Showing posts with label small plates. Show all posts
Showing posts with label small plates. Show all posts

Nuit Social (Toronto)



Sharing is caring, oh so the saying goes. Sharing is what Nuit Social wants. In fact, create your own charcuterie “social boards” dominates half their menu where diners choose one, three, or five items from meat, cheese, and olives selections to create a sharing platter. Opting for five meats ($17) and three cheeses ($13), our board was enough for our table of five to have a taste each, the meats more so than the small bits of cheese.

Of all the items, the ones that stood out were the Tyrol schinkenspeck, the salty pork letting off that faint smokiness that’s synonymous with speck, and the bresaola (extra $1), which is best eaten plain as it’s fairly neutral and the leaner cut allows you to taste the beef. Really everything we chose – Rosette de Lyon French salami, Prosciutto, and the spicy sopressata - were all solid charcuterie.


Meanwhile, the cheeses were good but when paired with the strong meats felt a little lost. Whether it was the Vermeer gouda, Rondin du Poitou goat cheese, or the Charlevoix, the mild cheeses were flavours I enjoyed but couldn’t hold up against the bolder meats.

The last third of the menu is dedicated to “social plates”, which could be renamed to “social bags” given many arrive in a rolled down brown paper sack. Some items like the crispy frog legs ($12) and arancini ($14) are understandable, since the paper helps weep away the extra oil. But, for the Buffalo Brussels sprouts ($11) it’s a little strange as you can’t really get to the pool of hot sauce settling on the bottom.

If you can get past the image of a frog looking at you as you bite into the frog legs, it really does taste like  tender chicken or, with its small size, sort of like a less gamey quail leg. They were lightly dusted and mildly salted, but I would have liked them fried a bit longer.


Both the arancini and Brussel sprouts are dishes I’d avoid – the risotto balls so crumbly and dry that it tasted like fried dirty rice rather than a creamy porcini base. That bit of melted fontina cheese in the centre helped a bit, but could hardly save the dish. As for the Brussel sprouts, it’s a personal choice as the tangy harsh Buffalo sauce drenching the vegetable is something I normally don’t like anyways.


Items that were actually served on plates (or some case bowls) were the highlight of the meal and should be featured prominently rather than being relegated as the last things on the menu. I can still taste the sweet maple soy glaze on the pork ribs ($17) giving it a bit of stickiness but thin enough that it didn’t feel like you’re biting through a heavy sauce to get to the tender ribs. And the bed of smoked macaroni & cheese it sat on was equally delicious.


Normally, I find ricotta gnocchi ($16) a little too soft, but Nuit Social’s consistency was perfectly balanced with a light fluffiness and a bit of chewiness. The cheese and cream sauce could have been really really rich, but a bit of citrus, sweet peas, and smoky bits of chicken (oddly tasted like bacon) helped to temper the decadent dish just a little. Aside from the ribs, this was my favourite of the night.


The seared sushi steak ($17) is really a flat ironed steak done rare so that the meat has a thin ring around it like Albacore tuna. For being so underdone, the beef was surprisingly tender and the liberal amounts of chimmichurri gave the Japanese sounding dish an Argentinian flavour instead. Well roasted Brussels sprouts (thankfully, without Buffalo sauce) and fingerling potatoes finished off the plate making this one of the better-rounded dish for those who don’t want to share.  


But then sharing is Nuit Social’s mantra, they “are all about social gatherings, sharing great food and conversing over delicious drinks with old friends and new friends.” Their ambiance is set up for the mission as the music’s volume is kept at a low enough so you can actually converse with your friends (new or old). This is quite different for being a west Queen West restaurant where places like Drake Hotel is a neighbour.

Since it’s opened until midnight on weekdays and 2am on weekends, it’s also a great place to gather after a night of drinking. Nuit Social definitely doesn’t serve the typical post bar eats. It’s not every day that after a night of drinking you can tuck into amazing ribs with a side of ricotta gnocchi.  

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 1168 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!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:


Nuit Social Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Fat Choi @ Soos (Toronto)


On Monday and Tuesdays, Soos temporarily hands over their kitchen to Fat Choi and the menu morphs into a vegetarian’s paradise. While Soos’ menu is based on Malaysian street food, Fat Choi expands across the world, drawing inspiration from Malaysia, India, China, Indonesia, and Japan (to name a few) – anything that’s tasty and vegetarian.

I would have never ordered the cold tofu ($9) without prompting from a friend… why would I want something cold, especially if it’s tofu? But, as I bit into the silky soy bean block, swimming in a salty Szechuan hot chili oil and topped with onion frizzles, green onions, garlic, and peanuts, I wonder what inventive thinker came up with such a delicious take on tofu. This isn't your regular boring soy bean dish.


Make sure you’ve finished your conversation before biting into the satay wrap ($11)… once you start you just have to keep eating it as it’s impossible to put down and if you wait too long, the filling will start sliding out. The seitan adds a meaty texture against the delicate Bibb lettuce and the crunchy pickled vegetables; it’s then drenched in a diluted peanut sauce that starts out slightly sweet but ends with a spicy bite.


Even before finishing the okonomiyaki ($13) we were already contemplating if another order was needed. The light thin chewy batter with the crispy edges is slathered with flavourful shallots and spicy kewpie. On its own it would have been too heavy, but Fat Choi balanced the dish off with raw crisp red cabbage and Brussels sprouts to create a slaw topping on the savoury pancake. A dish that seems so simple but is surprisingly delicious.


In general, all the flatbread-like dishes were tasty. The stuffed roti ($15) consisted of two pan fried flaky roti sandwiching a spiced chickpea, onion, and potato mixture. A curry garlic sauce comes with the hearty roti, which is thinned and the spice level restrained.


Make sure you get the nasi goreng ($16), this Indonesian fried rice was oh so flavourful. To make it vegan, a tofu crumble is added that still gives the fried rice an eggy texture, while bits of okra and bell peppers provide a crunchy texture throughout the rice. I love the black pepper bite to the rice… and the smell, oh the smell.


The no mapo no tofu ($17) is an interesting dish incorporating the sweet, beany, spicy sauce you’d expect from the traditional mapo tofu. However, the name of no mapo and no tofu calls out the fact that the dish contains no pork and no tofu. Instead, it’s replaced with creamy eggplant with flecks of pickled vegetables, the sauce cooked so long together that it becomes thick and caramelized; all sticky and sweet with the rice. Served in clay pot, this would be even better if the rice was lightly toasted so the bottom so that it develops a golden crispy crust – I can just imagine how epic it’d be if the mapo sauce is enhanced with crispy rice.


We finished off with the daily nood, that evening a curried laksa ($18 for a large bowl or $11 for individual portions). The smaller bowl is a great option as you really need to dig in and have spoonfuls of the coconut and curry broth to really augment the experience, although the soup should be a hotter temperature. Pieces of smoked tofu gives an interesting heartiness to the noodles in place of meat. In the past, I’ve had laksa with rice or egg noodles; at Fat Choi, they use a combination of the thicker miki noodle and a thin vermicelli, the mix reminiscent of a bowl of Fukien noodles at Kim Po.


People ask if I miss having meat during weekdays. Truthfully, we have such amazing plant-based options in Toronto that no, I can happily forgo animal protein Monday to Thursdays, with some exceptions. Fat Choi is an example of one of these restaurants. When the vegetarian dishes are this good, who needs meat? 

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 94 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!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:


CLOSED: Labora (Toronto)


In the evenings, the back of Campo Food Hall transforms into Labora, a tapas restaurant. With the rest of the stalls closed, there’s a sense of calm as you enter the space, like walking through a short alley to get to the restaurant.

While Labora isn’t as laid back as a small shop in Barcelona, it does have a casual vibe, which is why when our waiter asked if we like olives (before we glanced at the menu), my husband answered yes (even though I’m impartial to them). Soon a large plate of them arrived with a $7 charge to match. I’ve dined in countries where a snack charge is added to everyone’s bill. Usually, this means a plate is already sitting on the table and the menu generally calls out the cost. To have someone ask if you like olives, like if you want bread, and then charge you for it feels misleading.


Maybe if it was only $3 (and a smaller portion) it would be less noticeable. What arrives is a sizeable plate with four different types of olives marinated in citrus so makes it less pungent and almost sweet. As olives go, these aren’t bad. Just not my first choice for adding to the meal.

A dish like the Joselito lomo ($13.50) is what I would have preferred to snack on with beer. Sourced from an Iberico pig, it’s cut from the loin instead of the leg, so the meat is leaner but still melts on the tongue and has that lightly salted sweetness found in jamon. It’s also a good introduction to Iberico products, if you’re not sure if you want to shell out $30 for jamon.


The menu describes the pan tumaca ($6) as tomato rubbed ‘Cristal’ bread. What is Cristal bread? From what I deduced, the moniker likely references all the air pockets formed in the well-toasted airy bread that’s drenched with olive oil and so crunchy, it tastes deep fried. The thin layer of tomato paste is rather neutral, most of the flavours stem from the olive oil.


For something spicy, the bocata del calamari ($9.50 each) will have you reaching for a cerveza. Rings of lightly dusted deep-fried calamari are sandwiched in a brioche bun with tons of aioli, drizzled in hot sauce, and a pickled pepper is skewered through the squid. The pepper adds a juicy freshness to the sandwich but with the siracha was really spicy. Luckily, you can always pull it out and take small bites to temper the spice. The sandwich was delicious and one of my favourite dishes of the evening.


Another was the rubia gallega ($19.50) a cured Ontario ribeye that’s prepared like Iberico, thinly sliced then topped with honey mushrooms and truffle oil. The truffle oil was a bit overpowering when eating the beef on its own, but with crostini the flavours balance out. What a genius idea to use ribeye as the protein, the cut has enough fat for that lusciousness, like ham, and lends itself to taking on the lightly sweetened flavour.


After some heavier dishes the tumet ($19) was a welcomed contrast. The oven-roasted terrine made with thinly sliced zucchini, eggplant, and potato was a fairly big portion. Aside from the potato, the other vegetables became lost in the thick zesty tomato sauce so more of the zucchini and eggplant would make this even better.


Some dishes could have been good if only there wasn’t one overpowering ingredient added. Sometimes it just pays to keep it simple with seasonings like oil and salt.

The BC striped shrimp pintxos ($16), a special for the evening, takes the tiny shrimp and lines them onto whipped roe on toasted bread. These ingredients would have been more than enough: the roe salty with a rich seafood essence; the shrimp a little sweetness; and there’s even chives, adding a taste of the herb and colour. But then, a liberal sprinkling of paprika is added, completely overpowering the shrimp and giving a slightly bitter finish to the dish. 



Similarly, the sour grapefruit used in the serviola crudo ($18.40) covered the delicate yellow tail tuna. Maybe it has something to do with our waiter urging us to spoon the marinating liquid over everything, to get the coffee flavours. 


In all fairness, our waiter was extremely friendly and warm, I know he was just trying to make sure we had the best experience possible. However, I couldn’t taste any coffee and the sour grapefruit so pungent I coughed. Alas, the poor tuna no match for the citrus. 

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 433 King Street West (in the Campo Food Hall)
 

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:



Rosalinda (Toronto)


It’s getting easier to have a plant-based meal in Toronto. Newly opened in the spring, Rosalinda serves vegan Mexican cuisine and is probably the fanciest meatless eatery you’ll find in the Financial District. Their airy dining room feels carefree and is polished and pretty enough for business lunches and socialites alike. The love child of Grant van Gameren, Jamie Cook, and Max Rimaldi, these owners know a thing or two about creating trendy hip restaurants.

Their multigrain chicharron ($9) provides a tasty nibble while waiting for the other dishes. You’ll want to gently spread the thick tangy guacamole onto the crispy multigrain crackers as they're not nearly as strong as pork rinds. But, they do have that puffy crunchy texture, the various seeds giving it a nice nutty flavour. 


It’s not often you’ll find fritters light and moist. Rosalinda’s veggie fritters ($7) contained plenty of shredded vegetables bound together with a bit of chickpea flour, enough to hold it together without forming a lump of dough. Accompanied by a tamarind-ancho dip, to give it that Mexican flavour, I could have easily eaten them plain if there was a bit more salt in the batter.


If I didn’t know Rosalinda’s menu was vegan, the young coconut in the ceviche ($14) could almost fool me for squid. There’s the blast of acidity you’d expect from ceviche, but the dish lacked the herbs and onion to balance out the lime juice. Moreover, if the coconut was cut into cubes, it’d combine better with the diced apple and celery for contrast. With the coconut slices, the dish felt fragmented as it’s difficult to get all the elements in one bite. 


Our waitress described the chilaquiles rojos ($15) as “nachos”. While not entirely untrue (since the dish is made with a base of tortilla chips), my friend described it better as “soggy Frito Lays”. You really need to get to the bottom of the dish for the ones soaked in sauce for flavour; the ones on top merely taste like moistened chips. With nearly half a dozen ingredients listed on the menu for the dish, it was still bland and uneventful, even just a drizzle of crema on top would have been nice.


Not surprisingly, there are a variety of tacos and tostadas on the menu. I’d skip the roasted cauliflower tostada ($7) - the fried shell was brittle (not crispy) and breaks into shards with a slightly bitter finish. Although the cauliflower florets were nicely roasted, the sikil pak (a pumpkin seed spread) and herb salsa verde were all colour and no flavour. The chorizo verde taco ($14) was better, at least the corn shell was warm and soft with great flavours seeping through from the poblano tomatillo salsa and cucumber pico de gallo. Just don’t order it expecting the salty spicy taste of chorizo as the filling tastes more like spinach paneer than sausage.


In fact, the taco led us into a conversation as to why vegetarian restaurants insist on naming dishes after meat to begin with. If it’s their way of appealing to meat eaters, anyone who orders these tacos expecting chorizo would be sorely disappointed. However, if they called them paneer verde tacos, it’s closer to the reality and would be just as appealing. I, for one, wish vegetarian restaurants will just showcase vegetables, legumes, and pulses proudly; not trying to disguise them as imitation meat.

The dish I was most excited for was the roasted Japanese eggplant ($16), which when done well can be so good. Rosalinda’s version was almost there, with plenty of flavours and textures from the salsa macha, sikil pak, cashew crema, cilantro, and pomegranate - I especially enjoyed the spicy kick from the salsa macha – it just lacked salt, something the spongy eggplant needs a lot of.


Thankfully, the Casare aioli on the Tijuana-style broccolini ($14) saved the day – adding it to the eggplant made the dish sing. Consider ordering both dishes together as a bit of the crunchy roasted broccolini paired with the softer eggplant is a nice combination.   


Although the spiced churros ($8) with cinnamon sugar and chocolate banana caramel looked and smelled great, they were so dense it was felt like we were eating fried bread sticks. Where is the airiness of churros? Since the recipe doesn’t call for eggs, it’s not as if making the dessert vegan is to blame.


Go for the rhum roasted pineapple ($8) instead. While the pineapple is a little sweet and there’s no rum flavour, the coconut whipped creamy is heavenly and the toasted coconut chips adds a nice crunch.


Even with my love for Mexican food, I don’t love Rosalinda … it simply doesn’t do the cuisine justice. Mexican fare has so many vibrant sauces and ingredients. While Rosalinda’s menu lists many of these, what shows up on the plate looks pretty but tastes bland. All pomp, but little substance.

Overall mark - 6.5 out of 10



How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 133 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!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:


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


Reverie at the Park (Toronto)


Amongst the city façade of College Street, Reverie’s signage stands out as a lush green garden. It fittingly presents Reverie at the Park, a place where they want patrons to feel like they’re in a “daydream”. Plus, feel like you're in a park: from the tree root sculptures hanging from the ceiling to the wrought iron gate you walk through to get to the tables. It’s like a walking through a trippy park, at night.


Behind the helm is Executive Chef Jef Edwards, who truly embodies the millennial mindset by learning how to cook, incorporating molecular gastronomy no less, through YouTube! If that weren’t a feat, the kitchen also operates without a walk-in fridge or freezer, to ensure ingredients are fresh. In the winter months, they also draw upon ingredients they’ve preserved through smoking and pickling.


Even their bread ($6) is made in in-house; a non-greasy focaccia paired with bone marrow butter and dandelion pesto. You’d think both condiments would be strongly flavoured, but they were rather muted, a light beefy taste in the butter and hint of bitterness in the pesto. Both are in serious need of seasoning.


Reverie’s menu aims to celebrate Canada’s diversity, incorporating local ingredients. It’s the new-age Canadian cuisine movement with the fusion of other cultures thrown in. The venison croquettes use deer, a Canadian game meat, and incorporates earthy spices. Get through the crispy crust and you’re greeted with a dense flavourful interior, it’s like eating a delicious deep-fried meat ball.


With the smoked beef tartare and enoki ($17), the actual apple wood smoke is faint, especially when you add the powerfully tasty fermented mushroom mustard on it. It allows the diner to really taste the beef tartare and the herbs mixed throughout. In fact, they also grow some of the herbs and produce used at the restaurant – on the roof during the warmer months and by the kitchen with special lights over the winter. 


The dish is pretty, the tartare shaped like a log in a hollowed bone with sprouts of enoki mushrooms peeking through. The “moss” is leftover dehydrated greens… I’m a huge fan of kitchens that try to reduce food waste, it’s an example that other restaurants should emulate.

I don't know what I liked better, the surf or the turf portion of the next dish. The mushrooms looks a lot like the scallop it’s paired with, except firmer and almost has a meaty taste. The sea scallops ($17) are cooked perfectly, most of the flavours coming from the thinly sliced piece of prosciutto on top. 


Both the mackerel and artichoke in the next dish is left raw. The mackerel lightly cured with salt, but otherwise you’re left with a clean meaty tasting fish; so refreshing I would have thought it’s sea bream.


The gnocchi & ricotta ($17) is a house favourite and I can see why. The gnocchi are soft but still has bite and is well toasted to give it a caramelized exterior. Mixed with spinach cream, edamame, charred heart of palm, and ricotta, it’s a hearty but not overly heavy dish. Reverie’s menu focuses on sharable dishes, to make the meal more social, but this is one I could easily have all to myself.


While the veal was slightly overcooked in our last savoury dish, it was still juicy and tender. Surprisingly, I couldn’t taste the porcini in the aligot, an ingredient that’s normally rather flavourful. Our table agreed the predominant flavour was the roasted shishito pepper, which isn’t necessarily bad, rather the dish would be more aptly named as veal with shishito.


If you like inventive desserts, try Reverie’s mushroom and honey chocolate tart with black truffle. It takes some getting used to, the taste of spongy earthy raw mushrooms with the sweet silky chocolate ganache. While I don’t like sweet desserts, even I couldn’t finish the tart. Maybe if the mushrooms were thinner, so the taste isn’t so powerful, it’d be better suited as a dessert.


Who would have thought that pop-up dinners would turn into a restaurant celebrating a one-year anniversary? Ask Chef Edwards, I’m sure he’ll think there’s a dream like quality to it.

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: 569 College 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:


Reverie at Weldon Park Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato