Category Archives: European

Locale Mercatto

Address: 330 Bay Street. Toronto, Ontario M5H2S8

Phone: (416) 306 – 0467

Website: http://localemercatto.ca/

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Mercatto, a Toronto-based chain of Italian restaurants, has a location in the Financial District, serving the corporate and travellers.  I happen to be shopping at The Bay on Queen Street and this was the closest eatery I could spot with my eyes.

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A rustic decor was percieved, with the gray concrete floors and wood accented walls around.  This style is quite common among other interior design and is quite dated or boring the more I see.  The restaurant was so dark, with the lights glowing or looming right above you.  Brightness was reflected from the lightly coloured pine wood furniture.  I liked the open kitchen concept, openly gazing at the chefs bustling away with their food orders.  It always amuzes me when they garnish the finished product or pick up their pans and flip the food inside or pick up their prongs to stir.  This was an enjoyment, possibly because I enjoy cooking myself.

Side note, the waitress was quite rude, for seating us in front of the washroom hallway, ignoring our desire to order, taking forever to get to us, futile atempt to get our feedback about the food when served, never checking on us, never filled our cups and hastily clearing our plates when done as if they could not get us out there fast enough.  Service was, to be honest, quite poor.

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Seafood Linguine ($18.00) was topped with scallops, calamari, mussels, served in pomodoro sauce and peperoncini hot chili peppers.  I have had better linguine before.  The pasta noodles were overcooked, too soft, leaning towards the soggy direction.  The dish did have a classic aromatic Marinara sauce, however, it was too salty.  Half of the mussels were empty shelled.  It was a poor selection of frozen seafood.

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Zafferano Risotto ($25.00) is made of saffron, shrimp, mussels, and scallops.  The flavourless saffron gave the risotto the red orange colour.  Risotto was al dente, quite crunchy, creamy and not too cheesy.  I quire enjoyed the texture.  However, the same problem, it was way too salty.  This was the main reason why lack of water was a problem for the whole evening.  Again, it was a poor selection of frozen seafood.  It was baby or miniture sized.  Mussels were missing from the shells.  Scallops and shrimps were sad or barely existent.  Calamari was abundant.

Portion sizes for our pastas were extremely small.  In fact, there was a disproportion of pasta to the seafood.  To be honest, I am not sure if the chefs were a bit off that evening I had the dinner or not, but the quality of the food and the price did not match.  Truthfully, I have had better, especially in the Downtown Toronto area.

Ratings

Food 2.75/5
Service 2.5/5
Ambiance 3/5

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

Tapagria Tapas Restaurant

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Address: 230 Commerce Valley East.  Markam, ON L3T 7Y3
Phone: (905) 771-8868
Website: http://www.tapagria.com/

Something different, a Spanish restaurant has opened at Richmond HIll – Thornhill border for few years.  It took up the Go 4 Tea space the generation y used to hang out at.  Now, the focus is on tapas, Spanish style small dishes, hoping to attract the groups to somewhere more Westernized and upscale, over the forever popular Asian bubble tea.

What a makeover!

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The interior is very rustic and extremely European, with the brick or stone walls and mosaic tiles on the bar island.  Space is very maximized.  I like the airy open concept!

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Salmon Pate ($5.00) was reasonably priced, out of all that was ordered.  As the literal meaning of the dish, nothing hidden, is basically blended salmon and chives, topped with olive oil.  I loved the rich taste of the salmon paired with the crispy and crunchy baguette.  The slice of toast offsets the flavourful salmon, giving it a balance.  The salmon pate was just so soft and creamy, a melt in your mouth texture.

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Jamon Wrapped Dates ($10.00) actually tasted better than I would expect.  The dates were wrapped with bacon.  This warm and soft tappas was such a delicacy to eat.  The saltiness of the bacon seasoned the burst of sweetness from the red dates at each bite.  The flavours were well balanced and spread evenly.  The only thing I would complain about is the price does not reflect the portion.

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Paella De Tapagria ($45.00) is a Spanish rice dish made with shrimp, chorizo, hen, mussels, jamon, octopus, and peas.  This dish is quite a lot of work to make, continuously stirring the rice with ladles of stock until it is absorbed and softens.  The final result was very salty, but the rice was al dente that it stuck to the bottom of the pan.  If the rice could be creamier.  Overall, the food lacked flavour or freshness and the meat was quite dry.  The dish had no bells and whistles to it, hence, it was quite a disappointment.

To be honest, the restaurant does not have the same vibe and atmosphere.  The owners were not as successful in generating gatherings and meetings to the restaurant like its former self.  Biggest reason is, the price point did not meet the quality and size of the food.  However, do go with a large group to make the tappas more worthwhile.  I think the tappas have a far better taste and more consistent than their entrees.

Ratings

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

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

Colette Grand Cafe

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Address: 550 Wellington Street West.  Toronto, ON M5V 2V5
Phone: (647) 348 – 7000
Website: http://www.colettetoronto.com/

Tucked in the Fashion District is Colette Grand Cafe, bringing the streets and culture of Paris, France to life in Toronto, Canada.  Hid within the developed condominium community, I was quite surprised to see a restaurant so cute and unique, adding diversity and multiculturalism within the city.  The restaurant expressed a theme of spring’s bloom and refreshment with the plants and the blue-white canopy.  The park, the low rise townhouses in front made the outlook of the eatery very relaxing, slows down your pace and sights could be perceived a couple of miles away.  There is a parking lot, holds fifty cars, across the street, which is convenient for drivers.  Taxis are lined at the front door, which is also convenient for travelers.  The restaurant intersects on Bathurst Street, therefore, TTC street cars and transit are easily approached.

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The decor was gorgeous, a European influenced or inspired design.  I love the high ceilings and the arches, causing an illusion where the space is very tall and grand, especially with the chandeliers.   If you noticed, there are a lot of round shapes in the restaurant – arched ceilings, lighting and chairs.  The shape helped to unite the ground and ceiling, instead of being a separate entity.  The tiling work, especially how it is on an angle, elongated the space too, wider and longer than usual.  Natural sunlight seeps through the full drop down windows at the front, resonates through the whole restaurant by reflecting off the white walls, pale beige chairs, tables, and tiles.  The natural light not only adds life to the restaurant, it also acted as the main element of the whole design.  It felt as if the interior united as one with the exterior, like you are sitting outside or in the hallway.

Meanwhile, the buffet area has a complete different theme from the dining space.  It is darker  in colour, with wood floors, like the 1800s castles in Europe.  I think it helps to differentiate the spaces from one another.  I absolutely love the flow, the grandeur and sophisticated beauty of the whole restaurant.

My girlfriends and I reserved for a Sunday Brunch Buffet, $54 per person, early in the day, at 10:30 am, when they open.   Each buffet customer can be seated for two hours.  Once the two hours limit is up, the servers automatically bring the bill over.  You can cheat-sit there for as long as you want, if you do not get caught.  But if you were asked to leave, they give you the option to sit on the patio to enjoy the beautiful weather, as long as there is space.

Colette offers a wide selection of food items in their buffet.  *Note: Food selection changes weekly.  They are made according to the supplies of fresh produce purchased by the restaurant.  What I had and seen in the pictures can be different from your selection when you visit.*

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The large salad bar and cold cooked food selection is located at the entrance of the cafe.

The salad bar was quite standard.  There were three types of green salad – baby spring mix with arugula, spinach and radicchio or garden salad with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and onions or a kale salad.  You can top it the different sauces on the side – balsamic vinaigrette, thousand island sauce, Italian dressing.  They also had extra toppings like nuts, dried fruits, oat on the side to additional touches to your salad.  A Mediterranean twist was added to the menu by serving a quinoa and a couscous salad, made with broccoli, Brussels sprouts, peppers, red onions and olive oil.  They also had a lentil salad with kidney beans, chick peas, tomatoes, pepper, parsley, lemon juice and olive oil.  Italian pasta salad or a Greek style pasta salad were part of the options too.  Thai curry bowl was spotted within the large food selection, as well as, a Spanish paella inspired rice dish.  Italian stuffed tomatoes, peppers and eggplants were served.  There was many more choices, but my brain could only remember so much.  Nonetheless, the selection was diverse and multicultural, like there was always something for everyone.

A fresh and unlimited copious amount of cooked seafood – mussels, smoked salmon, king crab legs, shrimp and lobster meat – with bowl of sliced lemons for juicing and a bowl of pungent cocktail sauce to bring out the natural flavour sat gloriously next to the salad choices.  During the refill process, I admire the staff for changing the food trays while stocking up.

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I loved the large antipasto tray of salami, prosecutto, sausage, olives, mozzarella, pamigiano, and a cheese I do not recognize.  On the side, they had marinated grilled eggplants, artichoke hearts, grilled zucchini, asparagus and peppers.  You can customize your antipasto to your own taste and have unlimited supply of it.  Everything was scrumptiously fresh, with strong sweet flavours.

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Hot foods area is tucked inside the cafe and offers a standard breakfast selection.  The hot food trays contain sausage, bacon, scrambled eggs, waffles, pancakes, french toast, potatoes.  They also had caramelized peaches and brie on the side, therefore you have the opportunity to make your own sauce for the dough goodies.  Roast beef and wellington salmon were readily prepared within the selection, where both were kept hot under the heat lamp, cut to the customer’s request.

Fresh omelettes were made fresh on the spot per customer’s request and customized to their palette because they get to pick what could be on the omelette from the list of ingredients provided.  *Remember, you can choose between egg whites or not.* When prepared, approximately 10 to 15 minutes, the server will bring it up to your sitting table.

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The dessert and fruit bar had a lot of variety.  Those with the sweet tooth could choose from parfaitchocolate or vanilla cupcakes, chocolate cake pops, meringue, lemon bundt cake, citrus triffle, strawberry shortcake, madeline, black forest trifle.  I was relatively disappointed with the dessert selection the day I visited because they either lacked flavour or did not have enough variety.  In fact, they did not represent the complexity and delicacy of French style pastries, like macarons, eclairs, specialty croissants, puff pastries, tarts, mousse cakes etc.   While, the healthy individual could choose from cantelope, honeydew, strawberry, blackberry, raspberry, grape, watermelon, and orange.

Food was very healthy and fresh.  If you love food the way I do, you will love the variety of selection that you can try out.  I enjoy the customization in pretty much everything.  Instead of picking from a fixed menu, you make your own.  One thing I ask the restaurant to do is to label each dish, just for clarity.  The kitchen staff are very intelligent and clever because everything they prepare does not conflict with cultural, religious or personal behaviours.  I hope to try the Eggs Benedict with Hollandaise sauce some day!

You know Colette is a high end restaurant when all the food was plated in Staub cast iron pots, or Staub ceramic kitchenware.  In fact, our dining ware were made of sterling silver because they are heavy duty and you see the polishing marks.  These little fine details make the restaurant special and provides confidence to the customers.  I must compliment the restaurant’s management staff.  The servers change all our dining ware to prevent cross contamination and mixing of flavours.  Also, when the new session begins to roll in, they completely prepare new fresh food and serving utensils.  Nothing from the previous time slots were served and used again.  It was really considerate because this helps quality control and good restaurant management.  In conclusion, I had a pleasant but expensive experience at Colette Grand Cafe.

Ratings

Food 4/5
Service 4/5
Ambiance 4/5

Colette Grand Café - Thompson Toronto Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Norman Hardie Winery and Vineyard

Address: 1152 Greer Rd. Wellington, Ont, K0K 3L0

Phone: (613) 399-5297

Website: http://www.normanhardie.com/

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Norman Hardie is the South African owner who began his brand and legacy in the Prince Edward County as one of the regions best vineyards and wine production.  Also, the first to start the wood-fired pizza.

You know this is a busy winery when there is someone directing your parking.  Take note, this is a one way entrance.  You slowly drive up the narrow unpaved ravine path, with grapes and vines grown on both sides.  It sets up a mysterious or suspenseful atmosphere to develop a series of surprise or expectations afterwards.  Was it fulfilled?!

On a long weekend, Monday afternoon, the parking lot was full and was so busy.  Everyone were hustling and bustling around us, stirring a trail of dust and dirt behind their tracks.  The estate, a barn like structure built with aluminum sheets, was built on a little hill overlooking part of the vineyard.  This vineyard has more than 100 acres, quite large.  It was beautiful, gorgeous and relaxing.  You see endless rows of vines, greenery, blue sky and floating white clouds.

We were recommended by locals that this is a must go to winery either for their great alcohol or their renowned wood fired oven pizza or both.  The pizza oven patio is opened from 11am to 6pm on Thursday through Monday from June to late September; in May, only Saturday, Sunday and long weekends at the same hours.  Their tasting bar is opened seven days a week from 10am to 6pm from April through early December; from January through March, the bar is open Monday through Saturday from 11am to 5pm.  Plan your visits accordingly.

**I did not go wine tasting, therefore, my review or blog post is on the pizza.  Why did I not go wine tasting?  I honestly had too much wine during my visit at Prince Edward County and I could not resist buying another bottle if I liked it.  I needed to save myself from over the roof bills!**

As we wait for our table, we are welcomed to explore the barn and around the winery.

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Right at the entrance of the barn, you walk into an indoor open dining area, the kitchen and wine making factory.

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You walk up a flight of stairs to the second floor, which is the wine tasting bar and souvenir retail area.

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It ultimately opens outdoor to another part of the vineyard and more wine making factory.  I did realize, they use the new technology in their wine making process.  Instead of using wood barrels, the juice and wine is encased in a large metal container.  This probably gives the wine more consistency and limits the variables to errors or problems.  It is easier to control.

The barn maintained its interior rustic look, using barrels as display.  It looks sleeker and cleaner with the aluminum metal finishes.  Quite contrasting but it offers a modern contemporary style and is design forward compared to a lot of other wineries in the area.

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They specialize in traditional Italian pizzas.  Our seat was directly in front of the wood fire pizza oven.  We watched the dough and pizza making process.  They were extremely busy, producing at least five to eight pizzas every five minutes.  The dough maker was turned onto extreme power mode, kept turning and stretching nonstop.  When done, he passed it to the topping maker.  Afterwards, to the wooden rod to insert into the oven.  The teamwork belt and speed could not be compared.

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Do not drink the water.  It tasted like the ice or water holding fresh oysters, extremely nasty.  They probably assumed everyone would order a wine to pair with their infamous pizzas.

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Salsiccia Bianca ($16) was made of sausage, flor di latte, garlic, hot pepper, and sauteed onions.  The pizza was kind of tasteless.  I loved the melted cheese and the strong onion flavour but it did not impress me.  I could not taste the garlic nor the spiciness of the hot peppers.  All it had was the aroma of the drizzled olive oil on the top.  There was a lack of sausage too.  Each bite I had was mostly the thin crust and cheese.  The crust was quite burnt too, because that was all I can taste, more so than anything else.

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Funghi ($17) made of flor di latte, oyster mushroom, garlic, and brie.  This pizza was much more appealing and satisfying.  The oyster mushroom added crunchiness to the texture of the crispy crust.  But overall, the flavour of the pizza was stronger.  The brie was really fresh and had that strong dairy flavour, when matched to the garlic and olive oil.  In general, the brie gave life to this pizza, otherwise it would not have tasted as good.

I think the pizzas were a hit or miss.  After a full day of oven usage, I am pretty sure there is soot built up, and also depends on how strong the fire is.  Pizzas can be easily burnt because the crust is extremely thin like crackers.  I do wish there was a little bit more toppings and less dry.  I will try them one more time, but I want to go with the standard traditional Margarita PIzza next time.  Nonetheless, this is one of the better traditional wood fired Italian pizzas eatery I have tried.

Ratings

Food 3.25/5

Service 3/5

Ambiance 4/5

Norman Hardie winerry Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cluny Bistro

Address: 35 Tank House Lane, Toronto, ON M5A 3C4

Phone: (416) 203-2632

Website: http://clunybistro.com/

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Clungy Bistro is a classy yet casual French restaurant in a heritage building located down a lane in the artsy, rustic, historical Distillery District of Downtown Toronto.  When all the buildings in the district look all the same, what differentiates one from another is the exterior decor and signs they expose themselves to attract their clientele.  Also, word of mouth.

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The moment you step into the restaurant, the grand mellow atmosphere is very relaxing and welcoming.  Wine bottles are displayed in floor to ceiling cabinetry.  Classic chinaware handmade in France are displayed carefully in the lighted glass cabinets too.

There is a patisserie to the left of the front entrance.  Definitely check it out when you have time because their display and products look scrumptious.  It acts like a small cafe.

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It is evident that this interior design is heavily invested into.  The dining area is brimming with many classic Parisian elements, from patterned floors to rich texture in its intelligent ceiling carpentry to simple dining set.  Why I call the ceiling a smart design because it is still an open element, hanging under the ventilation system hiding it from view but still easily maintained or cleaned regularly.  This interior design is a spectacular piece that combines traditional design with modern elements.  You do not feel the decor dated or boring.  There is a livelihood atmosphere around you.

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Even their menu has a nicely designed logo and artistry to it.

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Their dining ware are all gilded by their name, making it a brand, a memory engraved in our minds.  Everything we experience has a play in all our sensory system, doing the best it can.  This just shows how the restaurant is a form of pride.  Also shows how French is a menticulous group.

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Complimentary baguette or bread is served before our appetizers and main courses. One of their breads were infused or baked with rosemary and thyme. One was white and another was a baked multigrain bread. All were freshly baked and cut from the baguette table at the center of the restaurant. A good meal began from the complimentary bread platter.

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Melted Gruyere ($16) is a French onion soup with glazed onions in rich beef broth.  It was extremely rich and salty after few spoonful. The top layer was very cheesy, and loaded with croutons or bread crumbs, baked nicely to a melted crunchy texture.  I enjoyed the stringiness and the dairy flavour of the cheese, which blended nicely with the onion loaded broth.  The combination was hard to not like it, thoroughly enjoyed it.  I liked how it was baked in a small cast iron “Le Crusot” bowl because the heat was well distributed and maintained the same temperature for quite some time.

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Table Side Wellington County Beef Tartare ($14) served with the works and crisp Cluny baguette. The lean beef tartare was served in a “Le Crusot” ceramic ramekin, which was heavy duty and sturdy.  The tartare was not boringly mixed with eggs, capers, seasoning and garnishes.  Green peas, beans, green onions, and roe were added into the mixture.  It made the tartare extra crunchy with every bite.  The flavours were solid, really fresh and tender.  The works is a house made sauce of butter with cilantro and lemon juice, which I thought was refreshing.  With the baguette topped with beef tartare and the works, the outcome was exquisitely light, firm and crispy.

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Ginger Chili Fried Frog’s Legs ($15) paired with pickled celery and ginger-chili sauce was an interesting appetizer served on iron slate. The portions were small, but enough to cut up and share.  Frog meat tastes like chicken in general but much smaller in size.  The legs were fried crisply while maintaining its juiciness and tenderness.  You have to dip the meat into the sauce to give it some flavour, otherwise it was just lightly salted.  The sauce had some hot spicy kick to it, where the ginger was raw burning hot and the chili was sweet and sour.  The celery was thinly shaved and quite watery.  It was not as sour or pickled as I thought it would be, therefore it was still quite sweet and crunchy.  Interestingly enough, the three parts seemed like a weird combination but it meshed nicely together, giving dimension and creativity.  This was my favourite appetizer of the night.

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Veal Meatball “Tomahawk” ($23) was braised in thick tomato sauce, and served with Parisian gnocchi.  Veal was finely ground and made into a paste where it was shaped like a meatball to stick onto a piece of bone, giving the appearance of a drumstick.  I appreciate the creativity put onto the appearance of the dish.  The veal meatball was firm and light.  I was also able to taste a bit of cheese in the veal.  When you cut it in half, the meatball had air pockets, where it can retain the tomato sauce.  I LOVE the rich tomato sauce, which was extremely sweet and full of tomato essence, paired with the meatball, it felt very Italian.  Gnocchi was cooked al dente, maintaining its water content.  It had a light buttery flavour and well garnished with cilantro.  The gnocchi was extremely light and kind of desolate.  Though, I compliment how everything was separated, giving you the room to mix everything or do whatever you enjoy.

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Hunter’s Stew ($24) was made of rabbit, pheasant sausage, beef cheek, in whole mustard sauce.  The stew was more like a soup, where the broth was quite liquefied, instead of the thick texture (viscosity) I was expecting.  Flavour was also quite bland, close to flavourless in my opinion. However, the texture of the meat was really soft, very pliable and melt in your mouth. When it was all put in together, i could not differniate which meat was which, except the sausage. Overall, this dish was somewhat a disappointment to me. If only they can bring in more seasoning.

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Drunken Tuna ($28) is seared ahi tuna with red pepper pesto, pomme puree, rocket salad, and sherry vinaigrette. Tuna was seared beautifully, where the core was still soft, raw and red with the outside being a smokey flavour. This entree was also quite standard with a slight Japanese inspiration. Everything was fresh and zesty with the sweet pesto, sour cider like vinaigrette. It tasted good but nothing was amazingly spectacular with the entree.

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8oz Hanger Steak ($21) was grilled medium rare, served with lemon & garlic aioli and frites. The steak was standard also, nothing spectacular to note about. This was probably the safest selection of the evening because what can really go wrong with a steak. The steak was juicy, tender and firm, very soft to the bite. The steak was dry aged before grilling, therefore the flavour, fat and juices were evenly distributed and retained. But, I think all of us were attratched to the frites more because it was just so crunchy and who does not like potatoes. We were nonstop munching on them and if we had another plate, we would still be eating. These frites served a good snack for everyone at the table.

Cluny was a creative and conservative restaurant at the same time. The chefs used different cooking techniques to produce their food menu to attract their clients. Most importantly, there was a bit of everything for everyone to try and to suit your palate and needs. I will return to the restaurant to try their desserts and brunch because I have heard positive reeponses about it. Keep up with the fresh foods! Keep up with your creative ideas! Keep up with the art and stylish atmosphere!

Ratings

Food 3.75/5

Service 3.5/5

Ambiance 4/5

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Renoir (Montreal)

Address: 1155 Sherbrooke West. Montreal, Quebec H3A 2N3 (Sofitel Luxury Hotel)

Phone: (514) 285-9000

Website: http://www.restaurant-renoir.com/

Found in the Montreal Downtown, situated a block away from McGill University and Parc du Mont-Royal, this fine dining restaurant is a must-go-to and extremely easy to access.

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Upon entering the hotel lobby, we were welcomed by high ceilings, bright atmosphere, and open concepts.  To the left, there is an entrance leading to Renoir, the restaurant.HUBER-Bar.jpg

 

One end of the restaurant is the bar, dimly lit, quiet and relaxing.  It has a lot of windows, producing an open and tall space for its customers to experience and enjoy.  It will never feel like everyone is within your personal space.  Also, there is a glass door that leads to the patio.HUBER-Open-kitchen.jpg

 

On the other end of the restaurant is the sitting area for fine dining experience, with an open kitchen concept.  This ensures that our food is prepared on the spot, is fresh.  The open concept also creates a friendly environment, nothing secretive.

As our first time there, we studied the menu and talked to the waiter for recommendations and items that were not shown in the menu.  Other than ordering food individually, we did realize, a  line of words written in italics, for $59.00 you can have choice of a starter, a main course, french pastry and pressed coffee.  You can choose from the items under each category from the menu.  So, a semi prix fix menu but very versatile.  It is quite a good deal, depending on how hungry you are and wants to try a variety of foods.  So in the end, 2 in our group of 6, ordered the deal and everyone else ordered individual.

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After ordering, our waiter brought us shares of complimentary bread and beef tartare, with free refills.  Standard bread, though, it was on the hard and cold side.  But, bread is bread, nothing to go head over heals for.  Beef tartare was fresh, soft and chewy, with a hint of lemon juice and herb mixture of parsley, shallot and chive.  Good bite size.

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Gaspesie urchin soup ($19.00) was paired with homemade blinis with perfect egg and St-Pierre lake sturgeon caviar.  I favour neither caviar and sea urchin in general because of the distinct flavours and slimy texture.  I only tried the soup but not the caviar in the appetizer.  The soup was well blended into a creamy, smooth texture.  You do not taste much of the urchin fishy taste like when it is raw.  I assume urchins are tasteless when it is cooked.  It was really hearty and filling.IMG_6468

Bluefin tuna and homemade foie gras terrine ($23.00) with compressed abate pear, pomegranate and maple sugar brioche.  Soft tuna and foie gras texture, very fresh.  The fruits added a crunch, along with a sweet and sour fruit flavour to the appetizer.  Thus, really refreshing.IMG_6469

Day’s Special was Pan Seared Spanish Halibut Beets Risotto ($42.00).  The entree was absolutely amazing, scrumptious!  Risotto had a creamy texture, tasted a lot of butter, cheese blend, white wine, and beets; extremely flavourful.  The halibut was pan seared with salt and pepper.  It was fresh, and flaky.  The combination of the simple halibut with the rich and heavy beet risotto complimented each other well.  Neither of the two overtook each other and balanced one another.  But, it was extremely filling and heavy.IMG_6470

Fluke filet à la plancha ($28.00) mashed Jerusalem artichoke with pink garlic, kale cabbage, cherry stone shellfishes with savoury emulsion.  This is the healthier choice out of all ordered.  Filet was done to perfection, very juicy and soft, most importantly, intact in one piece.  Scared of overdone fish, where everything crumbles.  Tasted light, using salt and pepper for seasoning.  Essence of the garlic was the only flavour going towards the fillet and artichoke, otherwise, the entree will taste quite bland.  There was only ONE shellfish, with a foamy sauce on it.  Personally, I did not like the emulsion, too frothy, gave me the feeling we were inhaling and imagining a taste there.  Overall, simple dish with a clean taste, nothing too fancy.

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Duo of Boileau deer ($42.00) – filet and deer shoulder Wellington with foie gras and Mr. Rémillard’s pointy cabbages served with pumpkin and Indonesian pepper jus.  Deer had a texture like beef steak, except skinnier, leaner and tougher, probably from the deer’s high activity levels compared to a cow.  The deer fillet tasted like a steak marinated in a pepper sauce.  If you were not told it was a deer, you would have assumed it was a steak.  The wellington tasted really good, a flaky crust on the outside, wrapping the fat, juicy and melt in mouth soft foie gras deer combination.  Really filling, despite being served with petite portions.IMG_6472

Duck breast and grilled octopus ($33.00) served with eggplants and chanterelles (a form of fungus), Quebec apples and white curry spices.  The duck was grilled to medium rare, producing a deep red middle wrapped in lightly cooked skin.  This technique made the duck very soft and rendering a lot of its natural juices, keeping the natural flavours intact.
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How can you not top it up with a dessert? They have a pastry chef, educated in France, making pastries and desserts every morning. Therefore, their selection is different everyday. We ordered the chocolate pistachio cake, in the middle, and the chocolate praline mousse, second from the right. The chocolate pisatchio was had a strong chocolate flavour, and lacked the pistachio nutty taste. The chocolate praline mouse was very soft and chocolaty, a white dark n milk layer. But, both cakes were extremely sweet for my liking.

Great flavours, great texture, good portions and amazing service!  We were assisted by the manager and also the staff themselves.  They were very helpful and answered any inquiries we had.  On the friendlier side, we started cracking jokes and laughter filled the air.  Overall, extremely nice and always on the ball.  Ingredients are local, all from Canadian farms.  It felt good to support the Canadian market, back to basics.  The meal was astounding that we scraped up every little bit or leftover we could.

Ratings

Food 4/5

Ambiance 4/5

Service 4/5

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Santo Italian Restaurant

Address: 10 Royal Orchard Blvd, Markham, ON L3T 7R9

Phone: (905) 731- 0352

Website: http://www.santositaliancuisine.com/web/

Happy Birthday M!!  Thank you for choosing a local Italian restaurant in Thornhill, which felt very homey and comfortable.  The restaurant has been in the area for the past 20 years and why have I not heard of it earlier?!   Santos is very easily accessible, credit to the right-on-Yonge St.-plaza location.  There is a lot of parking space for drivers or travelers and is also reachable by main buses, YRT and VIVA, which run up and down Yonge Street.  It is tucked in a very developed residential area, therefore a lot of locals and neighbours reach the restaurant for a stomach fix.

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Credits: Santos Italian Restaurant

The interior decor was quite generic, nothing too special because I thought it felt like the Keg, a homelike comfortable and relaxing setting.

The evening we went, it was full house.  We waited approximately 15 minutes, even with reservations, quite reasonable.  The servers were very busy and kept pushing us to order quick.  I understand their point of view, where they do not want us to wait too long or disturb the flow.  However, we do need to study our menus and take our time.  We did not even get 2 minutes to read over the menu and the gentleman came to take our orders.  I wondered if they were annoyed by us because they had to do the same gesture 3 times to finally get our orders.  But honestly, 9pm on a Saturday evening for fine dining is quite late already.  No one came in after our group of 12 and by the time we were leaving, the whole restaurant was practically empty.  So, hold your horses!

Santos has a 4-course dinner special.  Prices are according to the main course that you choose.  They come with Caesar Salad, House Salad or Soup of the day, bruschetta, MAIN ENTREE, tiramisu or Spumone ice cream.  Half of us took advantage of the special and the others ordered individually.  This review is based on the dinner special because those who ordered it sat the closest to me.  

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Seafood chowder, the soup of the day, was definitely homemade. It had a lot of ingredients in it, clams, fish and shrimps and a lot of vegetables. They definitely made its own stock out of fish bones and shells for the soup base because you can taste the savory seafood flavours in the thick creamy liquid.  I devoured the soup, it was that good and legit.
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Bruschetta is quite standard, nothing special. It was a piece of baugett e topped with tomatoes in olive oil, basil and cheese.  Tomatoes were fresh and sweet but the cheese did not compliment.
imageRisotto Frutti Di Mare ($26) is Arborio rice with mussels, squid and shrimps with fresh tomato and basil sauce.  The rice was al dente and seafood was pretty much fresh.  All the meat was still connected to the shell, therefore it is not frozen seafood.  I enjoyed the overall flavour and texture of the risotto.  It was creamy in appearance and you can still taste the fragrance of the white wine and cilantro.  One thing I did notice is the chef did not apply a lot of cheese or dairy in general.  I personally do not like cheese because it feels extremely heavy and filling.  If you are someone who likes a simple risotto, this is the place to have it.

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Bistecca Alla Griglia ($30) – grilled New York steak (8 oz) with sauteed mushrooms served potatoes and vegetables or penne tomato sauce.  The steak is a no brainer or no surprise.  I have had better steaks before.  I am not saying this is terrible but just not as flavourful as the specialized steakhouses.  It was still juicy and tender but just missing something.  Also, the entree is quite heavy in proteins and carbohydrates.  The penne is al dente and the tomato sauce was sweet and savoury.  The suggestion I will make is make a steak frites or steak strip pasta.  That should be an interesting combination.wpid-20150207_215101.jpg

Tilapia Al Limone ($30) is a piece of fresh tilapia filet baked with lemon, white wine sauce, fresh herbs and garlic sauce, served with potato and vegetables.  You can choose between penne or vegetables.  I chose vegetables just for a more balanced meal.  The filet was tender and juicy.  It was covered in a bit of salt to retain some of its liquid and then breaded for baking.  The texture was great, kept fresh.  You can still taste the white wine even though majority of it was evaporated.   The sauce was zesty and savoury with the aid of herbs and garlic.  Nothing can go wrong with this combination of ingredients to make the sauce because they are a perfect match for one another and compliments one another.

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Raspberry Ice cream

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Mango Ice Cream

They ran our of tiramisu that evening and left us with the choice of apple pie, ice cream and something I do not remember.  The ice cream is home made and tastes exactly like a sorbet.  It was very light, icy and refreshing.  The fruit flavours were very strong and natural, definitely made of real fruit.  I wish I could have more than the two scoops.  Personally, I liked the raspberry better because it was sweet and sour and had the individual seed-like texture to chew on.  I guarantee you, it does not taste like medicine.  Nonetheless, both flavours were amazing; hard to choose!

I really like to support local businesses because it is very encouraging to see their many years of hard work pay off and familiar names are still around.  This dinner was very worth it!

Ratings

Food 3.75/5

Ambiance 3.5/5

Service 3/5

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