Sparkling sake was foregoed in favour of Cave Spring's Riesling Icewine and Quails' Gate Chardonnay Okanagan Valley. A bottle of Hakutsuru Junmai Ginjo was also obtained out of curiosity after having seen the bottle at many izakayas. The sleepy polar bear also took to two drinks: the ever-basic, ever-sugary Somersby ciders.
Eventually, the vehicle was located. Google Maps guided us towards Isaan Der by the unconventional route of Aristotle Avenue. The relatively new, 300-metre long road wove underneath the Hwy 404 northbound on ramp, connecting to Norman Bethune Avenue/East Pearce Street. At the southeast corner of Leslie and East Pearce was a familiar stretch of restaurants. Amongst them was Isaan Der, my proposal of the afternoon.
Our party of four was seated in a patent leather booth by the window. A single menu was provided in the form of a tablet, though a QR code could be scanned for independent review of the restaurant's offerings. Since my previous visits, the assortment had seen incredible expansion, yet also noticeably steeper prices.
Undoubtedly the highlight of the dish, the short ribs lived up to their eyebrow-raising price tag by embracing impeccable, tender qualities and exceptionally modest spice levels. I enjoyed the curry with steamed white rice, though the pairing would fare better with coconut rice. That said, coconut rice was not offered at this location.
Khao Soi with chicken was too spicy for me to handle. As the sleepy polar bear proceeded to submerge the crispy noodles into the broth, I snuck a strip from the mound: It was greasy and reeked of fryer oil. A stand of egg noodle was also derived for comparison sake; deemed superior was the cooked format, which retained prominent egginess in its profile.
Towards the end of our stay, I excused myself for perusal of Isaan Der's indoor plumbing facilities. There, I discovered absence of hand soap and alerted the staff, who thanked me for bringing the issue to their attention. Prompt resolution was greatly appreciated. I thanked the short-haired member of staff once again upon departure from the squirrel monkey wallpaper-covered facilities.
One member of our party was a frequent visitor of Omescape, being acquaintances with the Omescape staff, and the 90-minute long Robotcalypse was identified as the sole unattempted escape room at the Markham location. While both the sleepy polar bear and I had our reservations towards the game length, we agreed anyway. Limited was our escape room experience record in general.
The starting room adopted a layout evoking a spacecraft interior. After dodging meteorites, turning gas valves, and deactivating various settings, the spacecraft would land on a robot-filled wasteland. Whlie the puzzles were quite straightforward, the lighting sequences and interactive physical elements were of superb quality. Given that there were exactly four roles to fill on the ship (Captain, Chief Engineer, First Officer, and Flight Director), our party size was ideal for the game. Some of the puzzles involved placing our hand above a sensor-affixed platform at the same time, inciting a sense of teamwork.
The second room was a dim one, with just two puzzles and one depressed-looking robot. Upon shaking its hand, an audio sequence in robot voice would sound. These recordings were present throughout the room possessed the clues to unlock the next obstacle. Admittedly, they were quite tedious to replay, as they could not be fast-forwarded or paused. Physical hints, while not nearly as technologically advanced, could be read as many times as the user required, and filtered for specific words. Perhaps it is my personal preference for visuals, but audio hints undeniably make for a slower process.
Against my better judgement, I leaned against the tree for photos. Within seconds, sap stains surfaced on the back of my beloved Eyes on You concert tee and crossbody bag. Wipes did not help whatsoever, and rather affixed dust-like particles to the graphic lettering.
Heaving a dejected sigh, I slipped back into the shirt and resolved to troubleshoot the situation once back home.
Stomach still satiated with bubble tea, my inclination to speedwalk along Yonge was foreseeable. It was my anticipation that, after the fifteen-ish minute trek, I'd be hungry enough to contemplate supper options.
Pulling open the doors to Hazukido, we were overwhelmed by a spectacular waft of buttery goodness. The cashier was more than willing to break the twenty-dollar bill, extending enough amicability to prolong our stopover.
Consumed the following morning, the Cold Brew Can was refreshing and leaned towards a familiar medium-dark roast. The 350 ml can was neither a large quantity of coffee nor a particularly concentrated one, but would pair nicely alongside fresh, flakey croissants. Its price tag was reasonable: $3.95 versus Balzac's $5-and-up flavoured renditions.
Half of the Croffle was enjoyed at room temperature, and the other halve toasted slightly. The room temperature edition was delicious with a delectable coating of tempered chocolate; the white chocolate was fragrant without being intrusive. Of course, buttery qualities required a shot of heat to be adequately unleashed. For those prioritizing this aspect, be mindful that the chocolate may liquefy after reheating.
A $5.69 Hazelnut Chocolate Croissant was chosen by the sleepy polar bear. Its Ferrero Rocher-like appearance sparked wariness from me, for a laminated horn fully encased in chocolate just screamed excessive. Apparently, it was decadent and worthy of a subsequent purchase.
I had already had my heart set on sky blue water ripples or lavender Conus gloriamaris when the sleepy polar bear urged me to browse the other categories before deciding. Resisting the urge to roll my eyes, I hastily restarted the process, eventually landing on the K-idol layouts. "Ew!" exclaimed the sleepy polar bear.
Glancing over with a knowing look, I declared my original choice as final.
From this point onwards, the photo-taking segment spanned no more than five minutes. Another five would be required for the printing of photos. Two copies would emerge, in choices of either colour, black-and-white, or a mix of the two. Alternatively, larger cuts - termed "Multi" - could be obtained for the higher price point of twenty dollars.
"The faster you walk, the sooner you can sit down." came my matter-of-fact reminder.
Located on Spring Garden Avenue in the former space of a sushi restaurant was Danbam Izakaya. A Sailor Moon-esque logo informed of the meaning behind "danbam", as well as its evident focus on sake.
Double-sided laminated menus were placed before us. A water jug and Stainless steel glasses were also brought to the table as we examined the printed names. I was made aware of a Happy Hour special, but dismissed it on the account that it applied to pitchers of beer instead of single person portions. Deals for pints and makgeolli were also available, though a minimum party size of four would be needed to consume its entirety.
Variety amongst the alcoholic beverages was rather basic for an izakaya, though this observation had also held true for Mikaku. Disparate from the uptown izakaya was Danbam's cocktail selection, which had spurred an initial inclination towards a Highball, then later buried upon review of our surroundings. "Why is it so empty?!" we wondered with worry.
Served with a side salad of dressed, withered romaine and thinly-sliced red onion, the Shime Saba was arranged sashimi-style with pickled yellow ginger pieces residing on top. More pickled yellow ginger and a slice of lemon would be placed on the side. A small dish of soy sauce and starkly green wasabi accompanied the platter. While saturated, the smear of horseradish was essentially - and disappointingly - bland. We pushed the condiment aside, for the seared mackerel pieces bore enough seasoning on their own. Crunchy greens and well-textured mackerel proved itself a great starter.
Bathrooms were also rather pristine, despite taking on a somewhat dated appearance with white tiling and eerie washroom odours. The facility housed two stalls and two sinks.
Toilet paper was, interestingly, positioned on the water tanks and on protruding ledges above the toilet, rather than within the dispensers. The observation led to me to ponder whether the key to the dispenser had been misplaced - an exceptionally common occurence in the world of waitressing. One of two toilets had been clogged before my usage, prompting me to take the liberty of unclogging the device before departing. Needless to say, I affirmed that the toilet seat was beaming and the plunger highly functional.