Thanks to my fellow Chowhounds, I ate pretty well on my recent stay in Toronto. My wife and I arrived late Saturday afternoon, and had the good fortune to have dinner with a Toronto artist, Drew Harris, whose paintings my wife and I greatly admire. We were introduced to Drews paintings, and acquired several of them, through the Lydon Gallery in Chicago. It turns out that Drew is not only an enormously talented artist, but a good cook as well. If you enjoy art and are not familiar with his paintings, you should definitely check them out. Ive provided a link below for those interested.
We had friends drive up from Buffalo to join us for Sunday dinner. Because we hadnt consulted with them in advance as to what kind of food theyd like to eat, we were in the position of trying to make last minute reservations, which proved almost impossible to get. Many restaurants were closed, and those that were open were booked until late at night, possibly because of the large Gay Pride parade on Sunday. I finally settled for a Greek restaurant, Pantheon, on Danforth Avenue in Greek Town. I was actually very happy with my meal there. The grilled calamari was nicely charred and wonderfully tender. I couldnt find any fault with it. I ordered a side of skordalia, which I dabbed on the calamari to great effect. The leftover skordalia got smeared on the excellent pita that came with it. For my entrée, I had roast lamb. It was fork tender with a lightly caramelized, crispy exterior that intensified the flavor. All in all, simply prepared but very tasty food.
The next evening, Monday, we went to a Portuguese restaurant, Chiado, on College Street. For appetizers, my wife and her friend had warm goat cheese, charred on top, which rested on a bed of eggplant, with Portobello mushroom and caramelized leeks. I had grilled fresh sardines. Both appetizers were delicious. For my entrée, I had a whole grilled boca negra, flown in from Portugal and rarely available in the United States. The English translation of boca negra is blue mouth, black bellied redfish, or rosefish. Id describe it as similar in taste and texture to an ocean perch. It was cooked to perfection--lightly charred, succulently moist and flavorful. Chiado specializes in fish, and the chef there, who hails from Northern Portugal, has a sure touch that yields delicious results.
For lunch on Tuesday, we took Gary Cheongs suggestion and went to Ban Vanipha, a Lao/Thai restaurant in the Kensington Market area. We found that the restaurant had moved from its former location on Augusta Ave. around the corner to 638 Dundas. Like Gary, we had Khao Glum, black sticky rice and black beans in coconut sauce wrapped in a banana leaf. It was served with a spicy hot sauce. The combined effect was wonderful. We also had Nham Dip, a Laotian-style fresh salad roll with rice, basil, lettuce, and a small amount of ground chicken. Very refreshing and totally satisfying. The main courses were good, but didnt quite measure up to the two appetizers. We had Mee Hank, a stir fry of egg noodles with chicken and shrimp in a lime-coriander sauce that was billed as spicy, but wasnt. The other main course was Pad Nua Hoalapha, beef with basil, vegetables and hot chili, served with steamed rice. Both were pleasant enough, but lacked that something extra. For desert we had an absolutely superb Thai coconut pumpkin pie, Khao Nhom Feik Tong. The owner was very friendly and helpful in explaining his menu. We walked away happy and eager for a return visit.
Tuesday night we went to Dragon Dynasty on Brimley Road in the Scarborough area. Gary Cheong had raved about the dim sum at Dragon Dynasty, and I learned that Garys glowing report on Chowhound had been confirmed by many other knowledgeable and discerning individuals. Based on these numerous positive assessments, Im sure the dim sum at Dragon Dynasty is marvelous. But both my wife and I found our evening meal to be disappointing. My sour and chili seafood broth had a goodly amount of vinegar, but otherwise lacked complexity. A cast-iron seared black cod with scallions and ginger was moist, but lacked flavor, except for the one-note of ginger. I found it boring. The comparison with the black cod served, for example, by Saitos Sushi in Hollywood, California was not favorable. The best dish of the evening was sliced beef with XO sauce, but even this wasnt a dish that had you turning cartwheels. Perhaps I merely ordered badly, but my evening experience wasnt a memorable one. It didnt come close to the wonderful experience I had at the upscale, fancy Lai Wah Heen on my previous visit to Toronto. If I ever return to Dragon Dynasty, Ill stick to the dim sum.
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