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Category: Toronto Page 2 of 3

Momofuku Noodle Bar

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This is one of those restaurants you see pop up on your social media feed and aim to one day try for yourself. I was happy to stumble upon in Toronto. Having gone through their cook books, I knew what I was in for. Restaurants with cookbooks are better right? The food is so good that customers want to replicate their recipes at home?

It was also cold and rainy, I needed something to warm me up ,and shelter to ride out the drizzle. They had ramen, it was a perfect day for ramen. And best of all, I was quickly learning, being just one allowed me to forgo reservations and be seated right away. I wonder why I don’t eat alone more in Vancouver?

With no visible signs or sandwich boards it was hard to spot. Unless you knew to look for the metal tree and bird sculpture in a pool of water out front. That was eye catching. The restaurant had two floors and looking through the window you could make out its name signed within. Their entrance also had their peach logo carved in wood, but sadly the neon sign above this door was burn out.

Past the heavy wood doors the room opened up with simple wood furnishings and fixtures. This was a noodle bar setting in an open space. Flat, heavy wooden benches, share style tables, and stools by the window. Not comfy, not meant for an extended stay, but ideal for an eat and go affair.

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I was situated right by the door, and from by seat I could make out the exposed kitchen. Towards the back you could see chefs in white with their ball caps of blue.

On each table, utensils were offered as a self serve from a wooden caddy. Disposable chopsticks and layers of napkins.

The menu was a solid offering for those who like Chinese and Japanese flavours: I did. They had three types of ramen varying by broth: chicken, pork, or mushroom. And three types of Chinese style sauced noodles like spicy and peanut sauce. For snacks and sides they had two bite steamed buns and rice cake, Japanese pancakes, and pickled vegetables.

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To not be overwhelm by choice, I went for their signature ramen and it came surprisingly fast. “Momofuku Ramen” with pork belly & shoulder, fish cake, poached egg, seaweed, and scallions. There was an orange paste I was unable to identify, but it gave the already flavourful ramen broth an extra punch of spice and salty cream. I ended up just stirring the lot of it in. The noodle and broth were my favourite part. The perfect chewy texture with a rich, but not too oily soup. I didn’t need any of the additional elements, but it did add some adventure and option to my dining. From the tender stands of shredded beef to the melt in your mouth fat from the pork belly. The crispy then sogginess of the submerged seaweed, the freshness of the green onions, and the perfect poached egg that was the line between liquid and solid.

I could have eaten more, but wanted to save room from their dessert option. “Momofuku Milk Bar”, which is reviewed in its own post.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
It is trendy for a reason, I can definitely see myself return again during my next trip out. For novelty and because both Momofuku Noodle and Milk Bar deliver on taste for price asked. Plus, it is one thing to have read and admire the cookbooks. It is another to experience and taste the cuisine as it was intended, for yourself. Another one checked off the foodie bucket list. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

MOMOFUKU NOODLE BAR
Ground Floor
190 University Avenue, Toronto ON, M5H 0A3
647-253-6225
noodlebar-toronto.momofuku.com
Momofuku Noodle Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Mother’s Dumplings

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I decided to visit Toronto’s Chinatown today and found it was similar in offerings to the one in Vancouver. This included empty malls, you wonder how they are still open, considering they don’t see much traffic. Fruit merchant hawking their produce via shouts, whole barbecue fowl handing in butcher windows, and souvenir shops selling Canadian pride tees and shirts for tourists.

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Looking to snack I ended up at “Mother’s Dumplings”. Their back story was that these were traditional style dumplings, made using the owner’s mother’s recipes. It couldn’t get more authentic then enjoying Chinese dumplings, in Toronto’s Chinatown. They even had their home made dumplings frozen, and available for take home at a 10% off. All dumplings were made in house, as seen by the women behind sneeze proof glass. They stood with their own station kneading the dough, filling it with meat and vegetable; and then pinching each closed to be either steamed, baked, or fried.

The decor was Chinese undertones, with modern art on the walls and classical music playing overhead. A red curtain of strings hung by the door, red walls highlighted the first half of the room, and traditional Chinese style figurines surrounded it. A craved wooden fish, a stone statue of bok choy, an elephant bamboo planter, and lanterns; just to name a few.

Their menu included a timeline and the history of dumplings. The earliest known dumplings being made over 1300 years ago, they were a traveller’s food of choice on the Silk Road. Later Marco Polo discovered them from China and adapted them into what we know as ravioli today. Similarly, Ivan the Terrible’s troops discovered dumplings and that is how perogies came to be.

“Mother’s Dumplings” had a bevy of dumplings available. Various doughs meets various fillings, that are cooked in various styles. Boiled, steamed, or pan fired; the possibilities seemed endless. Each order included 6, 10, or 12 pieces. I wanted to try a few, but each individual order was too much for one person, let a lone multiple orders for one. I wished they had an assorted dumpling platter, like they did with dessert. A sampler that allowed an individual, or a group to taste a few. They also offered other Chinese dim sum and small plate entrees, but given the name I thought to stick with their claim to fame.

However are looking for more than just dumplings, they also serve noodles, rice and congee, stews and soups; and sides like spring rolls and marinaded boiled eggs. You order what you want by referencing the menu with photos, and then checking it off on their checklist order sheet.

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I ended up getting the “lamb shui mai”, a unique spin on a classic dim sum dumpling. Where other dishes in the steamed category, gave you the choice between six or ten to an order. The lamb ones only came in a serving of 6, they were also the most expensive at $9 for the lot. I choose them because I liked the way they looked, I have never had dumplings bundled like these little parcels before. Plus the thought of lamb instead of pork or beef was appealing. It took a while to come, I suspect it was because of the filling and the steaming, everything is cooked to order. My steamed “lamb shui mai” did not disappoint. Each bundle was warm throughout. Juicy with one bite, where liquid pooled out. They were flavourful, but one tone in taste. However, the table side sauces of soy and chilli oil helped rejuvenate bites.

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For dessert, I got an order of their “assorted sweet steamed buns”. Eight buns, three different shaped and coloured buns filled with various creams and custards. This allowed you to try a little bit of everything. It didn’t arrive as it was advertised in the menu, but at least it looked just as amazing.

I was planning to take what I couldn’t finish to go, but seeing what came to the table, I knew the tapioca ones would not travel well or be any good cold. The purple yam was a semi sweet paste that filled a bubbly tapioca shell. The yellow custard had a similar jelly-like coating as above, except for the addition of shredded coconut overtop. The peach shaped buns were my favourite. I appreciated the additional embellishment of edible leaves. They were fluffy and filled with a mildly sweet red bean paste.

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And the meal ended with a fortune cookie, and in my case, an accurate fortune.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
A stand up place for some great dumplings. I would have loved to do what the other patrons did, stop by with a large group of friends and together order multiple steamed trays of buns to share. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

MOTHER’S DUMPLINGS
421 Spadina Avenue, Toronto ON, M5T 2G6
416-217-2008
mothersdumplings.com
Mother's Dumplings Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Terroni Adelaide

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I came to this one on a recommendation from a local, via Instagram. I truly appreciate how social media and the Internet has brought people closer, and has made such suggestion giving easier. You don’t need to meet anyone face to face to ask them for help, or to even consider them a friend.

I was thrilled to have taken his advice just by how the restaurant looked. This was some fancy Italian. This would be the nicest restaurant I visited during my stay in Toronto, and I would say, nicer than most restaurants I have visited in Vancouver. The decor could be best described as artisan bodega. Things you would find from your local mart, stacked as if it was on sale.

The entry in itself was an experience. Set with its own flags, it was like walking into an gallery with stone columns and a bold arch way. Reading online, I learned that “Terroni Adelaide” is inside the historic York County Court House. This court house served the city court from 1852-1900.

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And if you thought the exterior was impressive, the interior would blow you away. With camera ready I took captures 360 degrees, everything was noteworthy. Just inside the front doors is their enoteca. An “enoteca” is literally “wine repository”. It is used to describe a special type of local or regional wine shop that originated in Italy. This term perfectly described their coffee and wine bar. It was so extensive that the labelled bottles went all the way from the counter to the ceiling.

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The pantry had the same style of dark wood shelving, and just as much piled up high. Classic Italian ingredients on every shelf level, it made a great display and was reassurance of what went into your food. Baskets of oranges and lemons, tins of coffee, bags of pastas, jars of preserves, and all the accoutrements needed to prepare a handsome meal. There was even a family style wood table ready to serve, it was set with chargers, cutlery rolled up in cloth napkins, and several glasses; dependent on your beverage of choice.

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But what truly drew my breath was their in-house butchery, where in back lit fridges hung chunks of meat. Pork carved and suspended by rope, tied at its bone. Wrapped in parchment and tagged, each piece had its own characteristics and name. I didn’t think to ask, but I wonder if you were actually able to shop from here and take home any of the canned and dried goods from the pantry. The butcher’s scale affixed to the counter led me to think you could. However I have also seen a restaurant go through lengths for a cohesive theme, buying realistic props, and replicas such as this. Either way this was doing it for me and it made me all the more excited for the dinner to come. I made a mental note to order something that would come from the butchery.

Everything was so grand that my description just doesn’t do it justice, neither does my photos, or the little booth I ended up seated at. I would recommend visiting just to be able to enjoy the foyer and ask to be seated there. This, instead of the more generic dining area, with the typical two top table and booth, or chair.

The only thing that distracted me from enjoying the feeling and end hey of the place, was the live DJ and the music they decided to play this Saturday. I get that the music was meant to set up a party vibe; but where the theme takes you to Italy, the music brings you back, and reminds you that this is Toronto. 90’s pop, rock, and then modern hip hop; the music got harder as the night progressed, and further from the intended Italian feel. “Backstreet Boys”, “Alanis Morissette”, and the worst was the dance version of a “Smashing Pumpkins” hit.

I was so excited by the restaurant that I didn’t further take the advice of the person who recommended it to me. He strongly suggested checking out their menu first. I didn’t, and as a result, I was not prepared for a $$$$ rating. Instead of leaving with my tail between my legs, I decided to snack on appetizers and to enjoy some wine. I rather spend more on a carafe of nice Italian wine, than a full plate of pasta always; it only seemed right, having seen their enoteca.

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The wine that was recommend was a $10 for 5oz. And with so much body, it was the perfect Italian red to go with my Italian starters.

Luckily my appetizers for dinner would start with a complimentary serving of bread and olive oil. This, and my two small plates were more than enough to keep me full for the result of the night. When you think of real authentic olive oil you think of this. It is dense with a slow growing flavour. When it hits the back and bottom of your throat you truly taste its natural essence. It was deep like a good scotch, which then finishes strong and pure. The bread no doubt was shadowed by the oil. It was cold and chewy with a crisp crust, it simply made a good base to highlight the olive oil with.

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Remembering the butchery I had the “Prosciutto e melone”, which was Culatello paired with fresh sliced cantaloupe. It was just meat and fruit for $16. But you pay for the quality of meat, and the skill of having it cut this fine. I was actually surprised that the order was this large. I was actually expecting the one piece of melon and a few pieces of prosciutto. In total it was half a melon with six pieces of thinly sliced meat draped over each. I thought this was totally worth the price. Each slice of fruit was even partially cut from the rind for easily removal. I made quick work of this, using a steak knife to cut chunks down to size. Sincerely, this was the best prosciutto I have ever had and have ever seen.

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Looking for another appetizer that would be a tad more filling, I went with the “Crocchette di patate”. They are deep fried potato and prosciutto croquettes, served with a basil pesto that is made with pine nuts. I liked the prosciutto so much that I wanted to try it in another application. This was a French style croquette based on the whipped nature and texture of the potato within. The Italian influence came from the basil dipping sauce. It’s flavour was so well pronounced with the nuts and herbs. As for the croquette, it was incredibly crispy outside, with a soft pillowy filling; the perfect texture. Although I was not able to taste the prosciutto, or make out any of its pink within. Though truth be told, it wasn’t needed.

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Given the lavishness of this place, I was disappointed by their washrooms. Like with many other, older Toronto buildings, the facilities were in the basement. It required a trek through a winding labyrinth, only to reach a dinghy hold. What baffled me was how large the restaurant space was, to only have two narrow stalls in the women’s washroom. I bumped into the wall trying to escape one. But at least it was wallpapered nice.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
This one came highly recommended by an Instagram friend. It was a decent distance from my hotel, but definitely worth the trek. It has the best Prosciutto I have ever had to date, and nothing disappointed. Everything I enjoyed was well worth what I paid. And if you like good food but are short of funds, just get a taste from their appetizer menu; it is more than enough for a sample of the good life. Truly one of the best Italian restaurant I have been to. When I return to Toronto, I will definitely be a stopping by this one again, and this time I will save plenty to indulge in lots. And best of all they have several locations within the Toronto area to meet all your cravings. Although I don’t know if the others will be as nice as this one. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

TERRONI
57 Adelaide Street East, Toronto ON, M5C 1K6
416-203-3093
terroni.com
Terroni Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pancho’s Bakery

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Looking for an after dinner sweet we jumped at the chance for some freshly made churros. Churros from an authentic Mexican bakery in Little Italy. This Saturday night a father and his young son were working behind the counter. In between playing with his phone the young man helped bused tables and took in all their customer’s cash only transactions.

The father was a soft spoken and friendly man, he took our order for churros and suggested that we try a few filled. According to him, filling these ridged tubes of fried cinnamon and sugar is the trendy thing these days.

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“Churros” are a fried-dough pastry. They are long tubes, and have the texture of a fried doughnuts, coated in the crunch of cinnamon and sugar jacket. These churros were sold in bouquets. We went for 7 at $10, to be able to try each flavour and have a few rods as is. Good thing too as I found them better without the filling, but wanted to try them with the option, and it didn’t cost any more to have them piped with sauce.

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The options were strawberry, chocolate, or dulce de leche. The first two reminded me of grocery store ice cream sundae syrup, a runny gel-like imitation flavour. Though aside from their colouring, you really couldn’t taste their presence. Therefore, by comparison you could really tell how good the dulce de leche was. It was so thick and so creamy, that it must have been made in house. “Dulce de leche” is similar to caramel, expect less sweet and made with a lot of milk. But as good as it was I would have preferred a dish of it on the side, so that I could choose my own adventure in dipping. Anything stuffed into another thing should be dense enough that if you pick it up, it doesn’t drip out. If it’s runny enough to leak, it is better as a sauce. A more practical filling would be flavoured whipped cream, cheesecake whip or ricotta cheese and fruit. But that would just make this classic dessert less and less authentic. As for the churro itself, it tasted like mini donuts and had its same crispy coating and spongy centre; but in a hand held, easy to eat stick form.

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We grabbed a chair in their seating area. One of a few tables and other chairs in the glow of a flat screen television. Bolted under their bakery’s logo painted on the wall, it was broadcasting a soccer match with no audience.

They also sold other baked goods like buns and breads behind the glass counter. If you are hungry for something savoury they can heat up some of their homemade empanadas, tamales, tostadas, and tacos for you. And if you need more desserts they have you covered with Mexican hot chocolate and few less traditional takes on the milkshake.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
It was good churro. I wouldn’t mind supporting a local family if in the neighbourhood, but I cannot imagine making a trip down just for one. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

PANCHO’S
658 College Street, Toronto ON, M5G 1B8
416-854-8770
panchosbakery.com
Pancho's Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bella Vista Trattoria & Wine Bar

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I was hoping to enjoy some good pasta in Toronto’s Little Italy tonight. Little did I know, the area didn’t really have all that many Italian restaurants, and the area may have gotten its name many years ago for the Italian businesses that no longer existed today. They were just as many Japanese and Indian places in Little Italy.

So one by one I went up to each Italian restaurant looking for a table to sit, and one by one I was informed of the lengthy wait. It was Saturday night and I had no reservation. Eventually the cold got the best of me and I found myself here.

I was skeptical by the number of tables sat on a Saturday night, it was really telling of the night to come. From its exterior it looked like all the other cozy Italian spots. But sadly the interior matched the yellow and brown paint job of its exterior, and it just washed the place out in a sickly yellow glow. A yellow painting on a yellow painted wall, surrounding tables and chairs in brown. I was sat by a wall of shelves, perfectly set to showcase various bottles of wine. One at a time, one for each box frame. From my seat I would be unable to see the projection from their projector to screen. I wasn’t in use tonight, but I was more curious why would they need one in the dining area, diving the front and the back half by a pull down white plastic sheet.

As cheesy, was the dance music pounding with base overhead. It didn’t quite match the ambiance as couples held hands across the table, and a random vendor came in off the streets to sell those couples a single stemmed red rose. He was obviously targeting the men on a dates wanting to impress. I think it only impresses during a first date, if you are in high school.

The menu was one page back and front: cocktails and food. On it were some interesting ingredient pairings that worried me. A salmon and spinach fettuccine in a rose sauce, whole sea bass in grand marnier; and their house pizza was made with chicken, goat cheese, roasted peppers, onion, and pesto.

I came in with the intention of pasta so stuck with that. But as soon as I saw whole pizzas being delivered to tables, I wish I had gotten one of those instead of two pastas. A regret I would revisit as I took my first bites.

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I was started off with a complimentary basket of bread. It wasn’t all that special, but it was at least warm. Oddly, the hard crust of the slices was the best part. The oil and balsamic you would use to have these with, were already on the table, in help yourself glass jugs. It was pretty average all together. The food took so long that I ended up eating all the bread, leaving none to dip into pasta sauce later. The wait was surprising as the restaurant was fairly empty, yet everyone else was still waiting on their meals. Maybe they are just like me, and they too ended up here when no other place would take them without a wait. And so here we were, catching the restaurant off guard with extra bodies and extra plates to prepare.

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The “Gnocchi Bella Vista” was one of this interesting pairings that I was willing to try. It was their house special gnocchi stuffed with spinach and ricotta cheese, in a basil pesto cream. I don’t know what I was expecting with a stuffed gnocchi, but I was surprised by how gummy and sticky each potato dumpling was. The filling made each nugget bloated and pillowy. It didn’t have the chewy texture you look for in a good pasta. The texture of the noodles in the next dish with the filling here would have been an ideal combination. You needed something firm with the creamy filling and creamier sauce, like what you get with ravioli. This dish had made me realize why no one has ever tried a stuff gnocchi, the texture just doesn’t work. But all in all the sauce was great and the flavours did jibe well together.

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The “Rigatoni alla vodka” was described as pasta with prosciutto in a herb rose sauce. However these weren’t the melt in your thin cuts of meat I know prosciutto to be. These were firm and hard pieces of pork cut into thick strips. Their texture was like the harden, but still edible skin of a glazed ham; and it tasted like a bland sausage. But the noodles were cooked perfectly and the sauce was a wonderful cream with plenty of Italian herbs. They kept it basic with both their sauces, and when they did they succeeded.

 

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
What I had was okay. It wasn’t the most memorable considering the Italian I had the other day. Unfortunately it was disappointing considering that I travelled all the way for something that was this average. Well, at least I can say I have had fresh pasta in Toronto’s Litte Italy. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BELLA VISTA
660 College Street, Toronto ON, M6G 1B8
416-532-2518
torontoitaliancuisine.com
Bella Vista Trattoria & Wine Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sweet Jesus

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This was the only stop in my Toronto food tour that I flew in knowing I wanted to visit. And seeing as today was the only sunny day during my stay, it was now or never. You can have ice cream in the rain, but it some how tastes better in the sun.

This one was hard to get to without a long line marking its location. Knowing they get busy, I decided to grab my ice cream first thing in the morning. This was to avoid the rush and the need to wait in a line that stretched out the door, past the courtyard, and down the block. What resulted, was me waiting for the clock to strike PM and for them to start dispensing out their tower high treats. Before then, they are your regular coffee shop serving espressos and lattes, or your coffee just black.

But normally you can tell when you that have arrived when you begin seeing girls with cones in one hand and a camera ready for a selfie in the other. And you would later do the same, if the line didn’t first scare you away.

Eventually the glow of a their name written in an outline of a cross caught my eye. Walking up to the coffee shop moonlighting as an ice cream parlour, I was disappointed. I was disappointed to see that their decor and theme wasn’t as bold and as bright as their online presence suggested. No neon turquoise wallpaper and no gold chains on little children. Although first thing in the morning, as an early to rise shop, I could see how such a palette could put people off.

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Though there was colour and detailing in their teal blue lamps, matching espresso machine, similarly coloured decorative boom box, and empty gum ball machine. I liked their casual vibe with underground hip hop playing and the flipped backwards cap of the clerk. Though with the name “Sweet Jesus” they can’t really take themselves too seriously. And most of all, I liked their logo: the pairing of a lighting bolt and an upside down cross back lit in blue lights.

The space was small, with only narrow wooden bench by the window for leaning. Had the weather been nicer and it not rained earlier, there would have been rocks and edges to lean on, and a full teal coloured bench to sit on in the courtyard outside.

I found myself in the neighbourhood a little after 11:30am. I attempted to play the tourist card and ask if I could order one of their fully loaded ice creams a little early. It didn’t work. The clerk was a hard firm “no”, and that I had to wait until 12pm for them to start serving dessert. He wouldn’t even let me order and pay first, but assured me that I would be the first in line. I weighed my options. Waiting 15 minutes now and being the first to order would be better than hours later and the last to join a lengthy queue. But from a customer service stand point I would have just done it. Taken the order and made the treat for a paying customer. However, I suspected that he might not be trained in the ice cream arts, but was just the AM barista. Two women came in to start at 12pm, and they waited to the very last minute to make me the first cone of the day. And based on the size of each, making one was definitely a two person job. Right at 12pm more customer also came pouring in. They knew it was time for ice cream. I would have ate and walked to give myself some more breathing room, but with the wind, the last thing I wanted was hair in my ice cream.

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They had eight different over the top flavours, with the option to have any in a cone or cup. From red velvet to birthday cake, s’mores, brownie, rocky road, and cookies and cream. I was most tempted by the one with cotton candy and rainbow sprinkles and interested in the flavour profile of a lemon coconut cream pie ice cream. However, I ended up with the “oh sweet baby Jesus” for novelty of name, and the fact that it was a featured flavour. Caramel soft serve with a peanut butter and caramel sauce, topped with a chocolate-peanut crumble, and chocolate sauce. The other feature flavour was based off a coconut and chocolate “Bounty” bar.

Since their lines are so long they don’t allow substitutions in their pimped out cones, but you can get one simply sauced, where you choose your own soft serve base. And they also made their own popsicles.

For their signature treats, you choose between a cone or cup. To it your choice of soft serve is swirled up high. It is then rolled around in a tub of crumbs, and then drizzled with a sauce or topped with the necessary candy. Each request for a cone came with a handy plastic non drip holder. This was definitely necessary, as eating it one of these is a messy affair. Toppings fall and ice cream drips, as you can’t keep up with the pace required to lick all before it melts. I ordered the cone for visual purposes and because it looked like there was more ice cream in it when compared to the cup. Although the cup would have definitely been easier to eat out of and a more realistic portion to finish.

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As soon as I held my treat in my hands, I fully understood its name. “Oh sweet baby Jesus”, is what what you say when you first lay eyes on it. The first bite was the best, but after five or six in, I knew I would not be able to finish. I felt bad, but could not force myself to take in more. Things got so sweet that my throat hurt. The same was said by my neighbours, even with their ice cream being in cups. Maybe if the soft serve was vanilla instead of caramel, or even a plain milk, this would have helped to neutralize some of the sweetness in the toppings. I was unable to even reach the cone. Luckily there was no option to upgrade it to a waffle cone, or else I would have taken it and it would been upset to waste money like that. They kept the cone cheap and I felt better about discarding it. Sadly, after I called it quits, I watched a cotton candy cone walk by with tuffs of pink and blue, and I found myself jealous of its owner.

I would recommend getting one cone and asking to share, but part of the fun is how much you are getting for one person. How tall the tower of soft serve is. How over the top all the toppings are. The joy of extravagance on top of extravagance. Truly it is one of a kind, and biting in is a one of a kind experience.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I would have to return to get my photo taken with more of their cones. Probably getting the birthday cake one the next time I am in Toronto. They have two locations and are opening up a third, so I will have options by then. Name, brand, and desserts; they are truly magical and worth your time to try. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

SWEET JESUS
106 John Street, Toronto ON, M5H 1X9
647-348-1166
sweetjesus4life.com
Sweet Jesus Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tsujiri Toronto

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Matcha and green tea is all the rage in Vancouver, so I wanted to see Toronto’s take on it. What better a place than at a cafe specializing in green tea beverages and desserts? And a brand that has been around since 1860. They must be doing something right to still be in business after so long, and I would soon find out what that was.

Walking up to the shop its green lit sign catches your eye. Its name is the brand of the green tea they serve and use in all their offerings.

Tsujiri is a 155 year old traditional Japanese tea brand. They are known of having the best uji tea. Their history is spelled out across two bulletin boards talking about their founder and his focus on product excellence. Only picking the best green tea leaves during the renowned uji harvest in Kyoto. These leaves are put through their traditional grinding method to bring out the best aroma and flavour. Each sign also spoke to the health benefits of enjoying matcha with its anti aging and anti cancerous agents. Green tea is chalk full of vitamin A, C, E, and beta carotene. It is also one of the best antioxidants and the catechin in it helps to burn calories. When else can you burn calories while having a latte or soft serve ice cream?

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As their full menu is posted right outside, I suspect the line to enter and order often extends out the door. A full poster of the menu for you to read through before you enter. It probably helps to quicken the ordering and paying process inside. At 4pm they were already sold out of a couple of things, as indicated by the covering of it on the menu with the words “sold out” in black sharpie on coffee sleeves. The same message is also repeated on the little chalk board by the door welcoming you in.

The shop is a little hole in the wall. An order and go affair with very limited seating for those who come first, are served first, and are then able to grab a seat first. Those familiar with the newer hot spot knew they had limited seating yet people continued to file in. Considering the steady traffic, there was the need for four employees behind the counter. Looking around I could imagine and see the need for an expansion in the near future. A larger space and more than just the one sit down table of four to six, and three sets of high tops of couples and duos.

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Joining the others lingering at the foyer, it only looked like there was a line. But the line was to wait for your item to be made and passed off. They take their time crafting their popular parfaits, gingerly placing cakes and cookies with tweezers. You order and pay at the counter and wait for your number to be called. When I arrived, I missed the queue, but had no where to sit. I was forced into the corner by the exit/entrance, forced to stand by the door intruding those coming in and wanting to order; just because it was too windy to walk and eat and too cold for ice cream outdoors.

Their signature sundae was sold out by the time that I got there, as was their green tea macarons. The only difference with the former with the other special parfaits was that it included a Sakura shaped biscuit with the flavour of cherry blossom and an actual bud baked it. This little embellishment was special, but other than its presence, the other two sundae options were similar with rice balls or chiffon cake. I got the former.

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The “Shiratama sundae” comes with your choice of all green tea or all vanilla soft serve, or in as in my case: a twist. When ever I can, I always try to get two for one. One lick and I knew this was the best green tea anything I have ever had. The flavour had a subtle strength to it, a true smokey essence, without the bitterness. I advise eating the rice cakes first while they are still soft, before they freeze and harden from the cold of the ice cream. Especially as there are two layers of rice balls and they are chalky when frozen, instead of being delightfully sticky. There is also a swirl of red bean in the middle of the cup. Green tea and red bean are a solid combination and they were even better together here.

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The green tea flavour and health benefits message was so convincing that I exchanged a cold ice cream with a hot latte as I headed back out into the windy day. The “O-matcha black sesame latte” combined another great green tea pairing. As good as the ice cream was, I think this was a better way to experience the majesty of their green tea. The flavour came out better like this, even with the addition of black sesame.

And if you wanted to take more of their green tea to go, for later; they also sold their blend of green tea in a Mille crepe cake, mochi rice cakes, and cream puffs. The showcase by the counter had them premade and ready to be brown paper bagged. What was missing was bags of their tea you could take home and steep. I suspect this is to do with brand quality. To ensure you are experiencing their product the best way possible they serve need it to you, after it has been steeped for the right amount of time or processed in the right way.

And for those who came, but ironically didn’t want green tea, they also make available other drink and tea blends. Like yuzu and red bean as blended ice or in a float.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
If they ever open a location in Vancouver I will be there, and I will be the first to tell others that they need to be there. I don’t drink coffee and not often do I drink tea. But when and if I do I like it green. And this was some of the most fragrant and distinct green tea that I have ever had. Where they make it possible to have your green tea fix in so many different ways. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

TSUJIRI
147 Dundas Street West, Toronto ON, M5G 1P5
647-351-7899
tsujiri-global.com
TSUJIRI Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Blo Blow Dry Bar

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“Blo” is a walk in hair styling salon. They don’t cut or colour, but they wash and style. A quick and easy stop when you are short on time and in need of a fancy do.

So here I was, being the super lazy person that I am, I rather pay to have my hair washed, then do it when I am on vacation.

I know I said I wouldn’t be back to “Blo” after my first encounter in Vancouver, and I know I said I rather do the service myself, and save my money. But I was half way across the country now, without a blow dryer; and the thought of having to towel dry my hair in the hotel, had my arms sore. Washing my long hair is a two hour affair. One I put off and avoid until my scalp itches and I see the stray flake fall. But even then I can get away with another day not washing it, by pulling it up. A typical hair cleaning ordeal wouldn’t be a problem at home, in the comfort of my own washroom. But in Toronto, away from my regular line of products and routine, being forced to use whatever they had available for travel size shampoo, didn’t seem much of an option. I carefully considered cost and time and decided it was easier and more worth it to just pay to have my hair washed by professionals, and while they were at it, properly combed and style. The latter was a nice bonus that I could use touring another city.

So after passing a “Blo” location one day while sight seeing, I came back to get a blo out today. I decided on a “blo out” as I can do decent curls with a wand myself, yet cannot get voluminous waves with a comb and dryer myself. So at least I was paying for convenience and something I couldn’t do my self, or at least had a hard time doing and wouldn’t bother doing for myself.

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However, I would once again regret my decision to go to “Blo”. I didn’t have a reservation, remembering walk ins were welcomed in Vancouver. But they were busy today and the receptionist who ended up helping me seemed annoyed at my walking in. She commented on how long my hair was and how it would take time. But eventually agreed. I rather she had not if she was going to give me so much grief about me.

Her abruptness transcended into her service, as she continued to man handled me through out our time. I rather she turned me away than continue to remind me how long my hair was, and how I just walked in on a busy Saturday. The end result was good for a few minutes, but at what cost?

I was rushed to a wash station. Where she shampooed and conditioned in one step. I expected a massage, as I closed my eyes. But none came. There was barely any scrubbing, it was just matting product into my hair then rinsing it out. When she had begun to dry, I noticed that my scalp was still itchy, and that I didn’t feel any cleaner. Worst she was haphazard in her rinsing. Shampoo ran down my forehead and got into my eye, more found its way into my ear. She didn’t seem to flinch when I asked for a towel to clean off both.

Only 30 seconds later I was sitting in front of a mirror, on a styling chair, with my hair wrapped in a towel turban. I later understood why she rushed the washing part, considering how long the drying and styling portion of my service would be. But none the less, my main goal was to have a good hair cleaning, and I don’t know if I got that in a hand full of minutes; or even if you could, even with the best products. And remember to save time it was shampoo and conditioner in one…

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Seated in the swivelling salon chair, facing a larger mirror, I saw the young lady set to work pulling my hair out with a brush. I was worried at one point that she would comb by face. She was so reckless with the paddle brush. She asked about how the “Blo” was in Vancouver. I commented that I only went once and because I didn’t specify, and therefore they didn’t wash my hair before the “blo”. She found it odd, I found it odd that she was shocked by this, considering she barely washed my hair.

She asked if I wanted product and if oil and hair spray was ok. I got a bit of both to make the style stick. I went for the classic volume blow out. My hair was sectioned and each piece combed and dried one at a time. It was then set with six round bristle combs holding it in place. They were bulk and heat against my scalp. An odd way to do this, I thought, but what do I know. When they were removed I did notice the volume right away.

As rough as the service was, in her defence, I don’t think she knew she was coming across that way. She made small talk asking about my trip and Vancouver. And when she was done my hair never looked fluffier and better. Although as expected, it didn’t last, even with the hair spray, and I am not going to blame it all on the wind. Why is it when I do my hair at home with my amateur ways, it lasts for days?

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
As I right this minutes after, I can’t decided if it was work the $42 after tax. Although the trouble to wash and dry in a hotel wouldn’t be a joy either. So here, out of pure laziness, I will amend my original review for the Vancouver location. Once again not for every day, but it’s more worth while when you are away from home and your own accoutrements or short on time and in desperate need of a good hair day.

 

BLO
Suite #102-626 Kings Street, Toronto ON, M5V 1M7
416-703-1256
blomedry.com

Colette Grand Café

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This was another recommendation that I was happy to wake up early for. My friend promised an “Instagram worthy” restaurant and she was right with “Collette Grand Café”. “Another French café. This place is seriously Instagram worthy. Holy I want to live here. So cute, and great pastries. I recommend the lemon ricotta pancakes or one of their croissants. Also, my sister is getting married here in January! Hehe. Reservation needed cause it gets cray here.” I think you can just go in and order something too, you don’t have to sit down if you can’t get a reservation”. For the record, she gave little synopsis about all the restaurants she recommended, but this was the lengthiest of the 13.

Walking towards it, I noticed the gazebo/patio beside their outdoor water feature first. Today we had rain, but if it was a sunny day I could only imagine the full expanse of the courtyard all set up with tables and chairs. There were palm fronds and blossoming trees, a swallow pool of water. Together they created a nook, an oasis of wicker in blue and white pattern.

They also had additional patio seating, out front, running the expanse of the restaurant. The space was large, I was warned that they were often busy, they must have needed all the seating area that they had. So busy that they even invested in automatic push open doors. This allowed for full in and out service, with one of the hostesses pushing the button for each guest. They did this without ever needing to leave their post, behind their booth.

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Once inside I was greeted by several hostesses at the ready. I didn’t make the reservations I was warned to, but it was okay. Even on a busy Saturday morning, I was able to grab a seat at the bar, and was directed to it right away.

The island bar was in centre of the room. It was faux marble counter with shelves of glass for glass drink ware and glass bottles of alcohol. I was seated right in the centre of it, with a figurine of an Effiel tower by my place setting. Each additional spot was set with a blue stripped cloth napkin and appropriate cutlery.

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Other than the bar, there was a variety of seating options across various rooms. Each given its own character through decoration. The place was pool house meets summer salon. And was decorated like an Urban Barn catalogue, each room themed like a different page or different advert. Curtains hung on walls, floral paintings set to brighten up empty space, and printed wallpaper to give certain panels some distinction.

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I enjoyed the salon set up the most, it was like a feminine study. A nice waiting area as your table cleared, or a place to end your meal at with a cocktail in hand. High back upholstered chairs with solid arm rests, patterned throw pillows, and side tables with vases. The back drop to this was a ceiling high wooden shelf and cupboard combo. It was decorated with flowers and fruit, serving dishes, urns, vases, planters, and the occasional coffee table book. This would have also made a nice setting to enjoy a high tea service with milk and cream at.

Settling in at the bar, I decided that I wanted a mimosa. I was on vacation and thought why not? However, I had to pass when I couldn’t wait until 11am to be served alcohol. I am never up this early in Vancouver, is it like this here too?

They had Saturday brunch and Sunday buffet. I had to pace myself on the food intake so the buffet was something I wanted to avoid. I wanted to visit as many restaurants as I could and that required many small meals and pacing myself methodically.

Saturday brunch had its own menu. There were so many unique twists on classic breakfast dishes. Classic French meets modern Toronto. Eggs Benedict with avocado and salmon. French toast made with challah bread with the option to add on fois gras. And their eggs breakfasts came with country sausage.

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But seeing as my friend highly recommend it, I had to indulge in the stack of “Lemon ricotta pancakes” with blueberries and Chantilly cream. It wasn’t very sweet despite its look. The gritty textured ricotta lent its smokey, salty flavour to balance the tart fruit, and the sugary sweetness of the preserved jams. But it was the union of the fluffy pan fried dough and the lumpy cream that set this a part from all other pancakes. Overall, a perfectly complimentary taste profile that would have you coming back for more.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
The space was lovely and the menu was certainly worth further exploration. I would like to try more of their breakfast and return the same day for dinner and drinks under their courtyard gazebo. I can definitely see why my friend’s sister would be celebrating her marriage here. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

COLETTE
550 Wellington Street West, Toronto ON, M5V 2V5
647-348-7000
colettetoronto.com
Colette Grand Café - Thompson Toronto Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pearl King

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It’s name was familiar and I was tired from aimlessly roaming. Wanting a pause and a drink I decided to stop in for a bite. But sadly, I came in too late to take advantage of the 25% off all food items deal from 3-6pm.

The restaurant was pretty simple. A clean white counter over wooden floors. Wood and metal tables paired with wicker and wood chairs. All seating gathered by the open door patio on the sidewalk. The most ornate thing was the faux marble bar top and the strobing coloured lights illuminating the bottles behind it. There was a second floor, but I didn’t get a chance to visit it.

You are asked to wait to be seated by a sign taped to the hostess bar. It was slow this evening. There are so many options for dinner in Toronto, that most places come without a wait. I was able to pick my own table and given two menus as I headed towards it. One bound, the other, a sheet of paper with all the same options, but for you to tick off and hand in to the server. The bound version of the menu was helpful in giving you some visuals. You matched the numbers on the photo to their listing on the check off sheet.

They offered popular dim sum plate and tapas servings. I wanted a snack before a late dinner, so this was perfect. They had shrimp dumplings, pork dumplings, and sticky rice in lotus leaves. It was all arranged by how they were prepared. Steamed, deep fried, baked, pan fried, or specialties; which were more like a small serving of Chinese entrees of noodles and soup, and noodles in soup.

For the tapas side of things they had meat or seafood on skewers, and vegetables grilled. They also did classic Chinese soups and desserts. Everything was spelled out in Chinese script and in English letters with a very detailed description. Obviously this was a modern fusion Chinese restaurant, catering to many appetites; but I truly appreciated the extra text in English, and wished more traditional Chinese restaurants would follow.

The food took some time to come, so I was hopeful in is made to order freshness. I looked for the most unique item as dim sum is pretty great in Vancouver. So I came determined to see Toronto’s take on Chinese small plates, and to do so, wanted to try something new.

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Under the pan fried section were the “hockey pucks”. These were shrimp and onion dumplings with an irregular name. They were the restaurant’s signature pan fried dumplings stuffed with shrimp and Chinese vegetables, and served with a hot chilli oil for dipping. The name itself was pretty telling of it fusion influences, if the ingredients weren’t. After my first bite I deemed them worth my waiting, or at least I was hungry enough to really appreciate them. They were warm inside and out. I was happy to not have a deep fried shell, and pan fried skin had a nice crisp to it. It helped balance the chewy nature of the doughy wrap and the shrimp bundled within it. The filling was flavourful on its own and didn’t need the chili oil, but I liked the habit of dipping and the mild burn it gave the back of the throat.

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The “Mango pudding” was described as “silky pudding made with agar, fresh mangos, evaporated milk and sugar”. Then “garnished with berries and spoonfuls of evaporated milk”. I was tempted by this one as it sounded scratch made. Not the powder box kind, but pudding made with actual mango fruit and the Asian version of gelatine. When it arrived, It was a nice surprise to have the pudding shaped like Hello Kitty, but sad that it was a poorly cast mould. The edges of my desert fell apart, and the standard didn’t do my childhood hero any justice. Also, where were the berries the menu promised? To avoid the disappointment of others, I would amend the menu to exclude the berries and include the fact that the pudding would be shaped like Hello Kitty. With the latter novelty advertised, I guarantee that they would get more requests for it. As for actually eating it, I expected chunks of mango embedded into the jelly and a more fruit-filled taste. The pudding seemed fresh, but didn’t taste too far off from the powdered version I can make at home. But the novelty was in its shape and that satisfied me well.

All three employees worked the front of house together. They saw to it that everyone was taken care of. Apologizing for dishes that took too long and just stopping by to see how you were. It was a very welcoming atmosphere

And as cliche as it was. I appreciated the fact that the bill included a wrapped fortune cookie. But looking around, their demographic wasn’t the Chinese looking for the authentic, but everyone else looking for what they deemed good Chinese food. And here they offered good dim sum dishes, any time of the day.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
The food was great, I wish I had the need to order more, to be able to try more. It wasn’t anything all that special or all that unique, but it makes for a solid happy hour choice. Small plates perfect for sharing, beers on tap, tropical cocktails, and a food discount between 3-6pm. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

PEARL KING
291 King Street West, Toronto, ON, M5V 1J5
416-506-8886
pearlking.ca
Pearl King Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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