Wednesday, March 11, 2015

NOLA Day 1: Muriel's Jackson Square

My first dinner in New Orleans was at Muriel's (@MurielsNOLA), a contemporary Creole joint, in the heart of Jackson Square.  The interiors on the first floor had an elegant and historical feel to it with antique frames and mirrors lining exposed brick walls.  For much of the seventeen and eighteen hundreds, the property was primarily a residence to the likes of the Destrehan and Poydras families, which explains its homey character.  

I can describe the service as charming and accommodating.  Our wait staff were also very knowledgeable with the food and drink menus making various recommendations throughout our meal.

Many of us took advantage of the table d'hote menu which essentially is a 3-course prix fixe (appetizer, entree, and dessert) for $39.95.

The turtle soup was one of our appetizers.  I was excited to taste this dish as it was my first experience with the soup and because many reviewers of the New Orleans food scene claim that it is a must-try specialty.  But, the first reason I was disappointed with the soup was because it was served relatively cold.  This could have been a function of our large party (there were 14 of us) since they were attempting to serve us all at once; however, it's still unacceptable.  Further, the soup was bland and flavourless despite the traditional pour of sherry on top of the soup right before serving.  I'm glad this was not my only experience of turtle soup while I was in New Orleans; otherwise, it would have skewed my opinion on this delicacy.

Turtle Soup

On the other hand, the shrimp and goat cheese crepe appetizer, was fantastic.  The crepe was crispy to contrast the warm goat cheese within.  The goat cheese itself was quite mild, perhaps mild enough for a non-goat cheese lover to appreciate.  The shrimp were fresh and tasty and the buttery cream sauce of chardonnay brought everything together.  The dish was topped with onions, tomatoes and bell peppers.

Shrimp & Goat Cheese Crepes

The pecan encrusted baby drum, one of our mains, was delicious.  The drum itself was cooked perfectly.  While the roasted pecan crust was an ingenious idea, I thought it would be crunchier.  The sauce was amazing though as it creamy yet foamy and had a lemon tartness to it.

Pecan Encrusted Baby Drum

Shrimp and Grits

The grits served in my shrimp and grits entree were deliciously creamy, airy and smooth - although I loved how some of the texture was retained. However, I wish I could say the same about the shrimp.  The shrimp seemed on the edge of going bad as the flesh tasted a bit moldy to me despite being in a flavourful green tomato relish.

On to dessert!  In my opinion, the desserts were the stars of the entire meal.  What really stood out was the bread pudding - it's a must-have.  The spongy and eggy bread was warm throughout and the candied pecans gave that crunchy element.  The caramelized rum sauce had a good viscosity to it and had the right amount of sweetness!

Pain Perdu Bread Pudding with Candied Pecans and Rum Sauce

Red Velvet with Cream Cheese Ice Cream Sandwich

In all, there were definitely enough favourites to warrant a return visit.  A great first dinner in the French Quarter!

Muriel's Jackson Square
801 Chartres Street
New Orleans, Louisiana 70116

Muriel's Jackson Square on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Fish Balls are a Great Afternoon Snack at Pacific Mall

Fish and Beef Balls
($1.50 per stick)

We all know Pacific Mall (@ThePacificMall), the largest indoor Chinese mall in North America, is synonymous with retail shops selling bubble tea, phone cases & accessories, fake designer bags, electronics & DVDs, and even rims!  

But I always crave fish balls when I am there. My go-to place has always been on the first floor.  So you can imagine my shock when I initially discovered the space was replaced with a nail salon!  But fear not, the aptly named Fish Ball Place was relocated to the second floor food court.  It's a great place to stop by for an afternoon snack ranging from fish & beef balls to tripe & Taiwanese sausage!

Fish Ball Place
Pacific Mall, Second Floor
4300 Steeles Ave E
Markham ON L3R 0Y5

Date Visited: March 9, 2015

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Daily Specials are a Great Value at Liberty Shawarma

Chicken Shawarma
I went to Liberty Shawarma (@LibertyShawarma) on Queen East for a quick bite to eat during lunch.  Walking in, it was the first I've heard of the place, but I quickly discovered that this location was one of three that existed across the city.  My guess was that the Liberty Village location on Atlantic was the first, given the namesake of this Middle Eastern joint. 

So three locations...this place must be good, right?  Well, I can tell you that Liberty Shawarma's food is fresh, tasty, and priced well. 

Nothing screams value like their Monday special: two shawarma chicken sandwiches for $9.99, especially considering their small is usually $6.99.  You would think they would try to scrimp on quality and size but that simply isn't the case. They took what I consider a medium-sized pita (x2) and packed it to the brim with fresh ingredients: onions, lettuce, tomatoes and pickles with succulent pieces of chicken topped with garlic sauce and optional green hot sauce.  Fantastic!  There was just the right amount of sauce as the sandwich was moist but it didn't drip (this held true even with the second sandwich that I saved for dinner) - a plus if you are on the go. 

If ever in the neighborhood, I would definitely go back... especially for their daily specials.  

Click here to view their daily specials from Monday to Saturday.

On Sunday, all daily specials are available!

Date Visted:  February 23, 2015

Liberty Shawarma on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 2, 2015


Despite its name, Wow! Sushi is an unassuming sushi restaurant on Charles Street.  At first glance, it appears to be one of the many run-of-the-mill sushi joints downtown.  Instead, it is a hidden gem!

I was very impressed with their version of chirashi, which traditionally is a dish consisting of assorted pieces of raw fish served over a bed of sushi rice.  You pay a little more for a chirashi here than your average sushi place but it's well worth it.  At an average sushi joint, the ever ubiquitous salmon makes up the majority of the dish with other routine pieces such as tuna, surf clam and shrimp.  How boring!  But, at Wow, you can delight your palate with a better selection of fish that involves sea bream, mackerel, and B.C. tuna.  Not only do you get variety, but you also get freshness and flavour.  Such is the case with their butterfish, where you can taste all the subtle nuances of the fish.  At your dime a dozen sushi place, you tend to get served inferior butterfish pieces that have poor texture and taste.  Often this happens because the fish has excess water from being partially thawed from being frozen, but Wow gets it right.

Chirashi ($18.00)
Interestingly, Wow serves the sushi rice in a separate bowl, perhaps to enhance the presentation of the fish.
Wow! is a great option to satisfy your sushi craving for instances when you want better quality fish but do not want to break the bank with the likes of JaBistro, Japango, Kaji, or Yasu.

Spicy Salmon Hand Rolls
Wow! Sushi on Urbanspoon