Monthly Archives: April 2017

The Piano Cafe

Address: 217 Queen St, Port Perry, ON L9L 1B9
Phone: (905) 982-0707
Website: http://www.pianocafe.ca/

Port Perry is such a neat little township Northeast of Toronto.  It is right on Lake Scugog, a very popular cottage county for a nice relaxing trip away from the city or for a.  The town has enough vibrance to keep you attracted, with free parking everywhere!

I visited Port Perry on beautiful warm weekends, which we were blessed with two weekends ago.  After a 40 minute drive on Major Mackenzie Road East, I finally saw the edge of the Town, where Tim Hortons and a few Fish and Chips restaurants are located.

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The Piano Cafe is located at the end of the Main Street.  It was the only noticeable busy cafe on the short strip.  The interiors of the cafe, was very homey and cozy, with local art hanging on the walls.  Everyone who worked there were so kind and can make quite a conversation.  However, waiting to be served was long and waiting for your lunch to arrive was even longer.

Piano Cafe is family owned and their menu is typical, but better than Tim Hortons or at the grocery stores.  Their classic lunch menu do not look filling, but they provide you with a finger licking experience when everything was cleared off your plate.  I had such a hard time choosing what to eat for lunch because everything looked attractive.  My hunger took over my rationality.

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Black Forrest Ham and Cheddar on Focaccia ($13.95) is made of blackforest ham, homemade sundried tomato dressing, cheddar and honey mustard sauce baked to perfection.  The sandwich was complimented with a choice of soup, green salad or Caesar salad.  I obviously chose the soup of the day, which was butternut squash.  The sandwich was so rewarding.  The ham was thick, but a bit dry in terms of the meat.  The meat’s seasoning with the sweet tomato dressing and honey mustard pair was just perfect tangy combination, with a subtle smokey flavour.  I wish there were some vegetables on it because they will add more crunch and freshness to the sandwich overall.

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Chicken Caesar with Apple Wood Wrap ($13.95) also came complimented with your choice of a soup, green salad or Caesar salad.  As above, the butternut squash was chosen.  The wrap was full of fresh lettuce and tomatoes, making the wrap crunchy to the bite.  The chicken Caesar sauce added a creamy texture to the filling, with a hint of tartness but I could not fully taste the smokey apple wood.  Basically, a chicken salad wrap was experienced.  It was a good refreshing wrap but I craved for more chicken bites.  I really like the butternut squash soup.  I could sense the onions’ heat and the starchiness of potatoes blended into the soup.  It was smooth and full of seasoning, but was not salty at all.

Piano Cafe had a sense of belonging.  It serves tasty comfort foods and the atmosphere was very welcoming.  No doubt it was one of the busiest eateries on Main Street.  Just like the rest of Port Perry, I sensed a relaxing aura, along with a easy going nature, and enjoyment for all age groups.

Ratings

Food 4/5
Service 3/5
Ambiance 3.5/5

The Piano Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Mot Na Son Korean Restaurant

Address: 5374 Yonge St, North York, ON M2N 2N1
Phone: (416) 222-1170

North York Yonge Street is the concentrated Koreatown of North Toronto.  Korean restaurants are lined on both sides of Yonge Street, from Finch Avenue to Sheppard Avenue.  The district does not lack restaurant choices and has a lot of competition.

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What attracted me into the bustling small restaurant was the cottage look with whole wood structure.  Personally, I thought it has a quaint earthen touch but it made the restaurant look down-to-earth and more traditional in essence.  After all, houses were originally made of wood or marble or stone in the ancient times.  The family like restaurant decorations were very simple, just photos hanging on the wall.  Due to the poor ventilation system, the room was quite stuffy and greasy from the table top cooking.

Service was slow.  The owner was quite condescending because I wanted to order the traditional fermented homemade soy bean stew instead of the soup, but he right literally said “NO, you would not like it because it had a thick texture and acquired taste”.  It was my first time seeing it, hence, I wanted to know the difference between a soup and stew, just for comparison.  I was disappointed and was shocked to have the male owner reject a customer’s request because he thought someone would not appreciate it or not accustomed to it or how it would not match with the food we will order.  Why would someone be so opinionated on a customer!  I was truthfully upset.  Then why would that stew be on the menu if people were not allowed to order it or if it would not match in flavour to the other foods on the menu.  Quite lame.

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In the end, I ordered the Traditional Fermented Homemade Soy Bean Soup ($9.99), which to my surprise, tasted different, extremely rich and flavourful that other restaurants never provided.  The soup was not salty nor full of monosodium glutamate (msg).  I do not know if the homemade fermented soy bean made a difference or not, but the soup was sweet and you can really taste the soy bean and you see bits and pieces of it floating in the bubbling soup.  On top, some alcohol essence was tasted in the bubbling liquid too, which could be developed during the fermentation process.  With the owner’s insistence, recommendation and rejection, the soup did taste pretty decent.

Spicy Stir Fry Pork Combo ($19.99) came with a soup of your choice, which we chose Pork Tofu Soup.  The combo was a good deal because individually, the soup would have costed $8.99.  Pork was fat, kind of like pork belly, therefore, each bite was really tender and soft, with oil oozing from your mouth.  Pork was stir fried with onions, carrots, and peppers.  Portion was big, which was also enough for a third person.  Too bad it was not as spicy as I hopped.  The dish was more like sweet and “weak” spicy.  Cooking oil was really not needed because the natural fat from the pork was more than enough to fulfill the cooking purpose.  Just unfortunate, they added too much oil to make the dish a bit too greasy.  The soup that was included in the combo was just a typical kimchi based soup, so nothing special or worth noting.

The soy bean stew is still on my mind.  I desperately want to try it still but I would not be surprised to be rejected by the owner again.  Overall, I did find the food quality acceptable and typical of Korean cuisines.  The menu was just too vast, too many options and kind of confusing in a way.  Most of the menu was combo-related.  A big group of friends is ideal to visit and try an assortment of the food.

Ratings

Food 3.5/5
Service 2.5/5
Ambiance 3/5

Mot Na Son Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Montecito Restaurant

Address: 299 Adelaide St W, Toronto, ON M5V 1P7
Phone: (416) 599 – 0299
Website: http://www.montecitorestaurant.ca/

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In the heart of Downtown Toronto’s Entertainment District and Financial District, Montecito Restaurant does not lack clientele, is easy to access, and is quite recognized in the public because this dining joint is a collaboration between Hollywood director Ivan Reitman and Innov8 Hospitality, who also manages Wayne Gretzky’s memorabilia in a dining experience.  This is quite an intelligent partnership because this natural form of publicity and advertisement comes from the collaborator’s individualized fame, which act as a “free” marketing tactic.  With all the bells and whistles, we all know this is quite an upscale, classy, high end restaurant.

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Interior decor is a holy shrine to the works Ivan has directed and produced.  Cast photos, movie scenes and behind the scene photos are everywhere as a sign of accomplishment, a recognition and respect.  There was no doubt that I looked thoroughly at all pictures surrounding me in the dining room and as I was walking towards the washroom.  To those who lived in that era, it was a memory.  But those who were born in the 90’s and the millennials, it was all new and curiosity overcome emotions.  Truthfully, the movies Ivan produced were iconic, thus, I cannot imagine anyone acting like a blank sheet.

High ceilings made the space very open and airy.  The tables and chairs were arranged neatly, very organized, signifying a systematic management.  However, I find the room quite dark and I wish they could make use of those large ceiling height windows for some natural light because that would make the outlook more welcoming, especially for Sunday brunch.  Brightening could enlighten up the mood and is more cheerful overall.

Montecito offers brunch buffet at $39 per person every Sunday from 11am to 3pm.  I made reservations for 11am and arrived a few minutes later.  To my surprise, the restaurant was quite empty, that reservations was not really required.  Over the course of two hours, which was the maximum time slot for everyone, only a few more tables were occupied.  Overall, the brunch buffet was not as popular and lively as I hoped.

*Disclaimer* The food options change every week to keep it special.  What I was served this week may vary from others who tried it another day.

oi000356.jpgThe food tables were misplaced or quite random.  The purpose was to avoid huge crowds or line ups, however, I felt confused, dislocated and misguided.  The center of it all, the most obvious buffet table, with the cooked food, salad, antipasto,  was situated at the kitchen at the middle of the whole dining hall.  The seafood platter propped on a bar table, which I thought was not served and did not try, was camouflaged independently next to the curtains.  It comes back to the argument of the restaurant is dimly lit but could also be my carelessness; but how did I completely miss the seafood?!?!  The dessert and pastry table was next to the entrance.  Till this day, I am still trying to decipher the logic behind the position of the food, like, why did they put the food there, why those locations.  It just seem so inconvenient.

The food was of fusion style, mainly influenced by Californian, Mexican, Italian, and Caribbean cuisines.

At the salad bar, there was the typical spring salad mix, kale salad, lentil salad, grilled fennel with beets and peppers marinated with olive oil.  To summarize, you can mix and make your own salad with the provided selection of ingredients.  I was disappointed to not see a pasta salad.  Yogurt and parfait was also served.  On the side, there is a selection of aged and cured ham with several cheese options next to it.  The ham was thinly sliced that it was hard to pick up with the tongs, hence, be prepared to pick up more than 1 or 2 slices.  However, the ham tasted amazing, especially on top of a salad.  The smokey savory protein enriched the flavours of the salad and dressing.  I also paired the ham with baguette, biscuits, anything bland.

Hot foods were stored in the heavy duty Staub cast iron casserole to maintain the warmth and freshness.  They served fried chicken, curry with white rice on the side, pizza, sausage, potato wedges, bacon, eggs.  The fried chicken was so crispy and coated lightly with jerk spices.  Everything else was safe, tasted nothing special.  I thought the eggs were overdone and left sitting on the counter too long, which became dry.  Everything that was served that day seemed to be spicy and the choices were limited.  

There are things that are freshly made.  Waffles and pancakes are made to order.  You can get the original buttermilk pancake or a chocolate chip pancake.  Guacamole is made to the order too just to ensure the avocados do not turn brown.  Once again, I am surprised omelet was not on the list.

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 The dessert and pastry selection offered was assorted donuts, tiramisu, danishes, bread pudding, chocolate brownie, cupcakes, carrot cake, scones and croissants.  Mixed into the selection was a variety of fresh fruits like honeydew, watermelon, apple and oranges.  The organization was a bit random.  In fact, I find the dessert variation quite disappointing that day for me just because the selection was not captivating.  In fact, the cakes and puddings have room for improvement.  They tasted a bit flavourless and texture was rough.  However, the croissant was flakey, if only there was more butter flavours.

Servicing and attitude was done quite onto the spot though.  Everyone was so nice, handsome or pretty, well groomed, mannered, and professional.  They were tentative, always there when you need their attention.  However, the young man who makes fresh guacamole was so bored that he was desperately waiting for someone to order the popular Mexican dip.  I also noticed they did not replenish the food based on the age of the food that has been on the counter for, but as when the volume becomes more depleted.  There are things that can be improved on.  Overall, the selection of food was typical, had no specialness or wowness to the flavour.  The restaurant does not scream out to me nor does it yern for more of my business.  I find it quite disappointing for such a high end dining experience.  I hope the collaboration all the best and keep on improving for the years to come.

Ratings

Food 3.25/5
Service 4/5
Ambiance 3.5/5

Montecito Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

NEW Pho Bo Ga La

Address: 761-763 Somerset St. West.  Ottawa, ON. K1R 6R1
Phone: (613) 233-2222
Website: https://newphobogala.ca/

What happen when you do a spontaneous one day trip to Ottawa, the capitol of Canada?  The drive from Toronto is 5 hours, so when you arrive past noon, you realistically have a few hours to speed visit everything before your return trip back home.  As a given, you visit the touristy places, like everything around the Parliament Hill perimeter.  With a lack of plan and research, you also end up eating at the most random restaurant ever that is along the way back home.

With Chinatown Ottawa being around the corner, you just make that rash deicion of parking your car and eating at the first restaurant on the strip with fast service.  Obviously, we chose the one that was busier and has more seats occupied.  The more traffic, the fresher the food and better reviewed or liked.  It was hard to not notice NEW Pho Ba Ga La!  So, I assume there was a “not-so-new” Pho Bo Ga La or this was a relocated version of the original Pho Bo Ga La.  What was with the NEW?

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The decor was very practical, just wooden tables paired with black chairs lined on both sides of the restaurant.  The furniture is quite worn out and sticky, like some major scrubbing is required.  Pho Bo Ga La was never meant to be a high end gathering or chilling place.  Evidently, they positioned themselves to be a budgetized fast food restaurant.

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Well Done Beef, Slightly Fat Beef and Beel Ball Rice Noodles in Soup – Phở Chín Nạm Bò Viên (small, $9.00) is made as the name described.  Pho, a simple stapled street food option in Vietnam, has gained a tonne of popularity internationally.  Not only is it easy to cook, but also, with a lot of variations to differentiate it from one another.  For a small size, they offered a generous amount of ingredients, making the bowl of pho filling, very tasty and satisfying.  The broth was aromatic and sweet.  Bonus to not being salty and thirsty after the meal.  The beef was thinly sliced and had a thick layer of fat stuck to the surface, hence, it was very soft, but too well-done tough.  Meanwhile, the meatballs were quite tough, and chewy.  I felt like I was eating a rubber ball.  The noodles was al dente but a few strands that was undercooked.

The meal was quite decent and was more than I expected, though, I did not know if I had any expectations.  It was either overcooked or undercooked, but overall, it was decent enough for a fast meal.

Ratings

Food 3.25/5
Service 2.5/5
Ambiance 2.5/5

New Pho Bo Ga La Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Different Sriracha Chips….Which one is better?

Chips are my own nemesis.  No matter how hard I try to defeat the crave, it just cry for more.  I can truthfully conclude, i am a couch potato.  😦  Just be thankful, I am not the size of a potato.

When I walk down the chip aisle in the supermarket, I cannot help but to look at the different brands and the wide variety of flavours offered.  Competition is there!

Those who know me knows I love spicy food, chilies and love being experimental.  The newest flavour in chips I discovered late 2016 is SRIRACHA.  How could I resist?  I have so far tried the Kettle Brand, PC’s World of Flavour, and Original Sriracha.  A comparison is made today!

Where I Found the Chips:

PC’s World of Flavour Sriracha:  Loblaws, No Frills
Kettle Brand Sriracha: Longos
Original Sriracha: Bulk Barn

Packaging:

Original Sriracha: Rank 1!!  I love how original the packaging is.  The bag really resembles the bottle of sriracha!

Kettle Brand Sriracha: Rank 2! The thick bag is a novelty of the Kettle Brand.  The red colour differentiates itself from the other flavours.  So to speak, red resembles the sriracha redness and the spiciness of it.

PC’s World of Flavour Sriracha: Renk 3! Just like other PC chips, all in the same white bag, nothing special, just showing the ingredients and name.  You really have to go through each bag to find the right flavour.

Texture:

Original Sriracha and Kettle Brand had the same kettle cooked chip texture, where it was thick, hard and crunchy.  However, Kettle Brand had an extra crispiness to the bite, probably due to the thick bag package, helping to keep its freshness and preventing the environment affect the chip nature.

PC’s World of Flavour was the “fried” in oil texture, thin cut and crispy texture.  It reminded me of the typical regular chip.

Under this category, I rank from best to good as follow: Kettle Brand, Original Sriracha, PC’s World of Flavour.

Flavour:

Original Sriracha: sweet, but had a feeble hint of spiciness.  At least there was a kick to it, or at least attempt to!  The flavour was well balanced and evenly spread onto the chips.

Kettle Brand Sriracha: tasted sweet, lacked spiciness.  I thought I was eating sweet chilies.

PC’s World of Flavour Sriracha: extremely salty, lacked spiciness, strongly tasted onions and garlic more than anything else.  Remember long time ago when there were powder flavours offered at Cineplex that could be put on your popcorn?  Or when McDonald’s had the shake flavour fries?  The PC chips reminded me of those concept, how the chips were really seasoned by a lot of sriracha powder that made the bag of chips a disappointment.  After a period of time, the tongue becomes rough and numb.

Under this category, I rank from best to good as follow: Original Sriracha, Kettle Brand, PC’s World of Flavour Sriracha.

Overall/Conclusion:

The three of the brands were unique and different.  I do personally prefer the Original Sriracha most out of all.  However, I must admit, they were not attention grabbing or memorable enough that I would have seconds again.  The manufacturers need to develop or strengthen the flavours more and improve it.  But in terms of recognition, Kettle Brand is more easy to access because they are in all supermarkets, while Original Brand is such a niche and PC’s World of Flavours are only recognized under the Loblaw’s corporate.

 

Jim Chai Kee 沾仔記麵食

Address: 270 West Beaver Creek Rd, Richmond Hill, ON L4B 3Z1
Phone: (905) 881-8778

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Found in the Jubilee Plaza on Highway 7 and West Beaver Creek is the two decade old Hong Kong style noodle shop, Jim Chai Kee Noodle Shop.  They have attracted many oriental clientele from the surrounding diverse neighbourhoods.  I was introduced to this eatery through a family friend twenty years ago.  Whenever I have a crave, you will find me slurping on the noodles from this noodle house.

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Even the interior is quite Hong Kong street food style, very simple and with hand written menu items taped on all the surrounding walls.  They do not have the grandest decor, but like a traditional Asian, the interior is rather practical and comfortable.  All of this is reflected on the pricing of the food, the amount of selection on the menu, self-serve service, and the length of time each customer spends.  As stated, everyone here speed eats and leave, or share tables with others for their meals and leave.  Practical!

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Classic Shrimp Wonton Egg Noodles 云吞面 ($5) was ordered.  The wontons were HUGE, packed with 2 shrimps and pork in a thin flour skin.  You have to take at least two bites to devour the beast.  I would like it if the wonton was a bit smaller because smaller portions make it more memorable and less hassle.  Nonetheless, the wonton was very tasty or flavourful and the meat was springy, not mushy nor lumpy nor overcooked hard.  Meanwhile, the noodles were al dente.  The noodles is well complimented by the red vinegar and the house-made chili oil, making the egg flavour in the noodles more rich.  Overall, an amazing bowl of wonton noodles.  My only complaint is the lack of the chive topping, which was substituted by green onion, making it less traditional.

Simple dish takes you a long way and brings many memories.  It may look simple, but making it is not.  The egg noodles are really made of a combination of duck eggs and flour, where you sit on the bamboo and “pat” the dough flat to incorporate the ingredients and rid of air pockets till it becomes thin strands.  In this day and age, the noodles are probably machine made.  Traditionally, wontons always paired with thin egg noodles.  However, you can switch the noodle to rice noodles, vermicelli or thick egg noodles, etc.  In fact, you can eat the wonton noodles with broth or without broth (usually a larger portion).  This is such a versatile stapled HK style food.  Customize it your own way!

Ratings

Food 3.5/5
Service 2.5/5
Ambiance 3.5/5

Jim Chai Kee Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato