Category Archives: South Asian

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

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Linda Modern Thai

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Address: 11 Karl Fraser Road.  North York, ON.  M3C 0E7 (Shops On Don Mills)
Phone: (416) 642-3866
Website: http://www.lindamodernthai.com/

The open shopping area of Shop on don Mills do not lack any forms of entertainment, high end shops, markets, cafes and restaurants.  There is always something for everyone.  Tucked within the multicultural shopping district is Linda Modern Thai, specializing in southeast Asian cuisine.

A very decorative front entrance already gives a strong cultural vibe and bond.  It was truly beautiful, as if I was walking down streets in Thailand or entering a temple.  This first impression allows the restaurant to develop like a shrine for food.

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Sure enough, as I was walking towawrds the table, I noticed an intricate Buddhist stupa in gold situated right in the center of the whole restaurant.  It was a beautiful ornate detailed attention grabbing artpiece.  All tables were arranged around the stupa, and every guest can view it at all angles.

Buddhism focuses on happiness at all times, wisdom, kindness, compassion towards every living being and the world.  Humble!  This centrepiece, though, is perceived as a blessing for continuous business growth, symbol of success.  A buddha’s existence, however, made me feel that everyone were at ease and behaved down to earth, polite, passionate and respectful.  It was a very easy going and comfortable atmosphere, filled with loud laughter and big grins on everyone’s faces.

Service was standard.  They did not do anything that was way out of their way to assist me.  I had to keep reminding them about my empty glass.  But all workers always had a humble, gratitude and happy expression.

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Royal Pad Thai with Shrimp ($18.00) is rice noodles stir fried with tamarind, fish sauce, wrapped in egg and topped with peanuts.  I have never seen a pad thai wrapped in egg, so this is a first and interests me.  You would have to slice up the egg into small strips to fully incorporate it within the noodles to fully enjoy it.  Otherwise, you would have to eat it like we did, egg sheet noodles, defeating the purpose.   A pad thai is a pad thai, even if the chef tried to spruce it up with egg coolness.  There really was nothing special about this dish.  I like how clean and dry the outcome was, but the noodles were on the salty side and interestingly, had some ketchup like flavour too, when it was not mentioned on the menu.  The pad thai does not seem as authentic and has more of a westernized twist.

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Green Curry Chicken aka Gaeng Klow Wahn ($18.00) was very aromatic.  The chicken was juicy and tender, but I wish they steamed it instead of grilling because grilling adds some charcoal flavour to the final result, making the curry not as pure or clean.  The green curry was still as fragrant and pungent.  It was spicy that my tongue was on partly fire.  The lemongrass and basil offset the hotness, and gave the curry a tart and sweet taste too.  Finally, the curry was very creamy from the rich coconut cream and milk.  I wish i had a second bowl of rice to soak up the essence of the sauce.  Green pepper and brocoli were used in the sauce, definitely compliments the green theme, but adding some other colour, like carrot, eggplant, or substitute yellow pepper, makes the dish look more colourful and cheerful.  However, the colour and appearance do not affect the taste and flavour of the dish.

The menu was reasonably priced, but I have seen cheaper and portions were very generous.  I would go back to try the curries and to experience the comfort, soft and meditating atmosphere.  The aromatic meal is having my stomach growl once again for more Thai food.  Almost time for a big shopping season! 😉

Ratings

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

Linda Modern Thai Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Banh Mi Bar

Address: 189 Augusta Ave, Toronto, ON

Phone: (647) 629-8358

During the summer, Kensington Market becomes pedestrian only on Sundays.  I was lucky enough to enjoy the freedom and full width of the streets while I stroll around the neighbourhood.  There were a lot of food stalls and performances you can enjoy during your visit on Sunday afternoon.  Situated along the main street of the Kensington Market, Augusta Ave, is a Vietnamese fast food like restaurant.  You can either sit in to enjoy the meal or take out.a14dd5b4c6ba48716e3eba08025425a9_1438454859_200_thumbDo not mix up Bahn Mi Bar with Bahn Mi Boys.  They are not affiliated.

Other than the famous Vietnamese style sandwiches, they also offer spring rolls, pho and rice.  We ate a lot while we were strolling around the market.  Banh Mi Bar is the last place we stopped into and wanted something light.  The best option was the sandwiches.
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On the wall next to the cashier or food station is their hand drawn  sandwich menu.  Obviously, there are many variations you can try.  Our criteria were simple and cheap!
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Grilled Pork Belly Banh Mi Sub ($5.99) is grilled pork belly with pickled raddish, carrots and cilantro on a baguette with hoisin sauce on the side.  I appreciate the waitress cutting the sandwich into 3 portions.  She was attentive for respecting our needs and requests.  The sandwich was made fresh in the little kitchen.  The pork belly took at least 8 minutes to grill or cook.  It was really fatty and oozing in oil, soft texture overall.  The vegetables were fresh and crispy or crunchy.  Ingredients were trying to gush out of the baguette.  Our sandwich was fully loaded!

My complaint is on the salt levels.  I was so thirsty for the remaining half of the day, chugging myself with water.  My mouth was so dry after this sandwich, which was loaded with MSG and salt.  Thank goodness I did not apply the hoisin sauce.  I would have enjoyed the sandwich more if there were lesser amounts of salt.

I think I will just stay with the cold cuts Vietnamese sandwiches for more simplicity and healthiness.  In fact, I can make many variations with such a simple sandwich by adding more condiments or whatsoever.

Ratings

Food 2.75/5

Service 4/5

Ambiance 2/5

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Ambiyan Indian Restaurant

Ambiyan Indian Restaurant
Address: 149 Main St, Unionville, ON L3R 2G8
Phone: (905) 480-0094
Website: http://www.ambiyan.com

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An authentic Indian restaurant situated in the historical 1800s Main Street, Unionville.   You will last expect to find an Indian restaurant along the European styled street.  The restaurant is easy to locate because it is the first restaurant in view if you are driving north of Highway 7.  Great location!  The restaurant other than serving Indian cultural cuisine, it is also a bar on the other side, different roles under one roof.

Interior decor can be updated.  It has brown – beige tones. accompanied by reflecting mirrors and paired with little diamond patterned carpet.  The LED overhead lighting was so strong and bright that it showed the ceiling dirt between the hanging rods.  Not to mention, there was one particular bulb that continuously flickered, which was quite frustrating.  The waiter or manager should have done something about it voluntarily, but did not.  However, we did not fuss or complain about it either.

Sunday evening at 7 pm, the restaurant was quiet or empty, kind of surprised.  By 9 pm, our group was the only table left in the restaurant.  Service was, of course, speedy and our hardworking sole waiter kept filling our water jugs.  He knew his menu off by heart, was able to describe flavours when we were unsure and gave recommendations when we asked him.  He was really friendly, making small conversations with us too.

It is great that Ambiyan has its own Prix Fixe Menu, to offer more selection for a better price and for competition.  Admire the fact the menu is tailored to fit different diet preferences – a vegetarian and must-have-meat selection – with different prices.

$25 for Non-Vegetarian:

Appetizer: choice of chicken samosa or chicken pakora

Main course: choice of one poultry or meat main course

Side: choice of basmati rice pilaf or freshly baked naan

$20 for Vegetarian:

Appetizer: choice of spinach pakora or Aloo Tikki

Main: choice of one vegetarian main course

Side: choice of basmati Rice Pilaf or Freshly baked naan.

Well, we had to have meat in our meals, therefore, the group chose the non-vegetarian option, $25 per person.  I have posted the price of the individual appetizers and main course for comparison and for everyone’s information.

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Chicken Pakoras ($11) are boneless chicken breasts deep fried in chickpea batter, served with tamarind chutney.  The sauce, soul of the appetizer, was minty and was refreshing.  The fried chicken breasts were bland without the tamarind chutney.  But saying that, the batter was not oily, skin crispy and the chicken was juicy and tender.

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Chicken Samosas ($9) are deep fried “dumplings” stuffed with chicken and potato, paired with tamarind and mint chutney.  The skin was crunchy and crispy.  As you take a bite into the samosas, the slight curry flavour oozes into your palette and aroma in the air.  It was a mouthwatering piece, so soft in the middle, from mashing the ingredients to fill the “dumplings”.

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Plain Naan ($3.75) is a white flour bread baked in tan door which came with the Prix Fixe meal.  Garlic Naan ($4.25) is bread infused with garlic butter and coriander, which we ordered on top to try.  Each other came with two slices.  Basmati Rice Pilaf ($4.0) is the famous Indian rice infused with saffron.  Honestly, nothing can ever go wrong with these sides, great to accompany the individual sauces the main course has to offer.

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Left to Right: Chicken Vindaloo, Beef Vindaloo, Butter Chicken, Lamb Roganjosh, Beef Mushroom Curry

The restaurant offers different levels of spiciness.  Vindaloo is the spiciest they have available and everything else ordered were either mild spicy or not spicy at all.

Chicken Vindaloo ($18) is a famous dish from Southwestern India State of Goa, made with white wine, garlic, chili and vinegar sauce.

Beef Vindaloo ($20) follows the spicy South Indian recipe, stewing beef chunks cooked in a white wine, vinegar, chili and garlic sauce.

Beef and chicken vindaloo taste the same.  The main difference is the texture of the meat and the sauce.  If beef is stewed long enough, the meat will become very soft and eventually, strands of beef will break away from the chunks.  As a result, the vindaloo sauce became stringy and thick from the beef strands.  Also, the beef juice was well mixed into the sauce and the beef chunks absorbed the spices of the sauce; had a strong beefy flavour.

The chicken tasted as good, except chicken is not a good meat when it comes to stewing, always have to hand peel to produce the same result as the beef.  Nonetheless, the chicken bites absorbed the vindaloo spices nicely and was very juicy and soft.

Because vindaloo sauce is the spiciest, I specifically ordered it to see how spicy it really is.  Initially thought the sauce was not that spicy, it was rather sour or tangy, which should be caused by the vinegar.  The spiciness of the garlic and chilies slowly creeps up on you.  I eventually realized I was sweating, tongue was burning and drinking cups of cold water continuously.  It was an unexpected but fun form of spiciness.  Furthermore, the sauce was very aromatic and was able to taste the wine infused into the food.  The dish was absolutely great!

Butter Chicken ($18) is boneless diced chicken breasts simmered in a mild tomato cream sauce.  The diced chicken breasts were extremely tender and juicy, skimmed away all the fat, and absorbed the wonderful sauce.  The sauce was just amazing, sweet and rich in butter, at the same time brought out the spices, giving diverse flavours.

Lamb Roganjosh ($20) is cubed lamb slow-stewed with red chili, kashmiri garam masala and cumin.  I do not favour lamb because of the acquired or aftertaste it has.  But the texture of the lamb was similar to the beef- great stewing meat, soft and juicy- where the individual strands of lamb broke away from the chunks to thicken the sauce. Kashmiri garam marsala is comprised of many different herbs – cumin, bay leaves, peppercorn, cinnamon, fennel, nutmeg.  Therefore, the dish, a mixture of different herbs and spices amplified the freshness of the lamb. The combination of herbs complimented each other. Gorgeous!  Because the aftertaste was not strong, since majority of it was covered by the heavy spices.

Mushroom Beef Curry ($20) is diced beef with sliced button mushrooms in a medium spicy sauce.  This is a typical curry that Indians make, using dried herb powder. It was so good though. The space surrounded by the aroma of curry and the mouth watered by the heavy curry taste was just rewarding.

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A closeup picture of the Chicken Vindaloo, detailed with a couple of slices of oranges and pearl onion.

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A closeup picture of the Mushroom Beef Curry, garnished with fresh parsley.

I loved how authentic silver metal bowls and grail held the food, creating the formal atmosphere to a cultural Indian meal.  It had a form of seriousness to the dinner.  The dinner ware was quite heavy duty and had engravings on it, quite beautiful.  Also, the metal holds  heat better than glass; therefore food was always hot and warm.

Overall, I am very pleased with the meal.  The portion sizes do not look big, but it was definitely enough, as we had leftovers to take out.  In fact, the males said they were stuffed when everything was cleared on the dishes.  Guess it was expected when the meal mainly consisted of proteins, carbohydrates and starch, lack of vegetables.  However, I would like to say, if I ever need an Indian food fix, Ambiyan is definitely my first choice, especially when it is a close drive from home~

Ratings

Food 4/5

Ambiance 3/5

Service 3.5/5

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