Category Archives: Reviews

Toronto Eats: Stuft Gourmet Sausages

One thing I love about food trucks and the burgeoning Toronto street food scene is the spontaneity; that’s really good for someone like me who likes to read reviews of everything before I try it. On one hand I hate that the food trucks are never in the same place, because it’s hard to find them, and yet this makes it so wonderful when I discover  that a food truck is right where I am at that time. Most of the time I find out through social media, but it’s even better, when I stumble upon it while I’m, what, walking? Yeah.

The University of Toronto has a relatively a new Food Trucks Friday event which is awesome (but awful for my wallet). As I was walking to school, I passed by Stuft food truck which specializes in gourmet sausages. I really wanted to get to school, but I looked menu and all the different sausages sounded amazing. I chose the apricot minted lamb with “Ontario spring lamb, dried apricots, fresh mint, [and] fresh garlic.” I was also eyeing the Thai chicken sausage, portabello horseradish beef and Creole turducken.

To put it simply, this “sandwich” blew my mind. The lamb was moist and not dry at all. The mint perfectly complimented the, well, lambiness, which while present, was not overwhelming. I even found a good chunk of a garlic clove in there. I could not really taste the dried apricots, but they were not missed.

In addition to the sausage, I was able to choose a sauce. I asked one of the people in the truck if he had any suggestions to go with the lamb and he recommended the wasabi honey Dijon mustard. I could not disagree with that: just the right spiciness.

Lastly, I have to mention the bread from Silverstein’s Bakery. It was crusty and the perfect thickness to go with the sausage.  I was able to get a bit of bread and sausage in every bite. It was also well constructed (i.e. no drippage!). Essentially, it was a bun with the centre hollowed out to put in the sausage, but the bottom was intact.

For $9, it is a bit of a luxury for lunch. However, their website states that they use only “grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, free-raised lamb, all-natural pork, or organic turkey” which I think is really awesome for “street food.” If you catch Stuft on the road and feel like sausage, try it out!

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Toronto Eats: Whatta jerk! (Mr. Jerk)

After finishing my summer job, I spent a couple days trying out some of the restaurants that had been on my Toronto “bucket list” since last year. As some background, Mexican and Caribbean are two  cuisines that I like, but know little about. What I’ve tried though, I’ve loved. After seeing Mr. Jerk on a few top 10 lists for jerk chicken in Toronto, I knew that would be a good place to broaden my repertoire.

Mr. Jerk is a small unassuming place on Sherbourne and Wellesley. It is easy to miss or to brush off. It seems to cater to locals in the neighbourhood and definitely the take-out crowd as there are only about five seats inside.

The jerk chicken was kept hot in an oven by the window. There was also a selection of Caribbean dishes such as curry oxtail and dumplings kept warm and ready to be scooped up. There was definitely not just jerk chicken and pork for sure, and I hope to go back to try goat or the salted fish. However, this time, I went with the quarter jerk chicken dinner which came with rice and peas, gravy and coleslaw, for just a bit over $7. The server was very friendly asking if I wanted more gravy or a bag to go with my takeout.

I liked this jerk chicken for its subtle flavor and spice combination. It was not too spicy at all. I would have preferred a bit more kick, but I respect the control. Also, the chicken was incredibly moist, and the jerk formed a slightly sticky crust on top of the chicken. The portion was generous. The rice and peas and the coleslaw were standard, but tasty. Indeed, the jerk chicken at Mr. Jerk is well worth trying.

Mr. Jerk is located at 209 Wellesley Street East  Toronto, just east of Sherbourne Street.

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Hong Kong Revisited: Breakfast Edition (Tsui Wah + Kam Fung)

Earlier this summer during the months of May and June, I was working and living in Hong Kong. I still have remaining a few entries I’d like to blog about, so please excuse the lateness!

I have been asked what people in Hong Kong eat for breakfast. I conducted some primary research by asking locals and seeing what restaurants offered. One breakfast that may be a bit different from a North American breakfast is soft pasta in chicken broth with ham. Don’t expect al dente in the slightest, and you may like it. My mom used to make it for me and my siblings when we were sick. Now I know where she got it from. Sometimes families will have dim sum for breakfast on the weekend. People also have noodles or congee. Eating more “lunch time” meals for breakfast is normal here. Others may just eat toast or cereal.

Here are a couple breakfasts I had dining in Hong Kong, which are more similar to North American breakfasts, but with a slight twist: porridge and  a baked good: bo lo bao (pineapple bun), to be exact.

First up, we have Tsui Wah. Tsui Wah is a ubiquitous line of restaurants that began as a humble cha chaan teng. It is now a well-known restaurant for typical Hong Kong fare for all meals of the day. Over the summer, they even went through an IPO. I’ve heard some negative comments about Tsui Wah, but, to me, they serve standard and consistent food in an efficient manner.

Tsui Wah offers savoury dishes including curry rice and noodles. For breakfast, they have the pasta dish as I mentioned earlier, as well as a crispy bun with condensed milk. However, my mom highly recommended their porridge, so I tried that even though I would not associate porridge/oatmeal with Hong Kong.

This porridge is also called “double milk” porridge because it is made with two kinds of milk: evaporated and condensed milk. It came a huge bowl — I actually took some home to enjoy later. Was this oatmeal ever creamy, thanks to the milk. The condensed milk added a hint of sweetness. They also gave a small “shot” of condensed milk to pour on top. I think I might have to put some condensed milk in my oatmeal here for a little indulgence now and then. If you are looking for something plainer, but still delicious, try the porridge at Tsui Wah.

Milk tea, my staple.

There are many Tsui Wah branches in Hong Kong. I went to the one  in Central, Wellington Shop, at G/F-2/F, 15-19 Wellington St., Central, Hong Kong.

Later on in my stay in Hong Kong, I went to Kam Fung Cafe  (金鳳茶餐廳) in Wanchai, because I heard that it had (one of) the best bo lo bao in Hong Kong. I was game.

I like the people waiting outside reading a newspaper.

Kam Fung is a cha chaan teng with modest decor, like many other cha chaan tengs. It was still quite charming. I called in the morning to make sure they were open since it was a holiday Monday. Well, when I got there, the place was packed full of families, so I should have known better!

I got a bo lo yau which is a pineapple bun with a slice of butter (“yau“) about an eighth of an inch thick. I was really looking forward to this, so unfortunately, my bun was cold and slightly damp on the bottom. That ruined the rest of the eating experience. I did enjoy the denseness of the bun. The sweet topping was interesting since it had a tighter grain. It was a bit out there to eat that slab of butter, but this was actually one of my favourite (and a little guilt-ridden) parts. It added some contrast to just eating bun, as much as I like eating bo lo bau on its own.  I wish I could have had a warm, fresh bun, but I suppose that’s timing. The chicken pies are also good here, apparently.

The milk tea got a solid grade: steeped long enough for a bold flavour.

Fresher buns?

Kam Fung is located at 41 Spring Garden Lane  Wan Chai, Hong Kong.

Wanchai in the morning.

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Hong Kong Revisited: Cambo Thai Restaurant

Earlier this summer during the months of May and June, I was working and living in Hong Kong. I still have remaining a few entries I’d like to blog about, so please excuse the lateness!

Some of the inspirations for the restaurants I visited and foods I ate in Hong Kong came from  CNNGo’s Top 40 list of foods we can’t live without in Hong Kong. Number 18 on this list was authentic Thai food in Kowloon City. Kowloon City has a cluster of restaurants and, as I read, a small Thai community.

Within the Kowloon City district is the historical Kowloon Walled City. Interestingly, when China leased additional parts of Hong Kong, including the New Territories, to Great Britain for 99 years, the agreement excluded the Walled City, which used to be a fort. Eventually due to lack of governance resulting in crime and poor sanitary conditions, the British government tore down the Walled City in the early ’90s. In its place is now the Kowloon Walled City Park.  I only learned more about the Walled City after I visited — a bit counterintuitive, I know — and since I went there at night I didn’t see the park.

I invited my local friend to  go to Kowloon City for company, and also because I didn’t know how to get there! Just kidding. Kowloon City is not accessible by subway so she found us a bus there. In fact, she told me she maybe had come here once or twice before, since she and her friends usually go to other places to eat. As such, it was a new food adventure for both of us.

We arrived and my friend checked OpenRice to see what was the top rated restaurant, which turned out to be Cambo Thai. When we arrived, the host told us that they were full, but then she said to go next door. Actually, there were a few Cambo restaurants all on the same street! That’s an interesting strategy of doing business.

We ordered green curry with beef as well as baked seafood in young coconut to share. Our order must have gotten mixed up, because we got green curry with chicken, but we didn’t bother switching. The green curry was flavourful and creamy from the coconut milk. To be honest, though, I was not too impressed with this dish. Although I am definitely not an expert in Thai cuisine, I thought the curry was too mild and should have been spicier.

The baked seafood rice in young coconut was creamy, delicious and fun to eat. The dish was a generous portion and came with a good ratio of seafood to rice. The rice was served in the coconut, which I had never tried before. It was similar to pineapple rice with the rice served in a pineapple. We were able to scrape up the young coconut flesh and eat it with the rice. This was my favourite part of the meal.

For dessert we shared black rice with mango and coconut milk. This was tasty and pleasant, but fairly standard.

On the whole, while I enjoyed the meal and chatting with my friend, I must admit I was a bit disappointed due to my high expectations from the CNNGo article and OpenRice. I thought the green curry was nothing to rave about. The coconut rice was a highlight, especially since young coconuts are rarer in Toronto. Well, at some point, I hope to try another Thai restaurant in Kowloon City and see the neighbourhood during the day.

On our walk around Kowloon City after dinner, I saw some cube and pyramid-shaped watermelon. This was neat to see in real life.

Cambo Thai is located at or around G/F, 15 Nga Tsin Long Road, Kowloon City, Hong Kong.

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On mange

Phew, yesterday I finished some job applications, and now I can enjoy the rest of summer before school starts up again. I started this blog right after my exams finished back in April, and I do hope to continue blogging in the school year. However, that might also depend on how interesting my life is, so let’s take advantage of summer while I can!

When I wasn’t chilling outside listening to music at Osheaga, I was pretty much eating. I guess that’s what a tourist/my family does. As I mentioned before, we started off the road trip with some snickerdoodles I baked. This was also my submission for Anna Olson’s Bake Off at Food Network Canada. You can see everyone’s submissions here. I love snickerdoodles because they require few ingredients and they get a quirky tang from the cream of tartar, which is used as the leavener instead of baking soda.

For the rest of the trip, we enjoyed a touristy, but delicious Montreal gastronomic experience.

On Saturday we went to La Banquise, a 24-hour restaurant that is famous for their poutine. This must be great food for post-late night revelry, but it is also fantastic for lunch. La Banquise offers other food as well, such as burgers and sandwiches, but of course we all ordered poutine. Poutine is a Quebecois dish of fries covered in gravy and cheese curds. La Banquise also offers non-traditional poutines which range from bacon and smoked meat on poutine to guacamole on poutine.

I’m a little embarrassed to post this photo, but this is what the four of us ordered: four “small” poutines to share. We did take some back to the hotel! But I must admit that we demolished a lot too. The poutine was amazing and well-deserving of its reputation. I am sure this is our poutine quota for the year.

La Classique (b-l): A traditional poutine with fries, cheese curds and gravy. This was the best way to test the quality of La Banquise’s poutine. The cheese curds were squeaky, and the gravy was not too salty and had a thinner consistency, so there was probably not too much flour or corn starch. This allowed the potatoes shine through: slender-cut, slightly sweet and still crispy.

La Petite Vie (t-l): ground beef, corn, and onions. Lovely home-y flavours, which reminded me of shepherd’s pie.

La Rachel (t-r): green peppers, mushrooms, and onions. We had to get our veggies in somehow!

La Taquise (b-r): guacamole, tomatoes and sour cream. This was my favourite of the non-traditional poutines. It was very fresh from the guac and the tomatoes. The guacamole + gravy was actually a good combination. Pure bliss.

Since the gravy was subtly flavoured, all these combinations were delicious.

I had my next dining experience the following morning when we had brunch at Le Cartet in Old Montreal. There was a line, but the time passed relatively quickly because I browsed the chocolate they sold just outside the dining area.

Le Cartet serves different brunch sets as well as some individual dishes. I ordered le brunch sucré which came with French toast with apple butter, nuts and blueberries, crepe with fruit coulis and candied orange peel, and cashew ginger granola with blueberries on natural yogurt, as well as fresh fruit. Whew! The meal also came with coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice. What a delightful brunch. The apple butter was sublime and not too sweet, which was perfect with the French toast. The candied orange peel was a good contrast with the fruit coulis on the crepe, but a bit overpowering for me. I was hoping more of the ginger would come through in the granola. Otherwise, highly recommended.

Finally, on Sunday night, after a rainy and muddy day at the music festival, I met back up with my parents and sister for dessert at Juliette et Chocolat. As the name suggests, the restaurant specializes in desserts mostly with chocolate and drinking chocolate. They also serve savoury foods. However, tonight we just went for the chocolate ;).

I was very curious about the drinking chocolate. The menu described each drinking chocolate much like wine descriptions. I chose the Sao Tome 70%, a dark drinking chocolate, with “hints of fruits and vanilla, bitter cocoa taste.” It came in a brandy glass, perhaps to better smell the aroma.

It was served warm. As you might imagine, it was very rich. There were little flecks of chocolate in the drink. I did taste the bitterness, but to be honest, without the description I would not have picked up on the “hint of fruits and vanilla,” particularly without having tried another drinking chocolate before to compare. Still, it was an interesting experience.

My family also ordered a couple of desserts to try:

Crêpe with three kinds of chocolate (dark, milk and white)

 Chocolate fondue and fruit.

Monday morning before we departed the city, we finished our Montreal experience with Montreal bagels from Fairmount. We bought four dozen! They were for us and for friends though, ha. Montreal bagels are slightly sweeter. According to Wikipedia, they are boiled in honey-sweetened water before being baked in a wood-fired oven.

 A little nibble of a still warm sesame bagel in the car.

Over the last couple weeks I have been eating my quota of bagels, and I must say these are the best whole wheat bagels I ever had. Still soft and slightly sweet.

Our Montreal trip resulted in this lunch for work: whole grain bagel with Montreal smoked meat from Schwartz’s that my parents and sister bought on their own exploration on Montreal.

You can’t get more touristy than this! However, it was an absolutely perfect lunch.

After this weekend of food, I think we were all prepared to have a lighter week. My family discussed how poutine is sometimes referred to lumberjack food. That might not be the origin of the dish, but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone, such as a lumberjack who exerted a lot of energy, would eat poutine for sustenance. It’s similar to how traditional foods during Chinese New Year are often deep-fried or fried in a lot of oil, fatty, or very sweet. Historically, people ate such rich foods once a year. Now, modern lifestyle has changed. While we can still enjoy this food, we probably should only eat these foods in moderation.

La Banquise is located at 994, rue Rachel Est, Montreal, Quebec.

Le Cartet is located at 106, Rue McGill, Montreal.

Juliette et Chocolat has several locations. We went to the one on 1615, rue St-Denis, Montreal.

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Betty’s & Blueberries

Betty’s is a chill local bar that is particularly popular with George Brown students. Somehow I have never been there at night, but I hope to get there before summer ends so I can enjoy the patio. Then again, if I go at night I won’t get to see the patio in all its glory in the sunlight.

Love the King Street East sign on the wall.

My sister, a couple of her friends and I went to Betty’s over the weekend for brunch/breakfast. What an awesome breakfast menu. I wanted to try everything: hello, breakfast poutine?

I decided to go for the hash with a generous helping of greens. The hash was on the salty side, but the combination of potatoes, onion and corned beef was scrumptious!

Over the weekend I made lentils for the first time with some carrots and peppers from the St. Lawerence Market and some parsley from the balcony garden. Not bad, but I needed to work on the flavouring.

I also did some baking. I know it’s hot out so turning on the oven is usually a no-go, but these blueberries were screaming to be baked into some whole wheat banana berry muffins. I tried out a Moosewood Restaurant recipe and I was totally impressed. The recipe called for four bananas, two tablespoons of honey and no other additional sugar!  The muffins used all whole wheat flour, but they weren’t tough at all. I think the natural yogurt lightened them up. Definitely need to make these again.

Betty’s is located at 240 King Street East, Toronto.

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Hong Kong Eats: Chautari

It’s been pretty hot in Toronto over the last week. Luckily the humidity broke a couple days. I love the heat though — I much prefer hot weather over the cold. Have you noticed that cultures in hot climates tend to have spicier food?  That’s why I hope it’s appropriate I am now writing about Chautari, an Indian restaurant in Hong Kong.

While of course I was loving the Chinese food in Hong Kong, I wanted to taste something different. After reading about Chautari in a HK food blog (The Dim Sum Diaries) my Canadian friend from undergrad and I tried it out.

I got us lost walking there even though it should not have been hard to find (I think we just took a wrong turn), but finally we arrived at the restaurant in a cooked food centre. There were many other restaurants all along the perimeter. All the tables and chairs were in the middle, but it seemed that each restaurant had their designated tables.

Even though they looked like stalls, the prices were more in line with a sit down restaurant. We each got a set dinner for HK $115 (~ CAD $15) which came with a fair share of food. I couldn’t finish everything and I hate wasting food!

The meal included a drink so I got a mango lassi. It was slightly tangy — I think it was green mango — and refreshing. I tried my best to conserve it so I could drink it along with the spicy meal. It was so good that I struggled not to drink it quickly, but I was mostly successful!

Papadum with a minty sauce to start us off.

These vegetable samosas were a highlight of the meal. They were hot and crispy. Within were tender potatoes and vegetables.

The chicken tikka was perfect. It came fresh on a grill. The chicken was still moist inside. It was slightly smoky and spicy. It reminded me of tandoori chicken. The chicken was served with some cabbage.

With my set meal, I got the vegetable curry. This was tasty, although pretty standard. It still came with a lot of veggies.

The set came with naan but I asked the waiter if I could try the chennai roti instead. He agreed! It was slightly greasy but tasted great. I loved ripping strips of it and dipping it into the curry.

My friend got lamb curry which was rich. Fresh and fluffy naan on the side.

Chatauri is located at Shop CF6, Queen Street Food Market, 1 Queen Street, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong. Note that this is one of the cases where Google Maps is somewhat misleading. The market is located on Queen Street, but it’s closer to the junction of Ko Shing Street, Queen Street and Des Voeux Road West.

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