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

Neon Tiger (Toronto)


Neon Tiger seemed to sneak up on me as I was walking down the dark Dupont Avenue, it’s glowing neon image a welcoming bat signal against the cold winter night. The eerily glow continued as I entered the restaurant and was led to our table on the second floor – the workers must have buns of steel scaling up and down the three flights during every shift.

Somehow, my typical glass of wine didn’t seem like the right drink of choice with Neon Tiger’s speakeasy vibes. Instead, I opted for the Vice City ($16) a creamy cold frothy cocktail made with pitu cachaca and coco Lopez cream tinged with blue curacao. It was a delicious sipping drink with just a hint of sweetness from the pineapple juice. Toronto’s snow was momentarily forgotten and replaced by the sea breeze of the tropics.  


Who would have thought I’d enjoy the spicy scallions and avocado slaw ($11) so much? The simple mixed green and vegetable salad was enhanced with a flavourful sweet and spicy sesame dressing, pickled chili, and crispy shallots. What a refreshing way to start the meal and a good palette cleanser for the heavier dishes as well.


We found the scallion slaw was much tastier than the Hakka ginger mushroom salad ($14), where the ginger soy glaze was too pungent and thick against the deep-fried mushrooms, which were great on their own. The dressing almost seemed like a very gingery hoisin and chili bean paste that overpowered all the fungi and vegetables. A lighter vinaigrette tossed with the mixed greens, carrots, and green onions, while leaving the fried mushrooms simply seasoned with salt would have worked better.


The jap chae ($14) is large enough that it can even work as a main for one person. While the sweet soy sauce was too liberally added, I liked the abundance of mushrooms, vegetables (bok choy, carrot, bell pepper), and seasoning (pickled chili and crispy shallots) that were evenly distributed amongst the glass noodles. The starch itself was cooked perfectly so there was a bit of bite to the noodles. A sprinkle of scallions or some other herb on top would have added that fresh element that would really round out the dish.


As we were working our way through the starters, we realize that Neon Tiger doesn’t provide any sharing utensils with each dish. Ultimately, they ended up giving us extra pairs of disposable chopsticks to use, which is environmentally wasteful considering they could just invest in some fork and spoons. My plea to restauranteurs and chefs: if you are going to serve a sharing menu, you need to invest in sharing utensils. It’s expected, even more so when we are in a COVID era.

The golden curry snapper ($33) was a strong dish with great flavours, the finely chopped gai lan and red cabbage adding a wonderful crunchy contrast against the curry rice. While the menu notes the dish uses steamed basmati, I found the starch almost had a creamy risotto-like consistency; although, I could have done without the hard bits that made its way into some bites. The dish could be improved if the fish were done less - I enjoyed the crispy skin but the flesh was too dry.


There’s not one thing I would change with the prawn tacos ($17), which were absolutely delicious made from crispy hot prawns, paired with a pickled iceberg lettuce & radish slaw, and creamy Thai remoulade. It all sat on a warm, soft, and chewy tortilla that almost reminded me of a thicker Peking duck wrapper. I could have devoured a whole order of these.


Even though Neon Tiger presents a speakeasy vibe, there was a hurried frantic pace to the dinner. Perhaps it’s due to the strict one-and-a-half hour seating limit, but the dishes come out way too quickly so we couldn’t enjoy each one fully - it seemed like we were always trying to make room for the other. I’d suggest ordering in two batches to avoid having everything arrive in such quick succession. 

There’s also no dessert menu to ensure you don’t loiter past the time limit, so you’ll have to make do with another cocktail if you’d like to finish with something sweet. All in all, the restaurant is best for a quick catch-up or if you were like me, for a brief period of respite against the outdoor elements. 


Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 14 Dupont 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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Selva (Toronto)


Self-coined as the world’s first immersive, multi-sensory art resto bar, Selva’s accolade is debateable. Indeed, the restaurant is a visually stimulating environment, and I could taste fresh ingredients that might be found in a jungle, but there were other senses missing:

  • What could I smell other than the pungent deep woodsy citrus aroma of the magrud lime that seemed to be part of half of the dishes? Possibly if even a few dishes were served in a cloche encapsulating an aromatic scent or if a powerful broth is poured table-side, it would help emit a smell to add to the sensory experience. At the very least, using diffusers in the non-dining room portions of the restaurant that lets out a “jungle” aroma could check this box.
  • Unless you count the dishes that could be eaten with your hands, there’s not a touch element to Selva.  Maybe they could incorporate this by changing up the cutlery and plates for certain dishes (serving the ceviche on individual leaves, creating savoury cotton candy, or even dehydrating some ingredients so that it becomes an edible handheld vessel). I know, these are all things that are difficult to create, but if you’re going to call yourself multi-sensory…
  • And finally, there weren’t even any sounds that reminded me of being in a jungle, the easiest sense to create. Of course, Selva shouldn’t become a reincarnated Rainforest Café (who is old enough to remember this place?), but even adding noises at the entrance and in the restrooms – the same areas with the diffusing scents - would help.  

This is all to say that Selva is hardly a multi-sensory experience, especially not the first in the world. If anything, my dining experiences at Alinea or even Hutaoli’s Markham location would be way more multi-sensory. Nonetheless, Selva is still a lovely environment to dine in: there’s something about the brightly coloured foliage hanging from the ceiling and beautifully presented dishes that puts you in a good mood. And the gorgeous artwork all over the restaurant’s walls, ceiling, and floor by Clandestinos Art is certainly something to behold. Would it be strange to commission a replica in my dining room?

It pains me to say this, as I deeply respect Chef Nuit and love her other restaurants, but Selva’s menu needs an overhaul. The best dish of night, unanimously agreed upon at our table, was the eggplant dip ($18 plus an extra $6 for the guacamole). It was such a nice thick consistency, but also flavoured in an interesting manner with shrimp paste (?) and chili so there’s an umami spiciness to the meaty vegetable. Even the shredded mint on top was a great touch. On the other hand, the guacamole is run-of-the-mill and could benefit from a twist to make it special, whether it be the addition of finely chopped chilis or Thai herbs. All in all, the dips are beautifully presented with an array of fresh vegetables and warm crispy tortillas. In retrospect, I would have happily had the entire platter to myself as a meal.

Perhaps I’d add on the yellowfin tuna ceviche ($18) as a starter to get the sole smell element once we squeezed the magrud lime and that distinctive aroma engulfed the table. Plus, it’s a decent dish with the delicate soft tuna contrasted with plenty of crunchy ingredients (roasted peanuts, grilled corn, celery, pickled onion) and slices of red serrano chili adding a light spice. If anything, the ceviche could use a bit more salt and oil to balance out all the acidity.

The meal starts to go downhill from here… literally as each successive dish is presented it’s worse than the one before. The grilled sea bream ($36) is still fine: while it could be taken off the grill sooner to keep the flesh moister, the skin had a lovely crispy texture. The lemongrass sandwiched in the middle of the fish was a great start, but surprisingly didn’t really diffuse any flavours into the flesh. Once we added pieces of pickled chayote, onion, and a dash of yellow pepper sauce the flavours improved, but the fish could still benefit from more salt. Who knows, maybe the sea bream was actually seasoned perfectly, and I just couldn’t taste it over all the raw garlic used in the tomato rice. Wow is this garlicky, beware to people who are on dates.

In fact, the tomato rice would go better with the grilled Denver steak ($30), which by itself is forgettable. The thin under-blade cut of beef was overcooked, but thankfully due to the marbling remained tender. It just doesn’t have a lot of flavour: like the fish, it could be seasoned more, and the sriracha-looking condiment was a sweet pepper sauce that doesn’t really add anything to the steak. If the beef was served over a bed of tomato rice perhaps the garlic in the grains would give it a punch of flavour and the beef’s fat and juices mellow out the rice. At the very least, I’d replace the sweet pepper sauce with a more traditional chimichurri, perhaps made from the leaves from the baby radishes and carrots used in the dip platter, a bit of Thai basil, and bird’s eye chili for a Chef Nuit inspired touch.

The corn fritters ($14) were shaped too small so they resembled popcorn corn versus a fritter and could have benefited from being drained longer so it wasn’t as oily. If the batter truly incorporated red curry paste and lime leaf, the ratio of spices to flour needs to increase as it didn’t taste like much. In fact, we really couldn’t even taste the corn.

Yet, the fritters were still better the fried calamari ($18), which I couldn’t stomach more than two pieces. Firstly, the sweet and sour sauce covering the bottom of the plate, rather than being served on the side, meant the sesame batter fell off the calamari leaving us with chunks of syrupy batter and naked squid. The calamari were also cut much too small so without serving spoons it was difficult to pick up with a fork.

In general, I’m surprised a restaurant that creates a family-style menu doesn’t include sharing utensils with their dishes. I finally asked for an extra spoon and fork with the fish, but these were cleared away with the sea bream and it seemed like a pain to ask for new ones with each dish. If you’re serving a sharing menu, especially under COVID conditions, providing tables with proper serving utensils is key. Moreover, swapping out the plates after every few dishes would be even better as by the end of the meal those small plates were messy.

And the worst dish of the night was also the last – talk about not ending with a bang. The shrimp in the tacos ($46 for 6 servings) were over done and rubbery and the amount of salsa, guacamole and red pepper sauce that arrive for six tacos is comical, there was enough for two tacos at best. Especially when paired with corn tortillas, which are such dry wrappers that need a lot of sauce and ingredients to stand up to the rich earthy corn flavour. In retrospect, had I known there was a lack of condiments, I would have asked for the tacos to be served with the lettuce instead.

We all grumbled over the make-your-own factor of the dish… did we seriously just spend $46 for a Chilli’s experience? Maybe this is meant to be the “immersive” factor where you feel like you’re foraging the ingredients to create your own meal, but the dish really doesn’t work in a dark restaurant where we could hardly what’s on the plate – boy did I feel old having to whip out a phone to see all the garnishes. Maybe if our table had more than one tealight in a wax-stained holder (that we had to request) we could have seen better. Selva, if you’re going to keep serving these tacos, please just make them for the table. Give me those pre-made tacos in an accordion metal holder any day.

On top of the lack of sauce and lighting, without any tongs it was impossible to pick up the julienned cabbage, lettuce, chayote, mango, red bell peppers and onion with a fork. We eventually had to abandon the unsanitary mass of forks diving into the same plate and use our hands instead. If you’re afraid of germs or eating with people you’re not close with, skip this dish. On second thought, even if you’re eating with your partner who’d you gladly swap spit with, I’d skip the tacos.

So, what made us stay after dinner for another three hours and close the place down? What Selva has going for it is their great vibe and pleasant service – Alexa came by to check on us frequently and those cocktails just seem to keep flowing. Maybe we should have started with shot and six drinks. Afterwards, all inhibitions would disappear, and I’d dive into each dish like a cave person. Final verdict of Selva: it’s a perfect place for drinks and dip but not for dinner.


Overall mark - 5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 221 Richmond 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!

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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

Canyon Creek's Chef Table (Toronto)



Foodies know that being invited to sit at the Chef’s table is a treat - getting to speak to the Chef and being fed an exclusive menu are just a couple of the perks of this honour. To my surprise, Canyon Creek, a casual upscale dining chain from the same corporation that operates Reds, also has this special table… just become a member of the “Canyon Club” to get the invites (refer to the end of the post for details).

Each menu differs and consists of dishes generally reserved as secret menu items, created for Winterlicious/Summerlicious, or completely new concoctions featured at the event.  Just expect a multi-course meal (in this case six dishes) complete with global wine pairings curated by Constellation Brands for only $50! I have signed up for the club in hopes of being invited back to enjoy another dinner with my friends.

To begin, a selection of charcuterie nibbles with a lightly oaked Ravenswood Chardonnay. There was a variety of cheeses: a creamy Ontario brie, a harder crumbly zamorano and a lovely wood fired smoked cheese, each adding different dimensions to the wine. The thinly shaved meats (jamón & chorizo Ibérico and bresaola) were salty and delicious, especially the jamón ibérico that had such a rich sweet smoky essence blending into the thin layer of fat. Chef Dorian King was smart to keep the olives (cerignola and arbequinas) milder as to not over power the charcuterie. 


I’d happily order the jicama shrimp tacos again (Canyon Creek please offer it regularly, a special summer menu perhaps)? What a bright dish! The crunchy jicama shell (a root vegetable having the light sweetness of apples but the texture of potatoes) topped with smooth avocado, pickled onions, and a barely cooked through shrimp with a ceviche quality. The tacos certainly has some heat from jalapeno and the sriracha crema, but the grapefruit segment helped calm everything.


The Alberta bison carpaccio was rather delicate, serving the lean cut of meat raw was an ideal choice. Despite looking so small, the dollops of Kolzig’s triple crunch mustard and fried capers were packed with flavours to incorporate into the neutral carpaccio. The dish was the secret menu item for December and January – Chef King gave me the scoop that in March it will be a s’mores brownie with chocolate ganache, torched marshmallows, peacan crumble and whisky cherries.


Winter seems to be the season for beets: Canyon Creek using colourful ones in the base of the salad with whimsical candy cane slivers on top. At first I couldn’t see how the “goat cheese” description worked into the dish, until Chef King explained that the ingredient was made into a creamy coulis sitting on the bottom of the dish – how inventive.


Yet, I could hear the sigh of satisfaction when the steak was presented … sure it’s served with the tried and true mashed potatoes and crispy asparagus spears, but why mess with such a good combination? Although the steak appeared very rare, it was wonderful – flowing with juices and incorporating the succulence one expects from filet mignon.


The meaty portabella cap on the side was topped with ample amounts of sweet buttery lobster to add a touch of decadence.  A rendition of this dish with a 7 oz. sirloin, in replacement of the filet mignon ($31.65), is available at their Sherway Garden location if you’d like to try it for yourself.

Given I’ve started dabbling into matching wine with food, it was a treat to understand the thought process Mike German, representative from Constellation Brands, goes through when deciding what to pair with dishes. For example, with the leaner bison choosing a Vintage Ink Merlot Cabernet as to not overpower the meat, opting for the Inniskillin Pinot Noir (rather than a typical white wine) with the beet salad as the fat of the goat cheese can still hold up against the red, or serving Ruffino Prosecco to end because who doesn’t like some sparkly to finish?

After draining the last of the wine and feeling sufficiently stuffed and happy, we ended off with a jar of the potted blueberry cheesecake. The cream cheese was thoroughly whipped with sweetened condensed milk, lemon juice and vanilla to make it much lighter, giving it a custard-like consistency. I rather liked the honey graham cracker crumbs, even though it took some work to get to the bottom.


Chef King loves participating in the Chef Table events, he notes they present “the opportunity to provide our guests with a unique experience at an incredible value. We put extra care and detail into the planning and execution of these events and usually add more ‘touches’ than what would normally be ‘executable’ on an everyday basis.” Certainly, I was impressed with the presentation that evening.

Being a curious person about the preparation and ingredient combinations, having the Chef walking around and answering queries was a treat. Chef King agrees, “It’s a pleasure meeting our guests and conversing with them about food and life. I usually find that people are very open to hearing about the ingredients, preparation and origins of the dishes, which I love to share and most Chefs love to talk about.”

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: 156 Front 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:



Canyon Creek Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato