Showing posts with label polenta. Show all posts
Showing posts with label polenta. Show all posts

CLOSED: Jamie's Italian (Toronto)

Excuse my management consultant side, but thankfully Jamie Oliver put more thought into forming a well-linked relationship when entering the Canadian market. Partnering with King Street Food Co., owners of Toronto’s Buca restaurants, my recent lunch at Jamie’s Italian in Yorkdale was unequivocally better than Edinburgh (consequently, still holds Gastro World’s lowest rating to date).

Why you ask? Firstly, we were seated at a table once (a small feat that stumped the hostess in Edinburgh) and our server was friendly and welcoming (albeit needs to trim down the specials spiel to under 1.5 minutes). Already off to a good start. Then when the food isn’t the size of Happy Meals and actually tastes good, my hesitation for returning to the chain subsided.

Sure the pre-split arancini ($8.50) was a little strange, but it did remind us that these risotto balls were stuffed with molten mozzarella and to proceed with caution. The crispy rice nuggets were hot and crispy, the creamy risotto inside not overly seasoned so the spicy arrabbiata marinara allowed to shine. 

Jamie's Italian Toronto: arancini

Although the polenta chips ($6.95) are marketed as a “side”, they also make for a great starter and nibbling on. The nuggets of silky polenta arrive with a crackling crust and topped with tons of rosemary and parmigiano reggiano. It’s salty and hot, just one more piece.

Jamie's Italian Toronto: crispy polenta

Remembering that Jamie’s pasta was good (just the accompany fingernail sized clams a dismal disappointment), I opted for their famous prawn linguine ($19.95 for main-sized portion). I can see why this is one of their top selling dishes: the fair-sized prawns cooked nicely, the pasta slightly al dante and the garlicky tomato sauce thinned out with fish broth and fennel to keep it from becoming too acidic. Hiding in the background is a bit of spice to give it warmth but not overpower.

Jamie's Italian Toronto: prawn linguine

Jamie’s Italian seats over 200 hundred diners, but can still get fairly busy, so make reservations. It’s a rustic heavenly smelling space, with a charcuterie bar complete with hanging cured meats (we couldn’t tell if they were real or fake), which backs onto a large bar leading into their patio. It’s a large restaurant, yet the various areas keeps it comfortable and cozy.

Mr. Oliver, you have started to redeem your reputation after the horrendous Edinburgh dinner. Bold flavours with simple fresh ingredients, that’s what I expected the first time.     

Overall mark - 7 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 3401 Dufferin Street (at Yorkdale Mall)

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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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CLOSED: Scarpetta (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 550 Wellington Street West
Type of Meal: Dinner

My first experience eating at Scarpetta was in Las Vegas after spending most of the afternoon outdoors for some fun in the sun at a pool party. After not eating since
breakfast, we were famished and right after ordering they presented us with a basket of stromboli (bread pin wheeled with salami), it was the most delicious thing at that time.
I'm happy to say the Toronto offshoot also offers this delicious bread (and more). In fact, their bread basket not only comes with the stromboli, but also crispy wedges of focaccia and soft airy ciabatta buns. Served with mascarpone whipped butter, caponata (like a vegetable tapenade) and olive oil, it’s perhaps the best bread basket I’ve ever had! It’s so good that a big risk of eating there is you’ll fill up before you food actually arrives. This is particularly a shame if you’re about to eat a three course Summerlicious menu!

Of the five restaurants I visited this year, Scarpetta was the only one that served everything I ordered on their regular menu. I feel they should be commended for this as you don’t get the feeling that they’re serving you a "slimmed down" version for the occasion. I wish more restaurants would follow this trend as what’s the point of eating something they don’t normally offer?

The highlights of the meal were the appetizers, so delicious that I could go back and just order a couple of them to be a meal itself.  My appetizer consisted of a generous portion of braised short ribs; three slices of tender yet non-fatty beef.  Sometimes braised meat can be overly salty but Scarpetta’s had just the right amount of flavour and went well with the farro risotto.  Mixed into the risotto were cubes of zucchini, other vegetables and gooey mild cheese.  To make this decadent dish even better a thin slice of parmesan cheese covered everything.
My friend’s creamy polenta was absolutely delicious and the most buttery rich polenta I’ve ever had.  Served with a little pot of mushrooms cooked with truffles, once spooned on the cheesy polenta it’s a dish that you wish you ordered yourself and could eat more of.
When the roasted pork chop arrived I was astounded by the sheer size of it.  Even though it was 1.5 inches thick, the meat was evenly cooked throughout and still tender - even the meat right at the bone was cooked to the same doneness as everything else.  I commend the kitchen for the great job they did at cooking the pork. The massive crusted chop sat on top a dollop of shallot puree and mixed sautéed greens.  On the side was a small rectangle of deep fried pork jowl.  I’m normally a big fan of the uber tender cheek meat; but, this was brined so much that it was unbearably salty so I just couldn’t enjoy it, what a shame.      
If you look at the picture below you may be under the illusion that the panna cotta is the small football shaped object on the side of dish.  In fact, that is just a coconut cream; the panna cotta is actually the entire bottom of the dish!  Covered with passion fruit syrup and pieces of diced pineapple the panna cotta was rich and flavourful.  If eaten with the pineapple it’s more tangy and light, whereas you can mix in the creamy coconut addition to sweeten everything up.  Scarpetta’s panna cotta was one of the best I’ve had. 

My friend’s cheesecake arrived like a work of art – one of the cylinders vanilla and the other blueberry. Served with marinated berries and crumbles of graham crackers on top, it was a good deconstructed cheesecake.
Scarpetta is where you go if you want decadent food; it’s definitely not for the health conscious.  With their hefty portions you certainly get the feeling that you’re enjoying a hearty home cooked Italian meal. Yet, their dining room is open and airy with high ceilings and the floor to ceiling windows.  Other than a large wine fridge along one wall everything is nice and opened and contemporary looking.  In the end, Scarpetta was a nice combination of delicious Italian food in a modern setting.  It’s definitely worth a try, just for their bread basket alone!

Is Summerlicious worth it?
As a special feature to the Summerlicious blogs, I will attempt to calculate the savings being offered (based on my meal selection).   
Summerlicious - $45
Regular menu - $63 - short ribs ($16), pork chop ($35) and panna cotta ($12)
Savings - $18 or 29%
* Congratulations to Scarpetta who actually offers the same dishes that's on their regular menu on the Summerlicious menu!

Overall mark -  8 out of 10

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