- Wanting to try something new, and looking for a cool place to go for pre-Yuk-Yuks dinner and drinks, my friend and I decided to try out Everest Restaurant on Queen West.
What seemed to be a quiet Saturday evening when we first arrived at 7pm, quickly turned into a fairly busy “club” like dining experience. And Everest is certainly dressed to impress. The restaurant feels both sexy and modern, with dark mood lighting, clean lines, comfortable and cozy booth seating, and an eclectic playlist/DJ, depending on what night you are in. With a great view of Queen West for people watching, and MuchMusic across the street, the atmosphere, music and style of the restaurant blend in perfectly with the locals.
I was very excited to try a new place with an interesting food theme, something a little different from the usual weekend dinner and drinks, and hoping to find a new “go-to” place for a fun and creative meal. I secured reservations before our arrival, however, we were greeted with a bit of a frosty reception, waved to an area in the front of the room, and told I could sit wherever I wanted. Unorthodox, maybe, but sit we did!
Putting the hostesses’ indifference behind us, we decided to delve straight into the wine menu, and with a little help from our server, selected the Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon Knights Valley, a California vintage from 2009 for about $40. The wine was excellent, and I found the wine menu to be well priced for the quality of wines on the list.
The dinner menu ($15-$20) presents a somewhat more challenging predicament. Filled with Tibetan and Indian dishes, along side the same old North American stand-by of pasta and sandwiches, I found myself unsure if this was a Tibetan restaurant, or your average Italian eatery all dressed up. It’s not that I mind an eclectic menu, in fact I appreciate one, however when venturing out to try a new type of cuisine (in this case, Tibetan), one wants to be sure that the restaurant is absolutely committed to their craft, and have their “specialty cuisine” down pat. Thus, I was unsure of whether venturing into the momas (Tibetan dumplings) and sha-momo (spinach and beef), or the fettuccine alfredo was the better option.
After some quality deliberation between the Tibet/North America paradox, I decided to try a platter, a mix of several different Tibetan style foods, to allow myself to experience as much of the cuisine as possible.
The menu seemed heavy on potatoes, stewed meats and rice, so I decided to try almost all of the above. The stewed potatoes were good, cooked just right, but tasted much like something I could make at home, no real special spice or flavour that made me feel like I was trying something exotic. The rice was cooked with raisins, which just didn’t do it for me, and was a little bland. My meal was served with steamed Tibetan vegetables (broccoli and carrots), which aside from not seeming exceptionally Tibetan to me, were surprisingly good. An interesting side note, both of our meals were served with naan bread, which really was just pita bread from my estimation. Overall, I was fairly underwhelmed by my choice. My friend ordered the butter chicken on rice with naan bread (same problem), and said that she enjoyed her meal. The butter chicken looked and tasted pretty standard to me, so that must be a good thing, but neither of us could really wrap our heads around the lack on naan bread at restaurant serving Indian food.
While I thoroughly enjoyed Everest restaurant for its attention to the design décor and ambience, I was definitely a little disappointed with my first foray into Tibetan food. I think the next time we decide to go out for Tibetan style cuisine, we will try “Little Tibet” further down Queen Street.
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- Offering up “snacks and libation” from 5pm to 2am, Monday to Saturday, this brand new spot just north of Queen proves to be a great and funky stop to grab a little bite.
There are three reasons why this new restaurant appealed to me…
First, the atmosphere is very cool and casual – there really is no theme or décor; it almost looks as though they opened before they were done decorating, but in a charming way that allows it to become almost homelike in its honesty. Even the menu is printed on a piece of lined paper that remains set on the table on a (mini-sized) clipboard.
Second, someone here has tapped into that great ordeal; you have already eaten dinner, but the energy spent on socializing has left you feeling a bit ravenous. The problem is that you don’t want to go out for a whole second meal. The answer: Snack Bar. The small, inexpensive portions are a perfect pairing with after work drinks (you won’t ruin your dinner appetite) or a nightcap (you won’t stuff yourself to the point of uncomfortable).
Third, they understand that “snack” to food-lovers means more than grabbing a granola bar or settling for a muffin for satisfaction. They have nibble-sized some of your favourite late-night snacks, including a grilled hot dog, pork belly on a bun, Jamaican beef patties and pizza pockets at an appetizing price-point of $3 – $6. There are a few other items, like oysters (coming in at $6 – $7) and latkes with gravlax, to give the menu some oomph.
I started with the pork belly on a bun, one of items I saw featured on their website – a delicious crispy pork morsel tucked inside a steamed bun, filled with Asian-inspired flavours (like Hoisin and chili sauces) and some leaves of arugula, making a wonderfully balanced salty treat.
Then, I rounded things off with a grown-up version of the nostalgia-inducing pizza pocket. This is really more likened to a mini-mini-calzone; it’s crispy and airy, stuffed with cheese and laid upon a bed of rustic tomato sauce. After the super flavourful pork belly bun this almost seemed bland, but it was perfectly cheesy and the crunch was on-point. My dining partner caved in and got the hot dog – it was smaller than expected, but hit the spot – followed by the Jamaican beef patty. Both were good, but the bun and pocket are a more interesting choice at the Snack Bar.
The drinks menu is very scant, but I won’t sneer at a cold beer. Overall, I think 416 Snack Bar is on its way to being one of those great spots in the city. I’m going to keep my eye on this one – it’s something new and unique and, I use the word again, honest. This could prove to be a new favourite for many a food-loving Torontonian.
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- Having a craving for something spiced and exotic and motivated by a friend’s comments that, “there is a good Indian place over on Queen,” I ventured out in hopes of finding something deliciously curried. Upon arrival, we found that this is an odd spot on Queen West where a string of three of four Indian restaurants are all lined up side-by-side, so which to choose?
One thing I love about Toronto restaurants that you won’t always find in smaller cities are menus posted on the outside of the building. Little India stood out for it’s well-organized, easy to understand and well-priced menu – in we went.
It is definitely an intimate spot, having no real capacity to hold very large groups, but was still quite comfortable for our dining duo. It was a cold Thursday night and not overly busy, so it did not feel crowded, and it gave the servers that much more time to be attentive.
The menu is substantial and has a variety of dishes. The price range is about $15 – $20 for an entrée, but be sure to ask which ones come with rice or Naan and which don’t so that you can order them on the side. First up was the mixed platter appetizer, which included samosas, onion bhajia, pakora and spring rolls. Everything was crispy, hot and just the right size for something before the entrée-and it came in at under $5.
For the main, I ordered the chicken kebab and my dinner partner had the Madras chicken. Fair warning: if they tell you it’s going to be hot, then it’s truly hot. We are all too accustomed to those Canadian-ized restaurants that tone down their spiciness to appease the masses, and it is arguable that Little India may do this too, but in any case, take the servers’ recommendations to heart. I do enjoy some heat, but my taste buds can’t handle extremes, so I steered clear on this occasion-except for a little taste of the Madras. For those of you who do like spice, you’ll love this! It has that heat that creeps up after a few bites, not that punch-in-the-face-burn that you might get from cheap chicken wings covered in Frank’s Red Hot. Our server did lean my friend toward the less-spicy of the dishes she was deciding between at first, much to her dismay, but as it turns out his suggestion right on. As for my tamer dish, it had more of a Mediterranean flavour to it; grilled, lemony and came with a cucumber salad garnished with cilantro. It was a happy reminder of summer while dining in the depths of winter.
One of the greatest things about this restaurant is something I was not even able to take advantage of: the lunch buffet. This is a bit of a hike from my own home and workplace, but for those of you in the area, I say go for it! Buffets have a bit of a bad reputation (and for the most part it’s well-deserved), but a small arrangement at a non-chain location like this can be a perfect opportunity to try a variety of what is on the menu, especially if it is food you’re mostly unfamiliar with.
Overall, I can’t leave you saying it was the very best Indian cuisine I’ve ever had, but I can say that I wasn’t disappointed, and I would go back again-especially for that buffet.
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