To refrain reiterating statements from the Partial January Visuals entry, I shall immediately proceed to dive into the series of snapshots that made up the bulk of my late January happenings.
1) Revisiting Nuri Village at lunchtime in search of their phenomenal Jjajangmyeon (and eating it honeykki-style!)
Also pictured: banchan + Spicy Chicken Bokkeum
2) My packet of Momo Tea's Take ran out, so off to Tsujiri I went. Ume no Shiro (梅の白) is serving me sufficiently thus far, though quality remains steadier with the former contender.
3) The surge in minimum wage has consequently induced a sharp increase in CoCo's prices. (At least the VIP status compensates slightly.)
4) Square One Sulley inventory check: five
5) More Tsujiri rounds were made - how could one resist a toasty, fragrant O-Matcha Black Sesame Latte on a frigid errand-running morning?
The last time I saw Miss Rushka was a sweltering day in September.
We had patiently waited for lunch at Cho Sun Ok amidst the hoards of elderly Koreans that had just finished Sunday service before making our way over to One Ten. Warily in wait to snatch DAY6 tickets, it wasn't exactly a time of relaxed conversation.
Fast forward to one semester later, where our schedules have finally vacated and catch-up time could be arranged.
Despite being an avid lover of the North York noodle house, I came to the realization that I hadn't actually stepped through the doors of MeNami for almost nine months. Maybe it was the issue of parking, or maybe the timing wasn't appropriate. Regardless of the reason, I was glad to be back and catch a glimpse of their patio and updated decor elements.
Last year's seasonal items of Dondeki and Potato Cream Curry Udon had been officially added to menu; tacked on top was a sheet featuring a new trio, presumably trial batches of up-and-coming introductions. Okonomiyaki, Ricotta Fries (a nouveau take on poutine?), and Ika Sashimi Noodles were the three dishes in question.
View the full album HERE !
Okonomiyaki intrigued me, as did the cold Kake Udon for my dining partner.
As expected, the Kake Udon with Chicken Thigh Tempura arrived first. Accompanying it was a pitcher of cold soup - a delicate blend of soy and perhaps mirin for subtle sweetness. The udon was firmer than my regular tastes, though seemingly bouncy enough for Miss Rushka's preferences.
The Chicken Thigh Tempura, as relayed to me, was on the bland side. "It's just fried chicken." was the sole comment.
Square One's ongoing renovations means consistent detours for drivers and commuters alike. The new luxury wing introduced COS and Tory Burch in late 2017, while the semi-recent Simons section became home to the Love Me Sweet/Eva's Original Chimneys/Squish collaboration store.
REDS Wine Tavern was also spotted entering the scene towards December of last year. With a dusty red brick exterior, lofty ceiling, and dark, sophisticated décor, the restaurant was the chain's first foray into the Mississauga market.
Given its proximity to my regular errand-running stops, I've passed by - and peeked into - their bakery area and grab-and-go counter on more than one occasion. Their 2-Bite Butter Tarts had been secured one fateful day, bringing about pleasantly surprising results.
A glimpse into the kitchen piqued curiosity, paving the way for a proper evaluation of their famed "Scratch Kitchen" entrées.
A prompt welcome was extended from the hostess, and we were ushered into the dimly-lit dining area. Seating filled majority of the visible open space, whether in the form shiny black booths, two-person bar stools, or wooden group tables. Each of the 4-person tables featured a single overhead spotlight, as warm as it was harsh; glowy patches of illumination were seen on the larger ones.
Menus adopted the from of a substantially-sized rectangular board. Presented on one side were the restaurant's regular offerings, and the other a Tasting Menu comprising of their top three meat dishes and two sides.
The broad selection caused indecisiveness as did the absence of the prix fixe menu spotted online. Eventually, we settled on a Nova Scotia Lobster Guac to start, and a few protein-based plates to share. A Wild Mushroom Soup was also added to the order.
After confirming our requests, the waitress gathered our menus and spun swiftly on her heel.
In less than two minutes, a different member of staff appeared at the table with two shallow acacia bowls in hand.
We couldn't quite believe our ears when she uttered the name of the dish, as it hadn't even been five minutes since the table had been cleared of irresolution. Milliseconds later, the Wild Mushroom Soup also bore its display of beige-grey chunkiness.
The Nova Scotia Lobster Guac was depicted as the unity of "guajillo chili dressed lobster, fresh guac, and crisp tortillas". In concept, the appetizer succeeded in combining the exoticism of Mexican seasonings with buttery avocado, adding further depth via chili-laced shellfish. Execution-wise, the microscopic mound of the dip fell short of both its description and price tag.
Where one bowl was overflowing with shards of sodium- and spice-laden tortilla chips, the other contained a puny portion of the half-smashed green substance topped with an even tinier scoop of lobster flesh. The chips were salty - horrendously so - and not even the sprinkle of paprika could counter its powers.
View the full album HERE !
Tinted red were the fragments of lobster; neither particularly spicy nor flavourful, it simply gave off the feeling of involuntary attendance. A sense of cohesion had been lost, leading the guacamole and lobster to serve as two independent entities occupying the same space. The guacamole itself was fine - enjoyable even - however, conclusively speaking, its 19.95 price tag was unwarranted.
Leave no stone unturned, and leave no sushi restaurant untried.
This is the principle by which one must comply to ensure not a single worthy-mention eatery is left excluded in the positive GTA listings.
The range of restaurants offering torched sushi is expansive, and not to be confused with those specializing in aburi, a more labour-intensive product generally in demand of high-quality breeds.
Located at an unembellished corner of Yonge Street just north of Finch, TORCH Pressed Sushi is the newest installment carrying the charred, savoury sushi blocks, but in a relatively unfamiliar grab-and-go format. Alongside the trendy rectangular prisms, one can also expect to find four varieties of poke bowls, Japanese ramune soda, and classic sides of garden salad and miso soup.
Seating is scarce and limited to backless plastic stools situated along the street-facing end of the store. Majority of the space within the eatery had been allocated to an open kitchen - which was great in that orders could be communicated easily to all crew members, but also meant that greasy fumes escaping the area would inevitably infiltrate into one's hair and clothing.
Nine styles of torched sushi - each varying in price depending on its toppings - were available for mix-and-match in multiples of three. A 6-piece order included miso soup, while a 12-piece order included miso soup, a side salad, and a soft drink. Neither the 6-piece nor 12-piece combos entailed price reductions, though; it merely indicated that combo additions would be free of charge.
We opted to share a 12-piece order comprising of: Torched Salmon, Torched Tuna, Tempura Shrimp, and Yam & Banana.
Having stepped foot into the establishment after peak lunch period had passed, the entire processing time approximated just under ten minutes. Our order was presented atop a silver tray, with miso soup in Styrofoam containers and condiments in tiny plastic takeout cups. Disposable chopsticks, suprisingly rigid plastic spoons, and a sample-sized portion of side salad graced their presence. All torched sushi orders were placed separately on black takeout trays, sans-lids.
Admittedly, I was quite taken back by the quality of the sides. Instead of a batch of unseasoned spring mix, the side salad was a well-proportioned mix of refreshing wakame and leafy greens. Within the miso soup, there lay laver as well as small cubes of tofu. Neither was overwhelmed by dressing nor sodium.
To be frank, I'm not convinced I had embraced the charcoal trend as strongly as other Torontonians had. It appeared nothing more than a fad ingredient, and I forsaw it as a trend that would fade as quickly as diet trends.
Light Café was amongst the very first establishments to embrace the supposedly popular "goth theme" by debuting heart-shaped charcoal/sesame waffles. Neither a fan of long lines nor ridiculously overpriced desserts, there was no sense of urgency in trying out this concealed spot on Baldwin. Not until it was brought up in conversation as one of the spots I hadn't tried, anyway.
The storefront of the Taiwanese import was composed entirely of glass, which allowed for improved illumination for tables situated near the front. It also provided a clear view of the outside world and its changeful climate conditions.
A region of artificial shrubbery lined one wall, while dimly-lit booth seats were found along the opposite wall. Exposed light bulbs in geometric fixtures hung from above, casting orange glare spots on the marble (faux marble?) tables underneath and further highlighting areas of griminess.
Menus adopted the form of a clipboard - similar to Menami's but in a slightly more pristine state. The presentation was colourful, and its prices were in line with the document directly linked from their website. On the downside, it quickly grew tiring to flip through the pages - options were vast, and the individual listings made it difficult to compare dishes without scanning back and forth.
Eventually, we settled on the Pulled Pork Croissant, Philly Steak Croissant, and a pot of White Peach Oolong Tea for sharing.
Stout water glasses had been provided initially, and a basket of utensils and napkins followed upon ordering.
Two staff members were served us during the visit: a lean girl clad in black, and a male in a training jacket. The girl was prompt in her actions but otherwise undeserving of praise. No attempts were made to conceal her attitude, nor had any shred of effort been exerted in maintaining a friendly, approachable demeanour.
The male, in contrast, showed genuine willingness to assist in requests and upheld a friendly appearance. Actually, I found him to appear familiar at times. It was only later than I realized his resemblance to Crush.
Both croissants were presented on a small, rectangular wooden serving board; adorned on one of their corners was the café's logo.
Two containers of fruit salad and spring mix accompanied the croissants. Consisting of diced green apples, pineapple chunks, several pieces of bruised red apple, and a few orange segments drizzled in lemon juice, I hesitate to term it "fruit salad" at all, for it was neither impressive in presentation nor taste. Minimal effort was required to prepare this side, making it ridiculously easy to replicate at home (or even prepare a version comprised of more complex flavours).
"Do you have anywhere in mind?" asked orangecane as we reviewed options for our first hangout of the year.
It would be an utterly untruthful to claim that I don't always have some sort of plan in the works, but the desire to try a new spot simply isn't as vivid at the thought of GOT7's impending concert. Tacking onto that would be the currently depressing downtime otherwise known as unemployment.
To ensure that we would be safe from the frigid temperatures, I suggested assimilating at Yorkdale - a spot easily accessible by various forms of regional and local transit.
CONCEPT had undertaken the "Food Crush" theme for this period, adding drink and dessert vendors to the rotating retail space. Among this lineup were: ME.N.U, Cheesecake by Heirloom, Chatime (no thanks), French Toasted by Fidel Gasto, and Buster's Sea Cove.
These were, without a doubt, renowned names to food enthusiasts of the downtown core. Alas, as the fastidious feasting creatures we were, few of the items on offer were deemed all that appealing. We made a beeline for Buster's, avoiding the sugar-laden cheesecakes on a stick and diabetes-inducing french toast creations altogether.
Buster's is a long-time occupant of St. Lawrence Market, as well as a semi-frequent visitor of Mississauga's food truck festivals at Celebration Square. That being said, I don't think I've tried any of their classic items at all. (The sad-looking tacos were quite a disappointment.)
The Yorkdale pop-up had a menu consisting of five (presumably) signature sandwiches, five varieties of soft shell Seafood Tacos, and dessert in the form of homemade Key Lime Pie. We steered clear of the tacos, opting for an Atlantic Lobster Roll and Shrimp & Crab Sando to satisfy our post-Uniqlo appetite.
The Atlantic Lobster Roll was a singular bread roll slathered with warm butter and stuffed with a generous portion of lobster salad. Accompanying it in its paper takeout box was a snack-size bag of Miss Vickies, a lemon wedge, and two pickles. Oranecane confirmed its deliciousness, as well as her joy in obtaining the item with such ease. She confessed that trekking to St. Lawrence during Buster's operating hours was not the easiest task.
My own Shrimp & Crab Sando was not served in a sturdy takeout box, but rather a street food-style paper container. A single pickle and snack-size Miss Vickies were also provided on the side.
Noted during this bizarre winter season were hair-raising record lows that had even the most warm-blooded of us scrambling to stock up on HEATTECH. (Even the sunny state of Florida was no exception.)
Icy roads and unforgiving winds led majority of us into hibernation - which isn't necessarily negative if you ask me. (News of GOT7's world tour has been spreading throughout the fandom gradually...)
Included below are snapshots of some of 2018's first dining experiences:
1) Matcha Lattes Feat. various microfoam creations
2) Sampling Love Me Sweet's Original Cheesecake over one year later resulted in a pleasant surprise: the cake was actually cheesy and not crumbly! (Is it merely a Square One-limited thing?)
3) Soft snowman plushies tug at my heartstrings ever so dearly
4) Discovering a new favourite, just to realize that it's been discontinued.
5) Homemade Matcha Kuromitsu Latte Feat. an unintentional comic-style exclamation
7) Revisiting Enzo's to curb deep-dish pizza cravings, only to be underwhelmed by the scarce portion of cheese.
The scene was anticlimactic indeed.
8) Crafting a Young Coconut Smoothie from scratch was a painstaking, yet extremely rewarding, task. The fruits of our labour were delicious, but the process was beyond time-consuming.
Now, when is my MIXTAPE coming in hmmmm.
Cantonese-style homecooking is my kind of comfort food. It's less greasy than that of the local diner, and more affordable as well. Most importantly, it reminds me of "home".
The definition of comfort food varies per person, and reasonably so, as different combinations of aromas, flavours, and presentations have the ability to summon forth specific memories. Perhaps it's your grandmother's tried-and-true deep dish apple pie that always made family gatherings seemingly cozier, or the late-night pad thai that you once ordered after a sobfest with your closest buddies. Regardless, it's the feelings associated with the dish that matters most.
With that said, I must confess that I rarely enjoy dining out at a Chinese restaurant. With the atmosphere being impossibly loud, dishes being loaded with sodium and sauce thickeners, and service maintaining consistent mediocrity, it didn't take too long to develop hatred for my semi-annual/annual yumcha sessions and large family dinners.
When a close friend of mine became overjoyed at the opening of Congee Queen in Heartland, I couldn't comprehend the reason why. "It's just Chinese food." I mumbled to myself.
But the general community seemed to think otherwise.
A leftover container of House Super Bowl Congee found its way into my fridge one day, and I didn't think twice about scooping its remnants out for my mid-day meal. I recall retracting my gaze from the V Live replay I had intently been watching, just to stare down at the contents of the bowl before me: the congee was smooth, and its fishy components bountiful.
As amusing as it may sound, it was a revolutionary bowl of rice porridge.
I suggested a trip to the establishment ASAP, for I was curious as to whether Congee Queen's other dishes would live up to expectations.
Securing a spot in Heartland before 6PM was a cinch. It was the waiting game that proved frustrating.
Word had apparently gotten out about Mississauga's only location, prompting the masses to flock forward and flocculate on the opposite side of the revolving door.
On a chilly Sunday evening, a small table (such as ours) was in for a 20-minute wait, while larger parties estimated approximately one hour
Staff was aplenty and table turnover was speedy, though it wasn't until thirty minutes later that we were guided towards a somewhat clean table. We inched into the booth as the staff made hurried attempts to wipe off evidence of the previous diners.
Without a doubt, we had lucked out in regards to wait time. Congee Queen was ridiculously spacious, even boasting an intricate centrepiece in the midst of its tall ceiling, though severely suffering from interest overload.
Options were vast, though it didn't take long to narrow down several items of interest.
Prior to the start of the year, I had concluded a round of downtown errands with an afternoon snack of Black Sesame Soufflé Cheesecake and Chocolate Truffle black tea. A substantial period of time has passed since I had last roamed the area, so it came as a surprise to find that a sushi spot had replaced the coffee shop originally sandwiched between Millie Patisserie and an extra-compact dry cleaning shop.
Kibo was its name and packed it was during peak lunch hours. With a grand total of five tables, it primarily operated as a takeout and food delivery establishment. Actively participating in apps such as Ritual, Uber Eats, and more, the narrow strip of a sushi joint was positively bustling even well after half past noon.
A tall refrigerator could be found near the entrance, shelves lined with five- and ten-dollar "cash-and-grab" (read: cash plus takeout-only) deals. The maximum capacity of the restaurant was about fourteen, seeing as hlaf of one table had been allocated towards a landing spot for takeout orders.
A brief wait ensued before seating was obtained. Jittering with every creak of the door and its merciless gusts of cold weather, we observed as the flow peaked, then lessened to a more manageable degree.
Once finally seated, one of the two front-line staff followed up with menus, then lime-infused water, and later utensils. A bottle of Kikkoman and single soy sauce dish already rested to the side. Contrary to the tattered laminated specimens of other similar sushi spots, the menus appeared surprisingly new. This may have largely been owed to the lower ratio of dine-in than takeout customers.
Between the intricate-looking appetizers, extraordinary range of specialty rolls, and brimming bento sets, Kibo offered a distinctly diverse assortment not witnessed elsewhere. Moreover, there were daily specials to choose from.
Utensils were initially delivered in an icky state: grime coated the surface of the one of the copsticks, wihle the soy sauce dish was similarl questionable. The two ladies showed promptness - and willingness - to exchange the filth-smeared apparatus for a clean, albeit wet, dining tool instead, in addition to refilling water cups.
The 6-piece Kibo California arrived first, followed by Daily Special #1 featuring ten pieces of Dynamite Roll and three salmon nigiri. Both arrived on dark (ceramic?) plates with slick edges, though this was not a huge concern considering the effective value of the orders.
Torched scallops, blackened cheese shards, and a uniquely savoury drizzle topped the Kibo California, rendering it anything but typical. The overall profile was completely unexpected, and very much appreciated. Size-wise, the hexad was decent; accompanying the rolls were heaping spoonfuls of wasabi and pickled yellow ginger. For the average person's appetite, six rolls stuffed with buttery ripe avocado would be just adequate. More ravenous stomachs would find greater joy in the ten-piece combos and economic bento sets.
Along with each of the four Daily Specials came a side salad and miso soup. While I did not taste the Dynamite Roll of Special #1, it was undoubtedly fragrant and retained a ridiculous amount of visual appeal. The salmon nigiri boasted fleshy strips of salmon sashimi (sake) and utilized minimal wasabi as adhesive. Sushi rice was presented in luscious, well-compacted mounds that exhibited ideal proportions of sugar and rice wine vinegar.
Unsurprisingly, washrooms ceased to exist in the modest eatery.
Bidding farewell to my lunch partner, I set off northbound towards my next destination. Little did I know, the winds were stronger than I had imagined. The supposedly short trek seemed longer and colder than expected; my legs went numb not even ten minutes later, forcing a detour into a nearby establishment until the sharp pangs subsided. As it turned out, I had completely passed it without realizing.
Strange Love was south of Adelaide after all. Oops.
For reasons beyond me, the cafe had hit full capacity at my time of arrival. The coffee shop wasn't particularly spacious to begin with, as it approximated the same number of seats as Kibo, though the arrangement of stools and booths enabled customers to allot enough working space to fit a small laptop and cup of joe.
This year has been a journey of extreme ups and downs, with a more stressful itinerary than ever experienced before. A modest farewell to 2017 has been bid; it's time to continue looking forward to 2018, head held high.
And as always, here are a few snapshots of the month and the items consumed within it.
1) Heavy snowfall on the East Coast
2) Iced Latte + TSUJIRI Rare Cheese Cake combo for breakfast
3) Indulging in a large 3 Guys
4) Previously unrevealed clips have been consolidated into a short clip
Highlights include: Gyugyuya, Tandem Coffee, this year's Toronto Christmas Market, and DAY6 at Toronto Pearson!
5) Eve Cafe at Square One Feat. (not my) Chicken Club Sandwich
6) Behind the scenes of the Matcha Rare Cheese Double Fromage
7) CoCo's various promotional posters, including a feature on their Strawberry line (which I am none too eager to taste test).
8) Unamatata - aka the best levelled-up unagi donburi I've tasted to date!
9) TSUJIRI Parfait
Happy New Year to all readers and visitors of this space!
Who Am I?
Formerly an avid owner of several interest-based portals, Random Thoughts of a Quirky Blogger presents precisely the elements expected. From experiments in the kitchen to miscellaneous musings, from IGOT7 reflections to developments in transportation infrastructure, it's all consolidated here. Welcome to the raw, unfiltered side of Quirky Aesthetics.