Restaurants & Bars 6

Trip Report (Long)

Miss Needle | Nov 1, 2004 05:51 PM

Chiado was definitely a thumbs up. We liked it so much that we went twice! Our amuse bouche was a cow's milk cheese served with olive oil and tomatoes. Very nice and refreshing. I absolutely loved the sun-dried olives they put out for us -- sauteed with an olive oil mixture with rosemary and roasted garlic. I generally hate olives because of the briny taste. But these were so sweet, plump and delicious. The first time, we had the grilled sardines for an appetizer. The sardines were very simple fresh, served with roasted tomato and portobello mushroom. For our mains, my SO had the grouper, beautifully seared and flaky served on a bed of risotto with Chinese broccoli and citrus chutney. I had the eschcaba(?) fish served with beet risotto and pineapple chutney. The risotto was slightly citrus-like and absolutely wonderful. We got a huge dessert platter that included a wide variety of desserts. There was the poached pear with Madeira, saffron, cinnamon that was refreshing and good. I loved the lady fingers with custard -- very light, whipped cream with lady fingers covered with an egg yolk cream. There was a baked pecan nut tart served with figs and blueberries that was so dense, rich and buttery. That was the highlight of our dessert. There were also shortbread cookies, brandied cherries, macaroons, candied pecans and candied almonds. We were completely stuffed after this feast. The service could not have been better. Our waitress was incredibly informed and sweet. She even gave my SO a drink comprised of soda water, Angostura bitters and citrus for his upset stomach. And it worked! There was a great wine list. We had a few glasses of wine -- don't exactly remember what we had, but I especially liked the sparkling white by the glass which had the undertones of lemongrass. This was the best meal we have had in Toronto.

Our second time was good, but not as great as the first one. We had the grilled squid which was perfectly cooked. It's really difficult to cook squid properly, and Chiado did an amazing job. Following the squid was a Portugese stew which included chunks of fish and clams in a tomato-cilantro broth. Very simple, warm and hearty yet light. My SO said this was the only fish stew he has ever liked. There was a bit of mishap with the main. We ordered the quail but the waitress mistakenly gave us the salt cod with roasted vegetable. Graciously, she took that off of our bill. I think the salt cod was cooked very well, but it wasn't my thing -- too salty. The salt prevented me from tasting the fish. It comes from these bad memories of my Korean mom feeding me pieces of too salty fish. We decided to share one dessert because we were stuffed at this point. If I was at home, I probably would eat about half of what is served to me in a restaurant. But since were traveling, we decided to splurge. Our dessert was the molotoff which was also not my cup of tea. It was too sweet and I felt that there needed to have more of that tart berry sauce to counterbalance the "too sweet it hurts your teeth" sensation. I forgot to mention one of the Portugese breads served with the meals. It is so good. It's a bread that's made out of wheat and corn flour. It's slightly sweet, chewy on the inside and crusty and crumbly on the outside. If anybody knows where to get bread like that in New York, I would forever be in your debt.

In terms of Korean food, we went to the soon tofu place on Bloor and Clifton. For those of you who are unfamiliar with soon tofu, it is a hearty spicy Korean casserole of soft tofu and either meat, fish or vegetables. It's one of my favorite dishes. We asked for the soon tofus extra spicy. Even though I'm Korean, the waiter kept asking me if I was sure. Perhaps he was saying this because of my round-eyed companion. My SO can handle spice better than I can. We told him the spicier the better. Our soon tofu was served bubbling hot in which I cracked my egg in it and waited about a minute before I swirled it in the soup. This was the best soon tofu I've had. I ordered the seafood and my SO ordered the kimchee. The seafood could have been fresher, but I think most Korean places don't serve the freshest seafood. They had a good assortment of banchan including these sweet beans, seawood, kimchee and a Korean mountain root vegetable served in a vinegary, spicy sauce. They gave us water, but I asked for the roasted barley tea. Make sure you request for the barley tea.

On Bloor, there were a couple of stores that sold these Korean walnut cakes. You can get them filled with mashed potato and walnut or red bean. While you can get these in New York, I've never seen a store that made it fresh. I got such a kick out of watching those get freshly made in these old-fashioned looking machines. I was very camera happy in that store. The walnut cakes are terrific when they're warm.

We visited that Korean bakery Jim Leff mentioned in that Toronto Star article. Btw, they sell some of that stuff in a Korean bakery next to the soon tofu place. We had the fried kimchi bun, curry chicken bun, pizza bun and the shrimp bun. The pizza bun was definitely very different. They were pieces of frozen vegetables and hot dog in the bun with American cheese. I also could have sworn there was ketchup in the tomato sauce. While it may be good for a few bites, too many fried buns equals vomiting. It was just too greasy for my taste. We had the multi-grain doughnuts that Jim Leff was raving about. I liked those very much, but my SO wasn't crazy about them. They are very difficult to describe -- multi-grain pieces of the dough that's not exactly fried covered in a mung-bean powder -- slightly savory and sweet at the same time. Very good. We also had a walnut pie which I thought was OK, but my SO liked a great deal. For me, the winner was the multi-grain bun. The other things I could have left.

Let's talk about bagels. While I haven't hit all the bagel places I wanted to, Toronto does not have Montreal bagels. We tried one at St. Urbain. I thought it was too fluffy, big and sweet. Montreal bagels should be smaller and chewier. In my opinion, all bagels should be chewier -- which is the reason I wasn't crazy about Gryfthe's bagels. They were too fluffy for my taste. The pizza buns at Gryfthe's weren't too bad. I thought they were too sweet. My SO thought it was the sweetness that made them special. We both did adore the blueberry buns. I've never seen anything like it in New York. We also had a bagel from that place on the Danforth which we also weren't crazy about. The whole bagel excursion was a bust.

The St. Lawrence Market was a wonderful market where I could have gotten lost in a for a couple of hours. I had the requisite peameal sandwich at Carousel. I'm sorry, but it didn't do anything for me. Perhaps it's because I got it plain instead of with mustard. I'm trying to understand all the raves about the peameal but I just don't get it. I also got a chocolate butter tart from one of the bakeries. Good. I inadvertantly swiped a rugeleach from the bakery as well. I thought they were samples, but it occurred to me that they were not as soon as it entered my mouth. My first crime. You guys are so lucky you can get raw milk cheeses! I loved looking at the cheese shop there. We did have the chicken and eggplant sandwich at Mustacchios -- and I did get it on the focaccia. I know some of you guys have dissented, and we've got to agree with you. It was all right, but not that great. There was no body in the tomato sauce. The tomato sauce was too tinny tasting. The eggplant was excellently fried but the chicken was nothing special. My SO thought that the sandwich would have been better on the regular bun because it would have been easiser to handle. The total price for the sandwich was $6.66, which SO exclaimed, "What a hell of a number." Both people manning the store kept telling us about how we will eat like kings for this price and that it costed extra because of the focaccia. No sense of humor there. We tried to go to California sandwiches, but could not find the time -- and the stomach.

Greg's ice cream was very good. I got the roasted marshmallow and my SO got the maple cream. I think I liked the flavor more than the texture of the ice cream -- too fluffy for my taste. But the roasted marshmallow was so good. You guys were right about them not having them every day. We visited Greg's three times before they had roasted marshallow in stock. After our second visit, we asked the guy behind the counter if he knew when the roasted marshmallow comes in. He told me that he had no clue, and when it does, it's the first flavor to go. I think they do this on purpose -- have people come in for the roasted marshmallow, get all excited and tell them that it's not in stock. So people will just get another flavor, coming in a few days later to see if the roasted marshmallow is in. Because of our limited time here, I couldn't afford to waste our stomachs on the non-roasted marshmallow variety.

North 44 was definitely a hit. Instead of the usual bread and butter, they served us different types of bread with hummus. Our first appetizer was a disappointment -- salmon with scallion, cucumber and cream fraiche served with blini and caviar. The fish was too tough and fishy smelling, probably due to the large amount of the brown flesh on the salmon. There was not enough tartness in the cream fraiche to offset the fishiness of the salmon. Interestingly, the blini was not made of buckwheat, which I probably would have preferred to mask the fish. My SO thought that dish needed some dill. Our second appetizer was foie gras with white truffle risotto. I thought the risotto was too al dente. My SO thought it was purposefully done to offset the soft texture of the foie gras. While I agree that may be the case, I thought it could have been cooked for another five minutes. The risotto was very lush and buttery. I thought the foie gras was underdone as it was very cold in the center. Our third appetizer was foie gras with poached pears and brioche. This definitely was the best one out of the bunch. If I could change this dish, I probably would opt for a less buttery bread. It was just too rich with the foie gras. We shared one entree -- the squab seared with fruit sauce, whipped potatoes and foie gras. This was the best squab I've ever had -- very tender, it melted in your mouth. The waitress heard us raving about the squab and told us that there was a food critic a few weeks ago who also said the same thing and urged the guy next to him to order the squab. If you do go to North 44, please don't miss the squab. It was the highlight of the night. After such a rich meal, we wanted to keep it more simple with the dessert and ordered cinnamon and sour cream ice cream. Quite a delight. We had several wines withe meal, including a Pouilly-Fuisse, Sauterenes and and an ice wine.

We also shared a vegetable platter from Ethiopia House which was very good. The veggies were quite fresh, and not too occluded by too much heaviness. This place also had the least sour injera I've ever had -- which may be a good thing in terms of my stomach. I usually don't feel well after Ethiopian food. I'm thinking it's due to the ferementation of the injera. I was definitely pleased with the food, and wouldn't mind trying other items from there.

There was also Swatow. Oh, how much I love their hot and sour soup! I wish I could find something like that in New York -- totally different than any that I've had before. Very tart, tomatoey. Incredibly satisfying. The shrimp dumpling soup was also very fresh. We also had the shrimp with eggplant in a hot bean sauce which was very good as well. After a while, the eggplant got a bit too greasy. After reading the reviews on Swatow's walls about their fried noodles, we just had to have them. They were very good. Kind of reminded me of a Malaysian noodle dish in terms of flavor, except that the Malaysian dish uses rice noodles. The texture of these noodles was quite interesting -- crisp, tender and chewy at the same time.

Because of limited time and logistics, we weren't able to sample more of this wonderful city. Thanks so much for all the great insightful advice. Unfortunately, we had a limited time in your city so we weren't able to tackle everything we had originally planned. And I think our appetites tend to be on the small side. We just can't do an appetizer/entree/dessert per person. But we tried our best. : )

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