2301 Brimley Rd.
I am far from a dim sum expert. In fact, Dragon Dynasty is the first dim sum restaurant I have ever experienced. But if this restaurant was the litmus test, then dim sum could easily become one of my favourite foods. If there is any reason to come to Scarborough besides the Bluffs, Dragon Dynasty is it.
In a large hall that resembles more of a party atmosphere than a restaurant, carts with various foods are wheeled around for you to choose from. The majority of clientele and all of the staff are Asian so the names of the food are yelled out in Chinese and the bill is also written in Chinese. Luckily, I have always gone with two ladies who speak the language so we were able to order properly.
Some of the dishes include: steamed pork and beef ribs, a sweet bread with barbequed pork inside, rice noodles in a peanut and hoisin sauce, rice with very salty and tough pork, liver and duck, shrimp wrapped in rice paper, and veggies wrapped in a bean curd. One of my favourite dishes are two of the deserts. One is a sweet, tapioca pudding and the other is similar but black sesame seeds are cooked and mixed in. Very tasty.
1678 Avenue Road
St. Louis Bar
2050 Yonge Street
It was a tradition in high school, that each Tuesday night a bunch of us would head up Avenue Road past Lawrence for half price chicken wings at Bistro. Regardless of the length of the line, we would drool over the fatty wings and delicious creamy “white sauce”.
After University, the tradition continued at St. Louis Bar and Grill on Yonge St. just south of Eglinton. Both restaurants are owned by Louis Nemes and serve the same style wings, fries and sauce.
In the last year or so; however, the tradition has stopped. Partly due to the increasing knowledge that the wings were adversely affecting our body types and partly due to our expanding tastes. The wings are still pretty much the same, but for some reason they just aren’t as good.
The Rugelah Challenge
Rugelah is a traditional Jewish desert that consists of rolled dough and cream cheese and is filled with different delights. My favourite type of rugelah is definitely chocolate; however it comes in all sorts including raisin, cinnamon, and fruit. Rugelah is sold in many Jewish-style bakeries throughout the city, but it is not particularly cheap and usually costs in upwards of $10 per pound.
It is a family tradition that each weekend; before traveling two hours north to the family cottage in Huntsville; one member of the family (usually my mother) picks up a fresh batch of rugelah. It is almost always devoured within the first night of the weekend.
One weekend, my family decided to hold a blind taste test of three different samplings of rugelah from various bakeries in the city. The three bakeries chosen to participate in this challenge were: Haymishe Bagel (3031 Bathurst st – 416-781-4212), What a Bagel (3500 Bathurst St. – 416-785-7222), and Longo’s (York Mills and Leslie).
In my mind, I thought Haymishe would easily win this challenge due to the delicious Jewish fare I am accustomed to consuming there. However, after each member of the family tasted each rugelah without prior knowledge to which one was which it turned out Longo’s was the victor.
I must admit this challenge is a bit skewed since it did not include probably the most famous Jewish Bakery in Toronto: Harbord Bakery. I promise to include Hardbord in the next challenge and update this review.
113 Jarvis St.
The main attraction of Mystic Muffin is actually its owner: Elias Makhoul. With a penchant for hilarious stories, and witty anecdotes, Elias puts a smile on each customer’s face as he expertly prepares a variety of sandwiches with a middle east flair.
Like “Salad King” (see Salad King review), the restaurant’s name has everything to with poor marketing and absolutely nothing to do with the food. Also like Salad King, you line up to place your order and can partake in some friendly banter. But that is where the similarities end.
Completely unlike Salad King, Mystic Muffin serves up a tasty falafel. Be sure to add some hummous, fried eggplant and even some potatoes to the mix for a well packed pita. There is also a good veggie combination platter to try. I recall one visit to Mystic Muffin when Elias was leaving to his native Lebanon for a vacation. He scooped out the remaining hummous and gave it to me to take home in a styrofoam container.
The ambience of Mystic Muffin is somewhat bleak so I would suggest taking your meal out; however you can also enjoy Elias’ good nature during your meal if you decide to stay.
19 Mercer Street
Rain’s food is more of an art form than a means to sustain oneself. Each bite should be savoured as it is the last. Not just because it tastes good, but also because it costs so damn much!
You can call me cheap, but it takes a very special occasion for me to spend more than $50 on a meal. I could eat almost as well at home for a quarter of the price. Nevertheless, it is nice to be treated once in a while!
Rain serves a la carte and was not nearly as pretentious as I expected. My dinner consisted of several excellentally prepared dishes consisting of ahi tuna, black cod, lamb tenderloin, bok choy, jasmine rice in a banana lead, noodles and tempura.
That quick description cannot do Rain justice and if I had taken notes I’m sure I could dedicate a paragraph to every part of each dish. However, I am not that type of critic and if you are looking for that I suggest you visit the Toronto Life website for that sort of review.
My only criticism of Rain (besides the price if I had been paying) was that each dish came a little too quickly. We hadn’t stopped fawning over the previous dish before the next one came!
3450 Bathurst St.
Owing to my Hungarian heritage, I was exposed to this type of Eastern European fare at a very early age. Luckily my North American born mother did not allow my over zealous grandmother from forcing the grease riddled breaded chicken down my throat. God knows how that would have affected my already over taxed body type. Kidding aside, I still enjoy the traditional “Poliginta” (better known as a cheese blintz) Bubby will prepare in order to convice me to pay her a visit in her uptown apartment.
With agonizingly slow service, Paprika on Bathurst north of Lawrence offers good home cooked Hungarian eats in a traditionally decorated setting. The restaurant has a very distinct feeling as most of the clientele seems to come from the “old country” and the menu is written in both Hungarian and English.
The standout dish at Paprika is definitely the Schnitzel which one can hear being pounded into form from behind the wall separating the dining area from the kitchen. It is so big, that when it finally comes to the table it actually hangs over the sides of the plate completely covering the potatoes under it. Another personal favourite is the bean soup which is thick and has bits of hot dog in it.
I’m not sure whether to recommnend coming hungry to this restaurant as it takes a long time for the food to arrive; however, you will most certainly need a doggy bag by the time you are done.
San Francesco v.s. California Sandwiches
Somewhat hidden in the neighbourhood just south of the main drag of Little Italy between Euclid and Grace on College St. are two of Toronto’s renowned veal sandwich shops.
Historically speaking, I heard people would travel from all over the city to have a taste of a San Francesco veal sandwich. Years and several owners later, San Francesco’s can no longer rely on its name to attract customers. These days the sandwiches produced at this covenience store-cum-take out restaurant are medicore at best. A flat piece of meat, adorning a less than fresh bun with a smattering of runny sauce does not constitute the famous meal I was convinced of in my youth.
These days I would much rather travel into the heart of the neighbourhood to seek out the hidden gem of California Sandwiches. With several spinoffs located throughout the city, the original California’s located one block north of Dundas on Claremont can rightfully claim the title of “Best Veal Sandwich in Toronto”. Sandwiches are cooked fresh and there are several toppings one can add, including different degrees of hot peppers and my favourite: a breaded piece of eggplant. It would be nice if California’s were open Sunday , so there was an easily accessible restaurant in the area to supplant any Sunday evening cooking. Alas, in this relatively Catholic area the Sunday shopping rule still seems in effect.
335 Yonge Street
Don’t be fooled by the seemingly healthy sounding name. Salad King serves up some of the best, Thai food in the entire city.
Located across the street from Sam the Record Man and the Ryerson Campus, this mainly, university student hangout works more like a cafeteria than a restaurant. If you are looking for a drawn out, sit down meal this is not the place. However, if you want good food and do not mind getting used to the methods I guarantee you will be more than satisfied.
To order, one stands in line winding its way around the tables in front. This can make for a rather unpleasant experience for the people sitting there, something to take note of when deciding where to sit. Be sure to figure out what you want to order before reaching the cashier or you may find yourself on the hotseat with several hungry regular patrons breathing down your neck. It is best that on first visit you go with a seasoned veteran who knows what to order and how. This is especially true when it comes to deciding what level of spice to order. Salad King has a 1-10 rating for their spicing with 1 being the mildest and 10 something that no sane person should try. I always order a level 3 and I am a fan of spicy food. I’ve only known one person to order a level 4 and she had just returned from a year in India!
If ordering your meal seems like an uneeded pressure at lunch, picking up your meal can be equally as strenuous. After ordering, you are provided with a number which is eventually announced over a loudspeaker when your meal is ready. Hearing your number over the din of the crowd and the thick accent of the speaker requires intense concentration. Don’t worry, after a few visits you will get the hang of it.
Now to the good part. My favourite dish is not even listed on the menu but is out of this world. It is called Thai Islamic Noodles and comes piping hot in a coconut red curry sauce with shrimp and chicken. It is very filling and almost always scrumptious. Salad King also offers
If the negatives seem to outweigh the positives from this review then you are obviously not as interested in the food aspect of a restaurant as I am. What initially may seem like a hassle eventually becomes a tradition upon repeated visits to this most excellent establishment.
Gu-Mi Japanese & Korean Restaurant
1801 Lawrence Ave E. 416-755-0855
With the resounding success of my previous week’s visit to Niji Sushi I decided to try to continue my lucky Scarborough sushi streak with Gu-Mi on the corner of Pharmacy and Lawrence Ave. East.
While similar to Niji in meal complements: I ordered the lunch combination box which came with sushi, salad, tempura, miso soup and several cold and interesting tasting appetizers. I did not find the food as fresh as Niji. Maybe it was the fact that I wasn’t that hungry (me not hungry!?!?!?) but I could not even finish my entire meal.
Regardless of my issues with the food, I did enjoy the fact that I was able to eat my meal in the privacy of a wooden booth.
Hair of the Dog
Hair of the Dog was on my list of restaurants to visit for quite a while. I wasn’t completely sure if it was a lounge, or a bar/restaurant with sub standard food. In any case, I finally visited this establishment at the southern end of the Village on Church St. near Carlton and thoroughly enjoyed my experience.
Initially taking a seat on the main level of the restaurant, I found the room to be excessively loud for the romantic tone the dim light suggested. It was so loud in fact, that we asked our accomodating (not to mention attractive) waiter if we could be moved to a patio table. This was a wise decision as it was much more subdued under the covered patio and I could actually enjoy my conversation without cupping my hands around my ears.
The menu was extensive and had several interesting sounding dishes for what I would consider a typical, non-nationality specific restaurant. I settled on the special, which was a lemongrass curry chicken on a bed of basmati rice and baby bok choy ($13.95). I am a big fan of curry and prefer eating my entire meal covered in the sauce. Unfortunately, this was a bit lacking even if everything else, including the curry, was well prepared and tasty. There was a decent list of martinis, one of which called the Midnight Dream that I enjoyed.
For a restaurant that doesn’t specialize in exotic food, Hair of the Dog makes efforts both in service and in atypical food to keep the customer happy.