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

Han Ba Tang (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 4862 Yonge Street
Type of Meal: Dinner

Han Ba Tang isn’t the easiest name to remember, unless you’re Korean perhaps, so look for a light green sign amongst the strip of ethnic restaurants along Yonge and Sheppard (you’re close when you’re at the Frog). It’s a jovial atmosphere attracting younger patrons and is more reminiscent of downtown than the suburbs of North York. 

As a warning, you may not want to visit if you’re planning to go out afterwards as ventilation is poor and your clothes and hair will reek of food.

The taco fad continues on their menu. Since Estrella Taqueria closed across the street, North York may support another restaurant trying their hand at it. Han Ba Tang has five flavours available (kalbi, chicken breast, spicy pork, chilli shrimp and asparagus) in single ($4-$5) or trio formats ($10-$11).

If you want to try more than one flavour (and get the trio deal) there is the HBT Tacos deal for $10 including the kalbi, chicken breast and asparagus. The restaurant should just considering charging $11 (the most you’d pay for three of the kalbi tacos) and allow patrons to customize to their liking as the sound of asparagus tacos just doesn’t appeal to the carnivore in me.

My friend and I ended up sharing the kalbi ($5) and chili shrimp ($4) tacos. For me, the kalbi was the highlight with tender strips of beef in a sweet flavourful sauce. The crunch of the coleslaw and sharpness of the raw onions went well with it. The chili shrimp was too over battered for my taste and lacked the spiciness I’d expect from its title.

The kimchi fries ($10 for the small size shown below) is a starred and circled dish on their menu. Presumably, this means it’s the chef’s recommendation as a “must-have” item. Regrettably, this shouldn’t be the case. If you want saucy fries, then sure try out the dish. There’s plenty of gravy, mayo, mild kimchi and green onions on it. But, it’s a far cry from the sour spicy fermented cabbage taste I was expecting.

My favourite dish (and the sole one I’d consider ordering again) was the spicy seafood soup ($10 for a small with an extra $2 for adding instant noodles). Of course, there's nothing fusion-like about it but sometimes tradition wins. The broth was filled with a deep seafood essence and had just the right amount of heat to cause you to sweat a little. Filled with a generous portion of mussels, shrimp, blue crab and vegetables everything tasted fresh and made-to-order. Who knows, I may come back and just order a bowl of this to myself – a satisfying and comforting meal on a cold winter’s night.

I'm also glad there’s now a place nearby that offers inventive cocktails rather than bottles of beer or soju and ginger ale. We watched as the bartender intensely crafted the HBT old fashioned ($10) by cutting up fresh citrus, heating up the peel and swiping it across the lip of the cup.

But, what caught our eyes more was the canisters of soaking soju. What a beautiful display in front. So, we decided on the soju flight ($15) giving us a choice of three of the six flavours (pineapple, strawberry, apple cinnamon, cucumber, citrus and ginger). 

Our waiter suggested the pineapple, strawberry and apple cinnamon. These babies are dangerous as they’re so easy drinking! The apple cinnamon was surprisingly good and would be such a great after dinner drink over the holiday season – wonder if Han Ba Tang could legally sell me a bottle?

Service is friendly but disheveled despite being opened for months now. Getting seated was a bit chaotic. No one seemed to know where to sit guests – at least three people became involved before someone finally decided how to sit three tables of two.

Moreover, promised sitting times don’t appear to be communicated amongst staff – the gentlemen who seated us noted they’d need the table back after two hours but the women (who appeared to be the owner) came over after just over one hour to pressure us to get the bill. Luckily, we had received and finished our food by that time; but, my friend who just received another beer had to finish it hurriedly. To avoid all the confusion, I strongly suggest making a reservation before heading to the restaurant.

Other than the seating fiasco, everyone was pleasant throughout the evening. Food and service came at a good pace and individuals frequently checked on us to ensure needs were met. In the end, I’m glad Han Ba Tang opened up in the neighbourhood and wish more non-chain, not completely ethnic restaurants will join suit. 

Unlike downtown, you won’t pay $15+ for a cocktail or be subjected to ridiculously small portions. But, there also won’t be the fancy phone charging stations seen at Speakeasy 21. I say who needs something that fancy when an outlet, plug and hand drawn sign works just fine?

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
  • - 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!

Kensington Market Eats (Toronto)

Kensington Market is a neighbourhood found between College Street, Dundas Street West, Spadina Avenue and Bathurst Street filled with small shops, eclectic restaurants and historic homes.  The block has recently experienced a resurgence as new restaurants flood its narrow crowded streets. Even Wal-Mart wants to set up shop proving there's the required critical mass. Having not visited for a few years, my friend and I decided to go for a stroll and see what’s changed.  Along the way, we stopped for a couple of quick bites.

Location: Seven Lives Tacos Y Mariscos
Address: 69 Kensington Avenue

Luckily, we visited early enough on Sunday that there was no line in this small restaurant.  After placing an order for the camarones a la diabla (spicy shrimp taco) ($5), we settled down onto a tiny table with another couple to wait for our order.  Seating is limited and there’s only enough for approximately a dozen people, so some individuals were taking their orders to go.

After about ten minutes my taco was ready and well worth the wait.  Snuggled between two soft tortillas were six large shrimps that were piping hot and had a smoky heat from the chipotle sauce. Topped with gooey cheese and sautéed onion and peppers, there was such an abundance of toppings that I had to eat a couple of the shrimps before I could actually pick up the thing.  It was definitely one of the better tacos I’ve had in Toronto.
Seven Lives has a small menu made up of nine types of tacos, a ceviche and fries.  Sitting on the counter are three homemade salsas (mild salsa verde, medium salsa negra and a hot habanero) allowing you to customize the level of spiciness you want on your tacos.  I added some of the salsa negra onto my spicy shrimp tacos and it added a nice coolness against the hot shrimp.  My friend topped her baha fish taco with the hot habanero and noted there was quite more spice with that.

Location: The Grilled Cheese
Address: 66 Nassau Street

Located off a quieter street in Kensington, the Grilled Cheese is hard to miss with its huge sign and out of place log cabin exterior.  Their menu consists of 12 different combinations, but they also offer add-ons such bacon, ham, eggs, etc. to allow you to customize sandwiches to your taste.  Even the most significant sandwich, the Beast, will only set you back $10.

Alas, I’m not a grilled cheese fan – I know this may be a shock as most people swoon over this gooey buttery carb.  Nonetheless, I went with my friend who ordered the classic grilled cheese ($5) and snuck a bite to see what the hype was about.

There was a generous portion of cheddar cheese oozing out between two thick pieces of buttery toasted white bread, served with a handful of Ruffles potato chips and a dill pickle.  I’ll admit it was good but still I wouldn’t want one to myself.  Somehow, I think it has something to do with the toppings to bread ratio – there was simply too much bread.  My ideal sandwich is tons of toppings between two thin crispy slices of bread (preferably something with a little flavour like sourdough) and the ratio of toppings to bread is 50/50.  With the variety of ingredients being offered for the sandwiches, I was surprised the Grilled Cheese didn’t offer customer a choice of bread as well.

Additionally, we went at the wrong time where they were cutting and cooking onions.  Unfortunately, the open kitchen had poor ventilation so the entire restaurant quickly filled with the pungent smell and left our eyes stinging.  My friend had to eat quickly, through tears, so that we could get out of there.

Compared to other Kensington Market establishments their seating area was much larger so it could actually fit a fair number of patrons.  So, it’s a good place to head to if you want to sit down and relax after some walking. 

A small suggestion to the Grilled Cheese management - consider stocking all your tables with all the condiments, or at the very least ensure they all have ketchup.  It was entertaining to see people sit down and then try to find a bottle of ketchup which was inevitably taken by a table prior to them. Really, ketchup is so inexpensive that you can afford to have multiple bottles of it.

No marks have been given to the restaurants above as we really didn't try enough items to allow for a proper grading.  But, they were both tasty and well worth a try for the cheap eats.

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