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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Max Brenner

I had watched the Food Network Valentine special called Outrageous Chocolate. It featured Max Brenner and I was interested in trying their chocolate pasta and chocolate pizza.

I went to Max Brenner for dinner after watching the Spring Spectacular. It’s easier to sit at the bar rather than getting a table.

Unfortunately when I sat down at the bar and looked at the menu, I realized that the chocolate pasta was no more since it was a winter special and they started their spring special. It seems like chocolate pasta and I aren’t fated since I went to MoRoCo Chocolat to try their chocolate pasta on their Summerlicious 2014 menu and that was also a bust. In the end, I ordered the works half-sized chocolate chunks pizza ($9.95 USD + tax) and the halva milkshake ($7.95 USD + tax).

The halva milkshake came first. The halva milkshake is a creamy sesame seed tahini paste that’s blended with honey, vanilla ice cream, toffee and milk chocolate ganache and topped with whipped cream and shaved coconut. It was definitely a creamy sesame tahini taste. The coconut compliments it. It’s served in an Alice in Wonderland cup and it’s a sweet, whimsical concoction.

The works half-sized chocolate chunk pizza didn’t live up to my expectations. It’s comprised of melted milk and white chocolate chunks with marshmallows, bananas, melted peanut butter and hazelnut bits. The marshmallows could have been toasted and roasted and at the very least, have some that are melted on the pizza to create a melted mozzarella cheese effect. Instead it looked and tasted like marshmallows were liberally sprinkled on top of the pizza before it was served. I didn’t taste any of the hazelnut bits. The chocolate chunks themselves were just drizzles. There weren’t any chunks of chocolate on the pizza. The pizza crust itself was like a deep dish pizza crust and it was extremely doughy. I would have preferred a thin crust pizza. Overall, I don’t recommend getting a chocolate pizza here.

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Shake Shack

My friend and I came here for brunch, lunch and dinner. We went to both the Battery Park City location and the Theatre location. I only realized on Boxing day that our hotel, Row NYC was diagonally across from Shake Shack while finding the Battery Park City location was an interesting adventure in downtown NYC.

I first got their Shack Burger and the Peanut Butter Shake (total is $11). The Shack Burger is a cheeseburger with tomato, lettuce and their Shack sauce. For such a small size, it’s tasty. The peanut butter shake was very thick and tasted exactly like peanut butter that’s been put into a milkshake form. It was delicious. It’s very conscientious of Shake Shack to put a ‘contains nuts’ sticker on my peanut butter shake.

I tried their Smoke Burger and Chocolate Shake for dinner (total is $12.63). The Smoke shack is a cheeseburger with applewood smoked bacon, chopped cherry peppers and their Shack sauce. It’s a bit spicy. I prefer the Smoke Shack over the Shack burger which probably makes sense for the $1.50 price difference. The Chocolate shake is a very tasty chocolate milkshake albeit it’s not as thick as the one I had at the Battery Park City location.

I got their Smoke Burger and Strawberry Shake for brunch (total is $12.63). The Strawberry shake is an ok strawberry milkshake and it’s definitely not as thick as the one at the Battery Park City location. The strawberry shake is thicker than the chocolate shake at the Theatre location.

I went to the Battery Park location for brunch on Easter Saturday around 12pm. The line up was quite short surprisingly since I was expecting to wait awhile like last time. Getting a table on the other hand is nigh impossible. I got the Smoke burger and Strawberry Shake (total is $13). The price increased abit from Christmas 2014 to Spring 2015. Other than the price increase, the Smoke burger is just as good as before while the strawberry shake is abit thicker than the one at the Theatre location.

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Ellen’s Stardust Diner

My friend and I came here for a late dinner. Initially we wanted to come here for lunch but the line up was quite long. Ellen’s Stardust Diner is on Broadway  and 51st Street near Rockefeller Center. My friend had recommended this diner to me because of my interest in Broadway shows. The servers here serenade you with Broadway songs, pop songs and country or blues songs accompanied by a harmonica while you wait for your table, decide on your order, wait for your food and eat your food. I got their Philly Cheese-steak Sandwich with waffles fries. My friend got their ahi tuna burger.

The Philly Cheese-steak sandwich consists of sautéed onions, mushrooms, peppers, steak slices and melted mozzarella cheese with waffle fries and a slice of pickles on the side. It was very tasty.

The Ahi Tuna burger is a ginger miso glazed tuna patty with wasabi mayo drizzled on top with lettuce betweeen a brioche bun. It’s accompanied with a side of sweet potato fries and a slice of pickles. My friend enjoyed it.

Overall, if you’re interested in Broadway shows and being serenaded while you dine then check out this diner in NYC.

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My friend and I came here for lunch. It’s our first time eating at a T.G.I. Friday’s. I got the spicy craft beer cheese burger ($24) while my friend got the sizzling chicken and cheese.

The spicy craft beer cheese burger is a regular beef patty burger with jalapeños, breaded fried jalapeños, chipotle mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, guacamole and craft beer-cheese sauce. It comes with a side of fries. I had initially expected my burger to be spicy with the 2 types of jalapeños however it wasn’t spicy so I was abit disappointed by that. Other than that, it was a tasty burger.

The sizzling chicken and cheese is a garlic marinated chicken breast with onions, peppers, mashed potatoes and melted cheese. My friend enjoyed it.

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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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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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Quince Bistro

My friends and I had dinner here afew days ago. The lighting was initially bright but it dimmed when it got abit later. It has two levels so while it may seem small, it’s a fairly large restaurant. Downstairs has a set-up where you could have a private function with leather couches, throw pillows and a private bar so it feels like you’re partying in your own basement.

A friend had the salmon chowder with potatoes and chive oil. I had a spoonful and it was quite delicious.

Another friend had the roasted carrot and beets salad with avacado and crispy quinoa.

Another friend and I had the octopus terrine with white miso coleslaw. A terrine is sliced food that has been prepared in advanced and given time to cool before serving. I had expected more octopus slices however the octopus goes well with the white miso coleslaw. I preferred the octopus escabeche at Parts & Labour compared to the octopus terrine here.

A friend had the duck confit with Perth County smoked bacon and a bean cassoulet. Duck confit is duck leg that’s deep fried slowly at a low temperature. A cassoulet is a stew or casserole that’s slow cooked.

Another friend had the grilled flat iron steak done medium rare with smoked onion puree, red wine jus and root vegetable pave. He felt that the gravy overwhelmed the steak.

Another friend got the grilled mackerel with charred rapini, roasted tomato, cannellini bean puree and a tomato vinaigrette. She thought that the mackerel was cooked well and that the meat was fall of the bone, so to speak.

I had the crispy skin arctic char with roasted cauliflower, du Puy lentils and pickled fennel. Arctic char is a fish and the taste and texture is similar to salmon. My arctic char had some undercooked to raw parts.
Arctic Char in Kitchener
The only other time I had arctic char was in Kitchener at Wildcraft for a friend’s birthday party back in 2012. I think I preferred that arctic char compared to the one at Quince since it had sweet, salty and sour elements as opposed to tasting elements of salty, kind of bland and a sour sweetness.

For dessert, two of my friends and I shared the butterscotch banana budino, pumpkin almond torta and chocolate bread pudding while another friend just got the butterscotch banana budino.The butterscotch banana budino is topped with whipped cream and sprinkled with toffee crunch. It’s the best dessert of the three.

The pumpkin almond torta is accompanied by spekulaas spice, creme anglaise and chantilly cream. It’s a tasty dessert that’s not too sweet.

The chocolate bread pudding with a berry compote and honey creme fraiche reminded me a chocolate lava cake but without the molten lava. My friend thought that the berry compote overwhelmed the chocolate bread pudding. Overall for dessert, the butterscotch banana budino is the tastiest followed by the pumpkin almond torta.

I also got B52 coffee while my friend had tea. B52 coffee is coffee mixed with several kinds sweet liqueurs.

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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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