Showing posts with label mashed potatoes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mashed potatoes. Show all posts

CLOSED: Momofuku Kōjin (Toronto)

The best tables at Kōjin, in my opinion, are the ones by the window. Overlooking University Avenue, there’s a unique beauty as you see the cars and people whizzing by amongst the serene Kōjin environment. It’s the epitome of taking a break from the hustle and bustle, without leaving the city.

To ease us into dinner, two complimentary eats are presented: a bowl of lightly pickled peaches, Asian pear, corn, and tomatillos that were a refreshing nibble during our hot summer visit; and a bowl of chicken consommé, which really didn’t smell or taste like much and was a rather strange pairing with the pickles.  

A lot has been written about their corn flatbread, a concoction that combines Chef Paula Navarrete’s Colombian roots with inspiration from Chef Chang’s bing flatbread. Even plain it’s good – I inhaled the toasted corn aroma before biting into the bread that’s lightly salted and has a bit of oiliness with crispy edges. Frankly, I'd like the option of just ordering them without anything else (the most minimal order is with butter and honey); your closest option would be the flatbread with ham and to eat them separately.

Since we were already having meat as our main, we paired the flatbread with spinach dip ($13) instead. The hot, creamy, and cheesy mixture is fluid from Steamwhistle beer being added to the dip, which gives it a light bitter aftertaste. While the concoction is tasty, I found it too rich, masking all the delicious K2 mills cornmeal and hominy flavours of the flatbread.

Even though the restaurant serves Colombian dishes with a Momofuku twist, they still strive to use Canadian ingredients. Our waiter explains that aside from the seafood, other ingredients are sourced 100km from the city - the meat, their biggest draw, is sourced from Magee Farms just outside Toronto. The oysters ($24) were two P.E.I. varieties. Both small, delicate, and light. Arriving with a green pepper hot sauce (more for the pepper’s flavour than heat) and pressed cucumber, both condiments are so neutral that I really missed the acidity of vinegar or lemon that pairs so well with the shellfish.

Being a steakhouse, Kōjin’s menu is very different from their predecessors (although there are choices for those who don't eat red meat). Oh, how heads turn when the wooden platter of steak is presented at a table. Our 14oz boneless ribeye ($78) arrives with a fire roasted tomato sauce (nice and zesty but would be better with fish), steak sauce (oddly tastes exactly like Diana barbeque sauce), and brown butter marrow with porcini dust (the best of the three with steak). Then on the side is what looks like a large shishto pepper but is much spicier … good luck finishing that thing.

In reality, the steak was great on its own. Perfectly seasoned with a restrained amount of salt and pepper, the beef was richly flavoured thanks to the 32 days of dry aging and fattiness (bordering on prime rib amounts). While the butcher block looks great, the wood absorbs a lot of heat, so the steak arrives cool. Moreover, if chefs are used to pulling off the steak earlier (as it continues to cook on the plate), the butcher block seems to stop the cooking process as our medium rare steak arrived rare.

Regardless of what you order, a side of Tita’s mash ($15) would be a delicious addition. Based on Paula’s grandma’s recipe, this is one for dairy lovers as the dish incorporates cheese curds and more melted cheese on top. Every spoonful is like eating cheese with potatoes, the hot skillet keeping everything gooey until the last sinful bite.

Meanwhile, the BBQ zucchini ($15) with anchovy and chives is an odd combination that must be described on the menu … had I known there’d be fish added to the vegetable, I would have gotten something else. While the anchovy gives the side an interesting depth of flavour, it also adds a fishiness that we found off-putting with the zucchini.

On the other hand, the dulce de leche ($15) dessert is exactly as described: a sweet bread with dulce de leche and ice cream. The egg bread is fluffy and resembles a baked doughnut, it’s then topped with a light ice cream and thinned dulce de leche, both adding sweetness without giving a sugar high. What a satisfying ending of having that bite (or in this case numerous bites) of something sweet but isn’t too heavy.

Kōjin means fire with the restaurant named after the element since food is cooked or finished off on the wood-fired grill. For me, Kōjin’s appeal is less about fire and more about the menu’s variety (tons of Colombian dishes with Momofuku standards thrown in for good measure) and use of Canadian ingredients that brings out the patriot in me. It’s also the feeling of rising above the busyness of life. For a moment, for one meal, it’s all kept at bay.

Overall mark - 8.5 out of 10 

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 190 University Avenue (3rd floor)

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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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The Shore Club Revisited (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 155 Wellington Street West
Type of Meal: Dinner

Having recently returned to the Shore Club (read about Winterlicious experience here), one thing is for sure - their impeccable service has not changed. Once again our waiter, John, was extremely friendly, service was always attentive and our courses served in unison. They have done away with the black vs. white napkins, but this is likely due to switching to a lint free supplier. In terms of their environment and attention to customers there are no complaints here. 

During this visit I ordered off their regular menu and decided to go with the fish options given the restaurant is named the Shore Club. Alas, they may not be adequately named as my husband's meat-based dishes were definitely the better choice of the evening.

To start, I had the fish tartare trio ($19), which from left to right consisted of tuna, sea bass and salmon. The tuna was my favourite given it had the most taste from being marinated in soy sauce and sesame oil with chopped green onions mixed throughout. The salmon, combined with mayonnaise and dill, provided traditional flavours and was decent but did require some added salt table side.

My husband and I both agreed that the sea bass needed improvement – being such a neutral fish it had the opportunity to take on great flavours! Yet the chef did nothing so that it was essentially chopped up pieces of tasteless fish. It would have been nice to build on the fish's profile with citrus, chili and/or fresh fruit to give it a ceviche feel (a nice contrast to the other two offerings). The highlight of the Shore Club's fish tartare was the abundance of crostini provided; an adequate a number of pieces accompanied the dish so there was plenty of bread for the fish in the order.

In contrast, my husband's steak tartare ($18) was one of the better versions I've had in Toronto. Traditionally made with pickles, horseradish and onions it was well flavoured and a great consistency. Made with a good cut of tenderloin the tartare became soft and creamy, but the horseradish and maybe mustard mix throughout really deepen the taste nicely to complement the beef. As a warning, this is a fairly heavy dish so consider sharing it.  Combined with a salad it could have been a meal in itself! 

Continuing with the fish theme, my main was the stuffed rainbow trout ($31). I was flabbergasted with the portion of fish received; seriously, it was an entire deboned fish. If only it was cooked less it would have been better as I found the fish was starting to become dry. Additionally, it needed more stuffing as I really couldn't taste much of the dungeness crab or shrimp within the fish. Perhaps, the Shore Club should consider adding vegetables into the stuffing to provide moisture when cooking the fish as well as some contrasting textures and flavors. All in all, I enjoyed the deboned fillet and piping hot temperature the fish arrived in, just the doneness and flavours need to be tweaked.

My husband kept it simple and went with the bone-in rib steak ($42). I have to admit it's hard to go wrong with meat with plenty of fat marbleization and a bone to add flavor. My suggestion, if you go to the restaurant, is to stick with meat as they seem to prepare it better. Unlike our previous visit, the steak was cooked evenly so whatever problems the cooking surface was experiencing before seems to have been fixed. The meat could've been cut thicker, but it’s a personal preference (I'd rather have a thicker than wider steak) and could have been a better quality as we did find there was a fair amount of it that was simply too grizzly and hard to cut into.

Sorry but forgot to snap pictures of the sides. As a table we ordered green beans ($10), the steakhouse fries ($8), scalloped potatoes ($10) and mashed potatoes ($9) to share. You can refer to my previous post for thoughts on the green beans and fries. Of the other potato dishes the mashed definitely had the better flavour profile and was fluffy and well salted. The scalloped potatoes showed promise, they were cooked to a nice consistency, but was bland as it seemed the cream sauce didn't have much salt in it at all.

It's fairly surprising that the Shore Club seems to do better with Winterlicious. For the amount paid for the meal, I was disappointed with the offering as many dishes simply lacked much flavor or interest. Admittedly, the portion sizes are much bigger, but I would much rather have a smaller but better tasting dish.

Sadly, my opinion of the restaurant actually decreased since coming back for the regular menu (awarded a 7 for Winterlicious but only a 6 for this visit). Thankfully, the attentive and friendly service was still alive and that is something (along with portion sizes) that the Shore Club will always have going for it.

Overall mark - 6 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!