Showing posts with label lobster mac n cheese. Show all posts
Showing posts with label lobster mac n cheese. 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.

How To Find Them
 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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CLOSED: A La Carte at the Gardiner (Toronto)

A La Carte at the Gardiner has been opened for almost two years, occupying the space from the former Jamie Kennedy restaurant. However, they’re not new to the block; they’ve been involved with catering at the Gardiner Museum, so if you’ve attended an event there you’ve likely tried their creations.  

Situated on the third floor, the space is wonderful with high ceilings and soaring windows overlooking University. Having reconfigured the dining room’s layout, the space is much larger with a bright airy feeling to it. With beautiful wooden floors, a baby grand piano and sculptures by the entrance, it’s comfortable, contemporary and elegant.

Their prices are surprisingly reasonable for their prime location. The charcuterie board arrives with cured ham, Calabrese salami, prosciutto, chicken terrine and plenty of accompaniments for only $14. So, even if you’re not in the mood for a meal, it’d be a great option for resting, a small bite and drinks after checking out the Museum’s exhibits (or any of the other tourist destinations in the area). With glasses of wine for $10 and cocktails at $12 it’s an affordable option.

The meat on the charcuterie was decent but what I enjoyed most was the house-made julienned pickled vegetables served with it. They’re vinegary and crunchy, a great way to start the meal. Along with cornichons (small French pickles), olives and toasted crostini this was a full and satisfying platter.

Despite the above, we couldn’t help but dig into the complimentary bread as well. It was accompanied with a great za'atar spice mixture which had a chili, citrusy and savoury essence to it.

I have a love-hate relationship with paella – love the Westernized versions but still acquiring the taste for those I’ve tried in Barcelona. At a la Carte, if you’re ordering this expecting paella ($16), you may be disappointed. Unfortunately, it lacked the saffron essence, fluffy rice and caramelized crust quality that really makes the dish become paella.

Nonetheless, it wasn’t a bad dish. It had great flavours and plenty of ingredients (chicken, bay scallops, chorizo, a tiger shrimp and mussel). For me, the dish would be more aptly described as a seafood jambalaya risotto. With the abundance of the holy trinity, chorizo (that is so similar to andouille) and spicy kick, it made me reminiscent of New Orleans. The creamy Arborio rice and saucier finish is where it deviates from a jambalaya, hence the addition of ‘risotto’ required in the description.

My husband was more than satisfied with the catch of the week ($17) – in this case a lobster mac ‘n’ cheese. It arrived bubbling giving off such a fragrant aroma of butter, cheese and lobster. Thankfully, for my stomach’s sake, it wasn’t overly creamy. But, it’s not exactly healthy either as there was still plenty of butter and cheese mixed into the pasta.

I enjoyed the hint of lemon added to the dish, which helped to brighten it up. In the end, it reminded me of a cross between mac ‘n’ cheese and scampi shrimp. The frisee salad had a delicious unexpected dressing on it: vinegary and savoury but also a hint of spice - perhaps curry and/or tamarind?

What I liked enjoyed most about a la Carte was their hushed and elegant but not stuffy environment. It’s a great place to visit where you can actually carry a conversation with fellow dinner guests. Dinner is only served Fridays as events and weddings fill the space the rest of the time. Generally, they are opened for lunch and brunch service. And I’d imagine the daytime view, when you can see everything, would be even better.

Check out my return visit to the restaurant to try their summer menu.

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10

Disclaimer: The above meal was complimentary but the thoughts are still my honest opinion. 

How To Find Them

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 111 Queens Park (3rd floor of the Gardiner Museum)

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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!