) may not look like the childhood frozen treat, but one sip will bring back memories. Surprisingly, we learned it’s the combination raspberry Sourpuss and banana that gives the frozen dessert that distinctive flavour.

Even the Grey Goose Peach Mojito ($12), the least colourful of the bunch, has an element of whimsy from the skewer of candy that accompanies the refreshing drink. I don’t know about you, the anything with muddled mint makes for a great summer drink.


It’s a shame the chicken wings ($12.95 for 1lb) occupies so little of the menu’s real estate (compared to the quarter page dedicated to nachos and poutine) – I almost missed ordering them. Yet, it’d be a shame not to try their wings as they’re fantastic (certainly gives my current favourite, Real Sports, a run for its money).


Using a “jumbo” size, 7-8 arrive in a pound each having an excellent crunchy coating while retaining a succulent juiciness inside. Their in-house honey garlic sauce even incorporates cloves of roasted garlic, perfect for smearing onto the sticky sweet sauce to give the wing an additional richness.

The spicy fish sandwich ($14.95) caught my eye, an unusual sandwich that rarely graces menus … especially one that’s oven poached as opposed to deep fried. Despite the relatively blank looking fish, the sandwich has kick with its three spicy elements: firstly the sambal sauce, an Indonesian blend of chilis and fish sauce, gave it heat and rich flavours; a layer of spicy mayo for that creaminess that makes a sandwich hearty; and lastly pickled jalapenos for a sting that dances on the tongue.


With gooey melted cheese and a soft Ace Bakery ciabatta bun, the sandwich really comes together… seemingly simple but delicious. Even their fries were expertly executed using in-house cut potatoes: retaining a long length, a crispy crust encapsulating fluffy innards, and most importantly, arriving piping hot.

For those who love protein, the 120 Meatlover cheeseburger ($17.95) takes their thick lean beef patty and piles saucy pulled pork and double smoked bacon on top! Take it from me, there’s no way to eat this cleanly so ask for extra napkins at the beginning. This is a serious burger with tons of fixings including cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and crispy fried onions.


Perhaps the most notable feature that makes the restaurant a “diner” is their desserts – a selection of traditional favourites such as carrot cake, brownies, banana pudding and baked lemon squares. I suggest you enquire about their weekly special, as the cheekily named strawberry TALL cake ($7.99) was the perfect ending: pieces of dense white cake piled high with cold soft serve ice cream and tons of sweet strawberries. 


For a person who loves strawberry shortcake, it was that light but sweet enough dessert that left me satisfied. And since 120 Diner now has their own soft serve machine, expect more of these gems in the future.

A fantastic new menu for a restaurant that’s just celebrated its second year anniversary. Still the generous portions and affordable prices the restaurant’s known for, but now an even larger selection and some really interest options – spicy fish sandwich anyone?

Overall mark - 8 out of 10
Disclaimer: The above meal was complimentary. Rest assured, as noted in the mission statement, I will also provide my honest opinion. 


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 120 Church Street


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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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120 Diner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Shore Grill & Grotto (Mississauga)

Shore Grill & Grotto


“Port Credit's finest. See for yourself...” This challenge left on the Shore Grill & Grotto’s website was accepted. Let’s see what the finest of the town has in store for us. Certainly, it’s one of Port Credit’s largest restaurants: the abundant store frontage provides a huge patio; that’s even before considering the cozy lounge (with live music), huge dining room and private dining area.     

Their bruschetta ($8.71) is best described as garlic bread with cheese topped with sliced tomatoes – good if you want garlic bread, but disappointing if you’re expecting bruschetta. The dish was missing that freshness from the herbs, tanginess from a bit of citrus and overall lightness that makes it the famed bread for me.


Consider sharing the cashew-encrusted goat cheese ($12.71) with a table of four as its sheer size would be a handful even for two. I wasn’t enthused when I read its description: cheese with nuts is understandable, but did it really also require roasted garlic and raspberry coulis (two flavours that shouldn’t work together). Yet, it all combined nicely, especially if you love contrasting dishes: the creamy smooth goat cheese with crunchy cashews, enhanced by the savoury sweet garlic and a pop of refreshing berry sauce.


In true Italian tradition, the seafood linguine ($19.75) was huge (enough for a full plate of leftovers for my husband). There was also a good selection of seafood that were cooked well: large and meaty scallops given a light smoky grill, crunchy shrimp, tons of mussels, along with clams and calamari. Even the pasta was slightly al dante – the building blocks to what could have been a fantastic dish.


But then everything lacked flavour … unless you count a quarter-cup of olive oil a predominant taste. The pesto sort of peeks through, but the acidity from the white wine you’d want to cut through the greasiness is non-existent. Some say lower sodium is good for the health, but for me I want taste (or at least a shaker at the table so I can kill myself). And as much as I love roasted garlic, the sheer amount was overpowering having had a few of them whole after mistaking them as fallen crustacean.

For me, the Shore is definitely not Port Credit’s finest, although it wasn’t horrible either - the restaurant does have abundant portions at reasonable prices. Rather, I wish it relied less heavily on fats for flavours and more on herbs, citrus and salt. In the end, take inspiration from your name – the Shore: incorporate the salt of the sea and keep out the oil.

Overall mark - 6.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Mississauga, Canada
 Address: 71 Lakeshore Road East

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:



Shore Grill & Grotto Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Spice Lounge and Tapas (Mississauga)


Spice lounge and tapas

Spice Lounge and Tapas was bustling on my Saturday visit. In the corner, Spanish music was strummed live on a guitar; although enjoyable the volume could be turned down a pitch to allow easier conversations. After all, according to Wikipedia, tapas are designed for chats as the focus becomes more about people and shared foods rather than devouring a main on your own.

The smoked duck flatbread ($14), highly recommended by my friend and waitress, incorporated the right balance of sweet and savoury. The sliced grilled pears and drizzles of honey added sweetness while smoked duck breast and double smoked cheddar were substantial enough to keep the dish from turning into a dessert. As a suggestion, rather than using a hazelnut spread (which is somewhat gritty), a chestnut puree may offer a smoother base and incorporate a sweet earthiness that would work well amongst the other ingredients.

Spice lounge and tapas duck flatbread

What’s not to like about deep fried balls of creamy rice? Spice’s truffle mushroom croquettes ($12) were decent, the mushroom risotto mixed with white truffle oil before being rolled in a panko coating. The inside was slightly bland for my taste; more salt and cheese mixed into the rice may augment the flavours more.

Spice lounge and tapas risotto balls

Spice’s PEI mussels ($11) were beautifully presented; as the lid was removed we were presented with meticulously arranged mussels topped with vibrant red pepper slivers. Despite the menu’s description of saffron butter sauce, the liquid was a redder (perhaps on account of paprika) than the famed golden hue. Nonetheless, it was delicious and I only wish there was only more bread to soak it up.

Spice lounge and tapas mussels

The brick of chilli rubbed ribs ($16) was rather an ingenious way to help keep the meat warm.  Although it lacked the barque of a BBQ smoked rib, these slow braised ones were moist and well flavoured from the mix of Spanish spices and chipotle BBQ sauce.

Spice lounge and tapas ribs

To end, bunuelos ($8) or Mexican doughnuts, warm light balls of deep fried battered with a light anise flavor. The uneven bits poking out of the sphere became very crispy. Sweetened with cinnamon sugar and a diluted caramel sauce, it provided a sweet ending to the meal without being heavy.

Spice lounge and tapas bunelos


We chose to order a couple of dishes at a time to avoid the delicious but dreaded table filled with food and not knowing where to start. Spice presented them in an adequate succession, hot and fresh from the kitchen. Despite being a busy night, they never rushed us, providing ample time between reservations – there certainly was no two hour seating limit here. All in all, a delightful neighbourhood spot for some conversations and small bites.  

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 52 Lakeshore Road East

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!


Is That It? I Want More!

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Tapas at Embrujo (Toronto)


Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 97 Danforth Avenue
Website: www.tapasatembrujo.com
Type of Meal: Dinner


Tapas At Embrujo has replaced the previous Embrujo Flamenco and with it arrives a new menu with additional small plates and lower price points. Everything is meant to be shared, especially the large paellas, suggested for two but could easily feed more. 

Amongst the four paellas, we ordered the seafood ($42) which was topped with shrimp, squid, mussels and a scallop. The rice was saucy and flavourful but would have been even better if there was less liquid so that a crust could develop on the sides and bottom of the pan. The seafood was overcooked and despite the abundance of shrimp, squid and mussels it was a bizarre that there was only a single scallop. All in all, although not the best in the city (I’d suggest Carmen for paella), it was nonetheless a satisfactory dish.


With tapas in their name, they certainly offer a large selection. Varying in sizes, some like the duck confit with pear ($11) could even act as a main with the addition of a salad. A fairly large duck leg is prepared confit style arriving tender and flavourful. Served piping hot with a sprig of rosemary, it was an enjoyable dish, much tastier than the other meat tapas we tried that night.


Having tried both of black angus sirloin tapas, the steak with three sauces ($10) was the better of the two. Four strips of beef were accompanied with sweet parsley, Romesco and sweet mustard sauces for dipping. The end piece I tasted was fairly tough, but my friend noted the middle portion was nice and tender. The dipping sauces were also an acquired taste - the sweetness in the parsley and mustard sauces were not for me, I would have much preferred something tangy or spicy instead.


The second sirloin dish was the steak with salsa de mostaza ($10); Embrujo’s take on steak frites. The sirloin, served in chunks, was overdone. The fries were decent arriving hot and crispy; however, was likely the frozen variety and a fairly oily.


If something fried is what you’re craving, the eggplant fries ($7) is the better choice. Although not extremely crispy, there is a nice light crust around each piece and a soft tender centre. Topped with a liberal sprinkling of sea salt and served with aioli these are great for munching on. If you can save some of the salmorejo, the garlicky Spanish tomato sauce that accompanies the bread, try it with the eggplant as it pairs quite nicely. Just be careful on the first fry as they are hot!


In fact, just save the bread period. Especially, if you’re ordering the clams with chorizo ($9). A bowl of clams cooked in white wine and flavoured with spicy chorizo, the clams are decent but the flavourful broth is the highlight. It would go so nicely with the crusty bread – too bad we had already ran out of it.

tapas at Embrujo  clams

The shrimp with chocolate ($10) was a surprisingly good dish. Normally, fruit flavoured chocolate is a detested combination but with the non-sweet cocoa Embrujo used in combination with the orange juice actually was quite nice. The addition of chilies into the dish really helped to keep everything savoury. If only the shrimp wasn’t floured it would have been better as the crust sort of crumbled off and became mushy.


One of our table’s favourite dishes of the night was the quail egg crostini ($9). More of the delicious tart and garlicky salmorejo sauce is spread on a grilled crostini, then layer with Serrano ham and topped with a fried quail egg. The dish not only presented well but the combination of flavours, crunch and runny egg yolk proved to work well together.

tapas at Embrujo

After enjoying a half an hour live performance (Thursday – Saturdays only), of entertaining Spanish songs and Flamenco dancing we finally digested enough for dessert. Sharing the flan ($6), the Spanish version of crème caramel, it’s a decent dessert. Much denser than the other custards there's a cake-like consistency to it. But, it was well flavoured and the watery caramel nicely sweetened.

tapas at Embrujo

Wondering what “Embrujo” meant but not finding it on the internet (imagine that), I finally wrote into the restaurant; turns out it translates to “bewitched”. The name sums up our experience quite well – although not every dish was a hit we nonetheless had an enjoyable night at Tapas at Embrujo. In the end, it’s the captivating experience is what matters - our waiter was delightful, the food plentiful & affordable and the cava/sangria/wine even more so. With the right company and atmosphere, this adds up to a great night.  

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!


Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:
Or check out some Amazon resources:

Tapas at Embrujo on Urbanspoon