Thursday, April 19, 2018

Il Covo Cicchetti E Vino, Toronto

I wish the lighting for the photos was better but the ambient lighting was very difficult for good photography.

This wonderful new Italian influenced cuisine is one of the best Italian dining experiences in Canada.

West Coast oysters topped with lemon pearles and Ligurian taggiasca olive oil. Very fresh and quite delicious.

Tremezzino frito: fried bread, B.C. side striped shrimp and bay scallop with smoked lemon mayo.

Tomato braised black cod  with basil, capers, Italian pine nuts and olive alle monacale.

Braised snail and mushroom stuffed house made pasta, cow's cream, goat butter and rosemary. The earthy flavour of the snails, mushrooms and rosemary contrasted well with the cream and goat butter.

Stella in brodo, a Sicilian inspired roasted buffalo ricotta dumpling in aromatic hen's broth.

Perhaps my favourite dish of the night, a truly delicious Calabrian nerizia liquorice braised beef brisket, cooked so perfectly juicy and tender, the perfect texture for this cut, accompanied by black salsify.

Fried potatoes, red onion, oregano and crisp peppers from Basilicata.

Grilled bone-in rack of lamb, cooked perfectly med rare-rare with graffiti eggplant, smoked potato and rosemary. The rendered fat of the meat was used to cook the crispy paper-thin slices of layers of potato, a great work of craft in itself.

Carrots roasted with Iberico (acorn fed pig) pork fat, with crisp lentils flavoured with "winter spice".

A mini cassata: sweet sheep's milk ricotta cake, pistachio, preserved cherry an citrus.

Fiorellino: a crisp pastry floret: presentation.

The Pastry floret being sauced with braised quince and caramelized white chocolate. A great finish to an exceptional eating experience.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Brunch at the Carbon Bar

The amazing smoked brisket benny, poached eggs on brisket with anaheim chili, dill pickle and hollandaise on a "high rise biscuit.

Smoked ribs. A bit dry.

Smashed and fried potatoes with kim chi, parmesan and green onions. Yummy, addictively crispy potatoes!

Buttermilk fried chicken and waffles with citrus creme, honey and chili-garlic sauce. The chicken lacked flavour, the batter was not cripsy enough and lacked flavour. Although the chicken was not overcooked it was not juicy. I would skip this.

Oak-pit smoked bacon had the right thickness for texture and had good flavour, but tasted as if they came from a pan full of bacon fat. From my perspective, the bacon should have been lightly blotted as the surface oil overwhelmed the bacon experience and made it somewhat unpleasant.

Mezcal and lime cured salmon with aji crema, smoked grape tomatoes, frisee, pickled red onion, crispy capers and accompanied by Montreal styled bagel (and cream cheese if requested).

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Assembly Chef's Hall, Toronto

At the Assembly Food Hall we grazed items from the menus of several restos.

Love Chix

Fried brussel sprouts with lemon and grana padano. Terrific, especially if you love brussel sprouts!

Love Chix fried chicken sandwich (shared).

Cherry Street BBQ

Fabulous, nicely smokey, very juicy pulled pork from Cherry Street BBQ. One of the best pulled pork samples I have tasted  in some time (And I am a Kansas City BBQ Society Judge, and I have judged at the Jack).

Texas style smoked ribs, brisket and turkey. Turkey was tasty and moist. Ribs were a bit overdone and dry. Brisket was juicy with good texture but could have used a bit more smoke. The BBQ beans, not shown, were very good, among the best  BBQ beansof the city's many BBQ restos.

Isshin Ramen

My favourite place to eat at Assembly Food Hall, Ramen Isshen. Above, the roasted garlic shoyu (fermented soy bean ) ramen dish: Isshin roast garlic oil, bamboo shoots, nori, green onions & thin wavy noodles.


The very popular cheeseburger. 


Fried confit Peking duck wings with hoisin-soy sauce glaze, had a crunchy well flavoured batter and were very good.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Chicago Restaurants: Roister, Avec.


Avec has a wood burning oven which it uses to flavour advantage for most of the dishes prepared..

Chorizo stuffed medjool dates with bacon and pequillo pepper-tomato sauce, accompanied by very good tasty toast.

Potato and salt cod brandade with garlic bread and chives, was just disappointing. The toast was very tasty and good (but that was not what this dish was all about). Overall, the texture of the brandade was not thick/dense enough, not enough garlic and the taste of the cod quite muted. Overall the taste was banal.

Smoked whitefish pizza with garlic cream, marinated kale and charred lemon.

Whole roasted fish with marinated artichokes, radish, lavender vinaigrette and chickpea grapes.

Wood oven paella  with confit chicken thigh, snail boudin, shrimp and tangerine aioli. A very tasty paella but its only failing, NO soccarat!

Charred cabbage with grapes, spiced walnuts, quinoa, tabbouleh and lovage tahini.

Roister is part of the Alinea Group, a company owned by world known chef Grant achatz of Alinea fame. Roister was awarded Food and Wine's Restaurant of the Year in 2017. It has also been awarded one Michelin star.

  The wood fired oven and grill.

Salad of mixed greens.

Smoked oysters with chipotle butter, epizote vinegar and french curry.

Tomatoes and toasted bread with mayo, shallots and pecan oil.

Yukon gold fries with tofu mayo, soy dusted and topped with shaved bonito flakes. Quite a delicious rendition of fries.

Buttered pipe pasta and clams with green chili ragu and assorted limes.

A-5 wagyu with sea urchin butter and togarashi spices.

From the wood burning oven: Rohan duck with Carolina rice, citrus and egg yolk.

Cookies and milk: chocolate chip cookie dough with milk ice cream.

Fois gras candy bar with black walnuts, prezel and caramel.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Konjiki Ramen

Atsushi Yamamoto, head chef and founder, established himself as a highly regarded ramen shop in Japan. His Tokyo shop has been recognized by the Guide Michelin Bibb Gourmand and voted the #1 ramen shop in all Japan in 2016 in Tokyo Walker Magazine. This Toronto branch is the first branch resto he has opened outside of Tokyo.

The "signature" clam broth ramen. The soup base for this dish is made from cherrystone clams, kombu, pork and chicken and shellfish cooked for hours. The intense clam and shoyu broth is very pleasing. The noodles, made from Japanese and local flour, are made with filtered water. They have a perfect springy/chewy texture. 

Tonkatsu ramen, a pork bone based soup with roasted garlic oil, house smoked cherry tomatoes and pork sous vide cooked for hours, spring onion and leeks. The broth is intensely favoured and even more pleasing and addictively rich than the clam broth. The "memma" topping is bamboo shoots braised in red wine, soy sauce and special seasoning. 

A vegetarian ramen is also available.

This is a very good ramen resto, but, there are at least 1 or 2 ramen restos that I would consider at a similar quiality level from taste/experience perspective.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Labora at Campo Food Hall.

Campo Food hall is a destination for ready to take out food or eat in tapas, small plates and sandwiches. 

Labora restaurant, inside the back of Campo Food Hall, is perhaps the best new restaurant in Canada and probably the best resto with a special interest in Spanish food. 

You will find lots of superlatives below.

These dishes below were culled from grazing the menus at 2 visits. Parts of the menu changes regularly depending on fresh market items.

Gilda matrimonio: skewered gordal olives with lemon, cured white anchovy, Cantabrian anchovy and pippara pepper.

Mussels in red escabeche sauce. A wonderful dish. 

Bay of Biscay anchovies. 

Pan tumaca, tomato rubbed "crystal" bread. For taste and textures, this is the best, or equal to the best execution of pan con tomate I have tasted anywhere in North America.

A fabulous house specialty, rubia gallega, cured (brined then dry aged for 3 weeks) Ontario prime rib eye, cut paper thin like shaved ham, topped with porcini mushroom puree, honey mushrooms and freshly shaved black truffle. The remarkable flavours go so well with the texture-like buttery bellota Iberico ham. This dish is only served in truffle season. This may be one of the great dishes of any you taste in Toronto. 

 Wild mushrooms and quail egg on toast.

Perfectly cooked whole sea bream cooked a la plancha, sided with lemon and herbs. 

Crispy potatoes with blistered padron peppers sided with chive aioli. 

Garrotxa cheese with pieces of membrillo (quince paste).

Razor Clams with Cava, Iberico Ham, garlic, chili, and parsley, olive oil. Sensational dish! The clams were cooked to perfection.

Josalito Iberico ham. Exceptionally sweet.

Bay scallops in Galician sauce.

 Another signature dish which may be one of the best food compositions you will taste in any resto in Toronto: mini-fried calamari sandwich with aioli and pickled guindilla pepper.

Wreck Fish (grouper family) with sofrito (tomato, onion, carrot, garlic) and house made chorizo (pork flavoured with Spanish sweet paprika, red pepper, honey and cinnamon).

Escalivada - Catalan roasted vegetable dish with artichokes, eggplant, red pepper, onion, black olive and parsley.

Red prawns from Palamos.

Carabinero shrimps.

The prawn on the right is the carabinero. On the left, red prawns from Palamos. 

So good, we ordered more carabinero. The juice in head is particularly good and we just pulled the head off and sucked the juices. The body is especially sweet.

Fideua, a Spanish dish similar to paella but with short noodles instead of rice, here, containing porcini mushrooms, piquillo peppers, scallions, onion, tomato, garlic, angel hair pasta and all topped with perfectly cooked slices of wagyu beef. 

Icelandic Cod with Iberico Ham with a sauce of spinach, green onion and olive oil.

Dirty rice, with sofrito (tomato, onion, garlic, carrot, bay leaf, thyme) chorizo, oyster mushrooms, hen of the woods, chicken stock, cod fish, red prawns, squid, saffron, lemon juice, olive oil and paprika. Once again, One of the most enjoyable dishes you could experience in Toronto.

Saffron aioli accompanies the dirty rice above.

Dark chocolate and Almond-olive oil cake flavoured with rum, amaretto, cinnamon and orange, with chocolate cremoso. Don't miss this! Such seductive flavours and texture and a perfect finish for the meal.