December 30, 2011

My Top 10 Desserts of 2011

A meal is never complete without desserts! So I made a separate list for my favourite top 10 desserts. It was actually really fun to go through all the desserts that I've eaten this year, and I feel more like a pig than ever! Again, the list is in no particular order, and you can click on the restaurant name to read my detailed review of that particular item. You can also check out my top 10 dishes of 2011 here.
Dulce de leche cheesecake from Arepa. So rich. So irresistable.
Canoe fireweed butter tart from Bannock.
Maple bacon donuts from Beast. The combination of maple and bacon is divine. This isn't exactly a dessert, per se, since we had it at the start of the meal. Nevertheless, it was memorable enough to score a place on the list.
Although this resembles butternut squash soup, this is actually sweet pumpkin soup, a variation of tong sui from Cantonese cuisine. I haven't had a chance to blog about this particular dinner at Casa Victoria, since I have quite a backlog for the holiday seasons. But this sweet dessert soup was so scrumptious that I felt compelled to add it to my top 10 desserts list.  Thick, creamy, and comforting, it was a delightful end to a fabulous meal.
Panettone bread pudding from Briscola with dates, pistachio and vanilla gelato. So moist and gooey!
Mini milk pie with papaya from Casa Victoria. My favourite part is that crumbly upper crust.
Sweet egg yolk paste layer cake from Crown Prince. I've had many similar layer cakes but the one here is my absolute favourite! I order this every time I have dim sum here.
Tofu cheesecake from Inatei. A light and creamy option, perfect for even those who don't love cheesecakes.
Quartet of crème brûlée from Sen5es. From left to right: vanilla, chocolate, ginger and mocha. I would go back to Sen5es in a heartbeat just for this!

December 27, 2011

Top 10 dishes of 2011

I love reading lists. So I thought it would be fun to make my own as the year is winding to an end. Here are my top 10 dishes that I absolutely loved in 2011! You can click on the restaurant name to read my detailed review of each dish. It was really hard to single out 10, so the list is not in any particular order. But I would go back to eat all of them in a heartbeat! Happy holidays everyone!
General Tao's Chicken from Asian Legend.
Peking duck from Asian Legend.
Unagi doria– BBQ water eel on mixed mushroom, rice, and topped with cheese from Guu Izakaya.
Fettucine with crab, guanciale, cream and soft poached egg from Fabbrica.
Gra bong–fried squash fritters battered with red curry paste, shrimp paste, and lemongrass from Khao San Road.
Risotto with caramelized squash, finished with chervil, sage, ginger and a spark of cinnamon from Mildred's Temple Kitchen.
Fried chicken and waffles– fried chicken over Belgian waffles with chili maple molasses citrus glaze from  Stockyards Smokehouse & Larder.
Spiced benni on cheddar chive biscuit with back bacon, chipotle hollandaise and home fries from School Bakery & Café.
Perogi, stuffed with cheddar and potato, and accompanied with bacon, onions and sour cream from Shanghai Cowgirl.  
Steak Frites from Table 17– 8oz thick cut top sirloin, served with lemon mayo.



December 21, 2011

Dim sum @ Brilliant Chinese Restaurant

I've been really slacking off with blogging lately. It's the holidays, after all! But anyhow, here is a quick post on a recent dim sum meal at Brilliant Chinese Restaurant, near Market Village. No early bird dim sum here, so the atmosphere was a lot more relaxed and less rushed.
Deep fried savoury dumpling had so little colour on them that I questioned whether they've been deep fried properly. Luckily, these tasted better than they looked.
Deep fried taro dumpling arrived cold at the table. We complained and they gave us a second batch, which was even colder than the first. In the end, we just cancelled our order and chose something else. At least the staff was pretty gracious about that.
My favourite dish of the day was the Korean style BBQ beef. I loved the bright and bold flavours, and the meat had just the right amount of fat.
I generally stay away from Chiu Chow style steamed dumplings  because they usually contain celery, which I detest. These ones didn't have celery, so I actually liked them a lot. The peanuts provided a pleasant crunch.
Steamed rice noodle roll with fried fritter dough was also pretty good, even though it wasn't an extremely refined version.
Steamed sponge cake was super light and moist. It was the perfect antidote to all that deep fried food.
But of course, we followed that light dish with deep fried sesame cake. I loved the chewy pastry shell!
I don't have much to say about the bean curd pudding, since I didn't eat much of it. I did like how it wasn't overly sweet.
I also ordered a beef chow fun to go for my boyfriend, and it was huge! This could easily feed 3-4 hungry people! For $8, it was definitely great value. In summary, there were a couple of hits and misses with this restaurant, but I enjoyed my overall experience.
The Brilliant Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

December 17, 2011

Lunch @ Le Café Michi

 Le Café Michi is located in a tiny plaza at the corner of Pharmacy and Sheppard. If you blink, you'll certainly miss it. If it helps, the tiny restaurant is in the same plaza as Lin's Garden, which has more visible signage. In addition to the Japanese fare, Cafe Michi also offers a wide array of cakes.
Plastered on the front page of the menu is a list of rules to abide by while dining here. No reservations for cake and drinks only. They do not serve cake and drinks only during peak dining hours. No sharing of coffee or green tea. Minimum order charge of $5.00 per person if that person does not order anything. I personally found this slightly annoying and pretentious.
First came the salad and green tea that came with our lunch set. My mom was careful not to drink any of the green tea in fear that we'll be charged. Honestly, it was a little ridiculous because most Japanese restaurants serve tea for free! The salad was nice and refreshing, but nothing to write home about.
In addition to the lunch set, we also ordered uni sashimi, which both my mom and I love. This was simple and delicious- fresh and sweet! Uni is one of those things that will taste horrible if it's not fresh, but luckily this turned out great. It was very rich and satisfying, despite the small portion.
My mom and I shared a Chyo-chin Bento, which came in 3 stacked tiers.
At the very top was the featured deep fried selection (agemono) of the day- nuggets of lightly battered chicken drizzled with spicy mayo. This was very tasty, particularly that tangy spicy mayo. The chicken was juicy and flavourful, but not overly greasy.
The middle layer contained six pieces of assorted sashimi- salmon, tuna, and hamachi. I wasn't the greatest fan of this. First of all, the sashimi wasn't as cold as I would prefer it to be, a result of the middle tier being sandwiched between two hot courses. Out of the three types of sashimi, I only enjoyed the salmon. The other two had a slightly unpleasant fishy aftertaste.
The bottom tier featured unajyu on sushi rice. The hearty bowl of rice was topped with fillets of barbeque eel, shredded omelette, some pickled vegetables and toasted seaweed. I wished there were more than 2 pieces of fish, but other than that, this was really delicious. The eel wasn't particularly stellar, but what shone was the sushi rice, which was so flavourful that it hardly needed any garnish. After all the toppings were devoured, I had no trouble eating the rice on its own.
Finally, our tiny slice of blueberry cheesecake was utterly disappointing. I love my cheesecakes, and this one was awful! It was grainy, dry and bland. Even the blueberries as garnishes were sour. The only positive thing I have to say about the cake was that the slice was extremely small. Ergo, I didn't need to feel too guilty about eating it. Nevertheless, it was a complete waste of calories, and effectively ruined the meal, even though everything else was pretty good. I can definitely see the charm in this restaurant, but at the same time, I also sense a pretentious air that I don't appreciate. I wouldn't rush back any time for another meal. But when I have another fresh uni craving, I'll definitely keep this place in mind.
Le Cafe Michi on Urbanspoon

December 15, 2011

Big Smoke Burger @ Urban Eatery

I love my burgers, and Craft burger was one of my favourite in town before it change its name to Big Smoke Burger (the owner couldn't trademark the name due to Top Chef head judge Tom Colicchio's Craft empire in the states). I was also super excited that Big Smoke Burger opened a location in Eaton's Centre's newest Urban Eatery, which made it so much more accessible.
My mom has a deep love for smokey, grilled beef patties, so she wanted to order a "big smoke burger" because she thought that option would have be "smokier" than the others. I laughed at her silliness and assured her that all the beef patties were cooked the same way. In the end, we went with a spicy burger with lettuce, tomato, onions, and spicy chipotle mayo. I loved the toasted bun! I believe all burger joints should toast the bun because it makes the burger just so much better.
My mom was very happy with the juicy patty. For me, the burger was lacking cheese, and I wished I forked over an extra $1.25 to add that. Next time, I'll be going for the crazy burger, which comes with jalapeno havarti, coleslaw, chipotle mayo, bbq sauce, hot peppers and lettuce! That, plus a side of onion rings!
Big Smoke Burger on Urbanspoon

December 3, 2011

Brunch @ The County General

The County General has been on my radar ever since it opened. Opened by the folks behind Splendido, the tiny space at Queen St and just east of Ossington offers comfort food in a casual setting. Upon arrival, I was surprised at how tiny the space is. I had difficulty slipping into my seat!
I came with my mom for a Saturday brunch. Luckily, we managed to snatch the last two spots at the bar. This also seemed like a nice place to have a late night drink.  
As usual, I ordered for my mom and me, and we split everything (I am such a bossypant when it comes to food). My first choice was the popular fried chicken thigh sandwich: buttermilk chicken, milk bun, avocado chutney, coriander, and green onion. I've read many reviews commenting on the small size of the sandwich, and here it is dwarfed by the side salad. Of course, my mom and I have tiny appetites, so we weren't really concerned about the small portion. The side salad was very simple- mixed greens dressed with some olive oil and vinegar. It was a good counterbalance to a fried chicken sandwich.
I like the sandwich. But then again, I also like McChicken a lot, so maybe that's not saying much. The fried chicken thigh was nice and moist (I hate dry chicken) and avocado just makes everything better. Other than that, however, there was nothing remarkable about it (except perhaps it was the cutest fried chicken sandwich I've ever eaten).
My second order was a Croque Madame with country ham, grilled bread, béchamel, fried egg and herb salad. I loved the rusticity of the sandwich! The grilled bread had the perfect crunch and was so delicious with all the components. In particular, the country ham was super flavourful; I've never quite had ham like this before. Naturally, I love anything topped with sunny side up egg, and this was no exception. The croque madame definitely trumped the fried chicken sandwich.   
Our bill came in a cute flower pot, which was another charming touch. All in all, we had a pretty good brunch, but I wasn't blown away by any means. This restaurant is a nice spot in the neighbourhood, but I wouldn't go out of my way to come here for brunch.
The County General on Urbanspoon
While I was in the Queen West area, I couldn't resist getting some treats from Dufflet. First up, mini toasted almond meringue: plump, ripe, fresh berries and pure whipped cream simply sandwiched between rounds of crunchy, almond meringue. The meringue was very light and not so much crunchy.
I also couldn't resist buying a mini caramel dacquoise: discs of hazelnut meringue layered with rich caramel buttercream; finished with a white chocolate glaze and a caramel swirl. Although this was tasty I liked the cappuccino dacquoise that I had as my birthday cake this year better.
Dufflet Pastries on Urbanspoon

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