Showing posts with label oysters. Show all posts
Showing posts with label oysters. Show all posts

Cano Restaurant (Toronto)



Cano is one of those cozy Italian restaurants I wish was part of my neighbourhood. Living in the York Mills and Lawrence Park area, we have our fair share of great places slinging pasta and pizza, but Cano does both just a touch better.

Let’s start with the crust on the burratina pizza ($25), which is thin and chewy, everything I look for in pizza. It’s cooked until a golden crust develops that despite being covered by a generous layer of tomato sauce, remains crispy and holds up with one hand.  Then the toppings: having the sauce, cheese, and basil combination, it’s like a margherita but elevated with the dollops of creamy burrata dusted with black Maldon salt. The tomato sauce is fresh versus tangy and with a liberal drizzle of olive oil, even the bites with no cheese or basil still tastes magnificent.


Their pasta is also solid. The rigatoni annata ($20) a substantial mound of perfectly done pasta in a vodka rose sauce swirled with shallots, pecorino and pancetta. It’s similar to a carbonara but the creaminess tempered with a bit of the tomato’s acid. In fact, the sauce was so good I wiped my plate with bits of pizza crust to ensure it didn’t go to waste.


Visit on Tuesday or Wednesday and you’ll also receive half a dozen oysters free with any bottle of wine. It’s appeared to be a deal that most tables participated in, including us, where six freshly shucked St. Simon oysters arrived lacking none of the traditional cocktail sauce, onion mignonette, and fresh horseradish fixings. And a bottle of wine on a weekday... what can be more Italian?


Every bite was tasty to the finish. Their tiramisu ($10) is a good rendition of the popular dessert, done traditionally with plenty of espresso and creamy mascarpone flavours. A bit more of the lady fingers and lighter sprinkling of the unsweetened cocoa powder would have made it even better.


Yet, it’s the panna cotta ($9) that was the hit. The silky vanilla bean base so creamy and luscious it feels like you’re having tapioca pudding without the tapioca, but there’s just enough gelatin allowing the dessert to scoop easily into a spoon. Oh, and that drizzle of salted caramel? What a great finish.


In hindsight, it’s actually a blessing that Cano isn’t located a short walk down the street. The food is so comforting and delicious that I don’t think I’d have the willpower to not visit regularly. In that case, my waistline would definitely suffer from their close proximity.

Overall mark - 9 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 1108 St. Clair Avenue West

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!

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CANO Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Laissez Faire (Toronto)


You do you … the modern day equivalent to living a laissez faire lifestyle. It’s a romantic thought, being able to live as you please, be as you please - and at the new Laissez Faire – eat as you please. Their menu strays from their French name and also offers Italian dishes for good measure.

It’s not always done well, the porcini truffle arancini ($13) are the worst I’ve ever had: the risotto so dry that the ball starts to crumble and the mixture bland so everything relies heavily on the marinara (thankfully, fresh and delicious). As a plus, since it is deep fried rice, even being the worst it’s still edible, but certainly not one you’d want to serve a true Italian.


The squid ink tagliatelli ($21) is 100% better. Dark ribbons of pasta encompasses a seafood flavour but not in a fishy way. It’s covered in a sauce that’s not overly thick but salty enough to really give it a briny sea essence. Plump sweet clams and crunchy bread crumb provide a nice contrast to the pasta, while there’s just enough dill fronds to add a hint of freshness without morphing the dish’s earthiness.


Safer sharing plates are some of the cold seafood options. While we weren’t advised what the oysters were that evening (only that they were from PEI), the dozen ($32) tasted clean and fresh, accompanied with the traditional vinegary onion mignonette and grated horseradish. 


Meanwhile, the albacore tuna ($17) has a real nuttiness from the black and white sesame crust. It’s slowly seared so the seeds are just lightly toasted and the tuna wrapped in a thin cooked ring and warmed through. Really swipe the fish around the plate to get all the herby aioli on the plate.

For something incredible, you have to be willing to dive all-in … calories and cholesterol be damn! Just bite into the pork belly ($17) and enjoy the crispy skin that’s the perfect ratio of fat for flavours and skin for chewiness. A thin sherry gastrique and bits of pomegranate add a slight sweetness against the otherwise savoury dish. It’s so good that a table of four may want to double the order so you can each have another piece.


The duck confit ($21) was another strong dish with the traditional crunchy skin encapsulating soft rich meat. Pairing the fowl with salad was a great idea to keep it lighter and allows a diner to still enjoy some starters.


Aside from the food, two things really stuck out for me. Firstly, the odd portion sizes at Laissez Faire. While the small and large plates weren’t overly big, the sides like roasted Brussels sprouts and parsnips ($14) were massive. Who knows, maybe it’s their way of making diners eat their vegetables. Yet, there’s so much bacon incorporated into the dish that vegetables seem secondary. Moreover, the sauce is way too sweet and the pickled mustard seeds, while a great idea, needs to be applied with a lighter touch. Maybe it’s me, but I want my vegetables to actually taste like vegetables.


Portion sizes were wonky in the dessert department as well. The apple tarte tatin ($11) is barely sharable compared to the brioche panna cotta ($14), which actually resembles a regular-sized dessert.

Nevertheless, both are decent – the apple tatin served as a deconstructed version consisting of well-poached apples with a thinned caramel sauce on top of a piece of really buttery pastry. The flavours are bang on, just the form was a bit disappointing as I was actually hoping for the traditional tarte format. The panna cotta has the requisite creamy texture with a strong vanilla flavour. I could have done without the bits of crunchy brioche crumbles, which takes away from that lovely silky texture; yet, I can see some liking the contrasting texture and hint of saltiness it adds to the dessert.


The second thing that stuck with me, albeit I didn’t realize until I was writing the blog post, was how wildly inaccurate the prices charged for the desserts were from the published amounts. On the menu, it’s listed as $9 for the apple tarte tatin and $11 for the panna cotta, while what’s actually charged is $11 and $14, respectively. Perhaps a $1 difference is reasonable when there’s a last minute change, but to add $3 to each dish is terribly inconsistent. Sadly, the caliber and size of the desserts definitely aren’t worth the augmented price.

Maybe it all comes back to the laissez faire attitude – who cares if prices are incorrectly charged, the Italian dishes aren’t necessarily the strongest, or the sides are the same size as mains? Just go with it and pop another bottle of bubbly to forget about the situation – oddly, we did end up getting a BOGO 50% off deal for the Prosecco without realizing it. After all, it all works out in the end… just chill out.

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 589 King Street West

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!

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Get Ready to Dine Under the Stars!



On for its third year, the Feast of St. Lawrence kicks off on Friday, August 10th with a huge outdoor dinner. 250 guests will dine together on Front Street (between Scott and Church Street) rain or shine! Don’t worry, if Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate, guests are protected under long beautiful tents to ensure the 5-course meal is comfortable regardless of the climate.
With the number of notable restaurants in the St. Lawrence area, diners will be well fed. A glimpse of the menu suggests:
  • Hors d’oeurves to start including an oyster station from Pearl Diver, Biff Bistro’s chicken liver parfait, and falafels from the Sultan’s Tent;
  • Cool appetizers of chilled melon soup from the House House and pickled watermelon salad from Farmr;
  • Tagliata di Spada from ARDO, which is Nova Scotia swordfish with their signature sourdough bread;
  • A main of seared petit tender beef with roasted summer vegetables (a vegetarian alternative of squash blossoms also available) made by The Omni King Edward Hotel; and
  • Two desserts courtesy of George Brown College: a tonka pavlova with peaches and a s’mores tart with smoked chocolate.
This is all paired with every alcohol you can imagine including whisky from CC Lounge, beer from Creemore Springs Brewery, and wines from various Prince Edward County producers (Stanners Vineyard, Broken Stone Winery, Rosehall Run, K. J. Watson, Karlo Estates, Keint-he). While dining, guests are serenaded by the 18-piece JAZZ.FM91 Youth Big Band.
Yours truly was lucky enough to get a preview of some of the items from this year’s menu. We started at Pearl Diver where Chef Malycha taught us how to shuck an oyster – he makes it seem so easy with a wiggle, pry, and wiggle motion. For me, I’ll leave it to the experts, especially if they’re going to make a refreshing onion mignonette to go with it. The oysters will go perfectly with CC Lounge’s Toronto cocktail, which mixes J.P Wiser’s Deluxe whisky, Triple Sec, Lillet liquor and tons of fresh lemon. Bright and citrusy, it’s an easy-going drink.
In fact, everything we sampled was season appropriate. Farmr’s salad combines watermelon and tomatoes, two things that normally aren’t served together but works. Chef Benny Chateau aims to showcase produce at their peak in August, allowing the ingredients to shine. The watermelon is pickled in its own juice with red wine vinegar, the tomatoes getting a similar treatment with lime, and it’s all tossed together with micro basil and cucumber ribbons. The watermelon’s sweetness is balanced by pickling and the vinegar’s acidity neutralized by the cucumber and tomato.

Even Omni King Edward’s beef is lightened by using a petit tender cut (from the shoulder of the tenderloin) so it’s lean. In lieu of the traditional heavier red wine sauce and potatoes, the steak is paired with a bright chimichurri crema and tons of roasted summer vegetables sourced from Urban Fresh at the St. Lawrence Market. Ancient grain and hazelnut clusters add a bit of carbs to the plate and some crunch as well.


Tickets are available online or by calling 416-410-9242. A portion of the $200 ticket will go towards Second Harvest, the largest food rescue organization in Canada. The charity prevents surplus food from farmers and retailers from going to the landfill by picking it up and distributing the items to over 250 social service agencies across Ontario. It’s a great organization that not only provides 30,000 meals a day, but also makes a positive impact on our environment.
Organizers note that Dinner Under the Stars is a well-staffed event - even with 250 guests everyone is served in about 5 minutes. Moreover, speeches are kept to a minimum… they know people are there to eat, drink, and mingle! If dining alfresco with a group of people to support Second Harvest sounds amazing, get your tickets before they sell out and in no time, you’ll be eating under the stars.
Disclaimer: The above tasting of select dishes from this year's event 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: Front Street (between Scott and Church Street)

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog

Scaramouche Restaurant (Toronto)


Yes, you’re in the right place. It seems wrong, as you pull up to an apartment building, but Scaramouche is located in the corner of Benvenuto Place. From the outside, it seems like an odd location for a restaurant, let alone one that has operated in Toronto for almost four decades. Yet, when you make your way into the dining room and are greeted with the view of the city’s midtown parklands and skyline, the residential neighbourhood is forgotten.


Tip back the shot of chilled celery and parsley soup and it certainly feels like you’re in a restaurant… slightly creamy before ending with a spicy horseradish kick. Equally refreshing are the half a dozen oysters ($30), freshly shucked with a bit of the red wine mignonette.


It’s hard to describe Scaramouche’s menu, possibly Canadian with European influences. These elements came together with the gnocchi ($25), a special for the day, combining in-season white asparagus and wild leeks. It was a fantastic starter! The creamy gnocchi well toasted in a golden crust and huge chunks of duck confit strewn throughout, enough that a larger portion can easily make this a main. Lastly, pieces of spongy morels, adding a different texture and soaking in the delicious duck jus.   


Unbeknownst to me, my order of roasted St. Canut suckling pig ($43) was replaced with a seared Nagano pork loin ($38). I wish they would have informed me of the change as when you expect something capped with crispy crackling skin, the medallion was an instant disappointment. Note to the restaurant: always inform your customers of replacements, I would have gone with the duck instead.


While the dish didn’t wow me like the starter, it’s a solidly constructed plate.  The meaty piece of perfectly cooked pork paired well with the traditional trimmings: luscious parsnip purée and lightly pickled apple. The fingerling potatoes are sautéed with bacon to give it an extra zip.

On the other hand, a taste of my husband’s lamb ($49) left me wanting more. The tender chops were crusted with an herby salsa verde to keep it light. Every element of the plate – peeled cherry tomatoes, crunchy beans, and a lemony eggplant purée was enticingly refreshing and bright, screaming of warmer weather even though Mother Nature wasn’t completely agreeing with us. Forget the typical heavy lamb with gravy and potatoes, Scaramouche’s interpretation is exactly what I want.


For dessert, their coconut cream pie ($14) is well known. Three distinct layers of sweet coconut custard, light chantilly cream, and tons of white chocolate shavings – so much that it had to be swept to the side. In comparison to the rest of the pie, the crust it thin and delicate, but still incorporated enough butter that even a bit of the crispy pastry with the cream was delicious. This is a pie for coconut lovers as the custard contained A LOT of it.


I welcomed bits of savouriness from my husband’s cheese plate ($16) to balance out the sweet dessert. The Wookey Hole cheddar is described as being aged in lime stone caves in Somerset, England, where it’s said to take on an earthy taste. Truth be told, I couldn’t distinguish any mineral elements, but it was flavourful, without being overpowering, and had a light nuttiness.


The cheddar was balanced by a lighter 12-month Manchego from Spain where you taste the dairy while enjoying the harder slightly crumbly texture of the cheese. Of course, the cheese board arrives with typical condiments – interestingly a tomato chutney (instead of something fruit based), perhaps there was already enough fruit in the pear and cranberry bread crackers.

It’s taken me a while to make it out to Scaramouche. This year’s birthday seemed like an opportune time to finally make it out to the iconic fine dining establishment. Possibly, it was even a bit reassuring, since the restaurant is older than me. 

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 1 Benvenuto Place

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:

Scaramouche Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

CLOSED: Furlough (Toronto)

Furlough Toronto

The bar is a prominent feature at Furlough: it’s the first thing you see at the entrance, whomever’s at the bar will likely be the first to greet you warmly, and the array of bottles (including house made bitters and syrups) on display will peak interest. Cocktail aficionados know of the restaurant as a place to get tasty liberations - don’t be surprised to see guests coming in after 9pm on weeknights for a night cap.

Furlough Toronto: barFurlough Toronto: bitters and syrups

After all, when a drink menu is bound and wrapped in leather (compared to printed note cards used for food), you get a sense of what the restaurant specializes in – although to be fair the food was fantastic. In light of this, having a cocktail to start and end the meal, at least, is ideal. Although Furlough concocts a lot of the classics (Sazerac, Moscow Mules), there’s some interesting contemporary offerings that you won’t find elsewhere. Just imagine what they could be by the names: Tibetan Peach Pie, Monet, and Ask Me Tomorrow… getting interested yet?

Furlough Toronto: cocktails

To start we had a cocktail flight, which provides half portions of each drink. Offered on Wednesdays for $18, the flight is inspired by a theme that changes weekly - ours was an ode to gin:

  • Having had numerous French 75s ($14), I finally learnt the name doesn’t have any romantic wistful cogitations to the olden days of Paris; rather is named after the French 75mm gun on account of the kick from the absinthe incorporated in the original recipe! This compared to the cocktail we know today as refreshing gin shaken with simple syrup and lemon juice, then strained into a champagne flute and topped with sparkling wine. It’s hard to imagine such an easy going drink once being deadly.
  • A favourite of the table was the Last Word ($14), a concoction that seems strong as it enters the mouth but transforms into an utterly smooth finish; the herbal Chartreuse sneaks in first but everything’s mellowed out by the Maraschino liqueur and lime juice.
  • To end, an aptly named drink: the Happily Ever After, best described by my friend as “birthday cake in a cup”. The gin is infused with strawberries to give the liquor a vivid red colour and berry notes. Shaken twice, first with the egg whites and then with the other ingredients (pineapple syrup, vanilla syrup, Pinot and aperol), the resulting gin sour is silky smooth with the foam adding a frosting quality to the sweet cocktail.
Furlough builds their cocktails by using a variety of house-made bitters, syrups and infused spirits. In this end, it’s balancing the bitters and the sweets you get a boozy drink without it tasting like one.
The Basil and Elderflower Fizz ($14) is the perfect hot weather sipping drink. Refreshing muddled basil and vanilla is mixed with cooling cucumber, gin, elderflower liqueur and lime. Since it’s topped with sparkling water, it’s also a cocktail that helps quench your thirst.

Furlough Toronto: basil and elderflower fizz

If the cocktails on the menu doesn’t catch your eye, feel free to sit at the bar and throw out ideas. Wanting something with their delicious strawberry gin again, but also the bubbles of the sparkling wine, I concocted the Strawbasil Fields Forever ($14) (thanks to my friend J for the fitting name). Similar to the French 75, the strawberry gin is shaken with ice along with rosemary syrup and muddled basil, then strained into a flute and topped with sparkling wine. It’s exactly what I was craving and a little bird told me that you can order it as an off menu item.

Furlough Toronto: strawbasil fields forever

Throughout the process I was marveled by how much passion Gabriel Quigley exuded: a history professor when recounting about the origins of a cocktail or even bringing a scientific angle to the drinks while explaining why some have to be shaken vs. stirred (turns out James Bond has it all wrong). In the end, a mixologist is not unlike a sommelier: you need to know about the drink’s origins and how its properties will work with whatever it’ll be consumed alongside.


As much as I love a good drink, food is what wins my heart (the French bistro inspired dishes made by Chef Thomas O’Neill certainly had me swooning). Starting with the classic moules and frites ($15), the mussels fresh and swimming in a fantastic leek and confit garlic broth with pieces of chorizo on top for added flavours and spice. The shoestring fries were deliciously hot and crispy; the perfect vessel for dipping into the broth and sharing. 

Furlough Toronto: moules and frites

In fact, Furlough has a selection of starters that are great for sharing. Arriving with a heavenly scent, the ham hock croquettes ($9) are deep fried nuggets of hot mashed potato laced with pieces of pork. Sitting on the plate are a selection of condiments including a beer mayo and ramp mustard, but it’s the crunchy pieces of salted chicharron (pork rind) that made the dish.

Furlough Toronto: ham hock croquettes

Thankfully, there were plenty of crostini (on the plate and as a side) accompanying the Albacore tuna tartar ($15). The meaty diced pieces of fish were tossed with sesame oil to give off a fragrant aroma and all the crisp vegetables (radish, cucumber and pickled shallots) lightened the dish, a great choice for the warmer months.

Furlough Toronto: tuna tartare

Of course, Furlough also offers the sharing crowd favourites: freshly shucked oysters, that evening a dozen Mallet St. Simon ($42 for a dozen) served with a lovely mignonette, shaved horseradish and cocktail sauce (these go particularly well with the French 75), as well as a charcuterie board ($19) featuring a selection of delicious meats made in-house (a meaty chorizo, flavourful and rich mortadella, and salty Genoa salami) and cheeses (aged gruyere and stilton). Mixed throughout the board are toasted bread, a thick fig jam, lovely pickled beets and gherkins.

Furlough Toronto: oystersFurlough Toronto: charcuterie

The house-made bread even makes its way into their mains - the brioche chitarra ($19) incorporates the bread crumbs into the buttery topping. This pasta oozes the taste of spring with peas, sweet cipollini onions and bright mint. Touches of cream ties everything together into a hearty main.

Furlough Toronto: brioche chittaria

Of all the meat-based larger plates, the duck confit ($28) was the only slip as the fowl was extremely salty. Nonetheless, the duck was cooked perfectly with a crispy well-rendered skin and moist interior and the dish was salvageable by mixing slivers of the duck into the citrusy spaetzle, which helped mellow out the saltiness.

Furlough Toronto: duck confit

The striploin in the steak frites ($29) was also well prepared arriving spot on medium rare and having a lovely sear. Although the meat was good, we were all just excited to see more of Furlough’s fantastic fries … a bowl of these with cocktails could satisfy me any day.

Furlough Toronto: steak frites

What will have me returning for more is their fried chicken ($21) … it’s not French but oh so fantastic! Having been brined twice (soaked in liquid for flavour and then buttermilk for further moisture) the chicken is juicy and flavourful. The crust has enough coating for crunch but not too much to be overwhelming. Even the baby cabbage coleslaw on the bottom is jazzed up with pickled cauliflower and almond. There not a thing I’d change about the dish … except maybe include some of the Furlough fries on the side.

Furlough Toronto: fried chicken

For dessert we shared a combination dessert of their Curds & Cookies with a Deconstructed Black Forest cake. The bowl of curds is reminiscent of the British Eton Mess: plenty of whipped cream, a citrusy orange curd topped with crunchy shortbread crumbs and hazelnut praline. Meanwhile, the roasted chocolate flourless cake on the side is rich and slightly bitter with moist chocolate cake on top.

Furlough Toronto: cookies and curds

The dessert went really well their signature cocktail, the Furlough ($14). Essentially a digestif, the mixture of bitters and syrup helps to settle the stomach after the lovely meal. Unlike the earlier cocktails, this has a stronger bourbon base infused with a tobacco essence (sounds strange but actually works). It’s all lightened with patchouli syrup, cacao bitter and sweet vermouth; the finishing touch lighting the drink on fire with a spritz of atomized essence of cigar. In the end, the drink provides the smell of tobacco but tastes of cacao and an almost vanilla essence.

Furlough Toronto: the Furough

You’ll have a difficult time deciding where to sit: the bar (where all the action is) or the patio in the back (so tranquil and airy). Of course, you can always follow our lead and start with cocktails and nibbles at the bar and move into the patio for the main meal.

Furlough TorontoAdditionally, if $14 cocktails aren’t in your budget, consider visiting on Tuesday when the bartender on duty invents an innovative special for the evening for only $10. Of course, there’s also the aforementioned $18 cocktail tasting flights offered on Wednesday that gives you three half-cocktails. Combine these drink specials with their $35 3-couse prix fixe meal (that offers the fantastic fried chicken as one of the mains) and you’ll have an affordable meal.


Going on a furlough is essentially taking a leave of absence from work. At a time when the economy is a little shaky and work can be somewhat stressful, we could all use a break from the “real life”. The attitude at Furlough is relaxed and care free - expertly made cocktails and food without the snobbery. Dinner at the restaurant was lovely: its easy tasting drinks and secluded patio surely allowed me to leave my worries behind. 

Overall mark - 8 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: 924 Queen Street West

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:



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