Showing posts with label mackerel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mackerel. Show all posts

Project:Fish (Toronto)


The bright Scandinavian feeling dining room is perfect for sushi, I like that airy feeling of cleanliness when eating raw ingredients. Even their service has an element of Swedish efficiency and organization, if Ikea ever served sushi, it would be similar to Project:Fish.

Shortly after placing our order for the premium set ($32), a trio of appetizers arrive: warm edamame dusted with pepper rather than salt, Albacore tuna slices dressed in a light citrus soy on a bed of seaweed, and a plain cabbage salad tossed in a what seems like sugar water... the cabbage salad definitely needs an upgrade.


Before you can get through half of the starters, the efficiency kicks in and the platter of sushi arrives. With great memory, our waitress rhymes off every piece and its garnish. It’s like reciting a memorized passage and done so quickly that I retained very little. Consequently, my post will rely on their menu and guessing what the ingredients could be.

I started with the warm pieces of oshi (pressed sushi that’s then topped with sauce and blowtorched). The salmon contained too much of the mayo-based sauce, which is generally the biggest drawback of Project Fish’s oshi – the sheer oiliness that you see pool under each piece. Maybe it has something to do with the timing of placing the sauce (pre vs. post press), but the greasiness really detracts from the rice.


The shrimp oshi worked better given the seafood itself is leaner. While one piece was earthier on account of the mushroom basil mixture, the other was refreshing from the plum paste – this is a nice one to finish off with as it cuts through the oshis’ heaviness.

Project Fish can even consider changing up the sauce combo. For example, with miso topping the mackerel oshi, it worked remarkably well, the salty sweetness cutting through the stronger fish.

As much as I normally enjoyed blowtorched sushi, the traditional pieces were more enjoyable. Some pieces had similar flavour combinations without being pressed: shrimp topped with mushroom basil, but was slightly sweeter due to the shrimp; albacore tuna with the refreshing plum accent; the typical salmon with mayo, but at least it was just a small dollop; and miso again, but this time a little too strong as it was placed on a much milder fish.

The plate would be even better if they had more pieces with brighter and lighter garnishes. Sure, they used plum, but surprisingly negated green onion, ginger, and yuzu, which although are common ingredients works really well with fish. Or even adding more vinegar to the rice and wasabi under the fish would help cut through the richer pieces.

It’s a fairly filling meal as it then ends with a kaisen rice bowl with spicy sashimi (made with various pieces of scrap fish, a great way for reducing waste) and blue crab salad (actually made with real crab). Overall, the bowl was too sweet for my taste. Perhaps they meant for this to be dessert, but I would prefer it to end on a stronger savoury element: element the sugar from the crab salad, make the spicy sashimi actually have some heat, and skip all the sweet diced pieces of tamago and just have on piece on the top.


Also, maybe the Ikea-like efficiency isn’t always the greatest idea, as it does detract from the experience. Aside from waiting until people are done with their appetizers to serve the main course, Project Fish should consider plating the sushi and oshi separately to draw out the meal – consequently, it may help ensure the oshi arrives warmer. Regardless, their reasonable pricing for fairly good sushi is a big draw. In any case, efficiency does have its perks.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 16 Park Home Avenue

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
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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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Project:Fish Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Don Alfonso 1890 (Toronto)


Don Alfonso 1890 originates from Sorrento within the Amalfi Coast of Italy. The Mediterranean restaurant has been awarded two Michelin stars and is known for their extensive wine list. While I haven’t visited the original location, it’s described as a picturesque boutique hotel that even has an onsite cooking school. In comes the Liberty Entertainment Group (owners of Casa Loma, Liberty Grand, etc.) who convinced Chef Ernesto Iaccarino to partner with them to open the new Toronto outpost. Of course, Chef Iaccarino will stay in Italy, hence the Toronto kitchen is led by Chef Saverio Macri, who trained with Chef Iaccarino for months.


Set in the former Rosewater Supper Club, the space is even lighter and brighter than before. Sitting in the soaring dining room, you can’t help but feel a sense of tranquility and awe. A few large art pieces draws interest, but otherwise the space is relatively neutral, so you can focus on the food.


In keeping with Don Alfonso’s tradition of using local ingredients, dishes like the Manitoba bison and Nova Scotia ling cod has been customized for the Canadian menu. However, they do import some ingredients to retain the Amalfi Coast flavours. For example, the olive oil that’s carefully poured onto the bread plate (with an indentation that separates the oil) is from Tuscany, a great pairing with their airy and salty focaccia. Also make sure to get their hot crispy mini baguette, this goes wonderfully with the truffle butter.


The 8-course tasting menu ($150 per person with vegetarian option available) consists of five savoury and three sweet dishes, wine pairings are an additional $100.

A collection of canapés arrives on a tree limb shaped plate, where the actual canapés are meant to resemble fall foliage. Each bite is different: yellowfin tuna tartare and parsley crisp a light start; bison tartare with chili chip resembled typical beef tartare; sea urchin with squid ink crisp finishes off with a bitter bite; and finally, meaty and refreshing rockfish ceviche with turmeric crisp, my favourite of the bunch. While each canapé is quickly finished in two bites, it must take a long time to make four different toppings with four different flavoured chips.


Admittedly, when I first saw the ice creamed eel course my stomach turned. Yet, what arrived was pleasant and tasted like a salty cream, not unlike Cesar dressing without the cheese and garlic. Once mixed into the wild rose scented tagliatelle, which by itself is also powerful, the saltiness and the floral flavour worked remarkably well. However, I’d suggest adding the creamed eel gradually into the pasta as the ratio given is unbalanced – for Don Alfonso, doubling the pasta and reducing the creamed eel by a third is advisable.


For some protein courses, dishes allow diners to flavour the meat to their preference. The seared Muscovy duck breast comes with three sauces: a balsamic reduction, a star anise glaze, and royal gala apple purée. It’s a nice touch to be able to mix-and-match to my liking – surprisingly, I enjoyed the star anise glaze the most. The duck was beautifully seared, if only there was more duck and less sauce.


Where the sauces didn’t work as well was for the bison. The San Marzano tomato and red chili reduction was a splitting taste of Frank’s Red Hot and the salsa verde, something that normally goes well with steak, just didn’t pair well.


With the bison wrapped with swiss chard, mozzarella, and a buttery bread crust, the dish was a cross between beef wellington and chicken cordon blue. While my husband believes a chimichurri would go well with it, I think a simple jus mixed with a sweet element (like a berry or current) would have been great – perhaps a little safe, but at least tastier. Luckily, the meat was flavourful enough on its own that I didn’t need the sauce, it was merely disappointing that the meal didn’t end stronger.

For other dishes, we’re told to aggressively mix everything together… to have the elements individually would be too plain. Sure, the mackerel in the vermicelli di gragnano was done beautifully and clean tasting, but once combined with caramelized onions, Alalonga tuna purée, and crunchy Silician pine nut pieces, it was even better. Some patrons may find the dish salty; for me, it was perfect. So much so, that I may go back for a larger plate from their a la carte menu ($28).


The menu describes the merluzzo as having a ‘crisp’ herb skin. While it was a thick sauce formed with six herbs, the skin on the ling cod wasn’t crispy. In fact, it really didn’t taste like much - if anything, the zucchini puree under the fish was stronger and gave the protein flavour. Regardless, it was a lovely lighter dish, adding some vegetables into the meal.


A sizeable portion of Ontario strawberry sorbet arrives as a palette cleanser, in between the savoury dishes and dessert. The pistachio glass is a nice decorative touch.


Dessert begins with something traditional, a Neapolitan sfogliatella, consisting of a flakey phyllo pastry filled with tons of cinnamon infused cream. So much pastry cream that it felt like we were having cinnamon mousse - I say more cone, less cream! Moreover, the amarena cherry glaze should be drizzled around the plate, given it’s an acquired taste (depends if you enjoy maraschino cherries), which I would have preferred to avoid.  


The last dish ends with a bang … or billowing smoke. A tray of petit four arrives with dry ice in the centre, which makes for a great presentation while keeping the sweets cold. The pastry of the deconstructed cannoli was delicious, the nuts adding a great crunch, but the almond cream wasn’t for me. My favourite was the creamy hazelnut semifreddo, which went particularly well with cappuccino. And the last bite, a silky olive oil truffle on a crunchy pistachio biscuit, a rich sweet ending that’s also notably balanced.  


Although $150 tasting menus are widely found in major cities worldwide, in Toronto it’s still one of the pricier options. Aside from the sturgeon caviar (used sparingly with the ice creamed eel), the ingredients aren’t particularly luxurious, so why does Don Alfonso command the price?

Aside from the tie-in to the Michelin-starred restaurant, likely due to the sheer amount of people working. A team of two assembles the canapes dish, which as the evening progressed expanded to three – three people to scoop premade toppings onto crisps. Every table is served in unison, no matter how large. And even opening a bottle of wine is an elaborate affair with the sommelier wheeling over a cart (complete with lit candle), slowly removing the cork, pouring the wine into a large crystal decanter, before presenting the cork on a silver platter and pouring the wine.

Or maybe it has something to do with all the tableware they need to purchase. Every course is served on a customized vessel with matching silverware, believed to showcase the characteristics of the dish. 

In other words, Don Alfonso offers an over-the-top experience that’s rarely found elsewhere in the city. They make you feel special … where else are you offered a tour of the kitchen and wine cellar before leaving the restaurant? It’s the place to go for a special occasion or when you really want to impress someone.



For a glimpse of the experience, you can also visit the second-floor lounge where they offer an a la carte menu, a mix of some tasting menu dishes and others created especially for their smaller kitchen. You may not get served in unison and the wine may not arrive elaborately with a cart, but you can try the tasty vermicelli di gragnano mackerel.

Overall mark - 8.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 19 Toronto 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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Reverie at the Park (Toronto)


Amongst the city façade of College Street, Reverie’s signage stands out as a lush green garden. It fittingly presents Reverie at the Park, a place where they want patrons to feel like they’re in a “daydream”. Plus, feel like you're in a park: from the tree root sculptures hanging from the ceiling to the wrought iron gate you walk through to get to the tables. It’s like a walking through a trippy park, at night.


Behind the helm is Executive Chef Jef Edwards, who truly embodies the millennial mindset by learning how to cook, incorporating molecular gastronomy no less, through YouTube! If that weren’t a feat, the kitchen also operates without a walk-in fridge or freezer, to ensure ingredients are fresh. In the winter months, they also draw upon ingredients they’ve preserved through smoking and pickling.


Even their bread ($6) is made in in-house; a non-greasy focaccia paired with bone marrow butter and dandelion pesto. You’d think both condiments would be strongly flavoured, but they were rather muted, a light beefy taste in the butter and hint of bitterness in the pesto. Both are in serious need of seasoning.


Reverie’s menu aims to celebrate Canada’s diversity, incorporating local ingredients. It’s the new-age Canadian cuisine movement with the fusion of other cultures thrown in. The venison croquettes use deer, a Canadian game meat, and incorporates earthy spices. Get through the crispy crust and you’re greeted with a dense flavourful interior, it’s like eating a delicious deep-fried meat ball.


With the smoked beef tartare and enoki ($17), the actual apple wood smoke is faint, especially when you add the powerfully tasty fermented mushroom mustard on it. It allows the diner to really taste the beef tartare and the herbs mixed throughout. In fact, they also grow some of the herbs and produce used at the restaurant – on the roof during the warmer months and by the kitchen with special lights over the winter. 


The dish is pretty, the tartare shaped like a log in a hollowed bone with sprouts of enoki mushrooms peeking through. The “moss” is leftover dehydrated greens… I’m a huge fan of kitchens that try to reduce food waste, it’s an example that other restaurants should emulate.

I don't know what I liked better, the surf or the turf portion of the next dish. The mushrooms looks a lot like the scallop it’s paired with, except firmer and almost has a meaty taste. The sea scallops ($17) are cooked perfectly, most of the flavours coming from the thinly sliced piece of prosciutto on top. 


Both the mackerel and artichoke in the next dish is left raw. The mackerel lightly cured with salt, but otherwise you’re left with a clean meaty tasting fish; so refreshing I would have thought it’s sea bream.


The gnocchi & ricotta ($17) is a house favourite and I can see why. The gnocchi are soft but still has bite and is well toasted to give it a caramelized exterior. Mixed with spinach cream, edamame, charred heart of palm, and ricotta, it’s a hearty but not overly heavy dish. Reverie’s menu focuses on sharable dishes, to make the meal more social, but this is one I could easily have all to myself.


While the veal was slightly overcooked in our last savoury dish, it was still juicy and tender. Surprisingly, I couldn’t taste the porcini in the aligot, an ingredient that’s normally rather flavourful. Our table agreed the predominant flavour was the roasted shishito pepper, which isn’t necessarily bad, rather the dish would be more aptly named as veal with shishito.


If you like inventive desserts, try Reverie’s mushroom and honey chocolate tart with black truffle. It takes some getting used to, the taste of spongy earthy raw mushrooms with the sweet silky chocolate ganache. While I don’t like sweet desserts, even I couldn’t finish the tart. Maybe if the mushrooms were thinner, so the taste isn’t so powerful, it’d be better suited as a dessert.


Who would have thought that pop-up dinners would turn into a restaurant celebrating a one-year anniversary? Ask Chef Edwards, I’m sure he’ll think there’s a dream like quality to it.

Overall mark - 7 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: 569 College 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!


Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:


Reverie at Weldon Park Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Celebrating #Canada150 at Shoushin (Toronto)


Aside from the beautiful land, what I love most about Canada is our diversity and that we’re generally a country that celebrates multiculturalism. Being a child of immigrants, my parents left their families and travelled here for university. Of course, it wasn’t easy – getting comfortable with the language and having to work harder to prove their worth – yet, they love their decision and would never return to Hong Kong … Canada is home.

Hence, when it came time to celebrate Canada’s 150 anniversary, forgoing the typical BBQ and celebrating with Shoushin’s special Canada omakase ($150), served until the end of July 2017, seemed like the patriotic thing to do.

The first bite from the dinner is the mozuku, a refreshing start with finely cut seaweed slivers mixed with a sweet vinegar. Its consistency is a bit slippery, but since the seaweed has little flavour, it’s not off putting. Garnished with tomato pulp, grated ginger, and daikon slivers, these add a nice crunch and additional flavours to the starter to keep it interesting.

As a first experience goes, the lobster sashimi wasn’t horrible. Although it’s not something I’d want to eat again, the east coast crustacean actually had a crunchy consistency and wasn’t soft and gummy as expected. Chef Lin notes that lobster sashimi is really about the texture as it has little taste. He was right; while it was simply adorned with seaweed salt and wasabi, I still couldn’t taste much sweetness (something that seems to develop when it’s cooked).


The aroma emitted from the grilled unagi is heavenly, the perfume of sweet caramelized soy that makes you want to dig in right away. Since the eel is from Quebec, it’s much larger and hence meatier than the typical unagi found on rice or topping sushi. Glazed with mirin, soy sauce, and chocolate (if I heard correctly), it’s sweet and peppery thanks to the chilli berries on top. It would have been even better if it were cooked a touch less as I found one piece a tad chewy and dry.


Before the sushi procession begun, a bowl of nyumen arrives, the kelp and bonito infused broth swimming with silky somen noodles, crunchy snow peas, and earthy re-hydrated shiitake mushrooms. The dish is simple but wonderful, the soup ideal for readying the palette for the raw seafood that follows.


Starting light, the first piece of sushi was a Japanese flounder. While it’s a meaty fish, there’s an interesting almost fluffiness to its consistency.


Though the west coast big reef squid’s slightly sticky chewy texture isn’t the greatest, it’s not repulsive either and likely due to the thicker slice given. After getting past the consistency, it’s a nice light squid with the main flavours stemming from the swipe of soy on top.


The golden eye snapper is always a treat, even as a milder fish, there’s still a prevalent flavour to it and pairs rather nicely with the vinegar mixed into the rice. As commended in a previous post, Shoushin makes excellent rice: it’s heavier on the vinegar so that grains actually have flavour and the temperature is spot on (warm enough to enhance the fish without changing the temperature).


Shoushin also makes amazing horse mackerel sushi! Since the fish is cleaned so well any gamey fishiness is removed. On this occasion, they added a healthy sprinkle of green onion on top creating an extra zip to the sushi. It’s by far the best horse mackerel I’ve had.


Midway through the 11-piece sushi meal the tuna parade starts, following the leanest to fattiest sequence. The lean blue fin tuna has that vibrant red colour that’s so mesmerising. Meanwhile, the warmer rice with the medium chu toro was fantastic, causing the tuna taste to cover the tongue and linger even after the piece was finished.


Typically, the fattiest piece of the tuna comes from the otoro or tuna belly. In this case, Shoushin introduced me to the fattiest part of the tuna’s back, which still melts in the mouth and has a much stronger flavour.


After such lovely pieces of tuna, the gizzard shad was out of place. Having had it before, this piece was overly salty and the skin too thick – it felt like I was chewing forever when I just wanted to swallow the salty fish down.


The east coast surf clam wasn’t any better. At first it had a crunchy texture emitting a sweetness, but as chewing continued, the clam finished off with a fishy aftertaste. Take my advice: chew and swallow quickly, this isn’t one for savouring.


Thankfully, the following east coast scallop was better: with a hint of seaweed salt and lemon on top, the ingredients helped augment the scallop’s sweetness. Not having been blow torched, you could still taste the seafood in a delicate manner.


In lieu of the traditional hand roll, a piece of sushi topped with pop-in-your-mouth Canadian fish eggs arrived. With a light dusting of yuzu zest on top, it was a cold and refreshing ending.


Of course, we were also served a piece of tamago, which Shoushin does so well. The beautiful layers and rich delicately sweetened egg is the perfect bridge between sushi and dessert.


Whenever they serve some sort of rendition of a green tea pudding, that’s what I have for dessert. The matcha flavoured jelly is generally accompanied with a sweet red bean paste (a staple in Asian sweets) and a chewy unfilled glutinous rice ball. In this case, the Canadian theme continued with the pool of maple syrup on the bottom, helping to add a sweetness to the dessert.


While not as impressive as their general Yuri tasting menu, this one was still decent. However, for something classified as a special “Canada celebration” menu, it’s disappointing that less than half of the dishes were made from Canadian ingredients.

Understandably, sourcing an entire Canadian menu for sushi may be difficult, but at least the individual courses such as the seaweed (from Okinawa) and somen noodles (presumably from Japan) should be Canadian related. Either they could be sourced from Canadian ingredients (wouldn’t we produce seaweed?) or replaced with something signifying our country (an Angus beef tataki would have been delicious).

Without a doubt, I love Canada for its diversity. Nonetheless, perhaps refined sashimi and sushi should be left for other days of the year.

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 3328 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!


Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:


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