Category Archives: North American

Alchemy Coffee

alchemy-coffee

Address: 4361 Highway 7 East. Unionville, ON.  L3R 1M1
Phone: (905) 604-6622
Website: https://alchemycoffee.ca/

Found in a small strip plaza in Unionville is a cafe that serves classic brunch daily from open to 3pm.  With a lack of parking space available, it is advised to carpool or time yourself to arrive as early as possible to ensure a spot in this small place.

The storefront was small, with around twenty five seats when maximized.  Though, the space has a modern contemporary design to it.  It felt very warm and cozy with the wood tones.

Tables are by first come first serve and if the party size can fit the table.  There are no numbers, no servers.  You just wait in line.  For example, if a table that can only fit two is available, but you have a party size of three or more, then tough luck, you will have to wait for space that can fit your party size, or use the brain juice to maximize the space to fit your party size.  Hence, wait can run from ten minutes to half an hour.  It really is by luck.  My group, thank goodness were petite, so we squeezed ourselves at the bar table instead of waiting on.

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Smoked Salmon Eggs Benny ($14.00) with portobello mushroom and kale is served with house fries and a salad.  I also ordered a hot latte ($4.00) with my brunch.  Sunday brunch at its best!  Even though the menu is quite typical but I love the classic and trustworthy items.  The food was pleasant, very well balanced flavours.  The salad was very leafy and crunchy, with a tart vinegar base.  With the saltiness of the house fries, which really are roasted baby potatoes, the salad was brought to another dimension of flavours.  Meanwhile, the main character of the whole brunch dish, smoked salmon eggs benny was well worth my waiting time and a hungry stomach.  The smokey flavours of the salmon, sweet hollandaise sauce, salty yet earthy flavours of the portobello mushroom and the creamy poached egg truthfully blended so well together, as if they were made for one another, like a love affair.  They were cooked to perfection, especially the eggs benny, which was very runny.   The soft melt in the mouth texture of the salmon on the meaty portobello mushroom was absolutely savoury.

This brunch was like a treat to my busy Sunday schedule.  It gave me life!  I was able to sneak this in my full day of professional education conference and gave me more energy to sit through another half day of education series.  I am extremely glad to have a good quality brunch spot in the York Region area.  I highly recommend this little classic traditional cafe.

Ratings

Food 4/5
Ambience 3.25/5
Service 3.5/5

Alchemy coffee Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Wish Restaurant

Address: 3 Charles St E, Toronto, ON M4Y 1R9
Phone: (416) 935-0240
Website: http://wishintoronto.com/

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Tucked on a side street off the big intersection of Bloor Street and Yonge Street, you will find an attractive gazebo-like entrance to Wish Restaurant.  You can find a paid parking Green -P around the neighbourhood, but beware of all the condominium construction across the streets from the restaurant.  The prime location and the future opportunities look quite promising for successful business, UNTIL, a developer decides to buy the land, strip it down for new living space.  But, for now, the restaurant looks really cute with the patio and very welcoming.

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It was so cute, cozy and dreamy inside, though somewhat tight.  I love the full white atmosphere, so airy and makes me feel like I am floating in the sky, or sleeping on a cloud.  Mirrors were their accent pieces hanging on the wall to make the space look more open and wider to the eye.  You would find yourself very relaxed in the restaurant.  The owners really maximized their seating space to the max, because there were a few awkward seats, under the stairs, a three-some table on an angle facing the mirror column.  I was annoyed looking at my own reflection constantly for the couple of hours I was there.

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Apple Walnut Steel Cut Oatmeal Pancake ($15) was topped with salted butter and cider syrup on the side.  I was a little disappointed that no fruits or salad came with the pancakes.  This was a full carb breakfast diet, which was very fat.  This was just too much pancakes, 5 large pieces!  My heart kind of dropped when it arrived.  Lesson learned, always order some fruits and vegetables on the side.  It was quite dry and bland, turning soggy after some exposure.  However, I did bite into small pieces of walnut occasionally, but not finding the apple bits.  Overall, pancake was a pancake, nothing spectacular or screamed amazing.  Neither the butter nor syrup could liven up the pancake.  One last thing, I could not justify the cost of the pancakes; they were not worth it.

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2 smashed avocado on rye toast with heirloom cherry tomatoes, goat cheese and poached egg ($18) was definitely more mouthwatering.  Avocados taste good with anything!  So basically, this tasted like guacamole, with stronger cheese flavours and larger tomato pieces.  It was not as mashed or finely ground, but I liked the overall texture because there was more feel to it than the paste-like dip, causing more desire and enjoyment to the food.  The eggs were runny, though with a rubbery white.  With the runny yolk, it added more liquid and sweetness to the underlying ingredients.

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Eggs in Purgatory ($17) is baked eggs, poached soft in a stew of peppers, chilies and tomatoes, studded with scamorza cheese and grilled baguette.  This was the best brunch option of all that was ordered.  The name was attractive and matched the appearance, how things look tortured in burning fire.  The sauce was aromatic, full of sweet and tangy tomato flavours.  However, the eggs were a bit overcooked, harder than I would like it to be.  This dish of food had a bit of everything from every food group, your daily vegetables, protein, wheat, and dairy intake, hence, quite a healthy choice.  It would be a shame to not lick your dish dry and immerse all your taste buds with the sauce.

Wish gave me an airy feel and the atmosphere set up your mood to the food that is served.  There is a wide selection for everyone and the menu changes every season, while having a couple of stapled items.  Remember to reserve your tables for brunch, otherwise, you will regret it because I know I could sit there for hours and chat.

Ratings

Food 3.75/5
Service 3.5/5
Ambiance 4/5

Wish Toronto Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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

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

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.

 

Sushitto On the Road (Food Truck)

Address: Downtown Toronto, commonly found on University Ave & College Street, Dundas St & University Ave, Royal Alexandra Theatre, Mel Lastman Square *Check their instagram for daily updates of location and time*  They will serve till Oct 31, 2016.

Email: sushittontheroad@gmail.com

Website: http://torontofoodtrucks.ca/sushitto-on-the-road-food-truck-toronto

**updates*  They have a permanent store now named Rollipub!**

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I finally got my hands on these sushi burritos, the first and original creative mobile makers of this snack in Toronto, before they wrap up and disappear for the winter.  After trying Rolltation, I really wanted to taste the founding fathers for comparison and ofcourse, to follow the trend.

Food trucks are short lived, finding its popularity throughout late spring, summer and early fall.  Once the weather starts dropping in temperature, turns cold and muggy to snowfall, these trucks find it hard to make business.  In fact, in the cold seasons, Torontonians like hearty hot foods to keep warm.  Hence, it is especially short lived with the cool sushi burritos.  Also, the expense in the long run to maintain the truck in the winter can not be covered by selling sushi burritos.

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They have a wide selection of burritos and sizes.  The cheaper prices reflect the half burrito size, approximately 6 inches.  Meanwhile, the higher prices reflect the full burrito size, approximately 12 inches.  Order appropriately.  There is always something for everyone.

On the left, lobster sushi burrito ($9) was made of tempura lobster, crab meat, cucumbers, lettuce, egg, avocado, fish roe and topped with a creamy mayo soy sauce.  On the right, spicy salmon sushi burrito ($10) was packed with cucumbers, lettuce, avocado and copious amount of salmon mixed in with a spicy mayo sauce.  They were packed with ingredients and were generous in size.  The seaweed nori was barely large enough to pack the ingredients.  If they were not held by the cup to keep its shape, they would have exploded and became a big mess.

Lobster Sushi Burrito: The lobster tempura was probably made before hand because it was a bit soggy from age and mosture of the ingredients, but, it had a flavourful salty tempura batter.  The crab meat was sweet, balancing the salty lobster and neutral flavours of the vegetables.  The roe, cucumbers and lettuce added a lot of crunch to each bite, quite captivating.  The avocado made the roll very creamy, a melt in mouth sensation.

Spicy Salmon Burrito: The salmon was very fresh and a nice grade of salmon sashimi, very smooth and soft; no tendon like bits to the body, making every bite very easy to digest.  This burrrito only had cucumber and lettuce, nonetheless, added a lot of crunch.  While the avocado complimented the spicy mayo, making the burrito very creamy and neutralized the spiciness a bit.

The flavours and texture of the sushi burritos were definitely better than Rolltation’s.  *Sorry!!*  The selection of burritos were better.  The flavours were far more distinct, rich or diverse and true to taste, also, had a much better texture.  The burritos were very clean to eat because the sauces were mixed into the ingredients.  By having the sauce mixed into the ingredients beforehand, made the flavours spread evenly across the burrito.  Out of the two ordered, lobster burrito won.

I thoroughly enjoyed eating them, to a point that, they were not enough to satisfy my taste buds.  Stay in tune because the owners announced a permanent store location.  For those who lucked out on the truck, the store will definitely fulfill your desire.

These sushi burritos, in reality, is a ginormous sushi roll.  There is still a lot of room for improvements and room for more creation.  A lot of variations can make this concept succeed.

On the side, because the idea should be a fusion between sushi and burrito, the appearance defintiely looks like a packed burrito but the ingredients do not.  This will be time consuming, but in my mind, maybe the rice can be ground finely to flour and make flat breads out of it, to give an appearance of a true burrito.  OR, the outer layer should be rice instead of seaweed.  For structural purposes, the cooked rice can be pan fried to give a crispy outer layer to keep the roll intact.  These are just some suggestions, if plausible.

Ratings

Food 4/5
Servicce 3.5/5
Ambiance – nothing to rate because it is a truck

Rolltation Sushi Burrito

Address: 207 Dundas Street West.  Toronto, ON.  M5G 1C8
Phone: (647) 351-8986
Website: www.rolltation.com

Sushi Burrito, finally a hit in Toronto, despite the idea originated in United States a few years back.  Afterall, Canada is always a bit slower than everyone else for any type of trends.  Dundas Street West, between Yonge Street and University Avenue has become the Little Japan of Toronto because there is a high concentration of Japanese restaurants and cafes along this strip of Dundas Street.

Rolltation adds diversity, variation and selection for the general public.  It does not always have to be the izakayas nor the bento boxes.  Rolltation has a small store front, with only maximum fouth seats, if you want to eat there.  But, majority of the population orders take out to the nearby parks, which has no shortage of, or to home and school.

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The staff take pride of their burritos and are very focused in the making process.  The counters are so clean, no cross contamination.  They wash their knives with every cut, but need to learn to change their gloves more often because never mix the sashimi with cooked shrimp.  They always ask for feedback of their burritos and always ensure us their burritos taste amazing or really good.

But I do not find them amazing, like flying colours.  However,  I thank the staff for putting generious amounts of toppings for us, to the point they struggled with the wrapping.

Classic Salmon ($13.99) , on the left, is wrapped with salmon, kale, avocado, red onion, carrot, sweet corn, tangerine, wasabi tobiko and topped with spicy mayo sauce.  No doubt, the ingredients were fresh.  But I find the selection of the fillings kind of odd.  The ingredients did not mix well, especially the corn and tangerine.  The spicy mayo was not spicy enough either, tasted more like regular mayo to me.  The burrito tasted mostly sweet, with the random hint of tangerine citrus sour juice but lacked the spiciness.  The flavours were not distinct enough.  Also, the burrito felt soft, could not hold very well.

Wasabi Tuna ($14.99), on the right, is wrapped with tuna, green lettuce, red peppers, avocado, seaweed salad, lotus chip, tomago and topped with wasabi mayo.  This was a better burrito, out of the two.  It maintained the freshness of the ingredients.  Overall, I liked the texture of the burrito with every bite.  The seaweed salad and the lotus chip added crunchiness.  The seaweed added sesame flavours to the burrito too.  The wasabi mayo was fragrant and hot, which was unmistakable, acting as the soul or the interest of the whole burrito.

There is a lot of room for improvement.  I suggest having tempura flakes in between for added texture.  They can also have crab meat in selected burritos.  I also suggest mixing the sauce with the diced sashimi, instead of a drizzle on top of all the toppings, for an even flavour.  The drizzle can sometimes be hard to control, as some burritos might have more sauce than others.

Basically, a sushi burrito is a normal sushi roll in steroids, and is not cut into smaller pieces.  Sushi burrito is the current popular food choice, and is the new hype of the city.  Eventually, this popularity will slow down, when a new creative food is produced.  I still recommend trying a sushi burrito for fun, though quite heavy in calories and carbohydrate.  Rolltation is a good choice because they have a fixed store front location, fixed hours and food stocked, making hunting down for the burrito easy, compared to a food truck’s limited stock, limited hours, daily different locations and possible mechanical truck issues that leads to sale failures.

*If you do not want a burrito, they can make it into a poke bowl, aka, a salad.*

Ratings

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