Showing posts with label shrimp. Show all posts
Showing posts with label shrimp. Show all posts

LiWan Kitchen 荔湾肠粉 (Toronto)


Previous rice noodle rolls and congee restaurants I’ve visited have been cozy establishments where tables are practically communal and anyone who’s claustrophobic should avoid them at all costs. Hence, stepping into LiWan Kitchen was a pleasant surprise. Despite the narrow store front, the dining room stretches far into the building and tables are spaciously placed apart. As a bonus, the air conditioning is more than adequate to hold off the heat sweats from eating congee in the summer.

With a full page of rice noodle roll options, we knew this would be a dish that is a must order. Having sampled three, they were all adequately filled and although the wrapper wasn’t as thin as some other specialty restaurants, they were still lighter than what’s generally found at dim sum.

The shrimp and snow pea leaves ($4.50) are evenly distributed amongst each roll with two large shrimp in each and half lined with the slightly crunchy leafy vegetable, which adds colour and a herby taste against the seafood. A vegetarian version replaces the shrimp with prince mushroom slivers ($4.50). While the menu describes it as multi-mushroom with snow pea leaves, there’s really only one fungi, but plenty of it is included in the roll. Plus, being a meatier mushroom with a slight bite, the prince mushroom contrasts nicely against the silky rice wrapper.


How good the dough stick in plain rice noodle roll ($4.50) is depends on the dough fritter. At LiWan Kitchen, it’s warm, very soft, and has a thin crispy crust… a good start to the dish. You’ll just need to ask for more sauce as the little dish they provide is comical (don’t worry, you’ll receive more for free).


I will never look at vegetarian congee the same again, the chestnut and pumpkin ($4) combines the stewed rice with puréed chestnut and pumpkin to give it a vibrant yellow colour and a light earthy finish. Corn kernels are thrown in for a bit of texture, but you will need to add salt as it’s fairly neutral on arrival.


In general, LiWan Kitchen keeps their dishes under seasoned, providing salt at each table so guests can add more. The fried rice with egg, BBQ pork, and shrimp ($9.99; also called yeung chow fried rice) also needed a liberal sprinkling for flavour but was nicely combined with plenty of ingredients. It’s definitely a healthier version of the dish as it’s also less oily than competitors.


If you don’t mind a 20-minute wait, their casserole rice dishes are even better. The pork pancake and BBQ pork ($8.99) topping the rice is fairly run-of-the-mill, but the golden rice crust on the bottom is beautifully crispy – the best part of casserole pot rice, in my opinion. It comes with bowl of bone broth with chayote, hence can be a filling meal for one. 


Having visited LiWan Kitchen on multiple occasions their friendly and efficient service keeps me going back. Surprisingly, customers can even request a complimentary Chinese newspaper at the end of the meal, despite their reasonable prices. I’m just glad I can enjoy these comfort dishes without being squished and leaving in a pool of sweat. 

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 4271 Sheppard Avenue East


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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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Potman Hotpot (Toronto) 锅匠火锅

If you’re lucky enough to live in Toronto, you’re probably experiencing the cold touch from Mother Nature like the rest of the city. Of course, you could complain and hibernate, or rather embrace the Canadian mantra and go out there and have fun! Alas, me and winter activities requiring balance will never align, so I take the opportunity to indulge in hotpot instead.

Potman Hotpot is a new entrant and thanks to a BlogTO video has attracted a host of visitors – arrive before 6pm or make a reservation to avoid standing uncomfortably in their non-existent waiting area. The video showcases the meal to be a feast, which of course is possible, but you’ll pay for it as Potman is not all-you-can-eat.

Take the time to thoroughly go through their two-page menu as there’s a lot to choose from, starting with a choice of nine broths. If you’re indecisive, the split pot allows you to choose two flavours ($5.99 for small or $9.99 for large); financially, the large one doesn’t necessarily save much unless you’re sharing amongst more than two people.

For my first visit, I split the pot between homemade pork bone soup, which surprisingly incorporates a host of Chinese herbs resulting in a smooth creamy finish, and sweet tomato ox bone soup. In the future, I’ll stick with just the tomato broth (by itself $4.99 for small or $8.99 for large) as it adds a lovely flavour to all the ingredients so sauces aren’t even necessarily required.


Nonetheless, each person will be charged $0.49 for condiments, but allows them to mix-and-match from 19 items. Overall, what’s provided is sufficient, but Potman should consider giving the soy sauce in a pourable container (rather than the actual dipping dish) as after a few dunks the broth already starts to dilute everything.


While you can opt for a seafood platter, without a description of what comes with the dish it seemed safer to order the items we enjoy most. The shrimp ($5.99) was relatively good value with six large ones to an order… much better than the jumbo scallop ($2.99), which is essentially one scallop cut in half. Moreover, the small scallop pieces tended to get lost in the broth and became overcooked.


Most diners opted for the meat platter, but being carnivores, we stuck with single orders of the Angus beef ($6.99), pork ($4.99), and ox tongue ($6.99). My first time trying tongue in hotpot, I enjoyed the fattier cut that creates a flavourful bite – perhaps an alternative to the luxurious wagyu that costs $14-$50 a portion.


Where a platter works is for the vegetarian items ($7.49 for choice of 5 items) and the meat balls ($7.99 for a mix of 15) given Potman allows diners to choose what’s included in the mix. For the vegetarian items, you don’t get a lot with the leafy greens since they take up so much space, but for compact ingredients like wintermelon it’s a sizeable portion (these are also great for hotpot since they can be forgotten in the broth without ruining the vegetable’s texture).


For the meat balls there’s a choice of handmade or regular – I went with the regular machine-produced version and they were still very good. The cheese ball was our hands down favourite, very unique and I loved how after biting through the springy crust there’s a creamy molten cheese centre that’s enhanced with a sweet corn flavour. Their shrimp ball is also different holding shrimp roe in the centre – just be careful biting into it given the juices are hot and will squirt out.


Another one of my go-to ingredients is the fish tofu ($2.99), at Potman theirs is smooth while incorporating a rich fish flavour. The fish noodles ($1.49) isn’t the squeeze from a bag version, but rather comparable to wonton noodles with a chewier finish. While still tasty, the fish flavour is mild and somewhat lost if you add broth. Personally, I enjoyed the udon ($1.49), especially with the piece of ox tail accompanying the tomato soup base, it cooks relatively quickly without becoming mushy and goes so well with the tomato broth. On the other hand, the Korean rice cake ($1.49) breaks apart too easily and gets mushy in a matter of minutes.


While ordering a feast can get expensive - our indulgence costed $50 a person including taxes and gratuities (although to be fair we over ordered) - not being all-you-can-eat means staff have more time for service. Our food came out very quick (even add-ons) and our pots were constantly refilled to avoid it drying out. The service was excellent compared to other hotpot establishments. Moreover, there isn’t the pressure to stuff yourself silly, although with all the choices, that can still be difficult. 

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 633 Silverstar Boulevard

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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!


Is That It? I Want More!
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 Potman Hotpot Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Boiling Harbour (Vaughan)


Wow how things have changed in Vaughan! Normally I only visit the city, a short drive from Toronto, when going to Wonderland so it’s shocking to see how developed and thriving the area’s become. Even the culinary scene is growing – aside from the chain restaurants and authentic Italian joints, a wealth of diversity is springing up. This summer, a new entrant joins them: Boiling Harbour brings the Louisiana boil to Vaughan!

In the Southern states, a seafood boil is not merely a dish, but rather a social event bringing together communities, friends and families. You should definitely keep with the tradition and arrive in a group so you can try numerous items.

During the opening event, we sampled skillfully prepared snow crab legs ($18.95/lb), large meaty mussels ($10.95/lb) and head-on shrimp ($12.95/lb) so you can really enjoy the seafood essence. The Harbour sauce (a mix of garlic butter, lime, pepper and Cajun spices) was just spicy enough at the medium level and thankfully not overly salty or oily to detract from the seafood.


Some of the add-ins are a tad pricy (corn for $1 or sausages for $6.50 apiece), but the sweetness of the corn goes so nicely with the hot spicy broth and I like that Boiling Harbour used fresh ears (at least during our summer visit) compared to the chewy frozen variety.  

Having had gumbo ($9) in New Orleans, the hearty flavourful stew at the restaurant is impressive. In particular, it was a smart idea to cook the shrimp separately so they didn’t turn rubbery and there was enough okra to thicken the broth but not turn it slimy. The gumbo is fantastic and is better than the ones I sampled in Louisiana.


The lobster mac & cheese balls ($15.95 for three) are huge and great for sharing. Although the mixture doesn’t contains tons of lobster, the pasta was cooked well and there’s enough sauce so that the insides are gooey when the crispy crust is broken.


Once you see an order of the loaded lobster fries ($28.95) go by, you’ll want it. It’s a serious dish with an entire boiled lobster that’s flash fried and drizzled with garlic butter and aioli. There’s definitely enough lobster to share, but it’s so good that it’ll be hard not to devour the other half. As if it weren’t enough, the crustacean sits on a bed of hot Cajun fries – perfect for dipping into the boil sauce.


Dinner at the Boiling Harbour was delicious and I truly love the experience. It’s a shame, as the one thing that keeps me from frequenting these restaurants is the amount of waste generated – the boil is served in food safe poly bags, other items in Styrofoam or paper plates, and all the utensils are plastic. Every person even received a small plastic container of salt and pepper … the barrel of them on display really doesn’t go with the seafood friendly theme.

I understand, disposables are easy: there’s nothing to wash and little up-front investment. To be fair, Boiling Harbour isn’t the only restaurant that relies the ease; competitors do this as well. Although I’m not an environmentalist, I still care about what we do to the Earth – after having a delicious meal, the worst feeling is the guilt felt while staring at all the waste you’ve created.

So, I’d encourage restaurants to gradually improve their impact: like those individual salt and pepper containers? That can easily be replaced with shakers that’s given when requested – seriously, the food is already well-seasoned, I don’t see why it would be needed anyways. Then as cash flows allow, start purchasing utensils, re-usable plastic serving platters, cups, and transparent pails to serve the boil in (the photographs would turn out much better than bags).

If only the entire experience wasn’t so wasteful, I’d certainly go back more frequently. I already have a hankering for another helping of boiled crab legs, loaded lobster fries and gumbo. Maybe next time I visit there will be real utensils, then I can leave feeling full and guilt free.

Overall mark - 8.5 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: 3175 Rutherford Road

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:



The Boiling Harbour Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pappagallo (Grand Cayman)

Pappagallo Grand Cayman


Little did I know that I’d be transported to Polynesia in the Cayman Islands. Yet, after a short drive north of Seven Mile Beach, a beautiful structure greeted us: walking along the bamboo lined bridge, taking in the large thatched roof and hearing the rustling wind blow through the palm trees … where did we go?

Pappagallo is a serene restaurant situated on a spacious bird sanctuary. While sitting in the screened in patio the lagoon in the background is eerily calm, but during the day there’s plenty of wildlife to behold. From the high ceiling dining room and outdoor water features, there’s so much to see with their décor that the hunger pangs momentarily subsided - to just be outdoors and take it all in!   

Pappagallo Grand CaymanPappagallo Grand Cayman

Humphrey Bogart, the restaurant’s “oldest employee”, greets us at the door and gets tons of attention. The mild tempered African Grey parrot even patiently posed on my friend’s shoulder for pictures.


Then again, the smell of shellfish and garlic is so enticing; soon we were coxed into our chairs and a bottle of cold wine settling us in for dinner. A basket of the calamari (CI$10.50) was great for sharing: plenty of squid with thinly sliced zucchini for added interest. The fried starter needed more draining as everything was rather oily and the salt was a tad heavy handed but nevertheless tasty, we finished it anyways.

Pappagallo Grand Cayman: calamari

True to its Italian roots, Papagallo’s pasta dishes are large … there’s no risk of leaving hungry. The tagliatelle (CI$27.50) appeared freshly made and tossed with a fragrant garlic shrimp broth, basil and olive oil finishing it off. Although the scallops and shrimps could be cooked a touch less, they were nonetheless meaty and delicious.  

Pappagallo Grand Cayman: tagliatelle

The seafood theme continued for our table with my friend ordering the lobster spaghetti (CI$32) brimming with pieces of the crustacean. Meanwhile, the sweetness in the lobster and shrimp (CI$36) threw me off and having a whole plate of the rich brandy-tarragon cream sauce would be too much.

Pappagallo Grand Cayman: spaghettiPappagallo Grand Cayman: lobster and shrimp

Complimentary bites of bruschetta (fresh and tasty) and chocolate cookies (dry and powdery) were also presented. I welcomed every last bite. Anything to make the tranquil dinner, in a tropical oasis, last a few minutes longer.

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: North end of the Island
 Address: 444B Conch Point Road

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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Agua (Grand Cayman)

Auga Grand Cayman

Agua’s menu sounds like the United Nations of the food world: tons of Peruvian specialties, European influences, dishes incorporating Asian ingredients and comforting Italian pastas. The all-encompassing commonality between the selections is the predominantly seafood-based choices, which isn’t surprising for a restaurant named as ‘water’.

Their ceviches (CI$13.50 each) are popular, it seemed every table was graced with one. With five choices, the two we selected were pretty similar: you would think a classic Peruvian (clasico Peruano) and Thai recipe would be different, yet both incorporated the classic lime juice base, red onion and cilantro. The coconut milk added to the Thai version did give that dish an edge, resulting in the ceviche having a lovely creamy finish.

Auga Grand Cayman: cevicheAuga Grand Cayman: ceviche

Both were good: tender large cubes of fish incorporating enough flavour without being overpowering – you could taste the citrus without a lingering burning sensation. The lackluster wonton chips could use some improvement: not crispy enough to really withstand scooping and much too oily leaving a sheen on your tongue that detracts from enjoying the ceviche’s tastes.

I had my doubts when reading the description of the tuna tartare (CI$14.50) … sweet and sour sauce AND truffle oil? Two very different ingredients that in my mind had nothing to do with tuna. Admittedly, the truffle oil was a tad overpowering, but overall everything worked. The tuna itself was left in large enough pieces to not drown in sauce and the mixture ended up being slightly sweet with a mild chili finish.

Auga Grand Cayman: tuna tartare

The tower was also pretty, the tartare perched perfectly on a bed of diced creamy avocado. If only there was a taro chip for scooping; with all the flavours something salty and crunchy to tie everything together would have been nice.

We moved into warmer waters for the mains, my Peruvian mixed grill (CI$28.50) consisting of a perfectly cooked fillet of mild white fish topped with shrimp and calamari rings. Yet it was the buttery aji panca pepper sauce that made the dish: the Peruvian pepper offering a mellow heat, smokiness not unlike chipotle and a slightly sweet finish. If I weren’t feeling full from the rather large appetizers, I would have eaten every drop of the sauce with the steamed rice.

Auga Grand Cayman: Peruvian mixed grill

I was glad to see that Agua’s lobster and shiitake ravioli (CI$27.95) was more than a handful of pasta. There were about a dozen, each filled with a mushroom mascarpone and also containing broth so the stuffed pastas had an almost dumpling quality. On top was a healthy portion of cubed lobster finished with a chive butter sauce.

Auga Grand Cayman: Lobster and shiitake ravioli

The first meal of the Cayman Island’s trip was delicious and the restaurant’s prime location along Seven Mile Beach a convenient draw. Thanks to our host for introducing us to the place, Agua set the bar high for the other meals to come…

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman
 Address: West Bay Road (in the Galleria Plaza)
 Website: http://www.agua.ky/

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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Sipping the Night Away at Cresta

Cresta Toronto

Past visits to Cresta (formerly Pastizza) involved sit down meals consisting of plenty of carbs and a drink or two. At their media event this month, my perceptions changed as tables were cleared and the dining room transformed into a spacious cocktail party. With their corner lot and floor-to-ceiling windows, the atmosphere was airy yet still warm and inviting as the smell of food permeated from the open kitchen.

Indeed, there were still carbs; after all, to have attendees not try their crispy light pizza would be a shame. The heirloom tomato version was reminiscent of a margherita – tomato, cheese and basil – except augmented with onion and olives. The funghi was just as delicious as I remembered, the wild mushrooms pieces further drizzled with truffle oil.


The scallop crudo was brilliantly presented, the seafood simply topped with citrus juice and coriander. A surprising twist was the garlic chip on top, providing a sweet earthy finish to the otherwise bright canapé.


Having had their beet salad, I enjoyed their take on the dish for the event skewering the colourful beets with the vegetable’s greens. In fact, I enjoyed it more as the smaller pieces allowed a lovely crust to develop, the sweetness further enhanced with the lemon thyme dressing.  


Of course we had ample opportunity to sample the restaurant’s wines, cultivated from the Cresta Ridge in California. The pinot noir kept the red lighter as to not overpower the food, yet still complimented the tomato sauce and beef.


I certainly had my fair share of the beef tenderloin, soft meaty slices of medium rare steak wrapped around thinly sliced roasted potatoes, garlic and a cherry tomato. A lovely pairing for the wine.


The roasted shrimp paired with an empty ravioli was also delicious … what a great one bite hors d'oeuvre smartly served with a fork. In a spoon, was my first taste of Cresta’s creamy mushroom risotto – it’s hard to go wrong with fragrant truffle oil and shaved parmesan.


The event has shown me another side of Cresta: the welcoming event space it could be just a stone’s throw away from the Financial District. Moreover, it showcased their new menu nicely. Sure, Cresta can still make a mean pizza, but their beef and shrimp were just as equally scrumptious.

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 118 The Esplanade

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