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Chococrepe

Posted on August 4, 2012 by in Trinity Bellwoods

chococrepe

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4 Stars

Crepes aren’t just for dessert folks.  That’s what Dewey Truong, owner of Chococrepe wants you to know.  Yes, they are paper thin, but they aren’t as one dimensional when it comes to their meal potential.  Walking into the Queen West restaurant on a hot summer day, the last thing that I wanted to eat for lunch was a Nutella and chocolate smeared crepe, so it’s a good thing there was so much more on the menu. 

Don’t let the name fool you.  At Chococrepe, the menu is divided into savoury and sweet options.  So yes, they do offer the obligatory Nutella crepe along with a slew of other sinfully sweet creations, but they also have an impressive selection of crepes with fillings usually associated with sandwiches or wraps.

To start off we had the Pesto ($9.25) which came with egg, mozzarella , pesto and arugula served on a buckwheat crepe.  Now I’m not an eggs anytime of the day person as I lump them into the breakfast only category, so this probably wouldn’t be my go to crepe, but it was tasty nevertheless.  The egg was fluffy, the pesto made its presence known without stealing the show, and arugula is never a bad idea. 

All of the savoury menu items come served on buckwheat crepes which are a bit similar to whole wheat wraps in their texture and consistency.  Despite the name though, it’s interesting to note that buckwheat is gluten free, so while I can’t speak for the filling, the crepe itself is a good option for those who are at least sensitive to gluten.

To round out our savoury options we tried the Country and the Chipotle Chicken (both $9.25).  The Country comes stuffed with cheddar and punctuated with wood-smoked bacon and caramelized pear.  I’m not even a huge fan of bacon (I know…sorry) but I loved this crepe.  The saltiness of the cheddar, the smokiness of the bacon and the sweetness of the pear blended so nicely into a ménage a trois of flavour. (What?  It’s French…like crepes…)

The Chipotle Chicken though, with a generous amount of tender chicken breast, mozzarella, arugula, and chipotle mayo, might have been the winner, but I like anything that comes served with a side of heat.

At this point it’s fair to say we were beyond full, and I was convinced that yes, crepes could be lunch, but it wouldn’t be fair of us to ignore the dessert crepes completely.  So we tried two.  The Berry Banana ($8.75) is the Platonic ideal of a dessert crepe.  Covered with sliced strawberries and bananas, then drizzled with dark and white chocolate, it looks like art (think Jackson Pollock).  This crepe had a nice balance of tart, thanks to the strawberries, and sweet, thanks to everything else. 

Our last crepe of the day came in the form of Crunchy Pear ($8.50), also beautiful in design with sliced Bosch pears, a generous sprinkling of crushed almonds, and painted with milk chocolate, it was a bit sweeter than the Berry Banana due in part to the milk chocolate, but won in the texture category.

All of the dessert crepes here are made with the typical sweetened wheat flour and served open-face which gives diners the artistic license to fold, roll, or just dive in as is.  And it just looks prettier.

 Oh, and I should mention that all of the crepes are huge, taking up plates that are larger than your average plate.  My suggestion is to bring a friend, or two, and sample multiple crepes like we did.

Did I forget to mention the hot chocolate?  Oh yes, we sampled a couple.  They take their hot chocolate seriously here at Chococrepe.  All flavours are made with melted Valhrona chocolate and you can have your choice of having it made with dark or milk chocolate (and in some cases, white) and with cream or milk. We really wanted to try the popular Fleur de Sel Dulce de Leche made with dark chocolate, but sadly it was unavailable, so we went with the Pumpkin and the Coconut.  The Pumpkin ($5.95) was made with milk chocolate, so as not to overpower the spice and milk instead of its heavier counterpart.  It was tasty, but I would liken it more to a chai latte than a hot chocolate.

The Coconut (also $5.95) however, made with white chocolate and cream was something else.  It was rich without being cloyingly sweet and the coconut flavour came through nicely.  I can definitely see myself going back for one of these once the temperature starts to drop, but if you’re craving one now, Truong just installed a brand new air-conditioning system that he’s very proud of. 

I would also be remiss not to comment on the excellent service at Chococrepe.  Truong himself is a living doll, and he goes out of his way to make your experience at Chococrepe a memorable one.  He obviously loves what he is doing, and says that he wants eating at his restaurant to be a comfortable and social experience, not to mention a delicious one.  Check, check, and check.

Footnote:  Why doesn’t the saying go “as flat as a crepe”?  Let’s face it, in comparison, the crepes pancake cousin from the West has a bit of a weight problem.

- Rebecca

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Famoso – The Annex

Posted on July 9, 2012 by in The Annex

Famoso The Annex

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2 Stars

- Walk in to Famoso’s new Annex location and there is no mistaking the kind of restaurant you have entered: a popular, loud hang out for students, families and friends alike. It’s a casual place with daily deals (movies, cheap wine on Wednesdays, etc.), TVs showing Blue Jays’ games and young staff working feverishly to keep up with the sit-in and take-out clientele.  It’s got a pleasant, relaxed vibe and people seemed to be rather enjoying themselves.

Once seated in our booth, we perused the menu and our lovely server explained how the restaurant works: you write down your order on the notepad provided, bring it up to the counter and hand it in. You can either pay right away or begin a tab. Any subsequent orders can be placed through the wait staff. I assume this method is effective for those in a hurry, but it did seem a little odd considering how often our server checked in on us. She also expounded upon the “red sauce” pizzas made with Campania tomato sauce, fior-de-latte mozzarella, basil and pecorino romano cheese. (The “white sauce”pizzas are made with a garlic and olive oil sauce instead of the tomatoes.)

We opted for the prosciutto-wrapped mozzarella balls for an appetizer, the funghi tartufo and San Andreas pizzas and, for dessert, the dolce and banana dish. As with any self-respecting pizza place, they had San Pellegrino on the menu so got an Aranciata (my fave) and a Limonata. My dining companion kindly took the order the counter while I scoped out the huge place before me. Famoso has really nice exposed brick walls, comfortable booths and, by my count, at least three staff members per table. There are a lot of eyes on tables and not much gets missed. The staff is universally nice, if perhaps inexperienced. It lacked a certain finesse, but made up for it in sweet charm.

Our appetizer arrived and I’m glad we asked for salt, pepper and chili flakes. The mozzarella balls were tasty, but the red sauce (which would appear later on our funghi pizza) was very, very sweet. For my liking, too sweet.  A dash of salt and some chili flakes were necessary and helped considerably. I was hoping for crispier prosciutto, too; as a start to the meal, it was pretty average. If you’re going to get an appetizer, I would recommend you try a salad. They looked fresh and tasty.

Our funghi  tartufo pizza arrived fairly shortly afterward. It consisted of roasted white mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, truffle oil and parmiggiano reggiano.  Again, it was better with the salt and chili flakes.  The crusts at Famoso are a bit thicker than is the trend right now, but I liked the chewier texture. I only wish that this pizza had been left in the 900-degree oven a little longer as it needed a little more crispiness to counter the soft, melting cheese that was starting to soak through the crust. (A note: I took a slice of this one home and had it two days later. I have to say, it tasted much better as a leftover!)

Our second pizza – the San Andreas – was a “New World Pizza” with a white sauce, chili-lime marinated chicken and fresh mozzarella. It was then baked and topped with avocado slices, diced roma tomatoes, onion, cilantro, a drizzle of cream and a lime wedge. Certainly not traditional, but pretty darned tasty. The pizza seemed to have stayed in the oven just that little bit longer and had that nice char on the bottom. The lime juice provided a bright flavour and the chicken was tender. (I’d have liked a little more chicken, but that’s a bit of a nitpick. It was a good pizza.) Were I to go back, I would steer my companions toward it if they wanted to try something a little different.

Finally, dessert. This was my favourite dish of the four we tried. A long, rectangular plate of roasted bananas coated in caramelized brown sugar, topped with pecans and caramel sauce and a scoop of ice cream in the middle arrived at the table and my eyes widened. This looked and smelled fantasti and tasted even better. The bananas were piping hot and creamy and contrasted beautifully with the crunch of the sugar and the chill of the ice cream. That dish was devoured in what had to be record time.

Overall, Famoso is…fine. There isn`t anything in particular that stands out but there isn’t anything egregiously wrong with it, either.  It caters to a wide variety of tastes so it is sure to be a good option if you are going out with a group with varying tastes or dietary restrictions or preferences. Do not bother with the prosciutto-wrapped mozzarella balls, but do not skip dessert.

- Carolyn

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The Kennedy Public House

Posted on March 10, 2012 by in Bloor West Village

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4 Stars

- Sharkey’s is no more! And thank God for that. I mean, I know the restaurant options in Bloor West Village are limited, but I really have no idea how that place hung on for as long as it did. With horrible service, brutal food, and staff that spent more time admiring themselves in the mirror than their customers, they created a place that was meant to be avoided. Yet somehow, it managed to exist on that corner for years.

So, imagine my surprise when I saw the beautiful sight of a building permit and brown construction paper covering their windows one day…

A few months later, The Kennedy Public House was born. And boy-oh-boy, this place is exactly what BWV needs. BWV is virtually void of restaurants serving great food. Ok, so there’s earth and Dr. Generosity, but other than that, your choices are pretty limited compared to the tons of options available to other Toronto neighbourhoods. That’s why seeing something as untraditional in BWV as The Kennedy is such a welcoming sight.

The Kennedy has a cool vibe that, if you know the neighbourhood, you wouldn’t expect to see there. It seems oddly out-of-place while at the same time seems oddly comfortable being there. With a laboriously nice interior space, the entire design is well-thought out and pleasant to be in. But surprisingly, The Kennedy isn’t just nice to look at; it also has exceptionally good food.

The Kennedy’s menu doesn’t serve your typical pub grub; it’s much more imaginative than that. Non-traditional items, like polenta burgers, calamari po’boy sandwiches, and pork belly casoulet easily compliment more traditional pub fare, like wings, macaroni and cheese, and thin crust pizzas. Their menu does a fantastic job of covering everyone while still remaining concise and well-thought out.

Working with a number of local businesses, the Kennedy also proudly sources bread and meats from places you’re probably familiar with, like Cobs bread and Wellington County Beef. Nice. I’ve always found that knowing where my food comes from somehow makes it taste better.

One other thing worth mentioning: The Kennedy has unisex bathrooms, which they’ve pulled off nicely. They’ve incorporated them into the place really well, that is, except for the hand-dryer. Their bathroom hand-dryer must be the loudest dam one in the entire free-world. If you happen to be sitting in the back-half of the restaurant, it might even ruin your experience. Hopefully they’ll turn to either cloth or paper towels, or they’ll just find one that is a hell of a lot quieter.

Keep in mind though, if you’re looking for a relaxing experience, this isn’t the place. With strollers and screaming babies during the day that makes it resemble a Montesorri school, and lineups and loud music in the evening that makes it resemble something at John and Adelaide, The Kennedy doesn’t provide a quiet and relaxing experience; what they do provide is a killer take on food you wouldn’t expect to find in a typical public house.

- Andre

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Aux Delices Cafe de Bayview

Posted on February 4, 2012 by in North York

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5 Stars

- If you are on your way to go shopping at Bayview Village, and you need to stop for a quick bite, look no further than Aux Delices Café.

Situated at the main entrance of Bayview, now in its third year of business at the mall, and judging by the patrons that came through in our lengthy Saturday afternoon visit, this place is a hit with the locals. Being situated in a bit more of an upscale mall, Aux Delices caters to their clientele. Health conscious foodies will delight in their selection of fresh, gourmet ingredients, including Panini’s, pastas, crepes, salads, and even specialties like duck l’orange and homemade gelato, just to name a few. There menu is ever changing, depending on seasonal availability, so there is always something new to try at Aux Delices.

We started our meal with the fresh manicotti and roasted mushroom caps, duck l’orange with mushroom and greens, and roasted eggplant salad. Everything tasted like fresh, home cooking. The manicotti ($6.50) was amazing, with melt-in-your-mouth ricotta, and ripe tomatoes that tasted like they were picked form the garden that morning. The stuffed Portobello mushroom cap with cheese and polenta was an awesome side dish, complementing the Italian flavours in the manicotti, but would be great as an entrée on its own.

The duck l’orange was cooked perfectly, tender and succulent, the sauce was sweet and tangy, and the accompanying side salads of oyster mushrooms and greens, and roasted eggplant were in a league of their own. I would have returned just to try a sampling of all their fresh veggie salads.

Next up, a roasted vegetable Panini, recommended by our host. The yellow pepper, red onion and eggplant were soft and easy to eat, with a nice portion of goat cheese on lovely focaccia bread. Moving into crepe territory, we decided to tackle the ham and cheese crepe ($9.50), with tomatoes as well, and would go back for more. Their crepes are light and fluffy, and packed with ingredients. Even better, your crepe is made right in front of you, and you can add any ingredients you like. A fun experience for kids, too.

For those looking for the “café” experience, they serve up delightful illy coffee, and Rahier desserts, that almost make you feel like you are dining in Europe. Their double espressos were great, nice and bold, and the latte was perfect, frothy and steamed to perfection. The homemade gelato was amazing. I love ice cream, and have been a latecomer to the gelato trend, but I am glad that I tried it. We sampled the chocolate, vanilla and pistachio, a must when having gelato, and they were all very well done. The vanilla and chocolate especially, both true to their flavours, with a natural, nuttier taste, rather than overtly sweet.

Aux Delices Café offers a fabulous dining experience, and allows you to stop in for a fast and easy meal, or linger over a cup of coffee and a pastry. All of their meals are available to go, making it a great option to stop in after work for a ready-made meal.

Gourmet meals ready as soon as you order, great coffee and homemade gelato should have you stopping for a break on your next shopping trip.

- Janine

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The Mascot

Posted on January 27, 2012 by in Parkdale

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3 Stars

- Sometimes I ride the 501 streetcar just for something to do.  It’s a fun way to people watch, without really having to watch out for them, but it’s also a great way to spot new businesses, or old ones for that matter.  The past couple of times I took this trip, I wondered what was in the chalkboard-black building on the corner of Queen and Elm Grove.  I assumed it was a gallery given it was such a big space, and I was half right.  The Mascot is a coffee shop that showcases art…or an art gallery that serves coffee, depending on what you’re going for I guess.  I myself was going for the coffee.

At first the place is a bit daunting.  It’s quite large, with a lot of negative space, and very limited seating.  There are two barstools at the counter, a few tables that can seat more than one, and a surprisingly comfy blue velvet couch in the front room, but patrons need to be ready to get creative if all of those are taken.  The back room, which houses the artwork offers up a couple Victorian chairs for those who feel like working on their posture, an old elementary school chair/desk combo, and a springy antique rocking horse (???).  I’m not quite sure if that last option is for display only, or for those who like their coffee with a little bouncy nostalgia, but I for one wasn’t about to find out.  I used to have one of those horses, and I remember getting pinched by the damn springs on a regular basis.  Luckily for us, there was a free table.

My girlfriend ordered a latte while I went with just a basic drip to see what Reunion Island coffee is like in its most vulnerable state.  I should’ve went with the latte.  Not that the drip was bad, but the latte was fantastic. It was smooth and strong without being bitter. The Rosetta adorning the foam was a nice touch as well.  (It should be noted that I went back a few days later for my very own).

As it was around the brunch hour, and breakfast had long worn off we decided to get a couple of treats to go with our coffee.  The edible portion of the menu at The Mascot is provided by OMG Baked Goods, and like the seating, selection is limited.  The cupcakes were tempting but we were in the mood for savoury, so we ordered a ham & cheese quiche along with a stuffed foccacia.

The quiche arrived looking a little bit sad and we faced off as to who would try it first.  We both agreed that it was tastier than we would have guessed, but I’ve definitely had better quiche.  The stuffed foccacia on the other hand was a nice surprise.  It didn’t come to the table looking like much… really just a bun on a plate.  But as with all things stuffed, it’s what’s inside that counts.  Filled with roasted peppers, artichokes and Asiago cheese, it was not unlike a grown-up Hot Pocket…one that got tired of all the negative attention so it moved out of its parents freezer, and adopted a healthier lifestyle.  The quiche was pushed aside, but later finished – out of hunger alone.

Food however is an afterthought at The Mascot.  From what I saw, the people of Parkdale go for the coffee, and rightly so.  There was a steady stream of people coming and going, and judging by the interactions, quite a few regulars.  With friendly laid-back staff, good ambience and amazing lattes, I would make it my local too – if only I lived anywhere near it.

Footnote:  Seating doubles in the warmer months, when it’s comfortable enough to sit on the driftwood looking bench that runs the length of their storefront.  Another good place to do some people watching.

- Rebecca

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The Ace

Posted on January 15, 2012 by in Roncesvalles Village

4 stars

- I am the first to admit that I don’t know Roncesvalles Village well. A friend used to live there many moons ago, but we spent most of our time drinking red wine on her porch until the wee hours in the morning instead of exploring what the neighbourhood had to offer. In recent years, however, the lure of the restaurants lining Roncesvalles Ave has drawn me to the West side of the city more frequently. I never know quite what to expect when I arrive, but I am always pleasantly surprised.

One such surprise awaited me at The Ace. I had heard that the space had been standing empty for ages; even that it had once been a Chinese restaurant. Now headed up by chef Peter McKnight, it has been reopened as a place to stop in for some classic comfort food: fried chicken, burgers, soup, Shepherd’s pie. While the menu has changed, the décor most certainly did not; the new owners have kept as much of the original decoration as possible giving the place an authentic 1950’s feel.

My friend and I settled in for our meal in a booth near the back of across from the open kitchen. When asked what we’d like to drink, I tried to sneak a peek at the taps available only to find that there were none in sight. Well, no taps that I recognized anyway. Our waiter informed us that the fantastic milkshake mixer sitting on the counter served as the taps. A great aesthetic touch behind the bar.

We submitted our drink orders – Mill St. for me, the Ace Manhattan for my friend – and took stock of the menu. Written out on paper were five or six appetizers and five or six mains from which to choose. We pondered several options, but when the waiter announced that one of the specials of the day was a “Christmas burger” the whole plan changed. Ground turkey with stuffing in the middle, topped with cranberry chutney? THIS had to be eaten. As delicious as it sounded, it was actually better than anticipated. It hit all the parts of your palate and it was gobbled up in minutes.

Also sampled were the deep-fried Brussels sprouts with dill aioli and the gorgeous, briny oysters. Both were truly excellent and personified what The Ace is all about: simple food done perfectly. My dining companion and I nearly stabbed each other with our forks trying to get at the Brussels sprouts, something I truly thought would never, ever happen in my lifetime.

If you’re at The Ace, do not miss the fried chicken, which is succulent, juicy and crispy, served with him gravy, collard greens and cornbread (though why the cornbread is served on the gravy is a bit beyond me, as it has the unfortunate effect of making the bread a big soggy after a while). The fresh pasta with tuna, chiles, plum tomatoes and basil was cooked to exactly al dente and the flaked trout with potatoes, radishes and red onions struck a great balance of temperature, texture and flavor.

No matter how full you may be from the well-sized portions, I implore you not to skip dessert. The ice cream in particular is outstanding. Do not miss the oatmeal, stout or chocolate-rosemary concoctions: they are all made in-house and I am not ashamed to admit that I asked for an entire vat of the chocolate-rosemary ice cream to take home so that I could swim in it. Seriously. Do not miss dessert!

By the time we left around 8pm, The Ace had a line up of hungry patrons eager to relax in a comfortable, homey environment with excellent comfort food, attentive staff and a great bartender. I would suggest dressing in layers as it gets quite warm, as evidenced by the perpetually fogged-over front window. Go early or go late or go for brunch. You won’t be disappointed.

- Carolyn

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Earls Kitchen and Bar: King Street

Posted on December 7, 2011 by in Financial District

4 stars

Earls is nestled amongst the business giants at King and University and was teeming with suits and loosened ties on the Thursday night I paid a visit.  The place was packed, and I soon realized that this was not only attributed to its convenient location.  Earl’s serves up some seriously good food.

 I’ll be totally honest right out of the gate and say that I rarely frequent chain restaurants.  If I do, it’s because it’s for a birthday or office party where the show of hands wins.  Chain restaurants don’t usually sell me on coming back for more.  Earls did.

Prior to going, I previewed their menu online and was looking forward to trying some of their new items that promised “West coast flair” and seasonal flavours.  To stick with the seasonal theme (and just because it’s a deadly beer) I ordered a pint of Muskoka Brewery’s Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout to chase everything down.   It turned out to be a fine choice if I do say so myself, especially where dessert was concerned.

We started with the Tuna Poke Nachos ($11.50).  Served on crispy wontons, and loaded with cubed raw tuna, cucumber, avocado and tomato, they looked like they would be a task to eat.  I envisioned myself taking a bite and (if the toppings made it as far as my mouth without falling off) having it crumble, leaving me with half of a naked nacho, or in this case, wonton.  They surprised me though by maintaining their structure (and toppings).  The spicy mango coulis they were drizzled in leant a nice kick with some crushed macadamia nuts paying tribute to the Hawaiian roots of the dish. I’m not normally a big fan of sushi, but in this case the texture of the tuna and avocado married nicely with the crispiness of the wontons.

Next was the Gnocchi with Italian Rose Sauce ($10.50).  I love gnocchi, but it is associated with being too heavy and too filling often because, well, it usually is.  Not in this case.  Earl’s handmade potato gnocchi was the perfect consistency throughout.  Consistent consistency if you will.  And true we shared it, but it was a generous portion and neither of us felt weighted down afterwards.  That wasn’t the best part though.  The title of the dish doesn’t do it justice.  This gnocchi isn’t served in just any ordinary rose sauce… it’s served in a rose sauce made of San Marzana tomatoes, burrata cheese and fresh basil.  This, my friends, is the Margharita pizza of gnocchi.  Enough said.

Being ambitious (see: gluttonous), we welcomed the Pulled Pork Sandwich ($13.50) and Potato & Leek Soup ($7) to our table.  I’ll start with the soup…although in reality that wasn’t the sequence of events.  The soup was creamy and filled with chunks of potato (skin still on…because that’s where all the vitamins are!).  It was good, but let’s face it, it didn’t compare to the main event of this course.  Even halved, our plates were dwarfed.  This is one behemoth of a sandwich.  Piled with tender BBQ braised pork and coleslaw then dressed with a fiery chipotle mayo, this sandwich was a nice balance of spicy and sweet.  It was messy like it should be so keep the napkins close at hand.  I had almost reached my limit but I knew dessert was on the way, so I exercised some will power (says the girl on her third course) and left a few bites on my plate.  I would be lying if I said I wasn’t sad to see it go.

You might think that by this point we were too full to even consider the possibility of dessert, and by daily caloric standards, we probably should have been.  But we laughed in the face of those standards and pushed onward…onward to Warm Gingerbread Cake ($8).  Rarely do I find myself at a loss for words, but this cake found me there.  It might have had something to do with the fact that my mouth was full of the aforementioned cake, but also because it was really, really good.  I could use a plethora of colourful adjectives to describe this cake (see: heavenly, divine, decadent) but it all feels so cliché, and none of them would do it justice anyway, so I’m sticking with good.  Damn good.  It was served warm (as promised), drizzled with salted caramel sauce and with sides of brown sugar apple slices and vanilla bean gelato.  Now on any given day, I’ll take a cookie over a slice of cake, but not on this day (or any day going forward where I’m given the choice between a cookie and this particular cake).  It was impossibly moist and as we ate it we debated about what made it so.  We came to the conclusion that… well, we didn’t really come to any conclusion, except that it was killer, and we would be back for more.  Whoever is slicing the cake at Earl’s isn’t stingy (bless their soul) but that was one plate that went back to the kitchen devoid of crumbs.

Now Earls isn’t the place to go for a quiet date.  The people are loud (because there are a lot of them), and the music is loud (because it fights to be heard over the people), but the food is excellent and the service, equally so.  It’s a hike from my house in High Park to the Financial District, but one I’m willing to make again.  Three words folks… warm, gingerbread, cake.  Do yourself a favour.

- Rebecca

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Mitzi’s Cafe

Posted on November 18, 2011 by in Roncesvalles Village

3 stars

- For the past year or so, I’ve been meaning to go to Mitzi’s Cafe for brunch.  Weekends however, draw a big crowd and my nine-to-five job prevented me from going during the week and avoiding said crowd.  Fortunately, having resigned from my job to be a writer (see: unemployed) I am now afforded the luxury of going to brunch on say, a Tuesday…which is exactly what I did this week.

I love Mitzi’s location.  Tucked away on a quiet corner of Sorauren, surrounded by century homes, purple and yellow painted Mitzi’s is a bit out-of-place, but that’s the appeal.  I have a thing for old neighbourhood general stores, and that’s what Mitzi’s reminds me of.  Inside looked exactly how I both expected and hoped for; arborite tables with mismatched chairs, a glass display case that housed trays of muffins at the time, and walls adorned with local art.  I really, really wanted to like this place.

And like it I did, however my friend was less than satisfied with her experience.  Let’s start with mine shall we?  Mitzi’s has a small but thoughtful menu, and I had previously perused it online, so I knew exactly what I wanted.  Craving sweet over savoury, I ordered the French toast as planned ($10.95).  Made with Challah bread it is then topped with a peach & ginger compote, covered in graham cracker crumbs and generously doused with real maple syrup (the last step done by yours truly).  It was fantastic.  The bread was thick and fluffy, and the compote had just the right amount of ginger in it.  It had all the makings of a dessert…in a breakfast.  It should be noted that this dish is typically served with whipped cream, but I decided it was too much of an indulgence (says the person who used so much syrup as to make her French toast wish it had signed up for swimming lessons).

Sitting just adjacent to the expanding pool of syrup, but not completely out of its reach, were the home fries, which offset the sweetness of the French toast nicely.  Made with halved baby potatoes they were spiced perfectly.  My only complaint is that there weren’t more of them, but it’s probably for the best in the long run.  If the toast itself was the star of the show, then the home fries were the understudy.

As I had already had my morning coffee I chased all of this with a glass of their homemade orange/banana/mango juice.  It was just thick enough to know it was the real thing, and at $3 I think it was good value.

The glowing endorsement ends with my friends order.  She was so looking forward to her poached eggs (also $10.95).  Served on Portuguese cornbread, topped with wilted spinach,  and slathered in roasted red pepper & asiago sauce, it looked delicious when set down in front of her, but as she cut into the egg with her fork, the yolk failed to flow.  Her poached eggs weren’t poached at all… they were hard-boiled.  Cue the violins. Tasty yes, but it wasn’t what she wanted, and the accompanying rye bread would fail to serve its dipping duty.

This would have been a 4 star review had I made it a solo trip, but alas the poached eggs (or lack thereof) knocked it down a peg.  Mitzi’s is still worth a visit though for the French toast (and I hear the Oatmeal Buttermilk Pancakes are pretty killer too), but if it’s poached eggs you crave, be specific,…if only for the sake of your toast and its reason for being.

- Rebecca

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Buster’s Sea Cove

Posted on October 29, 2011 by in St. Lawrence Market

Busters Sea Cove

4 stars

- I know St. Lawrence market is full of great food, but I never would’ve thought that tucked way in the back of the building I’d find something quite like Buster’s Sea Cove.

Keep in mind though, this takeout shop isn’t Rodney’s or Oyster Boy, and I’m definitely not trying to convince you that it is. In fact, Buster’s Sea Cove isn’t even in the same boat. At Buster’s, you won’t find soft lighting, romantic ambience, or table-side service, but what you’re pretty much guaranteed to find, is some killer seafood served up really, really quickly.

Fresh-made fish and chips are the staple in this place, but they’ve got so much more than that. Their huge menu has everything from crab cakes and clam strips to fried oysters and fish-topped salads. And their fish-type sandwiches, something that they happen to do really, really well, are outstanding. I’m not talking about your standard old fried-fish-on-a-bun here; Buster’s rivals the best seafood takeout places with crab cake paninis and seared tuna melts sandwiches.

But don’t overlook the fish and chips either. This little takeout stand easily delivers one of the best plates of the stuff in the city. They’ve got a few varieties of fish to choose from, and each of them is served up expertly battered and crispy. Each plate of fish and chips also comes with in-house made fries and a killer slaw.

Buster’s also has a few other options you wouldn’t expect from a takeout stand. Grilled swordfish, seafood bisque, rainbow trout, even octopus to name a few. It ain’t fine dining by any means, but they truly do push the limits of what takeout is both in quality and selection.

Chances are though, once you get your food you’ll be spending most of your time searching for a place to eat it. Busters only has 4 tables or so scattered around in front of the counter, but if those are full–and they probably will be–you’re on your own. There’s an exit close by to the Market’s back patio and parking lot where most of Buster’s customers end up, but trust me, if it’s a nice day out, that’ll fill up pretty quick too and you’ll be left looking for a place to eat your by-then-getting-cold food.

Truth be told though, even if you’re standing out back of the market among parked cars and alleyways, it won’t matter all that much. You might not even notice. Whether it’s a crab cake sandwich or plate of fish and chips, the food at Buster’s is just that dam good.

- Andre

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Coquine

Posted on October 4, 2011 by in Yonge and Eglinton

4 stars

- Coquine Restaurant serves up an excellent weekend brunch, with all the charm and flavour of a European patio café. The restaurant is decked out art-deco style, with lots of white tile, dark wood and vintage posters lining the walls. Coquine boasts several large dining rooms and a quaint patio, perfect for people watching or a leisurely meal. A large group of us descended on Coquine one Sunday morning for a late brunch, and found the menu to be both classic and eclectic. Let me explain…

Traditional Sunday morning brunch normally sees a line-up of the usuals; pancakes, omelets and waffles. While Coquine serves up all of these items, they do it all with a pronounced French flavour, not afraid of adding a little gourmet to your breakfast.  Coquine’s wonderful Apple Jack’s ($11) offers up a stack of fluffy pancakes, topped with delectable caramelized apple and maple syrup. The delightful Vanilla French Toast ($12) is flavoured with fresh vanilla bean and served with a berry compote and Chambord. The Steak Frites ($19) were delicious, and came with a side of Parmesan truffle fries and mayo. While you may not be able to fly to Paris for weekend brunch, you can certainly enjoy the savoury French-style cuisine just south of Yonge and Eglinton.

Everyone found their meals to be excellent, and I can personally attest to both the quality and quantity of the wild mushroom and shallot Quiche with chévre ($14). Coffee (and Bailey’s) was always available, and attentive extras like water for the group, and non-stop breadbaskets make the service at Coquine both pleasant and under-stated.

Overall, the value for meals was very good, as portions were large, and fit for sharing. Both the hostess and the server were polite and attentive, but never obvious. With an excellent location between Davisville and Eglinton subway stops, and great food and service, Coquine should be on your list as a must-try for weekend brunch.

- Janine

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