Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Mochi Brownies with Matcha

Hello Hello! It's been awhile, hasn't it? Yes yes, I know you've all probably heard that line quite a few times, and again I am sorry. If there's one thing I've learned from all these years of schooling is that there is a positive correlation between school work and blogging. Also, I have recently come down with what seems to be a food lover's worse enemy; a gastric ulcer. We can all thank H. Pylori for that one. But, I digress.

For today's comeback blog, I decided to make mochi brownies. If you're wondering, mochi is a typical Japanese dessert that has a glutinous texture and is usually filled with something such as azuki (red bean) paste. Clearly this doesn't look like that, but the similarity between mochi and these mossy lookin' brownies are the fact that I used rice flour instead of regular flour. Meaning...these are gluten free! Yay for waist-lines.

Beyond being ever so slightly healthier than a typical brownie, these mochi brownies are also way chewier, although less fudgier. The texture seemed closer to a cassava cake than a brownie, but the chocolate taste was just as apparent. I enjoyed this brownie (a little too much...) due to many reasons, the main one being its chewy and soft texture. If you prefer very dense and fudgy brownies, maybe this recipe isn't for you but if you don't mind trying out something new, then by all means continue reading on :)! Another reason to try this out is that rice flour is quite useful in making noodles and other foods (General Tao chicken heh heh), so it's handy to have a box around the kitchen anyway.

Ingredients: 
1 cup rice flour (I used Mochiko)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
4 Tbsp butter                                                                 
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
12 oz. can evaporated milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 to 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 tsp matcha (I got mine from DAVIDsTEA)

Tools:
1 sieve
8x8 inch brownie pan

Procedure:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees celsius. Spray or oil (I used olive oil) an 8x8 pan. You can use a larger pan, but the brownie will be thinner. 


2. In a large bowl, combine the mochiko, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Whisk the ingredients together and leave it aside.                                                                                                                                                                                                                           


 3. Melt the butter and chocolate chips over a steaming apparatus, stirring occasionally. You can make a make-shift steamer by filling a pot with hot water and using a stove burner to elevate a heat-safe glass bowl. This process took about 10 minutes.






4. While the butter and choco chips are melting, in a medium bowl combine the evaporated milk, vanilla extract, and egg. When the butter and chocolate chips are completely melted, pour it into this mixture and whisk well until the whole thing is completely blended.








 5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and whisk well until combined. You probably are wondering why you'd pour wet into dry and honestly there's no real answer, although Alton Brown did go into some depth about the scientific aspect of it...but baking is more of an art than science so I say phooie on that! I always prefer pouring the wet into the dry (known as the Muffin Method) because it's slightly faster and there's less flour flying around :).


The consistency of the two combined is quite liquidy and not at all like a cake batter. There are no air bubbles and it is relatively smooth, although VERY mildly viscous.
6. Pour your mixture into your greased pan and sprinkle as much chocolate chips as you like ontop and bake for 40-45 minutes. Beware though, the chocolate chips will sink to the bottom. If you want your chocolate chips to be apparent on top, you can divide the amount you want by half and sprinkle one half before baking, and the rest after 15 minutes of baking.

I only baked my brownies for 35 minutes because I look my brownies very gooey, but if you prefer more solid brownies, baking them for 40-45 minutes would be the better option for you. Going beyond that time is not recommended because chocolate is very easy to...fail with.

7. Take out the brownies and let them cool completely before inverting it on a plate. Once inverted, sift some matcha powder ontop and voila: Mochi Brownies with Matcha.
 Overall, I really enjoyed these brownies and received quite a few compliments. They were simple, delicious, and took little time to make. Again, I shall emphasize that these are not your typical super-chocolate-fudge brownies, so don't expect completely similar results. And so the question lies: Would I make these again?

HELLS. YEA. <-link ;)

Happy baking :)!

xoxo,
-A

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Unionville Series!

Hello hello! Today, I have decided to introduce a new segment to my nomventures--a Historic Unionville series! Historic Unionville is a little street strip all the way up in the north around Richmond Hill and was founded alll the way back in the 1840s by a man named Ira White. This charming area situated around a small park is packed with little boutiques, service shops, and delicious restaurants in rustic European-like buildings. Although this area is filled with many beautiful aspects, I will mostly be documenting about the variety of restaurants that they house. In total, there are 15 food stores, 2 of which are franchise cafes such as Starbucks and Timothy's World Coffee. The majority of the restaurants, to my surprise, are Italian. So be prepared for a bunch of reviews about pasta and gourmet pizza haha. But, really, I urge you to go visit Historic Unionville if you have the chance. It is not very large, but the scenery is very nice especially on a beautiful day and is perfect for an afternoon browse or a nighttime walk in the spring's warm air. Also, the photography is awesome! I went yesterday when it was slightly gloomy to my dismay, but the pictures came out somewhat alright on my DSLR. Of course I may credit this place more because I am a big fan of history, but either way, GO GO GO :)!

Hope you enjoy this little series :)

Friday, 9 March 2012

滷肉: Taiwanese stewed pork over rice



Hello hello there! Today I will be blogging about my first cooking venture, and honestly I feel really excited to share the recipe and results with you.


Since C and I were craving some comfort food on this cold day, we thought it'd be fun to try and make some "lo ba", aka Taiwanese stewed pork over rice.
Lo ba is like the Taiwanese mac-n-cheese; it is  simple, versatile, and traditional! It is comprised of minced pork simmered in a delicious and savoury stew for at least 2.5 hours and is usually served on a steaming bed of rice or soft chewy noodles. The first time I ever tried lo ba was at a bubble tea shop, and ever since then, I have simply just loved this hearty and comforting dish.


SO! Let's start, shall we?


Ingredients + apparatus
650g ground pork (preferably with lots of fat) 
1/3 cup chopped shallot
2 tbsp minced garlic
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup chinese rice wine
6 cups water
1/4 cup cooking oil
2 tbsp sugar
2 star anise (for first-time users like me:star anise?)
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder (or more to suit your taste)

a deep pan *TIP: C and I used a pot because it has less surface area, decreasing the chances of the pork becoming burnt/tough due to prolonged simmering*


Method 
1. Warm your pan/pot, then add the cooking oil, shallots, and garlic. Saute for about 5 minutes, or until the shallots and garlic become fragrant. Add the star anise and cinnamon at this point and stir until mixed *Since I am not used to cooking terminology, I took it in the most literal term, and was constantly putting my nose close to the pot*





2. Add the ground pork and stir quickly, constantly jabbing your stirring spoon into the sticky pork to break it apart. Try to get as much as the liquid around the pork.




3. When your pork looks like this, add the soya sauce, sugar, rice wine, and stir. Again, try to get as much liquid around the pork.







4. Add your six cups of water then cover the lid, set the heat to low, and let it simmer for 2.5-3 hours.
 *if you would like, start boiling a couple of eggs after you set the pork to simmer. after the eggs are done, peel the shells and add them to your stew. you will be rewarded with the most flavourful stewed eggs ever*






end result...
Not the most appealing picture...I promise to work on my photography skills haha, but don't let it deceive you; this was truly delicious and aromatic! The whole house smelt like the rich star anise and it was absolutely torturous to wait the full 2.5 hour  minimum.


Overall, this dish was hands-down a SUCCESS *click it!* 
The meat was extremely tender and just melted in your mouth when eaten. All of the stew seeped deep into each particle-niche possible in the pork, creating tiny bits of savoury heaven. To top the dish off, we added some chopped spring onion which served to add some crunch texture, as well as enhance the taste of the pork. The stew was slightly salty on its own, but when paired with steamy rice, it turned out just fine. But, if you are very conscious about your salt-intake, you can try to revise this by adding a low-sodium soya sauce or adding less soya sauce. Mind you, this may compromise the flavour intensity. As for the egg, since it had been exposed to prolonged heat from the boiling and simmering, there was a slight sulphur ring around the yolk, but it did not significantly affect the taste. In fact, even if the sulphur ring had been large, I doubt C and I would've tasted it anyway due to the immense flavour of the stew. If you would like, you can also add some chopped soya beans and mushrooms at the same time when you would add the eggs. These will add a wider variety of textures to your dish, raising it up a notch.




we boiled some "yu choi" in slightly salted water and drizzled some oyster sauce over it, but you can add any vegetable side you want, if any at all

Alas, my first cooking post has come to an end. The Taiwanese stewed pork was a terrific success and C and I will definitely be making this simple dish again. The prep work took at maximum only 10 minutes, and the rest of the time was allocated to letting the stew simmer, a plus since it gives you plenty of time to do other things. The great part of this dish is that it's extremely versatile, meaning you can eat it with either hot rice, noodles, or even bread! I'm sure it would delicious in all three situations :). I hope you enjoyed this post, and may you have as much fun and be as successful in making this dish!

Happy eating!
xoxo,
-A

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Sushi Bong

Hello hello! For today I will be reviewing Sushi Bong, a little sushi place famous for their large dynamite rolls.
Sushi Bong...I have no idea where to start, even though I've been to this restaurant the most compared to all my other reviews. Since the highschool I attended is really close to Sushi Bong, my friends and I were frequent lunchtime visitors, so it was only natural that a lot of good memories were made over Sushi Bong's food, whether it be when we got takeaway or sat in. Unfortunately though, when we all graduated, our trips to Sushi Bong got replaced by trips to cafes and coffee shops instead.


Then one eventful day, 3 years later, I was stricken with a very random and immense craving for sushi, in particular, a dynamite roll. Instantly, a plethora of images of Sushi Bong popped up in my head like a crazy vortex of memories, and I just knew that I had to go there to satisfy my craving. I invited C to come along, for I wanted him to have a glimpse of what my highschool life was somewhat like, as well as to have him become a part of that vortex of memories.


Sushi Bong is a very humble store located along Yonge, close to Finch. It is rather hidden, as it's in a circular plaza at the base of two condominiums, so due to a combination of location obscurity, horrible directions, and a mini snowstorm, C had missed the turn point and we had to go in a big round circle! Also, parking there is quite difficult due to limited space and many restrictions. C and I were lucky to have found a parking spot, but this place is easier to walk to if anything. 
image provided by Google
C and I quickly rushed into the mini store, and already I could feel all the memories flooding back. As we entered, we were greeted by a Korean woman, who told us we could sit anywhere we wanted, although to be honest, there wasn't much of a selection. The sushi bar takes up a lot of room in the store, so there is around only 4 tables inside the restaurant. Also, the door was frequently opened and due to probably un-oiled hinges, had a high latent period before it closed, making the little place very chilly. Taking this into account, C and I opted on a mini table close to the self-serve tea dispenser, in hopes that maybe a constant supply of tea could keep us warm. After sitting on their old wooden chairs,  the woman gave us a black and white laminated menu outlining the choices we could select, and after much scrutiny, C and I decided on three dishes, two of which I had never tried at Sushi Bong before.
 Unagi Donburi ($8.95)
Since C and I were in the mood for something warm and comforting, we ordered this eel-rice dish. This yummy meal was comprised of barbecued fresh-water eel on a bed of hot steaming rice, covered in unagi sauce and sprinkled with spring onions and seaweed strips. Honestly, this dish was pretty damn good, although on the salty side (everything seems salty nowadays!!). The eel was lightly seared, giving it a very soft, slightly chewy, and mildly slippery texture, that matched perfectly with the steaming semi-sticky rice. The main taste of this dish, though, did not really come from the meal but rather from the unagi sauce that it was drenched in. So, what is unagi sauce? It is basically a slightly-viscous dark brown sauce that harbors a savoury yet sweet taste and is usually paired with grilled eel, which is no surprise since a direct translation  of the word would show that it means "eel sauce" in English. The sauce is made in two components; a base and the "finished" product. The base is a reduction of eel bone broth, soya sauce, rice wine, and sugar and the "finished product" is made by using the base (suprise!), and constantly dipping grilled eel into the sauce to add flavour. Although dipping a grilled eel into a sauce may sound slightly unappealing, dipping eel in unagi sauce is a part of the cooking process for eel, so if you notice that your eel isn't quite so tasty, here's a potential reason why. Most restaurants use a manufactured unagi sauce, which usually only tastes like the base sauce and not the authentic completed version, but nevertheless, the dishes still come out just as yummy. The unagi sauce at Sushi Bong somewhat threw me off because not only did the sauce have that distinctive sweet and savoury flavour, it was also spicy!! Overall, the comforting rice dish with its soft and savoury eel was very satisfying and I would go back to eat it again.
 Spicy Salmon Roll ($4.65)
I know this picture has two rolls in it, and it was a mistake on my part for not taking a close-up on the spicy salmon roll. Anyhow, the spicy salmon roll is the smaller set of maki. This photo is a very useful picture to also show how BIG the dynamite rolls are in comparison to normal maki rolls! But, moving on...
Spicy salmon rolls have become a real favourite of mine since the summer of 2009. What drew me in was the soft, cool chunks of salmon, and the creaminess of the spicy sauce that covered every inch of the salmon. Now, have you ever wondered what mystical sauce they use in these maki? Well, whether you have or not, I have the answer for you. It is simply spicy mayonnaise! Yes, that delicious creamy sauce is nothing more than combination of mayonnaise, hot chili, and hot sesame oil. At Sushi Bong, I am unsure of whether or not they made their own spicy mayonnaise but whatever they used, it was delicious! Superbly creamy and lightly savoury, the sauce provided me with the perfect level of tongue-tingling pleasure that made every bite enjoyable. The only complaint I'd have is that there wasn't enough sauce! The salmon chunks inside were a little on the smaller side, but they were beautifully smooth, not at all squishy, indicating that it was fresh salmon used. As for the sesame seeds scattered all along the roll, I honestly didn't taste them due to the strong taste of the spicy mayonnaise.

Dynamite Roll ($6.11)
Alas, the famous dynamite roll! Sushi Bong became well-known in the community for their delicious and abnormally large dynamite rolls! The ingredients inside this roll are no different than the ones served at other restaurants; the roll is stuffed with fresh cucumber slices, fried tempura, avocado, and fish roe all wrapped in a strip of seaweed and a moderate amount of rice. So, what makes it so special? I honestly don't know. Maybe because of its large size, everything just seemed a lot more enhanced and harmonized. When you bite into one of Sushi Bong's dynamite rolls, you are handed a variety of textures, from the silkiness of the fresh avocado to the crunch of the savoury tempura. The flavour of each ingredient is also very apparent; the avocado and cucumbers are freshingly sweet, the fish roe are wonderfully sweet, full and "poppable", and the tempura is perfectly savoury and juicy. It is a difficult task to eat the whole piece in one shot, but if you try, I am sure you can manage (C and I actually made a game out of it!). I always feel that eating a maki in one shot allows you to taste all the flavours and to experience the harmony of all the ingredients. One of the best parts is the ending piece of the roll. There are only two ends in a roll set that harbor the tails of the tempura shrimps, but two is enough since each piece is jampacked with all the ingredients to the point that trying to shove it all inside your mouth results in a pharyngeal reflex. There are two things that I particularly like of Sushi Bong's dynamite roll. The first one is the fact that it is not overwhelmed with rice. The sushi chefs have generously packed each roll with tons of ingredients so you don't mostly taste the glutinous rice, but rather the precise flavour and texture of each ingredient. Second, the consistency. Sushi Bong has been around for at least 3-4 years, and although I did not return until recently, I have discovered upon eating that the taste and magic of the rolls have managed to remain the same on my palate as they were in my memories. 


So here it is: a review of a restaurant, while at the same time, a glimpse into my past. Sushi Bong has filled the scrapbook of my life with pictures of memories ranging from wasabi eating contests, to catching up with a good friend on a park bench while munching on dynamite rolls from a styrofoam box. If you ever go on your own account, I only hope that you enjoy it as much as I did, and as much as I do now!


   Conclusively.  .   .. ...
food: 9.5/10
atmosphere: 7/10 (tight!)
service: 9/10 (little service required)
portion: towards the larger scale

 price: reasonable (<$10/dish)

Located at: 5 Northtown Way 
Phone Number: (416) 227-0022


Sushi Bong on Urbanspoon
happy eating!

 xoxo,
-A

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Le Petite France

It's been awhile since I've blogged and I am truly sorry. So often I get caught up in my daily activities, that I forget to pay attention to things I really enjoy, like FOOD and blogging for example!

It's been almost 3 weeks since Winterlicious ended, but nevertheless I would like to dedicate my first blog of 2012 to a French Winterlicious meal at Le Petite France. This place holds a special place to me for it is the restaurant C and I went to for our one year anniversary :).

For starters, I will explain what Winterlicious is for people who are unfamiliar with the term. Basically, it is an annual two week winter event in Toronto (other places may also have this event!) where high-end or just overall any good restaurant opts on a single menu with a fixed priced. The menus usually provide a three course meal (appetizer, entree, dessert) with options to select from and the prices range from as low as $15 for a lunch, to $45 for a dinner. When C and I were scanning the winterlicious menu, we had decided on this because it was situated on Bloor Street West, which we thought was downtown Toronto, but upon Google-mapping this gem, we discovered it was in Etobicoke! But, as you can see, we still decided to eat there :)

The restaurant also provided lunch, but since we could not fit that into our schedules, we decided on a dinner at 6pm. We made reservations just in case there wasn't any room, for we did not know the dimensions of the restaurant nor its popularity. So! On the day of, we drove through a raging snowstorm with devastatingly slow traffic, parked in a nearby underground parking lot (street parking was very tight), and finally arriving 20 minutes after our reservation, we were gently greeted by a burly man in a black dress shirt tucked into blue denims. The restaurant had a very humble but warm exterior that, even when covered with white snow, beckoned us to enter and embrace the warmth it had to offer. Inside, the place was not completely packed, but it had a good amount of people for a blizzarding weekday. 
image provided by Google
We were placed at a small table for two by a picture adorned wall and rustic open bar. The aesthetics of the restaurant was not much, in fact everything was kept to the basics; tablecloth-laden tables, cutlery placed to the sides of the setting, standard wine glasses with cloth napkins inside, glass water cup placed at the tip of the knife on the right, and a bread plate beside the fork on the left. A little candle and sunflower was also placed, which I thought was a cute touch. Our waitress was a brunette that started us off with water, a basket of bread, and the menu, which only housed the winterlicious options. We were actually disappointed that they did not provide any of their usual foods, so we were unable to order anything more. 
Since C and I had scanned their menu before, we knew what to order the moment she returned to take our orders. We were, though, tied between 3 different appetizers, so upon getting the approval from the manager, we were able to order an extra appetizer and just paid the difference. Alongside our meal, we ordered two extra glasses of pinot, each for a reasonable price of $8.75.

Appetizers
Pâté de Campagne
This was the appetizer that C had ordered, and it was their house made French style pâté. Pâté is essentially a mixture of cooked ground meat with fat that is turned into a spreadable paste. Usually, additions like herbs and vegetables are common, and the dish is served either cold or hot. Ours was a fairly large slice, served cold with a dollop of dijon mustard and cranberry sauce. The pâté was actually both our favourite, for it was very smooth, rich, and savoury! Out of the two condiments given to us, we concluded that the cranberry sauce tasted best, for the dijon mustard overpowered the  pâté's delicate taste, whereas the cranberry's sweetness enhanced all the flavours inside the very smooth dish.  As yummy as the pâté was, it was slightly too rich to eat on its own, and had to be paired with the complimentary bread. The bread possibly lowered the potential of the pâté, for it was seemingly just unwarmed, sliced baguette. But, if the bread had been warmed, the pâté could have probably upped from tasting good to tasting amazing.

Bisque de Homard
This is the appetizer that I had opted on, which is essentially lobster bisque. Bisque is all about extracting the natural flavours of an ingredient, whether it be crustaceans or vegetables. It is a light and creamy soup of French origin, and for this particular one, is made from the coulis (which is basically pureed parts) of a lobster. The shells of the lobster are sauteed in aromatic ingredients beforehand, then strained, and added to the soup with the addition of some cream. For anyone who's eaten bisque before, we all know that it is quite thick and creamy, yet is very light and rich in taste. The bisque served at Le Petite France was a bit of a let down, for the bisque was not creamy at all (it had more of a brothy texture) and it was a little on the salty side. The salty side could actually have been my fault though because I had accidentally added salt twice to the broth thinking it was pepper (hey, they gave us two salt shakers, how was I to know? Hahaha). So for the saltiness, I shall take the blame. As for the thin texture, I assume that they either did not add enough cream or they watered-down their bisque as to increase serving size. Overall, the bisque was a miss for me due to it's thin/ watery texture, lack of creaminess, and overall un-lobstery taste.
 Citrus and Honey Mussel Salad
This was the extra appetizer C and I decided to order. As the title claims, it was a salad with boiled mussels, drenched in a citrus vinaigrette. The leaves used were romaine and were nothing too outstanding other than the fact that they were crispy. The citrus and honey dressing was very refreshing, sweet, and acted as a great palate cleanser. The downside was that there wasn't much dressing as we would have liked. The winning part of this dish was definitely the boiled mussels. They had that delicious smooth texture inside, yet also maintained the slight chewiness on the outside. Also, the salad was laden with LOTS of these yummy mussels! The mussels with the citrus and honey was a great combination for it was light, cool, and sweet, providing a nice little break from all the savoury appetizers we were currently eating. Although this isn't part of the dish, C and I decided to take a slosh of red wine before eating the mussel and discovered that the mussels' flavour was enhanced when we had let the wine sit on the tongue for a small bit. The natural flavor of the mussels truly came out, and the taste not only remained on the tongue longer, but it also spread covering every inch of our palate with it's yummy pastiness.



Entrees
Moules Marinières & Frites
The entrees! This was C's entree; steamed mussels in a white wine, shallot, and garlic broth. This dish was served with a side of salted fries. As you could probably tell from the mussel appetizer, we are both big fans for their mussels. These mussels were just as good as the ones in the salad, except this time they tasted savoury and were slightly more soft because they were served hot. The important part of this dish was the oil-dotted white broth that surrounded each mussel and pooled at the bottom. The broth was what made this dish what it was. Although on the salty side, the broth was very rich and all the flavours of the shallots and garlic (and some butter!) were enhanced (if you do not like garlic, you may not like this dish). When you ate the mussels with the broth, you had that initial hit of the salty and garlicky-ness of the broth, but as you continued to chew through the mussel, the initial saltiness disappeared and became infused with the smooth interior of the mussel, having the taste not only sit on your tongue, but rather disperse all along your palate, seemingly reaching to the part closest to your uvula! Even when all the mussels were eaten, the broth still tasted good when dipped with the bread we received. Such deliciousness cannot be described in words on this blog, my only suggestion is to try this place yourself. But be warned, as I have said before I shall say again; it is salty. The frites served with the dish were very thinly sliced, leading us to speculate if they were made at the place or store bought. They were salted, a little too much possibly, or maybe we are just too sensitive to sodium. Overall, this was a good dish and I would go back to eat it.

Coq au Vin
This was the entree that I had ordered. It looks like a mess doesn't it? Indeed it was a mess, but my goodness, it was such a delicious mess. As described on their menu, it is a classic French stewed chicken with wine and mushrooms, but I honestly felt like I received more. Under the brown exterior, there was a nice juicy piece of chicken, soft sauteed mushrooms, some warm mashed potatoes, pieces of ham, and some salsa concoction. I shall start what I most disliked, which was the salsa. It was a mixture of tomatoes and celery and carrots that tasted oddly refreshing. It did not taste bad, but compared to the rest of the dish that was very comforting and savoury, this salsa-like addition did not match and seemed rather out of place with it's slight sourness. Next, I shall describe the sauce, one of the main components of the meal. I was unsure what this sauce was, but it most closely resembled that of a peppercorn gravy. It had the same texture and thickness of gravy, but an undertone of black pepper was apparent while I was eating. Due to the generous amount, it coated just about everything on the dish, soaking all the contents with a rich, savoury and deep flavour that just made you swallow each bite as fast as possible so you could just take another helping of it. The side additions of this were the mashed potatoes and mushrooms. They weren't spectacular compared to the gravy and chicken, but they were good. The mashed potatoes did not seem to be seasoned with anything such as garlic, but they had a wonderful creamy and thick texture that glided on your mouth as you ate it. Thinking about it, the mashed potatoes didn't need any flavouring anyway, since it was drenched in that delectable savoury gravy. The mushrooms were standard mushrooms; soft, yet rigid and infused the flavour of the gravy while maintaining that mushroomy taste. NOW, for the best part; the chicken! The chicken was very, very, very tender. My chicken was served with the skin still on, which probably contributed to it's softness. The meat came off in thin tendrils from the chicken, and glided off the bone flawlessly. The chicken did not harbor any flavoring of its own, rather it was the gravy that contributed most of the taste. But nevertheless, the chicken was warm, soft, and just downright delicious!!!!!!!! If the amount of exclamations in that last sentence did not depict my love for this meal, then I am not so sure what more I can say except add more exclamations. This was the epitome of comfort food and I would go all the way back there just to eat it again.
Dessert
 Profiterolles
As with every meal, no matter how great, it must end. This, was C's end; profiterolles! Profiterolles are a choux pastry filled with cream, whether it be whipped, pastry, or iced. Such dessert would be most colloquially called a cream puff. C's was a whipped cream profiterolle, served with a large ball of icecream, and drizzled soaked in chocolate sauce. The profiterolle honestly reminded me of a store bought one, for the outer shell harbored a somewhat cardboard taste and was slightly soggy, a sure sign of defrosting. They did not taste bad, but they were not the greatest either. Slightly on the heavy side, this dessert was a bit of a letdown for me, and knowing what I know now, I would not order it again unless I know for sure that the profiterolle are made fresh in the restaurant.
Crème Brûlée
Here is my ending for the night, crème brûlée! Afterall, it is a French restaurant :) What shocked me was the size of this dish-- it was huge! Usually when I order crème brûlée, I expect a small custard cup but here I was given a custard bowl! But, do not be misled by the size; bigger does not mean better. For starters, the caramelized sugar ontop of the crème brûlée was burnt, and not just slightly, it was immensely. Instead of adding that very light sweet taste, the burnt sugar made the dish taste somewhat smoky and too overwhelmingly sweet. The custard inside was not bad, but it is not on the top of my charts. It was slightly too sweet for my liking, and the texture a little on the thick side, more resembling a pudding rather than a lighter, creamy custard. Although I always enjoy getting more for my buck, the portion of this was a little too large because it pushed me from being content, to being stuffed. I had to force myself to finish the custard interior because of the size. As for the caramelized top, I ended up taking it all off and putting it aside.

Overall, I was truly satisfied with this meal. Although the dessert was a letdown, the main entrée as well as two of the appetizers were able to leave a good enough impression of this restaurant. Another contributing factor to why I enjoyed the meal was due to the size. I had expected very beautifully set dishes with little food placed on it, but instead, I was given dishes that had big portions of quality food. To me, that is more beautiful than any carefully decorated dish! Well, almost XD

Le Petite France was a great experience, one that I will never forget. The food was good, the atmosphere was cozy and bubbling with quiet conversations, and the company I spent it with was none other than the best.

our table :)


Conclusively.  .   .  . . ...
food: 9/10  (some letdowns but main dishes were delicious)
atmosphere: 8/10 (very relaxed)
service: 8.5/10
portion: good! (I was content)

 price: reasonable ($25 per person)

Located at: 3317 Bloor St W 
Phone Number: 416-234-8783

La Petite France on Urbanspoon

Happy eating!
xoxo,
- A




Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Smoke's Poutinerie

It's been awhile, hasn't it?
My sincere apologies! When the "break" rolled around, I found myself quite busy with things that I thought I wouldn't be busy with (school -_-...). But now that school has started, the procrastination of studying begins, meaning: more blogging!
I have been on many food adventures since the last time I blogged, and unlike my muscles or brain, my tongue has a very short memory so it cannot recall all the wonderful foods it has tasted. So, for today's blog I will talk about one of my favourite foods that I have eaten quite recently: poutine!
After reading reviews on it, and being a sucker for poutines, I always wanted to go down and try Smoke's Poutinerie out. But, since I constantly ran into my excuse of "another time", I ultimately put off ever going. Then one eventful day brought me down to the area of one of its locations (intersection of Spadina and Bloor aka The Annex). It was a very small shop, quite hidden actually. But, upon spotting the checkered head-sign and the distinctive stalker-eqsue-face logo, I knew where I was and that I had to go in to try.

 Pulled Pork Poutine (Large $8.99)
 Seeing that we were all very excited to try the poutine (and because someone else offered to pay...), everyone ignored their "no food past 10pm" diet, and decided on sharing a large pulled pork poutine. This poutine was filled with a whole bunch of chipotle pulled pork goodness, mixed with a generous helping of melted and creamy cheese-curds, thick crispy fries, and topped off a heaping portion of hot, rich gravy. Sounds good doesn't it? It was. The pulled pork was excellent. All the fine tendrils of pork were very tender, and perfectly encased the essence of the savoury yet slightly sweet chipotle sauce. The fries were on the more thickly cut side and quite crispy, yet simultaneously, slightly soggy and soppy as to absorb all that gravy goodness.What I particularly liked was that they were not salted (or as I tasted at least), so when combined with the rich gravy, it did not leave your lips pruned due to water deprivation. Another thing I enjoyed about Smoke's were their cheese curds. A common problem many poutineries face is the fact that their cheese curds come out more lumpy than "stringy-cheesy", making consumers find it rather hard to enjoy the poutine, considering that you have to stab your fork into a lump of segregated cheese and fries to get a combined taste. At Smoke's, though there were the occasional lumps of translucent cheeses here and there, the majority were well melted and mixed with the savoury gravy and fries, so when you lifted your fork, you got that mouth-watering cheesy string trailing afterwards, just waiting to be twirled around your plastic fork and shoved into your mouth.   


 Chicken Peppercorn Poutine (Small $6.99)
Seeing that I had promised C that we'd go together before he left for his internship, when he returned, we promptly headed over to Smoke's to eat. Since I enjoyed the pulled-pork poutine so much, I urged C to order that for himself. As for me, considering that I am a huge chicken fan, I knew I wanted something from their chicken selection. I had my doubts when I finalized on getting the chicken peppercorn poutine since its gravy was not what I was used to. My doubts, though, were soon erased once I took a nibble out of this delicious dish. The poutine consists of the golden, thick fries, tender grilled chicken pieces, soft and juicy sauteed mushrooms, and wholly topped off with peppercorn gravy and stringy cheese-curds. The fries, this time though, were slightly soggier than the first time I tried them, but nonetheless, it still satisfied my taste buds.The chicken pieces were slightly on the dry side (maybe because it was white meat instead of dark), and did not really contain any individual flavour of its own. The mushrooms were a wonderful addition, for they were very juicy and not at all soggy. They had a very simple flavour, and although they were drenched in gravy, the mushrooms were still able to contain that distinctive taste all fresh mushrooms seem to possess.  Now, for the gravy! I did not realize any real significant differences in the peppercorn gravy, and the original gravy Smoke's uses. If anything, the peppercorn gravy had more of a "kick" to it and a slight undertone of, of course, pepper.
a close-up picture. drool my food buddies. drool.

an additional photo of their wall

sorry for the position, i'm not sure why it's like this. C's pulled pork poutine and my chicken peppercorn poutine.
  

    Conclusively.  .   .. ...
food: 8.5/10  (slight inconsistency)
atmosphere: 9/10 (very relaxed)
service: 10/10
portion: moderate

 price: reasonable (<$10/dish)

Located at: 490 Bloor Street West
Phone Number: (416) 588 2873

Smoke's Poutinerie on Urbanspoon
happy eating!

 xoxo,
-A

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Kenzo Ramen

After reading through some of my blogs from April, I noticed that I tend to start all my blogs with "hello hello". Seeing how annoyingly repetitive that seems, I've decided to start each blog post with a greeting in a new language. SO!

こんにちは(konnichiwa) everyone! Moving on with today's blog...
After visiting the fresh cherry blossoms at High Park with S and C, we were extremely tired and hungry. S had researched earlier of a good new ramen place that just opened on Bloor and was itching to try it out.

Kenzo on Bloor; image taken from Google
With those unfamiliar with the term ramen, ramen is a Japanese noodle dish. The noodles in ramen are not your typical Western spaghetti noodles though, rather they are wheat-noodles, so (as I feel) they have a more chewy texture. The broth that comes along with the noodles are usually meat or fish-based, and flavored with soya sauce or miso. Miso and soya sauce are the most basic ramen broths, but there are many different kinds of ramen, depending on the locality of Japan. 
There are actually three locations for Kenzo Ramen; Dundas, Bloor, and Yonge. The Dundas and Bloor locations can be spotted on GoogleMap, but for some odd reason, I can't find the Yonge one. The only reason I even knew about the Kenzo on Yonge was because C had gone there many times beforehand for ramen. I have never visited the Dundas location, so I'll only be reviewing the Yonge and Bloor locations. 
                              BLOOR LOCATION
  Sho-Yu Ramen
Both C and I ordered this type of ramen. Sho-Yu is considered as one of Kenzo's most basic ramen, consisting of wheat noodles in a fish or meat based broth and seasoned with A LOT of soya-sauce. The noodles were served with two pieces of seemingly lightly seared pork, half a boiled egg, a seaweed strip, and a naruto! No, I do not mean the anime Naruto, but rather that little pink/white thing placed beside the seaweed strip. A naruto is basically a processed sliced fish cake and is also commonly called kamaboko in Japanese. The noodles served at Kenzo are definitely different than the ones I've tried at other ramen places (e.g. Ajisen Ramen...). Not only did they possess a favourable chewier texture, the noodles retained more flavour in them than other places. The pork served with the noodles were extremely tender, and literally fell apart into thin strips in your mouth when you ate it, making it very easy to separate the fat portion of the pork slice from the desired meat. As for the taste, the pork did not have much distinction from the soya-sauce broth it was immersed in, it was only slightly more savoury and salty. Nevertheless though, the pork was a great addition. What I liked most from the dish was the egg. I feel that many people tend to overlook the half-egg served with ramen, considering that it just simply looks like a hard-boiled egg. What they fail to realize, though, is that quite a bit of preparation is necessary to make a perfect "ramen egg". Since the perfect ramen egg will have a creamy yolky-centre, temperature is very important, since over-boiling the egg leaves the yolk dry, yet if you don't boil it long enough, the yolk tends to be..well, too yolky. Even after boiling, the egg shell has to be peeled off (which is extremely tedious), and then the egg-whites have to be seasoned with a bit of broth and a dark-soya sauce/light-soya sauce/ pepper concoction to give it that adorable brown color. Kenzo's ramen egg, I feel, captured the whole idea of a ramen egg. The yolk was extremely creamy, and the egg whites were wonderfully fluffy and distinctive in taste. It was truly...eggcellent!
 Tonkotsu Ramen
This was S's order. Labelled as one of Kenzo's Special Ramen, this dish was truly special...at least according to S's reaction (which I highly trust considering how she's also an avid food-lover). The bowl consisted of the same wheat-noodles as the Sho-Yu ramen, and was also served with seared pork, a half hard-boiled egg, seaweed, a naruto, and garnished with green onion slices. The type of broth used was, as the title says, tonkotsu. Tonkotsu is basically a thick broth made from boiling pork bones, fat, and collagen for a long period of time to come out with a cloudy white broth with a creamy consistency able to battle butter.
 Takoyaki
Since S and I cannot (absolutely cannot) resist takoyaki, we jumped at the option of ordering the dish when we saw it on the menu. As stated in my Guu Izakaya post, takoyaki is basically soft and chewy batter balls filled with octopus pieces, drizzled in takoyaki sauce and Japanese mayonnaise, and garnished with super chopped green onions and curling bonito flakes. Compared to Guu, I felt the takoyaki served at Kenzo were better. This was partially due to the fact that their octopus pieces were larger (way larger!) and their addition of a small ingredient that surprisingly added a lot of flavour; cheese. Both C and I felt the creamy and stretchy cheese in the takoyaki was a great addition because it added a more savoury and memorable taste to the dish, that not only kicked it up in flavour, but also kicked it out of the generic takoyaki ball-game making it the winner. S, on the other hand, did not enjoy the cheese inside the takoyaki and would have much preferred the dish without it, so the cheese addition is rather a subjective experience.

                      YONGE LOCATION
C and I went to visit the Yonge location of Kenzo on another occasion before we got down to do some hard-core studying at Starbucks (sigh summerschool). Sadly, S did not accompany us on our ramen venture this time, but I will surely bring her here to try this location sometime. The decor of the Kenzo located along Yonge was not as modern and aesthetically appealing as the Bloor location. In fact, their cash register/ food prep area reminded me of a residential kitchen. I felt slightly intrusive...BUT, as people say, never judge a book by its cover. Though the decor of the store was not as great as the location along Bloor, the ramen was definitely better, both taste-wise and portion-wise.
Karashi Ramen
This was the ramen that I ordered from Kenzo and is considered one of their "Hot" ramen, with "hot" in the most literal term.  The bowl consisted of doughy wheat-noodles, a bed of bean sprouts, seaweed slices, shiitake mushrooms,  2 seared tender pork, one tamagoyaki, and (of course), a naruto! The broth was different from the one I tried last time, for it was mixed with karashi japanese hot sauce, making the overall soup supposedly spicy. The spiciness was not an acute one, mind you, but was rather accumulative. Alongside that, it was also the deadly type, you know, the type that if you swallowed down the wrong tube (such as the breathing tube, instead of your eating tube *damn connected pharynx..*) it would cause much pain and gagging. I honestly loved it. From eating this one bowl of ramen from the Yonge location, I could already tell the difference in quality compared to the location on Bloor. The shittake mushrooms served with the noodles were very juicy, and had an odd, yet wonderful, sweet taste, a characteristic acquired from soaking the mushrooms in mushroom stock+mirin+soya-sauce+sugar mixture.Not only were the portions bigger, but the soup quality, pork, and vegetables tasted fresher, the noodles though had no real difference. The seared pork slices were noticeably thicker and larger, and had a more distinctive seared and 'ashy' taste, totally complementing the noodles and broth. The egg (yellow rectangle) served with the dish, is called tamagoyaki, and is basically a bunch of sweet egg layers. The sweetness is derived from combining the eggs with rice vinegar, and sometimes sugar and soya-sauce. Tamagoyaki is most commonly seen in sushi, such as niri, but it tasted just as good served with the spicy soup. I am not usually a fan of taste combinations, especially sweet and savoury. But, seeing that the chef(s) added two sweet side-dishes to the spicy soup leads me to actually slightly change my perspective and opinion on odd combinations like so. But, don't get me wrong, I'll always hate foods along the same tangent as Hawaiian pizza. Beyond the addition of the tamagoyaki and sweetened shiitake mushrooms and the spicy broth, the only major difference between the Kenzo on Yonge and the Kenzo on Bloor were the seared pork slices (as mentioned above).
Sho-Yu Ramen+Pork Cutlet
First of all, I would like to apologize for the vertical photo-placement, for some odd reason the silly photo refused to be horizontal...anyohw, this was the dish that C ordered for the day. The Kenzo location along Bloor actually did not offer this pork cutlet and ramen combination, leading me to speculate that the combination was a franchise difference based on management. The sho-yu ramen, as mentioned above, is basically a basic meat/fish based-broth with a lot of soya-sauce added inside, and served with wheat-noodles. The major difference between the sho-yu ramen served at Yonge and the one served at Bloor are basically, the size (Yonge is more generous), the seared pork, and the addition of a small pile of corn. The seared pork at the Yonge location is a lot more distinctive in flavour and is thicker, but is equally as tender as the pork served on Bloor. Beyond the pork, though, I didn't find any substantial differences. The pork cutlet that was served with Katsu sauce, was, as I felt, just standard. There was nothing really to set the pork cutlet apart from other places that serve cutlet. It was though, successful in satisfying a crunchy pork cutlet craving.  

 Takoyaki
Again...delicious takoyaki! This time, C and I mostly tried out the takoyaki to see if there were any noticeable differences. Actually, considering that C has been to this Kenzo many times, it was mostly just me doing the trying hahah. The location along Yonge had a wider choice selection of which type of takoyaki you wanted, whereas the location on Bloor on provided the most basic and common takoyaki. Seeing that both  C and I enjoyed the cheese in the takoyaki last time, we decided to order it here. The batter and set-up of the takoyaki were more or less the same as the ones served at Bloor. The cheese inside was what seemed to be a mix of cheddar and mozzarella slices. Unfortunately though, the cheese was not very stretchy and was actually somewhat hard. The batter to cheese ratio was grossly unfair. Don't get me wrong though, the takoyaki were delicious, but in comparison to the ones served at Bloor, I would say I lean towards the ones along Bloor. This preference, though, could possibly be due to the fact that they were different takoyaki types, rather than the cooking style. 
 

katsu sauce, i thought the little pear was cute :)
S eating the moving noodle-display at the location on Bloor

Kenzo along Yonge; image taken from Google

     Conclusively.  .   .. ...
    
                                   BLOOR                                   YONGE
  food:                           8/10                                          9/10
atmosphere:            9/10                                        7.5/10
service:                  8/10 (very busy place)        7/10 (need more staff)
portion:                moderate
                           towards the large side
 price:           reasonable (< $10/dish)     reasonable (< $10/dish)

**yonge location is cheaper

Located at: 372 Bloor St. West                                6180 Yonge St.
Phone Number: (416) 921-6787                              (416) 229-4526

                                                                          
  happy eating!


 xoxo,
-A 


Kenzo Japanese Noodle House on Urbanspoon yonge

Kenzo Japanese Noodle House on Urbanspoon  bloor