Close to home was Axia, a restaurant we had frequented in my childhood days and driven by on countless occasions. Their menu had been expansive, offering popular Asian dishes in the Western world, hence its name. Fond memories surfaced of pad thai occupying the same table as stir fry and sushi. Unfortunately, we learned that this was no longer the case.
The interior had retained the same design backbone as I recalled, though was now furnished with physical panels separating the tables along the south perimeter of the eatery. These new installations alluded to a sense of privacy - a semi-enclosed partition that still enabled easy access to serving staff.
I sure hope you clean it. But what needs more cleaning is your mouth.
My dining partner was quick to select Cantonese Chow Mien given the elimination of the coveted pad thai. I had hoped for a well-rounded medley of sushi, or at least some hearty rice-based entrée. At failing to find it on the menu, I inquired of the availability of one of my favourites.
"Do you have Unagi Donburi?"
"No." came the piercingly blunt response.
"Is there something similar? Or something with unagi?"
She made an "ehhh" sound before muttering "Dragon Roll", which did not speak to the appetite.
"Can I swap in unagi?" I pointed to one of the bento sets.
"Can I add it??"
"You can get a side unagi." she offered briskly, but did not provide any further details.
"Is it on the menu?" My eyes darted to the paper for more information.
"It's not there." came an exasperated sigh.
Seeing my confusion and hesitation, she huffed, "I'll give you a minute. What about drinks?"
We relayed our request for warm water, but not before she spun on her heel without a glance at our irked expressions.
A Nigiri Sushi Bento Box was requested as the main, salad dressing on the side to save a flourishing canker sore from exposure to acidity.
The grouch of a server came back in the latter part of our meal, probably against her will (and us against ours for the interaction). Not once did she follow up on our orders, though the supposed manager did with a smile. Her presence was also nonexistent when our departure time loomed near. At being able to flag only the manager once again, we gestured for the bill and takeout containers. As she emerged from the kitchen area, their eyes met, and she turned in the direction of the Styrofoam containers, likely with half-rolled eyes and upturned corners of the lips.
Had the younger member of the serving staff not appeared at our table, nor had the manager compensated for the grump's lack of general respect, I'd have likely opted out of the tip option altogether. A distinct change in attitude was witnessed in her communications with neighbouring tables, concluding that her demeanour was purely situational.
Greasy fumes welcomed us back into Canadian climate, likely the culprit of Nani's next-door neighbour, Gladiator Burger and Steak. The intensity of these fumes grew more prominent inside the gelato parlour, leading one to hypothesize the possibility of a shared ventilation system.
We joined the lineup, which moved at an ever unhurried pace. The three staff members behind the counter were ridiculously patient, and the dessert shop's patrons operating at an equally leisurely manner. When our chance finally rolled around, I vocalized the trip as our first visit. Without hesitation, we were given brief introductions of the gelato assortment - rotated every two weeks - and made aware of sampling privileges. Two samples were permitted per customer, thus we opted for Pistachio, Purple Rice Coconut, Tiramisu, and Rosewater Cardamom. The second and third flavours were deemed bland, in particular the Tiramisu with its lack of Kahlua and strictly vegan properties.
Earl Grey offered a subtle hint of black tea and indiscernible quantities of vanilla. It adopted a similar texture to the Rosewater Cardamom, which was as creamy as it was delicate. Softening even in the bleak outdoor conditions was the Meyer Lemon Sorbetto - a tangy upgrade from commercial-grade, sugar-laden sorbets à la Baskin Robbins. Pistachio, known to be their most adored flavour to date, was crowned the favourite of our picks. Richly flavoured, velvety smooth, and brimming with shards of the vibrant green nut, the formula was so impactful that I rejoined the queue minutes later to purchase a pint. A couple who had preceded us in the first queue did the same, then retreated to their car as giddily as I had.
To which I was compelled to retort: "Are you really Canadian if you haven't had ice cream in the winter?!"