Showing posts with label spring rolls. Show all posts
Showing posts with label spring rolls. Show all posts

CLOSED: Mango Tree Thai Fusion & Sports Bar (Markham)

Thank you to Parv.ca for a number of these photos
If you visit Mango Tree Thai Fusion & Sports Bar expecting authentic Thai food, you may leave disappointed. Really, their name should be a dead giveaway there’ll be a deviation: there’s a fusion element and Thai restaurants aren’t known to be sports bars. Once you get off the elevators, on the second floor of the commercial building, and walk into the huge dark space, you know authenticity doesn’t matter. With the black walls, colourful mural, large television screen, and huge bar, it seems like it’ll will morph into a club at any moment.


There are certainly “sports bar” offerings on the menu such as obligatory fried chicken wings ($13 a pound) or burger sliders ($12) that get a Thai twist with the tamarind sauce used on them.

Some dishes tread the line between bar and Thai food. The MT spring rolls ($10) filled with a ground beef and pork mixture dotted with finely chopped carrots, onions, and coriander, the denser filling reminding me of Filipino lumpias. Or the coconut milk fried shrimp ($15) where you could really taste the coconut, but the cream they dip the shrimp into before coating the shrimp could be thinned  as the crust was a tad thick. In both instances, the filling and batter would benefit from more seasoning as by themselves the finger foods were plain, but improved with sauce. 


Then, there are dishes you’d expect from a Thai restaurant. The starter tom yum soup ($6) was a large bowl of hot and sour broth teeming with lemongrass and other aromatics. It’s certainly spicy, but not overwhelmingly; the heat balanced off with vegetables like bean sprouts that also add a bit of crunch. Opt for the vegetarian version, as the deep fried tofu is great for soaking up the spicy soup.


The mango salad ($9) takes relatively sweet green mangoes and tosses it in a light shrimp paste for a savoury element. I enjoyed the fried shallots garnishing the salad, which adds a nice earthy crunch.


Of all the mains, the chicken green curry ($14) was perhaps the most authentic tasting and our favourite main of the evening. As a warning, Mango Tree uses dark meat giving the dish a gamier taste. It also contains chunks of eggplant (great for soaking up the liquid) and peppers. If you like it spicier, dig to the bottom as the chopped pepper pieces seems to sink to the bottom of the rich coconut curry.


My friend’s description of Mango Tree is great: it’s like a HK-style Thai restaurant (similar to HK-style Western cafes or cha chan tangs). Essentially, they are Thai dishes but with a Chinese influence. For example, the khao soi ($14) switches out the spicy yellow broth for a milder soup base that has a heavier coconut element. Moreover, the egg noodles are replaced with flat chewy ones that almost have a hand-pulled quality to it. 



To cap the bowl off, a fried pineapple ring that gives the noodles a sweet element. I would have preferred the khao soi spicier; but then the menu, which showed no chili peppers beside the name, was accurately depicting the dish. In retrospect, had I known I would have asked for it to be made at the spicy level - Mango Tree offers customization options for most mains where you choose the protein as well as the spiciness level.

The MT boneless pork chop ($20) didn’t have much of the lemongrass and garlic flavours I expected based on the menu’s description. Rather, the sweet tamarind barbeque sauce flavour was prevalent and sparked the whole HK-style Thai café discussion to begin with – it had that thick sweet and sour sauce flair that’s not unlike the Cantonese style pork chops (except less sugary). Personally, I’d prefer the pork chop thinner to allow the marinate to permeate the meat more and the barbeque glaze toned down to let some of the herb’s flavour shine through.


No meal should end without an order of the Mango Tree sticky rice ($11). It takes time to prepare but the wait is worth it as the sticky rice arrives warm and when combined with cool sweet mangoes and thick coconut cream, I felt momentarily transported to Thailand. Had I known how delicious the dessert would be, I’d skip the appetizers and have an entire order of the sticky rice to end.


Kevin, co-owner of Mango Tree, explains they wanted the restaurant to be different. Of course, they serve food. But, it’s more than that. They want a space where people can visit, hang out, and enjoy each other’s company. Indeed, that seemed to ring true for our visit; while the food arrived quickly, we were left with our mains well after the forks went down so we could just relax and lounge.

We took that opportunity to sip on cocktails, my mango Bellini ($10) went down so easily, a concoction of mango puree with soda water, balanced out with citrus but so fruity that the rum melts away. For a unique drink, the Phulay sunset ($11) sounds like a tropical explosion of orange and pineapple juice with coconut cream, but the addition of ginger gives the cocktail an interesting zip.


The weekend crowd was so varied from a boisterous table of women celebrating an occasion, families, couples, to other groups of friends catching up. A lot of tables stayed for a long time, ordering more bites and drinks to keep the night going. Just like Mango Tree intended.

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: Markham, Canada
 Address: 7850 Woodbine Avenue (2nd floor)
 

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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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CLOSED: Pho V Express (Toronto)


Walking along Avenue on a piercingly cold day, seeing Pho V Express was like seeing a water mirage in the desert. While it’s definitely new to the area, stepping through the doors I couldn’t help but get a sense of déjà vu. There’s colourful blue and green lanterns hanging by the window, rich dark high top tables, and décor hanging on the walls that’s generally not found at pho places. Yet, I felt like I’ve seen the set-up before.


It wasn’t until the owner launched into a lengthy monologue explaining Pho V Express only uses organic meats (while striving to do the same with vegetables) and non-MSG broth that I remember why I’ve heard it before. Glancing down at the logo on the sticker holding together the chopsticks it finally clicked - this is the second location of Pho Vistro.

It’s confusing why they decided to change the name for their uptown location - Pho Vistro actually sounds better and seems to be a better fit with the neighbourhood. Also, to be an “express” version of the original, things need to be faster. From my experience, the service speed was exactly the same.


Regardless, the hot bowl of noodles hit the spot. Maybe it had something to do with the frigid temperatures, but the classic beef pho ($11.50) was tastier than I remember: the broth richer and more seasoned. Compared to other establishments, it certainly tastes healthier. The soup doesn’t merely rely on bone broth, rather also contains star anise and cinnamon that gives off such a lovely aroma. The soup is so flavourful that I didn’t even need siracha sauce; after using a small dollop at the start, I refrained from adding more as I found took away from the broth’s natural flavours. 


Their beef is also leaner. A combination of brisket and rib-eye round, the brisket goes really well with the noodles but the round is shaved so thinly that it breaks apart and tastes grainy, especially when you near to bottom half of the bowl (the granules in the soup is a bit off putting). In the future, I’ll have to remember to ask if I can only get brisket.

Another ingredient that will take some getting used to, is the spindly Ontario bean sprouts. Whereas sprouts in other restaurants are added for a textual element, these lack crunch and taste a lot like alfalfa sprouts giving a slightly bitter grassiness to the pho.


The fried chicken spring rolls ($5.50) contained a lot of colourful thinly grated vegetables but minimal chicken. The lack of meat isn’t a problem for me, but the addition of mung beans gave the otherwise delicious roll a slightly mushy and coarse texture that you don’t normally expect when biting into a spring roll. Be warned.


Pho V Express is a good option for vegans as their rolls and most of the noodle dishes are offered with a vegan preparation. And it’s sort of nice to leave the restaurant feeling warm, full, and feel like you’ve enjoyed something healthy. 

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 1923 Avenue Road


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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Shangri-La for dim sum (Markham)

Shangri-la dim sum in Markham

Toronto has no shortage of dim sum restaurants, but Shangri-La Banquet Hall touts theirs as one of the few where you’ll eat in a ballroom – their Esna Park ballroom to be exact. With no early bird specials on weekends, it’s also the place to go if you refuse to wait or have a large table and want to make reservations. While their regular prices will set you back $3.20 for S, $4.20 for M, $5.20 for L, $6.20 for XL, and $7.20 for SP (along with $2 a person for tea), if you order before 11am on weekdays, any of the S, M, or L dishes are all $3.20.

One of my favourite dishes is the large dumping with soup. At Shangri-La theirs is filled with abalone and conpoy and sits in supreme soup (SP). While the dish is expensive compared to other restaurants, it’s also huge and can easily feed four. The soup has a nice rich essence and the abundant seafood inside wasn’t too overcooked; yet, the broth could use more seasoning.


Their dumpling with shrimp (XL) and sui mai with fish roe (L) were both solid renditions of the staples, much larger than what you’d find elsewhere. While I didn’t try the har gow, their pork dumpling was springy and juicy with a generous dollop of roe on top.


If the shrimp in the har gow was cooked to the same doneness as the chives and shrimp dumpling (L), it would be spot on. Personally, I prefer the addition of the herby chives to the dumpling, which gives the dish more flavour.


While the bovine tendon (L) had that nice soft chewy gelatinous texture you want with beef tendon, the sauce contained a twinge of sourness that threw me off. It seemed like they added red vinegar to the marinade or to sweet potatoes at the bottom of the dish. In fact, a few of the steamed dishes had a filler, whether it’s sweet potatoes or the yam noodle bundles in the cuttlefish. Understandably, lining a dish is common for early bird special periods, but when customers are paying full price these fillers are disappointing. After all, I never pair black bean spare ribs with sweet potatoes.


Nonetheless, despite the yam bundle, the cuttlefish in curry (L) was well steeped with flavour - I rather enjoyed the hint of spiciness permeating the sauce.


The spare ribs in black bean sauce (M) and BBQ pork bun (S) were both average: it would be nice if the black beans on the spare ribs were mixed throughout rather than dolloped over top and the buns needed more filling.


Don’t miss out on their rice rolls, while they’re not as thin as establishments specializing in the dish, at Shangri-la the texture and thickness is still better than many dim sum places. The shrimp and leek (XL) and shitaki mushroom & chicken (L) both had adequate amounts of filling so it doesn’t feel like you’re eating mouthfuls of pastry.


Meanwhile, the rice roll with dough fritter ($5.20) showed interest with the pork floss on top, but the actual fritter needs to be hotter and crispier – taking one that’s been delivered in the morning and wrapping it in a fresh rice roll is not sufficient.



Generally, I don’t order spring rolls at dim sum, but their shredded chicken and crispy taro (M) version was yummy. Especially since they’re made-to-order arriving piping hot and the filling nicely balanced between the meat and earthy taro. Maybe it has something to do with eating in a ball room … somehow it makes everything taste fancier.


Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 50 Esna Park Drive

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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!


Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:


Shangri-La Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Coffee In (Toronto)


Perhaps I watched too much Diners, Drive-ins and Dives in my youthful years, but I love visiting little holes-in-the-wall restaurants that create delicious dishes and are little known to anyone but locals. Without a doubt, Coffee In fits this description. Firstly, it’s not even a coffeeshop - the name a relic of its earlier years – as the hot table and kitchen cooking Filipino food is what keeps people visiting. 

Well known for their batchoy ($7.99), a bowl of salty soup that’s hearty and rich from all the roasted pork pieces melding with other offal, the thin egg noodles are too soft for my taste but does soak up all the broth’s flavours.


The pig is supreme at Coffee In and their grilled pork belly is tasty as well ($14.97). After ordering slices from the hot table, they’re returned to the kitchen where they’re re-heated and cut into bite sized pieces that’s great for munching on. The dish tastes a bit like Korean kalbi, except not as saucy since there isn’t a sweet soy glaze and it’s also more tender.


If you’re strapped for cash, you can get a lot of food for less than $10. Such as their combos where you select two “ulam” items from the hot table and receive a sizeable plate of steamed rice for only $6.99. Since I was dining with someone who couldn’t eat beef, we stuck with pork and there was plenty to choose from. Despite looking spicy, the stewed pork and curry pork hock were both neutral; while the stewed pork cooks in a tasty tomato sauce and could pass for a lighter stew, the pork hock lacked any curry aroma or taste and was way too bland.


The wonton soup ($4.99 for a large bowl) is another budget friendly choice. Contained in a sizeable bowl, each wonton has a hefty portion of pork filling with additional chicken thigh pieces strewn throughout the broth. While the soup has a nice flavour, especially with a sprinkling of fried garlic, the texture takes getting used to as the dumplings are left in the chicken broth so the wrapper gets mushy.


While not freshly fried, their spring rolls (2 for $1) are tasty. Despite being cold, it’s still crispy and the pork filling is juicy and nicely herbed. At the size of a cocktail wiener, the spring rolls are dangerously easy to just have one more. 


Just a warning, despite the colourful sign stating that halo halo is available, it’s a summer only treat… I couldn’t try their rendition of this famous Filipino dessert. While there were other pre-packaged dessert items along the counter, our table of four was stuffed so we were satisfied even without a sweet. If Coffee In were to be featured in Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, it would fall in the dive category. Yet, if you don’t mind the dated décor and lack of service, you can get some decent Filipino food for under $10.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 2181 Lawrence Avenue East
 Website: http://coffeein.ca/

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:


 Coffee In Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Pai Northern Thai Kitchen for lunch (Toronto)


Ask Torontonians where to get good Thai food and Pai will likely be part of their response. The restaurant has been overwhelmingly successful; since its launch three years ago, lines during lunch and after work are still common. Your chance at securing a meal is higher during lunch since they take reservations and there’s a Pai Market offering quick grab-and-go options. During our recent lunch time visit, at least half the people waiting at the door at 11:30am made their way into the Market.

If you have the time, dining on site is preferable – you get to eat everything at its peak! The Thai style chicken wings ($5.50) are fantastic when hot, it’s slightly crispy skin already abuzz with lemongrass and chilli flavours. The light sweet and spicy tamarind dipping sauce helps cool it down, it’ll save your mouth before the first bite.


Thankfully, Pai cuts their spring rolls ($8) in half to let out the steam. The wispy crunchy rice paper is filled with glass noodles mixed with mushrooms, carrots, and bean sprouts. I’d like a bit more vegetables in it, but otherwise they’re decent and seems to be the go-to starter for every table.


Although there is a spiciness scale listed on their menu, when ordering curry dishes they already incorporate a standard heat and you’re given chili oil to augment, if necessary. Their Panang beef curry ($13) is much thicker than the green curry I’ve had in the past and even without the chili oil has an abundance of flavours: salty with a hint of sourness and even a slight nuttiness. There’s that mix of tastes that’s synonymous with Thai food. The beef slices are thankfully not overly dry and there’s a healthy portion of meat mixed into the vegetables.


If you arrive before noon, the food arrives at a controlled but quick pace, making Pai a good option for lunch in about an hour. Moreover, their lunch menu includes most of the popular dishes from dinner at a couple dollars less (the portion sizes seem equal in size). If you ask me where there’s good Thai food in Toronto, I’d suggest Pai. Just head to this well celebrated restaurant at lunch to avoid a long wait.

Overall mark - 8.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 18 Duncan 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:


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

Sweet Lulus (Toronto)


Sweet Lulus is the first fast casual restaurant I ventured into years ago. Once I started working in Toronto’s Financial District, I needed a lunch venue that wasn’t a food court, but we could finish a meal within an hour and under $15. Based on the advice of a co-worker, we visited Sweet Lulus and the rest, as they say, is history.

Although the vegetarian spring rolls ($5) arrive blistering hot, I wish they would have taken two minutes to properly shake off the excess oil so it wouldn’t pool on the plate and completely soak through a napkin … only to still leave a greasy coating throughout the starter. If the spring rolls were wrapped together or incorporated more filling, perhaps this would have been enough to keep all the oil out. Sadly, the poor craftsmanship and meagre cabbage, carrot and bean sprout filling made every bite an oily mess. From now on, I’ll skip the appetizers and just stick with the mains.


In reality, you likely won’t need a starter as Sweet Lulu’s portions are pretty generous. The stir fried noodles (ranging from $9.95 - $15.70) always satisfy with four noodles, four sauces, and various toppings to customize to your tastes. I find the thinner noodles, such as the rice stick and wheat, go better with soup (their Tom Yum base is decent), while thicker Hokkien ones stand up better to the flavourful sauces used in a stir-fry.

My go to combination is either the vegetarian ($9.95), chicken ($11.95), or beef ($12.45) with Hokkien noodles, hot Thai sauce, crushed garlic, and sweet basil. The hot version is still relatively tame, so if you like it really spicy add the crushed chili flakes and grab a bottle of hot sauce from the front. For me, I find it has enough heat to meld with the savoury sauce and slight refreshing sweetness of the basil. Plus, there’s always plenty of vegetables (broccoli, Shanghai bok choy, bean sprouts, carrots, and onions) tossed with the chewy noodles so there’s a bit of topping with every bite.


Although not terrible, the green curry chicken with steamed rice ($11.95) needs to be spicier and could use more coconut milk. I understand, it’s made in large batches and hence needs to be “safe” for the majority of customers. Unfortunately, the milky curry doesn’t lend itself to adding chili flakes or hot sauce into in order to make it more flavourful. Overall, let’s call this green curry for beginners.


As the prices have risen and competitors such as Thai Express have entered the fold, Sweet Lulu’s notorious lines have thankfully decreased. Nonetheless, to get a seat at one of the 40ish dine-in spots, you’ll want to arrive before 12:30. After eating at Sweet Lulus for years, it still continues to satisfy. Their model of ordering at the cash register, getting a number to bring back to your seat, and then your meal gets delivered to the table is now widely used across the city – seven years ago, it seemed like a genius idea.    

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 350 Bay 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:


Sweet Lulu Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato