February 28, 2012

Dinner @ Scaramouche

Valentine's Day always falls on my busiest week of midterms, so once again, it was celebrated a week later. I chose Scaramouche for two reasons. Firstly, one of my friends always raves about their coconut cream pie, and I wanted to see if it lived up to all that hype. And secondly, restaurant was running a $62 three-course Lobsterlicious special and I just can't seem to resist these prix fixe menus.
Three types of bread were served, and I had one of each. One small complaint was that the butter was really hard to spread onto the bread.
The bread basket was quickly followed by a complimentary amuse bouche: prosciutto with winter lettuce, toasted pine nuts, tarragon relish and Meyer lemon aioli. Everything tasted pretty good together, but it didn't wow me.
Even though Jeremy didn't order from the lobsterlicious menu, he had a lobster bisque to start. The soup was topped with armagnac cream and chives. For me, the soup was intensely rich, and the armagnac on top of that was overwhelming. I was slightly put off by so much alcohol in the soup.
My lobsterlicious choice of starter was the Dungeness crab ravioli with mustard greens, bok choy, radish and a uni butter sauce. The bok choy made the overall dish feel very Asian.
The single raviolo was packed with crab meat, and the uni butter sauce was absolutely scrumptious. After demolishing everything else on the plate, I soaked up all the remaining sauce with bread.
When in doubt, Jeremy always goes for the steak option- 8 oz filet mignon with porcini whipped potatoes, wild mushrooms, French green beans and Bordelaise sauce. I particularly loved the whipped potatoes, which packed an incredible punch of mushroom flavour. The steak was also executed very well, although still not as good as Jacobs & Co.
Oddly enough, I loved everything in my lobster gnocchi that was not lobster- the snap peas, carrots, pearl onions, beet, and herb gnocchi! The vegetables were bright and vibrant, and I especially enjoyed the sweet beets. On top of that, the gnocchi was absolutely lovely, as light as a pillow. I also thought that the presentation was stunning with all the colourful veggies.  
My gnocchi was accompanied with a Parisienne lobster thermidor sauce, topped with toasted bread crumbs and gruyère cheese. On paper, this was everything that I should love- rich, cheesy lobster sauce topped with bread crumbs and cheese. They certainly don't skimp out on the lobster, which I suppose should be a positive thing. Every spoonful contained large chunks of lobster meat. I couldn't believe that I could ever have too much lobster, but this was the case for me! Perhaps I just can't have too much of a good thing. 
For desserts, I wasn't interested in the three options that were available, but I went with the Araguani chocolate mousse with earl grey ice cream, lemon curd, honey tangerines and blood orange reduction because I knew Jeremy would like it. Clearly, I don't know my chocolate well, because Araguani is a 72% cocoa dark chocolate bar made by Valrhona, one of best chocolatiers in the world. I think the "mousse" was a misnomer, because it was more like a dark chocolate bar filled with chocolate mousse. As expected, it was too dark for my liking, although the earl grey ice cream was amazing! Luckily, Jeremy was more than happy to finish the rest of the dessert for me.
Meanwhile, I forced convinced him to order Scaramouche's famous coconut cream pie with white chocolate shavings and dark chocolate sauce. This was like heaven in a slice of pie! Even though it was impossibly decadent and rich, I just couldn't stop taking more and more bites! The white chocolate and coconut were such a great pairing, and the pie crust was perfectly flaky and delicate. Not great for the waistline, but it was so phenomenal that it was almost worth every calorie! I should've paid an extra $5 to upgrade my Lobsterlicious dessert to the coconut cream pie as well!
Who says you can't get full from fine dining? I was absolutely stuffed at the end of the meal! It was definitely a memorable experience, but I don't think I'll be returning anytime soon. After all, it was one of the most expensive meals that I've ever eaten, and I can't justify the price despite the generally positive experience. That said, I certainly wouldn't mind coming back for a slice of coconut cream pie! It was truly to die for!
Scaramouche on Urbanspoon

February 24, 2012

Travel Zoo Deal @ Etsu

I bought a travel zoo voucher for Etsu awhile back, and it was a great deal! I hardly ever eat Japanese food downtown, but Etsu has a pretty good reputation in the Baldwin Village. I've previously been here for lunch once, and I was looking foward to trying out dinner. The restaurant was surprisingly empty for a Saturday night, so we were able to enjoy a quiet dinner. 
Our package included a cup of tea. Oddly enough, they don't have the typical green tea, and instead have offerings like Earl Grey, honey ginger tea, and peppermint. I went with Earl Grey, but it was an odd match with the food.
We both started with miso soup and Jeremy's order included a wakame (seaweed) salad. The salad was very nice and refreshing.
I got the Seoul combo, which started with a kimchi trio instead of the salad. I love kimchi and I really liked that there was a variety. When I was young, I would eat kimchi that was so spicy that my eyes would tear up. Nowadays, I find that restaurants rarely serve anything overly spicy (or perhaps my tolerance for spicy food increased?) Anyhow, I wished the kimchi had more heat.
 Our shared appetizer was a sushi pizza- deep fried rice crisp with fresh toppings: salmon, onions, green pepper, and fish roes ($8.95). I loved the thick slices of avocado that topped the pizza. It was a little hard to eat all the components together because the toppings fell off very easily, but everything was delicious.
This was the rest of my Seoul kalbi combo ($20.95), featuring 6 pieces of kalbi, 6 pieces of sushi, and 6 pieces of tempura. I loved my platter of food, but my only complaint was that the sushi became a little warm because it was sitting too close to all the hot food.
The kalbi was juicy and tender. I had no complaints at all.
But the best part was definitely the tempura, because Etsu uses unconventional ingredients. I couldn't identify half of the battered vegetables that I was eating, but everything was fresh and delicious. My favourite was the banana tempura, which I've had before as a dessert (paired with ice cream). But eating it here with the savoury tempura dipping sauce worked remarkably well.
Jeremy opted for the Narita sushi and sashimi combo ($20.95) which came with 10 pieces of sashimi, six pieces of sushi, and six pieces of tempura. Everything was fresh and tasty.
Both combos came with a bowl of rice, but there was so much food that I couldn't eat much of it at all!
We ended the meal with a small scoop of espresso ice cream. I was happy with the small portion as I was absolutely stuffed at this point. It was the perfect sweet ending to our feast!
I have no regrets in buying the voucher. $29 was a fantastic deal for all that delicious food! I wouldn't drive all the way downtown just to eat at Etsu, but it's a great option if you're around the Baldwin Village area.
Etsu Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

February 23, 2012

Fondue Festival @ Bier Markt

As per my usual tradition, I went to Bier Markt's annual fondue festival. I'm so glad that Bier Markt opened a location at Shops at Don Mills! Now I don't have to go all the way downtown to get my yearly fondue fix!
I'm not a big beer drinker, but I do like fruity ones. This Somersby apple cider was absolutely delicious!
Cheese and bread make a filling combination, so we ordered two to share between three people.
One of my choices was the chorizo und fondue- smoked chorizo sausage, Quebec cheese curds, toasted Bistro bread, served with Menchego and roasted red pepper fondue. This was my favourite of the two. I loved dipping a buttery, cheesy toasted sandwich into more cheese, and the red pepper flavour in the fondue paired wonderfully with the sandwich.
In fact, I would've gladly eaten the chorizo sandwich without the fondue accompaniment.
We also ordered a Normandy fondue with Camembert cheese and cider, Kozlik's sweet and smokey Dijon. The mustard was rather pungent, and I found it a little overwhelming. I'm actually a great fan of mustard, but it was a bit too much in the fondue.
The Normandy fondue came with granny smith apple and sourdough boule. My mom commented that the bread was too dry and hard, but I didn't find it intolerable. However, I did wish that the bread was toasted. As well, I wasn't sure whether the apple was meant to be eaten with the cheese, but it was much better on its own.
The Normandy fondue was also accompanied by chunks of smoked farmer's sausage. I wasn't a fan, but my boyfriend enjoyed them very much with the fondue.
In the end, we finished the entire red pepper fondue, but there was a lot of the Normandy fondue left.
Sadly, we didn't have any room to try the dessert fondues. In particular, the cheese und cake fondue sounds absolutely amazing! I'm imagining it in my head like a molten cheesecake! Next year, I'll be sure to come with more people so we can try out more varieties!
Bier Markt - Shops at Don Mills on Urbanspoon

February 22, 2012

Perogi @ Shanghai Cowgirl

As soon as reading week kicked off, I headed over to Shanghai Cowgirl for some greasy comfort food! Ever since coming here for a birthday celebration last year, I haven't been able to get their perogi off my mind! When we arrived at 9 pm, the place was pretty empty, but began filling up soon after.
Jeremy's attempts to eat healthy is often limited to ordering a Caesar salad ($5). I thought it was pretty expensive for a side salad, but at least there were some greens to balance out the meal.
Our much-anticipated perogi arrived in these classic old-school Chinese noodle bowls. It fitted so well with the theme of the restaurant.
Usually, I make sure to order something different than my boyfriend to have some variety. He declared that he didn't want to share his bowl of perogi at all, so I had no choice but to order perogi as well. There were several varieties, but we both opted for bacon, onions, and sour cream. Look at that monstrous dollop of sour cream!
Mix all the lovely pockets of potato and cheddar up with the toppings...
... and everything was devoured in no time. I tried to cut down on the amount of sour cream, but ended up almost wiping my whole bowl clean!
Shanghai Cowgirl on Urbanspoon

February 18, 2012

Winterlicious #4 @ Mildred's Temple Kitchen

I've spent the past 2 weeks studying like a dog for midterms! Finally, it's time to catch up with some blogging! My final Winterlicious pick this year was Mildred's Temple Kitchen. I came here not too long ago for dinner and had a fabulous experience! Unfortunately, I have to say that I wasn't hungry at all coming into this dinner, as this was my third consecutive Winterlicious meal over two days. I was still a little full from my late lunch at Bymark.
Hungry or not, I was still full of thoughts about that wonderful squash risotto that I had last time. Unfortunately for me, the restaurant was only serving Winterlicious menu for the night, so I had to stick to the plan!
We started off with some cheddar thyme biscuits with sweet butter. It was a nice variation from the usual bread basket, and I was very relieved that they were served warm. Nothing annoys me more than cold biscuits. These were so good we all asked for seconds!
The majority of the table ordered the lobster and lemongrass soup with tortilla hay. I loved this soup and really regretted not getting it for myself! The flavours reminded me of a creamy version of Chinese-style borscht with a subtle hint of lobster. The tang and acidity worked so well against the creamy consistency. I also loved the random chunks of avocado, something I don't often see in soups. In my opinion, avocado makes everything better!
My appetizer was hand rolled ricotta gnudi with creamy ermite sauce and crispy sage. These were basically balls of dense, cheesy dough. As enjoyable as they were, I had these last time I was here, so in hindsight, I probably should've tried something new.
One of the entrée choices was sumac rubbed coho salmon on celery root purée with braised kale and roasted chestnuts. I had a bite of the salmon and it was delicious. Everybody who ordered the salmon wiped their plates clean, so it was definitely a winner at the table.
I ordered a braised beef short ribs with gnocchi, roasted mushroom and parsnip crisps. I was astounded to be presented a monstrous slab of meat, bone-in, that could probably feed me for three days! Seriously, the portion was huge! I also felt a strong urge to pick up the entire thing by the bone and gnaw on it like a cave woman. Unfortunately, the beef wasn't as tender as I would've liked it to be. I couldn't help but compare it to the delectable, melt-in-my-mouth braised beef cheeks from Trevor Kitchen & Bar that I had the previous day, and this one just didn't measure up. It might not be fair to compare two different cuts of meat, but I really couldn't eat more than one third of the portion. On the other hand, the parsnip crisps were delightful, and I had no trouble finish all of that.
My friends enjoyed their plates of food. Clearly, the beef short rib was a lot larger than the salmon.
Out of the three courses, I was most excited about the dessert selections! I'm obsessed with crème brûlée, so it was a no-brainer for me to order the trio of crème brûlée - chocolate, espresso, and caramel. This was very creamy and delicious, but I have to say that it wasn't as good as the quartet of crème brûlée from Sen5es. But then again, the best crème brûlée I've ever had was from Sen5es, so it's pretty hard to top that. My favourite was the caramel flavour, and my least favourite was the chocolate one. The chocolate wasn't intense enough for me, and my particular one lacked the hard caramel top. Half the fun of eating crème brûlée is cracking into that caramelized top! 
Jeremy ordered a chocolate bread pudding with warm whisky sauce. It was truly phenomenal! It certainly had that intense chocolatey flavour that my crème brûlée lacked, and it was gooey and lusciously rich. I kept stealing bites from his dessert (and gave him my chocolate crème brûlée in return). Jeremy usually doesn't like bread puddings, but he enjoyed this one very much. I definitely thought that this was the better dessert. 
I had a great meal at Mildred's to end off my Winterlicious adventure this year! On the balance, my dining experience was positive, even though I wasn't completely satisfied with my entrée. In fact, I'm already making plans to check out their famous brunch! Can't wait!
Mildred's Temple Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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