ROASTED !, Toronto

:: Ema-Tei Japanese Restaurant

We brought my cousin who was visiting us from New York to Ema-Tei. The reason why we chose Ema-Tei was because most japanese restaurants offer only little dishes that are hard to share between a large group of people. But Ema-Tei’s sukiyaki solves this problem. Also, it encourages interaction between people as you help people to add and get what they want. This is what I always look for when dining with a group of friends.

Sukiyaki

:: The beef and a variety of vegetable came on a plate uncooked along with a gas stove and heated pan. Then, the server would place about 1/3 of the food on the heated pan and add the sukiyaki sauce into it. They were ready to serve when the sauce was heated up and the food was cooked. According to your own pace and preferences, you can slowly add the rest of the food into the pan afterwards.

It is highly recommended to share this dish with at least 3-4 four people even though it is intended for two (according to their menu). JW and I tried eating the sukiyaki once with just us two and we were very very stuffed after that.

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Although these were not the best beef, they were still very tender. The vegetable was delicious after absorbing all the flavour from the sauce. Generally, sukiyaki sauce is mix of mirin sauce, soya sauce, sake and plenty of sugar and hence its saltiness and sweetness. It is very tasty however it can be very salty after awhile. Therefore, we had to add diluted sukiyaki sauce to dilute the saltiness (given to us at the beginning). At the same time, we preferred serving the sukiyaki with rice to balance out the strong flavour. Overall, I really enjoyed the sukiyaki. However, it is noted that the sauce didn’t taste exactly the same every time we visited Ema-Tei.

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We also ordered sushi and grilled mackerel. They were well done and lived up to our expectations.

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Verdict:

roasted!

Ema-Tei is one of the traditional japanese restaurants found in Toronto. We like to visit it every now and then for their sukiyaki and curry! Also, it is not too hard to get a table when you walk in at 7-8pm. Therefore, Ema-Tei will continue to be one of our favourite places for some japanese food other than ramen and sushi.

OH ONE MORE THING! We are now on instagram! Since we can get a little lazy with updating the blog sometimes, JW and I decided to join instagram to post pictures and give instant review of the food we had which can range from restaurants to street food. So follow us on instagram @theroastedacorn. For those who don’t have instagram, you can still meet us at www.instagram.com/theroastedacorn ! See you there!

Ematei Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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ROASTED !, Toronto

:: Guu Izakaya (lunch)

Guu has recently started offering lunch from Monday to Friday! This is such a great news for us since JW and I are such hardcore fans of Guu. Arriving around 1:30pm, 30 mins before their last order, we were surprised to see Guu, a place where it is always overly-crowded, being half emptied. It was quite a view.

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Compared to their dinner menu, their lunch menu offers only a limited number of items. All of their dishes came on a tray along with Miso soup and other little dishes. We had three of their dishes:

Saba Miso (simmered mackerel with miso sauce)

:: While mackerel can easily be overcooked and too dry, Guu’s Saba Miso was nicely done. The mackerel absorbed all the flavour in the miso sauce but remained its juiciness and softness. It was delicious!

 

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Gyu Don (Sukiyaki beef on rice topped with half boiled egg)

:: Excuse the half emptied bowl of rice. We were too excited to see the egg lying on top of the sea of beef that we forgot to take a picture until we were half way into it. The half boiled egg “glued” the beef and the rice together, creating a very creamy texture. The beef was deliciously tender and juicy with a strong taste of onion. It was very good.

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Chirashi Don (Assorted fresh sashimi on sushi rice)

:: The chirashi don came with salmon, tuna, scallop and salmon caviar. The fish was very fresh. Nothing really crazy special though.

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Verdict:

Roasted!

:: All the dishes were nicely done and lived up to our expectations. However, it failed to give us that wow factor when we first visited Guu. Nevertheless, it is still a great place to grab a lunch in downtown (A great alternative to all those ramen restaurants in downtown!).

Guu Izakaya on Urbanspoon

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ROASTED !, Toronto

:: Zakkushi

Sorry for the long overdue update everyone!

JW and I had been incredibly busy in april with projects and exams. Right after that, we went on a vacation to Cuba for a week to relax and spend some precious time together. Now that we are back in Toronto and things are not as tensed as before, I promise we will update more often! We have a few restaurants to try out in mind already so stay tuned!

But before things got really intense, we went to visit Zakkushi, a yakitori speciality restaurant from Vancouver. Overall , we really like this restaurant. The atmosphere was lively. The servers were extremely helpful. They introduced all the skewers when they arrived our table. Also, I got some sauce on my white blouse and a server noticed and brought me soda water to clean it off. Much appreciated!

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We began our meal with nankotsu (deep fried chicken knee cartilage), Agedashi Tofu and Amaebi Karrage (deep fried sweet prawn w/ Sansho salt). All of their deep fried items were very well done. They were crispy and flavourful without being too salty and oily. Love them!

Then we had some yakitori!

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We had Chicken thigh, Chicken Wing and Asparagus wrapped with pork. These three were pretty generic and not that impressive. They were not bad but we will probably try something else next time.

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The Tsukune (Chicken meat ball) was surprisingly good. We had the original one at first and the chicken was juicy and the texture was very interesting. We reordered two with melted cheese and Grated Daikon & Ponzu sauce. Yet we still think the original one was the best.

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We also had Wagyu Beef and G beef (beef with Terriyaki sauce & garlic chips). The wagyu beef was more tendered and had more natural flavour of the beef. Definitely worth the price.

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We also had Premium Beef Tongue, Unagi and Chicken skin. JW said the chicken skin was rather tasteless. We really enjoyed the unagi but found it a little pricy compared to other skewers. Unlike beef itself, the beef tongue was rather light and had a softer texture. I recommend it to all the ladies out there who find beef to be rather heavy.

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I love my yakioni (grilled rice). We had both the Shoyu (soy sauce) or Butter Shoyu (better soy sauce) yakioni. The whole thing tasted just like plain rice, even the grilled part. However, it went pretty well with the unagi which was slightly salty. But we will not order it next time.

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We also tried their Oden with Chlkuwa (fish cake) and Daikon (carrot). We liked the sauce a lot. Very delicious.

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Next, we had their takoyaki. The outer layer was very crispy while the inside was melting. Love it!

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Lastly, we had their Ochazuke with salmon flakes. To be honest, I still haven’t tried an ochazuke that is as good as the one I had in Japan last year. The broth of all the ones I have in Toronto (including this one) were rather tasteless and it felt like the rice was simply soaked in a slightly salted broth. I am still on a hunt for one that is comparable to the one I had in Japan! Please tell me if you guys have any recommendations!

We ended our meal with two amazing desserts!

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Kinako mochi ice cream was my favourite! The mochi was slightly warmed and very chewy and went really well with the maple syrup. With the coldness of the ice cream, they created a very interesting and contrasting experience in the mouth. I will definitely reorder this next time I visit Zakkushi!

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We also had the Dorayaki Matcha ice cream. Dorayaki is like a must have in like all yakotori or tappenyaki restaurants. Yet, we didn’t like the one in Zakkushi because the pancake was rather dense and hard. It did not go very well with the ice cream.

Verdict:

roasted.

We had a really enjoyable dining experience an Zakkushi! Although not all the food was perfect, there were some extraordinary items that we looked forward to try again soon. We will definitely visit again!

Zakkushi 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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ROASTED !, Toronto

:: JaBistro

Happy belated valentines day!

Hope you all had a wonderful one! For this special occasion, JW and I decided to visit JaBistro, a new Japanese restaurant added to the chain of restaurants opened by the owner of Guu, James Kim.

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Arriving around 8, the atmosphere was rather calm and filled with people chatting quietly which echoed with the wooden design and beige brick wall of the restaurant. The decor highly resembled Kinton Ramen in Toronto as they were from the same interior designer. And as usual, we requested to sit at the bar.

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One thing I want to mention is that JaBistro’s menu was rather simple – there were only sashimi platters, sushi sets and their special salad/cooked dishes. There wasn’t a list of a la carte sushi/sashimi or daily fresh fish. If we didn’t sit at the bar and eye at the sushi that the chef was making, we wouldn’t know that wagyu sushi exists! So remember to ask your server for recommendations or if you are interested in a particular type of fish.

We began our adventure at JaBistro with Wagyu sushi and Blue Fin Tuna Otoro sushi. These two sushi totally blew our minds off and this was exactly how we expected our journey at JaBistro should be.

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A good otoro sushi in a Japanese meal is like the cherry on top, it just perfects everything & JaBistro did it just right. The otoro sushi instantly melted and the fish oil just kept on squirting into our mouths. The amount of rice was just right that every single piece of rice was covered with fish oil. What a wonderful piece.

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We have never had Wagyu Sushi before so JW was very excited to try this. When ordered, our server asked whether we want the wagyu to be served raw or torched. We decided to have ours slightly torched in order to bring out the flavour in the meat.

The Wagyu sushi was absolutely overwhelming and quickly became our favourite dish of the night. The wagyu was extremely tender and seemed like it would melt in our mouths. After a few bites, the juice was slowly released from the meat and was very very tasty and flavourful. When mixed with the rice, it was just mind-blowing.

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Next, we had the sashimi platter with lobster. There was a generous amount of different sashimi, and most importantly, lobster sashimi. And of course, they were very fresh.

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JaBistro offered three kinds of dipping – a sweet soy sauce, sea salt with lemon and a premium soy sauce. We enjoyed the sweet soy sauce a lot. It was slightly sweeter than normal soy sauce and helped to elevate the freshness of the sashimi. On a side note, the wasabi was freshly ground by the chef.

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The upper half of the lobster from the sashimi platter was made into a miso soup. It arrived our table close to the end as it was freshly made upon orders. The soup was very sweet compared to ordinary miso soup because of the lobster. Even for me who doesn’t like miso soup, I enjoyed it a lot.

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We also ordered Kani ( soft shell crab with chilli). The soft shell crab was nicely fried and crispy. The juice from the crab was locked inside the crab and started dripping once we bit into it. The chilli added a nice dimension to the crab otherwise it would be rather plain on its own. Overall, it was very delicious and I would like to try more of the cooked dishes from JaBistro next time as many of the combinations are totally new and unheard of (i.e. Black Cod, Bacon and shrimp toast).

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We also had the aburi sushi set which came with 7 blowtorched sushi including JaBistro’s special ebi, saba and salmon oshizushi. I would recommend this dish to anyone who visit JaBistro as you can try all of their special sushi and, needless to say, they were amazing. Torched sushi always bring out that special power in ordinary sushi and bring them onto another level.

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We really enjoyed to ebi and salmon oshizushi from the aburi sushi set that we ordered half of each afterwards. Oshizushi is different from ordinary sushi as all the ingredients are packed inside a box and pressed very hard until they form into a rectangular prism. Although the oshizushi was pressed very hard, the sushi rice did not become too firm or mushy at all. It remained its softness and a reasonably amount of space between the rice. The texture was extraordinary. Very impressive. For the Ebi oshizushi, mayo with pesto was added to the sushi and torched and went very well with the crisp texture of the shrimp. The salmon oshizushi was torched with mayo and a piece of Jalapeno was then added on top to add a hint of spiciness to the salmon. They were equally delicious and I will definitely order them again next time.

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We finished off this amazing meal with Ringo, Fuji apple compote and vanilla ice cream. Although the apple compote was slightly bitter, the vanilla ice cream balanced it off so the apple was not too bitter and the dessert was not too sweet. I love this dessert, especially with all the almond and pistachio layered on top.

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verdict:

roasted.

I wish I can come here everyday but it is impossible given its price haha. But it is just simply amazing and we will definitely come back, especially for their JaBistro roll as it wasn’t available this time. So once a month hopefully? :)

JaBistro 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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ROASTED !, Toronto

:: The Garbardine

So I went to downtown to have a quick lunch with JW. We met around Bay and Queens and had no idea where to grab a quick lunch. After doing some research with the Urbanspoon app, we decided to go to a restaurant that we had never heard of. It was very close to us and had a relatively high rating, thus we decided to give it a shot.

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After entering The Garbardine, I immediately got super excited because I LOVEEEE restaurants of this kind. It was like a little coffe shop around the corner with modern-country style decor. Everyone was so intimate and chatty. The atmosphere was lively. The servers were so friendly. Everything looked perfect. So lucky that we came across this restaurant.

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I ordered the Shrimp po’boy sandwich, one of the two dishes that our server recommended.

I DIED. I never expected to find such a sandwich on earth. The sandwich came with a trusty combination of fried shrimps and tomato relish which highly resembled sweet and sour sauce commonly found in thai cuisine. The bread was not so hard so it did not take away the crispiness of the fried shrimps. It was like everything I love in one little sandwich, so much love in one bite. After my first bite, I already knew that I will come back to garbardine for this heavenly sandwich.

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JW ordered to mac & cheese, with ham added, the other dish that our server recommended.

The melted cheese layered on top went pretty well with the macaroni covered by a creamy, white sauce. The ham tasted a little like bacon and was fairly tendered. Overall, the mac & cheese was not as amazing as the sandwich. Also, comfort food like these tend to get a little overwhelming after a short while. JW said he probably won’t order it again next time.

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conclusion:

roasted.

I LOVE THE SHRIMP PO’BOY SANDWICH. Maybe just because I am a shrimp lover. However, the mac & cheese was fairly ordinary and nothing surprising. I will definitely come back for the sandwich and maybe grab a coffee to go with the whole little coffee shop/laid back atmosphere. It is noted that the food came pretty fast so prefect for those who want a quick lunch in downtown.

The Gabardine on Urbanspoon

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