Showing posts with label maki. Show all posts
Showing posts with label maki. Show all posts

Planta Queen (Toronto)



I don’t often have sushi in a restaurant whose menu isn’t entirely Japanese, but Planta Queen’s nigiri is so inventive that you should try it once. As the ahi watermelon ($5.25 for two) and unagi eggplant ($5.25 for two) are placed before us, I’m marveled by how much they look like lean tuna and mackerel. In reality, the consistency and taste doesn’t resemble fish – the watermelon has a strong ginger flavour and the eggplant a slight smokiness – yet, it also doesn’t taste like the fruit or vegetable it’s made from. It just works!


The ahi watermelon makes its way into the rainbow roll ($15) and spicy tuna roll ($15) as well. Of the two, the rainbow roll has more interest: the soft pressed watermelon paired with creamy avocado and mayo, crispy romaine, and a sliver of bright shiso leaf. The spicy tuna roll is fine, but relies a lot on the spicy aioli for flavour.


You wouldn’t want an entire order of gomae ($12.25) for yourself. Even though it’s essentially just boiled spinach tossed in a sesame dressing with crisped rice thrown on top, the nutty sauce is also what makes it fairly rich as well. Yet, when shared, it’s a nice way to start the meal or even to finish off with something refreshing.  


On the other hand, I could easily down an entire bowl of the mushroom dashi ($8.95). It’s everything you want during the winter: a warm bowl of rich consommé, enoki and shiitake mushrooms peppered throughout, and cubes of delicate tofu sitting at the bottom. It’s simple and heavenly.


Planta’s Hakka rice noodles ($17.50) doesn’t really taste like anything I’ve ever had at a Hakka restaurant, but it could easily grace the menu of a Thai establishment. The coconut green curry base has a lovely aroma and a hint of heat, but could use more salt. As it stands, the dish of rice noodles with tofu and Chinese broccoli (gai lan) was fine but didn’t overly excite.


The udon ($18.75) was a hundred times better. In this case, the rice noodles (since we were having the gluten free version) was tossed in truffle oil and coconut milk creating a creamy base that would make Alfredo weep. There’s no shortage of mushrooms in the dish and is finished off with some snow pea leaves for colour and freshness. Would this dish paired with a bowl of mushroom dashi be too much fungi for one person to handle? Challenge accepted.


In general, Planta Queen uses a lot of truffles, whether it be the infused oil or the real deal. Even the maitake mushroom fried rice ($28) comes with shaved truffle on top, which truthfully doesn’t add that much to the experience. Overall, I expected the dish to offer more – something bursting with wok hay and an umami essence galore. Instead, it was pretty average fried rice with shaved truffles on top.


After the heavier mains, we thought the lemon curd ($12.35) would be a lighter finish to the meal. It certainly was a refreshing end, but the combination of lemon custard with passion fruit gelato makes for such a tarte finish that I’m puckering up thinking of the bite. The meringue needed to be sweeter and the matcha powder dropped all together as the combination of acidic citrus with bitter powder wasn’t necessarily the greatest.



For those who are celiac, you’d be happy to know every dish in this post is celiac friendly and vegan. Planta Queen certainly has an impressive menu of options for various food sensitivities. Best yet, they’re actually tasty and makes you realize that Asian food could easily forgo all the meat, eggs, and gluten and still be fantastic. Mushroom dashi, until we meet again.

Overall mark - 8 out of 10



How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 180 Queen 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!


Is That It? I Want More!

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Mr. Miyagi (Dubai)


Let’s be honest, you go to Mr. Miyagi for the fun environment, not the food. It’s a cool looking place that looks like it’s been decorated by an organized hoarder: umbrellas lining the wall, picture frames everywhere, and a stamp collection adorning every table lamp. There’s a bar at the back of the restaurant, so after dinner you can stay for the party. The food, on the other hand, is decent, at best.  


The tastiest thing of the night was the shrimp crackers (AED19) hanging on the table lamps, the bag begging to be ripped apart and eaten before the other items arrive. The crackers are the real deal, flavourful with the deep essence of seafood, much like what you’d find in Thailand.


So much better than the Dynamite shrimp (AED45) that’s essentially deep fried shrimp tossed in a crap load of Miracle Whip. A really heavy starter that’s probably beloved, if you like that tangy zesty mayo wannabe.


If things aren’t great, smother it with condiments seems to be the mantra at Miyagi. The sushi aburi roll (AED55) is not flame torched, but rather drowned with avocado cream so you can’t taste an ounce of the salmon wrapping a huge piece of rice.


The Dragon roll (AED55) was even worse; it must have been pre-made earlier in the day as the rice was hard and dry. The menu describes it as being tataki style, which generally means lightly seared at other restaurants. At Miyagi, it translates to fully cooking the salmon and tuna to the point that they taste like they came out of a can, and of course drizzling so much sauce over it that they hope you can’t tell the difference.


There was a chance that the beef sisig (AED49) could be better – at least the flavours were nice – but the meat still so over cooked rendering it like eating bits of leather on crispy wonton crackers.


Of the mains, the curries are the safest bet. Both the green and red versions were decent (AED59 for chicken and AED65 for shrimp), but neither really packing much heat. Not even the red one, which had three chilies listed beside it on the menu, unless you actually have a bite of the bird’s eye chili.



Nonetheless, they’re better than the mee goreng handmade egg noodles (AED49). What it lacks in wok hay, Miyagi tries to make up for dumping more sauce on, but even that couldn’t rehydrate their dry hard tofu. Sadly, I’ve whipped up better noodles at home on a week night with a bottle of store-bought Szechwan sauce.


Aside from the shrimp chips, the only saving grace of the evening was the fact that it was Lady’s Night and our waiter was so friendly and attentive.

Interestingly, for a country that doesn’t allow alcohol to be served outside of hotels, the ones that do sell spirits also offers all-you-can-drink options. At Mr. Miyagi, on Wednesday nights their Lady’s Night menu provides women a choice of two dishes and two hours of unlimited drinks for only AED99. So, the fact that our waiter was on the ball with refills meant I developed a nice buzz even before the food arrived. Not enough for me to actually like the food, of course, but still a memorable night.

Overall mark - 5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
 Address: Media One Hotel

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:
  • Asian District

Mr Miyagi's - Media One Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Aka-Oni Izakaya (Toronto)


While I do love expertly crafted sushi, made piece-by-piece and eaten at the optimal temperature, these meals are reserved for special occasions. Generally, I’ll limit my sushi and sashimi intake to “fancier” establishments - perhaps I’m being overly cautious, but low prices and raw seafood seem like a bad combination. Yet, I can still get my fill of cooked items at reasonable prices. The newest find is Aka-Oni Izakaya, a restaurant that offers an array of affordable lunch bento boxes amongst other dishes.


Standard items arrive with each bento meal:
  • Scalding miso soup that contains so much miso paste that it stays emulsified. A lone clam can be found at the bottom, surprisingly not overdone.
  • Simple green salad dressed with a tasty soy, lemon, and ginger dressing.
  • A daily appetizer, which in our case were two deep-fried gyozas. They’re of average quality but at least hot and freshly made.
  • A bowl of rice, even adorned with a bit of seaweed salt for extra flavour.
  • And for dessert, pieces of cut-up fruit (with the bento) and a scoop of black sesame or green tea ice cream (served afterwards).

Rarely are you able to find surf-and-turf for under $20. Aka-Oni’s take bento ($18) meets the challenge with a wee tempura lobster tail and small steak. While the lobster is frozen, you can still taste some of the lobster’s sweetness … it helps when the chef shows restraint with the batter. It’d be even better if it were cooked less.


Surprisingly, the Angus steak arrived pink-in-the-middle medium despite being cut so thinly. Simply grilled, it tasted like beef and was tender.


A generous portion of the saba shioyaki arrives in the matsu bento ($16), but does require a generous squeeze of lemon and grated radish to mask the light fishy essence (not abnormal with mackerel). Moreover, I thoroughly enjoyed the enoki stuffed beef rolls. Some may find it a tad salty, but the flavours were perfect at complimenting all the neutral crunchy mushrooms.


There aren’t bento boxes during dinner, but there is a set meal for those who like crab and sashimi. Not feeling too hungry, we stuck with some sharable dishes that spanned their entire menu. With two pages of kushiyaki skewers, we opted for the Negima chicken thigh ($2.25) and Matsusaka pork jowl ($6.99); both cooked well remaining tender, incorporated enough of the sweet and savoury glaze, and had the requisite charbroil flavour. Just don’t expect very large skewers, each containing four to five small bites at most.


For something more substantial, the grilled squid with unagi sauce ($9.99) is a better option, especially since it also uses the same glaze and has a smoky grilled flavour. With plenty of pieces to go around, the squid is of course chewier than meat but great for munching on with drinks.


I liked the freshly fried tempura prawn that’s used in the dynamite roll ($7.50), nice and crispy and still warm. Aka-Oni does a good version of the popular maki, wrapped in thin layer of rice and seaweed with the customary avocado, tobiko, cucumber, and spicy mayo.


We finished with a bowl of Hakata black garlic ramen ($11.99) selecting the thicker noodles to hold up against the stronger soup. While I would have liked the noodles to be cooked a touch less, the broth was thick and filled with flavours without relying solely on salt. While not overly large, the restaurant didn’t skimp on the toppings, including a thick slice of pork belly chashu, half an onsen egg, corn, bamboo shoot, thinly sliced black fungus, fish cake, and seaweed. It could rival a bowl served at traditional ramen restaurants downtown.


While you’ll never dream of Aka-Oni’s dishes (a nod to Jiro), they’re well prepared and decent quality for the low price. Besides, it’s one of the few places where the dishes arrived looking like the menu’s picture, if not better. Thanks to Aka-Oni, I can eat well while saving up for meticulously made sushi.

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 633 Silver Star 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!


Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:



Aka-Oni Izakaya Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sushi Bong (Toronto)


If you live in the Yonge and Finch/Sheppard area, chances are you’ve heard about Sushi Bong, a small eatery that’s attached to the base a condo complex. To call it a restaurant would be a stretch, there’s three tables that could fit 10 people total so most customers will just get takeout. Online reviews generally credit the place for great food at cheap prices; I’ve been meaning to go for years but never made it in during their limited weekend hours. On a chance weekday lunch, the opportunity finally presented itself… an opportunity I wish never happened.

Being a first visit, I decided to “go big” with the Sushi Bong Special ($10.62), a dish that turned out to be a behemoth platter filled with a California roll, 4 pieces of salmon roll, and 5 pieces of sushi. The salmon looked a bit soft, but otherwise everything was presented nicely.


Then, I noticed a stack of boxes from a delivery that just occurred. On the bottom, sat two big boxes marked with ESCOLAR. If you don’t know why I have such an adverse reaction to seeing this word, pick up a copy of Larry Olmsted’s Real Food Fake Food, a must read for every food lover. Or you could just refer to Wikipedia that describes the escolar’s wax ester content, which can cause “fish poisoning” with symptoms ranging from “stomach cramps to rapid loose bowel movements, occurring 30 minutes to 36 hours following consumption.”


To make matters worse, they began unpacking the boxes of frozen fish, hoisting the vacuumed pack fillets on the table behind me. Aside from the queasy feeling in my stomach, I also felt the ominous chill escaping from the unpacked fish. I gulp down an entire cup of hot tea.

I managed to get down the California roll and a couple of pieces of the salmon roll, but had to leave the rest – especially the white fish that was sure to be escolar. There was a sense of guilt from wasting food and seeing them look over at my half-eaten plate, but I couldn’t do it - each bite became harder and harder to swallow.

In reality, how was it? The rice to toppings ratio, if you don’t factor in the quality of the toppings, is great. Sushi Bong’s California roll is much heartier than other restaurants, even incorporating a piece of salmon - in my case, more of disappointment than joy. While everything looks good, the fish tastes terrible – a soft spongy texture that’s a telltale sign of dethawed frozen fish. If it weren’t for the crunchy cucumbers in the California roll, the experience would be even worse.

In reading recent the online reviews, most people still comment on Sushi Bong’s big portions and low prices, both accurate descriptions. Just remember, there’s a reason for it, and that icy escolar chill is one that I won’t forget.  


Overall mark - 3 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 5 Northtown Way

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:

Sushi Bong Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato