A Taste of Manchester

 

It’s always nice to discover a new, tasty restaurant. It’s even nicer to discover a new tasty, restaurant that’s opened right across the street from your office. Especially if the only other palatable restaurants are within driving distance. I guess that’ s what you get working in Scarberia.

Luckily enough I recently discovered just that thing in “A Taste of Manchester”, a Carribean fare establishment recently opened in the Warden/Eglinton plaza. Its small, clean room and sparsley decorated decor is still finding its place in this harsh suburb but the food has found a place for me– in my stomach.

Serving a variety of jerk and curried chicken, curried goat, and some different rotis I went straight for the jerk — an island favourite. My previous experiences with jerk have been unsatisfactory but for a quick lunch that is neither fast food nor fine dining this meal more than sufficed. The jerk had a slight kick but I think next time I will “turn it up a notch” with some fiery peppar sauce. With any many dish there is a choice or rice & peas, white rice , or ground provisions (not sure what that is) and portions are quite substantial.

I should say that at the moment the food appears to be served only in styrofoam containers…. hopefully this will change soon as the restaurant has barely been open a week. If it doesn’t, I’ll still go there but just take it right back accross the street to eat in my cozy, jailcell…. er cubicle.

Hopper Hut

880 Ellesmere Road
416-299-4311‎

 

The first time I went for a meal at Hopper Hut I was taken there by an East Indian employee who’s taste buds were well attuned to the fiery spices of southern Indian food. I am not one to shy away from spicy food but I recall being so overwhelmed by the heat that I had to ask for a side of yogourt just to neutralize the sensations.

My most recent visit to Hopper Hut didn’t diverge much from the first. I stuck to the conventional South Indian choice of vegetarian thali while my lunch partner decided to go with something called the vegetarian lamprie. I wish I was able to discern much less recall what the different vegetable curries were that made up the thali. There were three tomato based curries, each one spicier than the first. The three other vegetables were not as spicy but after a few bites of the other ones it didn’t matter since my mouth was already on fire. The thali also came with a large bed of rice half covered in a yogourty/onion sauce and the other with a milder, tasty “orangey brown” sauce… that is really the only way I could describe it at this point. If this sounds like a lot of food for $6.99 then you need not worry about the papadam and an extra potatoey dish that comes alongside the thali. Dessert, also included in the price of the thali, is a tapioca based custard, that thankfully was not spicy; though by that time I had already used evey napkin at the table plus some to sop up my running nose.

Next time I go for South Indian, I am going to have to try something other than the thali. The lampries that my friend ate was pretty much the same as my meal but with all the ingredients blended together in a banana leaf. This actually made it more difficult to eat as she couldn’t supplant the hot spicy taste with the cooler dishes. Quite an experience but not one that I could easily get used to on a regular basis.

Fisherman Villa

25 Glen Watford Dr.
416-321-1624

You could imagine my surprise when I heard we were going to eat dim sum at a place called Fisherman Villa. Supposedly, this restaurant used to be a seafood joint which never changed its name after switching cuisines. Or so the story goes. I find there are many Chinese places that have odd English names… or maybe they just don’t care what the English name is since the majority of their customers are Asian anyways.

Regardless of the name, Fisherman’s Villa serves traditional dim sum cuisine in Scarborough at Midland and Sheppard. The restaurant isn’t large enough to accomodate carts being wheeled around, which is too bad since half the fun of dim sum is watching the different and interesting dishes circulate throughout the room. Instead, we left the ordering to our Asian compatriots, ensuring tasty choices at the right prices.This was mostly true, as we plowed through two different dishes of shrimp wrapped in rice, breaded squid (similar to calamari but resembling fingers instead of curls), a large bowl of won ton soup, a green vegetable dish called troy sum(sp?), sticky race wrapped in a lotus leaf, and steamed ribs with rice. The only dish that I steered clear from was the chicken feet. The little toes kind of freak me out. For dessert, we had coconut and tapioca pudding in a bowl, and a more solid form of the same thing. Strange having almost the exact same dessert as a solid and a liquid.

To tell you the truth, this is only the second dim sum restaurant I have been to so it is a little unfair of me to review these places as a novice. Comparing it to Dragon Dynasty I would say it doesn’t quite live up to the aura of that restaurant; however, as far as decent food in general goes, Fisherman’s Villa does just fine.

Ameer

 

Ameer serves traditional Lebanese cuisine in “Little Arabia” at the corner of Warden and Lawrence. I decided to try this place for lunch after previously sampling some very good baba ganoush and hummus from here. It turned out to be one of the best middle eastern meals I’ve eaten in (greater) Toronto.

The interior of the restaurant is something you would imagine of a middle eastern restaurant. Arabic decorations, white tile, clean with soft, traditional music playing in the background. The place was empty save for a group of women celebrating someone’s birthday. Our waiter was very friendly and accomodated my desire of having a side of chicken shwarma with my vegetarian platter. My choices for middle eastern fare are quite boring and I tend to stick to the usual falafel and dips. There’s just something I love about this combination of food that always seems to be the best choice on the menu. The platter was HUGE and came with large helpings of hummus, baba ganoush, five falafel balls that were crisped to perfection on the outside but soft and warm inside, mild garlic dip, several tasty grape leaves packed with rice and assorted spices, and a large basket of pita bread. Each of these parts of the meal including the stuffed grape leaves which I do not usually care for were delicious. The extra side of chicken shwarma was tender and tasty as well. The only problem was that there was too much food.

Vietnam Noodle Star

 4188 Finch Ave. E Unit 2
416-609-9796

Entering a room where everyone is a different culture than you can sometimes be intimidating. It can also be a richly rewarding experience. Such is the case with Vietnam Noodle Star. Walking into this restaurant, it is easy to see how people of similar cultures congregate despite Toronto’s diverse and eclectic nature. Literally everyone here from the wait staff, to the clientele to the people on TV are Asian. At least I knew I was getting an authentic Vietnamese dish and not some trendy, tourist crap.

Squeezing five people at what should have been a three person table and ordering a helluva lot of food made this experience crowded but very tasty. Starting with some simple small spring rolls that were slightly oily but crunchy we were quickly deluged with the rest of our order. A massive bowl of vietnamese beef noodle soup was enough to share between all of us though I had to resort to a fork to scoop up the rice noodles. My favourite dish was a beef curry that reminded me of a red thai coconut curry with a slight kick to it. We were also served beef and pork satay skewers which we could dip in an oily peanut sauce and a plate of delicious fried pork with white rice and veggies. If that wasn’t enough to ruin my diet week of Wendy’s salads we had a plate of sauteed bok choy.

A delicious if not diet-ruining lunch at what should become a new Scarberian staple.

Armenian Kitchen

1646 Victoria Park
416.757.7722

A few blocks to the north of Armenian Kitchen, on Lawrence Ave. E between Pharmacy and Warden is what is known as “Little Arabia”. With tons of Arabic shops, bakeries and restaurants, some of who’s names are written only in Arabic, this area is truly unique and contains several well hidden gems. The Armenian Kitchen, by contrast caters to a more diverse clientele though still serving traditional and authentic middle eastern fare. Through all my searching for decent food to eat in Scarborough, the name of the Armenian Kitchen has come up the most.

For lunch, I settled on a typical vegetable platter with hummous, baba ghanoush, tabouleh salad, and labouneh – a thick, yogourt dip and pita. The hummous was smooth with tahina, the baba was creamy and garlicky but not overly so, and labouneh which I had never tried before was a wonderful addition. The pita bread was fresh, flat and soft and tabouleh salad was a good contrast to the dips.

Armenian Kitchen also does take out and I will surely be coming back here to take some dips up north.

Imperial Buffet

24 Lebovic Avenue
(416) 288-9699

1881 Steeles Avenue West
(416) 650-9848

3120 Dixie Road
(905) 848-8388

There is good Chinese food, and there is fake north american ripoff Chinese buffet. Imperial Buffet definitely fits the bill of the latter.

Serving everything from barbequed, short ribs and stir fried noodles to french fries and onion rings, Imperial Buffet takes the prize for the worst faux Chinese food I have ever eaten. Eating there reminded me of my days of turning my less-than-cultured nose up at anything Asian. However, you can’t really consider this Asian per se owing to the large amounts of “North American” food that found its way into the buffet.

I have never eaten at the Mandarin but am told that it is similar. I don’t plan on dining there anytime soon. In short, unless I am completely out of Scarborough lunch spots I will never go here again.