Monday, June 2, 2014

Bazara Asian Cuisine, Little Italy/Portugal Village

Little Italy/Portugal Village 
188 Ossington Ave 
Toronto, ON 
M6J 2Z7 Canada
Asian - Chinese - Japanese - Thai

My first being 'Wraps', my second favourite word is 'Lunch Prix Fixe'. With two so close by me, I don't make very frequent visits to them at all. My first pick has always been Libretto Pizza by Dundas and Ossington, the new winner, and change up from the consistent Italian flavours, is Bazara - just across Libretto, with their nicely done Asian Cuisine.

The restaurant was very well-lit, it had a very casual Asian-feel. I declared this as a perfect local spot for a catch-up lunch, I am a sucker for comfy booths! Our dishes came out slowly, but they were so well-plated and were of spectacular value, I soon forgot. There were so many beautiful menu choices that I had a tough time choosing, our choices were one (or, two in our case!) of each of the three courses. The first course begins with a Salad or a Soup, and the two following are either Sushi, Dumplings or a traditional Asian with rice. The Lunch Prix Fixe menu can be viewed here.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Smoque N' Bones, Queen West

869 Queen Street West 
Toronto, ON M6J 1G4
Southern BBQ - Queen West

For the weeks leading up the their Grand Opening, I would often take the initiative to walk onto the South-side of Queen Street home just to peep into Smoque N' Bones. The day finally came, but I was in the wrong side of North America. I am now here, and ready to join the frenzy that Chef Alex Rad had lit up of his new joint. A Southern-style Barbecue joint is exactly what Queen Street needed

Real excited for a fine Southern-style grub with three Beauts of mine, Dianne, Nance and Emika. Starting, off our meal, we needed a cheer with our pints of Samuel Adams (also to be captured). It's great to see such a delicious lager on tap. I do hope that Samuel Adams is presented to many more restaurants in the future, because this would be my immediate beer of choice over any other commercial brand on tap. It held the perfect thick texture, was low in carbonation, held some fruity notes and was slightly hoppy

Glug, glug, glug. TGIF!

Las Vegas Eats (PT 2/2)

Part two of my feeds in Las Vegas, learn from my mistakes:

Bellagio Resort and Casino
3600 S Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV 89109

A quick snack at Jean Philippe Patisserie just before my buds were to head into the Cirque Du Soleil show at Bellagio. Hardly hungry, we went for something to share just to fill up a bit of time. Jean Philippe Patisserie is a wonderfully presented patisserie, a perfect spot to drop by for a quick coffee or sweet. Home to the World's Largest Chocolate Fountain - a remarkable sight to witness. There was also an oversized train just above the working-away chefs, made completely of Marshmallows - it suited the whole, magical theme very well.

1. Chicken Crepe ($12)
W/ Spinach, Red Peppers & Chicken
For the price, they sure slack on the fillings. It was alright, definitely should have gone with a pastry.
2. Strawberry Smoothie ($9.99)
Tasty, but not worth the $10 for a regular size.

Jean-Philippe Pâtisserie on Urbanspoon
Bellagio Resort and Casino
3600 S Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV 89109

Being in a premium hotel, you'd only expect to pay a premium price. Brace yourselves, folks.
Strong cravings for Asian Cuisine, our best (and closest) bet was Noodles. I loved the design of the restaurant-front, the bundled pile of literally, noodles, hanging above the entrance. Upon entering, you are surrounded by everything of an Asian sort - Bamboo, Lanterns for lighting, Asian Rugs and quite a few statues.

1. Mandarin Beef Stew Broth ($18.75)
With Beef Brisket & Tendon in Five Spices Broth
2. Noodle Soup ($15.50)
With Poached Chicken
3. Congee ($5.00)
With Hundred Century Egg & Scallions
$20 + tax for Noodles and Soup, this better be good! But, luckily, indeed - it was! The flavours in the Mandarin Beef Stew were great, meat were the perfect cuts and nicely stewed. Definitely hit the spot. The Noodle Soup on the other hand was a tad too plain - needed more bazazz, and a much better cooked Rice Noodle to match. The Congee was the only one that I found to be absolutely worth it. A decent amount and wonderfully flavoured - great amount of Century Egg treats in here!

Noodles on Urbanspoon

241 W Charleston Boulevard, Ste 101
Las Vegas, NV 89102
Cajun/Creole - Southern/Soul - Seafood - Patio

The feels were right here. Plenty of seats for a breezy, covered patio on the outside and a pub-like feel on the in. Lola's is tough to locate without asking for directions - with (the help of) Google Maps, we ended up a 7 minute walk up and under a bridge to to resto, only to find parking right by it. We were warmly welcomed and chose to have a seat for four on the patio.
1. Gumbo ($4.79)
A cup of Gumbo w/ Chicken, Sausage & Shrimps
My first time trying Gumbo! Now I will never have to again - arriving piping hot, this was okay - I expected more flavours, and many more pieces of meat. There was also Rice in here which was a pleasant surprise.

2. Mama's Red Beans & Rice ($9.99)
Slow-cooked with Andouille and Smoked Kielbasa. Served w/ Coleslaw & toasted French Bread
A 'Family Favourite' on the menu, this had a delightful homie feel. The amount of Rice was just right, and the pieces of Kielbasa was a great salty mix by side the Coleslaw and Toasted French Bread. This was by far my girlfriend's favourite meal in the whole trip so far.

3. Fettuccine Alfredo ($16.99)
W/ Blackened Salmon (or Shrimp)
No additional flavours or surprises in this one. I think this would have been better (and juicier) served with the Blackened Shrimp option instead. The Pasta was perfectly cooked, and the amount of Fettuccine Sauce was certainly generous!

4. Soft Shelled Crab Po'Boy ($9.99)
Two Soft Shelled Crabs Battered and Deep-Fried
I already knew that this was going to be a pure winner the moment that I laid my eyes upon it in the menu. Deep-Fried Soft Shelled Crab... How can you possibly go wrong? Especially laid across a Soft Po'Boy Bun, this was a winner! A smiggen of Mayonnaise was all it needed.

Lola's: A Louisiana Kitchen on Urbanspoon

The Quad
3535 Las Vegas Boulevard 
S Las Vegas NV 89109

Guy Fieri, the only way I know him is the host of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives... and the guy who needs to loose the Justin Timberlake hair. Guy Fieri's Vegas Kitchen & Bar is situated right at the entry of The Quad, one of many hotels right across the hotel we were at - The Mirage. But a damn 45-minute wait... This has better be worth it!

1. Parmageddon Wings ($15)
Breaded Chicken Parmesan Wings + Apocalyptic Marina
2. Guy-Italian Fondue Dippers($14)
Pepperoni-wrapped Breadstick Twists served w/ a Smoky Provolone and Sausage Cheese Dip. Topped with Fresh Tomato Bruchetta

3. Drunken Fish Tacos ($17)
Lightly grilled chunks of Tequila-Citrus Tilapia, Avocado, Veggies and Mojo De Ajo

The Parmegeddon Wings took form of Lollipops. I was honestly expecting an explosion of juicy flavours, this was truly disappointing. What was going on? Why were the only winners of the whole night - the (unnoted) Pickled Jalepenos? The Guy-Italian Fondue Dippers were also another disappointment to add to the list. My biggest peeve is when I cannot depict the description of the menu items - I did not depict and Sausage or Bruschetta in this, it did not go well together at all. Fish Tacos are the easiest things to successfully make, ever. Scarce in the amounts of Tilapia, and interesting combination - but it did nothing for either of us. I don't understand how one can mess it up - but Guy Fieri sure did.

Guy Fieri's Vegas Kitchen + Bar on Urbanspoon

The Venetian Hotel & Casino
3355 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Breakfast/Brunch - American

1.Strawberry Fruit Smoothie 
2. Hot Chocolate
3. Delux Breakfast Sandwich ($11.95)
Scrambled Eggs, Bacon, Ham, Grilled Tomato, Havarti Cheese and Mayo piled high on Grilled Brioche Bread. Served w/ Hash Browns
4. 'The Best' Eggs Benedict with Ham & Hollandaise ($13.95)

A quick breakfast at Grand Lux Cafe in The Venetian/Palazzo before our 5-hour roadtrip to L.A. I was thrilled to be leaving this place (and it's mediocre feeds). This breakfast was very satisfying and tasty. I would definitely recommend it! Don't forget to (instead) get a seat on the patio.

Grand Lux Cafe on Urbanspoon

The Venetian 
3355 Las Vegas Boulevard S 
Las Vegas NV 89109

With so many food disappointments experienced - it is always time to grab a few pastries from the famous Bouchon Bakery. We had an Almond Crossaint, Cinnamon Bun & I completely forgot what this one was... All were tasty, ranging at about $3.50~4.

Bouchon Bakery on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Las Vegas Eats (PT 1/2)

All my life, my thought of Las Vegas was exactly - 'What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas'. The pure purpose to ever go to Vegas was to party, and party, and (do regretable things) - party, and party. I half expected to walk into the city, have the party 'handed' to me, and, by the end of the three days, I would find myself in an incredible mess. But, the grandma side of me was also half relieved, it was none of that. Las Vegas is a lot about entertainment, none about food, so, I shouldn't be surprised by the utter disappointment that each dish presented.

The Las Vegas experience is spent on the Strip, no where off it. This is a snippet of a day spent in Vegas: 
You wake up in a hotel, go to another hotel across the street for breakie, then off to another for shopping, and then another to see some sort of entertainment (club, show, attraction). 
It all revolves around hotels (each of which are also casinos), so it is not the flashy lights on the (I imagined - wet) roads that would blind you - it was instead the many, many rows and mazes of pokie machines which flood the bottom floor of each hotel/casino.

Each had dining areas - this is what I gathered:
Caesar's Palace - Shops, Attractions
The Bellagio - Cirque Du Soliel, Attractions (Butterfly & Flower Conservatory)
The Mirage - 1OAK Nightclub, Shows
The Palazzo - I didn't see anything else interesting in here
The Quad - Small shops/boutiques
The Venetian - Shops, Attractions, TAO Nightclub
Wynn - Shops

The Mirage
3400 Las Vegas Blvd S 
Las Vegas, NV 89109

Landing at 6PM, we had to get a drink, or two, or nine. BLT Burger is one of the many restaurants in our hotel, there was so many to choose from! A quick feed, and being right across of Rhumbar, here we were.
1. 'Our Famous Buffalo Fries' ($8)
Cold the first time it arrived, literally ice cold. We were explained that if we wait (we went for the food as soon as it landed on our tables) - then, it becomes 'ice cold'. Good joke. Famous, for what reason? This was very underwhelming, with Feta Cheese, their Buffalo Sauce and Curly Fries which were still as tough.
2. Chicken Wings in Spicy Buffalo Sauce ($12)
Served up with a creamy sauce, it was very bland, better without the sauce - the Chicken Wings were average, nothing too special.

3. Vidalia Onion Rings ($5)
Expectations of much better seasoned Onion Rings. Bland, made extra use of the Ketchup Sauce, which didn't go well at all...
4. California Chicken Burger ($13)
Grilled Chicken Breast, Arugula, Sundried Tomato, Avocado, Onion & Mozarella
Okay, a great burger! I gotta give it to them, they do their burgers very well, and it was only a Chicken Sandwich. I really should have just went for their signature BLT Burger - must be amazing.

3400 Las Vegas Blvd S 
Las Vegas, NV 89109

1. Coral Crush & Pina Colada ($34)
Margarita (42oz) size w/ 2 shots included ($20) + 7 'Well' shots 40% ($2/each)
Situated still, inside The Mirage and right across from BLT Burger - Rhumbar. There are multiple of these locations across The Strip.
amples after samples - we went with Coral Crush and Pina Colada. My first go at Alcohol + Slushie - it's a great combination! The Pina Colada really cancelled out the bitterness to the Well Vodka shots. I've never heard of Well before, so I only expected it to taste nasty.

3400 Las Vegas Blvd S 
Las Vegas, NV 89109

Another snack place in The Mirage, Blizz Frozen Yogurt. Four mixes of fill-it-yo-self Frozen Yogurt. We must be the absolute ultimate Asians to be heading to Froyo straight away. We went for Chocolate, Creme Brulee, Pistachio & good ol' Vanilla- nothing stood out here, it was just a satisfying cold treat. 

The Quad
3535 Las Vegas Boulevard 
S Las Vegas NV 89109
American - 24/7

 Open 24/7, why are we here for brunch? We entered The Quad, onwards along the lit-up red signs and up a stair way, past a Black Cow, and to (finally) be led up to Hash House a Go-Go.

 1. Iced Coffee (2.50)
2. Pistachio Iced Latte ($6.99)
The Pistachio (green syrup) mixed into this seemed almost inedible - the only difference between the Iced Coffee and Pistachio Iced Latte was the massive amount of Whipped Cream and the odd after-taste that the 'Pistachio Syrup' provided.

3. Hash w/ Chorizo, Jalepenos, Cheddar Cheese & Fresh Tomato ($14.25)
Served on a bed of Crispy Potatoes, two Eggs, Fresh Fruit & a Biscuit
4. Farm Scramble w/ Hardwood Smoked Bacon, Avocado, Onion & Swiss Cheese ($12.75)
Served with Grilled Mash, Fresh Fruit & a Biscuit
The portions were definitely massive! We finished two dishes between four people and were all stuffed by the end of it - with a lot left over. Either plate wasn't anything special. We did need both to balance each other out - the Hash loaded with a lot of Jalepenos and Cheese, and the other muted with Avocado and a small amount of Smoked Bacon.There should be some sort of rule to strictly seperate the Fruits from the warm dishes...

Hash House A Go Go on Urbanspoon

The Forum Shops
3500 Las Vegas Blvd S 
Las Vegas, NV 89109

In between sight-seeing and shopping - in the middle of The Forum Shops shopping complex, we were lured by a fella to sample a few of the Gelatos. Ciao Ciao Bar N Cafe sits in the centre of it all, with seating and a full bar, there are four corners from which they can service you from. From a sample of each, we were both absolutely mind blown by the taste, and the combination of them two together, damn!

1. V.I.P Size ($9.99)
White Chocolate Strawberry Cheesecake
Heavenly Chocolate Truffle Mousse Pie
Served up with a nice topping of Whipped Cream and Wafer, I have to now say that the White Chocolate Strawberry Cheesecake was a lot tastier than the Heavenly Chocolate Truffle Mousse Pie - I think that I would have been able to eat the Strawberry Cheesecake Gelato forever.

Ciao Ciao Cafe on Urbanspoon

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Mother's Dumplings, Kensington Market/Chinatown

 With so many Dumpling houses in Toronto, you can very easily be disappointed with any that are anywhere below average. Mother's Dumplings are just one of the many, located at Spadina and College, on upper-North side of the usual, situated shops on the busy Spadina and Dundas. The name 'Mother's Dumplings' brings high expectations of love and care with all sorts of juicy deliciousness in each bite. On the menu, you'll find the usual, extensive list of Housemade Dumplings either being Steamed, Boiled or Pan-Fried. As any Chinese 'Mom and Pop' sort of restaurant, they also offer Housemade Noodles, Buns, Soups, Rice dishes, Congee and, of course, Pancakes!

The restaurant seven days a week, 11:30AM until 10PM, and up until 10:30PM on Fridays and Saturdays. There is plenty of seating, we were only to wait a couple of minutes to have set up at table for three on a Friday evening.

Friday, April 11, 2014

El Almacen, Queen Street West

 Oh boy. It's been a while. It never occured to me... my cravings for this beauty. I only ever had the pleasure of trying this once, at the South American Food Festival in Fairfield. It was certainly unique. It was the first time I ever tried such a concoction, one of my first steps in venturing out of the Asian food I knew a loved. Here, it was were I had my first Empanada, and began to purchase Lebanese treats. 

El Almacen is all about Mate Beverages. It's a beautiful concept, you can read more about it here. Mate, also known as 'Yerba Mate' leaves are finely chopped and ground up to make up a powder. You can be sipping this drink hours on end. With a couple of teaspoons of Yerba Mate, you even it out with your desired amount of sugar all into a Gourd. Using your metal spoon/straw (also a Bomba), you blend it all together and sip away. 

El Almacen, as expected, has a nice set of Empanadas available, in: Beef & Green Olive, Mixed Vegetable, Spinach & Cheese and Ham & Cheese at $3.50 each. They also serve up combos of Soup of the Day - Grilled Sandwiches - Empanadas.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Moe's Deli & Bar, Trudeau International Airport (Quebec)

Groaning over the 5:30AM ungodly hour wake-up is a group effort. I narrowly snuck in thirty minutes of snooze after falling asleep awaiting my hair to dry, sitting on the over flowing chair of towels in our hotel room. It was still too dark to have my final moments taking in the beautiful view over Miami. Memories of just hours before, sitting down on a step leading up to Bayside, down the road from our B2 Hotel (most positively the worst experience at a hotel, ever, by the way). The beautiful canopy of palm trees towering above us, and hours would pass. The moment was so serene, we needed no substance to keep us at this high. It was at this moment that I decided that this is exactly what I've ever wanted, nights of deep and meaningful conversations, experiencing beyond my imagination.

The two hour stop-over landed us in MontrĂ©al–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport. My first thought was to snatch up a plate of dirty, dirty poutine with the squeakiest of the squeaky cheese curds. After running through two food-stops, we were disappointed when we were finally told that there was no poutine served at this airport. Are you bloody kidding me? Down for eating just about anything, we headed to next first sit-in restaurant we spotted, Moe's Deli & Bar.

We were seated with famous portraits on various chairs parallel to us. The service was lacking, and the speed of the dishes, even more. Thank golly we had a bit of time to kill.