September 27, 2011

Prairie Girl Bakery

My friend Mel and I had a lot of difficulty locating Prairie Girl Bakery because it's not exactly on King Street. The store entrance actually faces Victoria street.
The store itself is super cute. I want this wall art in my kitchen!
After much deliberation, we settled to share...
...Grandma's dark cocoa cake topped with peanut butter icing. Honestly, I wasn't very impressed. Although the cake was moist, I didn't think it tasted that much different from the store-bought ones from Walmart. Perhaps I'm being a little harsh, or perhaps I don't know how to appreciate high-quality cupcakes, but this one really wasn't special to me at all in any way. The peanut butter icing was pretty tasty, but way too sweet for me. My favourite cupcake is still the one I had from Crumbs in the States. I haven't had another cupcake in Toronto that measures up.
Prairie Girl Bakery on Urbanspoon

September 26, 2011

Sausage League @ Marben

A few days after my brunch, I returned to Marben for their Sausage League. It was the last round of semi-finals, featuring La Palette and Pizzeria Libretto/Enoteca Sociale. I've eaten at Pizzeria Libretto and have been dying to try Enoteca Sociale, so naturally, I was very excited for the event. My previous two dining experiences at Marben had been fairly pleasant, but unfortunately, I had some issues with the service this time around.

Marben's menu for the night was significantly different from the online version, and I was rather disappointed because some of the dishes that I wanted to try was no longer on the menu (pulled pork croquette!!!). Although I appreciate that they change their menu frequently, it would be nice if they updated the menu online as well!
I usually love bread a lot, so regardless of how much food I ordered, I usually have to eat a piece or two. However, I miraculously did not eat a single bite of the bread this time, but not because I didn't want to, but because there wasn't any opportunity to do so. Everything came within 2 minutes of the bread's arrival! I wished the wait staff could've given me at least 5 minutes to sample the bread before bombarding me with all the food! However, my mom, who tried a piece later, told me that the bread was not very good at all. This was disappointing to me, as the bread I had for brunch a few days earlier was excellent. My mom also commented that the dip tasted like Chinese soy sauce.
We shared Julia's butternut squash soup with chantilly, croutons, and sage oil. The soup actually arrived last, after the burger and the two sausage dishes, which didn't really make sense to me. In addition to that, we weren't provided with spoons or a sharing bowl, despite explicitly stating that we planned to share the soup. I guess it wasn't a big deal, but it was slightly annoying. Now, onto the soup itself, which was actually quite delicious. It was creamy and sweet, but not too thick, and I loved that wonderful crunch from the croutons.
My mom likes burgers, so even though I just had John's burger a few days ago at brunch, I decided to order it again for my mom's sake. This time around, it was $4 cheaper at $13 and didn't come with a mountain of fries, which was a shame because I really love those fries... not that we could've finished it. The burger was, once again, scrumptious and excellent, though my mom commented that she tasted a lot of butter (which is probably why it's so good!). The coleslaw, however, was a little watered down. On a bright note, it was probably healthier this way. We actually packed half the burger home and I ate it the next day for dinner.
From Pizzeria Libretto/Enoteca Sociale, chef Rocco Agostino presented us with the Italian "chili dog" with mild fennel sausage, rabbit chili and pickled shallot. I thought that it was a nice touch to have the chef come out to present their sausage dish to the diners, but I couldn't help but wonder: how do they have enough time to cook in the kitchen if they have to do that for every table? I guess their main job is to supervise anyway. Anyhow, I really loved this dish! The sausage was pleasantly sweet and incredibly juicy! The rabbit chili and pickled shallot were great additions, even though I couldn't really distinguish the taste of the rabbit itself. The tangy pickled shallots were particularly refreshing. My mom wasn't a fan of the fennel, so I happily devoured most of this myself.
From La Palette, we have wild boar Andouille in duck neck confit with Esplette ratatouille, arugula, Cerignola olives and capers. I couldn't get over the fact that they put a whole duck head on the plate! Unfortunately, the Andouille sausage was too dry, although it had great flavour. It tasted great when paired with the ratatouille, but by itself the sausage was awfully dry. I thought that the various components of the dish worked quite well. The arugula salad was lightly dressed and very refreshing, and the duck neck confit was tender and had that wonderfully intense duck flavour. Overall, I really liked the extravagance and creativity of the dish, but the components weren't as well integrated as it could've been. So in the end, I put my vote on the other dish.

We wiped the whole plate clean, save for the hideous duck head.
Now onto some ranting about the service. Since $25 included a bottle of Steamwhistle, and neither my mom nor I are big fans of beer, I asked if I could take the bottle to go, and our server said she'd asked. She only informed me at the end of my meal that this wasn't possible. I mean, I understand if you won't let me take it home, but at least tell me earlier so I could have it with my meal. Regardless, I didn't want to waste, so I asked to have it anyway. Our server completely forgot about it, and I had to ask for it again while we were getting bill. After I finally got my bottle of Steamwhistle and the bill, I anxiously waited for the ballot so we could vote! It turned out that our server completely forgot to give us the ballot, and I had to (yet again) ask for it while we were paying the bill. I mean... I thought the whole point of this sausage league event was that we, the diners, get to pick the winners! There were also other minor issues, like pacing of the dishes, the wine glasses weren't taken away (our table already had no space for all the plates) and the extinguished candle wasn't relit for half the meal. So altogether, I wasn't very happy about the service, even though the sausage league event itself was pretty fun. Congrats to Pizzeria Libretto/Enoteca Sociale for making it to the finals this week. I wish you all the best.
Marben on Urbanspoon

September 22, 2011

Brunch @ Marben

My friend Mel and I wanted to go to Beast for brunch, but unfortunately, it was not opened on a Saturday. So we settled for Marben instead. I've previously had a great experience with their Sunday pig roast, and had heard good things about their brunch. So we were pretty excited to try it out.
Marben's multigrain bread served with butter and apple rhubarb jam was sooooo good! We happily gobbled this up while we waited for our meal. The two of us are very partial to multigrain bread in general, but this one was so soft and spongy even when served cold! It paired wonderfully with the butter and delicious apple rhubarb jam. If only it had been served warm!
Mel and I have similar taste so we often end up sharing everything we order. At my recommendation, we shared the famous John's burger with Branston pickle, braised ribs, aged cheddar, coleslaw and fries. Of course, I've had this previously and knew that I was going to love it. 
Last time I only got to eat a quarter of the burger, since it was my boyfriend's order. This time, I had half of the burger to myself! Although the size is small, the burger is quite substantial and filling. And it was as good as I remembered it to be- the patty was incredibly juicy and flavourful! I loved every bite! I think Mel enjoyed the burger too, but wasn't as enthusiastic about it as I was. She did, however, singlehandedly demolished the majority of the fries. I can't blame her, really. They were addictive like crack!
Mel was very hyped up for Evan's bread pudding French toast. I've previously tried Evan's warm apple pudding and pronounced it the best bread pudding that I've ever had, so I had high expectations for this French toast. We both enjoyed it, and Mel thought it was better than the cheesecake stuffed French toast from Lola's Commissary. I personally love French toast and never eat it enough, and this one was incredibly moist. Of course, sharing is ideal for this rich and dense brunch dish. We cheaped out and didn't get sausage for an additional $3, but somewhat regretted our decision later (at least I did). All in all, we had a satisfying brunch, but I wouldn't rush to return anytime soon with so many other brunch places to try in town.
Marben on Urbanspoon

Feast of rolls @ Inatei

I always struggle to find a good sushi restaurant in Toronto, and I'm always skeptical of Chinese-ran Japanese restaurant. After reading several positive reviews, I decided to give Inatei a try, and I quite enjoyed my dinner experience at Inatei.
The dining environment is more upscale than the typical Japanese joint. But of course, if the food turn out to suck, the upscale décor will translate to pretentiousness. Luckily, the meal did not suck.
We really felt for rolls that night, so we ordered a bunch to share. First up, spicy salmon roll! This was delicious! It's usually hard to hate spicy salmon rolls, but this one was definitely better than the average. The salmon was fresh and sweet, and the rice-to-filling ratio was good, not too much rice.
Next, I ordered spider roll. There was a little too much rice for my liking, but other than that, it was tasty. Despite all that filling, the roll was still well-composed and didn't fall apart easily. Again, it's not too hard mess up this roll. In fact, the only time I didn't enjoy a spider roll was at Oshio, but that was because the soft shell crab tasted funky.
And finally, we opted for a glamorous dragon roll topped with salmon (we picked from salmon, tuna, and avocado). Loved the gorgeous presentation! Actually, I didn't notice that it was presented like a dragon until my boyfriend pointed it out. But it's little things like that that puts a smile on my face and elevates the dining experience to another level.
Here is a better view of the roll itself. Again, very well-composed, and everything was fresh and tasty. This was probably my favourite of the three rolls (bonus points for the presentation) and I would definitely order this again.
For dessert, we opted for tofu cheesecake, since I can't ever get enough of cheesecakes! It wasn't one of those super cheesy ones that I adore, but it was definitely unique in a good way. Flavour-wise, it tasted like sweetened soy milk. I particularly liked the crunch from the almond slices, which contrasted well with the creamy and smooth texture of the cake. On top of that, the cake wasn't overly sweet. It almost felt like a delicate dessert, despite being an undoubtedly calorific piece of cake. All in all, I had a great meal of rolls and cheesecake at Inatei, and I'll definitely return for more!
Inatei on Urbanspoon

September 19, 2011

Dinner @ South Asia Malaysian Cuisine

One random week night, I was craving Malaysian curry. So we went to the nearest Malaysian restaurant, aptly named South Asia Malaysian Cuisine. The lack of creative naming aside, the curry here is quite tasty. My boyfriend opted for Malaysian curry beef with rice.
I like my curry with roti, so I ordered roti canai with curry. The roti had a crispy, almost crumbly crust and wasn't as soft and chewy as other rotis that I've had in the past. Although I enjoyed that crispy texture quite a lot, but I wished the inside was softer. The curry was quite delicious, but not spicy at all. I also wish they gave me more curry, because I used up all of mine and had to borrow some from my boyfriend's curry dish to finish my roti.
My recent obsession with Vietnamese spring rolls compelled me to order this. At first, I was disappointed that it resembled Chinese spring rolls that you get at dim sum, which I'm not a fan of . Thankfully, the filling tasted Vietnamese, concealed by the Chinese-style spring roll shell. I was decently satisfied with this version, though I don't think I'd be ordering this again the next time I come.  
South Asia Malaysian Cuisine on Urbanspoon

September 16, 2011

Dessert @ Arepa

After our terribly disappointing lunch at Porchetta & Co, my friend and I strolled along Queen West, finally arriving at Arepa. I've been here once previously for dinner, but this time I've got my eyes set on the in-house made desserts. Truth be told, I really didn't need more dessert after having the Portuguese custard tart, but I really wanted something spectacular to make up for the disappointing sandwich.
There were a bunch of items that looked quite enticing, including alfajore cookies (which I adore!) and a caramel flan.
My final pick was a slice of Dulce de Leche cheesecake! I shared it with my friend and we were both very happy with the cheesecake. The texture was more crumbly, rather than creamy and smooth, but I prefer my cheesecake like this. The dulce de leche was rich and delectable, a perfect match with the cheesecake. I've previously had a dulce de leche cheesecake that was overly rich and dense at Quaff Cafe, but luckily, this one had the right balance. I couldn't get enough of the dulce de leche! After a very disappointing lunch, this was the perfect mid-afternoon dessert to brighten up the day!
Arepa Cafe on Urbanspoon

September 14, 2011

Disappointment @ Porchetta & Co

I've read so, so many great reviews on Porchetta & Co that I can't believe how badly it failed to meet my expectations. I really, really thought that I'd love it! I love sandwiches and I love roasted pork, so I thought that the combination must be a winner! In the words of my friends, "It was a complete waste of a Saturday lunch", and I couldn't agree more. 
I was delighted to see the Spanish proverb used on my blog featured on the sign outside the restaurant. Sadly, this also meant that there weren't any specials for the day.
By the time we arrived, my friend and I were starving, having just taken a stroll through Urban Eatery at Eaton Centre. . Upon reflection, we should've just eaten at the food court while we were there. The restaurant was tiny and only had around 6 stools, but luckily we were able to snatch a spot. According to their website, the chef marinates a piece of pork shoulder for 24 hours in a medley of spices. Then the shoulder is wrapped in prosciutto, and the whole thing is then wrapped again in cured pork belly. Thereafter, the mound is roasted at 400 degrees for half an hour or so to give it a nice crust. The oven is then turned down low, and the pork is slow cooked for several more hours. Finally, the meat is carved and put on a fresh sourdough bun from Caldense Bakery across the street. 
My friend opted for a classic porchetta sandwich without any additions. After one bite, she commented that it tasted exactly like Chinese roasted pork, or siu yuk (燒肉).
I added mushrooms to my sandwich for 75 cents, thinking that they would add moisture to the pork. The sandwich looked gorgeous and promising. However, after taking my first bite, I couldn't help but agree with my friend- it tasted exactly like Chinese roasted pork, except less fatty (which is not a good thing in my books). Despite the mushrooms, I couldn't get past how dry the overall sandwich was. Where was the juiciness that I read from all the online reviews? Maybe I should've added some sort of sauce instead of mushrooms.
In an attempt to make it "less" Chinese, I added some grainy mustard and Tabasco sauce onto my sandwich. Unfortunately, that didn't really help much. After chowing down a little more than half of the sandwich, I gave up and packed the rest for my mom. She thought that the meat was super dry and only ate the mushrooms with the bread. So after being all hyped up over this porchetta sandwich, my friend and I were utterly disappointed. We wished that we had had lunch at Urban Eatery, or anywhere else on Queen Street West, for that matter.
Porchetta & Co on Urbanspoon
After lunch, I hopped across the street to Caldense Bakery to check out their Portuguese custard tarts (pastéis de nata) . The custards tarts here are voted the second best in all of Toronto on BlogTO. Being a huge fan of these lovely pastries (I eat one a day for breakfast when I'm in Macau), of course I had to try it out. So how did they compare to the ones from Macau? For one thing, they're more custardy and less eggy in flavour. The one I had here wasn't fresh out of the oven, so the taste and texture might have suffered because of that. But all in all, I think I still prefer the Macau versions better, because they're less custardy! That said, the cold tart was still a lot more enjoyable than my porchetta sandwich!
Caldense Bakery on Urbanspoon

September 12, 2011

Lunch @ Fabbrica

I've read a lot of mixed reviews on Fabbrica, so I was reluctant to try out Mark McEwan's latest venture, especially since the prices are not exactly cheap. To my surprise, I ended up having a very lovely and satisfying lunch with my work team. First off, the space was gorgeous, channeling an urban rustic look. I didn't expect the bread to be complimentary, since I've previously heard a lot of complaints about Fabbrica charging for bread when it initially opened. The warm bread was a pleasant surprise with a crunchy crust and soft interior, served with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. After studying the menu, the fettucine with crab, guanciale, cream and soft poached egg immediately won me over. I love everything topped with a soft poached egg!
The egg was perfectly poached: the runny yolk spilled over to coat the pasta with delectable creaminess. I'm very partial to any type of seafood pasta, but this one defintiely exceeded my expectations. The sauce was rich and delicious with a bold shellfish flavour. The portion was quite reasonable for its price (a hefty $26), and I was only able to finish about 3/5 of it. I loved that the pasta was very flat and delicate, like a slightly firmer version of Chinese rice noodle (河粉). I washed it down with a glass of lemon juice, which was very refreshing and not overly sweet. Although the meal was wonderful, it was definitely very rich and not the healthiest lunch choice. In fact, my mom informed me that when she microwaved my leftovers later, there was half a bowl of melted butter. I guess this decadent pasta can only be an occasional indulgence. 
Fabbrica on Urbanspoon

September 11, 2011

Dinner @ Dumpling King

Dumpling King has been in existence since as long as I can remember. It's only a 5 minute drive from my house, yet oddly enough, I've never been here before despite my love for dumplings. Upon entering the restaurant, I'm somewhat blinded by the blast of bright white everywhere. It's certainly not a fine dining establishment, but the simplistic décor is sufficient for a comforting meal.
We started with 12 boiled leek and pork dumplings. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of boiled dumplings because soggy dumpling skin doesn't appeal to me. For that reason, I much prefer steamed dumplings. Although the dumpling was well-packed and the filling was quite tasty, I didn't enjoy the the thick dumpling skin.
Next up, pan fried pancakes with chives is another favourite to order. This one came oddly shaped. The pancake is slightly too thick for my liking, but it's filled with delicious, aromatic chives.
Instead of the usual potstickers, we opted for home style pork and cabbage dumplings which were pan fried. Again, the filling was tasty, and I preferred these over the boiled ones because the dumpling skin was not soggy. For some reason, however, I still love potstickers more, because I think potstickers have a higher filling-to-dough ratio.
Although the meal was already very carb heavy, it didn't deter me from ordering more carbs for dessert! My pick was pan fried red bean pancake, and I really enjoyed this version. The crispy pancakes were extremely thin, and as a result, the flavours of the red bean paste in the center really stood out. It was a delicious dessert to end the meal. All in all, I still prefer Dumpling Village to Dumpling King, as their dumpling skins are a lot thinner. But at least this restaurant is a lot closer to where I live.

Dumpling King on Urbanspoon


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