Showing posts with label sliders. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sliders. Show all posts

Té (Toronto)


There’s a cheekiness to Té that I enjoy. The French flair added to “tea” to form their name, the unexpected breezy décor that flies in the face of traditional Korean restaurants, or even the silent black and white Sailor Moon that graces the television in their bar area. Té is different and certainly won’t please everyone.

Starting with the rustic look of their kimchi devilled eggs ($7 for 3). The yolks are mixed with sesame oil and kimchi paste, instead of creamy mayonnaise, creating a stiffer paste to pipe back into the egg white. I could certainly taste the nutty oil that always makes my taste buds sing, but would have liked more of the gochujong as there wasn’t much heat to the egg. In fact, aside from the sesame oil these tasted like any other deviled egg. Swapping the bacon bits for chopped kimchi may give it that element it’s missing and make the dish vegetarian-friendly to boot.

Similarly, the kimchi was lost within the ricotta, mozzarella, and parmesan mixture in the toasted kimchi ravioli ($13). Chances are any ingredient wouldn’t be able to hold up against the swiggle of honey wasabi pesto piped on top of the crispy ravioli as the wasabi was so pungent and overpowering. Some reviewers rave about this dish, but I found the panko crust made it too dry and the pasta was overly chewy. It’s not one I’d order again.

The bulgogi sliders ($15) were good with a pile of thinly sliced sweet-soy marinated sirloin topped adorned with a perfectly cooked quail egg, which is runny so makes for a messy first bite. The sliders would be even better if there wasn’t wasabi in the mayo (Té’s chef certainly loves wasabi) and the buns were warm and toasted.

If you really want to try the bulgogi I’d opt for one of the main dishes instead. Té’s bi bim bap ($17) follows a traditional recipe where the beef is accompanied by cold sesame-marinated vegetables and a fried egg. They swap out the white rice for nuttier purple rice instead and Té’s sweet chili sauce is thicker and spicier than other ones I’ve tried.

Sadly, the bi bim bap wasn’t presented in the typical hot stone bowl. That vessel is so important as it creates the crust on the bottom of the rice and the heat warms up the cold garnishes and sauce so that once everything is mixed together the flavours really melt and meld together.

There’s plenty of bulgogi on top of their mac and cheese ($18) and the pasta was excellent as well. I enjoyed the creamy gooey cheese sauce and the parmesan panko crisp on top adds a lovely textured crunch for those who want an extra pop of flavour.

Other stand-out dishes were the following small plates. The braised pork crostini ($14) features a juicy hunk of five spice-soy marinated pork belly that seeps into the crusty toasted bread. It’s simple but such a lovely bite.  

The pork belly and kimchi lettuce wrap ($14) was also a hit. In this dish, the pork belly is thinner and grilled to give it a lovely caramelized crust. Sitting on a layer of kimchi, pickled daikon, and crispy lettuce with a sweet garlicky chili paste the wrap is a lovely balanced bite and one of the better ssam I’ve had.

And you really can’t go wrong with freshly fried chicken ($9 for 2 pieces of $16 for 4 pieces) that arrives steaming hot and begging to be eaten. I’m glad Té left off the typical sweet, sour, and spicy red sauce and kept the chicken lightly dusted with five spice seasoned flour. It keeps the skin crispy and the chicken was juicy enough to not require any sauce.

It’s remarkable how much they create in-house, including a handful of baked goods. The butterscotch caramel cheesecake ($6) wouldn’t have been my first choice for dessert, but I’m glad we went with our server’s suggestion as it was a nice blend of sweet and gentle saltiness, and smooth cake with a bit of crunch from the toffee bits.

For those who’d rather drink their dessert, Té has plenty of cocktails to choose from at $14.50 each. The mango black Té is their play on a mango bubble tea except spiked with Scotch for a boozy adult take on the classic drink. It’s a tad gimmicky as the drink isn’t executed well given the mini tapioca pearls are rather hard and the straw not thick enough to actually allow them to pass with the tea.

The bobaless drinks were more my style, having sampled a lovely vivid-pink strawberry with Proescco cocktail that really hit the spot and their seasonal feature drink that is almost like a mojito incorporating lemonade so that it’s extra refreshing.

As a warning, service can be a tad slow, for drinks and food, as everything is freshly made - I wouldn’t dine there if you’re in a hurry or starving. Té should consider creating a banchan platter for the table, which they could split in advance into little dishes stacked on top of one another allowing servers to just grab-and-go. Patrons may be a little pissed that they’ll be charged for it (banchan is normally complementary at Korean restaurants), but at least it will help ease the wait and can even double as a “bar snack” for cocktails. They could even add their flair to the name… parTé platter perhaps?

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 70 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!

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CLOSED: Entice Culinary Lounge (Toronto)

Entice Culinary Lounge’s current menu incorporates an assortment of cultures and flavours. Normally, I’m skeptical … really, can a chef actually master such different dishes and create something delicious? Truly, the creations aren’t traditional or authentic (such as our main of Korean beef ribs), but the menu reads like the popular dishes from each custom curated into one. The result: it’s not easy deciding what to order because so many items sound enticing.

Even as the cast iron calamari ($15) was presented, I could tell it was cooked perfectly - the hot pan gave it a quick sear, leaving the protein tender.  Since the squid wasn’t grilled, there’s not a strong smoky flavour, instead, the crispy garlic pesto shone through. Dots of fried capers were a nice contrast and the diced lemon segments a tart surprise, rather than the typical lemon wedge.

Despite the beef patties being cooked through (ideal for those who are squeamish about pink meat), the sliders ($15) were still juicy thanks to the bacon lardon pieces mixed into the beef. The flavourful patty held up against the slice of sharp cheddar, tangy pickles, and chili mix on top.


Entice’s mains certainly don’t lack flavour. The Korean beef ribs ($27) had the customary sweet garlicky soy marinade with the caramelized barbeque char. Even the shoestring fries were topped with ample amounts of chopped kimchi for a sharp acidity; the spicy pungent vegetable means you definitely don’t need ketchup. Meanwhile, the vinegary Asian slaw was cooling, cutting against the rich tacky ribs.


The sea bream ($27) was an excellent suggestion from our waitress, the fish’s skin so crispy it could have doubled for a chip, while the mild fish still moist. On the bottom, the zucchini noodles were light and satisfying; the roasted rapini and fennel adding an earthiness to the otherwise summery dish. Yet, I couldn’t help marvel over the lemon squeezing gadget – helps keep fingers citrus free while extracting so much juice from one thin slice.


Even the desserts were tempting. Since we couldn’t settle on one, we had the peanut butter Nanaimo ($10) and pumpkin fritters ($10). The Nanaimo arrives deconstructed, the plate includes all the staple ingredients: milk chocolate, coconut chocolate cookies and a peanut butter cream. As an added bonus, there was a light coconut sorbet that had virtually no sweetness except for the natural coconut milk.

Although deconstructed desserts look pretty, I’m always disappointed with the final output – the ingredients are everywhere and in the wrong proportions. Even though I try to get a bit of each element, the ultimate outcome is never as good as having the actual dessert. In this case, I really wanted a taste of the dense creaminess generally found in the dessert, but ended up tasting coconut sorbet mixed into hard cookie bits.

Luckily, the simple pumpkin fritters hit the spot. The warmth helped permeate the spices within the dough so you can smell and taste the cloves and cinnamon. They were also dense enough that even as the maple ice cream was melting, the fritters didn’t become soggy, rather it just seemed like a pool of sauce for the doughnuts.


For those who prefer drinking their sweets, Entice even has a selection of dessert cocktails: the il ciocclato sounds like an adult hot chocolate (complete with marshmallows) and the smashing pumpkins a warmed rum drink incorporating pumpkin puree and sweet potato syrup.

For cocktail aficionados, you need to try the liberations at Entice Culinary Lounge. The city has really stepped up with great drinks and Entice doesn’t disappoint with unique and exciting concoctions. The entire bar staff came together to develop ideas for the menu and even make many of the syrups and infusions for the drinks.

Take the Beauty and the Beast ($14), the cocktail starts with Pinot Noir that reduces by a third before adding hibiscus syrup and further concentrating in half. It’s put together with a shot of scotch (what I like to think is the Beast of the cocktail), except the Pinot Noir mellows the mixture and the drink tastes of Christmas morning. Inside, the cocktail is adorned with an edible hibiscus flower, which reminds me of the Chinese red preserved plums. Although the sprig of rosemary used as the stem of the flower is a clever idea, I found it overpowered the drink’s aroma; to really appreciate the cocktail, I ended up removing the rosemary. 


1001 Nights ($14) was concocted for the owner’s mother, who enjoys a tasty drink that’s not overly sweet. Somehow, she and I have the same taste. You can tell there’s tequila in the cocktail but along with Amaro Nonino, sage and cucumber, it’s but a whisper in the background.

What I appreciated most about the drink was the use of saffron, which is rarely incorporated into cocktails. The prized spice was to pay homage to the mother’s Persian heritage, with large strands frozen into the ice cube so that as it melts the spice melds into the drink. Even the sugar surrounding the rim is infused with saffron so that it’s the first taste that hits the tongue.

Justin Cleva, new Executive Chef of Entice, reveals that diners can expect the menu to change in December: with the cold weather, they’ll be adding comfort foods, but done in the elevated Entice fashion. Who knows, maybe it’ll become a collaborative effort again. If it’s anything like inventiveness of the cocktail menu, we’re all in for a treat.

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: 1036 Queen 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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Power Up Bar (Toronto)


I don’t know why, but I felt the need to warn Christopher Venutolo, owner of Power Up Bar, that the last console I owned was a Super Nintendo. He immediately puts me at ease, explaining that Power Up Bar is all about socializing: everything is out in the open (you can even play while sitting at the bar) and they don’t have headsets to encourage people to actually interact with each other.

Immediately, his statements of playing together brings back childhood memories. Every Saturday, I’d go over to my cousin’s house and between causing mischief and running Camp Caribou in her backyard, we’d stop and play Double Dragon, Super Mario, or Zelda – depending on our mood. The games had pixelated graphics and there was little to no storyline, but what made them fun was playing with someone, being able to cheer or throw your hands up in frustration together.

Venutolo has had this idea for eleven years! What if people can just come into a bar, enjoy quality drinks and food, but then get to play video games (something they may do at home alone) as well? Why play by yourself when you can challenge your neighbor to Mario Kart, or compete at something more obscure like Runbow (from Canada’s 13AM Games) where I became the Color Master?

Unlike some lounges where it resembles a meat market and people are standoffish, at Power Up Bar patrons arrive with open minds. Even I met someone new that evening, playing a couple rounds of Runbow together and exchanging wings – chicken and duck wings that is.

And their food is good – decently sized plates that can easily be shared. The aforementioned chicken wings ($14) are lightly coated in a salt and pepper dredge before being deep fried until crispy. Something that’s a little messier (have a wet nap ready) are the duck confit wings ($18) – tender and flavourful covered in a sticky rosemary orange honey glaze. These are decadent and satisfying, my favourite dish of the evening.


The mini bacon cheese burgers ($15) are sure to be a crowd favourite, the sliders’ patties thick and juicy slathered with melted cheddar, bacon, and horseradish mayonnaise; arugula and a pickle adding a touch of crunch and freshness.


While the crispy bocconcini and rosemary risotto balls ($14) could stand to be hotter (the cool tomato sauce really chills it), the mild cheese inside remains molten and gooey (a great contrast against the crispy crunch). With a tad more salt or parmesan cheese mixed into the risotto itself, these would have been fantastic.


When there’s big sporting events, such as the finals of the World Series, Power Up Bar will be showing the games amongst their various screens. During these nights you’ll want to score a seat at the bar where you can watch the game and still grab a controller and play amongst the other television sets. Playing MLB Baseball while watching the Jays win? What a great combination.


If you have a group of five or more people, they also have a second room with booths that are generally first-come first-serve. Each one is set up with a Wii, Playstation and a large screen so you can battle your friends and neighbouring booths on any of those two consoles.


For me, my favourite area is the huge screen to the right of the bar. A place generally opened to everyone (or can be reserved for very large groups), it’s for those who like to move rather than smash buttons. With plenty of songs, Just Dance is a great option to let loose and party, especially with the help of some liquid encouragement.


After a few cocktails ($9 each until end of October and $12 thereafter), I felt ready to showcase my moves. Not being a fan of overly sweet drinks, mixologist Jess explains that they’re careful to create balanced cocktails. She was right, despite the descriptions incorporating strong spirits, there were no harsh flavours – rather you get a taste of something and then it’s replaced by another.

The Dark Sign, a concoction of made with Old Mount gay rum, Averna and Chartreuse sounds and looks like it’d be bitter, but is sweetened with raspberry syrup and ends with an interesting hickory smoked bitter. Even the Maker’s Mark bourbon in the Snake Eater is neutralized but a crème de cocoa and a splash of Ancho Reye adding a light spiciness in the background.

As pink as they come is the Fan Boy, the hue from a muddled watermelon cube mixed with Boodles gin; a drink that’s sweeter on account of the Aperol and Campari, but balanced with lemon and topped with creamy egg white.


Cosplayer Holly Wolf and notable YTV personality DJ Phil, will be attending Power Up Bar on October 15 for the Unplugged Expo after party. I’m more interested to visit on Friday to Monday of the Halloween weekend to see who else will be dressing up – what a perfect excuse for people to bust out their best Marvel or Sailor Moon costume.

Just imagine the fun you’ll have watching Superman dance to Soulja Boy and if anyone’s going to be Ariel from the Little Mermaid, here’s a dare for you – try Just Dance’s Under the Sea.

Overall mark - 7.5 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: 38 Wellington 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!


Power Up Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


CLOSED: Media Dinner at Stratosphere Gastrolounge (Toronto)



Situated in a quaint upper middle class neighbourhood, Stratosphere attempts to differentiate itself from the fine dining and casual bars in the area by offering locals a middle ground. Ultimately, they’ve curated a short comfort-food filled menu at affordable price points and launched in July 2015.

With a thick Guinness batter that’s generally synonymous with British fish and chips, their beer batter prawns ($12 for 8 pieces) were crispy and covered a fair-sized just cooked through shrimp. Given the thicker coating, the sweet chili sauce could be thicker as it hardly stuck to the batter; luckily, it was still sufficiently flavourful.

Stratosphere Gastrolounge Toronto: fried shrimp

Although olives aren’t my favourite ingredient, Stratosphere’s tapenade ($7; smaller bowl that’s normally served with a full pita) was good, incorporating a salty yet not overly fermented taste. The dip was surprisingly fresh and would go well with a cold crisp beer.

Stratosphere Gastrolounge Toronto: olive  tapanade

The beef sliders ($12 for 3 sliders) were fantastic. The super soft egg bun soaking up the juices from the huge sirloin patty. The creamy sauce and onions topping the sliders were simple and let the beef flavours dominate.

Stratosphere Gastrolounge Toronto: slider

Since we had such a great experience with the sliders, a larger version was in order. Out of the four burgers, the strip loin ($18) incorporated a leaner beef but was still just as tender. There was no chance the bun could contain the hefty patty and ample toppings (crispy fried onions, mushrooms and other fixings). The hot fries were also good, I couldn’t stop myself from dipping just one more into the gravy.

Stratosphere Gastrolounge Toronto: sirloin burger

Stratosphere uses three cheeses in their mac ‘n’ cheese ($15): apple smoked cheddar, mozzarella and grana padano. However, the garlic was so pungent that it masked any of the three and rendered the dish to be gooey macaroni in a creamy garlic sauce. Nonetheless, the dish was decent and you’ll likely love it if you’re really fond of garlic.

Stratosphere Gastrolounge Toronto: mac 'n' cheese

I was momentarily taken aback when the ceviche fish tacos ($12) arrived in hard crispy shells, having expected soft corn tortillas. Yet, after biting into one, the crispiness contrasting against the soft mahi-mahi chunks works. Eating them can get a bit messy and perhaps changing the dish into a “chip and dip” type appetizer would be better.

Stratosphere Gastrolounge Toronto: ceviche taco

With a large bar and speakeasy atmosphere, one would think Stratosphere takes their liberations seriously. Indeed, the restaurant infuses alcohol in house in order to concoct interesting cocktails. The citric infused silver gin fizz ($8) was light and refreshing, the citrusy gin slightly sweetened and diluted with soda for sparkle.

Stratosphere Gastrolounge Toronto: cocktail

When I first heard the restaurant’s name, Stratosphere, I envisioned solar systems and stars… something of a cosmic nature. So, when the cool New York jazz club vibe greeted us, it was a pleasant surprise. Owner Eleni Makedona explains that her 8-year old daughter named the place, hoping that while eating at the restaurant, diners would feel they’re leaving the world behind, even for a short period. What a great desire; after all, don’t we all want to just leave our worries behind, once in a while?

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: 2956 Bloor Street West


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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