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Brownstone Bistro
If the line's too long elsewhere

SEE FULL REVIEW | Toronto | Sep 17 2014

Brownstone Bistro is not a bad place but it’s not exactly a good place either. Located conveniently at one of the most bustling sections of Yonge St, it’s usually packed to about 60% capacity with people who look like they chose the place haphazardly. While some of the decor is nice, many of the teal green seats look like they’ve taken a bit of beating, and the giant Cash Money across the street isn’t exactly helping with the aesthetic. I am sure there are some people who love the Brownstone, but I can’t in good faith write a review which would deceive you of my true experience.

My friend Netila and I went for brunch, nay, settled, there when we found out that Fire on the East Side was closed that day. She ordered, in usual Netila fashion, a standard 8 oz. beef burger ($12). It was not bad. But there was really nothing particularly well-executed or memorable about…

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Cafe Bar Pasta
With Tab Payments and Uber

SEE FULL REVIEW | Toronto | Sep 02 2014

Cafe Bar Pasta is a cool and laid-back Italian restaurant, featuring fresh pasta made from state-of-the-art machines and an intimate dining experience. Created by owner Tom Bielecki along with the design skills of Christine Vieira (his lovely wife) and Richard (who designed the beautiful light fixtures throughout) and featuring the culinary creations of Executive Chef Jay Scaife, it’s a cozy and contemporary spot that’s perfect for many occasions. And on this particular night, it was a perfect place to come without your wallet.

To be specific, my friend Krishna and I were participating in a fun Toronto event called Leave Your Wallet at Home Wednesdays, sponsored jointly by Tab Payments and the increasingly-popular alternative-to-a-taxi app, Uber.

Keeping with the small plates trend, everything on the menu is designed to be shareable, though you could certainly enjoy the dishes in a more traditional way as well. After we had our homemade foccacia and…

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Hokkaido Ramen Santouka
A Right Proper Japanese Franchise

SEE FULL REVIEW | Toronto | Aug 27 2014

It’s too late in the ramen game for me to start my post rambling on about how this trend has taken over our city. It’s already a well-established fact that many Torontonians can navigate the ramen grid better than our public transit system. I will tell you however, that Hokkaido Ramen Santouka is good. I mean, the kind of good that satisfies cravings and makes you happy about your life decisions kind of good.

I guess what distinguishes this little restaurant from some of the others is that Santouka is a well-established Japanese franchise that manages to stay true to its roots, even overseas. To date, they have opened 53 restaurants in 12 countries. They must be doing something right! Sure, there are differences in finesse and quality, but that is mostly the result of the environment and the Canadian staff (no offence to Canada). I have been lucky enough to also dine at the Santouka in Taipei, Taiwan,…

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Pikolo Espresso Bar
Happy Hipster Spot

SEE FULL REVIEW | Montreal | Aug 19 2014

Well, it’s not often I blog about a cafe experience, but since so many of you were interested in this lovely dessert (the gluten-free chocolate “rosette”) from Pikolo Espresso Bar, I thought I would give it some extra love beyond my Instagram feed. Montreal is a beautiful city with a lot of cool spots for excellent coffee, and this place has everything you need: free wifi, adorable and talented staff with striped shirts, warm lattes, cold brew, gluten-free (and just delicious regular) snacks, and enough dark wood to satisfy any moody artsy cravings. You can stay or you can grab a cup to go, or even take some Phil and Sebastian beans home with you if that is what you so desire.

I particularly love that they have a Pikolo latte, which is a mini size but with all the creaminess of a full one that you might crave but can never finish. In addition to…

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The Prune Restaurant
One of Stratford's Finest

SEE FULL REVIEW | Stratford | Aug 14 2014

Sometimes a pre-theatre meal can be an euphemism for “rushed”, but not in Stratford. When taking reservations, many restaurants will actually ask you what time your performance is at so that they can orchestrate your meal accordingly. And at the Prune, your pre-theatre meal will be so good that you’ll be looking through the new playbills just to find another excuse to come back here.

Joel Kechnie, restaurant manager extraordinaire, was primarily responsible (though the whole team was great) for our incredibly enjoyable evening. When asked to describe the style of the restaurant, he stated, “this is gourmet without the pretentious price tag” adding, “we would rather make more people happy than please a select few”. Without a doubt, Toronto has a tendency to charge hefty amounts for beautiful mediocrity, but it’s not just the value you get from the actual food on your plate that makes this place stand out. At the Prune, you get everything you…

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Mata Pestico Bar
A Bite of Brazil

SEE FULL REVIEW | Toronto | Jul 15 2014

Though Germany crashed Twitter this weekend with a triumphant win in this year’s World Cup finale, I think the host country had just as much to celebrate this year. However like many Torontonians, I’ve never been spoiled with choice for Brazilian restaurants in the city. Thank goodness for Mata Pestico Bar. Serving up South American “small bites” to pair with an extensive selection of beers and cocktails, Mata’s opening was timed to ensure that they would be available for football/soccer game fans to view the big games while having some half-decent and authentic food and drink selections. With fellow food bloggers Natalie (@CookingQuidnunc), Chris (@Canadian88) and wine blogger Krista (@KristaLamb) at my table, I came to last week’s media launch with bated breath, hoping that my favourite pair of Havaianas would bring enough luck for both a good game and a good meal. While Brazil didn’t win the game the next night, Mata Bar’s menu certainly…

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Weslodge (Summerlicious 2014)
A Microgreen Shame

SEE FULL REVIEW | Toronto | Jul 10 2014

If you’ve walked down King Street West lately, the giant yellow doors and Vegas-level lit up sign for Weslodge are hard to miss. And what a striking restaurant it is indeed! Self-described as a “Casually Refined Saloon”, this place features servers with playful holstered outfits, brass accents on comfortable leather seats, and some of the most magnificent lights I’ve ever seen. The antlers and gold-gilded frames of art plastered on every wall provide a nice contrast to the sleek and modern glassed open kitchen.

It is deeply unfortunate that their Summerlicious Menu did not deliver the way the décor did.

Appetizers. The Scotch Egg is one of their signature dishes, made with in-house ground chorizo and served with tomato jam and truffle oil (the non-Summerlicious Scotch Egg comes with shaved truffle). I did enjoy this greatly, but find it hard for something so small (it’s a quail’s egg too) to be classified as an appetizer (over an…

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Boom Breakfsat
Good Family Spot, At Least

SEE FULL REVIEW | Toronto | Jun 15 2014

What can I say? Boom Breakfast (there are a few locations, we went to the St Clair Ave. W one) has been open for quite some time and it always has a full house. The Sunday that Eric and I went, I have to admit that we were trying to get into Starving Artist (which is usually quite empty during the week but insane to deal with on the weekends) but we settled for Boom instead. The menu is very extensive and is one of those “Look at how creative we are with our cute names” kind of menus, but the food itself didn’t deliver in the way that I expected. Eric’s “Western College Sandwich” (8.99) with omelette style eggs, locally smoked pork loin, caramelized onions, roasted red peppers was a little haphazard-looking and a bit meagre in content. As for my “NYC Lox, Eggs n’ Onions” (9.29) let’s just say I didn’t apply any filters to…

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Volos
Greek Seafood and Flaming Cheese

SEE FULL REVIEW | Toronto | May 26 2014

Perhaps out of general fear of a goopy dolmades or a sloppy “Greek” salad, I am afraid I haven’t tried as many Greek restaurants in Toronto as I would like. At the invitation of my friend Meredith for a surprise birthday dinner for our friend Erin, I was pleased and relieved that Volos turned out to be an excellent spot for this occasion, and a very good restaurant in general. What you will find here is a sophisticated atmosphere, with a menu comprised of modern twists on traditional Greek food, highlighting Canadian ingredients (the salads in particular, are made with local greens and Ontario vegetables, and are proudly so) while maintaining a high level of authenticity. Beyond pleasing guests with great food and service, the restaurant also strives to educate its guests about “the exotic and unique wines from one of the world’s oldest winemaking regions”, of which Volos derives its name.

Shortly after we had chosen an…

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The White Brick Kitchen
Simple and Simply Delicious

SEE FULL REVIEW | Toronto | May 19 2014

Once a little random nook that was often overlooked by most people on the way from one Korean restaurant to another, post-renovation and re-design, The White Brick Kitchen  has quickly become one of the brunch spots in the Annex. The decor of this Southern comfort food restaurant all-American and nostalgic, but the vibe is clean and modern. Most notably, unlike some other similar establishments that are serving up comfort food, each of the seatings here actually look comfortable and well-thought out. None of those, “we can sit you now, but you’re going to have to sit at the (euphemism for awfully cramped and awkward) corner table, will that be okay?” situations that you might have encountered before. No sir, you will not find that here.

In fact, there is even a polite and well-regulated line out the door. In Toronto on a late Sunday morning, that’s how you know it’s legit. And with the smell of a little bit…

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Starving Artist
Kind of a Waffle Heaven

SEE FULL REVIEW | Toronto | May 12 2014

One of the biggest dilemmas I experience regularly in life is whether or not to order waffles for brunch. I know, talk about #FirstWorldProblems. But if you live in Toronto and are equally indecisive like me, you certainly know the feeling: starving after having waited in line for an hour for brunch, your nose picks up the intoxicating scent of fresh waffles wafting out of the kitchen, but your carnivore senses are telling you that you need more than berries to fulfill your protein craving. I usually cave by ordering an Eggs Benny or some kind of hash, but leave wishing I had gone with the waffles. And yet, when I actually do order the waffles, I leave unsatisfied and over-sugared, wishing I had ordered the savoury option, It’s a classic Brunch Catch-22.

Then I discovered Starving Artist at St Clair West. Much bigger than its sister Lansdowne location, this spacious cafe/restaurant/bar is a great place to bring…

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One Dim Sum (一點心)
And One Michelin Star

SEE FULL REVIEW | Hong Kong | Mar 16 2014

What’s the worth of a Michelin star? At One Dim Sum in Hong Kong, we decided to take this star for a test drive. Before I go further, can I just say how utterly bizarre it is that a modest tire company managed to establish itself as the go-to source for fine dining standards worldwide? But then again, there are a lot of things in this world that are hard to explain. Today, restaurants covet Michelin stars because of their rarity and prestige. However, stars only refer to food quality alone and not to all the other things that make up a restaurant—service, ambiance, décor, and cleanliness etc., which are rated between 1-5 “couverts” (the knife and fork symbol). Why do I say all this? If you didn’t know this important distinction, you may have thought that you walked into the wrong restaurant.

Ranked #6 out of over 4100 restaurants listed on TripAdvisor’s Hong Kong directory and with a…

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Noodle Factory
A Bowl of Happiness

SEE FULL REVIEW | Montreal | Feb 10 2014

Noodle Factory is a small but mighty spot in Montreal to get your noodle fix. Since my Montreal trip was fairly short, and I am already in Taiwan (much to blog about here!), I will have to keep each of my Montreal posts in this trio very short too.

I was introduced to this restaurant a few years ago by my Brazilian friend Cristiano, who can’t help but stop here every time he’s in town. The last time we came, we ordered a few plates of dumplings which were all done to a very satisfactory standard (unlike, you know, that other place that I blogged about). This time, I was by myself, so I thought a bowl of their signature noodles might be a better idea. There is nothing like a warm bowl of hand-pulled noodles to warm your soul and belly on a cold freezing winter’s day.

Upon arrival, I was greeted by everyone in the restaurant and…

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Frunchroom
Prohibition-Era Façade

SEE FULL REVIEW | Montreal | Feb 08 2014

Frunchroom is one of the newest restaurants to hit the city, and from the outside (and the photos online, where these first two were sourced), it looks Prohibtion-Era amazing. It’s got a vintage vibe with modern flair. It’s got lots of lighting, but all appropriate for mood-setting. And the waitstaff look like they couldn’t be having more fun.

Sean and Lori did the research before we came, and I agreed that it looked like a great choice. Sadly, the company was the best part of the evening.

We arrived for our 5:30 reservation (I had to run to an event afterwards) and realized that we were one of three groups of people in the restaurant. Despite the plethora of spacious and comfortable seating areas, the hostess somehow decided it would be best to sit us in a dark corner near the cold window. It was so ridiculous that we had to have a hearty laugh before we…

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Schwartz’s Deli
An 80-Year Montreal Tradition

SEE FULL REVIEW | Montreal | Feb 07 2014

Montreal is famous for a lot of things, and smoked meat is certainly on the Top 10 list, if not at the top. And where do locals go for the goods stuff? Schwartz’s Deli. With over 80 years of history, it’s hard to go wrong.

On the day that I finally came to check it out, I actually had a team of about twelve (hungry, just-came-from-the-most-intense-athletic-competition-ever) people with me. I think the store owners/waiters were a little overwhelmed by our huge group of black and white tracksuits and red toques, but somehow, they managed to fit most of us into the tight quarters of a restaurant that missed the memo on modern renovation. Those who didn’t feel like waiting were just fine grabbing a meaty sandwich to go from the side of the shop too.

Between my teammates and I, we devoured a table of delicious fries, ridiculously large juicy pickles, and a ton of their famous Montreal…

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Lil Baci Taverna
My new favourite Italian

SEE FULL REVIEW | Toronto | Jan 27 2014

There are some restaurants that seem to be hanging out in the neighbourhood all inconspicuous and then one day, someone introduces you to it and you can’t believe you’ve never experienced it before. My most recent discovery? Lil Baci Taverna.

To be fair, I can hardly call it my discovery. As background, I was tasked by a few of my fellow students and our professors to find a dinner spot that could accommodate a large group and still feel relatively cozy. When I ran out of ideas, I turned to my friend Chris (who was also part of this group) and he humbly suggested this place where he used to work.  Thankfully for us, he was still welcomed back with open arms. And thankfully for him, we all loved it.

The restaurant itself, like its name (Lil Baci = Little Kiss), is pretty cute. With a white-tile open kitchen, chalkboard menus and all the Italian cities you wish you…

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The Blue Fox Cafe
Funky and Friendly

SEE FULL REVIEW | Victoria | Jan 23 2014

The Blue Fox Cafe often stands next to Floyd’s Diner and John’s Place on the glorious podium for Victoria’s favourite brunch spots—and for good reason! Even on a weekday, the cheerful and airy space had a line out the door and around the corner. The brick walls, the local art, and even the strategically placed children’s toys all added to the fun and funky vibe.

Mike and I both came in with the determination for getting one of the ten (yes, ten) variations on the Eggs Benny. After some strategic consideration, I went with the Eggs Pacifico ($13.50), which were poached eggs served atop a classic English muffin, topped with smoked Pacific salmon (certainly try to get as much of this stuff as I can while I’m on the West Coast), avocado, red onion, a bit of chipotle aioli, and a (very) generous smothering of Hollandaise sauce.

In a surprising turn of events (asserting that it was for my…

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Best Dishes of 2013
Another Top 10 List

SEE FULL REVIEW | Chicago |New York |Ottawa |Toronto |Vancouver |Victoria | Jan 20 2014

Dear friends,

Happy 2014! Last night, as I celebrated with new friends and old in the beautiful city of Victoria, I started to think about a lot of things. Some of these things were ephiphany-worthy (the course of fate and circumstance) and some were really lame (did I wear the right outfit?), but the one thing I wanted to share with you is the answer to the question that I have been asked with greater and greater frequency in the last couple of days: what’s the best thing I’ve eaten in 2013?

After lengthy deliberation, I have come up with one of my classic Top 10 Lists to highlight ten of the most outstanding dishes that I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying this year, in ascending order.

10. Eggs Norwegian from Pastis, New York
Other than the fact that I was quite excited to be in one of the most well-known restaurants to have been referenced in Sex and…

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Five Sails
At the Pan Pacific Vancouver

SEE FULL REVIEW | Vancouver | Jan 16 2014

The Pan Pacific Vancouver is no ordinary hotel. Competing with few other landmarks that have the ability to evoke the essence of this city by its sheer existence, it is only fitting that it would have its own upscale restaurant to match. Affectionately named Five Sails after the iconic exterior of the hotel, the posh interior doesn’t disappoint with its traditional crisp white linen service, coat check and wine list. Oh, and did I mention the jaw-dropping view?

My fellow diners at this particular meal were some of my dearest friends from high school. With the amazing realization that this group had not actually sat down together in seven years (OMG, am I right?), it is fair to say that I wasn’t paying as close attention to the restaurant as I might normally have. However, between sips of wine and cocktails, I managed to assess the food and service just a little.

The complimentary amuse-bouche was a…

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Café Medina
French Meets Middle East

SEE FULL REVIEW | Vancouver | Jan 15 2014

We already knew before we arrived that this was going to be a long wait. And yet, everyone stood patiently in the cold, waiting for an opportunity to enjoy a nice lunch at Café Medina in the heart of downtown Vancouver. After putting our names down on the epic list (please make sure you don’t just stand there and wait behind the crowd while everyone else gets called), we were ushered to our table after a whopping 45 minutes.

Their drink menu is precious. Had we come for an afternoon coffee, I probably would have ordered a lavender latte with one of their famous waffles, but alas, the mint-infused lemonade with gin was more appropriate for the occasion. Lelia followed suit by ordering their Moroccan Mimosa, which was a spin on the regular, infused with star anise, sumac, and fig. Both were absolutely lovely.

My-friend-Lelia-the-hardcore-athlete had her eye on the Roti de Boeuf ($16) which was a raw…

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The Noodle Cart
The Other Little Thai Place

SEE FULL REVIEW | Victoria | Jan 15 2014

If you want a great little Thai spot to go for lunch (that is not the famous Little Thai Place), give Noodle Cart a try. The clean and charming little restaurant opened up last year and caught the attention of local patrons right away, winning the accolade of one of Canada’s Best New Restaurants as named by Where Magazine.

Their lunch specials are just what you would expect and very reasonably priced between $9.50 to $10.50. My green salad was clean and simple and the red curry was fragrant and rich. One of the delicious things we tried off the lunch menu was the Drunken Noodles (with beef, $12) which is sautéed broad rice noodles with basil, gai lan, garlic, onion, red pepper, tomato and thai chili. It’s an exciting dish that will certainly perk up your day.

What distinguishes this restaurant the most perhaps is the wall-to-wall murals of a cartoon version of Khao San Road and…

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The Drake Hotel
Cool vibe, mediocre brunch

SEE FULL REVIEW | Toronto | Nov 23 2013

I cannot believe how long it took me to finally visit The Drake Hotel. Given its status as one of Toronto’s most iconic and historic spots, it was high time we hit it up for a little brunch.

Unfortunately, the food on our plates did not match the cool vibe of the restaurant. The bread wasn’t particularly great, the pancake wasn’t very fluffy, and the potatoes were fairly dry. At least they had Saturday morning cartoons playing in the background to distract us from the mediocre spread.

In fact, there were many things to distract us. The servers had cool, laid back outfits and were friendly to boot. The 70’s throwback decor provides such a strong sense of nostalgia that made even the dark wood paneling look appealing. Finally, every nook and cranny of the walls was covered with something interesting.

Ultimately, I have to uphold a certain level of integrity and say that I would not recommend this…

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Banjara Indian Cuisine
Follow the flavours

SEE FULL REVIEW | Toronto | Nov 13 2013

Banjara Indian Cuisine was recommended by my lovely friends Nick and Lily for our dinner together. Given that Nick is allergic to chicken, Lily is a vegetarian, and we were all craving Indian food (probably the best of the three reasons), this seemed like a pretty good place to try. In fact, I believe that this is actually the first Indian restaurant in Toronto to make it onto Chu on This!

Even through the dark cloak of night, you can can find Banjara by allowing your nose to lead you towards the beautiful aromatic smells emanating from the restaurant. After finishing off some mango lassi (lassis = plural?) and complimentary papadums, we basically ordered the entire vegetarian spread, starting with the vegetable pakoras ($3.95). The menu said that there are four pieces per order but I think that’s probably a bit inaccurate, judging by the basketful that landed on our table.

The vegetable samosas ($3.50) were fairly standard.…

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Wish Restaurant
South Beach in the City

SEE FULL REVIEW | Toronto | Nov 11 2013

You might not expect to find a South Beach-style lounge at the the intersection of Charles and Yonge Street in Toronto. But Wish really exists. It’s sweet and stylish, and a delightful spot to visit for any meal. On this particular dark and cold rainy evening, this warm and cheery canopy-covered restaurant was all the more cozy.

Ed and I were in a hungry mood so we ordered two fairly substantial appetizers. The Crispy Fried Duck Dumplings ($13) were served with a cranberry hoisin sauce (sounds kind of weird, but it kinda works) and a ginger slaw (with carrots, cabbage and cilantro). This is one of those gluttonous dishes that I could eat (almost) every day. The duck was the consistency of pulled pork and had the sweet and salty flavours that made for an oh-so succulent filling.

We also wanted a salad, but went with something a little more adventurous: the Roasted Cauliflower ($15). This was nice and…

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Khao San Road
Best Pad Thai in Town?

SEE FULL REVIEW | Toronto | Nov 08 2013

The best Thai food in Toronto that I’ve had by far (so far!) is at Khao San Road. Named after the iconic street food destination in Bangkok, this place provides a wonderful little respite from the bitter cold and grey that Financial District Toronto can be on a late Fall evening. While there are only a few items on the menu, there are more than enough to settle any craving you might have.

Despite the blistering winter winds, Sirus and I both ordered their famous Thai iced tea ($4.50). It was very sweet, but very satisfying. In fact, I think I am going to have to start adding condensed milk to everything—it really does provide a little pep in your step.

The Po Pia Pak Sod Gai Yaw (Fresh Rolls, $7) were much better than most that I’ve had elsewhere. What makes a good fresh roll stand out? Most importantly, it is the uniformity in texture of the rice…

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Supply and Demand
Upping the game at Wellington West

SEE FULL REVIEW | Ottawa | Nov 07 2013

Perhaps I have been reading too much Copyright Law lately, but when I walked into Supply and Demand a few nights ago, I felt like I had seen it before. Upon further reflection, I realized that my Torontonian foodie senses were sifting through the restaurant images stored in my head, noting similar signage, chairs, lights, visual identity and branding. I had even gone as far as to pinpoint this restaurant as a potential love child of Richmond Station and The Saint Tavern. So much resemblance in fact, that I actually did spent several hours looking through restaurant designs in Canada, and cataloguing their similarities and wondering how original Supply and Demand could truly be.

Well, you can’t blame Steve Wall and his crew for implementing a winning formula! It only meant that this place had more to live up to, given that the two aforementioned restaurants happen to be two of my favourites. Plus, after having read that Wall…

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Art-is-In Bakery
Fresh from the Factory

SEE FULL REVIEW | Ottawa | Nov 06 2013

I have been eating bread from Art-Is-In Bakery for as long as I’ve been frequenting farmers’ markets in Ottawa. The thought of a fresh loaf of Dynamite Dill was one of the reasons I was able to get up at 7 AM on a Saturday and bike a few kilometers in the cold to the middle of nowhere (yes, living the Canadian lifestyle to the max).

When I heard that they had decided to open a restaurant out of their bakery warehouse, I could only imagine how popular it would become. In fact, it is now the most talked about restaurant in Ottawa.

It’s quite a testament to the incredible quality of their bread and pastries that they are able to draw a such a crowd to what is essentially an industrial hole at the bottom of a bridge. If you didn’t know about the restaurant before, you would surely have thought that your Google Maps app was…

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Grounded Kitchen and Coffeehouse
The Heartbeat of Centretown

SEE FULL REVIEW | Ottawa | Nov 05 2013

When you work in Centretown/Downtown Ottawa, it’s always exciting to hear about a new lunch spot opening up in the neighbourhood. For a visit with my former colleagues, Grounded Kitchen and Coffeehouse was the perfect choice (thank you Holly!).

They have lots of fresh sandwiches and panini to choose from ($8.50 each), in addition to a rotating selection of soups and salads. The two sandwiches that I tried (I had half of each, by forcing Holly to share with me) were both really nice. The Fu Manchu (although slightly racist, but kind of punny given my name) was one of the specials of the day and was engineered with some juicy roast chicken, dried figs, and swiss cheese. Although I would have preferred fresh figs, the combination is a classic. The other sandwich that Holly, Brett and Nic ordered was the Sweet and Smokey, a sandwich with turkey, brie, pear, arugula and cider vinaigrette. I didn’t find it that…

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John & Sons Oyster House
A Summerhill Harbour

SEE FULL REVIEW | Toronto | Nov 02 2013

John & Sons Oyster House is one of those restaurants that seeks to deliver a transformative experience to its customers. This restaurant’s destination? New England.

From my blog, and from general observation, you may get the idea that I live in an oyster-obsessed city. I mean, what’s not to love? Oysters invoke a sense of mystery, opulence, and a salty slippery taste of the sea that we all crave once in awhile (unless you’re not into that kind of thing…). Accordingly, restaurants that cater almost exclusively to this obsession are generally well-received in Toronto.

When John & Sons opened up their Summerhill location, the collective soft cheering emanating from the homes of the well-to-do folk in the area was almost audible. A few months ago, I had the opportunity to visit and see the vessel for myself.

As for their oysters, they’ve certainly got enough for you to choose from. Big ones, small ones, East Coast and West…

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Pressed
Waffles in the Neighbourhood

SEE FULL REVIEW | Ottawa | Oct 17 2013

Today, I am going to bring myself back to the city of my alma mater (Ottawa) and blog about one of the best brunch/breakfast places around—Pressed.

Ironically, this restaurant didn’t exist when I was in undergrad. However, my former roommates were raving about it so much that it became a imperative stop on my last visit. As soon as we walked in, I knew that this was going to be a wholly satisfying experience. It’s a small but mighty kind of establishment, and one that has a whole lotta soul. Each of its four walls was covered from floor to ceiling with local art, available for you to browse and purchase, perhaps while waiting for your waffle to be pressed.

Whenever waiters at restaurants tell me about their “waffle selection”, I run into a huge gastronomic dilemma of either ordering something amazing but inevitably too sweet, (most waffle selections) or ordering a heartier Egg’s Benedict (or another “breakfast food…

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Beerbistro
I think there's beer in here

SEE FULL REVIEW | Toronto | Oct 13 2013

I know what you’re wondering. Is that delicious-looking dessert made with beer? Why yes, yes it is. That Sticky Toffee Pudding ($9) and almost every single other thing on the menu at Beerbistro. This sticky toffee pudding topped with bourbon ice cream was the perfect way to end a great meal to celebrate Eric’s birthday last month.

If you like beer, then this restaurant should be a must-try on your financial district dining list. Like other places known for their beer selection, they literally have heaps of beers on tap and even more bottled. However, unlike some of the aforementioned establishments, Beerbistro has designed their beers and food items to work together in perfect symbiosis.

If making pairing decisions seems like a daunting or overwhelming task to you—worry not! Each of their food items is already paired with a category of beers off of their list that will take the guesswork out of your meal. For example, Mel’s…

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Yuzu Izakaya
Don't let the location deter you!

SEE FULL REVIEW | Toronto | Oct 08 2013

When we think of Japanese food, raw fish in its various forms often comes to mind before all else. But of course, Japanese food isn’t just sushi, and the izakaya, or Japanese grill-house, is a great example of that.

Yuzu Izakaya is one of the lesser-known options in Toronto. While their Yonge and Finch location doesn’t exactly scream trendy or upscale, they’re certainly not letting that compromise their quality. For starters, the restaurant is impeccably clean, and the sleek design of their dark wood tables and warm grey walls appears to be carefully thought-out. The food also demonstrates a high level of intelligent design.

To start, we selected the “Beef with Kalbi Sauce” ($3) from their selection of “skewers”. They were well-seasoned and fairly succulent. Next, we succumbed to their special of the day: panko-crusted deep-fried soft shell crab (MP). Is there anything more exciting? The crispy lotus root pieces were a nice touch. I highly doubt that…

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This End Up
Great at 1PM or 1AM

SEE FULL REVIEW | Toronto | Oct 07 2013

There are some restaurants that you plan for months to go to, and then there are some restaurants that you stumble upon at 1:00 AM after a night of semi-intense partying. This End Up would fall into the latter category.

Quite frankly, this place is awesome. The decor is reminiscent of a time where things where simpler and friendlier, with a few contemporary touches to remind you that it’s 2013, and that they cater to hipsters as well as regular cool people.

Whether you want to come for a few cocktails, a sandwich or a doughnut, this place has got your fix. In fact, they even have an adorable “Secret Kids Menu” that is strictly available to kids (they will actually charge adults extra!). Since fish tacos were on my mind (actually, are always on my mind), we (Eric, Brandon and I) each ordered three. In hindsight, we probably didn’t need to eat three fish tacos each at…

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Hogtown Vegan
Tastes just like Chicken

SEE FULL REVIEW | Toronto | Oct 02 2013

For some reason, it seems like every other restaurant in Toronto has independently come to the idea of using our city’s obscure moniker “Hogtown” in their name. Maybe it’s nostalgia for a time none of us can remember, who knows? What I do know, is that the most confusing one of them all has got to be Hogtown Vegan.

Despite the name, I rather enjoyed this little restaurant. Serving up “Southern Vegan Comfort Food”, they really have an alternative for almost anything you can imagine. Plus, you can feel comfortable going there knowing that everything is 100% plant-sourced and/or plant-based. They also have a full gluten-free and kids’ menu.

The first dish I will show off is the “Southern Combo”. As one of the most popular choices, this dish is comprised of mac n’ (vegan) cheese, “unchicken” and sweet potato mash (or other choice of side). Jessica enjoyed it greatly even though the portion was much bigger than…

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The Purple Pig
Cheese, swine and wine

SEE FULL REVIEW | Chicago | Sep 24 2013

Facing a growing trend of highly conceptual, small-plate restaurants, The Purple Pig distinguishes itself from the rest with a powerful Mediterranean menu and casual-yet-sophisticated atmosphere. Joining father and son duo Jimmy Bannos and Jimmy Bannos Jr. of Heaven of Seven, Chefs Scott Harris and Tony Mantuano round out a dream team unlike any other. And with Bon Appétit Magazine’s  Top 10 Best New Restaurants in America blessing, The Purple Pig has now secured itself a feature in every Chicago tourist guide.

With a no-reservation policy, it’s a true testament to their reputation that patrons are lined up in droves outside the restaurant, waiting cooperatively while sipping on some wine and enjoying the patio. One of the main highlights of their menu is the large selection of European wines, many of which are under $40/bottle. Tonight, I knew that the Spanish Gran Sarao “Rose Brut” Cava was exactly what I wanted. It was a perfect compliment to cut…

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XOCO by Rick Bayless
Give the torta a try

SEE FULL REVIEW | Chicago | Sep 18 2013

Like many people, I think Rick Bayless is a pretty cool guy. Sure, he may have won a ton of James Beard Awards, a season of Top Chef Masters, and an Emmy nomination for his culinary hosting chops on Mexico - One Plate at a Time. However, Bayless’ legacy will most likely live on as the down-to-Earth modern father of Mexican cuisine in America. 

Lucky for Chicago locals, Bayless decided to launch his restaurant empire in this wonderful city and in this wonderful city only. Beginning with the vibrant and energetic Frontera Grill, he soon grew the business to include a sister restaurant by the name of Topolobampo, located just beside the original. Finally, wanting to provide something even more accessible, the casual eatery XOCO was born.

On our short trip, we decided that XOCO would be the way to go. If you’re wondering what I was wondering, don’t worry, you’re not alone. What the heck…

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Emma’s Country Kitchen
Country Charm in the City

SEE FULL REVIEW | Toronto | Sep 01 2013

Emma’s Country Kitchen is a no-frills, exactly-as-advertised little restaurant. The first photo highlights a simple B.L.T. sandwich ($5), served with a choice of fresh, homemade bread and tied together with a bit of aioli that Eric ordered. I decided to get a slightly heartier option, pictured in the second photo, and ordered the Breakfast Biscuit ($5.5). This is a rich, homemade buttermilk biscuit served with an over-easy egg, cheddar, and choice of meat (sausage is pictured). Eric and I both a side of red skin roasted potatoes ($3) which were tossed in coarse sea salt and thyme and really quite delicious.

The flowers in a mason jar on every table are just one of the many adorable “country charms” that make this place stand out from other places in the big city. While this restaurant may not stand out as being particularly creative or different in a more rural setting, in Toronto, it kind of is a true novelty.…

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The Gabardine
Fine grub and libations

SEE FULL REVIEW | Toronto | Aug 27 2013

One of the problems with working in the Financial District is the sheer difficulty of finding good food that isn’t too expensive or pretentious. Emphasis on the pretentious. The Gabardine, located on Bay Street tucked just south of Richmond, is the perfect antidote.

Advertising “fine grub and libations”, the menu certainly delivers on both fronts. On this particular day, Kristina and I rationalized ordering wine in order to “cut the richness of the cheese (that we already knew we were going to have)”. Totally justified. Even though some may not consider rosé a real wine (I will not take sides on this debate!), I must admit that the one I got today was crisp, perfectly chilled, and went most excellent-ly with a work lunch.

Going in knowing that their Caesar Salad was ranked as one of the best in Toronto by BlogTO, I decided to give the $12 deconstruction a try. The flavours were well-balanced but more importantly,…

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The Saint Tavern
Upscale Comfort Food

SEE FULL REVIEW | Toronto | Aug 17 2013

They look good, don’t they? These fiery rounds of goodness pictured in the first photo were the Daily Doughnuts ($6) that my friend Diana and I decided to share as a brunch appetizer. Yes, a brunch appetizer. What a great idea! The orange zest and glaze were elevated to another level when drizzled with the white chocolate sauce that accompanied the doughnuts in their little cast iron serving pan.

The Saint Tavern is a cool and modern restaurant with some old-world tavern charms. The black and white decor is clean and fresh while the food is rich and hearty. (I also realized later that the restaurant actually resembled my (old) blog interface a little…maybe the narcissism is why I love their design so much!)

Diana ordered her eggs “fried and really well done” in the Eggs Any Style dish. She chose the peameal bacon, but you can also get house-made pork sausages as your other pork alternative.…

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Mother’s Dumplings (媽媽餃子館)
My mother can do better

SEE FULL REVIEW | Toronto | Aug 17 2013

In every Chinatown, there is that “really good dumpling place that everyone talks about”. But in this case, it’s not just normal people. The Globe & Mail, NOW Magazine and Metro Morning have sang its praises and, believe it or not, Toronto Life has even graced them with the title of “best dumplings in the city”. Really (raised eyebrow)? Well, I guess it was as good of a time as any to give Mother’s Dumplings a try.

Sadly, I could not fully agree.

The boiled dumplings (水餃, ranging between $6.39-8.29 for a dozen) were okay. The steamed juicy pork dumplings (小龙包, $7.29) (which, if you ask my mother, are one of my favourite things in the world) were also okay. But okay is not good enough if you’re going to be called the best. Overall, I think this place is lacking some serious finesse (and I realize that the idea is to make it “homey” but it falls…

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Pastis
French Bistro with New York Soul

SEE FULL REVIEW | New York | Aug 06 2013

Pastis is the name of the iconic bar and restaurant that was created by Keith McNally to emulate the vibe of a 1930’s Parisian brasserie. Today, this pewter-counter and rusty-mirror establishment is now loved by regular folk and celebrities alike. While they were originally famous for their wines and the apéritifs associated with its namesake, their brunch menu has risen to equal stardom.

Wondering if you’ve seen or heard of it somewhere? If you are a fan of Sex and the City, no doubt you may remember Carrie and Samantha speaking of making reservations there. More significantly, this spot was also where Carrie had brunch with “the Russian”. Ah, the Russian. The Russian and all his friends who were too pretentious for Carrie and didn’t think she qualified as a writer. Poor Carrie.

Knowing that nothing makes an experience like brunch less enjoyable than a touristy crowd (good luck ever getting a spot for dinnertime without a reservation), we…

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Peaches HotHouse
Nashville Hot Chicken

SEE FULL REVIEW | New York | Aug 04 2013

Mmm…fried chicken and crispy grits. Ain’t no better place to go if you’re craving southern brunch than Peaches HotHouse. While we had originally intended on going to the original Peaches, an unexpected flood rendered that option unavailable. But our other option was mighty fine!

In terms of beverage options, how about an iced coffee? Or if you’re feeling up to it, opt for one of their unique cocktail creations for only $5 during brunch. Note: they do not have any espresso beverages so don’t go getting any ideas about ordering a soy latte—you came to the wrong place.

This is truly a go-big-or-go-home kind of place. If you’re feeling up for a challenge, follow Jackson’s lead and go for the Booker T—- a hearty burger topped with a piece of their famous hot spicy chicken. Good luck figuring out how to eat it! It was just so ridiculous and awesome all at once.

And the hot chicken,…

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Caracas Arepa Bar
A delicious bite of Venezula

SEE FULL REVIEW | New York | Jul 30 2013

Toronto may have a plethora of taco joints but as for Latin American food south of the Mexican border? Few and far between. Needless to say, I have been waiting to have good Venezuelan food for a very, very long time. What better place than at the Caracas Arepa Bar in the East Village in Manhattan?

Starting off with the Papelón con limón, which is a refreshing mix of dehydrated sugarcane and lime, I settled in to absorb the eclectic and vibrant lunchtime crowd.

The menu is overflowing with mouth-watering choices. We decided to go for the lunchtime special of any arepa from the menu and a choice of soup or salad. The soup of the day was a creamy medley of roasted corn so we both left the mixed salad alone and went for a bowl of the good stuff. How adorable are the bowls, by the way?

We also indulged in some guacamole (or guasacaca) and…

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Bangkok Garden
Outdated and Overrated

SEE FULL REVIEW | Toronto | Jul 23 2013

In the last few months, some of you have commented that I seem to have an overabundance of positive restaurant reviews. You wanted a scathing review? Well you’re going to get one today.

I can imagine that Bangkok Garden’s claim to fame as one of Toronto’s “first Thai restaurants” somehow gave it enough credibility to make it onto the coveted Summerlicious list. Well, I would imagine that this historical wonder hasn’t changed much since it first opened.

As soon as we entered the restaurant, I immediately had the strange feeling that I had walked onto the set of a lower-budget version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1956 classic, The King and I. Just the fact that one of the drinks is called “Siam Seabreeze” is a pretty good indication that this establishment is holding tight to its Colonial Era roots (though ironically, as a reader pointed out, Siam was never actually colonized…). The “Fresh Watermelon Cooler” (served with or…

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Bymark (Summerlicious 2013)
Financial District Staple

SEE FULL REVIEW | Toronto | Jul 22 2013

As one of Chef Mark McEwan’s best restaurants in the city, you’d be lucky to get a reservation for Summerlicious at Bymark a few hours after the lines open on launch day. Thinking back to the warm (read: insanely humid and muggy) breezes that grazed our faces on the way down to the restaurant, I decided to start with a gazpacho soup, which had some nice crispy croutons and steamed clams to round out the chilled tomatoes (Not pictured).

Kristina decided to go with the meatier option—the P.E.I. Steak Tartare. I really liked the presentation and thought that it was an excellent choice for Bymark to showcase their style. The flavours were nice and balanced as well. The melon and cucumber salad? Nothing to write home about.

One of the main problems with the menu is that there is no vegetarian option. Upon inquiry, Mark (who is a recent convert) was told that they could make a pasta…

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Bosk (Summerlicious 2013)
Impeccable Service and Style

SEE FULL REVIEW | Toronto | Jul 17 2013

Of the many Summerlicious menus available, Bosk is a conceptual gem in the vast sea of house salads, steak-frites and panna cottas. Located in the Shangri-La Hotel on University Ave., this restaurant-lounge provides a much-needed respite from the hustle and bustle (and heat and humidity!) of downtown Toronto. At $45 for an exquisite three-course prix-fixe, it really is a worthwhile expense.

After a little house-made foccacia with fennel seed and served with garlic aioli to start, the appetizers arrived on our table with pomp and circumstance.

Although the chilled pea soup and beet salad sounded divine, not one of us couldn’t resist the Albacore Tuna. When we heard that it was “tartare” rather than, as Mari and I feared, “death tuna” (cooked and/or canned), we were sold hook, line and sinker.

The black smudge on the plate isn’t just a decoration, but a delicate stroke of black sesame paste. The crouton isn’t just an awkward slice of rye…

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Rose and Sons
Like Epic Meal Time Everytime

SEE FULL REVIEW | Toronto | Jul 09 2013

This charming store-front sign is a pretty good indication that Rose and Sons is not your average restaurant. Don’t get the impression that its popularity makes it easy to find, however. Located on Dupont a few blocks down from the station, the success of finding this place is like standing in front of the Room of Requirement in at Hogwarts (sorry, Harry Potter reference). Only the truly breakfast-hungry (or hungover) can find it!

To start, I decided to forgo my usual coffee or OJ and went with…a peanut butter milkshake. Bad decision? Debatable. While it was enjoyable at the time because it was the first thing I consumed that morning, I probably would not order it again due to its insane richness. At $6, it’s also a bit pricey for the size (perhaps a bit paradoxical, given the amount of calories you consume!).

Rachael opted for the Chili and Garlic Broccoli Toast—one of their “healthier” (but still quite hearty)…

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Smith Restaurant
A freakin’ beautiful place to be

SEE FULL REVIEW | Toronto | Jun 19 2013

The delightful idea of buttermilk scones is presented at first glance through a tasteful graphic-student designed newspaper menu. Looking up, you might see two of their cool-but-approachable staff skirt gracefully by each other, each holding two of these said scones on little wooden boards—fresh out of the oven and wafting the scent of…could that be cinnamon and caramel? As your coffee arrives along with your splash of dairy in a little old-fashioned milk bottle, you can’t help but smile. What a freakin’ beautiful place to be!

I’m sure you can see why Smith is by far one of my favourite brunch spots in Toronto. In the heart of the Church-Wellesley village, it is as cute as it is sophisticated. Well-priced and tasteful, the restaurant is always packed with beautiful and/or eclectic patrons who have come to enjoy a slice of life.

Today, Toby and I were pretty hungry, so Brisket Hash and Huevos Rancheros were our natural choices. There…

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O&B Canteen
Pre-screening Snacks

SEE FULL REVIEW | Toronto | Jun 13 2013

O&B Canteen probably has one of the best locations in downtown Toronto. Sharing the same space as the TIFF Bell Lightbox, it’s the perfect spot to grab a quick coffee or to have a light meal. I have come here on numerous occasions for that very purpose.

On the day that Mike and I visited, we decided to have a nice latte and croissant from their Grab & Go Menu. However, after seeing the words “Baked Brie” on the menu ($12), Mike insisted that we had to try it. And I’m glad we did! I mean, look at that thing of beauty. The croissant was really quite average, but the brie was great.

Final Notes: You know you’re paying for the location, so that’s the obvious thing to complain about, and many people certainly do. Thus, I would not recommend it for a dinner or any occasion where you may want to order multiple courses or sides—try heading to…

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Richmond Station
The Talk of the Town

SEE FULL REVIEW | Toronto | Jan 31 2013

Back in the fall, I attended the Toronto Underground Market event where I met one of my food idols, Top Chef Canada Season 2 winner Carl Heinrich. At that time, he was just about to open his first (and highly anticipated!) restaurant, Richmond Station along with his friend (and now co-owner) Ryan Donovan. Now, just a few short months later, Richmond Station is now one of the hottest and most talked (and blogged) about restaurants in Toronto.

Immediately after walking in and handing my giant parka over to the coat wall, I knew that it was going to be an enjoyable night. The decor is warm and inviting, comfortable and unpretentious, but with a clean and sophisticated flair. Furthermore, the nod to an actual subway station in design adds a heightened sense of whimsy and charm to the two-level open-concept restaurant.

Tessa and I were horribly late, but that didn’t damper our server Jason’s friendly demeanour. Eric…

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Terroni (Adelaide)
A Toronto Staple

SEE FULL REVIEW | Toronto | Jan 21 2013

After having lived in (and eaten through) Toronto for more than a full year now, I have come to appreciate that there are certain words that, when mentioned, will get the general “ahhh, yes” approval from most Toronto locals. “Terroni” is one of them (“O&B”, “Pizzeria Libretto” and “Guu” also rank high on the list, as does the phrase “Sushi on Bloor or New Gen?”).

Terroni is a mid-to-high class Italian restaurant that gives one the impression of being in a really cool place. You can’t place it exactly, but I would paint it to you akin to somewhere which combines the authenticity of Old World Italy with the modern sophistication of New York City. The food, while delicious, is greatly overshadowed by this general “cool vibe” that dominates your meal.

I came here this past Saturday with my friends Rachael and Joanne for lunch and here is a rough idea of what we ate: their homemade…

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Mercatto (College St)
Working Italian Lunch

SEE FULL REVIEW | Toronto | Jan 17 2013

Mercatto is a great Italian restaurant that serves up a perfect business lunch or dinner. While a bit higher priced,  people keep coming back.

We were going on a tour of the Legislature that day so wanted to find somewhere nearby and decided to go to the College location. Being almost impossible to get a reservation, even at 2pm the place was packed with coworkers chatting amicably about the holiday break that they were all anxious to leave for.

Their wood fired pizzas are fantastic, and this one was surely what I would have ordered if I had opted for pizza. Their fresh handmade pastas were equally appetizing, and feature seasonal ingredients as well as an unusual selection of proteins (although I must say I didn’t feel so right about eating rabbit…immediately regretted my decision afterwards).

Positives: Great ambiance, fresh, local and seasonal ingredients, authentic flavours and above all, a great wine selection.

Negatives: At this location (College)…

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Noka Japanese Cuisine and Sushi
Best for AYCE

SEE FULL REVIEW | Toronto | Jan 13 2013

For those of you who live in downtown Toronto, and specifically the Annex, you will probably know that the strip of land on Bloor St. near Bathurst/Spadina is primarily comprised of used book stores, Japanese restaurants, cafes, and the occasional froyo joint. How this came to be I have no idea. Another mystery to me is how, of all the sushi restaurants, Sushi on Bloor became the king of the strip. I have been there on two occasions and was bored both times with the mediocre nature of the food I was served, and moreover, shocked by the long lineup each time. It was by no means bad sushi, but New Generation Sushi (both the old and new one, but more so the older one) may be a better choice.

But for All-You-Can-Eat (AYCE), the best place by far is Noka, who had the audacity to be located right beside Sushi on Bloor. For $12.99 for lunch and $20.99 for…

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O.Noir
In Complete Darkness

SEE FULL REVIEW | Toronto | Dec 27 2012

This is a rare restaurant review that I didn’t bring my camera along for! My sisters Candace and Bianca and Chu Crew Andrea (their first meeting, and their first time at the restaurant!) joined me on a culinary adventure to O.Noir tonight—the restaurant where diners eat in complete darkness.

The concept for the restaurant began as a way for diners to experience food in a whole different way. Although I love taking photos of food, it is true that when the sense of sight is taken away, all the food that you experience is heightened greatly and you can taste the individual elements of a dish with a whole new level of clarity. Furthermore, it is a great way for diners to understand what it might like to be blind, especially when you are relying on your very capable wait staff to assist you throughout the meal—all of whom are blind themselves.

Despite the fact that the…