Showing posts with label wings. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wings. Show all posts

Babel (Toronto)

We all know that COVID has hit restaurants badly. If you’re a newly opened restaurant or one beginning during the pandemic, it’s even worse. O&B’s latest addition, Babel, is unfortunately one of these restaurants that has been affected since operations only began in late 2019, when COVID was a mere whisper.

Their Mediterranean inspired menu relies on the 12-foot open concept hearth, where fires are ablaze and the force for cooking their dishes. It’s a shame, as from our patio vantage point, we couldn’t see it. Babel did try to make up for it by putting two blazing torches on the patio. They are beautiful, adding much needed light to the dark parking lot and an element of ambiance, but they’re more for décor as they don’t release much heat for warming.

Yet, their staff did everything they could to make us feel comfortable and welcomed. First, moving the table from the patio and onto the walkway beside the restaurant to give us more light and blocking some of the wind. The “heating lamp” was pushed as closely as possible; a second one later added until the other reservation for the night arrived. A fuel warmer, something you’d normally use under chafing dishes, was brought out to warm our hands. Pots of boiling water were substituted to the ice variety to warm us from the inside. They really tried to go above and beyond, which certainly helped as despite the frigid temperatures we stayed for two hours and didn’t want the evening to end.

With the dishes made with fire being marketed as a specialty to the restaurant, we had to try a couple. The smoked charred eggplant ($13) is a beautiful plate: the eggplant smeared into a thin layer and topped with pistachios, pomegranate, and edible flowers; drizzles of tahini and date molasses giving it tons of flavour with each bite. While more interesting than the typical dips, the delicate creamy eggplant does get covered with all the other ingredients, so if you really want the flavours of the vegetable, perhaps try the stuffed eggplant instead.

The beef tenderloin kebab ($30) arrives more done than we hoped – closer to medium well compared to the medium rareness described – but likely due to the hot metal cooking skewer being left in the kebab to help retain the heat longer. No harm done as being a tenderloin cut, the beef remained tender anyways. With the beef sitting on the pilaf, the rice becomes well seasoned with the juices soaking into the grains.

Both fire-cooked dishes were good, but so were the deep-fried falafels ($9), a green harissa mixed into the batter giving it lovely green hue and more flavour. Crispy outside and fluffy on the inside this is exactly what falafels should taste like.

They go nicely with the fattoush meets Caesar ($14), a salad that’s exactly as described: take charred romaine and drizzle it with a light Ceasar dressing and some of the ingredients typically found on the salad (parmigiano and filets of anchovies) and augment with other things found in fattoush – cucumbers, tomato, onions, and of course, crunchy pita bits. While it didn’t look overly exciting, it ended up being a decent salad.

We would have liked to see more chicken and less chickpeas in the shawarma ($17), a strange addition making the hand-held even messier to eat. After having shawarma in Dubai, I realize they are best kept simple: tons of chicken, a little bit of lettuce and pickles for crunch, and just enough garlic sauce and tahini for flavour but not to soak the bread. Babel’s probably looks better but is cumbersome to eat, especially when it’s served in a halved pita rather than in a chewy wrap. I’d also reduce the seasoning on the fries, as they were salty even for a person who likes things flavourful.

Truth be told, some of my favourite dishes of the night doesn’t even sound Mediterranean. The Babel wings ($17) was a perfect patio eat, the sole dish that arrived and stayed piping hot. We literally could see the steam being emitted from the wings as we bit into them. And the dry spice rub coating the skin was fantastic – slightly sweet but also bursting with other flavours like sumac enhanced with earthier tones.

The chef had to substitute tagliatelle in the spaghetti aglio e olio ($23), which was fine by me and perhaps worked even better to capture all the oil-based sauce. This was dish that gets cold quickly, but even warm was delicious, the pasta done nicely and just flavourful enough without being overly garlicky. The shrimp were also cooked perfectly and there was plenty of it with the pasta.

Can I have a knafeh ($10) to end? Of course! A thin layer of cheese sat on the bottom, enough to have the toasted crispy vermicelli stick to it with hazelnut and pistachio pieces sprinkled on top. There was just enough cinnamon syrup for sweetness but not to soak into the dessert. It’s one of the lighter renditions of the dish I’ve had. Normally, a small wedge of the dessert is all I can stomach; at Babel, I probably could have eaten it entirely.

Maybe it has something to do with eating outside in the cold, our bodies are burning so many calories just to keep us warm through the ordeal. At least that’s what I tell myself – dining in the cold will help work off all the fried food and carbs I just ingested (those who understand science and nutrition, don’t bother correcting me). Plus, the experience made me feel like a real Canadian. I may not ski, but I can eat in the cold. 

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 305 York Mills Road

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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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The Oar & Paddle (Gravenhurst)


Aside from an endless supply of baked goods, a cottage vacation usually means taking a break from buying food and preparing it ourselves. After being in the sun and relaxing, it’s nice to take time to cook and not abide by schedules. Nonetheless, one evening we gave the barbeque a rest and made our way into the quaint main street in Gravenhurst for dinner.  

When a menu proclaims something as the restaurant’s “famous” dish, I’m intrigued and will give it a try - an order of the deep fried chicken wings ($12.99 for 10 pieces) started us off while waiting for the mains. With thirteen sauces and seasonings to choose from, the Oar & Paddle has a decent selection. The sweet and spicy Thai lived up to its name in terms of flavour and the wings were good – juicy, crispy, freshly out of the fryer, and covered with an ample amount of sauce. Certainly not the best wings I’ve ever eaten, but would likely be a top 20 contender.


For a city by the water, I thought their bouillabaisse ($19.99) would be equally satisfying. To be fair, it had the beginnings of being a promising dish with a nice selection of seafood: perch, shrimp and mussels. Except for the shrimp, which were slightly overcooked, the others arrived flaky and plump.

However, what makes a bouillabaisse nourishing is a hot hearty broth – something aromatic that hits the nose as soon as the dish arrives and a depth that makes you want to drink every last drop. Somehow, the lukewarm lackluster tomato and clam broth just didn’t cut it. At first excited to see the bouillabaisse would be served with both rice and grilled baguette (more vessels to soak up the broth), the rice was probably a poor choice as the hunk of cooled made-hours-ago starch ultimately left the soup tepid.

My husband was smart and stuck with the steadfast fish and chips ($16.99), a popular choice amongst the diners. The haddock was encapsulated in a crispy beer batter - although it could stand to be harder in the centre, the crunchy edges I tried were wonderful. The fries were also hot, plentiful and satisfying. And thankfully, the restaurant made their own tartar sauce so had plenty of gherkins and flavour – I’m amazed at the number of places that ruin fish and chips by giving the packaged Heinz variety.


The Oar & Paddle is a Muskoka favourite and the place was full (both in the dining room and patio) during our Thursday evening visit… you’ll want to make a reservation. Laid back and homey, you don’t feel judged arriving in whatever you’ve been wearing at the cottage that afternoon (covered up of course). Just heed my advice and stick with the pub favourites, anything not grilled or deep fried may result in disappointment.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10



How To Find Them
 Location: Gravenhurst, Canada
 Address: 530 Muskoka Road North

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:


Oar and Paddle Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Smoke (Collingwood)

The Smoke Collingwood


Collingwood has a thriving restaurant scene, especially in the Blue Mountain area. During a girl’s weekend, we decided to venture away from the Mountain and try the restaurants within the town itself – the first being a BBQ joint, The Smoke, which was featured on You Gotta Eat Here.

As their name indicates, the restaurant is known for smoked foods; not only meats but also fish and bananas used in ice cream. So, it’d be a shame to visit without trying something prepared using their namesake method. The smoked BBQ wings ($12) were fantastic, so delicious that we put in a second order right afterwards. The BBQ sauce had a light tanginess to it but wasn’t too strong to mask the aromatic smokiness. The wings were grilled after being tossed in the sauce to help provide a deeper caramelized flavour.


The Smoke sampler ($29) was perfect for our first visit, allowing us to share and try the ½ rack of back ribs, 8oz of pulled pork and 6oz of beef brisket. 


At the restaurant, they cook their meats in the smoker then cry-o-vac and chill them. As dishes are ordered, the meat is revived in a sous vide water bath before being finished on the grill. This method certainly makes for a juicy and tender meat, but also dampens the strong BBQ flavour.


However, if anything is lacking in the flavour department, the bottles of sauces at the table will correct the problem. I love the fact that we didn’t have to choose when we ordered and could take our time trying all of them. Indeed, everyone had their favourites. For me I found the smokin’ hot BBQ sauce great with the ribs, the smoky sweet BBQ sauce with the brisket the slightly vinegary Carolina mustard sauce great with pulled pork.

For the sides, two orders of mac ‘n’ cheese ensured we wouldn’t have to fight over it. The penne was nice and al dante but the cheese sauce could be stronger. Maybe it’s due to the meats and sauces being so intense, the pasta’s smoked cheddar cheese sauce didn’t stand out at all.

With all the heavy meats, the leafy garden salad ($8) was a welcomed side and had a great mustard dressing. Meanwhile, their soup of the day ($9), a potato cheddar, was thick, velvety and flavourful.


The complimentary corn bread was pretty bad – horribly dry, crumbly and lacked flavour… even a pat of butter couldn’t revive it. If the recipe can’t be improved, The Smoke should consider offering another carb instead. Based on the Charleston episode of Parts Unknown, supposedly the best one to pair with BBQ is plain soft sliced bread.


But, I can overlook this small misstep … really who needs to fill up on bread when you have such amazing smoked wings?

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Collingwood, Canada
 Address: 498 First Street
 Website: http://thesmoke.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:



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