Not being from anywhere near here - I did exactly what I do every time I visit a new city: log on to chowhound and look for some recs from like-minded foodies.
Three free nights, three chances to experience the culinary breadth of this neighborhood (Queen's West/University); tonight was the peak of our culinary exploration.
Now, I know what you're going to say: the "Queen Mother" is far from a new discovery. Judging by the confident and determined stream of Torontons walking in, I knew immediately that the "Queen Mum" as it is referred by many on this blog, was *the* place to go.
For the three Scandinavian foodies joining me and I, the Queen Mother Cafe hit the spot, just right.
We arrived just as the ballet/theater crowd was getting ready to leave - auspicious (yet entirely unplanned) timing which lead to us sitting at a perfect spot in front of the restaurant's bay windows looking out on Queen. Beautiful spot for people-watching, both inside the restaurant, and outside, on the street.
A round of beers - and then to study the menu. Well rounded, without being pretentious - and weaving in/out of the menu were some Laotian dishes. Well - say no more.
We started with sticky rice (in a straw-woven basket ) accompanied by a peanut dipping sauce, Nam Jeun (Laotian spring rolls), fried Calamari with a sweet and spicy chili sauce and a Quinoa salad. Much to our surprise (and to my vindication, having endured the teasing from my partners in crime about ordering the "predictable", "too simple" dish), the sticky rice was remarkable! Rice perfectly steamed (and just as sticky as it needs to be so that you can roll it with your hand and not get your hands all, well, sticky), in a crunchy and zesty peanut sauce - simply delightful. The Nam Jeun came a very close second. Not oily or heavy, well balanced.
Onto our main courses - a special on tonight's menu, Mussels prepared in a Tiger-beer broth, served belgian style, Ping Gai - a beautifully grilled boneless chicken, crispy skin and all, with a lime/chili/fish sauce-based dipping sauce, and Khao Soy Gai - think ginger-based coconut curry with shredded chicken and noodles, only ten times better than that! A series of herbs (beyond the requisite mint, cilantro, bean sprouts) that I wish I could tease out, gave this turmeric-golden broth a life of its own.
Desserts? I wish there was room. And for me (I have a huge sweet tooth) that says a lot!
Our waiter was attentive and knowledgeable; the meal was well priced, the atmosphere was delightful.
What a find! - thank you to the Chowhounders who suggested it.
206 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5V1Z2, CA