556 Church Street
Pricing: Moderately Pricey
I bought a voucher to Chou Izakaya because of all the positive reviews I saw online. I forgot to make a reservation after setting up a date with friends so I called the morning of and surprisingly, they squeezed me in. We also happened to arrive early so they made us wait, a little too long though because we were seated 10 minutes after the appointed time. I didn’t think too much of it though since they gave us a table last minute.
Like any izakaya place, the tables and chairs are simply made out of wood and the tables all touch each other. It’s not as loud as Guu so you don’t have to shout over each other to talk. The place was a little understaffed for a Saturday so it was hard to get someone’s attention but they were nice about it and took care of everything later.
I wanted something that wasn’t going to be too strong but would help me loosen up a little. The Choya Plum Wine sounded interesting and I thought because it was wine, it wouldn’t be too strong, but I was wrong. When you first drink it, it hits you really hard; the taste is sharp and sweet. But as the ice slowly melts, it distills it a little and it becomes pleasant, one of my new favourite drinks.
Edamame is always a great classic. They were salted perfectly and cooked at the right temperature.
The Tonjiru is a twist on the classic miso soup. In it, you’ll find some added veggies and pork. Because of this, it gives the soup more flavour and makes it less bland (for lack of a better word).
The Tuna Tataki had about five pieces but were cut really thin and didn’t have much taste. But then again, I could be a little biased since I’ve never been a fan of red tuna.
I don’t know why we ordered the Salmon and Tuna Sashimi but it really does taste like any other sushi restaurant. I will give them this though, it didn’t seem like it just came out of the freezer.
It’s hard to find good, authentic Takoyaki in Toronto but I’m glad I have another place to add to my very small list! The group I was with have also never tried them before but they loved them! Yes!
Their Pork Belly and Chicken Skewers are so tender and juicy. I didn’t waste any time inhaling them. Probably one of the best ones I’ve had in awhile.
It’s hard for me to be blown away by fried rice since I’ve had so many variations of it. But their Oba Fried Rice is soft and not dry. I like when my fried rice is a little moist; it also helps that there is everything that I like in it including chicken, seaweed, eggs and shredded carrots.
What great meal isn’t complete without dessert? And if you only want something light, these Green Tea, Sesame and Vanilla Ice Cream are the way to go. The scoops were as big as baseballs and the ice cream was freshly scooped, creamy and didn’t have any traces of frost.
I like Chou a little more than Guu in terms of the food. But I do like Guu‘s atmosphere more. I’d go there for a rowdy night out with friends but Chou would be my go-to place for a small gathering or date night.
58 The Esplanade
Cuisine: European, Pub Food
Type: Casual Dining
*Winterlicious 2013 menu
When I first heard the name Bier Markt (purposely spelled without the ‘e‘), there was only one location that existed; now there’s four! I’ve been putting off coming here but finally made the reservation in late Winter.
The best way to describe the interior is a posh pub. There are more than 100 different kinds of beer from all around the world and you can see all of them on their taps behind the long bar. The tables, chairs and walls are all a dark oak colour which makes it seem like a pub but the atmosphere is a bit more classy and not so casual.
The Brewer’s Onion Soup had more than enough cheese and I like how it had one big giant ring instead of several. That way, the taste of the onions isn’t too strong.
The Salade Maison (House Salad) is made up of baby arugula, Golden Delicious apple slices, candied walnuts (yum!) and shaved cheese bits. The bitterness of the arugula is a contrast to the sweetness of the nuts. It gives off a nice refreshing taste.
My Petite Charcuterie had a little sample of everything and I loved how the smoked meat was salty, the pear compote was sweet while the slices of Oka and Brie made it savoury. The grilled bread was also fresh out of the oven and so soft in the centre. I would order this again in a heartbeat!
I wanted something on the lighter side so I went for the Pear and Apple Salad. Surprisingly, it was the dish with the biggest portion; with free range chicken, apple slices, baby greens, cheese and pecans drizzled in a light red grape vinaigrette. This might’ve been one of the best salads I’ve ever had if it weren’t for the Stilton cheese, I found it too bold for my taste.
In terms of portion, the Atlantic Salmon is quite small. It sits on top of a small bed of vegetables that just doesn’t quite fill you up. The fillet is cooked nicely though; it’s tender and comes apart nicely.
The Fig Creme Caramel was made very well. It was really thick and creamy that it melted in my mouth. I’ve had many creme caramels but none like this!
My Double Chocolate Fudge Cake was sinfully good. The cake was moist and the icing really held the cake together so it didn’t crumble when you broke off a piece. The icing was also creamy (and not because it was full of butter).
The Lemon Tart is a light dessert that is great for those that don’t want to indulge too much. The tart is hot so if you eat it with the chilled vanilla ice cream, it’s truly amazing!
I wouldn’t mind coming here again if someone suggested it. Some of their things really are delicious and unique in their own way. And for the beer enthusiasts, I’m sure it’s heaven!
100 Adelaide Street East
Type: Seafood Bar
My boyfriend is always craving oysters. He’ll want them at the oddest times and if he could, he’d eat more than one platter at a time (he probably has at one point). So I decided to surprise him by taking him to Starfish! He guessed where we were going before we arrived but I just kept denying it until he got inside, hehe.
He’s also taken a liking to alcoholic cider. Our waitress told us about this Ontario-made Foundry Cider. I’m not a big beer fan but even I enjoyed it. It was very light and the apple cider overpowered the beer, which is a big plus for me.
I’m not a huge fan of soup but when I find one I like, I REALLY like it. This is what happened with their Hearty Winter Vegetable with Salmon Soup. It had a hint of cream which made it smooth and the pieces of salmon and vegetables were a good size. I loved how everything came together nicely but you could distinctly taste every ingredient with every bite.
These are the Green Gables P.E.I Oysters that we came for. Starfish houses the World Oyster Opening Champion Patrick McMurray and I don’t know if this has anything to do with the taste of the oysters but they were so fresh and tasted amazing. There was no seawater taste and they went down smoothly.
On top of the oysters, we had the Steamed P.E.I. Mussels. I love how their seafood tastes so fresh, like it was caught that morning. They way they steamed the mussels really brought out the taste without overwhelming it with spices; a great dish indeed. It may look like a small portion at first but the Fries come on a separate plate; a full plate mind you. I loved how how they were cut thin because that means more of that crispy layer.
My Filet of Organic Irish Salmon could have been a little more moist but it was still enjoyable. The salmon sits on top of a bed of roasted baby potatoes, onions and a beet.
My delightful Blondie Square comes with a chunk of citrus and pistachio white chocolate bark that I devoured by itself. A blondie is pretty much a white chocolate brownie but because it’s white chocolate, some people find it too sweet. I didn’t think this was the case though since it was balanced out with the sourness from the cranberry compote.
Starfish’s Famous Sticky Toffee Pudding comes to your table hot and drizzled with a little caramel and cream. It’s soft and feels like you’re eating a pillow (if that makes any sense at all).
We will definitely be back! Not only do they have fresh seafood but everything on their menu tastes great. I just can’t get enough!
230 Commerce Valley Drive East
(905) 886 – 0221
Cuisine: Asian Fusion
Type: Snacks/Bubble Tea House
This is my second time here and the food was okay the first time but anyone with taste buds can tell all of their snacks and desserts are pre-bought and frozen. I’m only talking about the cakes and the street vendor snacks like meatballs. They’ve made over the place since the last time I came and their lighting is extremely dim in certain areas. They also have a few open rooms for bigger groups that actually look a lot more comfier and close-knit.
This is one of those places where you come for the atmosphere and not the food because the food is OVERRATED! You’ll have to share the area with students on laptops and loud talkers but you have to realize that despite the decor, this was a casual place for people to socialize and I guess it hasn’t shaken off that image. Even I went to Go for Tea for a get together with friends and we were playing cards after we finished our food! Enough gibberish, let’s get to the overrated food…
The one thing that has yet to fail me here is the drinks. Then again, just look at the name; it would be quite sad if the bubble tea wasn’t their speciality. I love Taro Milk Tea with Tapioca and even when I try to change flavours, I change it back last minute. The only other one I may get is a regular Milk Tea (second photo) when I’m looking for something not so sweet. I clearly said I wanted a large but the waiter (he doesn’t deserve to be called a server) wrote down a small. When he repeated the orders, he even told me LARGE. At least I wasn’t wrongly charged but when he told me: “No, you ordered a small,” he said it with a small sigh and attitude.
Knowing we were going to grab some real grub later, me and my friend Amy ordered “snacks”. I got the Popcorn Chicken and she got the Fish Balls. We both agreed it was okay and I enjoyed it for the most part but talk about salty aftertaste!
This dish here is their Stewed Beef on Rice and he has gotten it before. Although it is described as delicious, he says he’s had more bad experiences than good here. It did look pretty juicy though…
This is the Rice and Short Ribs and it smelled heavenly. I think the trick here is to order their main dishes and take a chance on those. Those seem to be of higher quality and made from scratch.
I don’t remember what these two dishes are called but they are both rice dishes. The first one was rice, veggies and meat in a thick soup. I’m guessing it’s extremely thick because of cornstarch. The second doesn’t look very special or unique at all but to each their own.
Like I said before, this place is all about the atmosphere and it is cozy. I’ll try one of the main dishes the next time I happen to be there. But a warning, if you value service, you should avoid this place. They don’t smile at all and don’t have any sense of humour; they just jot down your order and go. I’m someone who studies facial expressions when I talk to people so you could say it was written over their faces.
I love tea in its’ purest form and Chrysanthemum Tea isn’t anything without the petals. That applies for any floral tea really. I’m glad Go for Tea didn’t cheap out on this part.
This is their Fried Squid; I just wanted to try it out and I enjoyed it but I wouldn’t order it again. There was a little too much salt and left my tongue extremely dry. But it was cooked nicely with a chewy texture.
I’ve never had the Fried Rice with Taiwanese Sausage here before but I think I’ll get this from now on when I come here. It doesn’t seem that big when they bring it out but close to the end, it becomes a struggle to finish. There is a lot of flavour and there’s only a small sprinkle of chives.
The Lamb Udon Noodle Teppanyaki is great on a cold day. Unfortunately, it’s not on their regular menu and was a special. The udon noodle was cooked perfectly; it was firm and chewy. The egg wasn’t overcooked and the meat wasn’t bland. They did an amazing job on this one.
36 Wellington Street East
Type: Semi-Casual Fine Dining
Lucien was one of the restaurants I ate at for Winterlicious 2013. I’ve seen their name being tossed around but there was no urge to go. With Winterlicious, I thought it would be a great opportunity to eat at a fine dining restaurant for less.
I had the French Onion Soup thinking that there would be more cheese but there was more onion. I could at least drown the rings of onions in stringy cheese but I couldn’t. The soup was also salty and made me really thirsty.
The Albacore Tuna Crudo was another appetizer and while the tuna was savoury, it wasn’t a very memorable dish. When I asked the person how their dish was, it took them awhile to remember how it tasted or even where it came from.
As you can tell from the photo, the Roasted Beetroot Salad is somewhat plain. The sauce was tangy and I loved that it was mostly romaine lettuce but other than that, it wasn’t the most appetizing.
The Housemade Fettucini is a great and the sauce isn’t too heavy so you still have room for dessert. The pasta is firm and stays together. A dish with a few ingredients also keeps it nice and simple so that you can clearly taste what you’re eating.
The Perth Country Pork is a bit salty but the meat is still nice and tender. The plate is also a good size; it leaves you full but leaves enough room for dessert.
I found the Duck a la Orange a lot more appetizing because it was juicy and tender. I like my steak medium so I loved how the duck wasn’t fully cooked. The shredded pieces of duck are made a little saltier which goes nicely with the cubes of what I think is squash.
Onto the best part, dessert! My boyfriend had the Pot au Creme because he has a thing for dishes similar to creme caramel. It had a nice creamy texture and melted in your mouth!
My Warm Pear Tart had a flaky hard crust that didn’t absorb the juices from the filling, keeping it hard and not soggy. The pears were also sweet and made just right.
My friend Amy’s Banana Chocolate Parfait was great at first but halfway through, she didn’t seem to enjoy it anymore. She felt that the banana taste was too much and it overpowered everything else.
I enjoyed my meal but I don’t know if I’d return. Nothing really stood out to me and you can find good food anywhere to be honest. If anything, I’d stop by for dessert.
*Random Fact: I was late for my own event, oops!
The holidays don’t have to be about getting people the biggest, most expensive gift. Sometimes, something thoughtful or making something yourself goes a long way.
I decided to give everyone jars of cookies this year and while I wish I could’ve tested the recipe beforehand so I could alter it a little, but it’s still a good recipe. They aren’t that sweet so I think you may have to change a few things here and there. See what works for you.
I made four different variations: plain, pistachio & cranberry, candy cane and mint chocolate chip. The plain recipe is a base for all the flavours. Just stir in the corresponding ingredients at the end before you roll them into logs.
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup finely chopped candy canes
Pistachio & Cranberry:
- 1/4 cup of finely chopped pistachios and dried cranberries
Mint Chocolate Chip:
- 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
- 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
Stir the flour with baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. Beat the butter with sugar in a large bowl on medium-high speed until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla (omit vanilla if you are making any of the others).
Gradually beat in the flour mixture until just combined. (Now would be when you add those “special ingredients”). Gather everything into a ball and divide it in half.
Roll each portion into a 2-inch wide log (I doubled the recipe so I rolled four logs instead). Wrap the logs in wax paper and twist the ends. Place them into the fridge to chill, approximately an hour.
At this point, preheat the oven to 350F and line two baking trays with parchment paper. Slice the logs into 1/4-inch rounds and arrange an inch apart from each other.
Bake in the top and bottom thirds of the oven, switching halfway through until they are golden brown, about 10-12 minutes. Let them cool on the trays for about a minute before transferring onto a cooling tray. The cookies will be good for 5 days if stored in an airtight container.
This post is perhaps a bit outdated but this recipe emphasizes how easily you can alter the recipe. Add what you’d like and let me know if it works out!