Showing posts with label lobster roll. Show all posts
Showing posts with label lobster roll. Show all posts

Tide and Vine Oyster House (Niagara Falls)


While 2020 is a year that needs to end, I’m grateful to Mother Nature for the amazing weather she’s blessed on southern Ontario. I’ve never sat on a patio in November before - possibly because under normal conditions restaurants would have cleared them off – so to be able to enjoy one last lunch on Tide and Vine’s outdoor space was a pleasure.

If it gets a little cool, start with Kat’s chowder ($9 for the cup pictured or $13 for a bowl), the steaming creamy seafood concoction warmed me up in no time. I would have liked the potatoes to be in smaller chunks, to better mix with the fish, clams, lobster, scallop, and shrimp, but the starter was oh so hearty that a cup went a long way. You bet that hunk of buttery grilled bread helped to wipe up every drop of the savoury soup.

Tide and Vine certainly doesn’t skimp of seafood, their lobster roll ($24) absolutely brimming with Atlantic lobster. The soft toasted buttered bun was essentially filled with the crustacean and not much else, just a few slivers of lettuce for colour and to form a slight barrier between the bread and seafood.

I would have liked a bit more seasoning in the mayonnaise dressing the lobster – there seemed to be a lot of tarragon but little caper. But the shellfish was prepared well, barely cooked through, so it remained delicate and sweet.

Perhaps the sandwich seemed bland because the accompanying German-style potato salad was so flavourful. Big chunks of potato and carrots covered in a lovely onion and mustard creamy sauce… not necessarily the most pleasant to smell behind a mask afterwards, but oh so delicious.

Tide and Vine’s patio is in front of the restaurant and occupies a sizeable area; the eight tables feel far apart and safe. They smartly created a sense of separation by using low wooden walls, so you don’t feel like you’re in a parking lot, not necessarily an oasis, but a comfortable space, nonetheless. Maybe we’ll be lucky and there will be a few more sunny days before winter sets in. Let’s make the most of it and safely dine out, while we still can. 


Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Niagara Falls, Canada
 Address: 3491 Portage 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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Bourbon dinner at Jump (Toronto)


If whiskey helps to ‘grow hair on your chest’, than bourbon is a nice one to begin with as I find it sweeter and more palatable than the Scottish and Irish cousins. When Toronto Life contacted their Insiders’ group about a bourbon dinner Jump was throwing, my friend and I leapt to get tickets. This would be a great opportunity for me to expand my knowledge about the spirit, especially in a situation where it’s paired with food.

Walking into the curtained off private dining area, the tables were already set up with gleaming glasses of the caramel coloured liquor. It takes will power to not slug them back before the food arrives. Luckily, everyone’s presented with a mug of Tom Collins made with Jim Beam and the table is set up with nibbles to tie us over: tasty terrine on crostini, a passable honey tarte with caviar, and a big plateful of crunchy chicharrón (its salty fattiness is cut nicely by the sweet bourbon).

Surprisingly, the meal started off with a lobster roll, not a typical item to pair with a strong spirit. While the lobster filling was delicious, the black garlic aioli was way too powerful for seafood. I get it, they wanted something that could hold up against the bourbon and the sweet smokiness of the black garlic can, but the condiment didn’t compliment the lobster. Keep it simple, I say, the bourbon green apple & celery slaw and fish roe would have been more than enough.


There’s no fear of overindulging in drinks at this dinner, as each course is more substantial than the last. Jump’s fried chicken showed restraint, a 3-bite crispy moist chicken drumstick, but then it’s served with sweet potato lasagna. Admittedly, it’s a surprisingly tasty side where the potato’s sweetness is balanced by cheese and the spud sliced so thinly that each layer does taste like pasta.


The dish just didn’t necessarily pair well with bourbon. Perhaps it’s just the spirit itself, so strong that it’s really hard to compliment food. Personally, I find bourbon is best when it’s sipped on plain or paired with dessert. For dinner, I’d imagine you’d need something luscious and creamy to coat the tongue to really meld with the bourbon.

A dish like the lamb shoulder worked well. If anything, it’s just a really good dish in general and Jump should add it to the menu. Pieces of tender lamb are wrapped in collard greens and sit in a tomato and okra stew that has a fantastic punchy gravy, which is of coursed spiked with the alcohol. If I weren't so full, I would have wiped up the sauce with bread.


In terms of dessert, how best to celebrate bourbon than with a flaming baked Alaska? The caramelized banana ice cream inside was absolutely delicious but the actual meringue simply too alcoholic tasting. Perhaps it’s due to the flame extinguishing while the dessert was brought over; the alcohol wasn't burning off and the meringue didn’t build that lovely crust. Nonetheless, on paper, it sounded like a good choice and the flavours did go nicely with the strongest drink, the Booker’s Kentucky straight bourbon, of the evening. It’s one the certainly needs the sweetness.



If anything, the dinner was an eye opening experience. Firstly, to learn that Jump has such a huge bourbon selection and to morph the typical corporate feeling restaurant to an intimate affair. Moreover, Ray Daniel was such a great host – indeed, he’s knowledgeable, but funny and warm as well. It was a night of laughs and so many interesting stories about bourbon and the Beam Suntory Corporation (the history and its founders). I won’t give away all the secrets, in case you bring a bourbon connoisseur to their next one. 

Overall mark - 7 out of 10

Want to become a Toronto Life Member? If this event sounded great, don't miss out on the fun. Toronto Life is providing Gastro World readers a $25 off discount code to become a member!

Just use discount code GASTROWORLD at the Toronto Life Member checkout and the discount will be automatically applied.
Email me if you join and let me know the next event you'll be attending. Maybe we can meet in person!

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 18 Wellington 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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Good Catch Boil House (Markham)


Compared to the first Louisiana boil chain that opened in Toronto, Good Catch Boil House is practically palatial. The high ceilings, modern décor and ample room makes it a place you can actually go and hang out at. Sports fans will love the restaurant since there’s plenty of television screens – who doesn’t want to suck back seafood while watching basketball?

Sticking with only one Louisiana boil-type dish, we decided on the snow crab legs ($18.95 a pound) with corn ($1 for two small pieces) thrown in to nibble on. Generally, the signature blend of flavouring is a good choice as the restaurant mixes a few sauces into one. At Good Catch, theirs also incorporates curry … tasty if you like it, but doesn’t really sing ‘boil’ to me. Although, I did use the sauce for dipping soft garlic bread ($3.95) into. Note to self: next time stick with the Cajun blend.


Nonetheless, the medium spicy level was the perfect amount of heat and the crab was prepared nicely. I was surprised by how quickly it arrived (less than ten minutes after ordering) and soon I was digging into succulent crab legs and juicy ears of corn.


For those who don’t like the messy and time consuming act of nibbling through savoury pieces of seafood, Good Catch also has an abundant variety of non-boil dishes. With a raw bar, where oysters are shucked to order, the fried oyster basket ($14.95) seemed like a safe choice. Indeed, we were treated to two-bite nuggets of plump, clean tasting mollusks … I don’t normally even like oysters and I couldn’t help reaching for a few more.

Thanks to Parv for a non-blurry version of the fried oysters
For a more complete meal, the hot lobster roll ($22.95) is a good choice. Aside from the Cajun fries, it also arrives with a simple green salad and lovely oniony coleslaw. Good for sharing or a meal for one.

Had the lobster roll been the first thing consumed, I would have thought it was delicious: there weren’t stingy with the lobster, it was lightly tossed in butter, the sprinkling of Cajun season a nice touch, and the roll freshly toasted.

However, since it was served after the intensely salty snow crab boil and oily crispy oysters, the lobster roll seemed bland in comparison. If people are sharing, Good Catch should consider serving all the ‘regular’ meals first and then end off with the powerful boil dishes. Firstly, the customer’s taste buds aren’t already inundated by the flavourful sauces, but also ensures fried items don’t sit around and get soggy and cold (after all, getting through a pound of crab legs takes time and who wants to keep taking those sticky gloves on and off)?

Aside from the comfortable bar like interior, I can happily and proudly report that they offer cutlery. For so long, the disposal nature of eating at competitors made me leave feeling guilty and resentful. Real plates, metal utensils, and an actual water glass – our environment thanks you Good Catch Boil House.

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: Markham, Canada
 Address: 179 Enterprise 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!


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Good Catch Boil House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sake Bar Kushi (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 257 Eglinton Avenue West
Website: http://sakebarkushi.ca/
Type of Meal: Dinner



Now this is what I expect from an izakaya – semi closed off tables allowing patrons to get a little rowdy. Loud enough so that you feel you don’t need to whisper yet quiet enough so you can still talk and unhurried service so you feel comfortable getting multiple rounds of drinks. 

Sake Bar Kushi proves that you can still get the izakaya experience without having staff members constantly scream at the top of their lungs; we were greeted in unison by a couple of people as we entered and left and personally I felt this was more than enough. Moreover, they should be recognized for their willingness to take reservations, which makes visiting with larger groups easier.  Really, isn’t that the whole point of an izakaya – an easy-going casual atmosphere to hang around and drink?

With 30 bottles of sake to choose, drinking can easily be accomplished. With prices ranging from $9 to $380 per bottle, there’s selections for all.  Staying at the lower end of the spectrum, we ordered the Kinmon ($24) which was dry and light tasting, great for sake novices like ourselves. Afterwards, we continued on the night with pitchers of Sapporo which were only $19 each.


In terms of food, there were some hits and misses but with such an extensive menu (literally four different ones) we likely could have missed their house specialties. To begin, we ordered a round of skewers to go with the sake.  The majority of them being offered were grilled (yakitori) rather than the deep fried kushi I was expecting. This just seems a bit strange given kushi is in their name, but to be honest, I wasn’t that involved with ordering the skewers so we could have misunderstood the options.

The yakitori selection arrived with negimi or chicken with green onions ($2), hotate or scallop ($4.20), shrimp ($3.50) and buta bara or pork belly ($2.60). Note: prices are per skewer. To be honest, none of them were impressive as they were a tad over cooked (especially the scallop).  The pork belly was extremely fatty and could have benefited from being breaded and deep fried. 


The katsu ($2.80) or deep fried breaded chicken was spot on - juicy and succulent with the right amount of flavor from the tonkatsu sauce. If only all the skewers were this delicious! Considering it was the best skewer of the night, Sake Bar Kushi should consider dedicating more of their menu to kushi. We also got a single sausage ($1.80), that I didn't try, but judging by my friends’ comments it appeared mediocre. 


Not in the mood for their set dinner ($37 a person), we ordered a mix of tapas to share. The first dish to arrive, the tuna tataki ($11), was an amazing start and my favourite of the meal. Lightly seared so that a thin ring circled the fish, the tuna was fresh and just flavoured enough from the ponzu and garlic chips without being overpowered. A bed of grated radish laid below and added a fresh crunchiness to contrast the tender tuna. 



The lobster roll ($13) was decent with pieces of meat rolled in rice and more lobster on top. The meat itself was rather bland and lacked the natural sweetness you’d expect, so any flavouring came from the spicy mayo and soy sauce topping it. All in all, it was good enough but rather tame for something that features lobster. 


Meanwhile, the kaki fry or deep fried oysters ($6) was better. What appeared to be freshly shucked oysters had a seafood essence to it and benefited from being just lightly breaded. Served with tartar sauce it is a simple but tasty dish and quite good for the price. 


Continuing with the ups and downs, the grilled pork ($11) was poorly executed. I found it so over cooked that it became tough and barely edible; sadly, the quality reminded me of some barbequing experiences I’ve had where I’ve left pork chops on the grill and forgot about them. Given its sole flavor came from salt (even then there wasn’t much of this), little could be done to improve the dish. 


The most disappointing dish of the night was the gindara or grilled cod ($11). Perhaps it’s because this is generally one of my favourite dishes, I eat it often and have high hopes. Sake Bar Kushi’s was overcooked, bland and slightly bitter from being burnt. That tender, flaking apart, buttery texture I’ve come to expect was nowhere to be found. 


As long as you’re not squeamish about tentacles, the kadako karaage or deep fried baby octopus ($11) may be a tasty option. Given they used baby octopus it was tender and an interesting combination between the soft chewiness of the body and the crispy tentacles. 


The last dish we ordered, kimchi pork ishiyaki bibimbap ($14), ended off the night quite well. The heated stone bowl was a flavourful cacophony of ingredients and sauce, which thankfully helped mask the overdone pork. I’ll admit, it’s not the best bibimbap I’ve ever had, but compared to some of the other dishes we had that night was a pleasant ending. 


After the food, we decided to stay for more beers and as the night went along the chef presented us with two complementary dishes. The first, a salmon tempura topped with greens, was very nice. The cooked salmon was tender and covered with a light crispy coating. Tons of chopped scallions topped the fish and really brightened up the dish.  Even the sweet and sour type sauce was a nice change compared to the mostly mayonnaise based ones from earlier dishes.


The second, a take on poutine expect without the gravy, was a miss. The fries, although made fresh with potatoes, were limp and slightly hard and needed to be double fried. Since there was no sauce, the melted cheese was congealed and hard by the time it reached the table. Even so, we appreciated the chef’s gesture at giving us the dish and ate most of it. The waitress advised us the fries weren’t part of their regular menu; some changes should be made before its ever added on.


Our waitress for the night was extremely nice and pleasant to be around. The dinner brought me back to memories of dining in Japan where my experiences with service are similar - attentive, respectful and always doing everything they can to ensure the customer is pleased.

Overall, although not all the dishes we had were spectacular, there were some good ones including the tuna tataki, katsu kushi and salmon tempura. Generally, I found the grilled dishes poorly executed (primarily on account of everything being overcooked), so would suggest ordering the fried, stone bowl or stir fried items instead. However, it’s the overall experience that shines through. Maybe one day the chef will adjust the cooking time for some of their dishes and the experience can be improved that much more.


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!


Sake Bar Kushi on Urbanspoon



CLOSED: Rock Lobster Food Co. (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 538 Queen Street West
Type of Meal: Dinner




After two failed attempts to visit Rock Lobster’s Ossington location, I finally secured a table in the Queen West outpost without being subjected to a wait.  Despite being double the size of the flagship restaurant, the Queen West site is still relatively small; its only saving grace is the patio at the back which will be of no use in the winter months.  As soon as you walk in a “Fish Market” is set-up consisting of a small display case of on ice seafood items for you to take home and enjoy at your leisure.  But really, you don’t come here for take-out.


Patriotic Canadian themed insignia adorn the walls of the dining room (think caribou antlers, paintings of fish,etc.) and continue onto the patio with the back wall featuring a beaver and large Canada lettering.  I love it and hope a tourist visiting Toronto has the opportunity to visit this little spot and enjoy a bit of what our sea has to offer. 


The staff cheerfully greets me at the door and within minutes of entering grab my drink order - at last I’m here! If only they could turn down the music to a decibel so I don’t need to shout across the table at my friends the experience would be perfect.  


Without a doubt, Rock Lobster’s feature drink would be their Caesar; however it’s the one Canadian concoction I haven’t acquired a taste for despite trying it on multiple occasions.  Instead, the hot summer evening calls for a tomba-grantia ($10) which arrives looking like a margarita with an ice burg floating in it.  While ordering, I was asked if I’d like to add a $1 to make it “El Diablo” which makes it sweeter.  I can safely say that is not required as my non-El Diablo version was sweet enough.  After chipping away at the huge ball of crushed ice to let some of it melt, the cocktail diluted enough to make it refreshing.  I can’t say it was something I really enjoyed so on return visits may opt to go with the $1.50/oz on tap pinot grigio instead.


The lobster devilled eggs ($7) arrived within minutes of placing our order.  Surprisingly, the egg whites were a light rose pink coloured (from food dye?) which was unexpected, but gave Rock Lobster’s version of these come-back treats its distinct look.  The egg yolk filling was creamy, smoky and just had the slightest essence of shellfish to it.  Each egg was topped with a small piece of lobster - a good start and promise of things to come.


We had to try their famous lobster roll ($14; the only dish on the menu with an anchor beside it).  The hot dog style bun was toasted grilled cheese style and filled with a decent amount of lobster salad.  Sadly, this was my least favourite dish of the night.  Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t horrible and would still be considered a good meal.  It’s something about the thick buttery bun, mayo and undrained oily chips that made it all too heavy and ruins the lobster itself.  Given this is my first experience having a lobster roll; perhaps my palette just doesn’t like it.  Until I have the opportunity to eat one of these in Nova Scotia I’ll reserve judgment.


On the other hand, the fish and chips ($12) was amazing.  Normally, this isn’t something I’d order as oily bursts oozing out of thick batter is not my thing.  Luckily, Rock Lobster’s Guinness beer batter is thin so that it coats the fish with a light crunch but still lets the haddock and its juiciness shine through.  When fish is fresh like this you shouldn’t ruin it by covering it with too much stuff.  The hot hand-cut fries and tangy & creamy home-made tartar sauce rounds everything off.   


Finally, the Mack daddy of the night, the reason why I was so excited to visit – the Steam Whistle steampot ($39) arrives.  The large black pot brings back memories of an East Coast road trip I went on with my parents as a young child.  Although I don’t remember much about the provinces themselves, a self-made hotel meal will forever be ingrained in my memory.  Having arrived in PEI by about 8pm that night, we found the restaurants in the area were already closed (keep in mind this was over 20 years ago so I’m sure service levels have improved by now). 


Not knowing what to do, my parents spoke to the front desk who suggested we go visit the docks or try out the convenience store across the street.  My parents do exactly that and at the docks are greeted by some fisherman and purchased some lobsters right out of their traps that just came from the sea.  At the convenience store, they picked up butter, bread and some vegetable (perhaps corn?) and returned to our hotel which luckily had a stove complete with pots, dishes and cutlery.  The lobsters were AMAZING and something I’ve never been able to have again.  The meat, so tender and juicy, was actually larger than the shell and burst through everything.  Having just been pulled out of the ocean, the briny scent of the sea still clung to the meat naturally adding some saltiness to the otherwise sweet meat.  I may have been young but I still remember this meal, probably one of the tastiest I’ve had in my life.  Alas, I digress, but wanted to explain why I love pots of shellfish so much!


The steampot we ordered this night didn’t contain lobster (much less one pulled right out of the ocean) but did have a 1lb of snow crab legs, 12 large sized shrimp and ½ lb each of mussels and clams.  Not to mention four pieces of corn, a couple handfuls of quartered baby red potatos and wedges of spicy sausage.  This is a dish that is meant to be shared – especially with good friends where you’re not afraid of using your hands and getting dirty.


Its flavours are simple, some Old Bay seasoning, slight spiciness from the sausage and a hint of the Steam Whistle Pilsner.  But, the shells from the crustaceans already give off such a great aroma and flavour that I like it when it’s kept simple.  All the seafood was fresh and cooked well.  What would have made everything perfect (and perhaps elevated Rock Lobster’s final mark to a 9) would be to have some of the cooking liquid and toasted bread to dip it in.  Of course, the steampot is “steamed” so makes sense that the ingredients arrive without any water; so, next time I’ll have to try the lobster boil instead and hope for some liquid.


Rock Lobster definitely has potential to become one of my favourite restaurants in Toronto with its seafood focus and down-to-earth approach.  They offer decent portions of fresh seafood at a reasonable price.  So grab a few friends and head down for the steampot or boil dishes, just arrive early to avoid having to wait.  


Overall mark - 8.5 out of 10



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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!