Posts Tagged With: Chinatown

R&D

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.

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

Christmas in NYC

My friend and I decided to go to New York City for Christmas long weekend. It was 3 months worth of planning because there’s tons to do in New York City so we needed to focus and conquer. We were lucky to get cheap plane tickets with Air Canada for $258.36 CAD round trip between Pearson and LaGuardia Airports. We decided to stay at Row NYC which is located on 700 8th Ave and really close to Times Square, Rockefeller Center and the Theatre District. There is a Shake Shack at 44th St W and 8th Ave that my friend and I took advantage of getting take out and eating it in our room because of the proximity and not having to wait for a table to open up. We stayed on the 22nd floor and the elevator itself is a good security measure. You have to insert your card into the card reader and press your floor and it’ll tell you which elevator to take and inside the elevators there aren’t any floor buttons. Since it’s New York City I wouldn’t have been surprised if the hotel room is as small as some of the hotel rooms in Hong Kong. Our room, while small, was laid out well-enough for the two of us to move around. The beds were soft and clean. There were ample plugs spread out around the room and enough room to put our bags and suitcases without having to pile everything on top of each other. There are blackout blinds which is nice since New York is the City of Lights. We were high up enough that I couldn’t hear any noise from the street although this may be because our window had no view which meant that it would be quiet. The hotel provides towels, shampoo/conditioner, soap and cups but no kettle so you can’t boil any water. For Christmas long weekend, the room was $976.04 CAD for three nights which is fairly reasonable considering the location albeit staying in a room with the bare essentials. We had requested to be on a higher floor, early check in and late check out and all three were fulfilled so I was quite satisfied with my stay at Row NYC, all things considered.

In terms of what my friend and I wanted to see and do in New York City, I wanted Broadway Shows and Christmas stuff while my friend wanted to go to museums. My friend was willing to go see Jersey Boys and the Rockette’s Christmas Spectacular with me. Front row Mezzanine seats for Jersey Boys on Christmas Day was $229.49 CAD while Orchestra seats for Christmas Spectacular on Boxing Day was $125 CAD. We also got the New York City Day Pass for 3 days for $184.44 CAD. The New York City Day Pass gives you free admission to all the museums in New York City along with tours and other popular tourist attractions such as the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Another neat feature is the Fast Track option at several popular tourist attractions such as Top of the Rock, Guggenheim Museum, Museum of Natural History, MET, Madame Tussaud’s and Discovery Times Square to name afew. The Fast Track option allows you to bypass the regular line up for faster wait times. This helped us with saving time waiting in line when visiting museums and observation decks. I recommend getting the New York City Day Pass if you are interested in visiting museums, partaking in tours and generally doing fairly touristy things. My friend and I were able to get more than our money’s worth in terms of the admission price we saved on the museums, attractions and tours we saw and did. New York City is a place where you have to focus on a certain aspect of it that you want to see if you’re only visiting. I was abit ambitious in wanting to watch afew shows, eat at really good restaurants, do afew tours and see the famous sights. I sacrificed eating at spectacular restaurants for seeing the famous sights. You really can’t have a cake and eat it too in NYC in a short period of time. I also found that planning, at least when it’s your first time there, to be quite crucial. The New York subway line at first glance is the most confusing thing I’ve ever ridden in terms of public transportation. Hong Kong, London, Singapore, Taipei and Bangkok aren’t nearly as complicated and Toronto, Waterloo and Montreal are simple things to navigate compared to the maze that is the NYC metro, at least in Manhattan. After riding the NYC metro, it actually isn’t that bad but for a newcomer it definitely takes some getting used to.

Click here for the link to more photos of my Christmas in NYC
My friend and I had a morning flight on Christmas Day and I was slightly surprised to find that there was no customs to go through at LaGuardia Airport when you exit the plane. You just exit the plane, pick up any checked luggage and catch a taxi. We took a taxi to Row NYC and were able to get early check in to our room as specified when we booked which was really nice. Once we put down our luggage and freshen up, we went to window shop Fifth Ave. The stores had their Christmas displays which I enjoyed looking at. We wandered inside Trump Tower and it was festive inside with nutcrackers posing as musicians and Christmas wreaths. The outside of St. Regis Hotel was very festive with nutcrackers and tiny Christmas trees outside their main entrance. We went inside St Patrick’s Cathedral and saw the end of mass. After window shopping and taking pictures of high end stores and their festive displays, we took the subway to Chinatown. We bought the 7 day unlimited Metropass for $31 USD. I had calculated that it would take a minimum of 11 trips to breakeven.

At Chinatown we wandered around and went inside Ten Ren’s to look at their interesting tea pot collection. We then went inside Yunhong Chopsticks Shop to look at their very decorative chopsticks and accessories. We were feeling abit peckish so we went to eat at a Hong Kong Cafe restaurant. My friend and I split the spring rolls and assorted curry fish and beef balls. I had also gotten the Hong Kong style milk tea. The food was ok, the decor evokes the feel of being in Hong Kong and the service was reminiscent of some Hong Kong Cafes in Hong Kong. After we were fully rested, my friend and I continued wandering around. We went to Columbus Park which is now across a funeral home. The location of Columbus Park is where Mulberry Bend used to be and it was the worst slum in the city. The buildings were torn down in the early 1900s aside from the Chinatown section. We then went to Chatham Square to see the Kimlau War Memorial and the Lin Ze Xu statue. The memorial is to honour Chinese American soldiers who died in World War II. Lin XeZu is a 19th century anti-opium government official and hero. The first ever story I heard about him was about Lin Xe Zu destroying opium in an attempt to rid the Chinese of their drug addiction and to curb the negative effects of opium on Chinese society. The destruction of opium lead to the Opium Wars which would lead to China ceding Hong Kong to Britain. My friend and I then walked along Doyers St which is a narrow crooked alleyway with an elbow or a sharp bend in it which makes it impossible to see who is around the corner. It used to be a site for gangs to meet up to fight it out. There is currently a famous tea shop located at the elbow since there was a crowd of people loitering around the door, waiting to be seated. We passed by the Edward Mooney House which is a red Georgian brick building and it’s the oldest row house in New York City dating back to George Washington.

The closest we were to a bridge in NYC was Manhattan bridge. It is a suspension bridge from 1905 with a Beaux Arts colonnade and arch which makes me think I’m back in Europe. We then went to explore Little Italy and while there were light signs spelling out Little Italy in the street there were Chinese stores around those signs which didn’t give me that complete Italian vibe and feel. When I visit Chinatown, Little India, Little Italy, or any ethnic enclave I have this expectation that the stores would only be selling Chinese or Indian or Italian goods and food rather than have a mish mash of cultures because it is an ethnic enclave. Little Italy itself looked very festive with lights in the shape of Christmas wreaths and we went into a store called Christmas in New York wherein it was filled with a myriad of Christmas decorations. It had a huge variety of Christmas tree ornaments, a funny selection of Christmas stockings and other paraphernalia. After window shopping at Christmas in New York, we hurried to the metro in order to make it in time for our Broadway show. We had some spare time so we went to Times Square to take pictures and made our way to August Wilson Theatre.

What I like about August Wilson Theatre is that it didn’t allow filming or photos during the show so you could fully experience and enjoy the show in the present and not be distracted by other people’s cell phone screens or cameras in the air. The front row mezzanine seats were worth splurging for because I had nobody in front of me to obstruct my view and I could fully enjoy the show. Jersey Boys is worth watching on Broadway albeit I haven’t seen the movie yet. I feel that Jersey Boys is the perfect mix of a musical and a show. There was a good mix of talking and singing so anybody who isn’t into being serenaded for 2.5 hours could still potentially enjoy watching it. I have a friend who went with me to see Les Mis when it came out in the cinemas and she wasn’t into musicals while I thought the movie would be based on the book rather than the show. If it was Jersey Boys, she may have enjoyed it more perhaps. I didn’t grow up listening to The Four Seasons or most of the 60s bands so while I heard of Big Girls Don’t Cry and afew other songs it was nice to be introduced to the band’s discography and history. For my first ever Broadway experience, it was very enjoyable and it made me want to see another Broadway show soon.

After the show my friend and I headed towards Lincoln Center because I heard that there were suppose to be spectacular Christmas decorations there. Along the way we got some food at the ubiquitous metal hotdog stands. My friend got a hot dog ($5 USD) while I got a really big pretzel ($4 USD). The pretzel was really salty so we stopped at Duane Reade Pharmacy to buy water ($1.13 USD for 1.5L sparkling water). When we arrived at Lincoln Center I was disappointed to find absolutely no Christmas decorations although it had a romantic atmosphere with the water fountain and the lights pointing at the Lincoln Center theatres reminded me of Paris. We then went to Rockefeller Plaza to see the Christmas decorations and skating rink. Normally there are three entrances to the famous skating rink and Christmas tree however they cordoned off two of the entrances so that they were only exits and there was a nice entryway wherein you walked on either sides of these trumpet playing angels and get closer to the skating rink and Christmas tree. There were nutcrackers on the side posing as musicians and all the trees had Christmas lights in the branches so it was very festive. It’s difficult to get a good shot of the rink and tree with and without yourself in the picture because of the dense crowds of people there. When the rink closes at midnight the lights on the Christmas tree turn off so while it still has a festive feel it’s not as festive looking as when the lights are on. We then headed back to Row NYC after taking more pictures of Christmas decorations on our walk back.

Categories: New York City, Sightseeing, USA | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kanto

My friend and I decided to eat at Kanto at Market 707 last Saturday. Market 707 is by the Scadding Court Community Center near Dundas West and Bathurst. Market 707 is composed of shops and restaurant kitchens in repurposed bright red-orange shipping containers. There is no specified dining areas aside from the wooden benches around the outside of the community center so eating at Market 707 in the winter can be tricky. My friend and I decided to split the Sisig Fries and Lechon Kawali (total for both is $13.50 including tax). We waited for 20 min. for our food and there was only another order before ours. Keep in mind that there’s only one person doing all the cooking and order taking so ordering and getting your food may take a while if there’s a line up in front of you.

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Lechon Kawali is pork belly with garlic fried rice, papaya slaw and lechon sauce on the side. There is the option of adding Srirachi hot sauce if you like it spicy. The pork belly was extremely fatty at times with a tiny bit of meat. The crispy skin was delicious. The garlic fried rice was scrumptious and the papaya slaw is a good accompaniment to the pork belly. My friend and I enjoyed it although it would be better if the pieces of pork belly could be less fatty and have more meat to it.

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Sisig Fries is a Filipino take on poutine. The Filipino sisig dish acts as the topping on a bed of fries without the gravy or cheesecurds normally associated with poutine. Sisig is comprised of offal meat that is first boiled then grilled and chopped into fine pieces which is then cooked in lemon, vinegar and spices along with pieces of pork belly and drizzled with garlic lemon aioli on top of the meats along with mayo, Srirachi hot sauce and green onions. The fries were nice and crispy.

If you’re in the area and craving Filipino food and don’t mind the wait then Kanto is a refreshing option.

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

Montreal-Day 1

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Prior to my long weekend trip to Montreal, it’s been over a year since I last traveled. I took the midnight bus from Toronto to Montreal to maximize my stay in Montreal. The bus ride from Toronto to Montreal is alittle over 6.5 hours long. I rode on Megabus and I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was a double decker bus since I thought Megabus would be like Greyhound and just be like a regular tour bus. It’s not hard to find the Metro Toronto Coach Terminal however finding the right line up for the bus is another thing. There was this young couple in front of me who missed their bus by 24 hours. I’m guessing they bought the Friday midnight bus tickets rather than the Saturday midnight bus tickets. If you want to take the midnight bus on a Friday night, the correct ticket date is the Saturday midnight bus, when in doubt follow military time or the 24 hour clock. Megabus drops you off outside of the Le 1000 de la Gauchetière building which is where the metro Place Bonaventure station is located.

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When I got to the metro, I bought the 3 day pass ($18). The 3 day pass is valid for the entirety of my trip. When I went to Montreal, a one way fare costs $3 which meant that I had to make at least 7 trips for the 3 day pass to be worthwhile. During my 3 days in Montreal, I made a total of 19 trips. I really like how the STM offers weekend, evening and 3 day passes. Also the metro is much easier on the ears since the trains emit this violin tune when it comes to a stop rather than come to a screeching halt like the TTC does. Comparing the TTC and STM, I prefer STM more.

Place Jacque Cartier

Place Jacque Cartier

I stayed at the Montreal Central Hostel during my trip. It was slightly difficult to find it since its directions on their website didn’t account for the fact that the closest metro entrance/exit is closed down. Montreal Central Hostel has a nice looking lobby, includes wi-fi and breakfast (croissants, eggo, toast, coffee, tea, juice), has free local calls (telephone in the room) and it has a locked storage room. They also provide bedding, towels, soap and a paper cup. I was able to check in at 7am and leave my luggage in the locked storage room since I can only get the keys after 2pm. I basically got my keys at midnight when I finally went back to the hostel after a long day of sightseeing. The room I stayed in was clean and tidy although the washroom was quite small but it was clean and it has a shower stall rather than a bathtub. When I first entered my room, the other people were already asleep and the only free bed was the top bunk. I liked how there’s 3 electrical outlets by the side of each bed and there’s a box tied to the railings for you to put stuff in. It’s especially convenient for anybody who gets the top bunk bed because it can be slightly annoying going up and down the ladder at night with no lights on in the room.

Gardens at Chateau Ramezy

Gardens at Chateau Ramezy

Since my stay started on Saturday, I had to eat breakfast elsewhere. I decided to go to Olive + Gourmando (please refer to my review of it on an earlier post for details). After breakfast I walked past Place d’Youville before walking along Rue de la Commune to get to Place Jacque Cartier. Place Jacque Cartier is where City Hall and Chateau Ramezy are located. Bonsecour Market and Notre Dame de Bonsecour Chapel are really close to it.

Inside Notre Dame de Bonsecours Chapel

Inside Notre Dame de Bonsecours Chapel

Notre Dame de Bonsecours Chapel

Notre Dame de Bonsecours Chapel

I joined the Old Montreal Free Walking Tour. It starts at 10am and ends around noon so it’s a 2 hour tour of Old Montreal, Old Port and part of Downtown Montreal. I was to meet the guide by the fountain next to City Hall. Since the guide had a large white umbrella, he wasn’t hard to find. We started the tour with the guide explaining how the Free Walking Tour operates (by tips and they are all trained for a year prior to doing the tour). The guide then explained how in Montreal, most statues are in pairs in which one statue is of English origin while the other is of French origin. The English statues are also older than the French statues in most cases. The fountain has Nelson on one side and Vauquelin on the other. We then walked down Place Jacque Cartier to reach the garden of Chateau Ramezy where the guide explained abit about the history of Chateau Ramezy and the rivalry between Montreal and Quebec City and how Montreal was founded. Afterwards we walked further down Place Jacque Cartier and past Bonsecour Market to Notre Dame de Bonsecour Chapel.

Notre Dame

Notre Dame Basilica

We toured the inside of Notre Dame de Bonsecour Chapel. I liked how there are model ships inside the church and the statues of angels and Mary on the roof of the church facing the river. Afterwards we walked along the waterfront before heading to Notre Dame Basilica, Maisonneuve Monument and Place d’Armes. We didn’t go inside the Notre Dame Basilica however the guide talked about the history of Notre Dame Basilica and St. Patrick’s Basilica. We then went to see the inside of an old bank (in our  case, it was RBC) built during the 1920s-1930s. Afterwards we went and saw a section of the Underground City and that was the end of the tour.

Place Sun Yat Sen

Place Sun Yat Sen

I decided to spend the rest of my afternoon with a group of New Yorkers who were also part of the Old Montreal Free Walking Tour. We first had to find an ATM for them to withdraw some cash and while we were looking for an ATM we came across afew souvenir shops so we went in so that they could buy some souvenirs. We then walked around Chinatown. It’s very small in comparison to the Chinatowns of Toronto and there’s nothing especial about it aside from a bust of Sun Yat Sen at Place Sun Yat Sen. We then walked to Brasserie T! for lunch (please refer to my review of it on an earlier post for details).

Christ Church Cathedral

Christ Church Cathedral

Windsor Hotel

Windsor Hotel

After lunch, we leisurely made our way to Christ Church Cathedral. The architecture is Gothic and quite pretty. We then went to Dorchester Square which is surrounded by Windsor Hotel and The Gazette. The Windsor Hotel is part of Canada’s railway hotels which include Toronto’s Royal York, Quebec City’s Chateau Frontenac, Ottawa’s Chateau Laurier, Winnipeg’s Fort Garry Hotel, Hotel Macdonald in Edmonton, Hotel Vancouver in Vancouver and The Empress in Victoria. We parted ways at Dorchester Square.

Inside St. Patrick's Basilica

Inside St. Patrick’s Basilica

I walked to Mary Queen of the World Cathedral (there was a wedding going on inside at the time so I couldn’t go in). I then walked past Place Bonaventure and Tour de la Bourse before making my way to St. Patrick’s Basilica. The outside may not be as impressive as Notre Dame Basilica or St. Joseph’s Oratory but the inside is quite majestic. It was 4:25 when I finished touring St. Patrick’s Basilica which meant that I had to run since I had to meet my friend at 4:45pm at Metro Mont-Royal. Apparently I had plenty of time, according to my friend when I told him that I rushed over to meet him. We had dinner at Au Pied du Cochon (please refer to my review of it on an earlier post for details).

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At Belvédère Kondiaronk

After dinner we meandered our way to Le Lab (please refer to my review of it on an earlier post for details). Afterwards, on our way to La Banquise, I spotted the 11 bus so my friend and I decided to take the bus to Mont Royal Park rather than eat poutine. Mont Royal Park is a large park with two lookout points. We first went to the Belvédère Kondiaronk which overlooks downtown before walking to Belvédère Camillien-Houde which overlooks Stade Olympique (Olympic Stadium). After I finished taking pictures of the night skyline, we went back to Belvédère Kondiaronk so that we could make our way down the mountain towards downtown so we could get to the metro station.

At Belvédère Camillien-Houde

At Belvédère Camillien-Houde

Categories: Canada, Montreal, Sightseeing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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