By The Way Cafe – Wendy

400 Bloor Street West (at Brunswick)
416-967-4295

I’ve been to BTWC a number of times over the years, and have always had pleasant dining experiences there, this time being no exception.

I went to celebrate my birthday. I have made my way onto their email blast list, where they send out details of special offers. This particular offer was for a free entr饠anytime between a Sunday & Wednesday evening during the month of your birthday. This has become a bit of a birthday tradition of mine, and I enjoy it every year.

My friend Mark accompanied me for this dining experience. He started his meal with a vegetarian split pea soup that was to die for it was so good! They also brought out a plate of artisan breads and red pepper butter for us to munch on while waiting for the mains. Nice butter!

Our friendly server “Big Don” was very attentive and ready to answer any of our questions. (Mark generally has a question). I ordered the butternut squash lasagna, which was a great recommendation from Big Don. The thick layer of squash was sweet and subsequent layers were filled with spinach and mushrooms. I didn?t find any cheese, but that just helped to make it feel all the more healthy and provided an evening of guilt-free decadent dining. The accompanying salad provided just the right amount of twang! Everything was really tasty. Mark really liked his tofu salad as well.

I would loved to have had room left in my tummy for dessert, but my nutritious & delicious meal was so filling I had no more room left. Oh well, it provides a good excuse for a repeat visit.

Sassafraz-fire Dec 2006, closed

416-964-2222
100 Cumberland Street

We always talked about going, so I bought Mark a gift certificate to Sassafraz. We checked out the online menu & noticed that it was largely meat based, but when we called with our concerns, they offered to create a custom design a vegan meal for him, problem solved. So, we booked the reservation & went.

We dressed up fancy to go there, it is in Yorkville after all. It was a Sunday night, so the restaurant was mostly empty, but it was fine. We were surprised to be seated at a couch side by side, practically facing the window. I guess in the summer it could be nice for people watching.

As I am not a vegetarian, I had lots of possibilities to choose from. As the prices are fairly high, I opted to forgo an appetizer. They brought by a small basket of interesting breads & an amuse bouche, mine being duck with a berry coulis on a cracker that looked very similar to a triscuit. I also had a glass of white wine ($15) to accompany my main dish, which was extremely delicious, though not cheap ($38).

I had a dish composed of shrimp (2 of them, maybe), seared ahi tuna – ok portion & lobster – practically more lobster than shrimp, how odd, on a bed of Israeli couscous. This dish scored really high on the flavour factor, very low on the portion side of things.

Sassafraz is a good place to go if you want the ability to be able to eat an appetizer, an amuse bouche, bread, main course, dessert & wine, as the portions are such that even smaller people like me will have no problem packing them in, but someone else better be paying. My portion for these two items, and half a bottle of water (yes the fizzy italian stuff, I like my San Pellegrino) ran me about $75. Mark’s vegan surprise (a scoop of herbed potato wrapped in thinly sliced carrot in a vegetable broth with white asparagus), equally small, with no protein (quite the shaft) was $24 & he was starving afterwards. With my tuna & lobster, I was fine.

Our waiter was nice enough in the beginning, but when he discovered that we weren’t high rollers, our service level definetely experienced a noticeable drop, compared to the table next to us. Not good. What ticked me off in a significant way was that we ordered a bottle of San Pellegrino ($7) to share. I’m a slower drinker than Mark, so the bottle was going down quick, but instead of asking us if we would like more water, or pouring part into Mark’s glass, part into mine, as I think would have been the right thing to do, the host-like guy grabbed the bottle & poured the entire contents into Mark’s glass leaving me parched! Hello – whatever happened to ladies first? Why not attempt to accommodate us both? Not a way to impress me for sure. I knw the tactic was to get us to purchase another bottle, but they didn’t even ask, so that left a sour taste in my mouth.

It is most unlikely that I would become a regular there, I don’t have money to burn at this point in my life. Though my food was delicious, I wouldn’t say it was good value for the money, but then again, that’s not why people go to Sassafraz. I guess I’m just not a hip, rich Yorkvillian. Oh well. I think I’ll live.

Juliette et Chocolate

 

Yumma! When my sister asked me if I wanted to go to the chocolate place I had no idea what was in store for me. I had about an hour & a half before my train back to Toronto, & this was definitely the best way to spend that time, relaxing with my sister & our friend Nancy, eating & drinking heaven from a cognac glass. The exposed stone walls & back patio, combined with the charming decor contributed to the joy of the experience.

Although chocolate is the star attraction, there are also other items to choose from; salads, crepes, fondue, ice cream, smoothies and more. The top price I noticed in the menu (they had English ones too!) was about $10.95. The place is licensed as well, so good times are abound at this warm & inviting cafe

As soon as we walked in we were greeted with complete friendliness from the staff, & smartly, they brought us all ice water to start.

For my hot chocolate I chose something called Manjari ? it was a dark chocolate 64% cocoa, and was composed of a combination of Criolla & Trinitario cocoa beans from Madagascar. Chantico this aint! This was the real thing, a thick liquid explosion of goodness. All that & I got a home made chocolate on the side. The drink was so big, it took me forever to finish.

I was also mighty hungry & uninterested in the prospect of eating train food, so I went for a buckwheat crepe with ham, cheese & asparagus. My sister had the spinach crepe & Nancy had a fruit crepe covered in chocolate & icing sugar. All of our crepes scored high on presentation as well as taste. Nancy?s was like a work of art. The portion sizes were decent as well.

It?s real easy to spend a $25 here; I had my crepe, my drink & I bought 2 pieces of chocolate containing cayenne, nutmeg, cinnamon & honey that was beyond fantastic. With my taxes & tip I spent just shy of $25 but it was worth it for a treat for sure. They also serve as an internet cafe …Good to know.

If I was in Montreal more, I would be there more. This was a completely fabulous experience worth repeating.

 

Kubo Radio

Kubo
894 Queen St E
416-406-KUBO (5826)

web site: www.kubo.com
Kubo has existed in a few different locations since inception in 1999, and have recently settled in at Queen & Logan. This place is extremely hip and cool, would not be out of place along the College Street West strip of Little Italy.

Kubo has an ultra-modern minimalist environment, clean lines, Asian inspired. The tables are fairly small, so it is good for intimate or solo dining, but I went with a crowd of 18 people, which they accommodated by bringing many tables close together. If only ordering had been that easy.

As the concept of the place is Asian-inspired, they have over 11 Asian beers to choose from, sake martinis, and of course the food is all Asian as well.

I was the first to arrive. It’s a little daunting to sit alone at a table of 18, and though most of the waiters greeted me, not one of them brought me water, or asked me what I’d like to drink. Finally, when others arrive to join me, they begin to take drink orders. I ordered a Thai beer called Singha, based on my waiter’s recommendation. It was a very good choice, crisp & light tasting. I do wish I had been offered a drink menu, because then I would have known about the sake martinis that I only found out about after my beer arrived. I thought it best not to mix.

There was much drama with the process of ordering. I can completely understand that it would be frustrating & difficult to manage a table of our size, but I don’t think you should let the customers see your frustrations. They prefer to do “family style” meals for groups over 8, where you would get something like 2 types of appetizers & two types of mains on large platters for sharing, and those meals start at $25. The drama begins because 5 from our group do not want to partake in the communal meal, preferring to select whatever they want, as is their right. This did not sit well with our waiter, you could see the agitation grow, and after consultation with management, we were told to all order a la carte. I’m sure this didn’t please Kubo, however, shouldn’t the customer always be right?

I ordered the Kubo Vegetable Salad, $6.95 which was a generous portion of shredded carrots, cabbage, sprouts and stuff in a lemongrass soy dressing. It was very fresh & crunchy, tasted very healthful, but was a little underdressed. This salad definitely benefited from my addition of soy and garlic oil, some of the condiments on the table.

One thing that I found odd was that most people’s hot foods, (in fact the person next to me had 2 hot appetizers) served to them before my salad arrived. I know there’s something called timing that can be difficult to juggle, but still, I’m surprised that my raw food took longer.

My main dish was from the special’s board, the Kubo Noodle – chicken, tofu, broccoli, red pepper, onions, peanuts, herbs, garlic, lime, ginger & shanghai noodles. There were eggs in it originally, but as I do not eat eggs, so they omitted them from my meal.

My friend Shaista and I both had this dish and found it to be a little on the bland side. It only rated a 4/10 on the Shaistameter. Other people seemed to really enjoy whatever they ordered, so it must just have been this dish that was mediocre. My judgement was not as harsh as Shaista’s, but then I did add extra soy and garlic oil to make it taste better. The portion size was more than sufficient, I was full.

I wish I had ordered a dessert like Shaista did. She got the Kubo Flakey Filo Pastry, which has marscapone, whipped cream, passion fruit & icing sugar. Ok, so it came with raspberries instead of the passion fruit, but this dessert was so fantastic we didn’t care! She thought it was the best thing in the restaurant, rating 9.7/10 on the Shaistameter!

In the end, our waiter relaxed, got friendlier, and became more jovial. After dinner, this place turns into a bar, much like those on College West and remained filled until I left. I would probably go back, maybe in a smaller group, to compare and contrast the service level. I had visited Kubo in a previous location under the Merchandise building, and had very positive experiences there. I definitely want to have a sake martini and dessert next time.

Santorini

288 John St
Thornhill, ON
905-731-4400

I was visiting with some life long family friends from Ottawa – Susan and Mathew as Phil, who is Susan’s husband and Mathew’s father, was in the hospital for an operation. Our previous evening of dining had been disastrous (see the review for Smiling Jack’s) so Susan wanted to make things right & eat a really good meal, memorable for all the right reasons. Mission accomplished. The nurses at hospital recommended that we try Santorini, a Greek restaurant across the street from the hospital. So try it we did.

We arrived early in the evening for dinner, and were all impressed by the inviting and beautiful atmosphere that we found ourselves in. There was a sky light, seating was arranged on different levels, there were plants everywhere, and a gorgeous waterfall right in the middle of the restaurant.

We were seated quickly and greeted by a very friendly waiter who told us of the daily specials. Instead of the usual bread and butter, we were treated to a fresh loaf of bread (yes the whole thing!), pickles, beans, taramosalata. YUMMY! This was definitely not Mr. Greek; there is a minimum seat charge of $13.95.

I was impressed with how fast the service was. Mathew & Susan ordered a vegetarian pasta dinner – Yfestio Pasta $15.95, and I ordered the OIA – a seafood platter including shrimps, scallops, potatoes and vegetables – $18.95.

The first words out of Mathew’s mouth were “This is amazing!” Susan also loved her meal which was basically a medley of vegetables that included carrots, sun dried tomatoes, zucchini, and peppers. They are both committed carnivores, but they said this dish was really flavourful

My food was also exceptional. My vegetables were really good, and though they were present, my plate was not overloaded with rice and potatoes, as frequently happens in many a Greek restaurant. Hell, my rice was even wild! I got plenty of scallops and shrimps, making this a fantastic meal all around.

The desserts are not baked on the premises, but the staff were extremely helpful in determining the contents of an item to check for allergies. They went so far as to call the bakery!

In addition to this lush dining hall, they also have private rooms available that can hold 15-40 people. Good to know.

Alas we had to leave for our appointment at 7:00 pm, but we left very happy and very full. This was a fantastic dining experience!

Tacos El Asador

690 Bloor West, at Clinton,
416-538-9747

This place is super cheap! prices start at $1.95 for a veggie taco, and combos that have a couple of items & a drink range from $5.60 – $7.50, with the all time high price of $16 for a fried fish meal.! After eating in Bistro 990 the day before, this place is the bargain find of the year.

The name says it all – tacos is what they specialize in, but there are also enchiladas, soups, burritos, quesadillas, etc. I had a combo that was an enchilada and a soup. The soup portion was big, and it smelled great. it tasted very fresh & was chock full of vegetables, very yummy. This was definitely a homemade soup too, certainly not your Campbell’s over salted standard.

The atmosphere is decidedly casual, with the picnic tables and plastic cutlery, and tv’s all around, but you really go there for the good value. The service was impressively fast & friendly, and for $7.50, I was stuffed. My dining companion Chris likes to go there on Monday nights to relax and unwind before heading in across the street to catch the Catch 23 Improv show in the back room at Clinton’s.

Judging by the patrons, I think this is a local favourite spot, there was a constant stream of customers for both take out & eat in. This place was so cozy, you would not feel out of place eating alone.

My dinner, drink & dessert with tax & tip came to a grand total of $9.55. You could have done it even cheaper! I will definitely be returning to the comforts of Tacos el Asador.

Fujiyama

49 Baldwin St
(416) 596-1913

The food was good, but the service was so much less so.

This is a standard sushi restaurant, the food was really quite good, but the service was exceptionally slow and forgetful, odd considering that the place was half empty on a Saturday night.

I might try it again on a different day, or maybe at lunch, you never know, it may not be such a bla experience.

Bistro 990 Restaurant

 

Bistro 990 is known as the place to go for a fancy dinner, especially during the film festival when all of the stars descend upon the place. My firs visit to Bistro 990 was with a group of people, the Toronto Chapter Executive of the Concordia Alumni Association. This place is great for group gatherings. If you go, hopefully someone else is taking care of the bill, otherwise bring a credit card, because it isn?t cheap.

The appetizers range from $8.00 – $24.50, with main entrees in the range of $21 – $42 and, are largely meat focused. They offer a wide range of meats including steak, veal, game, lamb, etc.

For my meal, I started with the house salad $8, and had the Noix de St. Jacques au feu-vif ($28) This dish included 4 seared scallops, with a butternut squash & walnut risotto. We drank shiraz, which is referred to as ?the new chardonnay?.

My meal rocked the house, it was fantastic. Around me, people who had the steak frites were determined to be a real winner. The kids who had this finished their plates in a flash. Anoter from my group had the ostrich, which he said was very good, as was the chicken dish his girlfriend had. Every dish went back to the kitchen licked clean!

Pavlova is my new favourite dessert. This meringue & marshmallowy dessert topped with a berry compote was out of this world amazing. It went down real well with the cappuccino I had. One of my dinner companions had a dessert what had a flourless chocolate cake & grand marnier, which she really enjoyed.

The service we had was excellent, our server was really attentive, friendly & helpful. One thing I noticed was that the restaurant was not too noisy, which is great for having either an intimate conversation or a business meeting.

I had a great experience, I’d definitely go again.

 

 

Chez Cora

Chez Cora/Cora’s 6250 blvd. Cousineau St-Hubert, QC 450-443-5624

Several locations across Quebec & Ontario, including:

Locations in Quebec

http://www.chezcora.com/Main-en/Trouver-en.htm#Quebec

Locations in the GTA

4120 Dixie Road,
Mississauga
(905) 624-1297

Unit 13, 16655 Yonge St.,
Newmarket
(905) 954-1317

277 Wellington St., West (at Blue Jays Way)
Toronto
(416) 598-2672

My dad & I went for brunch on Boxing Day 2004, and he actually chose the spot. I was quite impressed; I would not expect him to choose a restaurant like this. I�ve been to Chez Cora in a few other spots in Montr�al before, like on Peel St. and in Old Montreal, and have always enjoyed my experiences.

In Montreal, you have a choice of smoking vs. non-smoking, & as my father’s a smoker, he was happy that such a choice exists.

We walked in at the right time; within seconds there was a lineup out the door behind us. We were seated and got our coffees quickly. This place was mighty busy, as reflected in the volume coming from conversations throughout the restaurant. The dining area is open concept (what is the point then of differentiating smoking vs. non I don�t know), and is family friendly. Although the menus are in French, our friendly waitress Mado was bilingual, and able to answer our questions when my French failed me.

The restaurant is fully licensed (beer with your bagel anyone?), and specializes in breakfast and brunch. They serve all the standards like eggs, bacon, waffles, pancakes & things like that, and after 11 they start to serve more savoury items like burgers alongside the breakfasts. They are most known for the massive portions of nicely presented fresh fruit that accompany most meals here, my meal having been one of them, (my father’s was not), as well as the always generous portions.

My father is not a frequent brunch goer, so he wanted a standard breakfast style meal. He ordered Eggs Maurice, $6.95 which is as close as one will get to a traditional breakfast here. His meal included 2 eggs, which he asked for over easy, sausages, potatoes, toast & baked beans. He initially said his eggs were perfect, and later changed his verdict to underdone. I�ll have to take his word for that as I do not eat eggs. We were both somewhat surprised by the fact that his �sausages� were actually hot dogs!?! How weird is that? The menu said �saucisse fume� which technically is the direct translation of a hot dog, but still it seemed odd. At least it was a jumbo. We asked the waitress to explain & oddly enough, Eggs Maurice happened to be the only meal on the menu that had hot dogs instead of a regular breakfast sausage. Oh well, it tasted fine. It was odd, but live & learn.

My meal on the other hand more closely resembled a typical Cora breakfast. My meal was called Sarrasin de Galette $8.95. This meal included 3 sausages (standard breakfast ones this time) wrapped in buckwheat crepes, topped with melted cheddar both inside & outside the crepe with mixed fruit on the side. My mountain of fresh fruit included watermelon, grapes, pears, apples, oranges pineapple, & kiwi all decoratively carved & was quite the impressive display. I was able to get them to omit the bananas � no problem 

My food was quite good, and the portion was so big I needed to take some of it to go. My dad gave a mixed review to the potatoes, but was very impressed with the baked beans, said they tasted homemade. I tried some they really were good! He said the beans were the best thing on the plate & his plate was so big, he couldn�t finish his meal either. His one comment was �everything is very good, but I didn�t expect hot dogs�. I�d have to agree with him on that.

All in all, this was a positive dining experience & I�ve been here before & will definitely be going back many more times. I’ve not yet been to any Toronto locations, however I�m interested to try them out soon.

Sidhartha, The

The Sidhartha – Fine Indian Cuisine
1450 Gerrard St. E
416-465-4095

30 Eglinton East
416-485-5552

See also East Indian, Little India, Yonge/Eglinton

My general impression of Sidartha was that is was significantly nicer in atmosphere than one would expect from a dinner buffet at $9.99! The lunch buffet runs at $7.99 and I’m sure it is just as nice. You can dine in or take out, which I think is fantastic for a buffet. Of course, itf you take out, it’s just the 1 plate, but still, how much can you eat, really? If buffets are not your thing, there is an extensive menu to order from.

My friend & I went for the buffet & it was really good, we kept finding more & more things to eat that we practically stuffed ourselves silly. There were both meat & vegetarian options, pakoras, chicken tikka, vegetable curry & much more. My friend Shane really loved this restaurant – he hadn’t even finished his dessert & he said how much he was looking forward to his next visit. Now that’s the sign of an excellent dining experience!

The really nice & unusual thing about this place is that despite the buffets & great prices, the atmosphere was warm & inviting, they decorated each table with real flowers, instead of fakes, & the big surprise – it was QUIET! What a relaxing way to eat!

All in all with taxes & tip the meal came to $26. Sidartha also caters & has banquet facilities for 100 people. They also do free delivery on orders over $30.