Front Street Food

Last summer Front Street Foods launched outside of Union Station. It was a giant food market with various vendors that served all the tastes of Toronto conveniently in the Financial District. But it was not so convenient for me who spent part of last summer in exile at Eglinton and Mount Pleasant *shudder* and the remainder of the summer at Yonge and Bloor. I was so excited to hear that the market was back this summer but in a new location: a courtyard at Adelaide and York. Last week Giancarlo and I had a lunch date and went over to the market to check it out.

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The market is not in the greatest spot and you won’t randomly stumble across. It is up a flight of stairs and tucked in between two office towers and a hotel. But once you arrive at the market, healing it is like stepping into a city oasis. You are greeted with a large sign encouraging you to eat in large marquee letters. There are dozens of picnic tables, high tables for standing and trees to provide ample shade. We did a quick circle around the market and decided on two options: Hot Bunzz Street Cuisine and Fish’d by Edo.

IMG_6678We ordered the Seoul City Beef Short Rib and the Texas BBQ Pulled Pork bun from Hot Bunzz Street Cuisine.

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Left: The Seoul City Beef Short Rib bun with slow braised beef short rib Kobi style with caramelized onion; topped with kimchi puree, sesame soy sauce and garlic aioli.

Right: The Texas BBQ Pulled Pork bun with pulled slow roasted pork with caramelized onion, herbs and spices; topped with chef’s Pork BBQ sauce and coleslaw aioli.

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Bent

A few weeks ago I went to Bent. I have been debating whether or not I should write about it because unfortunately, I got food poisoning for the first time. Food poisoning is terrible and I only had a very mild form which still left me in bed the next day. I didn’t want to talk about it because I don’t want to ruin Bent’s reputation because of the negative experience I had – not that I think I have the clout to do that. The servers were professional and the food was tasty but unfortunately, they did not deliver that night.

Outside of the food poisoning I had a few issues with Bent:

1. Bent is incredibly overpriced. It is a tapas-style restaurant which will always run a bit steep but unfortunately the portions were unsatisfying and small. Our server suggested that we only needed 2 plates each and this was an understatement. Ordering 4 tapas plates our bill, before tip, was almost $90.  I understand it was seafood but you are paying for the name (Susur Lee) and unfortunately it is not worth it.

2. The service was incredibly slow. Our server was knowledgable and friendly but it took forever to get our food. Tapas plates come out staggered but it should not take over 2 hours to eat a meal of this size, especially when the majority of the food is raw.

3. We ordered the Nigiri Tasting Plate, the Tuna & Watermelon ceviche, the Lobster tacos and the Duck Salad. My favourite was the nigiri tasting plate. The ceviche would have been good in theory but the chunks of tuna and watermelon were too large and did not interact with each other in every bite. I am convinced it is the ceviche that got me sick – I think the watermelon improperly cured the tuna and messed my system up..

At the end of the day, this was your typical Toronto pretentious dining experience – overpriced, low quality, and ultimately not worth it. If you choose to go, don’t get sick!

Sad munching…

Rainbow Roll Sushi

I have a very sentimental connection to sushi. When I was in undergrad, GC and I would go at least once a week to the various sushi restaurants along Bloor between Brunswick and Bathurst. I had very specific orders for each restaurant, crafted after years of ordering. In October, I tried Kanji for the first time and fell in love. Since going there for New Year’s Eve I have vowed to not eat sub-par sushi, it’s just not worth it. Despite all of that, this post is about the sushi at Joey’s.

The expansion of Yorkdale brought a new Joey’s location. Although Joey’s is a chain and chains should never be featured on food blogs, I really enjoy this restaurant and their food is presented simply, but aesthetically. We went a couple of weeks ago because I had forgotten to take the meat out of the freezer so cooking at home was not an option.

We started with the Rainbow Roll – tuna, salmon, crab, avocado & sriracha aioli.

IMG_3225Despite my sushi pretensions we ordered this sushi and it was good. It was comparable to your low budget sushi found at Sushi on Bloor or other sushi place but it tasted fresher and as if the fish was higher quality. The rolls were tightly packed, they did not buckle under the squeeze of chopsticks. The avocado was fresh and ripe but still slightly hard, just how I like my avocado in my sushi. I loved the sriracha aioli. Sriracha is something I have recently tried and love. This aioli was the perfect balance of creamy, salty and spicy.  All topped of with a hint of woody, nuttiness of sesame and poppy seeds. Mega yums.

I would not say this is the best sushi I have ever have, it is obviously not but it is comparable to what you would find at your bargain sushi restaurants. If you love sushi, but just want it as an appetizer to a very different type of meal, I would suggest a visit to Joey’s. To finish off our meal I ordered the fish tacos (of course) and GC ordered French Dip Sandwich.

Happy munching!

Parkdale’s Kanji

Parkdale is an upcoming neighbourhood in Toronto. It has a great assortment of bars, clubs and restaurants, all with a hipster, try-too-hard attitude. Last week, I went to Kanji for the first time for my friend Samantha’s birthday – Happy birthday Sam! As always, I was being a good birthday guest and I did not take pictures of all our meals. The meal was so delicious that when I got home that night I was raving about the food I ate and insisted to GC that we had to try it soon. Friday night, GC was not working, so it seemed like the perfect time to try some sushi.

Kanji is located on Queen Street, just past Dufferin. The inside is simple, modern and graphic. The walls are covered with wood panels arranged in geometric patterns and accent walls are painted vibrant colours in similar geometric patterns.

The light fixtures were interesting (unfortunately, I couldn’t get a good picture of them) and I hadn’t noticed them the first time I saw them – they looked like nooses hanging light bulbs. Although modern and hip, Kanji sticks to some sushi restaurant musts: the sushi prep area is visible so you can see your meal being made right before you eyes and there is seating at the sushi bar.  You won’t find your standard red and green capped Kikkoman soya sauce bottles. Instead, soya sauce is served in cute, rustic bottles that resemble little tea pots. Kanji successfully combines old and traditional textures and items to create the feel of simple juxtaposition that is cozy and cool.

We started off with cocktails – GC ordered the Mister Sparkle (shochu yokaichi mugi, cava, lemon zest, and lemon almond orgeat) and I ordered the Kanji (captain morgan rum, izumi sake, fresh grapefruit juice, soda, and mint). The Mister Sparkle tasted like Mike’s Hard Lemonade with more fizziness and less sugar. It was tart, sweet and boozy – the perfect drink to start a Friday with. The Kanji tasted like a mojito with sake. I have never really liked sake but this drink is a good introduction to it. Both cocktails were delicious and worked perfectly with the sushi deliciousness that was to come.

I started my meal with the miso soup. I had ordered this on my first visit and I fell in love with it.

Miso soup with Soybean broth, tofu, seaweed and scallions. There are also pieces of broccoli and chow mein noodles in the soup. This miso soup puts all others to shame. There is actual flavour and texture to the soup, rather than lukewarm broth with a few measly chunks of tofu. I love the addition of broccoli to the soup – it creates a more substantial broth and soup overall. When you go to Kanji, please start your meal off with this soup, it perfectly sets the tone, flavour and palate of the whole meal.

Next we split an order of the tempura.

This tempura is not like any I have had before. It is light, flaky and not greasy at all. I love the presentation as a precarious tower of fried yums. The star on top of the Christmas tree of tempura was a red onion ring – something I have not seen on any other tempura plate. The branches were made up of shrimp, sweet potato and broccoli. I typically do not enjoy broccoli when it has been breaded and fried like this because it is usually rock solid and raw. This broccoli was tender, bright, perfectly cooked without being hot with every bite.

For my dinner I ordered the Salmon Beauty Plate. Again, this is what I ordered on my first visit here.

The Salmon Beauty Plate – 3 pieces nigiri, 3 pieces sashimi, and spicy salmon avocado roll. Can we reflect on the beautiful simplicity of this plate of sushi? The sushi and salmon are able to shine in this study of salmon three ways.

1. Top left – salmon sashimi. I have never had sashimi before visiting Kanji. It always looked appealing but for some reason, I never ordered it. Going to lower quality sushi restaurants for so long taught me that there is only certain menu items done right, and you should stick to those. This rule does not apply to quality sushi restaurants. This sashimi was delicate and sliced accordingly. The marbling of fat in the salmon was beautiful and the fish itself was meaty and tender. It wasn’t freezingly cold, which sushi sometimes is, but it wasn’t too warm, making you feel ill. It was lightly crusted in a blend of poppy seeds and sesame seeds, adding a slight nuttiness and crunch to the smooth, silky flesh of the salmon.

2. Top right –  spicy salmon avocado roll. This was perfectly rolled – it was tight and maintained its form, no matter how hard you have to squeeze your chopsticks to pick it up. The sauce the rolls sat on was spicy, with almost a chipotle like heat to it. The avocado was firm and complimented the tenderness of the fish. The seaweed was crisp and fresh and did not unravel with each bite.

3. Center – salmon nigiri. The salmon was draped lightly over the soft pillows of rice, to create a little bed of sushi. The fish had this perfect lemon hit to it that added a brightness and freshness to the sushi. It was a perfect palate cleanser to finish the plate.

Out of the three ways salmon was featured, I enjoyed the sashimi best. It was salmon in its most pure form. It highlighted the complexity and at the same time, simplistic perfection of salmon.

GC ordered the Spicy Dynamite Roll and the Rainbow Roll.

GC really liked these. The general consensus after finishing our sushi was that we probably can’t go to places like Sushi on Bloor and New Generation anymore. We have been spoiled and we can’t go back.

We finished off our meal by splitting dessert.

Sweet Potato Cheesecake. This isn’t as strange as you think it is, if you remember that Sweet Potato Pie is a thing. I liked the sweet potato crisp on top of the cheesecake. The coulis drizzle was raspberry and balsamic vinegar – a delicious combination of sweet and savoury. The raspberry was so rich and pure. The cheesecake was good – it was a good indication that they knew how to make cheesecake. The sweet potato flavour wasn’t strong enough for me. I didn’t like how the whip cream on the cheesecake was clearly from a can – it’s not hard to make real whip cream and the difference is amazing. Next time I want to try the Yuzu Creme Brulee.

I love this restaurant and like I said before, I don’t know if I can return to Sushi on Bloor or New Generation sushi. I would rather eat sushi less often and when I do, go to a quality place like this. The price isn’t exponentially more like you would assume, just a dollar or two per item. Obviously this adds up but you are paying for quality in ingredients, service and atmosphere. If you are a sushi lover, you need to take it up a notch and visit Kanji.

Happy munching!

 

New Sushi Island

On St. Patrick’s Day we were feeling particularly Irish and went for sushi. It was actually surprising the number of people who were having sushi instead of joining in the traditional, drunken debauchery that accompanies St. Patrick’s Day. We went for All You Can Eat (AYCE) sushi at New Sushi Island located on College Street in Little Italy.

From the outside, New Sushi Island looks slightly decrepit and rundown and the inside doesn’t much help that perception. This clearly used to be some sort of Spanish/Moroccan restaurant based on the built in cove-style shelving, the terracotta texture of the walls and the tin-tiled ceiling. An effort has been made to make this place seem slightly more authentic but sadly enough, putting up a few paper fans and koi fish does not make a restaurant an authentic Japanese restaurant.

But don’t let the physicality of the restaurant throw you off or make you not give it a try. As far as AYCE sushi places go, this is a fairly good deal. The lunch menu is $13.99 which is a fairly standard price but the menu is very extensive. It is just as lengthy as their dinner AYCE menu but features a few different items. The rolls and sushi are are the same size and quality as they are for their dinner AYCE or a la carte offerings. This is not always the case.

Here is a selection of what we ordered: (from top left, clockwise) Green Dragon Roll, Firecracker Roll, Rainbow Roll, Dynamite Roll and Salmon Sushi Pizza.

This is the only AYCE sushi in the city that I’ve come across and find is worth the money. However, there is only one other place in the city that I have had AYCE sushi – a place on Charles Street, east of Yonge Street and it was overpriced and not worth it.

I want to try more as lots of sushi for cheap is something that is very appealing to me. If you have any suggestions, please let me know! I am always on the hunt for cheap food in mass quantities.

Sushi on Bloor

Let’s talk about sushi. If  you live in Toronto and you love sushi you know that the cheapest and best spot to get sushi is on Bloor Street between Spadina and Bathurst. I first got hooked on sushi in my second year of university when I first started dating GC. He lived in the Annex and we would take the quick walk down the street and choose from a plethora of sushi restaurants.

GC’s sushi restaurant of choice was a little place called J-Time Sushi which unfortunately closed down this past summer. J-Time proclaimed to be the only sushi restaurant on Bloor to be run by Japanese people. It wasn’t the greatest sushi but the staff was really nice and always so friendly. It was never overcrowded and everyone who went there was a regular rather than a hipster teenager or a family with ill-behaved children.

My sushi restaurant of choice is Sushi on Bloor.

Sushi on Bloor has great lunch deals (12 pieces of sushi for $6.99 – $2 extra for any substitutions) and is very inexpensive in general. They have received many awards in the past from NOW magazine and Toronto Life and I think in the past couple of years they have been coasting on former glory. The staff is surly and is only concerned with taking your order rather than giving you an enjoyable dining experience.

My main complaint with it though is that fact that the restaurant is two-storeys but for some reason, they do not open the second level for lunch. To me, this just seems like bad business but what do I know? The upstairs was renovated a few years ago and when compared with the main level, it makes the main level look outdated. They could use some serious renovations, a better seating layout and a menu redesign. Despite all this, I still love it and will continue to go here for sushi.

I have four go-tos on the menu: 1. the Gyoza or fried dumplings, 2. the Salmon Sushi Pizza, 3. Spicy Crunchy Tuna Rolls and 4. Dynamite Rolls.

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