Showing posts with label pumpkin custard. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pumpkin custard. Show all posts

Zomato Meetup at the Harbord Room (2014)

Harbord Room
Address: 89 Harbord Street

Torontonians are lucky. We have a wealth of restaurant review platforms that inform us about where to eat. In October, our choices have expanded as Zomato launched a Toronto section - it’s first foray into North America … move over New York! Zomato's not new, they’re already part of 17 countries and serve over 30-million visitors monthly - those of us in Toronto will just add to this growing number.

So, what makes it different from Urbanspoon and Yelp? Like its competitors, users can browse/post reviews, pictures and restaurant information. But, Zomato also employs a team of people who actually visit restaurants every few months to update information. So, you’ll less likely go to a place only to find it’s already closed.  Also, I found their restaurant information more complete – listings I’ve looked at has menu pictures (often the hardest thing to find).

The social aspect of being part of their network is also more pronounced. Indeed on Urbanspoon and Yelp people can follow you and rate reviews. But, on Zomato, with the ease of use, I find people actually follow me and I get a lot of feedback on what I share. Like other social media platforms, there’s a “wall” that will show you updates from those you follow – allowing you to curate your own collection of information from those you trust and value. As a reviewer, you can also earn “expert” status by posting a number of reviews and pictures from a particular neighbourhood – I’ll soon be a North York expert!

From their app, I see features such as cashless payments and ordering online will soon be added to expand their service offering. So you can easily move from reading about a place to ordering delivery and then paying.

A week after Zomato’s launch, I was invited to a meet-up where they gathered a group of fellow users to meet their staff and give feedback on our initial experience.  It was held at the Harbord Room, a place where my husband loves their burgers. Having only been there once for a quick bite (a large satisfying po-boys and the delicious freshly made doughnuts), I was excited to return and try more of their menu. 

Our meal with wine pairings was much more complex than the po-boy I had previously. So, it was a pleasure to experience the intricate dining side of the Harbord Room. To start. a chestnut and chorizo soup (paired with a 2012 Campo Nuevo Rosado). It was more akin to chili with the chestnut puree creating a thick base and crumbles of chorizo adding a spicy element to the soup. Topped with toasted pumpkin seeds and dollops of tangy sheep’s milk cheese, there were plenty of contrasting textures with the seeds adding a nutty earthiness to the soup. A bowl of this with a wedge of crusty bread would be great for the cold weather.

The grouper ceviche (paired with a 2012 Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay) was much creamier than expected from the addition of coconut milk. Combined with mint, basil, cilantro, radish, jalepeno slivers, red chili slices, cashew and crispy tortilla strips, these all helped to lightened up the ceviche and add contrast against the tender fish. There was a lot going on with the dish with papaya and avocado mixed into it as well. For me, the fish became lost in all the ingredients but the flavours came together well. If the dish were promoted more as a salad versus a ceviche, it may be more aptly described.

For our main we were each served a hearty roasted Quebec partridge pot pie (paired with the 2011 Stratus Tollgate Red). What a decadent dish with the flaky crust made from duck fat and a thick slab of foie gras on top of that! The foie gras reminded me of the wine poached version I had a Cava, where it was cool and just melts in your mouth. Inside the pot pie were chunks of partridge (similar to chicken), plump mushrooms and pearl onions. All in all, a very filling dish and would be best eaten with lightly dressed arugula or kale salad.

We also had various sides to go with the pot pie. I tried a piece of each but simply could not go back for more as by this point I was quite full. A cauliflower gratin served piping hot in a clay dish. Roasted and topped with a generous sprinkling of parmesan cheese, this is a dish to order if you like cauliflower.

My favourite was the charred zucchini, which after roasting becomes soft and creamy. Topped with crunchy toasted pumpkin seeds and juicy pomegranate seeds, I was surprised how much I enjoyed the dish since I normally don’t like nuts/fruit with savoury dishes.

As well, some slices of bread (good for dipping into the pot pie juices) with a pumpkin (?), lemon hummus on the side.

To end, a stick-to-your-ribs baked pumpkin custard cheesecake (paired with the Barrbeito Malvasia Madeira 5-year Reserve). The base was creamy and rich – a mix between a pumpkin pie and cheesecake. I loved the ginger snap cookies, crunchy candied walnut pieces and unsweetened whipped cream on top. They all went well with the custard. There was also a scoop of ox blood plum sorbet on top. Admittedly, I didn’t read the menu carefully so had no idea it incorporated ox blood. Really, it tasted more like fruit than anything else. Although it was a refreshing sorbet, I would have preferred it on the side as personally didn’t feel it went well the rest of the dessert.

In the end, all the above dishes are great for the upcoming cold weather. Indeed, you may not want to eat everything in one sitting as each is rich and heavy. Based on Harbord Room’s current menu line, you can order the ceviche ($14) or charred zucchini ($9) to try. Perhaps the other dishes is a highlight of things to come and what diners can look forward as the temperature dips. 

Don’t live in Toronto? Don’t worry, over the next while Zomato is expanding to Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal and Ottawa. I’m sure it’s not going to end there and further cities will be added afterwards. So, I suggest you try it out. Signing up is easy and you can even just read or follow others if you don’t want to post. Of course, please considering following me, especially if you don’t have Twitter, as I’d love to hear from you!

view my food journey on zomato!

Disclaimer: The meal provided in this post was complementary, but the opinions are still my own.

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Hishinuma 日本料理 菱沼 (Tokyo)

Location: Tokyo, Japan
Address: 5-17-1, Roppongi, Minato (in the Axis building B1 level)

Type of Meal: Lunch 

Hishinuma provides a tranquil environment against the busy Roppongi street with it being located on the basement level of the Axis Building. We had a particularly intimate experience, while visiting during the Christmas holidays, since we were only one of two tables. Upon arriving, there was no one at the door so we tentatively walked in and found the chefs preparing in the open concept kitchen. Luckily, they noticed us and shouted out greetings to alert the host (also the waiter for the day) to show us to our table.

Their lunch menu consists of three, four or five course options; we went with the four course version (¥5,000 per person). In reality, we received seven courses when it was all said and done. The first amuse bouche was a thick pumpkin mousse, the consistency of custard, with a rich savoury pumpkin taste. Granules of coarse sea salt were sprinkled at the bottom of the dish enhancing the natural sweetness from the squash.  

The second course was the most challenging of the meal for me - marinated cold sea snails. Personally, I’m squeamish when faced with bugs and lizards, so when the bowl of four of them were presented, my stomach dropped.  Luckily, they were cooked!  The hardest part of eating the dish was extracting the meat from the shell – a toothpick is given and you essentially need to stab it and rotate the shell until the snail is freed.  Honestly, they tasted decent having been marinated in a slightly sweet soy sauce.  The meat is firm and the texture and taste resembles abalone (another type of crustacean common in Asian cuisine). In the end, I was able to stomach three of the four. 

Arriving next was a simple braised daikon adorned with carrot slices and green onion slivers.  Upon lifting the lid, you get a whiff of smokiness that wasn’t present in the food itself. Poached in a relatively light consommé, the vegetables were soft but still held their shape.  It’s a nice neutral dish where the sharp green onion is what really adds any flavour. After the first two comparatively more flavourful dishes, this helped calm the taste buds prior to the sashimi course.

Kampachi (the red fish) and another unknown white fish comprised the sashimi and was my first experience in Japan.  The fish is firmer and has a more distinct flavour compared to the various sashimi I’ve had in Toronto. This could be on account of the freshness where restaurants regularly purchase the fish from the nearby Tsukiji fish market.  In fact, we were having great difficulties getting reservations after December 29th as Tsukiji was slated to close and move so specialized sushi restaurants ended up closing for the holidays as well.

Perhaps what I’ll miss most is the freshly grated wasabi we received adding heat to the tongue but not hitting your nose. Hishinuma’s soy sauce was also fairly neutral with neither saltiness nor sweetness being overly prevalent.

The steamed shrimp dumpling was my favourite dish of the meal. Although it was presented as a “dumpling” it was wrapperless with the shrimp paste being light as air with small pieces of shrimp mixed throughout to add texture. Accompanying was a light shoyu dipping sauce but was watered down so the sweetness of the shrimp still shone through. I would happily order this dish by itself again if I can ever find them elsewhere.

Alas, the final course is presented and you’ll know it’s the last as rice and soup arrive with it.

The fish was a beautifully grilled piece of yellowtail tuna (jaw portion of the fish); its skin was crispy while the meat tender and juicy with just the right amount of fat to give it flavour. The jaw portion is actually great for people who aren’t skilled with eating fish with bones as they are in large pieces so you won’t risk choking on anything. A plate of wasabi mixed with miso and marinated seaweed accompanied the fish for flavouring but I found the salt lightly coating the fish sufficient.

The miso soup also differed from the Toronto versions given it wasn’t overly salty and the paste didn’t settled or have any graininess to it. Moreover, it retained heat really well with plump soft mushrooms and herby leaves of some sort giving some meatiness to the soup.  

To end a hunk of strong coffee jello arrived in a sweet vanilla custard cream.  It was surprisingly flavourful compared to the natural tastes of all the previous courses. All in all, a good way to end the meal and helped ward off a food coma.

Dishes at Hishinuma may seem simple and understated (no heavy sauces or garnishes in sight) but it really allows the quality of the ingredients themselves to shine through.  Overall, I was pleased with my first Japanese style meal in Tokyo. 

Overall mark - 8 out of 10

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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!