NOT ROASTED !, Toronto

:: Bent

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We were very excited when we learned about Bent’s seafood tasting menu because Susur Lee is in charge of the Bent’s kitchen and the restaurant is operated by his sons Kai and Levi Bent Lee. We even cancelled our reservation at somewhere else that night because the tasting menu was ending on the very next day (at least for some reasons we thought so).

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Susur Lee’s wife, Branda Bent-Lee, was behind the interior design of Bent. I really appreciate the little details that she added to every corner in the restaurant. The atmosphere was very lively and casual. Yet, it was kind of loud that JW and I had a hard time talking.

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Bent’s seafood tasting bent-o box included a wide selection of items that can be found on their menu. We thought this would be a great opportunity to try out some of their dishes. The tasting bent-o box costs $35 from 5-7 and $42 from 7 onwards.

The tasting bent-o box included:

:: Lime Coconut-Curry Shrimp SoupP1070277

The soup was light with the perfect balance of curry, coconut and spices. It was not spicy and very refreshing. Although the portion was small, you can find different ingredients in the soup so each spoon was filled with unique texture and flavour. We enjoyed the soup very much.

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Shortly after, a server came up to us and explained what was in the dish that she was holding. I simply said okay thinking that it was just one of the bento box dishes as it was so loud in the restaurant and I could barely hear her. After she put down the salad, JW told me that the salad was not part of the bento box. Opps.

The salad was basically different marinated vegetables including beets, carrots, beans and kohlrabi. Not very strong in flavour and easy in the mouth.

Then the rest of the dishes came on a tray like a large bento box:P1070286

:: Spicy Peruvian Style Ceviche
The dish was served cold. The white snapper and calamari were mixed with a lot of Aji Amarillo chili and fresh lime juice and served in the middle. The mussels and clams were served on the side with only a little bit of sauce drizzled on top. We could barely taste the flavour of the white snapper and calamari because there was too much sauce and the sauce was too spicy for us. Yet the mussels and clams were deliciously flavoured since it was not drowned in the chili.

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:: Pressed Octopus
This was JW’s favourite dish. The octopus was chewy and did not have much flavour on its own. Yet, the pomegranate vinaigrette and olive oil gave an interesting hint of sweetness and saltiness.

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:: Spicy Tuna Avocado Tartare
I was expecting the deep fried rice cake and tuna to be freshly fried yet it was served cold again. I would prefer them to be nice and hot.

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::Lobster Tacos
One of the taco came in a wonton shell and the other one in a taro shell. I preferred the taro shell since the taro added a new dimension to the lobster filling. JW, on the other hand, preferred the wonton shell because of its crispiness. Yet they were both equally delicious. The lobster was very fresh.

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:: Oyster Sake Shot
First, we do not like oysters. Marinated in lemongrass, shallots and ponzu sauce, we took it in one shot. Although not as gross as fresh oysters, it was still not our thing.

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:: Tuna+Watermelon Ceviche
The dish was way too sour. We couldn’t taste the tuna at all because the citrus juice was very very sour. Glad there was the watermelon to balance off the sourness. The Chinese doughnut fritter added an contrasting texture to dish but it did not really go with the watermelon nor the tuna.

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:: Asian Style Atlantic Salmon Gravlax
When put into the mouth, the japanese omelette embraced the salmon completely and added a hint of sweetness that tasted like pancake to the salmon. Although the softness and doughiness were not very flattering, they created an interesting experience in the mouth when mixed with the salmon.
 

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In addition to the bent-o box, we also ordered the Braised Spiced Short Ribs. The braised short rib was so so soft and juicy. Although the parsnip puree had a very strong scent of truffle which we loved, it was weirdly a little too sweet.

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The short rib also came with roasted duck fat potato. Very delicious. You can never go wrong with the roasted potato.

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The meal ended with complementary desserts. P1070304

Verdict:

Not roasted!

Our time at Bent was an unique and impressive experience as we tried out different combinations of texture and flavour that were unheard of in other restaurants. But we realized that it was not our thing. Most of the dishes were overpowered by the sauce and we could not taste the natural flavour of the food. When the flavours of all the dishes were added together, it was just too overwhelming. Yet, we still look forward to our next visit to other Susur Lee’s restaurants.
Bent on Urbanspoon

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NOT ROASTED !, Toronto

:: Kingyo Izakaya

Recently, there has been a hype around Kingyo Izakaya, the Vancouver-based Izakaya that has recently opened in Toronto. We have heard a lot of good reviews about it and saw plenty pictures on facebook, even from our friend who tried in it Vancouver! JW and I couldn’t bring ourselves to miss out on this!

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Arriving around 7pm, Kingyo was not as crowded as Guu; the tables were placed fairly far from each other and there were not a lot of people. Yet, for the same reasons, the atmosphere certainly didn’t feel as lively. We were being seated at a huge table with live Kingyo (aka Goldfish) swimming in a fish tank that is embedded into the table. Very interesting!

I want to start off by saying that food at Kingyo comes really really fast. Shortly after we ordered, we had 4 dishes on our table ranging from Seafood don and shooters and sashimi. I recommend one to ask the servers to slow down like we did or else you will be way too overwhelmed and won’t be able to truly savour the food.

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We started off with Mr. Sada’s Sea Urchin Shooters. I was very very very excited about the sea urchin shooters because of the extremely pleasant experience I had at Chicago’s Arami. Yet, I was quite disappointed with Kingyo’s sea urchin shooter.

My excitement sank when I saw the raw egg floating on top. But that wasn’t not their fault, it was just me so I just spooned out the egg. Following our server’s instructions and mixing everything very well, I took a sip of the shooter. The stickiness and taste of the yam were just not my thing. The next thing I realized, there was rice in the shooter and it was kind of weird! I know you are supposed eat rice with the sea urchin and the combination is perfect when you are eating a sea urchin sushi. But with the yam in the shooter that created the slimy texture, it was just not right. Even with the freshness of the sea urchin in the shooter, the whole thing was rather tasteless.

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Next, we had the Hamachi Carpaccio. This dish came with Hamachi along with salad vegetable and garlic oil drizzled on top. It was very delicious, but nothing surprising. At this point, we all know that garlic oil goes very well all kind of fish and we have tried this in many japanese restaurants. One thing I want to point out is that the fish at Kingyo was not very fresh. JW tried to taste pieces of fish on its own and said it wasn’t fresh; it was the flavour added to it that covered up the lack of freshness in the fish.

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Then, we had the Stone Bowl Seafood Sea Urchin Don. This was also one of the dishes we looked forward to the most. Like sea urchin in a bowl of rice, can our lives get any better? But, we were disappointed again. Although there was a generous amount of sea urchin sitting on top, the seafood don lacked a directing flavour; the seafood don had a very light soya sauce taste with a hint of vinegar. However, it was not strong enough to tie all the ingredients together. They were more like individual pieces that were put together by accident and did not really go together.

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We also ordered the Aburi Toro & Avocado 2Tone Battera, which we expected to highly resemble Jabistro’s ebi and salmon oshizushi. Yet, we were wrong again. The Toro wasn’t fresh. The balance of rice and fish was off and there was too much rice. Although there was a sauce that tasted like vinegar and a hint of garlic oil, the sushi was extremely tasteless. Very disappointed.

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Lastly, we had two sushi rolls from today’s special menu. I forgot their names but I think they were spicy scallop roll and beef tataki roll. These rolls did its job by wrapping our meal with disappointment.

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Expecting the spicy scallop roll to taste like Blue Ocean Roll from ND sushi, the spiciness from mixing mayo with sriracha sauce was blunt and tasted exactly like spicy sashimi rolls found in all japanese bentos. Totally not worth the $10 or even more.

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The sauce on the beef tataki roll was quite surprising and went pretty well with the fried noodles-like thing on top. But the beef was tough and hard-bitten.

verdict:

not roasted

We entered the restaurant with excitement and left with disappointed. Everything was very disappointing. We will not come back for sure.

Kingyo Izakaya on Urbanspoon

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NOT ROASTED !, Toronto

:: Banh Mi Boys

Yet, another quick lunch with JW in downtown. I love seeing him in the middle of the day.

We went to the very popular Banh Mi Boys for a quick vietnamese sub lunch (I love my viet sub, especially those available at asian supermarkets)! Banh Mi Boys is famous for its fusion vietnamese sandwiches and we really wanted to see what kind of magic Banh Mi Boys has to offer! Arriving around 12:30, the restaurant was packed with people lining up to buy food. It took us awhile to find a seat, order the food and wait for them to be ready.

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We ordered the Kimchi Fries. At first, I was a bit skeptical about how the Kimchi would go with fries, especially when neither of us really like Kimchi b/c of its taste and spiciness. However, I am surprised to say that they went together like peanut better and jam! I believe that the Kimchi was a modified version; hence, it was not crazy spicy and had a reduced taste of the ordinary strong Kimchi flavour. When mixed with the mayo, it became a very creamy sauce with a hint of kimchi that went harmoniously with the fries! Love it! Also, the fries came with pulled pork which added another dimension of flavour. In our opinion, there were too much pulled pork and we could not finish all of them.

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Next, we had the braised beef cheek steamed bao. The bun was really really soft, softer than the cha shu bao available at dim sum places. It felt really good at first, both in the hand and in the mouth. However, it was too soft that it quickly absorbed the sauce of the beef cheek and became very soggy. The bun was sort of unbearable when we were half way through… Nevertheless, the beef cheek was flavourful and tender.

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A trip to Banh Mi boys is not completed without trying their Banh Mi! So We ordered their Five Spice Pork Belly Banh Mi. Unlike the cold bun of the vietnamese sub I always have, Banh Mi Boys’ baguette was slightly toasted which I actually really enjoy! The crispiness of the bun echoed with the crispiness of the picked carrots. Pickled carrots is one of the reason why I love viet sub so much and Banh Mi Boys did it just right. Moreover, they added japanese picked cucumber into their Banh Mi which was a good twist to traditional vietnamese sub. But I think it overpowered the pickled carrots. On the other hand, JW really liked the pork belly which was very tender because of their generous amount of fat.

Overall, I think I enjoy the Banh mi thap cam from Nguyen Huong a lot more. Mainly because of their crazy special mayo and liver paste that elevate an ordinary sandwich to a whole new level. Also, I really enjoy the combinations of different vietnamese sausages and ham in one little sandwich, compared to the choices available at Banh Mi Boys. It is such an luxurious experience for $2. It really captures our hearts. I am actually surprise to hear from JW that he enjoyes Nguyen Huong viet sub more too since he is not a big fan of any sort of sandwiches.

For those of you who are not familiar with Nguyen Huong vietnamese sandwiches, they are available at basically every asian supermarket like T&T. Nguyen Huong bakery is also located in China Town in Toronto Downtown where vietnamese sub is freshly made and served upon your order, like subway. Keep in mind that the bakery is not nicely decorated, a little dirty and looked something like a supermarket. Yet, I highly recommend one to try their sandwiches! Visit their website at : http://www.nguyenhuong.ca/contact_us.htm.

conclusion:

not roasted.

Although this conclusion may surprise most of you, I believe that Nguyen Huong vietnamese sandwiches are actually better like I mentioned in this post. I might return to Banh Mi Boys for their kimchi fries but it will not be my first choice for vietnamese sub. However, Banh Mi Boys is still a great alternatives for those who normally have ordinary sandwiches for lunch in downtown!

Banh Mi Boys on Urbanspoon

Nguyen Huong on Urbanspoon

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NOT ROASTED !, Toronto

:: Messini Authentic Gyros

After lining up for an hour at last year’s Taste of Danforth, I have been wanting to go back to this restaurant for quite awhile. Luckily, JW finally had the time to bring me there (& courage since he does not like warps, shawarma,sandwiches etc.)! I was super super super excited when I saw these meats being slowly cooked right after entering the restaurant.

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For appetizer, we ordered grilled calamari. The portion was actually almost two times bigger than what is shown in the picture. But we forgot to take a picture until we were half way through! The calamari was very juicy and tasty. Most importantly, it was not TOO chewy which I am always scared to find when eating calamari. Messini’s calarmi was tendered with a little chewiness. However, I think it was a little too oily to the extent that it almost looked like its fried instead of grilled.

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& of course I would order lamb gyros pita. Messini is famous for its gyros topped with its signature tzatziki sauce and french fries which is not very common in other gyros.  I was very excited when I reunited with the gyro that I had been craving for for awhile and shocked at the same time because it was huge. Unfortunately, I was pretty disappointed. The lamb in the gyro had an interesting combination of lamb fat, some really tendered lamb and some that were rather hard. Although they were juicy and had a strong taste of lamb, I expected the meat to be extra tendered and not what I found this time. The portion was too huge that the french fries became too soggy and a burden half way through that I had to take them out. The tzatziki did an amazing job of adding a hint of freshness so the gyro was not crazy-heavy. This gyro was acceptable but nothing like I had at Taste of Danforth.

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JW ordered the mixed gyro pita which came with pork and chicken as well as tzatziki and french fries. The pork was very very dry while the chicken was reasonably tendered. Overall, it tasted exactly like the lamb gyro pita except for the meat. The portion was very big that even JW found the gyro to be rather overwhelming.

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conclusion:

not roasted.

I am sad to say I was rather disappointed. The gyro I had did not match up with what I expected. I will probably not come back again. I think its because the demand was so high at Taste of Danforth that the turnover of the meat was much faster so the meat was not overcooked and a lot more tendered. I highly recommend one to share the gyro with another person because the portion was very big as I mentioned a few times.

Messini Authentic Gyros on Urbanspoon

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NOT ROASTED !, Toronto

:: Niwatei Japanese Restaurant

After the enjoyable experience we had at Santouka Ramen, we were looking for other ramen restaurants in the Markham area. We came across Niwatei at J-Town (a little Japanese Town in Markham), hoping that it could be a good alternative to all the ramen restaurants in downtown.

JW ordered the ramen set which came with a salad, Tonkotsu Ramen, Mini Curry Rice as a side and a dessert.

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The portion of the mini curry rice was definitely not mini yet nothing special. The curry was just made of curry paste that can be purchased in asian supermarkets with carrots, onions, and interestingly, a japanese pickled plum. However, JW said the curry was actually better than the ramen.

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This ramen was incomparable to Santouka’s ramen. First of all, unlike Santouka, we were not given the variety of choices regarding the firmness of the noodles nor the fattiness of the broth. The broth was too salty and highly resembled the soup powder that comes with instant ramen found in any asian supermarkets. The noodles were slightly too hard for me but not JW who normally likes noodles to be rather hard. The cha-shu was very dry and hard and lacked the fattiness that gives the cha shu its tenderness. Overall, the ramen was pretty disappointing especially when Niwatei is a ramen specialty restaurant.

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I ordered the tempura udon as I am not a big fan of ramen and was pretty disappointed too. The soup of the noodles was tasteless. The udon was merely generic udon, available at normal asian supermarkets again. The tempura was completely soaked in the soup and became very soggy when arrived our table.

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We had their daily dessert which was a green tea crepe cake. Basically, it was  about 10-20 layers of green tea flavoured crepe, piled on top of each other, with cream between them. Normally, green tea desserts have a risk of being too bitter but it was not the case here. The crepe cake was at the perfect balance of being not too bitter nor sweet yet this had caused to cake to be rather tasteless, like a dough. While we were expecting to experience an interesting texture brought by all the layers, the crepes simply merged together and became a rather hard and plain dough.

conclusion: 

not roasted. 

We were pretty disappointed especially with the hope of finding a good alternative ramen restaurant in uptown. I guess we will have to suck up with the line up at Santouka Ramen until we find a better ramen place in town.

Niwatei Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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NOT ROASTED !, Toronto

:: The Melting Pot

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After a heavy brunch, we were looking for something light and new to try for dinner. Therefore, we decided to try cheese fondue at The Melting Pot. Firstly, we were truly disappointed at their service. We waited for awhile to be seated while the restaurant was half empty. And it took awhile for the server to come to our table and introduce the menu to us, not to mention that it took forever to find our server throughout the whole dinner. Also, she did not clearly explain the menu, misunderstood our questions and treated us in a rude manner.

As I mentioned, we were not very hungry. So we did not consider ordering any entree, especially when each entree was almost $30+ for each person, excluding the cheese fondue which was $11 per person. Therefore, we simply ordered the spinach artichoke cheese fondue. We were going to order the traditional swiss cheese fondue but the server said it is very heavy and then recommended the spinach artichoke cheese fondue. We decided to take her recommendation.

We assumed that entrees were real, cooked main course dishes as the server did not explain what an entree really is. It was not until we saw the next table then we realized that that entrees were actually uncooked seafood and meat which you would dip into the cheese and then cook it in there. If the server clearly explained them, we would have definitely tried them.

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The server brought cheese, spinach, artichoke, tabasco and other ingredients to our table along with bread, tortilla chips, uncooked vegetables and granny smith apples for us to dip into the fondue. She prepared the cheese fondue by put all the ingredients into the pot until the cheese melted and all the ingredients were well-mixed.

The cheese fondue was actually very tasty. I am glad we took our server’s advice and went with the rather light spinach artichoke cheese fondue. The spinach and artichoke added a new dimension to the fondue so it was not only cheese, cheese and cheese. It made it a lot tastier and less heavy. Half way into the fondue, the cheese became a lot thicker so we added water into the fondue. We think that the water actually helped to make it easier for us to dip the bread into the cheese and made it more yummy since the inside of the bread was able to absorb more cheese. It is also a bonus at The Melting Pot that you can refill your bread, chips etc. as long as there is cheese in your pot. We refilled like 2 times since there were 4 of us, but each time the portion became smaller and smaller.

One of the reason why we did not order any entrees was because we always wanted to try their chocolate fondue. We went for the pure dark chocolate fondue because after eating a few fondue in Montreal, we realized that the bitterness of dark chocolate actually helps to bring out the sweetness of the fruits you dip into the fondue. It is also less overwhelming.

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Our chocolate fondue came with strawberries, pineapples, bananas, two different special marshmallows, cheesecakes and brownies. Although it sounded like a lot, it was not the case. The plate above was for two people; the portion was too small for two people and not worth the value of what you paid for. Overall, I don’t think there was anything special about this chocolate fondue. It was very basic. If you have a few people, I would recommend you to do this at home. You will get even more fun than this.

Since we were really happy with the refill feature, we clearly asked the server is it the same where we can refill our fruits and stuff as long as there is still chocolate in the pot before ordering and she clearly said yes too! After spending 15 minutes looking for her and ask her for refills, she said no refills and each bowl of strawberry is $3. We were in shocked because we clearly asked and she clearly said yes. When we confronted her, she said she had never said that and she has worked here for 7 months and would not mislead us in a very rude manner.  She even said we have already eaten a 12 people portion of bread (but we refilled for two times only and the portion was really really small). We were really disappointed with the way she treated us.

conclusion: 

not roasted. 

I would say that if you have never tried cheese fondue, this is a good place to try it for once only. But I found it rather expensive for the small portion and for the services I got. For chocolate fondue, don’t even think of this place. I think a lot of desserts restaurants do better than this.

The Melting Pot on Urbanspoon

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