Showing posts with label squid. Show all posts
Showing posts with label squid. Show all posts

Tanto (Toronto)


As I write this post on Tanto, I can’t help but think about my experience at Constantine ... two similar restaurants: both newcomers in Toronto and Argentinian “inspired” so not necessarily authentic. My meals even followed comparable patterns of sitting at the Chef’s table and a dinner comprised of dishes made on their wood burning grill. Hence, although each post stands alone, I can’t help but draw comparisons between the meals.

Although both were enjoyable, Tanto elevated the experience by simply tweaking the way they did things. To begin, the made sitting at the “Chef’s table” matter. It sounds fancy, but really it merely means you’re sitting at a “bar” area overlooking the kitchen. There’s no special menu and you can order whatever you like. At Tanto, Chef Julian Iliopolus interacted with the diners – at the beginning, to answer any questions about the menu; and with each course, coming by to get our thoughts and answer any other queries that may arise. How else would I have known that Tanto’s leg of jamón ibérico wholesaled for $1,100? A very different experience than Constantine.


Tanto also commands their parilla, the wood burning grill, much better. Both are set-up similarly, the grill surface on a lever system so it can be raised and lowered. It’s how the wood is placed that differs. At Tanto, the wood burns at the back of the grill and as it heats up, smouldering chunks break off. The grill is then raised to combine these pieces with charcoal. In fact, this is generally how the traditional Argentinian asado is operated – ingredients are cooked using smouldering embers and not direct fire. As you can imagine, the indirect heat makes it easier for the chef to control the temperature and not burn the food. 


We were treated to a beautifully cooked wagyu bavette ($39) that incorporated a lightly smoked aroma but still medium rare in the centre. The fat within the marbled meat simply melted into everything so the beef looked lean but was juicy when eaten. Biting into the thinner end piece, I was met with a pungent blast of salt for my first taste. However, once a bit of the chimichurri was added, the condiment actually helped neutralize the saltiness. Moreover, the chimichurri was largely herbs and oil so wasn’t too vinegary, helping season the meat without covering all the flavours.


Arriving with a choice of sides, we decided on the patatas bravas… after all, what’s more Argentinian than meat with potatoes? The deep fried squashed spuds were amazingly creamy and topped with a garlic scape sauce. I could have eaten an order of these as a starter. 

The grilled squid ($18) also spent a minute on the grill, the intense heat cooking it quickly, so it rolls up and remains tender. Chef Iliopolus cheekily describes it being topped by “stuff”, particularly items that can cause allergic reactions. From what I could decipher there were crushed nuts, thinly fried pancetta, a thicker and tarter chimichurri, and chilies. Whatever the “stuff” was it really helped to add a burst of textures and flavours to the dish. Although I did try one piece of the squid with everything scraped off and it was still wonderfully flavoured on its own.


Seeing the leg of jamón ibérico ($30) on the counter, my husband and I eyed it giddily like kids in a candy store… we had to have a plate to start! There’s tons of literature out there that explains why this ham is special and commands such a high price. Having had it on a handful of occasions, it’s still a treat. While other cured pork products tend to be smoky, intensely salty, and you taste the porky flavour; the ibérico version has a sweet and salty taste with no intense pig odour. Hold a slice of it on your tongue for a bit and let the fat melt before chewing and you’ll be hit with these delicious juicy flavours. If ham had a candy form, this would be it.


The smoked ricotta empanada ($7) is an interesting take on the classic Argentinian snack. At Tanto it’s deep fried, the crust encapsulating molten ricotta and a leek/onion mixture. Add a bit of their house-made hot sauce to the cheese, it works well. While tasty, I still prefer the traditional beef version and will try that on a return visit. 


Hearing Chef Iliopolus describe the cavatelli with clams ($28), a pasta made with semolina flour with clams and peas, I knew it would be a dish I’d like. The chewiness of the cavatelli reminded me of gnocchi and the lightness of the peas and pea shoots were a great compliment to the rest of the meal. If only the clams weren’t cold this would have been the perfect dish for me. While not terrible, as the clams were plump and sweet, cold juicy clams with warm pasta wasn’t a contrast I enjoyed.


Oh Tanto, how I’ve warmed to your wood grill… the tale of two restaurants continues…

Overall mark - 9 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 74 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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Celebrating #Canada150 at Shoushin (Toronto)


Aside from the beautiful land, what I love most about Canada is our diversity and that we’re generally a country that celebrates multiculturalism. Being a child of immigrants, my parents left their families and travelled here for university. Of course, it wasn’t easy – getting comfortable with the language and having to work harder to prove their worth – yet, they love their decision and would never return to Hong Kong … Canada is home.

Hence, when it came time to celebrate Canada’s 150 anniversary, forgoing the typical BBQ and celebrating with Shoushin’s special Canada omakase ($150), served until the end of July 2017, seemed like the patriotic thing to do.

The first bite from the dinner is the mozuku, a refreshing start with finely cut seaweed slivers mixed with a sweet vinegar. Its consistency is a bit slippery, but since the seaweed has little flavour, it’s not off putting. Garnished with tomato pulp, grated ginger, and daikon slivers, these add a nice crunch and additional flavours to the starter to keep it interesting.

As a first experience goes, the lobster sashimi wasn’t horrible. Although it’s not something I’d want to eat again, the east coast crustacean actually had a crunchy consistency and wasn’t soft and gummy as expected. Chef Lin notes that lobster sashimi is really about the texture as it has little taste. He was right; while it was simply adorned with seaweed salt and wasabi, I still couldn’t taste much sweetness (something that seems to develop when it’s cooked).


The aroma emitted from the grilled unagi is heavenly, the perfume of sweet caramelized soy that makes you want to dig in right away. Since the eel is from Quebec, it’s much larger and hence meatier than the typical unagi found on rice or topping sushi. Glazed with mirin, soy sauce, and chocolate (if I heard correctly), it’s sweet and peppery thanks to the chilli berries on top. It would have been even better if it were cooked a touch less as I found one piece a tad chewy and dry.


Before the sushi procession begun, a bowl of nyumen arrives, the kelp and bonito infused broth swimming with silky somen noodles, crunchy snow peas, and earthy re-hydrated shiitake mushrooms. The dish is simple but wonderful, the soup ideal for readying the palette for the raw seafood that follows.


Starting light, the first piece of sushi was a Japanese flounder. While it’s a meaty fish, there’s an interesting almost fluffiness to its consistency.


Though the west coast big reef squid’s slightly sticky chewy texture isn’t the greatest, it’s not repulsive either and likely due to the thicker slice given. After getting past the consistency, it’s a nice light squid with the main flavours stemming from the swipe of soy on top.


The golden eye snapper is always a treat, even as a milder fish, there’s still a prevalent flavour to it and pairs rather nicely with the vinegar mixed into the rice. As commended in a previous post, Shoushin makes excellent rice: it’s heavier on the vinegar so that grains actually have flavour and the temperature is spot on (warm enough to enhance the fish without changing the temperature).


Shoushin also makes amazing horse mackerel sushi! Since the fish is cleaned so well any gamey fishiness is removed. On this occasion, they added a healthy sprinkle of green onion on top creating an extra zip to the sushi. It’s by far the best horse mackerel I’ve had.


Midway through the 11-piece sushi meal the tuna parade starts, following the leanest to fattiest sequence. The lean blue fin tuna has that vibrant red colour that’s so mesmerising. Meanwhile, the warmer rice with the medium chu toro was fantastic, causing the tuna taste to cover the tongue and linger even after the piece was finished.


Typically, the fattiest piece of the tuna comes from the otoro or tuna belly. In this case, Shoushin introduced me to the fattiest part of the tuna’s back, which still melts in the mouth and has a much stronger flavour.


After such lovely pieces of tuna, the gizzard shad was out of place. Having had it before, this piece was overly salty and the skin too thick – it felt like I was chewing forever when I just wanted to swallow the salty fish down.


The east coast surf clam wasn’t any better. At first it had a crunchy texture emitting a sweetness, but as chewing continued, the clam finished off with a fishy aftertaste. Take my advice: chew and swallow quickly, this isn’t one for savouring.


Thankfully, the following east coast scallop was better: with a hint of seaweed salt and lemon on top, the ingredients helped augment the scallop’s sweetness. Not having been blow torched, you could still taste the seafood in a delicate manner.


In lieu of the traditional hand roll, a piece of sushi topped with pop-in-your-mouth Canadian fish eggs arrived. With a light dusting of yuzu zest on top, it was a cold and refreshing ending.


Of course, we were also served a piece of tamago, which Shoushin does so well. The beautiful layers and rich delicately sweetened egg is the perfect bridge between sushi and dessert.


Whenever they serve some sort of rendition of a green tea pudding, that’s what I have for dessert. The matcha flavoured jelly is generally accompanied with a sweet red bean paste (a staple in Asian sweets) and a chewy unfilled glutinous rice ball. In this case, the Canadian theme continued with the pool of maple syrup on the bottom, helping to add a sweetness to the dessert.


While not as impressive as their general Yuri tasting menu, this one was still decent. However, for something classified as a special “Canada celebration” menu, it’s disappointing that less than half of the dishes were made from Canadian ingredients.

Understandably, sourcing an entire Canadian menu for sushi may be difficult, but at least the individual courses such as the seaweed (from Okinawa) and somen noodles (presumably from Japan) should be Canadian related. Either they could be sourced from Canadian ingredients (wouldn’t we produce seaweed?) or replaced with something signifying our country (an Angus beef tataki would have been delicious).

Without a doubt, I love Canada for its diversity. Nonetheless, perhaps refined sashimi and sushi should be left for other days of the year.

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 3328 Yonge 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:


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


CLOSED: Canis Restaurant (Toronto)

From the moment the bread arrived, I knew we were in for a treat. If you’ve sworn off carbs, good luck turning down a piece of Canis’ heavenly warm sourdough. It’s the perfect combination of slightly tangy dough, airy innards, and a smoky salty crunchy crust.


I’d already be satisfied with the sourdough plain, but then swipe on the silky ricotta with an oily pool of chimichurri and the bread rises to another level. How did Chef Jeff Kang know the key to my stomach? I slather more onto the bread, trying not to be greedy, but wanting to wipe every last morsel from the bowl. What’s the other dish? Oh, a subdued garlic butter … it’s no ricotta.


Feeling particularly ravenous, we added two “snacks” while waiting for the four-course menu ($60) to start. The oysters ($12) for the evening were four creamy Malpeque with a light daikon mignonette, which added enough acidity to cut through the seafood but wasn’t overpowering.


Rather than the typical balls, the cauliflower falafel ($4) were in cylinder form so there was more crispy surface area. The chickpea mixture was nutty and fairly moist, but what brought it up a notch was the squiggle of eggplant puree and dots of pickled cauliflower on top (those cauliflower florets stole the show).


The only miss that evening was the scallop: the onion mignonette and shaved horseradish too strong, completely drowning out the delicate seafood. The dish might as well have used a cheap raw fish, I wouldn’t have taste the difference. Meanwhile, if the sauce was more subdued (perhaps a diluted yuzu and olive oil), the alternating layers of supple scallops and crunchy radish would have been delicious.  


Conversely, the beef tartare, a dish that’s normally lends itself to strong flavours, was prepared simply. The steak was cut into larger chunks and sparingly seasoned - garlic aioli added creaminess and flakes of something dark added a wonderful saltiness. In lieu of bread, crunchy julienned turnip sat on top providing the same crunchiness, but also a adding a refreshing lightness to the starter.


Included in the squid was a sizeable portion of the actual protein, cut into thick slices so there’s a meatiness to the dish. Thanks to the lonza, it became a rich appetizer, the cured pork adding a mellow smokiness. Tucking into the bottom, you’ll notice a thick but subdued squid ink sauce – infusing an umami sense to the dish, but does paint a black film onto your teeth (just remember to swish with water afterwards).


Canis likes to hide their meat, giving me the feeling that I’m digging into a salad – when really what waits underneath are flavourful strips of pork jowl, which is oh so tender but also incorporates a bit of chewiness from the collagen and fat. Yet, to the rest of the world, I’m just eating forkfuls of shredded Brussels sprouts tossed with jalapeno, pickle, and garlic flakes.   


One meat dish Canis doesn’t hide is their duck for two. In fact, Chef Kang brings the glistening duck breast tableside for patrons to admire before it’s whisked away for slicing and plating. There’s much to admire: the skin is crispy and intricately scored glossed in a caramelized honey crust; the fat is rendered but there’s still a enough left underneath so there’s a lingering richness on the tongue; and the meat is aged so the chewiness of the duck’s meat mellows out and can be cooked to a medium rare without turning tough.


The sides are equally delicious: the sunchoke purée a play between sweet and savoury; the roasted sunchoke slice perfectly done so it’s creamy inside and crispy around the edges; and for another taste of duck, a shredded duck confit cooked with wheat berries resulting in an intensely meaty risotto (I enjoyed it’s savoury taste that counteracts the sweet duck jus).



Truthfully, I’d love to try Canis’ other mains (sablefish and beef shortrib during our winter visit), but with the duck so good, it’d be a difficult decision as I’d hate to miss experiencing the meat again.

Choosing from the restaurant’s desserts is a challenge as other than three ingredients, there’s no description on what form the sweet comes in (i.e. cake, pie, ice cream, etc.) The “quince, buttermilk, hazelnut” turns out to be buttermilk snow with stewed quince and chopped hazelnuts on the bottom. It’s refreshing and could be a great palette cleanser, but hardly satisfying as a dessert.


Meanwhile, the “pear, koji, almond” was closer to my idea of a dessert.  Stewed pear, cut into small pieces and left with a slight crunchiness, is sandwiched in between crispy sheets of tissue thin pastry. Our waitress explains koji is mold commonly used in South East Asian countries for fermentation – you can’t really see it in the dish and it’s unclear what it does (I did find there was a preserved plum (chan pui mui) taste to the dessert). Whatever it does, it’s delicious and I’d like to think gets the digestive juices flowing.


At least they presented me with an espresso canelé with the bill – it has the requisite sweet sugary crust and soft airy centre . It satisfied my sweet tooth.


Canis isn’t in-your-face Canadian - the wooden minimalist décor doesn’t have a stich of plaid or a single stuffed animal in sight. Yet, dining there reminds me of our country, from the staff’s diversity to the friendly non-pushy attitude. Even their dishes are portrayed in an understated way – the pork jowl and beef in the tartare aren’t the first things you see, rather it’s the humble but delicious turnip and Brussels sprouts; once you dig deeper, you get a whole new experience.  


And you must experience Canis and their duck (assuming you’re not vegetarian or allergic) at least once. If you need an excuse, just consider it your patriotic duty. 

Overall mark - 9.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 746 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:


Canis Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Kobi Korean BBQ (Thornhill)

Kobi Korean BBQ Thornhill

The smell of searing meat mixed with the faint caramelizing marinades gets me salivating. It’s agony having to wait for a table while visiting a Korean BBQ establishment, seeing the hot cast iron plates doing their duty and not enjoying the fruits of their labour. It’s difficult, but I try not to stare too much at fellow diners, my longing eyes likely making their meals uncomfortable.

If you don’t want to experience all this, call ahead to Kobi Korean BBQ to get a reservation. It’s packed during the weekends and even with a reservation it can be another 15-30 minute wait.

Also, go with at least four people. For the larger dishes, tables need to place at least two orders of each - although you’re able to mix-and-match amongst the options. For example, for their famed fondue BBQ platter, you can order the spicy chicken and cheese ($18.99) and the spicy squid and cheese ($19.99), they’ll get combined into a larger dish. The end product is predominantly onions, the chicken and squid relatively sparse, but everything is mixed into a wonderful flavourful sweet and spicy sauce.

Kobi Korean BBQ Thornhill: chicken, squid and cheese

If you run out of cheese an additional order ($5.99), the equivalent of two cups (and you can tell as it’s served in a measuring cup), is available to add to the plate. With the excess onions I suggest you combine them with a couple of bowls of rice, cheese, kimchi and garlic into the hot plate and make your own fried rice. We also threw in some seared pork belly and it was fantastic!

The seafood pancake with garlic chives ($6.99) is one of the better ones I’ve had with tons of ingredients and a sweet soy on the side. As you’ll notice, there is no picture and this is largely due to the dishes coming out too quickly. With a third of the table already occupied by the BBQ hot plate and another third consumed by all the utensils and small dishes there’s no room for food. We literally had to throw the beef onto the hot plate and divvy up the pancake onto our plates to keep things flowing.

Since the hot plate utilizes so much real estate, it’d be a shame not to try some of their BBQ items (also a minimum of two items but can be combined). The marinated beef ribs ($24.99) was delicious, a satisfying thickness, tender and well flavoured.

Kobi Korean BBQ Thornhill: beef

Meanwhile, while ordering the pork belly our waitress asked if we’d prefer a thick or thin cut. Answering “thick” she looked at us dubiously and suggested we switch to the thin instead. Who am I to argue against experience? So, the thinly sliced pork belly ($15.99) was placed instead. Not having tried the thicker cut, I really can’t see why it wouldn’t have suited us, but the thin ones ended up being fine – cooking quickly and there were more slices to go around – a quarter which ended up in the make-your-own fried rice.

Kobi Korean BBQ Thornhill: pork belly

Accompanying the larger dishes were also a host of complimentary items:
  • Various banchan of spicy napa cabbage kimchi, turnip kimchi, pickled cucumbers, a sad portion of sesame oil laced green beans, and peanuts.
  • A bowl of steamed egg (seen in the cover photo). As always so delicious that I could have easily consumed the whole thing myself.
  • A bowl of spicy bean tofu soup placed in the middle of the cast iron plate so that it’s kept hot and bubbling the entire time.
  • Leafs of romaine lettuce, a napa and green onion slaw, thinly sliced raw red onions, slices of raw jalapeno, and garlic to wrap the BBQ meats into.
Kobi Korean BBQ Thornhill: banchan

Despite the initial panic when all the food arrived and difficulties in capturing staff attention to get a refill of depleting condiments, we had a jovial and enjoyable dinner. The tightly packed table configuration does mean the circulation in the restaurant is poor and the dining room fills with smoke. If this bothers you and the weather is nice, ask to be seated outside where the view of the parking lot may not be the best but at least you won’t reek of cooked meat afterwards.

Kobi Korean BBQ Thornhill: patio

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 100 Steeles Avenue 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:


KOBI Korean BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato