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

CLOSED: 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

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CLOSED: La Tasca (Edinburgh)

Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
Address: 9 South Charlotte Street
Type of Meal: Dinner 

La Tasca isn’t anything fancy, but if you’re looking for reasonable prices and a low-key but not family restaurant environment, this UK chain is a great option. The menu is quite extensive with tapas, paellas, whole fish and simple salads; items we tried are unfussy and reminiscent of the tastes of Spain.
One of the better dishes of the night was the calamares (£4.60) a simple fried calamari dish.  Cut into thicker slices the squid tastes fresh and tender.  The crust is crispy and thin with just some sea salt, although the dish does have a spicy aioli sauce on the side if you need a bit more flavour.

The langostinos (£5.95) was a good value dish comprised of four large tiger prawns – heads on for some who may be squeamish.  Grilled on a flat top so that juices are retained but without charring the shell, the prawn is delicious and maintains its natural flavours.    
A dish with some kick were the empanadas de carne (£4.35) filled with spicy ground beef and regato cheese wrapped in a crunchy yet soft coating.
If you want something more filling the flatbread for two (£6.95) may be the dish for you – certainly sufficient for us to share even amongst a table of four.  Arriving on a wooden platter the bread is not exactly flat but rather like a thick crust vegetarian pizza. Topped with roast peppers, tomatoes, cheese and onion it’s a dish built for sustenance.
The gratinado verduras (£3.75) is for individuals who like their vegetables hidden under a layer of cheese and mixed into cream.  Garlicky creamed spinach sits on the bottom with a scalloped potato layer on top.
After my visit to La Tasca, I’ve learnt that “salsa” essentially translates to “sauce” - not the tomato Old El Paso variety available in mild, medium and hot but just “sauce”.  When the pollo con salsa (£4.95) arrived we were a little surprised that the chicken was sitting in a creamy sherry sauce, we should read the menu carefully. But, the dish was still good with the pieces of white meat mixed with mushrooms.
I enjoyed the variety of salads on their menu; by this point in the trip I was craving something simple and healthy. We ordered a regular green house salad (£2.95) as well as the beetroot, carrot and butternut squash salad (£4.80). Personally, I enjoyed the simple green salad more as I’m not a huge fan of sweet squash dishes.
La Tasca has a fair variety of beers and wine on their menu. Choice is abundant with wines offered in 125ml, 250ml, half bottle and full bottle options with a 250ml will glass setting you back about £6. So, if you’re tired after walking through Old or New Town, this is a good choice to stop for a bite where you can likely comfortably feed two with £20 without having to eat a burger.
Overall mark - 7 out of 10

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Gastro World's Grading System
  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!

CLOSED: Bloke and 4th (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 401 King Street West
Type of Meal: Dinner

Wanting to have a ladies' night out, we decided to try Bloke and 4th's Winterlicious, knowing the food would not be excellent but at least we'd be in a lounge for drinks afterwards.  But, little did we know, numerous service issues would materialize:
  1. The day before our dinner, my friend receives an Open Table notification noting Bloke has cancelled our reservation.  She has to call in to remake the reservation.

  2. On the night of the dinner we call in to reduce the reservation by one person.  During this time, we ask if we can change our reservation to a later time, which the person on the phone agrees to.  However, they didn't update the system so upon arriving, we're advised we are late. Luckily, there are empty tables so they seat us anyways.

  3. It takes a while to get our first round of drinks (about 25 minutes).  Upon arrival, our waiter proceeds to pour it into a glass that has a lip stick stain on it.  To his credit, he does apologize for this, exchanges the glass and opens another bottle to make up for what was already poured into this dirty glass.

  4. We wanted to try to PB and J Bombs for dessert, but they are all out for the night.  We're given a vague explanation of the chef having to limit this dessert.  Honestly, the key ingredients are peanut butter, jam and Cornflakes - all inexpensive ingredients that have long shelf lives.  There really is no excuse to be stocking out of the dish, especially if on the Winterlicious menu there is only three choices.  At the very least, Bloke's should have offered another substitution that is off the menu.

  5. Our mains arrive before the appetizers.  After informing the server of this error, he has to "go check with the kitchen".  Upon returning he agrees that the mains were premature.  Instead of just apologizing, he tries to explain that the mix-up is not the waiter's fault but is the kitchen's error.  As customers, we don't care, every employee of a restaurant is one team and blaming each other in front of customers is unprofessional.

  6. Nonetheless, what the server did do right is immediately notify the manager who came to our table. Indeed it was great the manager apologized for the mix-up and after some prodding offered us another bottle of prosecco on the house.  They try to be generous and also give us a complimentary order of duck fat French fries.  But, the fries were horridly stale and hard.  At that point, we were so hungry, we ate some anyways.

My "appetizer" was the fire roasted tiger shrimp and was my favourite dish.  The shrimp were cooked perfectly and had many great flavours & textures complimenting it.  I like the hot sweet and spicy sauce brushed onto the shrimp and the accompanying cool corn, avocado and pineapple (?) relish.  The chips in the middle were elephant garlic chips which were interesting and tasted less like garlic and more like carrots or yams.

For the "main" my friend and I share the Bangkok slaw and Bloke & 4th mac and cheese.  Both were surprisingly small for a main dish:
  • The Bangkok slaw consists of a handful of Asian dressing coleslaw, topped with one slice of seared tuna and about four pieces of calamari.  Each part of the dish tasted good, the coleslaw well dressed, refreshing and paired nicely with the warm seared tuna. The calamari was tender and not over cooked.  I just wished there was more of it!  If I had come during their regular dinner hours and paid $26 for this dish I would be disappointed in its value.

  • The mac & cheese came in small Corning ware dish (in picture actually just a portion scooped onto a plate).  The pasta was cheesy and had a hint of spice from the chili sauce mixed into it.  But, compared to the numerous upscale mac and cheese dishes available across Toronto (O&B Cafe and Tundra just to name a couple) it was nothing spectacular.

For dessert I opted for the molten lava cheese cake, a big disappointment when I had my hopes set on the deep fried peanut butter and jelly concoction.  Sadly, Blokes needs to invest in hiring a pastry chef or consider outsourcing their desserts.  The dessert tasted like something I could make at home with store bought molten lava cake mix stuffed with a piece of frozen cheese cake. Even the salted caramel and bourbon sauce didn't help improve its caliber. 

Overall, the food actually tastes pretty good. Nonetheless, I will not return for dinner given Bloke appears to have problems with executing dinner service. There needs to be someone responsible for quality control from what comes out of the kitchen and how drinks are served.  Something as simple as checking all the utensils and dinnerware to ensure they are clean before using is easy to implement. I appreciate the manager tried to resolve the issues by giving us two bottles of prosecco for free. However, this isn't a profitable business model to follow - giving away the highest margin items.      

Is Winterlicious worth it?

As a special feature to the Winterlicious blogs, I will attempt to calculate the savings being offered (based on my meal selection).

Winterlicious - $35

Regular menu - $52 - tiger shrimp ($18), Bangkok slaw ($26) and lava cake* ($8) 

Savings - $17 or 33%

* The lava cake isn't on their regular menu; prices based on similar dish

Overall mark - 5.5* out of 10

* What saved the restaurant was having the manager step in quickly and providing enough complimentary items to make up for all the things that went wrong.  Otherwise, it would have likely gotten a 3.

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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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