Showing posts with label quick service. Show all posts
Showing posts with label quick service. Show all posts

Paintbox Bistro (Toronto)


With what seems like the recent revitalization of Regent Park, it’s hard to imagine that PaintBox Bistro is already six years old. In celebration of the milestone, they threw a party where customers can try any of their mains for only $6 (regular menu prices provided below for reference purposes) with $6 wine to boot. 

As soon as I stepped into Paintbox’s airy space, I felt healthier. The restaurant is a mixture of large tables and couches so you can go and read a book or gather a group for a scrum. Set as a quick service restaurant, guests order at the café area and then are provided with a sign so you can sit and wait for the food. 

Small eats like pastries are available and then there are a few options that are in between a snack and full on meal. The clumps of meaty brown butter white beans makes the Ontario harvest flatbread ($11) surprisingly hearty and along with the crunchy pumpkin seeds, melted brie, carrot puree, and fresh arugula creates a well toasted flatbread that’s filled with flavours and textures. This works great as a shared starter or a main if you’re in the mood for a smaller bite.


The mac, cheese & greens ($14) is also rich and creamy, the four cheese sauce balanced by broccoli florets. The kale that’s mixed into the pasta gives it an interesting taste – one friend felt it almost tasted like bacon. While I didn’t find it overly smoky, the kale was a nice addition to the pasta adding 
an extra flavour and textural element.


What a great idea to wrap the enchilada filling in collard greens instead of a tortilla! Paintbox’s enchilada ($14) is stuffed with spicy rice and a protein mixture that gives the filling a ground meat texture. In the end, the creation tastes like a delicious cross between a cabbage roll and enchilada. The roasted pepper coulis and scallion lime aioli were great additions that provided the traditional enchilada flavour but with an extra flair.


The only disappointing dish was the tofu green curry ($15). Firstly, the tofu was baked/fried so long that it became dry and hard (even being steeped in curry couldn’t rehydrate it). Moreover, the curry was too sour, which is strange as I expected it to be fragrant and coconutty since the menu describes it as “Thai-inspired”.


If a meal of plant based dishes doesn’t have you leaving the restaurant feeling good, at least know that by eating at Paintbox Bistro you’re supporting their ethos of providing job opportunities to those living in the neighbourhood and being mindful of their environmental footprint (there was no disposable cutlery used despite the fast casual environment). And with that, I left Paintbox feeling as snug as an enchilada wrapped in collard greens.

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 555 Dundas Street East 

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:

Paintbox Catering & Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Za Pizza Bistro (Toronto)


All the choices may seem dizzying at Za Pizza Bistro, a new quick service restaurant in Toronto’s Entertainment District. With 3 crusts (including gluten-free), 8 sauces, 8 cheeses (including vegan), and 8 meats with another 20 vegetable toppings, there’s an endless array of combinations.


Can’t decide between the grilled chicken or beef meatballs? Do the artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, and arugula all sound good? For $12.89 you can select anything you want, so you don’t start with a $6.99 base and end up paying $20 after all the per selection toppings. Although, if you’re a simple person, they also offer one-cheese ($7.99) or one topping with cheese ($8.89) options.

Visiting on their opening day, when they were giving out free pizza, I had my doubts about the quality of the pie. After all, new staff with a continuous line of hungry diners (who are allowed to choose from any of the aforementioned choices), generally doesn’t make for a successful first impression.

Hence, when I saw the generous ladles of margherita (a thin tomato sauce with huge pieces of tomatoes) and liberal sprinkling of mozzarella cheese go on the pie – before I even asked for anything else – I dreaded being greeted with a soggy bite. There was no way the ultra-thin crust, consistently flattened with a machine, was going to hold up to this much liquid.


To my surprise, I was wrong. After about 10 minutes in their hot flaming oven, the crust became crispy and golden. To the point I could easily pick up slices heaped with vegetables (red onions, roasted red peppers, green peppers, artichoke, corn, basil, and roasted garlic).


Even without any of the extra sprinkles or dipping sauces (also free and available at the condiment counter), the vegetarian pizza was well-flavored just from the margherita sauce.


While the 11 inch pie is meant to be personal, it’s a generous size and could even be shared. Especially if you add on a salad ($5.99-$10.99) or a dessert pizza ($7.99) … an apple crisp pizza with ice cream sounds like it’s made for me. Or you can just have some leftovers, they smartly leave half-sized pizza boxes with the condiments so you can doggy bag the rest.


Za Pizza Bistro started in Winnipeg and aims to offer customers quick and customizable pizzas with house-made ingredients (they prepare everything in-house including the dough and sauces) at an affordable price. Of course, not everyone will appreciate all the choices – I’m speaking to you indecisive person. Don’t worry, each location also offers a signature pizza, so take a deep breath and take a bite.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 290 Adelaide Street West

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



Sweet Lulus (Toronto)


Sweet Lulus is the first fast casual restaurant I ventured into years ago. Once I started working in Toronto’s Financial District, I needed a lunch venue that wasn’t a food court, but we could finish a meal within an hour and under $15. Based on the advice of a co-worker, we visited Sweet Lulus and the rest, as they say, is history.

Although the vegetarian spring rolls ($5) arrive blistering hot, I wish they would have taken two minutes to properly shake off the excess oil so it wouldn’t pool on the plate and completely soak through a napkin … only to still leave a greasy coating throughout the starter. If the spring rolls were wrapped together or incorporated more filling, perhaps this would have been enough to keep all the oil out. Sadly, the poor craftsmanship and meagre cabbage, carrot and bean sprout filling made every bite an oily mess. From now on, I’ll skip the appetizers and just stick with the mains.


In reality, you likely won’t need a starter as Sweet Lulu’s portions are pretty generous. The stir fried noodles (ranging from $9.95 - $15.70) always satisfy with four noodles, four sauces, and various toppings to customize to your tastes. I find the thinner noodles, such as the rice stick and wheat, go better with soup (their Tom Yum base is decent), while thicker Hokkien ones stand up better to the flavourful sauces used in a stir-fry.

My go to combination is either the vegetarian ($9.95), chicken ($11.95), or beef ($12.45) with Hokkien noodles, hot Thai sauce, crushed garlic, and sweet basil. The hot version is still relatively tame, so if you like it really spicy add the crushed chili flakes and grab a bottle of hot sauce from the front. For me, I find it has enough heat to meld with the savoury sauce and slight refreshing sweetness of the basil. Plus, there’s always plenty of vegetables (broccoli, Shanghai bok choy, bean sprouts, carrots, and onions) tossed with the chewy noodles so there’s a bit of topping with every bite.


Although not terrible, the green curry chicken with steamed rice ($11.95) needs to be spicier and could use more coconut milk. I understand, it’s made in large batches and hence needs to be “safe” for the majority of customers. Unfortunately, the milky curry doesn’t lend itself to adding chili flakes or hot sauce into in order to make it more flavourful. Overall, let’s call this green curry for beginners.


As the prices have risen and competitors such as Thai Express have entered the fold, Sweet Lulu’s notorious lines have thankfully decreased. Nonetheless, to get a seat at one of the 40ish dine-in spots, you’ll want to arrive before 12:30. After eating at Sweet Lulus for years, it still continues to satisfy. Their model of ordering at the cash register, getting a number to bring back to your seat, and then your meal gets delivered to the table is now widely used across the city – seven years ago, it seemed like a genius idea.    

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 350 Bay 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!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:


Sweet Lulu Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato




Pai Market (Toronto)


Since opening Sukhothai in 2008, Nuit and Jeff Regular have owned or worked with various popular restaurants – all serving good old fashioned Thai food. At their latest venture, PAI Northern Thai Kitchen, they’re doing something different: it’s their first time creating a market area that introduces Toronto to lunch offerings popular in Thailand’s street markets.


After entering PAI, walk towards the back and make a right. The newly expanded area will lead you to separate dining room with grab-and-go counter with seating area serving a variety (generally six choices) of dishes that changes throughout the week. 


There could be curry, rice platters, or a salad … although their salads aren’t some sad leafy green variety. Instead, the laap gai is a hearty concoction of flavourful marinated minced chicken combined with roasted rice for substance. The citrusy dressing still keeps it light, but you don’t be reaching for a snack in a couple of hours.


If you’re lucky enough to see kanon jeen num ngiaw on the menu, make sure it’s one of the items you get ($10 for one choice or $12 for a mixture of two). The tomato broth has just enough heat to leave your tongue tingling but won’t render it numb. Pieces of pork rib are tender and easily pulls off to enhance the noodles. Grab some rice if you can as it does wonders to soak up every last ounce of the hearty soup.


I could do without the slight sweetness that accompanies the soy based broth in the guay jap but the hefty pieces of braised pork belly is pure blubbery goodness. The pork and egg sits atop silky curled noodles that will test your chopstick skills; make sure you grab a spoon!


Meat lovers will want a box of the Northern platter, which includes chunks of flavourful lean sausages that incorporates a Thai flair (could be some lemongrass added into the meat?). Also accompanying the sticky rice are crispy fried pork and pork rinds as well. Adding a dollop of the thick green chili relish on the side helps cut through the greasiness, but watch out it has some spice to it!


After lunch, feel free to peruse the display tables in the corner hawking a variety of unique Thai fruits, vegetables, spices, and ingredients. A juicy sweet mango (great for a dessert) or a bottle of their house made chili oil can help you replicate the Thai taste at home.


The PAI Market couldn’t have arrived at a better time, helping lunch diners combat the upcoming cold Toronto fall and winter with warm hearty dishes and heavenly scents emitted from slow cooked food. Just for a brief moment, that lunch hour, I’ll be transported away from Toronto to a sunny street market in Thailand.

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: 18 Duncan 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!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:


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

CLOSED: Rashers (Toronto)



It’s no shock that Torontonians like bacon … after all, when your city’s nicknamed “Hogtown” its constituents will know a thing or two about pork. Wife and husband duo, Julie and Richard, is fulfilling Toronto’s love for the ingredient with a new Rasher’s location in Ossington.

The restaurant first started when Richard discovered Toronto lacked the beloved bacon sandwiches he ate with gusto in the UK. Sure, there were restaurants that offered peameal versions or others topped with the typical strip bacon, but none offered the British style he craved.  With the ingredient not being produced in the city, the duo eventually convinced Perth Pork Products, a farm near Stratford, to produce the cut for Rashers.

The British bacon is best showcased in the Bacon Butty ($8), a simple sandwich combining the meat on toasted white bread and brown sauce. Thank you Rashers for introducing Toronto to this cut, my favourite of the night! The British bacon combines the meatiness of peameal with some of the belly fat on the strip to add flavour and moisture. The house-made brown sauce is like HP, a combination of 24 different ingredients to give the dish a vinegary Worcestershire kick. Surprisingly, even with the sheer amount of meat, the sandwich doesn’t feel heavy.


Nursing a hangover? The Hogtown ($8) with fried egg (an extra $1) would be perfect for calming any queasiness. Plenty of sliced peameal, a slightly runny fried egg and a soft bun makes for a hearty sandwich. I only wish there was less of the ale mustard – although it’s nice and grainy, I found the sheer amount starting to cover the meat.


If you like your bacon crispy, the Bacon Caesar ($9) crams in ample strips of the smoky variety topped with crisp garlicky romaine laced with parmesan. The ciabatta bun could be replaced with something thinner, but the hard bread could be a nod to croutons.


The Bacon Burger ($11) is definitely for meat lovers: starting with a thick ground beef patty stuffed with diced bacon and then more strips on top! As a warning, the patty is thoroughly cooked so the burger is rather dense - not crumbling and moist if that’s what you prefer.


A great combination is the Brie & Bacon ($10), the crispy strips covered with sweet caramelized onions, gooey melted brie and a creamy garlic aioli. The sandwich is delicious and decadent; what a flavourful concoction despite the plain looking exterior.


Grab the Apple and Maple Grilled Cheese ($9.50) if you’re in the mood for something sweet and savoury. It’s still a fairly savoury sandwich from the salty bacon, melted cheddar cheese and buttery bread. But, the apple chutney mixed with cinnamon gives it a sweet spike … reminding me a cheddar cheese apple pie. Yum!


Don’t even think of ordering a salad - Rasher’s only sides are hand cut wedges ($4) or curly fries ($4). With a choice of seasoning (roasted garlic or smoked paprika), they are hot, crispy and satisfying.


Rasher’s menu boldly encourages substitutions – for me I’d change the meat in any of the sandwiches with the British bacon, what an amazing cut. And maybe if you’re feeling especially adventurous, how about one that combines all three?

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: 182 Ossington Avenue

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:



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

CLOSED: Bombay Street Food (Toronto)

Bombay Street Food Toronto


Seema and Amreen Omar’s new permanent location is stunning and  inspired by the older Iranian cafes found in Mumbai. I’ve never visited India, but if the cafes consist of bright airy spaces, a mix of beautiful patterns and motifs, interesting trinkets sitting on shelves and ornate light fixtures, I can see why they want to bring this laid back vibe to Toronto.


Bombay Street Food started as a travelling eatery in 2014, served in farmers’ markets and festivals across the city. The pair were offering smaller street food dishes inspired by what’s found in Mumbai, where diners mix and match offerings to make a meal. They were a hit and attendees kept asking for more, until finally this May the sister-in-laws quit their corporate jobs to dedicate themselves fully to the restaurant.   

Not to leave their roots, Bombay Street Food continues to source much of their produce from farmers’ markets (hence the vegetables in the salads and vegetarian dishes changes with what’s in season). They also want to follow tradition by concocting their own spice mixtures and using 100% halal meat.

A chaat is essentially a savoury snack that’s found on street stalls across India. With three types on the menu, we shared the dahi puri ($7.95), a thin deep fried bread with a cracker’s texture, filled with stewed potatos & lentils, and topped with cooling yoghurts & refreshing chutneys. Ideally, order these separately to snack on before returning for the mains, as you’ll want to eat them before the crispy shell gets soggy.


The dahi puri went well with the thick mango lassi ($4.95), a yoghurt smoothie blended with mangoes; I appreciated that Bombay’s version is left natural and not sugary.  



Although the masala haddock ($12.95) had a vibrant yellow hue and smelled amazing, the fish was relatively mild and definitely needed more salt; sadly, there was a disconnect between what I saw and tasted. Nonetheless, the broiled fish was cooked well retaining a flaky moistness and there was enough flavours in the daal chawal rice that it was an enjoyable meal.


The daal chawal is fantastic and of the three sides the most unique and delicious. I loved the soft lentil stew topping the basmati, spices and herbs mixed throughout and the intensely caramelized onions on top.  The gunpowder fries were also good with the hit of spice that lightly lingers, but needed to be hotter and crispier.



A popular dish at the restaurant is the chicken frankie ($11.95), a juicy mild chicken curry combined with red onion and cabbage for crunch, bits of egg to soak up the juices, and coriander and lemon juice to add a refreshing element. Bombay Street Food makes the roti fresh as an order’s placed so the wrap is chewy and hot with a lovely toasty crunch. It’s good … just close your eyes, take a bite and be prepared for the delicious juices to ensue.


And while we’re sitting in a place inspired by Iranian cafes, we had to try their baked goods before leaving – truth be told, the space was just gorgeous and I wanted to sit around longer. Made for people who don’t like overly sweet desserts, the khaari biscuit ($3.95) is flaky and slightly savoury. The layered biscuit is puff pastry without the oiliness. Yet, once it’s dipped in some cutting chai ($3.95), an aromatic tea with cardamom, milk and sugar, the biscuit changes and morphs closer to a dessert.


Oh and for those planning a birthday party, bridal shower or engagement festivities: Bombay Street Food is available Sunday for private events. What a great space to use! Just know you’ll also be supporting two fierce entrepreneurs - they’ll likely be at the restaurant, but you’ll also see pictures from their India trip screened onto the wall and framed family portraits in the corner.



At last, Seema and Amreen is off the streets and into bricks-and-morter, I’m sure their steadfast supporters are happy. For me, I know where to go for a good frankie with rice. Maybe afterwards I can cozy up in a quiet corner and relax. Eating street food has never been so tranquil.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10

Disclaimer: the above meal was complimentary. Rest assured, as noted in the mission statement, I will always provide an honest opinion.


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 828 Bay 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!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this: