Review: Indian Kiss

September 10, 2009

Indian Kiss

Address: 399 Keele Street, Toronto

Website

Rich and Alana both ordered: Aloo Gobi, Channa Masala, and Naan.

Plus: Tasty food. Huge naan. Cute take-out lounge.

Minus: Overpriced. Long wait. Limited menu.

Rating: 7 smooches out of 10

Alana sez: After a long holiday Monday spent running a garage sale and packing up Rich’s old apartment, we were exhausted and feeling a mean craving for Indian food. Our standby, Curry Twist, is closed on Mondays, so we decided to try out a new-ish entry into the Junction’s catalogue of eateries: Indian Kiss. This take-away spot opened recently at Keele and Dundas, and I had heard some good feedback. We were hopeful that it would cure our curry fever.

The menu for Indian Kiss is on their website, but it’s quite limited — there are no appetizers, no fish/seafood dishes, and not a lot of vegetarian options. We settled on the aloo gobi, channa masala, and naan. Indian Kiss is a take-away only restaurant, so I gave them a call to place our order before we headed down there to pick it up. It’s a good thing I called ahead — after giving our order, I was told that it would be 40 minutes for our food. That seemed absurd for take-out, especially since it was very early in the evening (we called at 4:30). However, Rich and I were jonesing for an Indian food fix pretty badly, so we decided to wait it out.

I really couldn’t believe that it would take 40 minutes to make our food, so we headed down to Indian Kiss after about 25 minutes to see if our dinner was ready. We were greeted by a very friendly woman at the counter but, true to their word, we still had a 10- to 15-minute wait ahead of us. We took a seat in the very cute and comfortable lounge area, which is well-stocked with magazines. The soothing green colour on the walls and the cushy couch took the edge off of our wait.

After we finally paid and made it home with our eats, we couldn’t wait to dive in. The prices at Indian Kiss are quite high ($2 to $3 more per dish than Curry Twist), so I was expecting huge portions. As we opened our take-away containers, however, I was dissappointed to find that the amount of food in front of us in no way justified the higher cost. Neither did the flavour, unfortunately. The channa masala and aloo gobi tasted just fine, maybe even excellent, but they were still no match for our gold standard, Curry Twist. The sauces in our dishes were well-seasoned, with complex flavours, and I was impressed by the inclusion of fresh herbs and ginger. Our naan was gigantic, fluffy, and slightly charred, just the way I like it. However, nothing really blew my mind in the same way that Curry Twist does every time.

Our meal from Indian Kiss fully satisfied our craving for tasty Indian food, but the high prices and long wait left a slightly sour aftertaste. Curry Twist will continue to be our standby in the Junction, but Indian Kiss is a reasonable back-up on Mondays when nothing but Indian will do.

Rich sez:  I found the Indian Kiss experience to be a lot like that of a strip club. When you first walk into the joint, you’re mesmerized by the decor and bright colors. The familiar aromas help build the excitement of what is about to ensue. [Alana: Ew. Gross, Rich.] You’re told to sit down and wait. And wait. All you want is some attention but, when you get some, it’s going to cost you. But who cares, right? You’re the King of the World!

At first you don’t mind paying — the dish looks light and full of life. When you bring this bag full of joy back home with you, you’re led to believe that this is going to be a night to remember. However, when opened up and put out on the table [Alana: Again, gross.], you find that the familiar taste and fulfillment that you desire with your sweet and spicy dish is nowhere to be found. Once you’re done, you feel like you’ve received more of an Indian peck on the cheek than a kiss. Like a stripper, Indian Kiss does not give you enough for your money, and you don’t get the same spicy enjoyment you expect when you bring it home. [Alana: Rich, we need to talk.]

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Review: Joe Tomato’s

August 25, 2009

Joe Tomato's

Address: 1020 10th Street West, Owen Sound

Alana had: A panzerotti with olives, feta, and tomatoes, and a beer.

Rich had: Cheese tortellini in a rose sauce, with garlic bread and a Caesar.

Plus: Tasty Caesars. Decent panzerotti.

Minus: Weak pasta. Generic atmosphere.

Rating: 6 trivia cards out of 10

Alana sez: While in cottage country to celebrate our 1-year anniversary, Rich and I decided to boost the romance by taking in some haute cinema: G.I. Joe. We had some time to kill before the film, so we headed across the parking lot toward the nearest restaurant, Joe Tomato’s, to grab some lunch.

The inside of the place is decorated like your typical chain family-style restaurant — it actually reminded me a lot of Jawny Bakers, which is to say it had a very generic feel about it. The lunch menu covered your usual pub grub, pasta, and pizza selections. We quickly decided on pasta (Rich) and a panzerotti (Alana) and placed our order, lest we miss the beginning of our movie. Because that would have been a tragedy. And by “tragedy,” I mean “blessing” — G.I. Joe was brutal.

Rich sipped on his Caesar and I on my beer while we waited. Our food took no time at all, and I was soon digging into my panzerotti. I had asked the kitchen to stuff mine with feta, fresh tomato, and black olives — the result was a gigantic and super-flavourful Pizza Pop, with the perfect dough-to-filling ratio. I was somewhat impressed. The only real downside was the small bowl of cold marinara dipping sauce on the side, which had obviously gone straight from jar to plate.

Considering it’s the only restaurant in the area, we could have done a lot worse than Joe Tomato’s. That said, our lunches were really nothing special. Joe Tomato’s turned out to be a great precursor to G.I. Joe — the perfect pairing for those days when you want to celebrate mediocrity. Like your 1-year anniversary. Blerg.

Rich sez: Before you read this, keep in mind that I was just getting over food poisoning or some sort of stomach flu when we ate at Joe Tomato’s, so my judgement might be altered. And here we go…

The cheese tortellini in rose sauce … I am all for cheese, love it, can’t live a day without it, but there was more shredded Cracker Barrel marble cheese melted on top of my dish than there were tortellinis in my bowl. And what was up with the giant chunks of green onions?! The garlic bread tasted like frozen garbage, and the tortellini was definitely pre-packaged. I honestly think they just gave me one of those pasta dishes from Pizza Hut — you know the commercial with the family who is blind-folded, driven around the block a few times, sat down at their own dining room table thinking they’re at a fancy restaurant, fed some Pizza Hut pasta, and when the blind-folds come off they are shocked to find that they could get such high quality pasta by delivery? If you pay close attention to the disclaimer at the end of the commercial, it says “You can also enjoy this dish at your local Joe Tomato’s.”

Much better than the pasta was their Caesar. It was really tasty — for the rimmer they used hot sauce , and for more flavour they squeezed lime and lemon wedges into my drink. It was also served in a mason jar style glass. GOOD ONE, Joe.

JT FUN FACT: They have trivia cards at every table from various board games, so if you are out on a romantic 1st date(or in our case, 1 year anniversary … LOL. Sad.), and you need an ice-breaking conversation starter, look no further than Joe Tomato’s.

Review: The Kit Wat

August 24, 2009

More 004

Address: 71 Sauble Falls Rd, Sauble Beach, ON

Rich ordered: Veggie omelette, with homefries and toast.

Alana ordered: Fried egg sandwich with a side of homefries.

Plus: Very friendly staff. Great patio.

Minus: Mediocre breakfast. Rich got a tummy-ache.

Rating: 5 cottages out of 10

Rich sez: I have been going to Sauble Beach with my family every summer, for as long as I can remember. It’s like a second home to me, so breakfast at the Kit Wat is nothing out of the ordinary. The staff is amazingly friendly and they know my family by name. I’s located near the marina, attached to a motel across the street from a small grocery called Joseph’s. The inside has a small-town feel, with beachwood-like furniture and, when you step outside, you find a relaxing patio overlooking the marina. As people in paddle-boats pass, they greet you with friendly waves and high-spirited “good morning”s while you shovel your breaky down.

I usually order the ham and eggs, but decided on to switch it up on this particular occasion and went for the veggie omelette. The breakfast this time around seemed more store-bought than the home-made, heart-warming cooking that I’ve had at the Kit Wat in the past. I don’t want to knock this restaurant from this one bad experience, because it has filled my life and stomach with so much joy, BUT, the potatoes were very dry, the omelette was oddly-spiced, and I think I had some sort of bad reaction to the food. I can’t say for sure that my breakfast was the cause, but I ended up spending most of my cottage weekend in dire tummy pain. The weird thing about my stomach-ache was that the waitress at the Kit Wat had said to me, before I took my first bite, “the cook put something special in the middle of your omelette for you.” I didn’t taste anything unusual, but I definitely felt that “special something” donkey-punching my insides all weekend. That said, this recent weekend-ruining experience has not altered my view of this cozy restaurant at all but, next time I order, I will just get the ham and eggs.

Alana sez: On my first-ever visit to Sauble Beach, I was excited to try out some of Rich’s favourite childhood restaurants. Near the top of the list was the Kit Wat, a greasy-spoon hotel restaurant on the water, purported to serve up some pretty tasty breakfast — just what I was looking for on this particular morning.

Like Rich mentioned, the Kit Wat is a cozy, small-town diner with a great patio overlooking the lake. We took a seat outside, and our very friendly and accomodating, if somewhat absent-minded, waitress was quick to take our drink order. I ordered a Diet Coke, but ended up with a coffee — no biggie. I was a little chilly anyways, and it was nice to wrap my hands around the piping hot beverage.

From the pretty standard breakfast menu, I decided to try the fried egg sandwich. I also ordered some homefries, because a diner breakfast is not complete without potatoes. We enjoyed the scenery during the short wait for our food. When they arrived, my sandwich and potatoes looked appetizing — I quickly learned that looks can be deceiving. This wasn’t really a bad breakfast. It was just extremely boring. The potatoes had no flavour, and had clearly been previously frozen. The fried egg sandwich was also nothing special, served on Wonder bread and with absolutely no seasoning to speak of.

It’s too bad that our meals were so uninspiring, because the Kit Wat is a charming little restaurant and has the potential to be a great go-to breakfast joint in cottage country. However, unless the food improves greatly, I’ll be sticking with cereal next time I visit Sauble Beach.

Review: The Keg Mansion

August 5, 2009

lobster

Address: 515 Jarvis Street, Toronto

Alana and Rich both had: The tempura asparagus and snap pea appetizer, and a trio of mini-desserts.

Alana had: A whole steamed lobster with a baked potato, and a pint of Creemore.

Rich had: Grilled tiger shrimp skewers with mashed potatoes, and a mojito.

Plus: Amazing service. Cool atmosphere. The steaks, probably.

Minus: Seafood was good, not great. Dessert was disappointing.

Rating: 6 rock lobsters out of 10

Alana sez: It’s tough, and maybe even a little douchebaggy, to review a steakhouse when you don’t eat steak — as fish-eating vegetarians, Rich and I aren’t able to comment on the seared cow parts that the Keg is best known for. However, after a gift-card purchase mishap, we recently found ourselves with $25 in Keg-dollars during the restaurant’s annual “Lobster Summer” festival — if  these fishetarians are going to eat at beef-village, we might as well do it when seafood is on special.

We decided to head down to the Keg Mansion on a quiet Monday evening. Stepping into the restaurant is like entering a very old and very rich relative’s home — dark wood floors, rich carpet, dark red walls, ornate and fussy decor, and gorgeous lighting fixtures. I loved the spectacle of it. The place was deserted, so we were quickly led to a table near a window — it was nice to have some sunlight in the otherwise dim space.

After our excellent waiter had swung by to take our drink order, Rich and I didn’t need much time to settle on our meal choices — there aren’t a lot of beef-free options on the Keg menu, even during Lobster Summer. We ordered some tempura asparagus and snap peas to start, and I decided on the two-pound whole lobster for my main. Since I had never eaten a whole lobster before and I was a little frightened, I asked to have my sea-bug cracked in the kitchen for me. The Keg was happy to oblige my wimpiness.

Our appetizer came out quickly. The plate was piled high with deep-fried asparagus and snap peas, and came with a little bowl of soy-based dipping sauce. The batter on the fresh-tasting veggies was light, crispy, and not greasy at all. This tempura rivaled the efforts of most of the Japanese restaurants I have tried in Toronto.

Our meals arrived just as promptly as the appetizer, my giant lobster taking up most of the table. The monster, split down the middle as promised by our waiter,  came with drawn butter and a baked potato. I wasn’t sure where to start — claws? tail? legs? feelers? — so, I grabbed the nearest body part and dove in. The lobster meat was fresh, tasty, and generally tender, but I found the tail to be a little tough. The baked potato was pretty standard — I was disappointed to find its skin leathery and chewy and, as I gnawed on it, I grew envious of Rich’s huge mound of mashed potatoes.

After dinner we were prety stuffed, but the server who cleared our table convinced us to try some of the Keg’s “mini-desserts” — 3 oz. shots of sweetness. We settled on the cherry cheesecake, the chocolate fudge brownie, and the lemon blueberry tart. As promised, they each arrived in a large shot glass. Cute presentation, but our first bites failed to impress. Each of the desserts tasted generic and store-bought. Meh. Not the best way to end our meal.

Although the service was stellar at the Keg Mansion and the atmosphere was fun, the food we ate was generally pretty average (with the exception of the tempura appetizer). It’s true that we didn’t try the steaks, which may be amazing, but you would think that a restaurant celebrating “Lobster Summer” would come through on the party’s guest of honour. I didn’t have a bad experience at the Keg, but I’m sure I can find a tastier $130 two-person meal in Toronto.

Rich sez: My past experiences at the Keg have been meh. The first time I had their steak, it was amazing — one of the best I have ever had. Over the next few visits, however, they were some of the worst. So, now being a  “fishetarian,” I thought it might be worth trying out their seafood menu. Tiger shrimp skewers ahoy, with some mash-it-up potatoes.

The presentation was great, the tiger shrimp were huge , but they were also over-cooked and a little stringy. Sad. The mashed potatoes were as good as the instant microwavable ones — you know the ones — Betty Crocker’s box full of powder, add water, milk and toss in the microwave and, presto chango, potatoes that are surprisingly delicious. Well, the Keg’s were even better then Crocker’s, and if I were ever to feel like going back and over-paying for my dinner, I would just order a big plate of those mashed taters.

I just want to add my two cents to the disgusting dessert — it was disgusting.

If you’re going to the Keg, order the steak – obviously.

Review: Jawny Bakers

July 28, 2009

Jawny Bakers

Address: 804 O’Connor Drive, Toronto

Website

Alana had: Grilled vegetable sandwich with fries.

Rich had: Roasted veggie calzone.

Plus: Generous portions. Lots of veggies. Tasty food. Great service/staff.

Minus: Generic atmosphere and menu.

Rating: 7 happy birthdays out of 10

Rich sez: After a laid-back afternoon spent watching Arrested Development, Alana and I headed out with some family to celebrate my Uncle Ray’s 57th birthday. According to my cousin, my uncle ALWAYS wants to eat at Jawny Bakers for his birthday. Alana and I had never even heard of this place until now.

As you park in the rear and walk past their patio, Jawny Bakers looks like your run-of-the-mill, cookie-cutter family sports bar/restaurant. When we walked in we were greeted by super friendly staff, bombarded by flat screen TVs playing sports (fine with me), and swarmed by rambunctious little-leaguers running amuck. Our hostess led us to a table by the front window — people watching was a go.

As I skimmed through the menu, I came to a stop at their Halibut and Chips.
Guinness beer-battered Alaskan halibut with some French fries, tartar sauce and coleslaw. Sounds really good — how much? $20.89! What? Why? I was blown away by the price, so I quickly moved onto something else. I paused at the pizza section of the menu and noticed that they only have one pizza that is offered as a calzone. But, with a positive attitude and a big smile, I was able to talk the waitress into getting the Roasted Vegetable Pizza turned into a calzone for me [These are not the droids you’re looking for]. In the past, my experiences with calzones have usually been disappointing — they are always too doughy and the toppings are usually nowhere to be found. My expectations were not high for Jawny Bakers version.

As we waited, I drank a mediocre Caeser, follwed by a pint of Stella Artois — Cheers to Uncle Ray! Here comes the food. When it was plopped down in front of me, to my surprise, my calzone had a light thin-crust shell and was the size of my head. Now that’s big! As I cut into it to look inside, I found a hot vegetable orgy taking place. Its grilled zucchini, red onions, roasted red peppers, basil tomato sauce, and mozzarella were so well balanced, it was a flavour overload. Every dip into the marinara sauce was like a peek into heaven. I still can’t believe how good this calzone was — easily the best I have ever tasted. Alana wanted a piece … I was hesitant to let her try some but, with a simple wink of the eye, I understood what was for dessert.

Conclusion: Now that I have experienced the food at Jawny Bakers, the $20.89 for Halibut and Chips might not be so crazy. I will definitely give it a try next year for my Uncle Ray’s 58th birthday.

Alana sez: I was not overly optimistic as we stepped into Jawny Bakers — like Rich said, the decor and atmosphere are very generic and chain-like. My apprehension was not eased when I had a look at the menu — this was your standard family restaurant fare, clearly aiming to please all palates with the usual non-threatening offerings. I finally decided on the grilled vegetable sandwich and settled in to enjoy the company of Rich’s family.

I only made it about a quarter of the way through my gigantic Diet Pepsi (JB doesn’t serve Diet Coke — automatic rating reduction! Just kidding. Maybe.) before our food arrived. My grilled veggie sandwich was humungous. Thick slabs of grilled zucchini, an entire grilled pepper, and loads of roasted onion were joined by tomato, lettuce, lots of goat cheese, and some pesto mayo on a piece of flatbread that was folded around the fillings into something like a Kong-sized taco. Once I overcame the challenge of wrapping my mouth around this absurdly large sandwich, I was pleased to find that it was actually pretty awesome. The combination of flavours was great, the veggies tasted exceptionally fresh, and the flatbread was perfectly fluffy and delicious. My sandwich was paired with a generous portion of crispy French fries, but I barely touched those — after I finished cramming the Godzilla-wich into my gate, there was no way anything else would fit in my belly.

Although I was initially skeptical about Jawny Bakers, I’m happy to say that it demolished my expectations when it came to the food. Despite the bland atmosphere and menu, the food quality greatly exceeds what you would normally find in a restaurant of this type. If you ever find yourself looking for a chain-like restaurant to take some of your less-adventurous family or friends, but you still want good eats, consider Jawny Bakers — it’s a thousand times better than Moxie’s, Kelsey’s, or anything else you would find in the same parking lot as a movie theatre.

pizza libretto

 Address: 221 Ossington Ave, Toronto

Website

Rich and Alana both ordered: The Locally-Inspired 4-Course $25 Prix Fixe Menu

Plus: Excellent value. Local ingredients. Fresh and tasty eats. Amazing olive oil!

Minus: Impersonal service. Hipster vibe may have been taken a little too far.

Rating: 8 ironic t-shirts out of 10

Alana sez: When I heard that Pizzeria Libretto was doing a prix fixe menu featuring local ingredients, I couldn’t wait to check it out. I was already a big fan of their Neapolitan pizza, but I was curious to see how they would work Ontario-sourced food into a wider menu. Rich and I, along with our pals Steve and Lisa, headed down to Ossington this past weekend to give it a go.

We decided to head down to the area early, because Pizzeria Libretto tends to get busy. Like, lineups-out-the-door busy. We hunkered down across the street at the Crooked Star so that we could sip on some unique Caesars while we waited for the restaurant to open. As I was enjoying my spicy and delicious Jerk Caesar, we started to notice a small group of people gathering outside of Pizzeria Libretto. At 3:30 PM. On a Sunday. Clearly, there is a lot of hype around this little joint — we were hoping the prix fixe menu would live up to the reputation.

When we finished our cocktails, we crossed the street and headed into Pizzeria Libretto. The space is decorated largely in stainless steel and wood and, despite the rope lights over the bar and the communal table at the back, has a somewhat cold and unfriendly feel to it. As we were led to our table by one of the many young and hipster-fashionable wait staff, I couldn’t help but feel that Pizzeria Libretto is too cool for me — like that friend in high school who would make you feel like an idiot for not knowing about that hall in the next small town that throws rave parties on the weekends.

This vibe continued as we sat down and were given menus by our waiter, who seemed like he would rather be somewhere else — somewhere more ironic and, thereby, more awesome. Throughout our meal the service, although extremely efficient and responsive, was also distracted and impersonal. I don’t need my waiter to be my best friend — just don’t make me feel like less of a person because I don’t have a unicorn/kitten/howling wolf on my shirt.

We started by picking a red wine from the Ontario wine list, which was quickly dismissed by our waiter as being inferior. He suggested a different, similarly-priced one from their regular list, the 2006 Brigaldara Valpolicella, and quickly brought the bottle over to our table. His suggestion was a good one — this was a very tasty wine. As we enjoyed it, we chose the items we would like from the prix fixe menu. I settled on the Ontario pea soup to start, the rapini pizza featuring Ontario Fiore Di Latte mozzarella, and the Ontario strawberries for dessert.

The first course brought to our table was the “chef’s choice” bruschetta. We had specified vegetarian, so the six slices of toasty baguette placed in front of us were topped with combinations like baby tomatoes and basil or roasted tomatoes with a mild white cheese. We shared and sampled all the options, and agreed that they all tasted fantastic — fresh, bold flavours. Along with the bruschetta, we were given some italian bread and olive oil for dipping. This olive oil was some of the best I’ve ever tasted. It’s flavour was as vibrant as its bright yellow colour, and I could have dipped bread in that oil all day. It’s a good thing our starters came out soon after.

Placed in front of me was a bowl of bright green soup, drizzled with some of that delicious olive oil. I dived in to find that the mild sweetness of the Ontario peas and the smooth mouthfeel of the pureed soup made for an ethereal eating experience. I wanted that bowl to last forever, and as I scooped up the last few bites, I felt a profound sense of loss. Luckily, my pizza was on the move towards our table.

My pizza was about 11-inches in diameter, and topped with bright green rapini, black olives, dollops of goat cheese, and the Ontario mozarella. I couldn’t wait to dig in. The crust at Pizzeria Libretto is very thin and cooked in an extremely hot oven, giving it a crispy, slightly charred taste and texture in the style of Neapolitan pizza. In fact, as of July 22nd, Pizzeria Libretto is the first restaurant in Canada  to be VPN certified to make authentic Neapolitan pizzas. Kudos to them! You can taste the difference — my pizza was very flavourful, and I loved dipping the crust into the chile-infused olive oil that was brought to our table. That stuff is like crack.

We were pretty stuffed after our pizzas, but there was still some room for dessert. My Ontario strawberries were served with Zabaglione, a sweet and very light custard. I could tell that the strawberries were locally grown — they had a sweetness and juicyness that no supermarket strawberries can ever achieve. The bitterness of my excellent espresso matched perfectly with the dessert and, with the end of my meal, I was completely sated. As we poured out onto the street to head to Steve and Lisa’s place for Taboo and more wine, we all agreed that our dinners had been fabulous, but we could have done with a little less hipness on the side.

 Rich sez:   The Crooked Star — Easily by far the best place in Toronto, with the best variety, for a Caesar lover. I ordered the Tandoori, Alana had a Jerk, and our friend Steve decided to experiment with the Mustard and Capers Caesar. I sampled all three and found the Tandoori still to be my favorite. The Jerk was very light and spicy. The Mustard and Capers …  people who hate Caesars usually say they don’t like drinking a meal. Well, that was exactly the way I felt with the Mustard and Capers. It tasted fine, but it was like drinking a Clamato milkshake. I do not, NOT, recommend trying this Caesar — you just might have no room for dinner after you’re finished. After a couple of rounds of Caesars I felt like we were  living in a Mott’s Clamato commercial — I swear that, once we got a Caesar, everybody that was in the bar with us (1 guy) ordered Caesars.

 Oh yeah we are reviewing Pizzeria Libretto

On to Pizzeria Libretto –- For my appetizer I had … Where does the word appetizer come from anyway? Did waiters just get tired of asking “How can we fill your appetite, Sir?”, and to add a cool factor they threw in a Z??? Sorry, I am watching  Seinfeld as I write this, LOL.  So for my appetite, sir, I had the Caprese Salad concoction that was bright, fresh, and lightly dressed. Mouth watering. For my pizza, I was in the mood for some craziness that night so I decided to hop on board the WILD mushroom ride. It was a good thin crust pizza with fresh mushrooms and tarragon, but it wasn’t waiting-in-line-out-the-door-for-an-hour worthy. Luckily we did go in a little early to avoid the crowd, but if we were to go there again and there was a line, I would just keep walking to the next joint.

I don’t mind Pizzeria Libretto; I just don’t get the hype.  Yes, they have fresh ingredients and a certain style of pizza, Neapolitan I think, for which I guess now they’ve been awarded something called a VPN certificate.  I’m just not the biggest fan of that type of pizza. I just had a cheese pizza from Vesuvios in the Junction a few weeks prior, and that was fantastic. And if it is the thin crust you crave, try out Terroni’s for their southern Italian style. Don’t get me wrong — I would recommend trying out Pizzeria Libretto. I loved the appetizers and desserts. When it comes to pizza, however, I would just rather stay at home and make my own with Alana, which is just what we did a few days later.

Review: Curry Twist

July 21, 2009

Curry Twist Samosas

Address: 3034 Dundas Street West, Toronto

Website

Rich and Alana both ordered: Veggie Samosas, Baigan Bharta, Matar Paneer Masala, Naan, and King Fisher Lager.

Plus: Extremely fresh and flavourful food. Friendly staff. Great service. Calm atmosphere.

Minus: These curries may be addictive.

Rating: 10 samosas out of 10

Alana sez: I was first introduced to Indian food about 13 years ago by a close friend who happens to be Punjabi, and the experience blew my mind. So many new and unique flavours! I’m still no expert on Indian cuisine but it’s become one of my absolute favourite things to eat, and so I’m always on the lookout for tasty curry. Recently, Rich and I went on a search for some spicy deliciousness, and found ourselves in front of Curry Twist in the Junction.

Stepping into Curry Twist, you’re warmly greeted by the chefs, who work in an open kitchen at the front of the house. Our friendly waitress quickly led Rich and I to an intimate table for two near the kitchen, so we could watch the cooks in action. We both ordered a King Fisher Lager to drink, because nothing washes down Indian food better than cold beer, and settled in to scan the menu. We’re both naan fiends, so we wanted to order a couple dishes that would be easily scooped up by the soft flatbread. We settled on Baigan Bharta, a smoked eggplant mash, and Matar Paneer Masala, peas and paneer in masala sauce. We also ordered a couple veggie samosas (the appetizer special that night) to start.

As we waited for our samosas, we took in the restaurant’s atmosphere. It’s painted in soft greens and oranges, and decorated with Indian dishes and spices. Coloured lanterns give the place a soft glow, and sitar music plays on the stereo. It’s a very calming space — a perfect contrast to the spicy excitement of the food. The service at Curry Twist is as soothing as the decor — the wait staff is knowledgeable and casual, making you feel right at home. The chefs in the kitchen are ridiculously calm and methodical, even as patrons pile into the restaurant. By the time our appetizer came, Rich and I were nearly lulled into a meditative state by it all. Om.

We dove into the samosas as soon as they were placed on our table. Crispy brown on the outside, with diced potato and spices inside, these were clearly not your typical pastries from the frozen section of the supermarket. They were accompanied by a sweet and sour tamarind sauce for dipping, which complemented the spiciness of the potato very well. I basically inhaled mine.

Next to come were our main dishes and a re-up of King Fisher. Two gigantic pieces of pillowy naan took up most of our table, and I quickly tore off a piece to scoop up some of the Baigan Bharta. I’m not normally much of an eggplant fan, but I immediately fell in love with this dish’s smoky and spicy flavour. I broke up with Rich right there and changed my name to Mrs. Alana Bharta — it was that good. The next partner for my naan was the Matar Paneer Masala — fresh green peas and bouncy, lightly browned paneer swimming in a slightly sweet, slightly spicy, and completely delicious sauce. We were amazed by the freshness of the veggies in both of our dishes and, unlike a lot of lesser Indian joints, we were happy to find that the food was not greasy at all.

As we devoured the last of our meals and paid our super-reasonable tab, Rich and I could not stop talking about the awesomeness of what we had just experienced. Curry Twist is easily one of the best Indian restaurants I’ve visited in Toronto, or anywhere else for that matter. I’m pretty sure Rich and I are now addicted to this rad Junction spot, and we’ll be returning for another fix soon.

Rich sez:  How do you give anything a ten out of ten? Well, both Alana I could not come up with any reason not to give Curry Twist the perfect score.

It’s not just a great Indian restaurant, but one of the best restaurant experiences I have ever had. It’s such a relaxed and unpretensious atmosphere and, like Alana said, you’re greeted well by the staff and, as you are brought to your table, you are also greeted by big smiles from the chefs. Another cool thing is the glossary of spices, sauces, etc. at the front of the restaurant for those who don’t know much about Indian food.

We were seated right in front of the kitchen and, as I was watching Alana suck back her sixth samosa, I noticed everybody who finished their meals made a point to walk up and give a warm thank you to the chefs on their way out the door.  How great is that?

So, just like Alana said, the food was amazing. I do however want to add that the food had just the right amount of spice; SPICY enough to get that drip coming out of your nose, but not TOO spicy where you can no longer taste your meal. As we were on our second round of  beers, it seemed like dinner was going off with out a hitch,  until a slight chill ran down my spine. I looked over my shoulder just in time to see the Oxy Clean guy walk in and be seated in my direct eyeline (I know the Oxy Clean guy is dead, so imagine my surprise when he is seated in front of me in an Indian restaurant in the Junction!). He was by himself and full of stink-eyes. Everybody was getting them, the waitress, me, the chefs — his stink-eye was so strong he made a baby cry …  So, with his strong hate-on for the restaurant and everything living around him, I was led to believe that when he got his food, he would spit in the waitress’ face, kick her down on the ground, and spike a Naan on her head — but I was wrong. Once he got his food, he seem to settle his stank-eye down — his mood changed towards everything, he became friendly with the staff, he was high-five-ing the chefs, kissing babies, he gave me a wink once he found out Alana left me for the Bharta. What I am trying to say is I witnessed a skeptical, grumpy old man, with horribly-dyed facial hair, change into a happy, full bellied young Santa Claus right before my very own eyes. No, the Curry Twist food will not cure cancer, nor will it get you pregnant, but what it does do is satisfy your hunger for a comfortable, affordable meal, that all can share and enjoy.  Cheers to you Curry Twist and thank you to the Chefs.

RIP Billy Mayes

Fresh Rolls

Address: 1830 The Queensway, Etobicoke

Rich and Alana both ordered: Fried veggie spring rolls, curry pad thai with tofu and veggies, Evergreen vegetable curry, and Diet Cokes

Plus: Tasty spring rolls. Super-fresh vegetables in everything.

Minus: Lame atmosphere. Food was oily and bland, with no spice.

Rating: 5 greasy noodles out of 10

Rich sez: On a hot sunny summer Saturday afternoon, Alana and I stopped by a friend’s house, had a few drinks and, as a group, decided to order UFC-100 that night. As we made plans, we all came to the consensus that the night would not be complete without Garfield Tortilla Chips. On the hunt for the orange chips, we developed a craving for some spicy food. The closest restaurant was “Fresh Rolls” a Thai-Vietnamese fusion place plopped in the middle several box store giants and chain restaurants — Red Lobster, Jack Astor’s, Canyon Creek, etc.  At first glance we were skeptical, because there were only two people inside. The selling point for us was The Toronto Star article pasted to the door giving the restaurant a 3 out of 4 star rating. Okay, let’s try it out. We asked for a table with no sun, but that’s what we got. The floors were cold pastel tiles, and the art was tacky — the best piece was just a bunch of framed chop sticks. We ordered deep fried veggie spring rolls, curry pad Thai with tofu and veggies, and Evergreen vegetable curry to share. Before our meals came, I went to the washroom. When I got up to go I noticed a small table with a pile of hand-made plastic bracelets — it looked like a mini craft sale or something. So swing, zip, pee, zip, wash, dry, swing, bracelets, sit, dinner.

The spring rolls were bigger than you would normally find, which was awesome. I love spring rolls, and they were packed full of flavor with a nice light salad on the side. The main courses came and they looked great — nice presentation, a decent size portion, but the Curry Pad Thai…WTF! It had no spice, no flavor, and was as oily as early ‘90s  Ice Cube’s Jheri curl. Its only saving grace was the Evergreen vegetable curry sauce from the other main course, which I drizzled all over my portion of the Pad Thai. That being said, the Evergreen Vegetable Curry was good, not great (My-Thai restaurant in Hamilton on John Street is hard to top for green curry), but this did not stop me from licking the bowl clean. At the end of the dinner, Alana and I were both disappointed. And under closer investigation on the way out, the prices of the bracelets from the craft table were too high, the Toronto Star review was from 2007, and we did not find Garfield Tortilla Chips. Old Dutch it is.

Alana sez: I had always been curious about Fresh Rolls, since it’s right across the street from the mall I do most of my shopping at –Sherway Gardens. Now that I’ve finally gotten around to trying it, I can see that I wasn’t missing much. Like Rich said, the atmosphere was cold and weird, and the food was generally bland and too greasy. However, the vegetables in all of our dishes tasted extremely fresh, which I did appreciate. Overall, Fresh Rolls was a pretty “meh” experience for me and I don’t think I would return unless I was desperate for something to eat in the chain-dominated area — at least it’s better than Jack Astor’s.

Review: Swan Restaurant

July 13, 2009

Address: 892 Queen Street West, Toronto

Rich and Alana both ordered: Grilled cheese with pear and watercress, a side of the soup of the day, and Caesars.

Plus: Amazing Caesars. Extra-gooey grilled cheese. Cute decor.

Minus: Bland soup. Limited vegetarian options. Where’s the pear?

Rating: 7 horseradish roots out of 10

Alana sez: This past Canada Day, Rich and I found ourselves in search of a new (to us) spot to meet up with Rich’s cousins Bob and Laura for lunch. I had heard good things about Swan Restaurant, so we dragged our sleepy, mildly-hungover butts out to Queen West to soak up some sun, national pride, and family fun time. As we stepped into Swan, we were immediately taken by its vintage diner decor and bustling atmosphere — it was a good thing we had made a reservation, because the place was packed. As we waited for Bob and Laura, Rich and I sipped some Diet Coke and perused the lunch menu. Everything, including the daily specials, sounded great, but there were unfortunately not a lot of dishes for us fishetarians to choose from. We settled on the grilled cheese sandwich with pear and watercress, and ordered the soup of the day for the side (a vegetarian Caribbean-spiced bean soup). Since it was our nation’s birthday, we also decided to enjoy a round of all-Canadian Caesars.

First to arrive were our drinks — bright red and served in a tall glass with plenty of ice. At Swan, they grate fresh horseradish into their Caesars, which is a delicious touch. All 4 of us agreed that these were some high-quality Caesars, but I’ll let Rich elaborate since he’s our Caesar connoisseur. Our meals followed soon after, and I could hardly wait to dig into my perfectly-browned sandwich, which was oozing with melted cheese. My first bite did not disappoint — crispy bread, tangy cheese, and an interesting fresh flavour from the watercress. However, the pear in my sandwich had apparently gone the way of Carmen Sandiego because there was no sweetness in sight. I don’t know if it was the type of pear used, over-ripeness, or too-thin slices that was the culprit, but the pear was completely overpowered by the rest of the sandwich ingredients, sadly. I turned my attention to the soup and found it somewhat lacking in flavour, despite the cute dollop of sweet and sour chutney on top. It wasn’t bad soup, just kind of boring next to my gooey grilled cheese sandwich and my perfectly-seasoned Caesar. After lunch, Rich, Bob, Laura, and I piled out onto busy Queen West for some gallery browsing with happy full bellies. All in all,  I was generally impressed with Swan and will definitely return to try out their much-hyped brunch in the near future.

Rich sez: What she said…LOL.

Swan for me stands for So-Where’s the-Art-Neil? I don’t know if the chefs name was Neil or not but Swan is surrounded by a lot of great art studios/ galleries and they do not have one piece of art up on their walls. I guess the old-school Coke cooler they use to ice oysters and make fresh horseradish Caesers makes up for it. I loved the atmosphere, with its retro booths (coat racks attached).  Having reservations did help — the restaurant was consistently busy with a line up outside the door and they even gave us the best seats in the house. I agree with Alana about the food. The soup was bland, the grilled cheese was scrumptious, even though the pear was nowhere to be found. Now on to the Caesars — yes the fresh horseradish was a nice touch, the ingredients were well-balanced, it’s a great Caesar, but not spicy enough. That’s just my own preference, and after having a Crooked Star tandoori Caesar on Ossington and Bryden’s classic Caesar on Jane, Swan’s can take third place ribbon for the time-being.

Fatima's

Address: 3108 Dundas Street West, Toronto

Alana ordered: A plain omelette and a Diet Coke

Rich ordered: Eggs Florentine and a coffee

Plus: Very pleasant service. Old movies playing on the TV.

Minus: The food.

Rating: 3 fake flowers out of 10

 Alana sez: When Rich and I walked into Fatima’s, we were impressed by the calming decor and atmosphere in this new addition to the Junction neighborhood — we were immediately soothed by the exposed brick walls, modern furniture with clean lines, Casablanca on the TV, opera on the stereo, and the single flower on every table. When we were seated by the extremely pleasant and friendly Fatima, however, we noticed that these flowers were 100% fake — pretty on the surface, but with no real life to them. This would become a metaphor for our entire experience at Fatima’s.

We were encouraged when Rich received his coffee, which was delicious, and also when we began to look at the menu – everything sounded amazing. I went with the plain omelette, which comes with frites, and Rich ordered the eggs florentine. Our attentive server refilled my Diet Coke and brought us butter, jam, ketchup, and aioli in individual serving dishes while we waited for our food. We were hopeful that Fatima’s could become our new regular bruch spot in the Junction. Then the food arrived, and everything went downhill. My omelette was a mass of dark brown, overcooked and oversalted eggs piled messily on my plate. The “frites” were actually thick-cut, soggy, and greasy french fries and dipping them in the runny, flavourless aioli did nothing to improve them. My multigrain toast looked pretty, decorated with appetizing grill lines, but it was too cold to melt the butter I spread on it.  While Fatima’s looks nice, and the service is excellent, the most important part of any restaurant experience — the food — is an epic fail.

Rich sez:  Brunch is one of my favorite things to do in life and when something goes awry, I get screw-faced. Sure Casablanca playing on a flat screen was a nice calming brunch mood-setter, sure the coffee had a slight chocolate taste to it, but with bagged store bought bagels sitting on the counter, I knew the food was going to be an experience. I ordered the Eggs Florentine, one of my favorite dishes. When brought to the table it looked delicious, with frites and three little dipping sauces. Yes BRUNCH!!! I immediately grabbed a frite and sauced that bad boy up with some aioli. I was so hungry that I didn’t even realize that I was holding a limp soggy sponge and the aioli was like a watered-down Pizza Pizza garlic sauce. And I hate Pizza Pizza – you might as well deep-fry some cheese on cardboard. Anyway, back to Fatima’s. Let’s try the Florentine…Smells good.

Before I cut into my eggs Alana asked the waitress for some salt. The waitress quickly replied, “Oh I’m sorry dear, we are all out of salt, we used it all in your boyfriend’s Eggs Florentine…” BWHAAA??? With the amount of salt they put in my eggs, it could have salted a pathway for a snowed-in school day. I have no idea why they even added salt with smoked salmon already on the dish. Oh well, the hollandaise sauce will make up for it. Oh wait, where is that mouth watering fatty hollandaise sauce I love so much??? Oh, it was replaced by lemon-water-salt sauce. So, with limp fries, garlic water dip, and salty eggs, I downed four cups of their yummy coffee to get as much bang for Alana’s buck as I could (I made her grab the bill, LOL). Final thoughts – Fatima’s is like your dirt mall Santa. On the outside it looks so friendly, loving and inviting, with its bright décor, cute elves and soothing melodies, but once you get closer you can smell the booze on his breath, see his actual hair color sticking out from his beard, and the candy canes are from last year.

Diclaimer: Clearly, we do not recommend brunch at Fatima’s, but we have not had a chance to try this place for any other meals — to be fair, dinner or lunch may be better.