Showing posts with label poutine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label poutine. Show all posts

LOV (Toronto)


LOV looks like your typical vegan hipster restaurant – sparkling white everything with hints of greens and natural contrasts. Just looking at the dining room makes you feel healthier. For a moment, you wonder if you should skip the wine and order kombucha instead… then you remember how terrible it tastes and order a bottle of Prosecco instead. They’re both carbonated - same same, but different.

Once you start with the wine, it goes downhill from there. Somehow, two orders of fries end up at the table. The LOV poutine ($11) looks great smothered with plenty of miso gravy and vegan mozzarella but tastes like fries covered with a flavourless thick sauce. Stick with the kimchi fries ($8) instead, which at least has the fermented cabbage and a creamy sesame dressing for interest.


Perhaps an order of Brussel sprouts ($9) to keep everything healthy? They’re deep fried and smothered with way too much of that tangy buffalo sauce.  


And then the Zen salad ($16) arrives and the guilt momentarily washes away. It’s a tasty combination of konjac noodles, shredded vegetables (cabbage, lettuce, daikon, carrots), and the extras thrown in for flavour and contrast (chilis and cashew). Maybe healthier options are better at LOV as this was the best of the starters. I thoroughly enjoyed the refreshing cilantro and mint elements. What? Am I a secret healthy eater?


Then I take a bite of the mushroom risotto ($19) and taste my favourite dish of the night. Done traditionally, the creamy rice and peas would have been good, but is made even better with the roasted oyster mushrooms. Okay, so perhaps I haven’t turned into nutritionist.


Yet, the LOV lasagna ($19) didn’t really excite. While the pasta looked delicious smothered with the vegan mozzarella and cashew cream, it tasted bland. The best part of the plate was perhaps the Caesar salad.


The gnocchi di casa ($20) was an interesting take on the classic Italian dish, except at LOV it’s made with sweet potato and buckwheat so there’s antioxidant and fibre strewn throughout the dish. The sweetness did help balance the hemp, basil and arugula pesto, which by itself could have been too strong.


Aside from the risotto, it’s the coconut curry ($18) that impressed. Who would have thought cubes of squash and carrots with a blanched kale could be so delicious when smothered in a cashew and coconut milk curry?


You should definitely heed the advice of those working at LOV, they know what’s tasty. Our choice of desserts, the crème brûlée ($8) and cheesecake ($7) were both good, for vegan alternatives, but run-of-the-mill.


Our waitress highly suggested the chocolate carmelita ($5), a dessert I didn’t think I’d enjoy, but had me reaching for another bite. It’s like having a chocolate butter tart bar but with the texture (and lack of stickiness) of a date square. Our table can certainly sing it praises.



For a place that looks so healthy, LOV’s menu does have its fair share of comfort foods. But perhaps what’s most surprising is how much I enjoyed and even preferred the “healthier” options. Maybe the surroundings were rubbing off on me. Could it be, one day I may actually order kombucha? 

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 620 King Street West
 Website: https://lov.com/en/

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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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Paramount Fine Food Eglinton (Toronto)


As the Paramount Fine Foods empire continues to expand, a new location has opened on Yonge, just north of Eglinton. Similar to the other restaurants, their dining room is spacious (occupying two floors) and food arrives efficiently for a simple and quick dining experience.

In celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday (coincidently, Paramount is also celebrating their 10-year anniversary), the chain has created the shawarma poutine. The dish incorporates the traditional ingredients – fries, cheese curds, and gravy (Montrealers, I know it should be poutine sauce) – while adding their signature touch by offering a choice of beef or chicken shawarma on top. Indeed, the beef adds a different flair to the dish, the earthy cumin rub on the meat generating a Mediterranean taste to the poutine. It’s a large portion and can definitely work as a main, but best shared in the Canadian spirit.

For Paramount newbies, the mezza plate ($8.99) is best to have on hand to dip their freshly baked pita bread into. Although the hot from the oven pita can be eaten on its own, the dough itself is rather tasteless; hence, a dunk in the hummus, moutabbal, or tabbouleh is key. Having had it at numerous locations, franchisees don’t seem to follow a standard recipe. Although the main ingredients are the same, the taste changes ever so slightly. At Paramount Eglinton, their moutabbal isn’t as salty making the grilled eggplant flavour a bit more pronounced; the tabbouleh is as fresh as ever.


Since it was my first time trying a manakeesh, an eastern Mediterranean topped flatbread, it seemed like a good idea to get the spicy chicken ($5.99) without cheese. Turns out you really need the cheese as after indulging in pizza for decades, eating something that looks like pizza without the cheese feels weird. Moreover, the “spiciness” was less about heat and really had to do with the flavour, instead of a chili spice the manakeesh seemed to have a deep almost bitter essence (although, to be fair, I have sensitive taste buds). Luckily, after adding tabbouleh to the flatbread, the parsley mellowed out the bitterness and it became tastier. Moreover, the manakeesh was unexpectedly large for the low price.


The barbeque shrimp plate ($14.99) is quickly becoming my favourite main at Paramount with two skewers of marinated shrimp that always arrive just cooked through and flavourful, especially with the accompanying tomato garlic sauce. Even without the poutine, I find it’s best to pair the shrimp with rice (as opposed to fries) as the grains goes nicely with the tomato sauce or any of the remaining mezza plate. Likewise, the crunchy pickles and turnips are great for easing the stomach after a filling meal.



Paramount Fine Foods has come a long way in its 10 years’ operating. What started as a restaurant in Mississauga is now a fast growing chain with locations in Canada, USA, UK, and Lebanon. Mohamad Fakih, founder of the franchise, is certainly living the Canadian dream. Isn’t it perfect that on the chain and the country’s key anniversaries, they celebrate together with the Paramount poutine?

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: 2311 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!

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Paramount Fine Foods Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Poutine La Banquise (Montreal)


How the poutine came to be an iconic Canadian dish, I’ll never know. Sure, it’s wildly delicious – after all, how could fries doused in gravy and cheese not be? But, is it actually better than the plethora of seafood and wild game offerings our country could be recognized for?

Somehow, in all my visits to Quebec, this dish has eluded me. Until this year, my only encounters with poutine generally revolved around food court creations or late night hangover suppressants from younger years. So, when I finally re-visited the birthplace of poutine, a trip to La Banquise was crucial.

Firstly, the restaurant is opened 24 hours, so I knew I could have the heart clogging delight for any meal. Secondly, with so many varieties, there’d be something to fill cravings. Everything still starts with your basic base of fries, poutine sauce, and cheese curds. Afterwards, a selection of meats (bacon, hot dog, smoked meat), additional condiments (guacamole, salsa) or vegetables (onion, peppers, mushrooms) can round out the creation.

For my first taste of the “authentic” dish, sticking with la classique ($7.25 for the regular) seemed crucial: the three staple ingredients without any of the frills. After the long wait, it’s bittersweet to report that the poutine was good, but no huge dissimilarity from the non-Quebecois offerings.

The fries were dense and a somewhat soft texture, the “poutine” sauce resembled gravy. I know, it’s supposed to be different but, honestly, I can’t tell the distinction. There was a bit more pepper and perhaps it’s due to mixing chicken and beef broth; whatever change, it’s slight and barely noticeable.

La Banquise did use one expert touch: layering the cheese curds throughout the fries. Every bite had some cheese, if only the sauce was hotter so the curds could actually melt.

Should you actually travel to Quebec just to try our national treasure? Likely not. But, if you’re in the area and have a hankering for something indulgent, La Banquise has enough fries, cheese and poutine sauce for everyone. 

How To Find Them
 Location: Montreal, Canada
 Address: 994 Rue Rachel East

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La Banquise Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Welcoming the all new Mary Brown's


Mary Brown’s Famous Chicken and Taters has undergone a rebranding, complete with new logo: Mary's lost her bonnet and sports a blowout bob instead. If you live in Toronto’s downtown core, it not surprising if you’re not familiar with the fast-food chain. Growing up in Scarborough, I’ve had my fair share of take-out from the Canadian restaurant, generally located in the suburbs.

Subsisting solely on the chicken and taters as a child, the grand re-opening party was my first taste of their chicken pop-ins ($5.39), Big Mary sandwich ($5.49), and poutine ($7.99)! My how Mary’s evolved with the times.

The pop-ins and poutine could easily be combined to make a winning combination: the chicken bites moist and well breaded, while the poutine smothered in hot gravy so the gooey cheese curds really gets a chance to melt. Put the two together and you’d have an epic poutine!


Meanwhile, the chicken patty on the sandwich is thick and actually a slice of chicken breast – it can flake a part and isn’t the formed burgers found at some competitors. Although the Big Mary sandwich provides a choice of regular or spicy, the latter is really just the addition of sriracha mayonnaise on top. Presumably, using the same patty is much easier for their operations, but takes away from the spicy experience as the spices aren’t actually worked into the batter.


As for the taste of their famous bone-in deep fried chicken and taters itself ($6.99 for three pieces and taters)? It was just as salty and moist as I remembered … the dry non-greasy skin giving way to the hot chicken juices. However, I think Mary’s done something to the breading recipe as it’s not nearly as crusty and crunchy as in the past.


Indeed, their prices are a couple dollars higher than the Colonel, but the quality is also a step above. After all, even without the bonnet, Mary can cook … honest to goodness.

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: 3199 Dufferin Street

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


Is That It? I Want More!

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Mary Brown's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

CLOSED: SpiritHouse (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 487 Adelaide Street West



SpiritHouse bar area (1)

Contrary to the typical financial district lounge where you’re standing around the bar like sardines and it takes half an hour to get a drink, SpiritHouse is refreshingly nice and unpretentious.  A short walking distance from the core at Adelaide and Portland my friend and I were able to grab seats at the bar when arriving at 7:30.  Sadly, the gentleman (possibly the manager) that was at the door was over optimistic and advised we’d be able to get a table “soon”.  By the time we left at 10:30 we still did not get a table.  But, we didn’t mind sitting at the bar and watching all the cocktails being made.


Their cocktail menu is extensive with throwbacks to the Mad Men era – bourbon, bitters and egg whites are abound!  I now understand why they drank so much; something about a hand-made cocktail with fresh ingredients really does shine. 

Our first drink was a Peroni Sour ($14) which was suggested by a friend.  They only had enough Peroni left to make one of them, but we shared it anyways.  The cocktail would be a great summer drink as it almost reminded me of having a spiked fresh squeezed lemonade.

We also had an Original Cosmopolitan (circa 1988) ($12) which is nothing like the sweet cranberry mixed version you’re normally served at restaurants.  The sweet and tangy was well balanced to the point you couldn’t even taste the alcohol.  Perhaps that’s the scariest part; they taste so good that you can have many without feeling like you’re drinking.

Now for the food … such a disappointment when the drinks and service are so good!  Whoever runs the kitchen needs to be better with managing their stock.  Considering the menu only consists of a dozen items, it’s pretty sad that they stock out of two key ingredients – duck confit and avocado.  Come on, we’re not talking about black truffles here… it’s only duck and avocado, order a little extra and risk some food wastage costs!

Given fries are one of my favourite foods in life; we had to try the SpiritHouse poutine ($11).  On the menu it’s described as being topped with duck confit; upon ordering the poutine we were advised the dish would be delayed anywhere from 30 minutes to 1.5 hours as the duck was being cooked.  At 7:30 it’s inexcusable that the kitchen has already run out of an ingredient used on two menu items. Whoever was in charge of prepping would have Gordon Ramsey going crazy.  We ended up having the poutine without the duck and it was satisfying but not much better than a New York Fries poutine.

The Whitefish tacos ($13) are definitely in need of revamping.  The fish itself is non-existent and over battered and fried.  Regrettably, it resembled a deep fried frozen fish stick to anything fresh. On that night, the chef chose to dress the tacos with radishes rather than the promised avocado on the menu.  This was a horrible decision!  Bitter radishes on a taco does not go well, can I suggest just using a tried and true coleslaw if avocados are not available?  The chipotle dill sauce drizzled on the cabbage was good, it just needed more of it to mask the bitter radishes and tasteless fish.

Brad, the mixologist serving us, was keen enough to ask us about the food. Upon hearing the mediocre fanfare he provided us a complimentary order of donuts.  Freshly fried timbits dusted with cinnamon & sugar, it arrived with a miniature bottle of caramel sauce.  A great gesture, but once again over fried so nothing I’d order again.

Overall, what makes SpiritHouse shine is their pleasant employees and the amazing drinks.  I would suggest staying away from the food - if you have to order something stick with the oysters.

Overall mark - 8* out of 10

* Mark is solely as a place to come for drinks and not for the food.  I would definitely recommend SpiritHouse as somewhere to go for drinks before or after dinner.



____________________________
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!