Downtown Toronto

Beer Bistro

My friend and I decided to have dinner here afew days ago. It’s brightly lit with a typical western restaurant decor. The restaurant doesn’t have alot of tables when their “private room” is booked. My friend and I sat at the bar which gave us a direct view of the variety of brews offered and the 2 TVs broadcasting the playoff games. I got El Diablo mussels ($20), a flight of beer ($6) and dragon stout & skor ice cream ($6).

The El Diablo mussels are mussels that are steamed in an abbey blonde beer broth with slices of chorizo sausages, cilantro, tomatoes, smoked paprika and a large dollop of crème fraîche. It comes with a loaf of Cantillon Sourdough bread to help soak up all the sauce. It has a nice hint of spiciness and it was quite a large portion of mussels. The portion size is perfectly filling to eat for dinner on its own compared to other mussel offerings at the other restaurants that I’ve tried.

I got Samuel Adams Cold Snap, Rodenbach Grand Cru and the Shillow Beer Co. Sass on the Side for my beer flight. The bartender recommended that I drink it in the following order: Samuel Adams Cold Snap, Shillow Beer Co. Sass on the Side and finally the Rodenbach Grand Cru. The Samuel Adams Cold Snap is a light-bodied wheat beer with hints of plum, orange peel, coriander and hibiscus. It tastes like a lager and it goes down well. It has an alcohol level of 5.3%. The Shillow Beer Co. Sass on the Side is a brown ale that’s bitter. It’s pretty good but I prefer my beer to be less bitter. It has an alcohol level of 5.6%. The Rodenbach Grand Cru is sweet and sour and very wine-like. While at times it was abit too sour tasting, it is a nice wine beer. It has an alcohol level of 6%. Of the three beers I tried, I like the Cold Snap the best followed by Rodenbach Grand Cru.

The dragon stout & skor ice cream was quite chocolatey however it tasted similar to the sound of their cookies ‘n cream and chocolate stout ice cream.

My friend ordered the Sticky Toffee Pudding ($9) for her dessert. The sticky toffee pudding has
x.o. caramel sauce and it’s topped with vanilla bourbon ice cream. She really enjoyed it.

The next time I come back, I would try the Belgian fries, tiramisu and a different selection of craft beer.

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Fresh Off The Boat

My friends and I came here for take out lunch after looking at the sakura blossoms in High Park and walking around Dundas & Queen West. Two of my friends got the lobster roll ($15.76 including tax) and ate it on the TTC and thoroughly enjoyed it. The lobster roll comes with fries and broccoli house slaw. It’s lobster meat with celery and chives between a slice of toast. Another friend and I got the soft shell crab sandwich ($18.02 including tax).

The soft shell crab sandwich is battered deep fried soft shell crab on 2 slices of tomatoes and a lettuce leaf between a brioche bun. It comes with fries and coleslaw. It was quite tasty.

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For my birthday celebration I made reservations for a friend and I at R&D because I really wanted to try this restaurant, not because of Masterchef but because the co-owner is Alvin Leung, a three Michelin star Chinese Canadian chef.

The decor is quite modern with comfortable and spacious seating and a bright interior. Our server informed us that the skewers were unavailable. We ordered the general sanders’ chicken ($25) and the 76 hour peking duck ($68).

The general sanders’ chicken is comprised of 2 deep fried crispy chicken legs, 2 deep fried crispy chicken breasts, Hong Kong egg waffles, sichuan maple syrup dipping sauce and kung pao dipping sauce. To make the batter coating the chicken prior to deep frying, vodka rather than buttermilk is used as the primary binder. Both the leg and breast were very tasty. I was pleasantly surprised that there are organs with the breast since it’s deep fried with the spine and bones as well. The dipping sauces go well with the chicken however my favourite is the sichuan maple syrup. The egg waffles are crunchy and sweet and the maple syrup goes really well with it. Overall, it’s a nice Asian inspired chicken and waffles dish.

The peking duck takes 76 hours of prep and cook time. The duck is first soaked in a salt brine for 40+ hours, then slow cooked for several hours and finally oven roasted. The peking duck served at R&D is an interesting spin on the dish. The skin isn’t as crispy compared to a traditional peking duck while the slices of meat are very thick. The meat is very tender and soft however it comes with a very large layer of fat between the skin and meat. The steamed buns are nice albeit abit thick in comparison to the normal paper-thin wraps at most other restaurants. There are 3 different coleslaws to accompany the thick slices of duck and the thick skinned steamed buns. There’s cucumber with hoisin sauce and scallions which is a fairly Asian take on coleslaw. There’s mango with asian pear and plum which is a very fruity take on coleslaw. There is also cabbage, ginger and carrot which is most reminiscent of regular western coleslaw. Of the 3 slaws, my favourite is the asian pear, mango and plum followed by the cucumber, hoisin sauce and scallion. My friend enjoyed this dish the most.

The service at R&D is nice although perhaps more training is required for their staff. We were unable to finish the peking duck so I asked for containers. The servers said that they’ll wrap up my food for me which is nice of them to do so. When I opened up the take out box a day later I was surprised to find only 30% of the leftovers in the box. My friend and I only had afew bites of the platter and I was looking forward to my duck leg so imagine my disappointment when there wasn’t any duck leg in my container and there were only afew pieces of duck and afew pieces of the steamed buns. All three coleslaws were missing from my container as well. I was very disappointed since I was looking forward to eating the dish again (albeit it wouldn’t have been as tasty as when it’s fresh out of the kitchen). Although my birthday dinner was good the day of, the care of my leftovers tarnished the restaurant for me.

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Bang Bang Ice Cream Part II

After dinner at Borealia, my friends and I decided to get dessert at Bang Bang. One friend had the half ice cream sandwich ($4.40 + tax) while I got the ice cream puff ($5 + tax) and my other friend had the Hong Kong waffle ($8 + tax).

Left: Chesnut Matcha Ice Cream Right: Ginger Milk Ice Cream
I got the matcha chestnut cream puff with chestnut and matcha drizzle ice cream and ginger milk ice cream. It was a heavenly combination although at times the intensity of the ginger milk ice cream overwhelmed the matcha chestnut ice cream puff.

My friend got the rocky road kill and mofo fudge ice cream sandwiched between a rococoa cookie. The RoCocoa cookie is made with maldon salt, cocoa brut and 70% callebaut chocolate. It looked like chocolate heaven to me. My friend liked the rocky road kill ice cream more than the mocha fudge ice cream.

My other friend got the London fog and burnt toffee ice cream in a Hong Kong waffle. He liked the London fog and burnt toffee ice cream combination. My friend prefers the ice cream sandwich over the ice cream waffle crepe.

Similar to Kekou Gelato, they have a loyalty card wherein if you get 10 stamps, you get a free half ice cream sandwich. You’ll need to request their loyalty card since they don’t ask if you have one when you pay for your order unlike at Kekou Gelato.

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I made reservations at Borealia for dinner this past Saturday. The restaurant, located on Ossington near Queen West, is quite small and only seats 45 people so I figured that’s it’s best to be safe than sorry. The service was attentive and informative. The decor is fitting for the cuisine which is Aboriginal fusion or Canadian cuisine. We sat in a little booth-like nook table that’s sandwiched between the large group table and the window nook table and booth tables. It had a view of the kitchen and the booth part of the table had a nice log cushion. The table was oddly shaped but roomy for 3 people. Based on the reviews I read online, we ordered the chopsuey croquettes ($6), red fife levain bread with cultured butter ($3), braised whelk ($14), pemmican ($15), L’éclade ($15) and pigeon pie ($23). We were forewarned that the portions were small.

Chopsuey Croquettes are deep-fried mini balls of sticky rice, Chinese sausage, soy sauce, ground beef and duck gizzard. It was scrumptious and although there were 3 in total, one for each of my friends and I, I could have easily ate it all since it was that enjoyable. It was the top 2 dish for my friends as well.

Red Fife Levain Bread & Cultured Butter is a kind of sourdough bread with butter that’s dusted with caramelized onion powder on the side. It was alright, my friends and I prefer the chopsuey croquettes alot more.

Braised Whelk is a massive whelk shell that was on top of a burdock salad with beurre blanc sauce inside the shell along with 3 skewers of succulently grilled sea snails. The beurre blanc is made with white wine, rice vinegar and seaweed. The sea snails were grilled to perfection. It was perfectly chewy but cooked thoroughly. I poured the beurre blanc sauce from the shell onto my portion of the burdock salad and it was delicious. One of my friends considers this to be his favourite dish amongst the six that we ordered.

We ordered the bison “pemmican” bresaola dish because of elementary school history classes regarding the fur traders traversing Northern Ontario to the Prairie provinces and sustaining themselves on pemmican. The pemmican is a bison bresaola with shaved lard and sweet blueberries with mint leaves and a blueberry juniper vinaigrette. It was quite tasty and definitely worth a try. You should eat a piece of the bison bresaola on its own without any blueberries or mint leaves and then with the blueberries and mint leaves since the initial method would allow you to fully savour the meat while the second method enhances the meat.

L’éclade is mussels that’s smoked in pine needles and drenched in a pine ash butter sauce. It’s served under a cloche and the server will lift the glass dome allowing the pine-scented smoke to escape for your viewing pleasure. It’s the first dish I’ve ever eatened in which the cooking method involves a smoking gun. The mussels were soft and succulent although the pine ash butter sauce had a bitter aftertaste. My other friend considers this dish to be his favourite amongst the six.

Pigeon Pie is a savoury pie that’s stuffed with dark squab meat, spices and parsnips that’s served with seared squab breast meat and roasted parsnips on the side. Although the meat is abit gamey, it was delectable.

I recommend the chopsuey croquettes, braised whelk and pigeon pie. You must try the l’éclade and pemmican at least once. The next time I come, I’d be interested in trying the smoked pickerel, pan-roasted trout and hot chocolate beignets.

Categories: Aboriginal Canadian, Canada, Cuisine, Downtown Toronto, Food, Restaurant Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sabai Sabai (Part II)

My friends and I came here for a late night snack. Neither of my friends had eaten here before. The servers were just as courteous and friendly as the last time I ate here. Due to the fact that it was Valentine’s Day, they had a specials menu along with the regular menu. We ordered from their specials menu. We had the spicy coconut noodles aka mee kati ($8), spicy lao sausage ($10) and the golden chicken ($5).

One friend listened to my recommendation and ordered the Thai iced milk tea ($4, right side of picture) while another friend got the Thai iced lemon tea ($4, left side of picture). I decided to satisfy my curiosity from last time and ordered the Thai Long Island ($9, center of picture). My friend thought that the Thai iced lemon tea was abit too lemony and it overpowered the taste of the Thai iced tea while the Thai Long Island was nice in that the lemon wasn’t overpowering the Thai iced tea.

The spicy coconut noodles aka mee kati is thin rice noodles on banana leaves that’s stir fried in a spicy coconut milk sauce with ground chicken, bean sprouts, green onions and garnished with egg threads, a hot pepper ring and a lime wedge. It was scrumptious with a nice spicy kick to it. Although it looks like it’s a small portion it was surprisingly big.

The spicy lao sausage is pork belly sausage that’s seasoned with lemongrass, galangal, lime leaf and shallots. It comes with a sweet and sour chili dipping sauce. It was delicious.

The Golden Chicken is corn, green onions, minced chicken in a special sauce that’s reminiscent to spicy BBQ sauce on a crispy cracker on top of crispy shredded noodles. My friend said that the tapas dish reminded him of a Lays BBQ chip.
Next time I come here, I’m interested in trying one of their salads and their lunch menu.

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Rakia Bar

After our unsuccessful attempt at eating at a restaurant on Ossington, my friends and I went to Rakia Bar for dinner instead. It’s a small rustic restaurant in downtown Koreatown. The entrance is right by the only window in the restaurant. The lighting was abit dim with a long communal table in the middle of the room and several two person tables along the sides of the wood-paneled walls and a table by the window and entrance. We requested for a seat that wasn’t by the window. This Balkan restaurant has a large selection of rakia. Rakia is a 40% alcohol that is double distilled and is a fermented fruit brandy and it’s popular in the Balkan countries.

We all had a different rakia drink. My friend got the Mr. Tesla ($9.50, right side of picture) while another friend got the Camomilla ($9.50, center of picture). I had the Hobbit ($6.50, left side of picture). Mr. Tesla was billed as an electric drink and it’s a plum rakia. The alcohol is a much stronger smell but it doesn’t linger in the aftertaste. My friend enjoyed it. The Camomilla is a grape rakia with chamomile, pear, plum, hazelnut and walnut. It was very mild tasting compared to Mr. Tesla. The Hobbit is a plum rakia with Melisa herbs, Salvia herbs, anise and lavender. This rakia is suppose to cure all ails when I asked our server to elaborate on the rakia selection. It is perfect for a cold winter night because as you drink it the warmth spreads and lingers in your body.

My friends and I split the mezze platter for two ($18) and the meat platter for two ($28). The mezze platter features pickled vegetables (finely sliced carrots, halved green beans, pickles and sliced beets), roasted pepper spread, feta cheese, black olives, aged cheddar cheese, 2 mini cornbread muffins, 3 kinds of cured meats and garnished with a stalk of green onion and a side of salt. It was tasty however I was expecting something more exotic in terms of the cured meats.

The meat platter for two features a Black George Schnitzel, chevapi, Viennese schnitzel, baked beans, coleslaw and cubed potatoes. The Black George schnitzel is a breaded schnitzel that’s stuffed with kaymak. Kaymak is buffalo milk clotted cream. It was crunchy and delicious. The kaymak is a great accompaniment to the schnitzel. Chevapi is grilled minced beef and minced pork, reminiscent of a kebab. It was abit salty but very flavourful. The Viennese schnitzel is a thin, breaded, deep fried veal cutlet. It was good, especially once the lemon juice was squeezed over it. The coleslaw was a refreshing break from all the fried meat and it’s garnished with a hot pepper ring. The cubed potatoes had a nice crunchy skin. Overall, the meat platter was a nice introduction to Balkan cuisine.

I am interested in trying the Balkan style burger and a different type of rakia the next time I come.

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Bang Bang Ice Cream

My friends and I decided to have dinner on the Ossington strip after skating at the Evergreen Brickworks however the restaurant we wanted to go to was operating under a Valentine’s day set menu with reservations only so we decided to initially go to Bang Bang Ice Cream to have an ice cream sandwich since we were already in the area. The bakery offers ice cream, 1/2 and full vegan and non-vegan ice cream sandwiches,vegan and non-vegan cookies, Hong Kong waffles, ice cream puffs, coffees and teas. The 1/2 ice cream sandwich lets you incorporate up to 2 ice cream flavours while the full ice cream sandwich lets you incorporate up to 4 ice cream flavours. My friends and I got the 1/2 ice cream sandwich ($4.97 including tax).

I had the london fog ice cream (ice cream on the right side in the above pictures) and hazelnut ice cream (ice cream on the left side in the above pictures) between a RoCocoa cookie. The Rococoa cookie is a chocolate cookie with salt sprinkled on the top. It was a tasty combination. I’m hoping that the next time I come they’ll have the green tea cream puff. If you are in the neighbourhood, I recommend this place for dessert or a snack.

Categories: Bakery/Patisserie, Canada, Cuisine, Dessert, Downtown Toronto, Food, Restaurant Review | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Wine Bar

My friend and I had dinner here afew days ago. It’s close to St Lawrence market in a quiet neighborhood. It has a rustic decor with fairly dim lighting. Winterlicious dinner is $25 + tax & tip.

We both got the crispy Quebec brie for the appetizer. It’s a panko breaded brie drizzled with a sweet tomato chutney. The panko breaded brie was bite sized although when I initally saw that it was only 4 pieces, I thought it could be slightly bigger in portion sizes. However the brie with the chutney was tasty.

My friend got the stuffed portobello mushroom for her main. The mushroom is stuffed with sweet potato, roasted red peppers, zucchini, red onions and goat cheese and topped with balsamic greens.

I had the chicken and waffles for my entree. It looked quite small but was deceptively filling. The chicken and waffles is a crispy southern style breaded chicken on top of a square of waffle with a sausage gravy on the side and topped with crispy okra and sweet red peppers.

We both got the Grand Marnier creme brulée with toasted almonds. It had a really thick, hard to break crust. My friend found it gritty and not smooth tasting. I like the orange flavour to it.
Overall, it’s not the worst restaurant I’ve been to but it’s not the best restaurant either.

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Parts & Labour

My university friend and I decided to do our annual Winterlicious meal at Parts & Labour. It’s on Queen St West between Lansdowne and Roncesvalles so it’s quite far west for somebody who works at the edge of Scarborough. It’s a very spacious restaurant with mainly communal tables and modern rustic decor. I initially thought it would be a much smaller restaurant. There weren’t alot of people having dinner on a Tuesday night. The servers were very helpful and courteous. The lighting was quite dim however the noise level was alright. Parts & Labour has an extensive alcohol selection.
Steak Tartare
My friend and I decided to split both the appetizers and desserts. For appetizers we had the steak tartare and the octopus escabeche. The steak tartare includes capers, dijon mustard, aioli, shallot and skinny French fries. Steak tartare is minced raw beef that’s well seasoned and served with some type of starch. I found the steak tartare to be quite salty and sour tasting however the french fries were a good accompaniment to the tartare when eaten in the same mouthful.
Octopus Escabeche
The octopus escabeche includes giardiniera on top of sourdough bread. It was also quite salty. Escabeche is a Spanish dish in which the fish is marinated, fried or poached and served cold. The octopus was poached and served warm rather than cold. Giardiniera is a pickled vegetable and olive oil relish. It compliments the octopus.
My friend got the porchetta with hot peppers, rapini, lentils and garlic chips. My friends remarked that it looked like an Asian dish rather than an Italian dish. I had a bite of her dish and the porchetta was very delicious with the perfect amount of fat to meat ratio and goes very well with the lentils and garlic chips. The porchetta was more delicious than the pork belly I had at Five Doors North.
Cornish Hen
I got the 1/2 cornish hen with butternut squash, Brussels sprouts and white beans. It was quite salty however the cornish hen had a very nice crispy skin with juicy meat.
Chocolate Terrine
For dessert, my friend ordered the Chocolate Terrine with Chantilly cream and raspberries while I had the olive oil cake with condensed milk. The chocolate terrine is reminiscent of a combination of chocolate pudding and flourless chocolate cake. The chantilly cream is whipped cream that has been made light and fluffy.
Olive Cake
The olive oil cake was light and dense. The condensed milk gave it an extra dimension.
Overall, I would come back to try their P&L burger.

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