March 30, 2012

Dim Sum @ Miliken Restaurant & Bar

Miliken Restaurant & Bar is a cheap and decent dim sum restaurant in the Scarborough area. Prices are $2.10 for all dishes during the week and $2.40 for the weekend. I live awfully close to the restaurant so I also appreciate the convenience.
I didn't try neither the Chiu Chow-style meat and vegetable dumplings nor the crystal shrimp dumplings, so I can't comment too much on them. The shrimp dumplings were on the smaller side.
The first plate of deep fried taro dumpling given to us was barely lukewarm in the centre, so we had to ask for another batch.
The portion sizes for Korean style short ribs were quite inconsistent. We had two orders of this dish and the second dish was a lot larger. However, the short ribs tasted pretty good, albeit a little oily.
One of my favourite dishes here was deep fried meat dumpling. The slightly sweetened glutinous dumpling skin was on the thicker side and had a nice, chewy texture.

Quintessential breakfast food to me is plain congee accompanied by deep fried dough. Usually, I can only order congee when I'm with a large group because it can be quite filling, especially with all that deep fried dough! 
This version of rice noodle roll-wrapped crispy dough was surprisingly refined and delicious! Sometimes, this dim sum dish can be a real disappointment when the execution misses the mark. However, I'd definitely order this again in the future.
I wished for more filling in these deep fried shrimp dumplings with salad dressing. I should really stop ordering so much fried food!
I ordered these pan fried meat and veggie dumplings for my boyfriend so I didn't try any. I wasn't terribly enticed- they looked awfully greasy, and the dipping vinegar had a strangely bright hue.
One of the servers enticed us with a heaping plate of veggies ($2.99), and it was a great, healthy addition to the meal. And then there were the desserts! Double boiled egg white and cream with ginger was surprisingly well-executed. The dessert was steamed to the right consistency.
 Egg tarts are my favourite desserts when it comes to dim sum. These miniature tarts weren't spectacular, but good enough to satisfy my egg tart craving.
One of the item that was really intriguing was the sesame dumpling with bitter melon and salted egg yolk.  From the description, we really couldn't figure out whether it was a sweet or savoury dish! It turned out to be a dessert similar to a sesame mochi ball with a runny salted egg yolk filling. Bitter melon is infused in the dumpling skin, hence the slight green tint. Luckily, I could only taste a tiny hint of the bitter melon, and it didn't detract from the dessert at all. I enjoyed it very much and would order this again.
All in all, not a bad place for cheap dim sum. I'd come during the week if possible to avoid the weekend crowd (and price premium). But on the weekends, the servers circulate around holding dishes that are not on the menu, and these items are not available during the week. I always like to see what they bring out (and it's usually quite enticing), so I try not to order so much from the regular menu and save some room for these special items.
Milliken Bar & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

March 27, 2012

Dinner @ La Maquette

After my sister left to study in Australia, I was left with the lovely task of using the voucher that she bought for La Maquette. I haven't read great reviews, so I was a bit apprehensive to go. Anyhow, when I tried to book reservations two days before the voucher's expiry, I learned that the restaurant was actually closed for both of those two remaining days (a Sunday and the Family Day Monday). After some communication (and frustration on my part), the owner Ange was kind enough to extend my voucher for a whole month. I do want to take this opportunity thank her for making the accommodation.
I saw a picture of La Maquette's speciality wild mushroom strudel ($16) with leek and spinach cream sauce in another review, and I was immediately tempted to order it. The presentation was beautiful! But unfortunately, the plate didn't arrive hot enough. The sauce, although very tasty, was already cold and seemingly congealed. The pastry was also lukewarm, but the flavours of the mushrooms were admittedly bold and delicious. Sadly, the temperature ruined what could've been a great appetizer.
My choice of entrée was the pan-seared scallops ($34) with creamy roasted asparagus risotto, red caviar, and cream sauce. In general, this was well-executed, and I was reasonably pleased with my plate of food.
My only real complaint was that the scallops were slightly overcooked. The seafood cream sauce was delectable, but it also made the risotto exceedingly rich. I became very full from all the cream after a short while.
In comparison, my mom's main- roasted Muscovy duck breast ($36) with blackberry and apple reduction and sweet potato- was a complete disaster! The duck was extremely undercooked, to the point where we couldn't cut through the meat with our knife. And worse of all, it tasted like rubbery, raw beef! The sweet potato fries were blackened and charred, resulting in an unpleasant bitterness. In the end, we packed most of it home. The duck became more edible after my mom rinsed off all the spices and cooked it some more.
For desserts, I figured that it was hard to go wrong with a traditional crème brûlée ($12), which was supposedly garnished with fresh fruit and a cookie (the cookie was nowhere in sight). However, I was wrong! The brûlée top was so incredibly thick that I had difficulty breaking through the top with my spoon! It was actually hurting my teeth to chew through that thick layer of sugar crust, so in the end I just ate all the custard underneath.
In summary, the food was underwhelming, to say the least. I don't think my mom will order duck breast ever again at a restaurant after this experience. However, the restaurant itself was quite lovely, and the service was generally good, albeit a little slow. That said, I probably won't be returning any time soon, if ever again.
La Maquette on Urbanspoon

March 26, 2012

7-Course Tasting Menu @ Acadia

I cannot express how excited I was for Acadia's $39 seven course tasting menu! I've always been deterred from trying tasting menu because of the usual high price, so naturally, I couldn't pass up on this opportunity. Not to mention that Acadia is currently one of hottest restaurants in town!
I've also been dying to try Acadia's cornbread. Unfortunately, the restaurant was only serving the tasting menu for the night, so we couldn't order anything off its regular menu. I guess that means I'll have to come back again soon!
We didn't opt for the cocktail pairings with our meal, (I had to drive) but Sandy did order a cold red tea- rooibos, ginger, lemon, peach bitters, soda. This was meant to accompany the third course (the catfish). I took a few sips and it tasted like a very delicious iced tea. I particularly enjoyed the peach bitters.
1st course: Fish skin- smoked crème fraîche, dill pollen
This was perhaps the only thing of the night that I didn't enjoy. Personally, I don't like fish skin, and there was some bitterness to the taste that was very off-putting for me. Sandy and I both found it very salty.
2nd course: Warm scallop- red brassica, wild mustard, celeriac, watermelon radish
This was so beautifully presented that I didn't want to touch it at all. The scallops were perfectly cooked, and the whole combination was incredibly tasty. That dollop of purée and smear of red sauce were amazing, even though I couldn't identify what they were at all!
3rd course: Catfish- pumpkernickel, goat's curd, pickled egg yolk & white, onion tops
I'm in love with the presentation, particularly the contrast between the black pumpernickel, grey plate, and white sauce.  The crusted catfish was wonderfully tender, and once again, the unidentifiable white purée was delectable! The only problem was that I really dislike goat's milk, so Sandy and I frantically brushed off all the goat's curd and transferred it onto Mel's plate.
4th course: Oyster soup- chicken stock aspic, black pepper, licorice, borage
The soup was intensely flavourful, and the small blocks of chicken stock aspic- basically gelatin- were quite interesting. Overall, I found the soup to be a little overly rich and I would've been happy with a smaller portion of it.
5th course: Redfish- hedgehog mushroom, brown butter, samphire, xeres vinegar
After the soup, there was a very long wait for the next course. I noticed that nobody else in the room seemed to be getting their food either, so I wondered if something went wrong in the kitchen. And unfortunately, the long wait meant night has fallen, thus ruining the lighting for the remaining photos of the meal.
But when the next course finally arrived, it certainly didn't disappoint! Again, the fish was cooked beautifully, and I loved the earthy mushrooms, especially the dollops of mushroom purée. This plate was also more substantial than the previous courses, and at this point I was starting to feel full.
6th course: Pork belly- steelcut oats, banana pudding, black sesame, peanuts
For me, this was the most anticipated course! Pork belly, banana and peanuts seemed such a bizarre combination, yet oddly enough, it all worked together. On its own, I found the crusted pork belly too salty, but the sweetness of the banana pudding provided a perfect counterbalance. In a nutshell, the whole thing like char siu (Chinese bbq pork) with banana sauce, and it was strangely delicious! The creativity definitely put a smile on all of our faces.
7th course: Caramelized buttermilk- white chocolate, blood orange, olives
I thought this was a nice, refreshing dessert, but it didn't stand out to me as much as the other courses. The blood orange sorbet was quite intense in flavours, which Mel really enjoyed. My favourite component was the unidentifiable freeze-dried crumbles, which I'm still not too sure what they are. On the whole, the meal was absolutely phenomenal, and I really enjoyed my first tasting-menu experience. I will definitely be back to try Acadia's regular menu!
Acadia on Urbanspoon

March 23, 2012

Dim Sum @ Lai Wah Heen

I've repeatedly professed my love for dum sum, so I was pretty excited to go to Lai Wah Heen, one of the ultra-high-class Cantonese restaurant in Toronto. I'd heard my friend rave about their $48 lunch dim sum prix fixe menu, but I wasn't really willing to shell out that much for dim sum.
Stepping into the dining room, I felt transported to the 90s. Everything was very old school, perhaps due for a renovation. Though it was probably very nice when the restaurant opened, the décor felt a little dated to me, . For a restaurant of this calibre, the overall ambiance paled compared to the lavish extravagance of other Chinese restaurants, such as Casa Imperial and Casa Victoria.
Fancy silverware and napkins
Lai Wah Heen's gourmet chili oil had chunks of dried conpoy and shrimps, which made very good snacks. But the chili oil itself wasn't very spicy at all and didn't make a very good dip.
Lai Wah Heen is known for exquisitely crafted and innovative dishes, but I couldn't resist ordering some dim sum classics for comparison to other Chinese restaurants. First up,  siu mai of pork, shrimp and scallop (帶子蝦燒賣) ($6.50). I'm usually not the greatest fan of siu mai, but this version was quite delicious. The bold, meaty flavours made up for the small sizes of these dumplings.
crystal shrimp dumpling
In comparison, crystal shrimp dumpling (水晶蝦餃皇) ($6.50), or har gow, was quite ordinary. The sizes were on the smaller side, and it wasn't particularly outstanding. Overall, it was well executed, but for this price, I expected some sort of wow factor.
baked puffy turnover filled with minced barbequed pork & pineapple
My favourite dish of the entire meal was the baked puffy turnover filled with minced barbequed pork & pineapple (鳳梨叉燒酥) ($6.50). The soft, buttery pastry was filled with sweet, delectable barbequed pork fillings. The pineapple added an extra sweet dimension and a perfect tinge of acidity. Altogether, the turnover was divinely rich (in a good way). This wasn't one of the restaurant's intricately presented dishes, but it impressed me based on flavours alone.
crispy deep-fried roll of pitaya, mango and shrimp
Certain items on the menu were served by the piece. We ordered one to try- crispy deep-fried roll of pitaya, mango and shrimp (火龍果香芒蝦卷) ($3.50). I liked it, but it sounded better on paper. The fried roll was filled with salad dressing, and I wished there were more fruits to counterbalance the greasy richness. 
Seared beef sirloin in rice roll served with sweet soy sauce
Seared beef sirloin in rice roll served with sweet soy sauce (星級西冷腸粉) ($8.00). This was a pairing of a dim sum classic with gourmet ingredients- in this case, beef sirloin. I didn't actually enjoy the combination all that much because the beef sirloin wasn't prepared in a Chinese way. However, I have to say that the rice noodle roll itself was lovely and velvety smooth. I ended up eating the two components separately.
Deep-fried bumble bee dumpling of sweet green tea paste
Desserts were definitely highlights of our meal! Deep-fried bumble bee dumpling of sweet green tea paste (綠茶小蜜蜂) ($6.50) were adorably irresistible! They were almost too cute to be eaten! I knew that many of Lai Wah Heen's other dishes were similarly exquisitely designed, and I wished more than ever that I had order more of those items! On a side note, the bumble bee dumplings tasted as good as they looked!
tapioca rice ball in a lightly ginger flavored syrup
Lastly, we had tapioca rice ball in a lightly ginger flavored syrup (薑汁西米皮湯丸) ($6.50). I didn't love this because it was filled with red bean paste, and I prefer black sesame filling. But the unique part about the rice balls was that the skin was covered with tapioca pearls. Jeremy loved that part, and I happily gave him my share as well.
Looking back at the bill, I noticed that they over-charged us by $1.50, as we had actually order 5 items that were $6.50 and only 1 item that was $8.00. But I'm willing to look past this small fault as we were offered complimentary tea for absolutely no reason at all. Nevertheless, the meal was still very pricey for dim sum. Would I come back again? Not anytime soon, but I'm tempted to come back just to try some of their more exquisitely presented dim sum. For ordinary dim sum, there are infinite cheaper alternatives uptown. However, some of the dishes here are definitely worthy of a visual feast, and I would very much like to have the pineapple and barbequed pork turnover again.
Lai Wah Heen on Urbanspoon


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