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DineOut Reviews: Round out 2011 in Toronto

But… does that title say 2011? Yes. I never got around to posting these meals and it’s only less than a year later at this point. And the photos still look delicious. The first four recaps are written recently so my memory about the actual experience is less than perfect. Ja Patty in Islington Station (Toronto, ON) If I recall correctly, it was at the end of November and just a couple of days after I started working that I had occasion to pass through Islington Station. I was headed to Kitchener for the day for training and meeting up with a coworker at Islington. It meant that when the day was over, I was back at Islington and ravenously hungry. The specialty of the shop is obviously their Jamaican patty but I wasn’t feeling it and a spinach pastry looked more appetizing. Indeed, it was the best warm spinach croissant I’ve ever had.

La Grotta on Main (Unionville, ON) Lil Sis and I had wanted to visit Unionville ever since we learned that her beloved Gilmore Girls had filmed their pilot in the town and then modeled their set on the town. We would walk in the square and pose in front of Luke’s Diner … and to give us extra motivation, I found a Groupon or other group couponing offer for one of the local Italian restaurants and we set out over there on a wintery fall day. La Grotta, as the name implies, is housed in a foliage-covered and cozy house. We were the first customers for the evening when we walked in around 5 p.m. and the maitre d’ did not look too revulsed to know we were coupon-wielding. Lil Sis seemed want to make a bit more of an event out of it and we ordered wine and wine spirits. If I recall correctly, the value of the voucher was quite high so we had room to put together a few dishes. We ordered the beef carpaccio and two pasta dishes: Lil Sis got seafood linguine while I ordered the veal marsala. The dishes were all very good, modestly proportioned and tasted nice and authentic.


Old Firehall Confectionary (Unionville, ON)

After La Grotto dinner, we wanted to “explore” a little bit Unionville but it was dark and few shops were open. Notably, the Old Firehall Confectionary was a warm beacon in the night and we walked in with me expecting seriously old-school treats.

First, Lil Sis create a sour powered candy tube for a co-worker who is a sugar junkie. Then we thought about getting treats for ourselves. The shop claims having the best drinking chocolate around but it sounded like way too much so I devoured their over-iced cupcakes with my eyes and selected truffles to make a ourselves a box from their glorious selection.

Since the Old Firehall Confectionary, I haven’t seen truffles that have excited me so much, been so pretty or tasty. The truffle flavours we go included balsamic strawberry, white chocolate mango passion, blood orange kalmansi, chocolate pink grapefruit, and green tea. And there were still flavours I wanted to try!


Paramount Fine Foods (Toronto and Richmond Hill, ON)

One thing Toronto has in abundance that is pleasant, is Arabic food. After a TIFF evening, the standard big box restaurant fare on Yonge street seemed less than palatable, then we came across Paramount which was familiar to Lil Sis by them having a Richmond Hill location as well.

Our eyes were bigger than our stomachs and we ordered shawarma chicken and hummus, cheese with zaatar manakeesh and a dessert. We also saw that their were making pita bread that came out of the oven inflated like balloons and we couldn’t wait to have our own balloons and dip the fresh bread into hummus. The hummus dish was really good and good value with a decent amount of hummus and enough (but not too much) chicken. I say that because I am generally not the biggest fan of shawarma.


We were back at Paramount a short while later when we didn’t know what to have for dinner and didn’t want to spend much. This time, we were at the Richmond Hill location that was no less casual but seemed a little weird in the sticks. We ordered a shish tawouk that was nice and heart but I find chicken in these circumstances tend to be dry. And, upon my suggestion, we also got one kafta for me to try an Arabic sausage-like.


The first time we went to Paramount, I ordered the sh’aibiyat pastry that was recommended to me in that my BFF described the pastry and I ordered what I thought matched her description. But we couldn’t eat it. The pastry that was drenched in syrup was good but the cheese that was part of the filling had a really perfume-y scent I couldn’t stand. The next time we went to Paramount, I made a selection of baklava from trays upon trays of the pastry prepared earlier in the day. The baklava is sold by weight and wasn’t not expensive and each piece was just delightful – fresh, nutty, crispy and all that.


Khao San Road (Toronto, ON)

The first I heard of Khao San Road as from Vina as she and hubby went early on. She loved the pad thai and she doesn’t even like pad thai! Then I saw it in the Re:Porter magazine and it kept showing up on Urbanspoon under the “Talk of the Town” section, all touting how very authentic it was. After a Friday movie, Lil Sis and I hiked over to KSR, a little further west than I would have like. The foyer area was packed and I pushed my way through and told him I have a reservation. No you don’t. It’s for the next day. There is a 50% change I made a mistake, automatically asking for a Saturday but I think we got in a little earlier than some other people…? The place is noisy and packed, completely open concept with a mix of bar seating, high counter seating, and traditional tables. It’s a place for young and hip people although the decor is home-y, warm wood tables and all. Lil Sis ordered the Thai Iced Tea that I only wanted one sip. It was made with condensed milk but it tasted to me more like powdered or evaporated milk. Not my cuppa tea. Since we waited for about twenty minutes, we saw a party order the Khao Soi and it looked delicious. Although it seemed inane then we were ordering two noodle dishes as we had to try the Pad Thai, too! I didn’t really understand what the difference between their regular pad thai and “street style” pad thai was although the latter one sounded intriguing. Seems regular pad thai has more ingredients, more flavour so we went with it. The Pad Thai was indeed really delicious–tangy tamarind provided the sour profile and the noodles were chewy but not sticky. I ordered the Khao Soi with chicken and still wondering what I think of it. It was a completely different turn from pad thai or any other kind of Thai curry. It was really spicy and rich and, sadly, oily. It was made with ribbon egg noodles which is nice and different from the pad thai. There was too much sauce so we took most of it home to eat with additional rice.


Regal Palace (Richmond Hill, ON)

Lil Sis took us to Regal Palace for a quick dim sum lunch before a family function in the afternoon. Big Uncle had introduced her to it since he can get a 20% Senior’s discount and thus so could Mum who rounded out our little party of three. We started with dried vegetable and salted pork bone congee and it was served in a dainty bowl with a massive ladle–it looked hilarious. I was disappointed with the pan-fried radish cake. It was utterly forgettable, neither pan-fried well nor filled with enough flavour. The BBQ pork rice rolls were very tasty and Mum ordered more of the plain variety to take back to Halifax. We ordered siu mai for a taste of the regular stuff and it was okay, kind of bland and chockful of unfabulous shrimp. The egg tarts were perfectly shaped which Mum decided came from a factory. They could have been baked a little longer, which is just what we did with the second portion we ordered and brought back home. We also ordered, not shown, spicy beef tendon and another rice roll with scallops and watercress. Under some duress–I was full and already had my egg tart dessert–I was fed some of the rice roll. I noticed the scallop texture was really weird, rough like chicken. When Mum tried a bigger bite, she had to spit it out saying the scallop was entirely rotten. Did I not taste it or did she have a whole rotten scallop?


Old Lee’s Beef Noodle Soup a.k.a. Beef Noodle King (Scarborough, ON)

I thought maybe it was a good sign for Old Lee’s that my HK cousin who lived in Toronto for 20 years insisted on visiting Old Lee’s with his Taiwanese wife one last time before they move back to Hong Kong this year. They ordered the lamb noodles which we did. I got my fear of the “so” flavour of lamb from my mother who was wary. For “appetizers”–they arrived throughout the meal–we ordered the Three Cup Chicken that I’ve long been fascinated with and sliced pork pancake. We’ll take their word for it that there was half a chicken in 3-cup chicken and it surely had been marinated with 1 cup of soy sauce and 1 cup of cooking wine. What was the third cup? It was surely oily. The flavour was quite nice but I was quickly bored and we needed to split this between more than four people. There was also basil and we could taste the smoked cilantro taste too. I only kept eating it because I had to eat my share and I looked forward that the next piece I had would be smooth, juicy, dark meat. No such luck. We figured that the chicken had been cooked twice and it was all rough and a bit dry. Big Uncle seemed to like it. The pork pancake came wrapped in foil which we peeled back. The pancake was alright but a little oil-soaked. The cut of pork was nice and fatty. It was inelegant and home-style to serve it wrapped up.  

We ordered some soups as it was in their name. A hot and soup noodle soup and the red-roasted beef noodle soup. Big Uncle was surprised by the concept of hot and sour soup noodle but Mum thought it was a good palate cleanser from some wild eating over the weekend. Fresh tofu, a thinner broth, and chewy Shanghai noodles. It was not bad. Big Uncle had warned us a lot about how the meat was really lean but it wasn’t! The beef noodle soup was a touch spicy and adequately chewy Shanghai noodles were also used. Mum enjoyed Mei Nung in Markham better but Old Lee’s certainly has the full variety of a Taiwanese place. We also ordered Shanghai Pork Dumplings which were just okay, with ample soup.


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