Sunday, September 29, 2013

Satisfying a Shrimp Wonton Fix!

Jim Chai Kee Noodle
270 W Beaver Creek Road
Richmond Hill, ON L4B 3Z1

Visited: September 16, 2013

I was craving shrimp wonton soup and so I stumbled upon this joint after doing a quick Yelp search for the best wontons in Richmond Hill. 

The place is pretty no frills such as with many Chinese establishments. Basic tables and chairs and no decor. But who goes to Chinese places for the ambiance anyways?

The basic wonton noodle soup ($4.50) comes with one topping (choice of shrimp wontons, fish balls, or beef). Although I was craving just shrimp wontons, the temptation of variety took over, and I added a second topping (fish balls) for an additional 50 cents. 

In my bowl came two shrimp wontons and three fish balls. Had I ordered one topping, I would have had four shrimp wontons, regret immediately set in. The feeling of regret was more immense after I tasted the fish balls. They were large, seasoned well and looked like they were made from scratch but they were way too fishy for my liking!  I thought non-fresh fish scraps. I shuddered. Aargh, gross. Fortunately, the shrimp wontons were tasty especially with a splash of red vinegar. The wonton noodles were pretty standard along with the MSG soup. 

It's self serve tea here but can you complain with bowls starting at $4.50?  I will be back the next time I have a shrimp wonton fix. 

Jim Chai Kee Noodle on Urbanspoon

Real Sports Bar & Grill

Real Sports Bar & Grill
15 York Street
Toronto, ON M5J 0A3

Date Visited: September 24, 2013

I was at Real Sports Bar & Grill last Tuesday for a preseason Sens @ Leafs game. I was surprised how packed this place was at 5:30pm!  It's the love of the Leafs!  Good thing we made reservations. 

This place is the ultimate sports bar for real - how can you go wrong with a 2-storey high television and a massive sports ticker propped above the bar?  

Service was slow given the crowd, but the servers gave periodic updates to let you know you weren't forgotten about. 

When you see a menu state, "We believe that a great sports bar is synonymous with great wings," how are you not compelled to order wings?  Further, you are reminded that Real Sport's own Chef Tony was voted the Wing King of Toronto for the Best Chicken Wings. 

With so much hype, I ordered the Thai Sweet Chili wings - the receipe that got Chef Tony the job, literally!

Impressions?  Large wings with a great crispy batter and a tangy sweet chili sauce. The kicker? They are so moist and juicy on the inside!  These are definitely some of the best wings in Toronto!  

The only thing is that the wings only come with celery and carrots. I ordered a side of fries to accompany my meal. The fries were soft and fleshy - very reminiscent of Swiss Chalet fries. 

I left happy with time to spare for the pick drop at 7pm.  A solid dinner right before the Leafs game!
Real Sports Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Not Lovin' It!

1168 St. Clair West
Toronto, ON

I have been to this McDonald's in the heart of Corso Italia (@ Dufferin and St. Clair) a few times... And boy, let me tell you, it's the worst McDonald's I have ever experienced. 


The service is so ghastly sloooow!  There is always a long line of irritated customers. The best analogy I have for how slow this line moves is the attitude that Patty and Selma from The Simpsons have with their jobs at the DMV, "Some days, we don't let the line move at all. We call those weekdays."  The army of staff behind the counter does not translate into fast service.  The staff aren't motivated and they seem to always to be set on "chill" mode. I have even seen them argue with each other in front of customers. 

What's even worse is that this location doesn't even serve the Fillet-o-Fish!  

Instead, I got a Big Mac this visit which I suspect has gotten smaller in size than years past. 

Nothing could salvage my experience today... Not even the fact that Monopoly is back!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Starbucks Celebrates National Coffee Day with Canada's Largest Coffee Tasting!

In anticipation of National Coffee Day on September 29th, Starbucks is hosting a coffee tasting for 3 days in their stores across Canada!

The tasting will take place between the hours of 2-3 p.m. on the following dates:

September 25:  Starbucks True North Blend
September 26:  Ethiopia
September 27:  Starbucks Thanksgiving Blend

Today, you can experience a familiar blend with the Starbucks True North coffee.  Over the next two days, the Ethiopia and Thanksgiving coffees will be available to taste for the first time in Canada!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Origin North

Origin North
2901 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, ON M2N 5Z7

Date Visited: September 16, 2013

Last night, I dined out with my fellow foodies at the newly opened Origin North at Bayview Village. 

We started the night by ordering some drinks:

We ordered a few Somersby Ciders ($8) - a great, smooth drinking cider with low acid.  First time I saw them served in custom glasses. I love the thumb hold on the glass!

The Scotsman ($11) (left) - Hendricks Gin, St. Germain, ginger, cucumber, lemon.  French 107 ($13) (right) - St. Germain, prosecco, lemon. 

Our first tapas course was Devilled Eggs ($7) - smoked bacon, herbs, souffletine. I loved the whipped consistency of the egg yolks - rich, smooth, and airy. The bacon was crispy and the souffletine (crunchy, tiny cereal balls) was a nice touch. 

Next up was the Spicy Spanish Fries ($12) - chorizo, manchego. This was a great tasting appetizer.  You can never go wrong with aioli and fries. Add Spanish influences - chorizo (pork sausage) and manchego (a cheese produced from sheep milk) and you're got yourself a decadent hodgepodge of flavours. 

The next dish was Smoked Pork Lettuce Wraps ($12 for 2 wraps) - daikon, carrot, crispy noodle, peanut. The wraps were too sour for my liking. I imagine the sourness present in the wrap was to cut the fattiness of the pork but it didn't balance well. 

Next up was the Thai Curried Shrimp ($17) - with Naan bread. The curry was rich and full-bodied. The hot and soft  naan bread was perfect in sopping up all the flavour. The shrimp had a great firm texture - cooked perfectly. 

Next up was the Bangkok Beef Salad ($16) - Peanut, mint, mango, glass noodles, nam jim dressing. This salad had a light and refreshing taste to it. The beef was cooked medium rare. A feast for the eyes as well as the palate. 

The waitress told us that the Chinois Duck ($17) - Flour tortilla, cucumber, hoisin, sriracha, & sour cream was a play on a Peking duck. I wish she didn't. The wrap offered many of the right elements - hoisin and cucumber for example but I was expecting crispy skin and I was disappointed. The wrap was still solid, offering delicious duck confit. It was just not meeting my expectations. Also, the wraps that traditionally accompany a Peking duck are also usually very thin to showcase the duck, unlike the flour tortillas offered here.

Miso Black Cod ($33) - bok choy & ginger sauce. I've had many miso black cod in my lifetime and so I was hesitant to get all gung ho about this one but I had to try it. I thought the fish was very succulent and cooked well but I would have enjoyed it more if it was seared more. The fish also came on a very watery plate and it was diluting the flavours of the fish. The "sauce" was also very sour making the bok choy unpleasant to eat. Thumbs down. 

Dessert was Walnut Doughnut ($9) - caramel & soft serve. When it came to our table, the server poured heavy cream on the doughnut... Intriguing. First impressions: delicious!  The outer crust was full of cinnamon flavour and crunchy. The inside?  Warm and fluffy!  It was amazing!!!  Couldn't stop eating this one!

Chocolate Crunch Bar ($10) - Huckleberry sorbet. Every bite of this bar was decadent. The sorbet was light and refreshing. 

Thoughts on Origin?  Many Asian influences on the menu. Some hits and misses. I would dine again... But nothing really stood out on the menu for me to recommend it a "must dine" destination. Perhaps I should try the nitro ice cream next time?

Origin North on Urbanspoon

Ye Olde Town Starbucks!

201 Main Street
Unionville, ON L3R 2G8

I was looking for the nearest Starbucks with the Starbucks app's store locator and found this little gem. 

What makes this store different is that it's located on Unionville's famous Main Street. Being a historical landmark, this Starbucks received the olde town treatment. 

Inside, this Starbucks had a welcoming atmosphere as if you were home.  Having 2 floors, this place had ample seating littered with cozy couches and tables.  

It was busy during my visit. While the staff were friendly, they seemed inexperienced and inefficient. It took me over 10 minutes to get my order. 

Despite the slow service, it was a great place to relax and get some coffee. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Home of the Brave

Home of the Brave
589 King Street West (2nd floor)

Date Visited: August 23, 2013

Home of the Brave is a newly opened classic American eatery by the people behind La Carnita. Their slogan: Why can't Canucks make American food?

Reservation policy - drop by and leave a number (for parties less than 10). 

My fellow foodies and I went to check on HOTB on Friday night.  We showed up a quarter before eight and we were greeted with a one hour wait.  We decided to wait and see what all the fuss was about. 

Once seated, we took a look at the drinks menu. Surprise, surprise - everything was American inspired from vintage American cocktails (Blinker, Bronx, Honeymoon) to guest book cocktails (The Manhattan, The Wizard of Oz).  They also had beer by the bottle. I got a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon ($5). 

For my main, I ordered the Fried Bologna Sandwich ($9.00). I love how thinly the bologna was sliced like a deli sandwich.  I've never seen bologna presented this way - it's the most refined I've seen it. It's not the juvenile, thick sliced, bottom rung of the cold cut ladder luncheon meat that I am used to - that's for sure!  On top of that, the bologna was fried, browned here and there for some great texture.  The bologna had a good flavour to it except that it was on the salty side. The sandwich's saving grace?  Those toasted pistachios. They balanced out the saltiness of the meat and gave the sandwich an amazing crunch factor. The pistachios elevated the sandwich to another level.  Also having melted house made American cheese and spicy sour cream on this bad boy was the right call. 

We also ordered the Johnny Cake with Smoked Trout ($14.00): cornmeal griddle cake with savoury cream trout, maple syrup and chives. 

This dish played with sweet and salty elements. The perfect bite - sweet yet crunchy Johnny cake with savoury trout and a dab of cream. Great taste experience. Yet, it did get too sweet after letting the Johnny cake soak up more of the maple syrup at the bottom of the dish.

The Smoked Pork Belly Sandwich ($9.00) consisted of pork belly & shoulder, ranch sauce, cabbage slaw, and lemon zest. 

Getting to the meat of the matter, the pork belly was melt in your mouth goodness. The shoulder was a great compliment of texture as was the crunchy slaw. And my Achilles heel?  Ranch sauce... You can never go wrong with ranch... A solid sandwich! 

The sides were more inexpensive if you ordered all three ($5 each but 3 for $12). The whole is greater than the sum of all parts?

Tater tots - they were super delicious!  Creamy mashed potato taste with a perfectly battered and fried exterior. Don't miss the gravy on the bottom - icing on the cake. 

Swiss Chard - simple, with shallots and garlic. Delicious. 

Beets - with lemon, dill, blackberry empire apple vinegar - I wasn't a big fan of this one. Beets were quite hard and I wasn't really enjoying the flavour. 

Bottom line: interesting offering of dishes.  Not "dinner" worthy in my eyes.  I would go back to lounge around, snack, and drink.
Home of the Brave on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Burger's Priest: Vatican City Style!

The Burger's Priest
3397 Yonge Street
Toronto, ON M4N 2M7

Yesterday I had a monster burger craving after watching Burger Wars Toronto on TV. The three competitors were The Burger's Priest, Dangerous Dan's and Parts and Labour. 

Although Parts and Labour won it, I decided to scratch my burger itch at The Burger's Priest on Yonge. 

The line wasn't as long as I expected for a Labour Day Monday - but it was out the door for a noon hour lunch. 

I glanced at the wall and realized the secret menu wasn't so secret anymore.  Having ordered The Pope (the standard Priest burger but with two beef patties instead of one) in the past, I decided to be more adventurous and order the heart-stopping Vatican City. 

The Vatican City consists of two four-ounce beef patties (freshly ground), processed cheese, lettuce, ketchup, mayo, mustard, pickles, and onions - all between two grilled cheese sandwiches as buns.  

Yes, it is greasy but this fact can be overlooked by it's deliciousness. 

The beef patties have the right consistency - lightly pressed so that they don't fall apart too easily but aren't too dense. Made of a custom blend of premium beef, they exude great beef flavour.  They also aren't overly salted for a burger as decadent as this. 

The fixings are nothing fancy, but they activate those hard wired impulses that tell us what a burger should be like. 

Complaints:  The burger wasn't as high as I'd envisioned it to be - certainly not how it looked in its stock photo on the secret menu. It was disappointing. It could have been attributed to the very flat grilled cheese buns - they were more like pancakes and they weren't as large in diameter as I was hoping for.  I'm not sure if they add anything to the overall experience. I would also rather have a premium cheddar in the grilled cheese buns than processed - I would pay for the difference. 

The burger is also missing a crunch factor. I regretted not getting The Tower of Babel which is The Vatican City but with an Option added. 

The Option
The Option consists of two Portabello mushrooms and cheese deep fried in a Panko batter. I feel like this is the signature "option" that separates The Burger's Priest from other burger joints. Every crunchy bite into the Option results in amazing mushroom flavour along with ooey, gooey cheese.  In fact, it should be added to all burgers to get the true Burger's Priest experience!

Overall:  The Burger's Priest still features some of the best burgers in Toronto.  The Urban Foodie will have to visit Parts and Labour next to see how they stack up. 

The Burger's Priest on Urbanspoon