March 29, 2011

Lunch @ Salad King

We couldn't wait to go to the newly re-opened Salad King. Our arrival (on the second day after opening) was timed perfectly, as we only had to wait a little while. After we got seated, the line grew longer and longer as the lunch crowd flowed in. But gosh, how did we survive so long without our favourite Thai cheap eat spot?
I never understood why the vastly popular Thai Islamic noodle is not on Salad King's official menu. It was as good as I remembered it to be (though it was not my order, but I kept eating it). Springy rice noodles, accompanied with chicken, wild Gulf shrimp, bell peppers, carrots, and onions all drenched in an exotic red curry made from Thai herb and coconut milk. The sauce is definitely the star of the dish, as it is supermegadelicious! I can't stop stealing noodles from my friend's plate!
My other friend ordered the traditional Phud Thai: rice noodles, chicken, carrots, peanuts, tofu, green onions, bean sprouts, coriander, egg, fish sauce and tamarind sauce. This was also good, but not outstandingly so. Nevertheless, I always have a soft spot for pad thai. The portions for both noodle dishes were very generous! We were all stuffed!
Since both my friends ordered noodles, I opted for something served with rice: Panang Curry with beef: sweet Asian basil, peanuts, lime leaf, bell peppers, Panang curry with coconut milk. On the spicy scale, I chose the 1-chili level, which translated as "nice". I woefully regretted my decision because it was not spicy enough at all! I initially wanted 3-chilis, but my friend gave me the "are you crazy!?" look, so I knocked it down a notch. The heat was so mild (at least for me) that I could practically slurp down the entire bowl of curry like a soup! Next time, I shall definitely try something spicier!
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Birthday Celebrations (Part I) @ Le Select Bistro

Two of my dearest friends celebrated their birthdays during reading week, and I had the lovely pleasure of spending some wonderful time with my girls. The celebrations actually spanned over two days, and for the first night, we had a classy, intimate dinner at Le Select Bistro. The restaurant was very elegant and gave off a warm, European vibe. In spite of this, I still felt woefully overdressed!
Back in Montreal, I had some horrid experience with bone marrow, so I dare not try any of my friend's l'os de crô-magnon, which translates as Neanderthalesque bone marrow. I think she enjoyed it quite a lot. But just the sight of this brought back some stomach-turning memories of my experience with bone marrow.
For myself, I opted for the old classic soupe à l'oignon gratinée. You can't go wrong with a rich, cheesy, French onion soup. Of course, the soup was lovely and I ate a lot of bread along with it. I was already feeling full after finishing all that cheese!
My other order was the vol-au-vent d'escargots: escargots in puff pastry with leeks, cream, white wine, and fresh herbs. I loved the pairing of the puff pastry, escargot and the white wine cream sauce together. It was very rich indeed, but equally delicious at the same time.
Both the birthday girls ordered steak frites, but I only took picture of this one: Pavé de bœuf «au poivre», 8 oz centre cut filet, green peppercorn sauce with Brandy and cream. The sauce was absolutely delectable and the meat was perfectly tender and juicy. I mooched off a lot of the thin-cut fries, and they were very satisfying.
Because it was my friends' birthday, the restaurant kindly offered us two desserts on the house. They even thoughtfully wrote '"Happy Birthday" on the plate! This was the tarte au citron, and it had an intense lemon flavour. I'm not the greatest fan of lemony desserts, but it was still pretty enjoyable.
My favourite, however, was undoubtedly the vanilla crème brulée. It was perfectly creamy and not overly sweet. The birthday girl really loved it too (and that's all that matters)! All in all, Le Select was a real gem and all of us had a great time. The food was excellent and service was very good, albeit a little slow at times. Nonetheless, I would definitely return for future special occasions.
Le Sélect Bistro on Urbanspoon

Lunch @ Delica Kitchen

I ventured to Delica Kitchen for a quick lunch right before my spa appointment midtown. The tiny restaurant was quaint and charming, specializing in quick, healthy lunch fares. I imagined that if I live or work around here, I would come here a lot for lunch! 
It was a cold, cold day, so we opted for a piping hot cup of chili, which was aptly named the Heart of Darkness. The chili was rich with generous chunks of hand cut beef and black beans. If I would've been very full had I eaten the entire cup.
The restaurant offered an assortment of pre-assembled sandwiches. Most of them can be reheated, with certain panini style sandwiches are pressed in the grill. We took a long time to decide on our order.
In the end, we opted for the Parisienne: Smoked Ham, Gruyere cheese, Bosc Pear, roasted garlic aioli, and Dijon on White Flute. I was not disappointed with the sandwich. The ingredients tasted fresh and wholesome, and the mustard added an extra tang to the flavour profile that really elevated the sandwich. We got it with a side sweet potato and jalapeno soup, which was also quite enjoyable.
For dessert, we couldn't resist the strawberry jammie, a baked doughnut swirled with strawberry jam. In truth, the strawberry jammie was more like a muffin to me, but I imagine it would have been a lot tastier fresh out of the oven.
All the baked goods are on display behind the glass counter. I was also sorely tempted to try a homemade oreo.
Ended off a satisfying lunch with a cup of hot chocolate with marshmellow. yum...
Nothing pleases me more than a hot and satisfying lunch on a cold, cold day. I wish some place like Delica Kitchen would open where I live. Alas, quaint, higher-than-average priced sandwich shops don't really have much of a market in Scarborough.
Delica Kitchen  on Urbanspoon

March 28, 2011

Peking duck @ Asian Legend

I love Peking Duck, and fiercely so. I love that delicate, crispy skin, roasted to a glorious golden brown. I love that layer of rich, greasy fat that lingers in my mouth. I love the thinly sliced pieces of robust, flavourful duck meat. But above all, I love, love, love the combination of everything together skin, fat, meat, sauce and spring onions —wrapped up in a perfect symphony of tastiness in my mouth.
Of course, a crucial component of Peking duck is the pancake wrap. As a child, I used to love eating this on its own and we'd order extra baskets of pancakes just for me. The pancake must be delicate, but strong enough to contain the contents of the wrap. Asian Legend's version is perfectly adequate — thin and not overly doughy.
And sometimes, when I crave it enough, I would go to a restaurant and order nothing else but the Peking duck to split between two. Call me crazy, but it's a sinful indulgence that I'll never give up.
Asian Legend on Urbanspoon

March 27, 2011

Fondue Festival @ Bier Markt Esplanade

I've eaten at the Bier Markt on King West several times, but this was my first time at the Esplanade location. I was astounded by how much bigger this location is, and it was a very lively spot to hang out on a Friday night. Of course, I had my sight set on the annual fondue festival.
First, we sampled the Monsieur, with Black Forest ham, emmental, sweet Dijon, sunflower country bread, served with Swiss gruyere fondue. This was basically a grilled sandwich served with a pot of melted cheese.
The sandwich, on its own, was already very rich and satisfying. It was almost overwhelmingly rich when dipped in cheese. Of course, it was still very tasty and enjoyable.
For our side, we tried the Bistro galette: layered Yukon potato, aged white cheddar, smoked bacon. It reminded me of a Spanish tortilla de patatas (potato and egg pie) with cheese. I loved the warm, savoury combination of bacon and creamy cheddar cheese. I almost wanted a whole slice to myself.
Getting one fondue wasn't enough. For our second fondue, we went with a more traditional choice: Smoked gouda with smoked Dutch gouda, crisp bacon, grape tomatoes, blanched asparagus, Belgian endives and fresh baguette. I wished they had lightly toasted the baguette to give it a little crunch. Nevertheless, this cheesy concoction was, as expected, delicious and super rich! After the meal, I was a little overwhelmed from consuming all that cheese. Needless to say, I wanted to stay away from cheese for the next while.

March 26, 2011

Brunch @ Bauer Kitchen

I decided that Wildcraft didn't satisfy my craving for Charcoal Restaurants! So the next day, I headed to the Bauer Kitchen, a truly lovely spot to enjoy a leisurely lunch. We were quite lucky to get there relatively early, as the place gets quite busy during lunch hour. I expect a lot of people who work around the area (it's in a commercial building) would want to eat lunch here. I really just love how the sunlight floods into the large, spacious industrial loft.
Some bread from their in-house bakery, served with a butter. For some reason, the bread I had yesterday at Wildcraft tasted better. They gave us a lot of bread (considering that there were only two of us), so I ended up packing most of it home for my mom, who quite enjoy their multigrain bread.
I opted for the sandwich of the day with Italian cold cuts. There were a quite a number of ingredients in the sandwich, and I struggle to remember it all. I should really start taking notes of what I eat instead of relying on my flawed memory. Well... I do have a very good memory for certain useless things, but that's a story for another day. From what I can remember, the sandwich featured prosciutto, basil pesto mayo, marinated onions, and roasted sun-dried tomatoes, and it was on rosemary focaccia bread. My dream sandwich couldn't get much better from that description, so I didn't hesitate to get this. It was a very tasty sandwich, with the intensity of the prosciutto nicely balancing out the sweetness of the onions. The bread was crunchy and dense, and I loved every bite of it.
What I love about the Bauer Kitchen is that a lot of menu items come with a side of sweet potato fries at no extra charge! Last time, they even gave me double serving of the sweet potato fries when I split a meal with my mom! So this time, I of course capitalized on the opportunity and got some delicious yam fries as my side. Who needs a salad when you have sweet potato fries?
As cheesy as it sounds, the Bauer Butcher Burger was love at first bite. This was my second time having it (I split one with my mom last time) and it was just as delicious! Featuring Heidelburg double-smoked bacon, aged cheddar, mustard scallion mayonnaise and grilled onion on a multigrain bun, the giant burger is a sight to behold. I just love how the melted cheese drapes elegantly over the incredibly juicy and flavourful patty! The side Caesar salad (also no additional charge) was a delight as well, but of course I prefer my fries.
A variety of condiments were served with the burger, but I found that I didn't need any of it at all (even though that mustard does look darn tasty). After lunch, I was stuffed, despite the fact that I packed half of my sandwich home for my mom. The Bauer Kitchen is definitely one of my favourite restaurants in Waterloo and I can't wait to go back (hopefully) soon!
The Bauer Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Dinner @ Wildcraft

For Valentine's Day, Wildcraft was all booked, so I had to settle with eating at the Keg. Don't get me wrong, I love the Keg, but Wildcraft always holds a special place in my heart. The decor and ambiance is so elegant and comfortable, and service is always excellent. To make up for my disappointment, I dined here at the start of my reading week. This time, we got seated at a booth near the magnificent fireplace, which I was very pleased about.
At the center of the restaurant is a spectacular wine display. Too bad I don't usually drink wine with dinner. Perhaps I should try doing that, as I'm sure they have a very good collection.
The first time I came here, I was presented with a very impressive bread basket. This time, we were served some rather ordinary bread in comparison. Curiously, I spotted that spectacular looking bread basket at some other tables. I wonder why we got a normal one this time. In spite of this, I thought this bread actually tasted better, particularly the multigrain bread. I believe their bread comes from the Bauer Bakery, their sister restaurant's in-house bakery.
From the appetizer menu, we ordered the baked spinach and artichoke dip, with reggiano, pecorino, cream cheese, garlic and garlic cream sauce. The dip was served with Bauer Bakery sour dough bread. I recently discovered that pecorino is made from sheep's milk. Had I known that, I definitely would not have gotten it, since I can't stand goat milk. However, I couldn't detect any goat cheese, so all was good. The dip was strangely watery with large chunks of spinach and artichokes. It tasted pretty good, but I would prefer a thicker consistency. I also wish I ate less bread from the basket as the accompanying sour dough bread was also very delicious and heavy.
Out of the chicken courses, our server recommended the pan roasted chicken supreme, with sautéed fingerling potatoes, spinach, prosciutto, shiitake mushrooms accompanied with scallion white wine cream sauce. This was a successful dish overall. The sauce and all the accompanying sides were delicious, particularly the sauce-soaked spinach. I found that the chicken was slightly too tough for my liking, but I enjoyed the crispy golden char from the pan roast.
This was my second time ordering the steak and French onion flatbread, featuring marinated grilled sirloin, caramelized Spanish onion, roasted mushrooms, roasted garlic purée and three cheeses. I am quite in love with Wildcraft's flatbread because it's incredibly thin! Surprisingly, I found that there were too much steak! I wished for more onions and less meat, but I wouldn't hesitate to order this again in the future! Wildcraft was a great start for my week of feasting (instead of reading!)
Wildcraft on Urbanspoon

Winterlicious @ Hot House Cafe

It always puzzles me how Hot House Cafe can be so spacious given its location downtown. I mean, this place is huge! I've been here for Summerlicious previously, and enjoyed the experience so much that I decided to come back for Winterlicious. Their menu hasn't changed much, and I actually ended up getting the exact same things that I ordered for my last visit.
Soup of the day was New England Clam Chowder, served with a single thin piece of garlic crostini. The soup was generically creamy and delicious. For an appetizer, the portion was quite reasonable.
Louisiana crab cakes with tangy chili-lime aioli and crispy shrimp chips on mixed greens. This was my choice of appetizer when I last visited. This time, my friend got it instead. The crab cakes were fried to a nice golden brown, but the side salad was rather lackluster.
Gnocchi con Funghi: Potato gnocchi with cremini and porcini mushrooms, and just a hint of truffle oil, all tossed with a gorgonzola cream sauce. This was really tasty, almost addictively so. I absolutely loved the generous slather of creamy mushroom sauce. The gnocchi itself was also very light and yummy. The portion was quite large and I opted to help my friend finish her course and packed half of mine home.
My entree order was, once again, the Grilled Moroccan chicken sandwich on ciabatta with Charmoula aioli: Chicken breast marinated in a blend of Moroccan spices, grilled and served with roasted red peppers, caramelized onions and arugula, served with sweet potato fries. Love the sweet potato fries, as usual. The sandwich itself was very good, and the tangy Charmoula aioli is outstanding! In addition to serving as a dip for the fries I smeared it all over my sandwich! The grilled chicken was moist and reasonably tender, so all in all a very good combination. However, the portion was huge! I had to pack half of this home the first time I had it, and this time was no different. My friend and I did manage to demolish most of the sweet potato fries while it was still fresh.
Bread Pudding: Traditional bread pudding with brandy soaked raisins served warm with English custard. This did not live up to our expectations, and it just tasted like a slab of wet bread soaked in custard. I was not impressed at all.
Hot House Tiramisu is the restaurant's signature dessert. Sponge cake soaked in Espresso, Brandy, Frangelico and Bailey’s Irish Cream, covered with mounds of sweetened Mascarpone Cheese and lightly dusted with Cocoa. This was definitely the winner for desserts, and I enjoyed it very much as a sweet ending to my delicious (and very filling) meal. For $15, it was a lot of food!
Hot House Cafe on Urbanspoon

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