Showing posts with label short rib. Show all posts
Showing posts with label short rib. Show all posts

Azarias (Toronto)


If you’re trying to satisfy a picky eater or a crowd with varying tastes, Azarias is a good choice for an Etobicoke restaurant. Although the establishment sounds Greek (on account of being named after the owner), their menu has a diverse array of dishes to choose from. Most are shared plates, but if you’re over the trend, you can easily pick and choose salads and larger plates to create a traditional meal as well.

Stumped on what to order? Azarias provides a top ten list to guide you through the process. The first half of this post will focus on these popular dishes.

Topping the list is the spicy shrimp tacos ($15), a let-down unless you enjoy overly battered seafood that hasn’t been drained properly. The only saving grace was the shrimp’s large size, lending itself to stay plump and juicy. But then it’s laden with oil and a “spicy” sauce that’s surely just Frank’s Red Hot out of the bottle. Plain cabbage with a bit of corn lines the bottom of the flour tortilla, hardly the salsa fresca you’d expect as described on the menu.


Go with the #2 option instead: Montreal smoked meat sliders ($10). Overlooking the dense bun, the thickly sliced meat was tender incorporating enough fat for taste without getting heavy. Served warm, you get a bit of spice with each bite and despite being full flavoured, the smoked meat wasn’t too salty and went well with the mustard. Paired with a juicy pickle wedge, it’s a dish that could make a Jewish deli proud.


When Brussels sprouts ($9) are done right, they are so good. Azarias’ version is fine but runs into the pitfall of relying too heavily on other ingredients – in their case, sun dried tomatoes and bacon. Since both are such strong flavours, the actual sprouts get drowned out. If I want bacon, I’d order bacon. For a vegetable, I want Brussels sprouts!


Their Kung Pao chicken ($14) was a popular dish that many tables order. The sauce has a wonderful spicy kick, a sweet chili Thai enhanced with garlic sauce, so it’s a shame that the miniscule chicken pieces were so overly battered. Personally, I’d prefer the chicken to be simply tossed in flour (rather than a full-on batter) and cut into larger pieces so that you can actually taste the meat. The jalapenos, on the other hand, were a nice touch.


Surprisingly, their short ribs ($18) were only #7 on the top 10 list. It was certainly one of the better dishes I tried that evening and deserves a top three ranking. The large bone-in rib is braised until tender and glazed in a wonderful reduced beef jus. With the roasted carrots, this could easily be a main dish for those who don’t feel like sharing.


Bacon seared jumbo scallops ($15) was the last top 10 dish we tried. With a lovely caramelized crust and their large size, the scallops remained tender and meaty. Instead of being wrapped in bacon, it was nice that the meat was on the bottom so you can break chunks off with the scallop or have it as a crispy meaty chip to end.


In terms of the dishes that didn’t make the list, there were some hit and misses. The Caprese salad ($11) was heavily slathered with pesto but needed more salt. Interestingly, the kitchen tosses the cheese and tomato slices in the sauce (rather than pouring over top), which is a good idea allowing every bite to get an even coating of flavour.


Although the macaroni and cheese ($9) looked watery, the flavours were spot on and the light dusting of buttery gratin on top was fantastic. Pair these with the short ribs and you can easily build a decadent plate.


The green beans ($8) were fantastic and much better than the Brussels sprouts. Since they were cooked on a grill, they retained a great crunch and the roasted garlic and dusting of parmesan added enough flavours without taking away from the actual vegetables.


For the low price, you get a hefty portion of potatoes with the sea salted fries ($5). They are piping hot and have the essential freshly cut potato essence. Combine the fries with the Montreal smoked meat sliders and you have a great meal.


Despite already having an extensive menu, Azarias also offers daily specials. Having tried two of the dishes, they’re definitely worth ordering. The osso bucco with penne ($18) could easily be a pasta main dish given its large size, but since the garlicky cream sauce is pretty rich, it also ideal for sharing. Dollops of goat cheese combine with plump mushrooms and chunks of soft lamb to make a great meal, I would have been happy with just a plate of this to myself.


They baby back pork ribs ($14) where glazed in honey garlic and very tender and meaty. They’re sticky and messy, everything you want ribs to be.


Azarias resourcefully uses pots of herbs as décor on tables, while also including a pair of scissors so diners can actually use the herbs. Our waiter suggested we cut up the basil to infuse the olive oil for dipping bread into. What a delicious idea that enticed me to devour two slices of soft crusty bread – much to the demise of stomach for the rest of dinner. Let that be a warning when you visit… just one slice.

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 3058 Bloor 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:


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

CLOSED: East Thirty Six (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 36 Wellington Street East
Type of Meal: Dinner



To clarify, East Thirty Six is not affiliated with Lucien or the Oyster Bar which previously resided at the space. The menu and ownership is completely new. Indeed, when you walk inside, the dining room has been updated with a large illuminated bar and more size appropriate furniture. It actually feels airy and spacious compared to the former supper club.

The large bar works well as East Thirty Six wants to be known as a place for cocktails. For the after work crowd, on weekdays from 4-7 there are happy hour specials - $5 for a Mill Street beer or mixed drink and $8 for a martini. Alas, despite a tall refreshing looking cocktail being displayed on the happy hour menu, there are no deals for these. However, their martinis are a nice substitute, my French martini was deliciously made with vodka, Chambord raspberry liqueur and pineapple juice.


Drinking the night away could get messy without food, so two friends and I opted to share several of their offerings. The bone marrow ($16) was our favourite. It was well-done, smooth and even had some excess oil for dipping. Some may find it overcooked but I personally prefer marrow cooked through so there's no bloody pieces. Flavoured with an herb mixture and salt it was great to spread across the grilled bread. On the side, a dish of smooth chicken liver parfait to include a slightly sweet element to everything.



The smoked sweetbreads ($15) was another great find. Tender pieces of battered sweetbreads were cut into nuggets and deep fried crispy. On the side a great smoky and vibrant poblano and romesco sauce that went well with the neutral sweetbreads. On the bottom a simple slaw with some pistachio mixed throughout. A great easy to share plate for large groups.

 

Generally, we found their larger "mains" were good but the small plates which arrived earlier were better. Overall, the mains had great flavours and were artfully composed but, with the exception of duck confit, were a tad overdone. The shortrib ($21) needed a jus drizzled over top to give it more moisture as we found it dry for a shortrib. The accompanying spicy potato, arugula pistou (similar to pesto made with garlic, olive oil and arugula), sweet corn and turnips were nice and gave the dish an Argentinian flare.


The Berkshire pork belly ($20) was beautifully presented with a ricotta salata (a salty ricotta cheese which has been pressed and dried) topped fried egg. I thoroughly enjoyed the crispy pan fried gnocchi and broccoli sides, which with the egg were the dish highlights. The pork belly, while nicely flavoured, was tough to cut through. The skin could be thinner or rendered more as it was a bit chewy. Perhaps even just blow torching the top prior to serving would help to crisp up the skin.


One of my favourite dishes is duck confit ($23)… but it does mean I've had many versions of it throughout my lifetime. East Thirty Six's was decent and delicious - the duck tender, hot and flavourful. The sous-vide cooked duck egg was a great touch, adding a silky, creamy sauce over the pecorino semolina "grits". On the side were plump maitake or hen-of-the-wood mushrooms. Overall, the best of the three meaty dishes, in my opinion.


Our fellow diners also ordered a variety of dishes. Some of the interesting ones I snapped pictures are below. The octopus ($23) looked great and was served with smoked potatoes, a creamy tonnato sauce, olives and red mustard.


The cauliflower ($8) could be a great side with the meaty dishes with it slightly toasted and flavoured with capers, preserved lemon, brown butter, hazelnut and parsley.



I welcome East Thirty Six to the neighbourhood. They take reservations, service was great and there’s plenty on the menu to meet all desires. And of course their happy hour menu doesn’t hurt as well.

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10

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
  • - 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!

East Thirty-Six on Urbanspoon


CLOSED: Estrella Taqueria (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 4899 Yonge Street

Type of Meal: Dinner



Estrella Taqueria isn’t located on Dundas, Queen or King West but rather in North York at Yonge and Sheppard. Taking over the former Smokey Joe’s, it’s a big restaurant occupying over 4,000 square feet and seats 280 inside and another 130 on their rooftop patio. Unfortunately, we visited in the winter so we couldn’t see the patio, but will be interesting to see how this outdoor oasis is updated next year.

From the moment we entered, the staff was friendly and efficient. Frederik, our waiter was great - very friendly, attentive and generally smiles at all times. Service was definitely not an issue at Estrella as everything came as ordered and we were in and out in less than 40 minutes. What they were lacking was good food, the most important part of any restaurant. In reading the few reviews available, people noted the guacamole was plain and in general the appetizers a disappointing, so we decided to play it safe and ordered six tacos to share. 


Of the bunch, the short rib taco ($5.50) was the best.  The beef was a decent size, pretty tender from being braised in cola and fairly flavourful. The addition of chimichurri and chipotle aioli provided a good balance of heat and freshness.  Topping the taco were slivers of yukka chips, which would have been even better if they were crispy to add some contrasting textures.


Even the elote de tortitas ($4.95) had some promise. Being the sole vegetarian option, it consisted of a big corn fritter flavoured with black bean puree, pico de gallo and chipotle aioli.  If only the fritter was shaped evenly, cylinder rather than football, it would have allowed the fritter to cook uniformly.  Unfortunately, the middle of our fritter was underdone so you could taste raw batter, whereas the sides were cooked well and enjoyable.


Sadly, anything that’s worth eating stops there.  The oyster taco ($5.50) was dismal and made from such small oysters that they could have been clams for all I know - the cornmeal batter was more plentiful than any actual seafood.  Overall, it was rather tasteless despite it having a miso/celeriac remoulade; the sauce simply has to be stronger (or at least saltier). The thought of pairing it with green tomatoes is commendable since if the oysters were big enough this condiment would let them retain dominance while still adding some freshness to the taco.  



The taco de panza’s ($4.95) pork belly, although described as being slow braised, was pretty tough and should be classified as boiled at best.  The fat wasn’t rendered enough so that it was still white and hard which made it inedible.  Despite the menu noting the taco containing guajillo sauce, cilantro and queso panella, nothing really stood out except for the large portion of cabbage (also quite bland) on top.  I actually had to resort to squeezing the lime on it hoping to add some taste. 


On the other hand, the baja fish taco ($4.95) was extremely spicy (likely on account of the pickled chilis mixed with chipotle aioli).  This would have been nice if the deep fried snapper wasn’t so small and dried out. There was no flakiness at all and appeared to be frozen based on the crumbly consistency and slight fishiness. Sorry for the somewhat dim picture quality, but should give you an idea of how small the fish is. Usually, most competing tacos I’ve had the fillet is longer than the shell; at Estrella you could hardly see it under the slaw.  Let’s be honest, snapper is a pretty inexpensive variety of fish, with a $5.50 price tag they could easily offer a larger piece using fresh fish and still make a profit.


The last taco I tried, duck confit ($5.50), ended the meal on a low.  Normally, I expect duck confit to be tender and flavourful on account of slow cooking duck in its fat.  Estrella’s version was shredded and dry so it’s almost like eating rehydrated duck jerky mixed into coleslaw.  The flavours were also pretty lacklustre and needs something (maybe a sweet and spicy bean paste) to wake it up.  Estrella should consider slicing the duck rather than shredding to help retain some moistness and allow the customer to actually taste the duck’s essence.  


In general all the tacos were pretty small and about the size of a cd or dvd (readers younger than 20, you’ll likely have no idea what these are so please refer to google images for a photo and description). Thankfully, they do use corn tortillas, rather than the softer wheat ones, but when the taco didn’t have enough sauce on the base they ended up cracking and falling apart – especially the taco de panza. Usually, other taquerias would use two layers and more sauce to prevent this from happening, so this is something Estrella should consider.

For the quality and size, the tacos were significantly over-priced so really you’re paying for the surroundings more than food.  I’ll admit, the atmosphere is nice and an improvement from the former tenant. There’s a large bar on the bottom floor and a section with two ping pong tables in the back (no one actually playing on our Saturday visit). Conceivably, all this space that is non- revenue generating would need to be subsidized by food and drink sales; so, the tacos are a poor value if you’re only going to eat.  

In the end, Estrella is only a superficial improvement from Smokey Joes. It’s disappointing as I frequent the area and was hoping for a good non-chain restaurant. Who knows, maybe I’ll return for drinks in the summer and check out their rooftop patio.  But, it’s doubtful that food would ever be a big draw to visit again.

Overall mark - 4 out of 10

Like the blog? You can now follow me on twitter for notifications - 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!







CLOSED: Estrella Taqueria (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 4899 Yonge Street

Type of Meal: Dinner



Estrella Taqueria isn’t located on Dundas, Queen or King West but rather in North York at Yonge and Sheppard. Taking over the former Smokey Joe’s, it’s a big restaurant occupying over 4,000 square feet and seats 280 inside and another 130 on their rooftop patio. Unfortunately, we visited in the winter so we couldn’t see the patio, but will be interesting to see how this outdoor oasis is updated next year.

From the moment we entered, the staff was friendly and efficient. Frederik, our waiter was great - very friendly, attentive and generally smiles at all times. Service was definitely not an issue at Estrella as everything came as ordered and we were in and out in less than 40 minutes. What they were lacking was good food, the most important part of any restaurant. In reading the few reviews available, people noted the guacamole was plain and in general the appetizers a disappointing, so we decided to play it safe and ordered six tacos to share. 


Of the bunch, the short rib taco ($5.50) was the best.  The beef was a decent size, pretty tender from being braised in cola and fairly flavourful. The addition of chimichurri and chipotle aioli provided a good balance of heat and freshness.  Topping the taco were slivers of yukka chips, which would have been even better if they were crispy to add some contrasting textures.


Even the elote de tortitas ($4.95) had some promise. Being the sole vegetarian option, it consisted of a big corn fritter flavoured with black bean puree, pico de gallo and chipotle aioli.  If only the fritter was shaped evenly, cylinder rather than football, it would have allowed the fritter to cook uniformly.  Unfortunately, the middle of our fritter was underdone so you could taste raw batter, whereas the sides were cooked well and enjoyable.


Sadly, anything that’s worth eating stops there.  The oyster taco ($5.50) was dismal and made from such small oysters that they could have been clams for all I know - the cornmeal batter was more plentiful than any actual seafood.  Overall, it was rather tasteless despite it having a miso/celeriac remoulade; the sauce simply has to be stronger (or at least saltier). The thought of pairing it with green tomatoes is commendable since if the oysters were big enough this condiment would let them retain dominance while still adding some freshness to the taco.  



The taco de panza’s ($4.95) pork belly, although described as being slow braised, was pretty tough and should be classified as boiled at best.  The fat wasn’t rendered enough so that it was still white and hard which made it inedible.  Despite the menu noting the taco containing guajillo sauce, cilantro and queso panella, nothing really stood out except for the large portion of cabbage (also quite bland) on top.  I actually had to resort to squeezing the lime on it hoping to add some taste. 


On the other hand, the baja fish taco ($4.95) was extremely spicy (likely on account of the pickled chilis mixed with chipotle aioli).  This would have been nice if the deep fried snapper wasn’t so small and dried out. There was no flakiness at all and appeared to be frozen based on the crumbly consistency and slight fishiness. Sorry for the somewhat dim picture quality, but should give you an idea of how small the fish is. Usually, most competing tacos I’ve had the fillet is longer than the shell; at Estrella you could hardly see it under the slaw.  Let’s be honest, snapper is a pretty inexpensive variety of fish, with a $5.50 price tag they could easily offer a larger piece using fresh fish and still make a profit.


The last taco I tried, duck confit ($5.50), ended the meal on a low.  Normally, I expect duck confit to be tender and flavourful on account of slow cooking duck in its fat.  Estrella’s version was shredded and dry so it’s almost like eating rehydrated duck jerky mixed into coleslaw.  The flavours were also pretty lacklustre and needs something (maybe a sweet and spicy bean paste) to wake it up.  Estrella should consider slicing the duck rather than shredding to help retain some moistness and allow the customer to actually taste the duck’s essence.  


In general all the tacos were pretty small and about the size of a cd or dvd (readers younger than 20, you’ll likely have no idea what these are so please refer to google images for a photo and description). Thankfully, they do use corn tortillas, rather than the softer wheat ones, but when the taco didn’t have enough sauce on the base they ended up cracking and falling apart – especially the taco de panza. Usually, other taquerias would use two layers and more sauce to prevent this from happening, so this is something Estrella should consider.

For the quality and size, the tacos were significantly over-priced so really you’re paying for the surroundings more than food.  I’ll admit, the atmosphere is nice and an improvement from the former tenant. There’s a large bar on the bottom floor and a section with two ping pong tables in the back (no one actually playing on our Saturday visit). Conceivably, all this space that is non- revenue generating would need to be subsidized by food and drink sales; so, the tacos are a poor value if you’re only going to eat.  

In the end, Estrella is only a superficial improvement from Smokey Joes. It’s disappointing as I frequent the area and was hoping for a good non-chain restaurant. Who knows, maybe I’ll return for drinks in the summer and check out their rooftop patio.  But, it’s doubtful that food would ever be a big draw to visit again.

Overall mark - 4 out of 10

Like the blog? You can now follow me on twitter for notifications - 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!