Orange Caramel (cue Catellena!) is a name that I found to have several associated positive reviews. Located literally minutes from Finch Station (regardless of whether you are travelling from the TTC or GO Transit/YRT terminal), its convenient coordinates makes it a popular hangout location for students and commuting teenagers alike.
Indeed, it wasn't the ideal situation for photo-taking.
It was once we sat down that I began to take in my surroundings: Orange Caramel offered comfy chairs with armrests, a few full-length couches ("loveseats"), and sturdy booth spots, all kind of jumbled in between a slightly disorganized bookshelf and dusty, off-season Christmas decorations. I did see where people had been going with the "mismatched-couches-likely-belonging-to-someone's-house" concept. It didn't bother me much though. Rather, I was more concerned about how frequently the place was cleaned.
We took a good, long look at the menu, shooing the friendly waitress away once before we finally decided. Our selections included a Cookies & Cream Milkshake and the renowned American Waffle and Tea Combo.
Emerging from the indoor plumbing-equipped cavity, I noticed that the girl that had mentally noted our orders (and then came back once to re-confirm her memory) had now taken to the kitchen to pulse Oreos in a Vitamix.
Perhaps I shouldn't be finding it strange that waitresses also doubled as kitchen staff in small restaurants, but I did. Directly connected to the bar/cashier area with only a door to separate, the kitchenette did appear as if it was just plucked from someone's house and thrown here. "This is a weird setup." was the first thing that came to mind.
I was also informed that the Cookies & Cream Milkshake was extraordinarily filling and "really good".
Seemingly a cinch to recreate at home, the American Waffle packed a greater punch than anticipated. The waffle maintained a crisp exterior throughout the entire image-capturing and devouring stages, unyielding to the moisture content of the ice cream and sliced fruit. Its insides were soft and fluffy, providing a wonderful contrast to the crunchy chips embedded inside the creamy coffee-flavoured hemisphere. In a matter of minutes, the waffle had been wholly devoured, with only a few crumbs left behind to denote its past presence.
Chatting continued until dinner time, at which point we marched up to the bar to pay, but not before the girl had refilled my teapot once more.
Generally speaking, afternoon snack time at Orange Caramel had been an enjoyable experience. The cafe could probably utilize a few tweaks here and there (updating decorations, maintaining cleanliness, re-organizing the bathroom to possibly render it more spacious, etc.), but did not reveal to have any major issues, at least not in my opinion. With friendly service and soft K-Pop tunes playing in the background, it's likely that I'll drop by again to have a taste of their also-popular Green Tea Latte. (Gotta get my hands on a window seat next time!
The day was concluded at Guu, which was just two subway stops away and hidden behind the southeast corner of Hullmark Centre.
I walked in and experienced something that I hadn't on a less-than-fabulous experience at the Richmond (Aberdeen) location some few years ago: a very, very loud "Irraishaimase!". The entire serving and kitchen crew coordinated perfectly to ensure that loud greetings and goodbyes were called out in unison, and that no customer was left out from the tradition.
This was probably the most exemplary acts of teamwork and spirit I've had the opportunity to witness in the food industry in a long while.
We started off with drinks: Sapporo, Ramune Mojito, and Baby Lulu.
Unfortunately, the pressed sushi didn't quite deliver to the hype it was receiving. The taste and fragrance of rice wine vinegar overpowered the other flavours and textures of the dish, making it seem as if the salmon was a separate element. The nigiri component was too thick, throwing off the fish to rice ratio; the overall platter lacked depth of flavour and a sense of cohesiveness.
Gyu Carpaccio consisted of a few slices of beef sashimi, submerged in ponzu sauce and topped with fried garlic chips. It was not a dish that was filling, but neither was it made out to be such. The beef was tender, with not a speck of grease in sight, and the sauces appropriate. Lemon slices had also been given in the case where extra tartness was preferred.
Kaisou and Tofu Salad was meant to the sole all-greens of the night. It was comprised of slippery strands of seaweed and a few squares of unseasoned tofu (between silken and semi-firm) that were embellished with white sesame seeds and dried seaweed strips. It was a great vegetarian dish, but did not create nearly as much impact as I had hoped.
In my opinion, the Unagi Bibimbap resembles next-level Unagi Donburi. I'll take the former over the standard rice box any day!
The fried oysters were presented in a small, wooden box, and served with wasabi mayo and okonomiyaki dressing as dipping sauces. While I did not try this item, I was told that the oyster pieces were on the small side. The pieces did appear professedly crunchy from my point of view.
The final main dish was the absolute best of them all: Saba Oshizushi. Despite the lacklustre Salmon Oshizushi, we agreed to give Guu's pressed sushi another try. We switched up salmon for grilled mackerel, which was later discovered to be an amazing decision. Juices and natural oils from the mackerel pieces oozed onto the (still overly chunky) pieces of rice underneath, countering the strong smell of rice wine vinegar and making the layers a lot more pleasurable to munch. Had the slices of saba been just a bit thicker (the 1:1 ratio would have been ideal), I would have had no complaints whatsoever.
Expecting a butter tart topped with firm swirls of Japanese pumpkin, I was slightly taken back when the Mont Blanc turned out to be a sweet, mushy paste served atop a non-uniformly-trimmed circular slice of sponge cake. The whipped cream did not do it any favours either. I found the best part of the dessert to be the lonely piece of kabocha on top - it bore a strong resemblance to Daigakuimo, which, from experience, can be an addictive dish if properly prepared.
Several frozen grapes were served along with the bill.
Customers tend to order tapas in large quantities for sharing purposes, thus gradually increasing the total cost of the meal. For those that value the feeling of satisfaction in excess and quantity over distinctiveness, this probably won't be your dining location of choice. However for those that prefer eating small-sized, unique bites between periods of conversation, I'd suggest going for Guu!
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