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Ritz Restaurant

23 Oct

Ritz restaurant, Toronto

I normally resent when someone tells me, “you should eat at so-and-so! You’ll love it!” But, for some reason, a sign that declares  “You love our t-bone steak”!, yet there isn’t a t-bone anywhere to be found on their menu, makes me squee. Welcome to the Ritz, East York’s hidden gem. It’s a time warp of sorts; Ritz is a legitimate 1960s diner, with wood panelled walls, vinyl multi-coloured bar stools and table-side juke boxes.  Just like the sign promoting the t-bone, the jukeboxes are relics from an era long gone.

Ritz restaurant, Toronto

You can’t not love the Ritz. There’s one person who runs the front of the house, and when I say “run”, I mean that she’s literally at a near-run pace, flitting from the bar to the cash to the kitchen and back serving tables.  She does it all with kindness and a huge smile on her face.

Filipino breakfast/lunch menu, Ritz restaurant, Toronto

The menu has two parts to it. You have your typical North American diner food, including BLTs, club house and steak sandwiches. We saw the club house, which seems to be a long-forgotten sandwich in these parts, and I think I’ll be introducing one to my belly in a future visit.  You can also get a Canadian breakfast, which includes three eggs, home fries and bacon (“regular or crispy?”, you’ll be asked).  But what we came for were their Filipino breakfast and lunch offerings. You don’t expect a restaurant called the Ritz, located just a stone’s throw from Greektown, to be dishing out Filipino morning fare.

Adobo chicken and pork ribs, Ritz restaurant, Toronto

We decided to get the Adobo pork ribs and chicken and to get the Filipino breakfast.  The chicken and ribs came smothered in adobo sauce and with a side of rice and a cafeteria-like corner of steamed vegetables. I dug into the hot, breaded cutlet of chicken and enjoyed the savoury gravy and slight spice it had. The ribs were cooked tenderly and were still bone in. It was a delicious hot mess and the ultimate Sunday morning hangover food.

Filipino breakfast special with Filipino sausage, Ritz restaurant, Toronto

Robin ordered Filipino sausage as her breakfast meat, which is a sweet, bright pink sausage of lord-who-knows-what-meat-it-is. But it doesn’t matter. It was tasty as sausage sin, and was sitting on a mound of over-easy eggs and rice.

Leche flan, Ritz restaurant, Toronto

Robin was still hungry after her $4.95 breakfast (you read that correctly), so she ordered a Filipino dessert. We were brought a leche flan, which was a yummy condensed milk custard cake that we polished off in minutes.

This quirky little throw-back restaurant feels more like it belongs on an American backroad than in Toronto…except for it serving Filipino food.  Whether its for their decor or their food, there’s no way you can’t find some love for the Ritz. Unless, of course, you showed up for the t-bone steak.

Ritz Restaurant
310 Donlands Ave


AwesTRUCK 2012

16 Sep

Food truck at AwesTRUCK 2012

AwesTRUCK was the Double Down of food truck events.  You have a food truck event that showcased Toronto’s fledging food truck scene, which was wrapped with people’s choice awards for food trucks. Around that, you had more pop-up food vendors serving their innovative eats and Ontario beer, wine and spirit vendors serving their unique offerings. The only thing that would have made AwesTRUCK that much more awesome? A LASER SHOW.

The day started with a 2 hour “VIP” event, which allowed all ticket purchasers to, essentially, eat all they could eat for their price of admission. The tickets sold were limited and this left few line-ups and lots of room to enjoy the surroundings, view the artwork hung for the occasion and gawk at the amount other patrons were eating.  This also featured an awards ceremony which highlighted some of Ontario’s cutting edge and new food trucks, as voted by food truck patrons.

El Gastronomo Vagabundo winning an award at AwesTRUCK 2012Dobro Jesti winning an award at AwesTRUCK 2012

Ole! Fidel Gastro wins an award at AwesTRUCK 2012

After the award ceremony ended, the rest of the ticket holders were allowed in. More eating (and drinking) ensued. Belts were loosened.  More food trucks opened up to serve the masses. Here are some pictures of the yumminess served up to over 1500 patrons:

Tacocat menu at AwesTRUCK 2012

Tacocat menu

Babi & Co serving up Indonesian street food at AwesTRUCK 2012

Babi & Co serving up Indonesian street food

Fidel Gastro at AwesTRUCK 2012

Fidel Gastro

Meatball sliders from Rome'n Chariot, AwesTRUCK 2012

Meatball sliders from Rome’n Chariot

Grilled cheese from Gorilla Cheese, AwesTRUCK 2012

Grilled cheese from Gorilla Cheese

Tequila Tromba mixologying it up at AwesTRUCK 2012

Tequila Tromba mixologying it up

Thanks to Suresh Doss, Frank Kocis and the rest of the volunteers who organized the event and made it run smoothly. A big thanks to all the vendors involved:

Food trucks:

Blue Donkey
Cupcake Diner
Dobro Jesti
El Gastronomo Vagabundo
Gorilla Cheese
Rome’n Chariot
Southern Smoke Barbecue
Fidel Gastro
Gourmet Gringos

Pop-up vendors:

Babi & co.
Big E’s Grinds
Dat Chick Craze
Grindhouse Coffee
Mr. Spinners with Waffle Bar
Taco Cat
Tide & Vine Oyster Company

The Feasting Room

28 Jul

The Feasting Room, Toronto

The tip-to-tail food movement’s still going strong, and Toronto’s newest pop-up restaurant, The Feasting Room, is the latest restaurant to join the charge.  The concept is simple: every week, the restaurant chooses a new protein and then serves you a multi-course tasting menu using different cuts from that animal.  I decided to make a reservation during “lamb week” because lamb is so darn fun.

Menu, The Feasting Room, Toronto

Tip-to-tail Menu, The Feasting Room, Toronto

The Feasting Room makes use of Little Italy’s Orbit Room during its pre-bar hours and they do a pretty decent job disguising the bar as a restaurant. At our table, we were presented with a a twine-bound wine-list and a post card that hinted at what cuts would be served to us. We passed on the wine pairing (an additional $35 per person; we wanted to restrict our consumption since it was a Sunday night) and stuck to the regular tasting menu.

Lamb pastrami amuse bouche, The Feasting Room in Toronto

Our server happily informed us that, in addition to our six-course meal, two amuse-bouches would be on their way.
The first snack was house-made lamb neck pastrami served with pickled green beans and Kolzik mustard.  It had a subtle smokiness to it and a modest pepper kick to it.  It made for a very tender and tasty starter.

Fried sheep's testicles with mint aoli, The Feasting Room in Toronto

The second amuse was ballsy. Literally.  Lamb testicle croquettes with a smoked mint aoli.  While we’d seen our share of lamb balls while in Basque country, we were never adventurous enough to try them.  When they’re breaded, deep fried and placed under your nose, you’re going to give it a go – and I’m happy we did.  Think of chicken nuggets, but more tender. They were soft, fried bits of goodness and paired well with the mint aoli.

Grilled lamb heart, rocket, shallots, garden beans with a pickled walnut dress, The Feasting Room

We officially started our meal off with a grilled lamb heart salad.  This take on grilled heart was really interesting; heart wasn’t the salad’s centrepiece, but instead was an accompaniment to the rest of the parts, which included rocket, green beans and shallots, and it let the pickled walnut dressing be the focal point. The meat was surprisingly tender, sliced thinly and dispersed throughout the salad. The salad was a great start to our dinner.

Lamb liver parfait with a fois gras "crust", pickled peaches and blueberries, The Feasting Room

Our next course was lamb liver parfait, “sealed” with a layer of fois gras and sided with pickled blueberries and peaches.  Here’s where lamb gets tricky.  Offal such as liver will normally have a stronger taste than your standard cuts of meat, but gamey lamb offal has the chance of overwhelming the palate.  I admit that the first bite of pate did leave a stronger-than-accustomed aftertaste, but that was quickly chased away with the subsequent chomps. The fois fat helped to take some of the gamey edge off and, very quickly, we were in pate love. I was making little capped snowmen with the pickled blueberries.

Lamb liver parfait and shameless blueberry snowmen, The Feasting Room

“O hello, Frosty da Parfait Snowman!”

We shamelessly scraped the jar down to the glass. Yum.

Lamb brains with cauliflower 3 ways, tahini, sumac and zatar, The Feasting Room

We them moved northward and had a zombilicious serving of lamb brains mixes with cauliflower three ways (puree, florets and dried chips) and tahini.  If you’ve never had brains before, fear not.  It had a rich and creamy feel with a relatively mild taste.  Pairing brains with cauliflower was a playful palate take on cauliflower gratin, and the finishing spices of sumac and zatar that were mixed with the deep-fried florets were an intelligent interpretation of comfort food. And no, I can’t avoid the brain-related pun. Sorry.

Semi-pulled lamb shank, sheep's milk cheese curds and French-style potato "poutine", The Tasting Room

It feels like we’re still riding the poutine wave, with every restaurant offering their take on the Quebecois dish. The Feasting Room offered a neat angle, making a semi-pulled shank poutine that was served with sheep’s milk cheese curd and French-style potato.  This dish worked very well when a bite of cheese made it to my fork and mixed with the potatos and lamb. The cheese offered a kick and a saltiness that worked really well with the rest of the dish. Without the cheese, the dish was good but not spectacular. So like to kids in those horrible 1980’s commercials: “(more) Cheese please!”

Pan-seared kidneys, roasted lamb leg and spatzele "steak and kidney pie", The Feasting Room

Our server brought us two mini casserole dishes and proclaimed that we were about to eat the chef’s take on steak and kidney pie.  The kidneys were pan seared then deglazed with Worcestershire sauce and chicken stock. They were then placed in a casserole with lamb leg, veggies, a Guinness sauce and house-make spatzele.  The kidney was by far the strongest and gamiest of cuts we tried, having a strong sharp taste to it.  The small casserole made it difficult to cut up the kidney and mix it with the spazele and other large, awkward cut of meat.  The cute casserole dish could have worked if the meat was in smaller pieces or there was less kidney. Otherwise, a different vessel might have elevated our enjoyment of this dish.

Sheep's milk ricotta cheesecake, raspberry coulis & compote with vanilla-spiked whey, The Feasting Room

The menu was completed with a sheep’s ricotta cheesecake, topped with raspberry coulis and compete and accompanied by a espresso cup’s of vanilla-dusted whey. It was a neat yin-yang dessert that played on the “nothing is wasted” theme of the restaurant.  The ricotta gave the cheesecake a  refreshing flavour to it instead of a typical sweet-and-creamy cream cheese cheesecake.  Pouring spoonfuls of whey as cheesecake chasers was definitely the tasty way to go.

We were stuffed and really enjoyed our meal, but made sure we didn’t linger too long.  At 9:30, the restaurant morphs back into a bar, so unless you enjoy audibly hearing about the bartender’s recent escapades, book a reservation to eat before 7:30.

Words by Richard, photography by Robin

La Carnita

2 Jul

La Carnita

When word got around that La Carnita, the darlings of Toronto’s new pop-up restaurant trend, were setting up a brick-and-mortar restaurant, many foodies held their collective breaths. Would an every-day restaurant lose some of the excitement and exclusiveness that its “Tweet today, gone tomorrow” incarnation had?  Could they keep quality and innovation going over time when they’re serving food on a daily basis?

The answer is very simple.  La Carnita’s restaurant breathes the culture and vibe that grew with the various pop-ups and food events.  It’s a logical progression of an idea that matured over the past year, and we diners get to reap and eat its delicious rewards.

It’s inevitable that people will compare La Carnita to Grand Electric, so let’s get that out of the way. La Carnita is like Grand Electric’s gainfully employed older brother. It doesn’t have the fun “f-you!” punk attitude that Grand Electric has. It’s more grown up and has a sophisticated hip-hop feel.  Think of East LA meets Ossington meets New York with hip hop playing – but not blasting – but with less hip irony that other west-end joints are thought to have.  There are also three visible differences: La Carnita does not have a patio, La Carnita focuses on tequila (versus bourbon) and La Carnita has more inside seating than Grand Electric. La Carnita will also take your phone number and call you when your table is ready, where Grand Electric doesn’t offer that courtesy anymore.

Interior, La Carnita

From the bat-signaleque Meathead sign in the front, to the gold-toothed “GRINGO” threshold welcoming you into the restaurant or the graffiti-tagged walls and chicken-coop light fixtures inside the restaurant, you’re hit with a chiq yet cool-trash vibe that greets you at every turn. It’s clear that Andrew Richmond, the guy behind La Carnita, has a background in design. Every element of this place has been carefully selected to reflect La Carnita’s “steez”.

Menu at La Carnita

The menu is focused and to the point. We came for the tacos but wanted to also eat our way through the delicious starters.

Mezcal chipotle pate & tortilla chips, La Carnita

We ordered the tortilla chips with mezcal chipotle pate. The crispy, house-made tortillas and the pate were lightly sprinkled with a zesty chilli powder, combining the creamy liver goodness with a nice kick of heat.

Mexican street corn, La Carnita

The Mexican street corn tastes as delicious as it looks. The gentle dribble of  Mexican crema and queso  played well off the grilled corn flavours, with the nice chilli kick to chase the flavours down.  Normally I wouldn’t be squeeing over corn, but this corn is squee-worthy.

Avocado mango salad, La Carnita

The avocado mango salad is a nice take on the Thai style of mango salad. The presentation was nice; you have a few springs of cilantro and shredded mango sitting on top of a perfectly-ripened half avocado.  The flavours were excellent, with the creaminess of the avocado playing off the citrus tones of the mango quite well.

And now: taco porn.

Tacos at La Carnita

Tacos at La Carnita

Tacos at La Carnita

With six tacos on their menu, its easy for a couple to order one of each. So we did, and ate our way through: cod, beef tongue, skirt steak, chorizo, chicken and a vegetarian taco. The toppings are also more intricate than what you find at other taquerias. Each taco was delicious with the beef tongue being my favourite and the ever-faithful fish taco (named “In Cod We Trust”) being Robin’s list topper.  None of them disappointed.

More taco porn:

Tacos at La Carnita

Tacos at La Carnita

For dessert, we decided that we needed a palate cleanser. We shared the key lime paleta. Its now what you expect when you’re ordering a key lime dessert.

Key lime paleta at La Carnita

This fruity key lime pie-flavoured ice pop is a delicious combination of tart and sweet, with a graham cracker-like crust that has a pinch of salt to it. I’m not sure how quickly the paleta melts, since ours disappeared in 2 minutes.

La Carnita’s Underground Market and pop-up days may be on hiatus, but that’s not a bad thing.  Toronto now has another great option to get our Latin American soul food fix, and it’s a pretty perfect way to get that fix.  Come for the tacos, stay for the ambiance, tequila and the rest of the delicious menu.

La Carnita
501 College St

Photos by Robin. Text by Richard.

La Carnita on Urbanspoon

Agave Y Aguacate and Rock Lobster

19 Jun

Menu for Agave Y Aguacate, Kensington Market

When I was a kid, I knew two types of Mexican food.  I had Taco Time, which was my food court staple, and I had Chi Chi’s, which was known for its sour cream-ladden chimmichangas and deep-fried ice cream.  As you can tell, Winnipeg wasn’t much of a Latin American food hot spot and, truth be told, neither was Toronto until a decade ago.

Agave Y Aguacate is hidden in the back of a non-descript food co-op in Kensington Market.  The chefs prepare your meal for you on top of hot plates, which allows you to smell the heavenly aromas that fill the air while they cook up your lunch.

Lunch at Agave Y Aguacate, Kensington Market

We ordered the anita tostada and beef tongue. I’ve had the anita tostada before and declared to Robin that it was one of the best dishes in Toronto.

Anita tostada at Agave Y Aguacate, Kensington Market

A toastada is covered with pinto beans,tomatoes, onion, garlic, mint, habanero and Luis Suarez`s chorizo. Honestly, do I need to go beyond that description to tell you how amazing this dish is? The mixture covered sits on big slices of fresh avocado and is covered with pecorino fresco, puya sauce and home made crema fresca.  The smoky, savoury chorizo “stew” combined with the fatty, creamy goodness of avocado, pecorino fresco and creme freche makes this a comforting yet incredibly detailed dish.

Beef tongue at Agave Y Aguacate, Kensington Market

Beef tongue is served as a mole, which is a spicy cocoa Mexican sauce. This mole is pumpkin seed based and is flavored with ancho, pasilla and guajillo chiles, cloves and black pepper. On top were crispy pieces of dried cassava. The mole itself was delicious, but if you’re not comfortable eating tongue you may find the meat ‘s texture to be off-putting. Its served in cubes instead of shaved, which was perfect for me.  The meat is incredibly soft and tender with a tender give to it that steak or stewing beef doesn’t have.

Lobster taco at Rock Lobster, Kensington Market

We noticed that, set up across from Agave Y Aguacate, Rock Lobster’s new kiosk was newly open.  Rock Lobster’s more known for its popular food truck, but as of last week, they set up a retail space in Kensington Market. Since it was literally a 3 step shuffle to walk over and order from Rock Lobster, we thought we would give it a try. They had their famous lobster roll on the menu, but we had ordered too much from Agave Y Aguacate already, so we stuck with the lobster taco.

While the store front is non-descript, the chefs cooking inside definitely aren’t. Kengington market has won us over with the amazing lunch options at Agave Y Aguacate. Chi Chi’s, I’ll never forget thee (unfortunately)!

Agave Y Aguacate and Rock Lobster

214 Augusta Ave
Toronto, ON

Words by Richard, Photos by Robin

Leslieville Pumps

14 Jun

What do you get when you combine southern barbeque, a gas station/convenience store and vintage kitsch and plop it down in the heart of Leslieville?

We present to you:  Leslieville Pumps

Leslieville Pumps General Store and Kitchen

Here, what once was a Leslieville  eyesore  old gas station has been spiffed up to look like a Wild West storefront. Reclaimed wood is used to give it that chic tack that will either make you squee or rub your eyes in disbelief. Inside the decor continues with the southern theme, but also includes bits of Canadiana, like a Hudson’s Bay tin and a flock of mallards dangling above the grab & go fridge.

Inside Leslieville Pumps General Store & Kitchen

Inside Leslieville Pumps General Store & Kitchen

It was hard to choose just two sandwiches to eat because all four looked irresistible. We ended up getting the beef brisket and the chicken thighs.

Chicken thighs sandwich at Leslieville Pumps General Store & Kitchen

First we tried the smoked chicken thighs. The thighs themselves were moist and had hints of cinnamon. I liked the idea of the garnishes, especially when I learned that Judd, the owner, grows as much of his own produce as he can and incorporates it into his food when it’s available.  Chicken, in my opinion, doesn’t smoke as tastily as beef or pork, and while we liked the sandwich, it wouldn’t be our first option. It was more taste neutral, but don’t take that as a bad thing.  If I’m eating chicken, I like big and bold versus subtle and kind. I wouldn’t kick that sandwich out of bed, that’s for certain.

Beef brisket sandwich at Leslieville Pumps General Store & Kitchen

The beef brisket was really amazing. It had a distinct smokey taste without tasting too much like a campfire. Judd told us that he smokes his meat with a mix of mesquite and hickory. The beef was tender and served in chunks and the homemade barbecue sauce was sweet and smokey. The grainy mustard and crispy onions were perfect complements. If the pulled pork is half as good as the brisket (and I’m sure it is), then I know when I’m getting next time I visit.

Poutine at Leslieville Pumps General Store & Kitche

We were both pretty full, but when the owner, Judd, told us that he used goat cheese curds and gravy mixed with his homemade barbecue sauce in his poutine, we decided that we might have room for that, too. It was still steaming when it came to the table and the garnish of oregano leaves was a nice touch. There was a generous amount of both cheese and gravy on the fries, and the goat cheese curds were perfect. I tend to enjoy a thicker, fattier chicken gravy rather than beef gravy on my poutine, but this was still very satisfying.

Poutine at Leslieville Pumps General Store & Kitchen

We ended our meal by grabbing a string of Fizz candy (remember them? How the colour on the pouch never matched the flavour inside?) to eat on our drive home.  Its a dangerously short drive to the Pumps, and the temptation to try their pulled pork and fried pickles means that we’ll be back very soon.

Leslieville Pumps General Store & Kitchen
929 Queen Street East

Words by Robin and Richard. Photos by Robin

Leslieville Pumps on Urbanspoon

Holy Chuck – “Go Chuck Yourself”

12 May

Oh, the power of Twitter. You jokingly put an idea out there and, the next thing you know, the joke becomes a reality.  In my case, I suggested to Stella (@foodieyu and writer of Food Junkie Chronicles) that we go to Holy Chuck and try their epic “Go Chuck Yourself” burger.  Two weeks later, we had dinner plans booked and there was no backing out.

We reviewed Holy Chuck a while back and opined that they are one of the best burger restaurants in the city. Today, we were going to tackle two of the crazier burgers they make.

The Holy Duck fois gras burger at Holy Chuck

The Holy Duck burger is a single beef patty covered with double smoked bacon and a slab of fois gras, then drizzles with truffle oil and maple syrup. This is one serious umami blast! Robin will eat fois gras if given the opportunity, so this burger was hers. Combine the nice meaty flavour of Holy Chuck’s patties with the buttery goodness of fois gras, the smoky bacon flavour and the flavour kick from the truffle oil and maple syrup and you get one hell of a special burger.  I rubbed some of the fries in the truffle oil that dripped from the burger. Wow.

 Go Chuck Yourself burger at Holy Chuck

I present to you the show stopper: the Go Chuck Yourself burger.  They pile up 6 burgers with 6 slices of cheese, toss on a bunch of bacon and caramelized onions and sandwich it with three grilled cheese sandwiches. Yeah, not for the faint or weak of heart.

 Two Go Chuck Yourself burgers at Holy Chuck

As I brought the burgers to the table, I thought “how will Stella be able to eat one of these?” Stella’s roughly half the size of me and the burger is approximately the size of her head. I wondered: what would Darwin say about what we were about to eat?

Go Chuck Yourself burger at Holy Chuck (Toronto's largest burger)

I could barely hold it in my hands.

Go Chuck Yourself burger at Holy Chuck (Toronto's largest burger)

If my parents ever read this blog, they’d probably disown me.  With Robin’s help, I managed to handily eat the burger. Flavour-wise, the burger is excellent. The patties are juicy and full of flavour.  I really didn’t have a problem eating such a ridiculous quantity of food. It was incredibly tasty from start to finish. I find that most burgers are over-salted or overcooked – not at Holy Chuck. Even through this tangled mess of bacon and bun, I could still taste the ground steak that’s used to make the patties.  I was drinking a Nutella and salted caramel milkshake (probably the best shake in Toronto) to help wash the food down.  It goes without saying that, the following morning, I had to skip breakfast.


Holy Chuck Burgers
1450 Yonge St
Toronto, ON M4T 1Y7


Photos by Robin, text by Richard

The Fuzz Box

4 May

My donair experience is can be describes as being hazy, at best – once as a post-bar drunken snack in Halifax and once as a post-bar drunken snack in Antwerp. When The Fuzz Box opened up a few weeks ago, I finally had my opportunity to taste a donair while sober! Strike that off my bucket list!

Either there are a lot of ex-pats from the east coast or Toronto’s been lacking good donairs, because The Fuzz Box is selling out of its donairs nightly.  The best way to avoid disappointment? Head there for lunch, like I did. There were tables available and the wait was short. The owner, Neil Dominey, greeted me when I entered and his politeness confirmed that, yes, this is a real east coast restaurant. I ordered the Nova Scotian donair (small $4.99/regular $5.99/super 1/4 lb donair $8.99) and seriously contemplated ordering the fried pepperoni ($4.99).

Fried pepperoni at The Fuzz Box in Toronto

Neil brought me the pepperoni to sample while I waited for my donair.  I was too hungry to grab my camera, so I took a picture of the fried pepperoni with my phone. Sorry. 😦

Fried pepperoni is a Lipitor-sponsored hot crack for the soul. As its name implies, you are eating bites of pepperoni that are fried to a medium crisp that you can then dunk into home-made honey mustard sauce. Need I say more? For the record: they disappeared within a minute.

When the donair arrived, I graciously thanked the chef and sped back home (I was starving and the fried pepperoni only made me hungrier).  To keep my donair experiences consistent, I poured myself a beer.

Nova Scotian Donair from The Fuzz Box in Toronto

The soft pita was filled with ample slices of seasoned beef and some sliced onions and tomatoes.  Drizzled on top of the meat is the famous east coast donair sauce, which is made from garlic and condensed milk.  Its a great balance to the zesty, spicy meat, Think of this as being shawarma’s spicy, beefy cousin.  Sweet and sticky and spicy and lovely, the donair wasn’t long for this world. My only regret? Not ordering the super sized donair.

Photos and text by Richard

The Fuzz Box
1246 Danforth Ave (near Greenwood subway station)
Toronto, Ontario

Model Milk

1 Apr

Model Milk restaurant exterior, Calgary

We have a rule of thumb: when your hostess offers you a seat with a view of the open kitchen, you take it.  We definitely took it on our Thursday night visit to Model Milk, one of the new jewels in Calgary’s fashion and culinary crown, 17 Avenue SW.

Model Milk restaurant interior, Calgary

Interior of Model Milk, Calgary

Menu, Model Milk restaurant

Everything about Model Milk is neat, for lack of a better description.  Its a spacious, open and fun space, with minimal decor but maximum vibe.  The frequently-updated menu is presented on a clipboard.  I could hear Robin squeeing at Model Milk’s attention to style detail.

We ordered our dinner based on the server’s recommendations and on what we saw the kitchen preparing.  After watching the sous chef pile a giant heap of fries into a small casserole bowl and top it with a ridiculous portion of freshly-shred manchengo cheese, we unanimously declared “and we’ll have one of those!”

Fries with manchego cheese, Model Milk restaurant, Calgary

The menu is very protein focused. Herbivores, be damned. Carnivores, be delighted.

Oysters and mignonette, Model Milk restaurant  Calgary

Chicken and dumplings, Model Milk restaurant Calgary

Pork entree, Model Milk restaurant Calgary

Our only regret was not having room to try one of their desserts. High end comfort food that left us comfortably full, Model Milk is on our must-repeat list for our next Calgary visit.

Model Milk
308 17 Ave SW
Calgary, Alberta
403 265-7343

Model Milk on Urbanspoon


Photos by Robin

Words by Richard

Folia Grill

31 Mar

When people hear that we live near the Danforth, they usually remark, “You’re so lucky! You’re within walking distance to a bunch of great Greek restaurants!”  They’re kind of right, since we can walk to Danforth East to grab amazing Ethiopian (Dukem) or great beer (The Only). As far as Greek fare goes, most Greektown restaurants are pretty pedestrian.  You know; flaming cheese and generic Greek salad for appetizers, souvlaki and lemon potatoes for your main, and an anise candy that comes with your bill.  In our eight years of living near the Danforth, we haven’t really met a Greek restaurant that’s been opa!-worthy.

Folia Grill in Greektown

Chicken gyro at Folia Grill in Greektown, Toronto

Then one summer day, as we were driving down Pape Avenue, we noticed a large, inflatable pig perched above a newly renovated storefront. The sign had a happy, reclining pig holding a skewer of what was likely one of his cousins or next-door neighbours. Harmless enough, so we figured that we might as well try one of the only clean looking restaurants on the street.

Fast forward two years and you can count us as regulars at one of the East end’s hidden gems.  Their chicken gyro is one of the most flavourful, juiciest and tender chicken dishes you’ll find.  Size-wise, it challenges the hefty portions you get at Burrito Boys, so be sure to go to Folia Grill when you’re hungry.

The menu at Folia Grill in Greektown

I’ll admit that, until recently, I was guilty of not straying far from my regular chicken gyros.  While Folia Grill offers grilled items like chicken breast, pork chops and NY strip loin, my love for their chicken gyros made me a believer in food monogamy. That is, until the owner asked me to try a sample of their new pork gyros.

Today, we ambitiously ordered one chicken and one pork gyro with a side of zucchini fries.  Robin claimed the never-disappointing chicken, while I tackled the pork gyro.

Chicken gyro pita at Folia Grill in Greektown

Robin’s chicken gyro was stuffed full with sliced white and dark meat, fresh tomatoes, onions and house-made tzatziki. Give Folia bonus points for stuffing their pitas with french fries, which is what you’ll find at most Mediterranean falafel and gyro restaurants.  The starch from the fries pairs well with the tzatziki. The real star of the show is the chicken. Perfectly seasoned with olive oil, paprika and lord knows what other spices, the chicken is cooked slowly and tenderly, leaving you with bite after bite of seasoned goodness.  The pictures speak for themselves.

Pork gyro pita at Folia Grill in Greektown

Close-up on the pork gyro from Folia Grill in Greektown, Toronto

I had the other white meat; the pork gyros is accompanied by the same pita stuffings as the chicken gyros, but is filled with large, moist chunks of pork. Charred on the outside, juicy on the inside, the pork has an amazing lemon and thyme marinade that ranks this dish as one of my top pork dishes I’ve had. No lie.

Zucchini fries at Folia Grill in Greektown

Dipping zucchini fries at Folia Grill in Greektown, Toronto

We were stuffed after we gobbled down our gyros (and a word to the wise: go to Folia Grill with someone you feel comfortable with, since the tzatziki somehow ends up on your cheeks, nose and lips), but still had to tackle the zucchini fries. The “fries” are freshly-sliced zucchini spears that are lightly breaded and seasoned and then fried to perfection.  The outside was crisp and the inside was juicy, perfectly cooked and marvellously tender. Fries come with aioli, which makes for a perfect dipping companion.  We tried to share the size order between the two of us, but would have gladly welcomed a third (or fourth) person to help us finish the plate.

Enjoying at chicken gyro pita at Folia Grill in Greektown

Each pita is $5.25, which is a dangerously good deal. Be sure to try Folia Grill before one of the East end’s best kept secrets is out.

Folia Grill
1031 Pape Ave
Toronto, Ontario
(Closed Sundays)

Folia Grill on Urbanspoon


Photos by Robin & Richard

Words by Richard