Browsing Category:

Lunch

Dinner Japanese Lunch Reviews

Ramen Restaurants at New Kennedy Square

January 28, 2016

I’m always venturing for ramen places from one city to another.  Different areas seem to have their own ways of presenting their own businesses to the public.  I visited the Markham area recently and it seems like all of the businesses are within one large complex separated by roads and residential areas.  They might be less accessible if you don’t know how to drive, BUT there are lots of other ways to get there.  In Markham, I am sure everyone knows Sansotei is a legit ramen place, but let’s explore somewhere a little different within the Markham area – New Kennedy Square.

Located up at Hwy 7 & Kennedy, New Kennedy Square is a large plaza with food, businesses, and entertainment.  To get here by public transit, I simply board the Kennedy YRT bus at Steeles and Kennedy near Pacific Mall.  There are many restaurants in this area and a lot of them have been open since I was young. (Now I will let you guess my age ;).  There are three places that have ramen offerings on their menu. Let’s talk about them one by one.

Blue Ocean CaféBlue Ocean Cafe - Tonkotsu Ramen

Hokkaido-Style Tonkotsu Ramen ft. Hokkaido ramen with Stew pork soft ribs ($8.99)

Blue Ocean Café is a Hong Kong style café offering a wide selection of tasty food items from Malaysian curry to rice combos to noodles in soup.  They also offer a special house-made char siu known as “sam sok” cha siu.  Since they only offer a limited amount each day, they’re usually sold out by lunch or early dinner time.  As I was studying this menu, there was one small section that offers Hokkaido-style ramen. Blue Ocean’s Hokkaido-style ramen consists of a tonkotsu (pork bone) soup base topped with standard topping such as kikurage mushroom, corn, sesame, and a soft boiled egg.  As for the main protein, you can choose in a choice of stewed pork soft ribs, enoki mushrooms, beef, or teriyaki chicken.  This time, I decided to try the stew pork ribs.  At uptown ramen restaurants, stew pork soft ribs seems to appear often on menus.  The stewed pork soft ribs had a strong flavour with a soft & chewy texture.  Overall, their noodles & toppings were quite decent.  However, the flavour of the tonkotsu broth was more on the salty side.  Furthermore, there was a lack of creaminess in their pork bone broth.  If you are not comparing this with authentic Japanese ramen, this is worth a try.

Raku Ramen & Izakaya  

Raku Ramen Izakaya - Pork Belly Cheese RamenPork Belly Cheese Ramen

Raku is a Japanese-style ramen and izakaya establishment, which has a selection of tapas, robata grill, sushi, sashimi, and ramen.  They used to offer their ramen in a stone pot when they just started.  Recently, they changed it back to a standard ramen bowl.  I am used to eating ramen place at in the downtown Toronto area, so I don’t expect too much at uptown ramen establishments.  From their ramen selection, I tried something that was a little different from the standard selection of shio, shoyu, and miso).  I selected the dish below.

Pork Belly Cheese Ramen – Their house-made pork belly was actually one of the specialties that they are offering as a separate ramen item.  Accompanied with pork belly, this is a tonkotsu (pork bone) based ramen topped with green onion, kikurage mushroom, naruto maki, bean sprouts, corn, and cheese.  I had a variety of toppings in this bowl.  Indeed, cheese had enhanced the creaminess of their tonkotsu soup base, which masked the disadvantage of their soup base.  Their pork belly cha shu had less fat content on the surface, and the meat itself was quite tender.  Overall, this was quite interesting to try.

Chef Papa Tea & Noodle Bar

Original Shio Pork Bone Ramen + Wonton & Seaweed

Similar to Deer Garden, Chef Papa Tea & Noodle Bar has a “customize your own noodles” concept.  Pork bone based ramen is one of the selections on their menu.  You’re given a large piece of paper for your noodle selections.

Here are the steps from the ramen section:

Chef Papa Noodle Bar - Shio Pork Bone RamenHokkaido Pork Bone Ramen

Step 1: Pick your soup flavour

  • Shio (Original sea salt)
  • Red miso
  • Shoyu (Soy Sauce)
  • Szechuan dan dan sesame ramen

Step 2: Choose your noodles (Obviously you’d choose ramen noodles in this box, but there are other noodle options available on the list.)

  • Ramen noodles
  • Udon
  • Rice vermicelli
  • Instant noodles

Step 3: Choose Toppings (two choices)

(Note: The ramen package includes half of a soft boiled egg, corn, and kikurage mushrooms.  On top of these, you can pick two more toppings.  Depending on the topping, additional charges may apply.)

  • Pork cha shu
  • Beef brisket
  • Luncheon meat,
  • Slice lamb
  • Wonton

(Optional) Step 4: Pick a side order (additional charges may apply)

(Optional) Step 5: Pick a drink (coffee or tea; additional charges may apply for other drinks)

Since it was my first time visiting, I was a little crazy with the toppings.  I decided to add wonton ($1.75 extra) as one of them.  I also thought nori seaweed was not included in the package, so I ordered seaweed as another one of my selections.  Perhaps, extra seaweed was added to this ramen so it had completely enhanced the flavour of their tonkotsu broth.  The overall taste ended up quite well at the end.  If you like your ramen to be completely customized, Chef Papa is the place for you.

No Comments

Brunch Dinner Drinks Lunch Out with Markham Food Reviews Spanish

Tapagria Restaurant Review – Out with Markham Food

December 1, 2015

We recently partnered with Tapagria to host a fun night of food tasting for our bloggers friends. The night came with a lot of appetizers, different entrées (including a couple of brunch items), and lots of hand-crafted sangrias. Tapagria is the only restaurant in Markham right now that serves Spanish tapas. Not only is the food delicious, but you have to check out their interior too. The restaurant is designed with a lot of attention to detail and just about every corner is “Insta-worthy”. 😉

Tapagria-Restaurant-Markham

Tapagria-Sangria-Flavours
We tried so many flavours of their hand-crafted sangrias we can’t remember all of the flavours… Some of the ones we remember are lychee-lime, peach, raspberry, guava, fig, and strawberry. All were amazing, but if we had to choose one: the strawberry!

Tapagria-Restaurant-Sangria

Tapagria-White-Anchovie-Pintxo

One of the many apps we tried was the White Anchovie Pinxto above. Our two favourites (not pictured) pinxtos were the Angus Tartare and the Foie Gras. These dishes definitely opened up our appetites and we were ready for more food.

Tapagria-Mussels

If you’re feeling for more seafood, we’d recommend these steamed mussels. They have a bit of a kick to them thanks to the chilli peppers, but nothing we can’t handle. 😛 This small dish was the perfect way to start off our round of main dishes.

Tapagria-Pecado-Frito-fried-fish

The Pecado Frito (literally “fried fish”) above was perfectly fried, seasoned, and prepared. Although the potatoes and veggies paired nicely with the fish, but we thought there were a little too salty.

And now onto the most popular mains of the night! The following three were hits among the bloggers – with many of us rushing to claim every last bite.

Tapagria-Paella

Above is one of the two paellas that Tapagria serves. The Paella De Tapagria is made of bomba rice, shrimp, chorizo, hen, mussels, jamón, octopus, and peas – a terrific combo packed full of flavour and served at the perfect temperature.

Tapagria-Chuleton-Asado-Steak

It’s safe to say that the Chuleton Asado (“grilled steak”) – the 32oz roasted ribeye – was the most popular dish of the night. Every time we look at this picture, we get hungry. LOOK AT THAT STEAK! The level of doneness, juiciness, and tenderness…everything about it was good. Like with the fish above, we thought the veggies were overly salty. When we go back for this, we’ll definitely ask for less salt.

Tapagria-Mega-Dessert-Platter-Markham

And finally… the secret item that’s not listed on their menu: the Tapagria Mega Dessert Platter. Get this platter of all of their dessert options to share with your group. From back to front, we have the Crema Catalina, Chocolate Cake, Churros with three dipping sauces, and Spanish Toast. Customers are known to order multiple Spanish Toasts in one sitting – they’re that good. And again, this platter was devoured almost as quickly as the steak was.

If you go to Tapagria with a bunch of your friends and/or family, we recommend that you order a variety of dishes to try and share. It’s a great environment for dining, socializing, and drinking with your loved ones. Explore the #TapagriaRestaurant hashtag on Instagram to see more pics!

Address: 230 Commerce Valley Drive East – Unit 2, Markham, Ontario  L3T 7Y3
Phone Number: (905) 771-8868

No Comments

Brunch Chinese Dim Sum Lunch Reviews

Dragon Boat Fusion: My Favourites at This Popular Dim Sum Restaurant

November 26, 2015

Dragon Boat Fusion Cuisine

With plenty of great spots to choose from and some of the best in the GTA, York Region has really got it good when it comes to dim sum. Here’s a look at some of the features and my favourite dishes from one of these gems.  Arguably one of the most popular dim sum joints in the region and for good reason, Dragon Boat Fusion serves up fairly consistent, good quality dim sum along with crazy daily lineups as any good dim sum joint should.

Early birding is encouraged.

Early bird pricing is in effect on weekdays (not including holidays) when you order before 11am when all small, medium, and large dishes are $2.99.  Otherwise, the regular prices are:  S $2.99, M $3.99, L $4.99,  XL $5.99, and SP $6.99.

As for tea, there are the standard teas available at dim sum to choose from and it goes for $1.30 per person. They serve the nicer quality stuff here than typical dim sum joints. For tea, I usually prefer Iron Goddess.

Some Dim Sum Faves

Dragon Boat Fusion - Har GowDragon Boat Fusion - Siu Mai

(1) Har Gow and (2) Siu Mai

These are the classic duo. If they make har gow and siu mai well, then you know the dim sum is good.

(1) Big and plump, chock full of fresh shrimp. Well made skin as it’s thin and translucent yet firm enough to not break when picked up. Garnished with a whole shrimp in the shell.

(2) Also quite big and plump with a balanced ratio of pork to shrimp and topped with roe. Fresh, flavourful, and moist.

Dragon Boat Fusion - Rice noodle rolls with dough fritter

Rice noodle rolls with dough fritter

The dough fritter is actually crispy; a key feature of quality for this dish. Nice and thin rice noodles. Topped with bonito flakes giving these an added deep savoury flavour which definitely levels this up. Warm, sweet soy sauce served on the side to use as you please. Also served with the standard peanut and hoisin sauce for dipping.

Dragon Boat Fusion - Foie Gras Almond Shrimp Balls

Foie Gras Almond Shrimp Balls

A fine example of their fusion dim sum. Love the textural contrast with the crispy almond slivers and shell to the smooth foie gras filling. Very tasty deep, savoury flavours

Dragon Boat Fusion - Thousand Layer Custard Cake

Thousand Layer Custard Cake

A somewhat rare find at dim sum these days. Piping hot, steamed multi-layer, rich yet mildly sweet egg yolk paste.

Dragon Boat Fusion - Dragon Boat Specialty DIm Sum Platter

Dragon Boat Specialty Dim Sum Platter

Served on an afternoon tea style 2-tiered tray with assorted sweets and fruits on top and savoury gems on the bottom. Quite a nice treat to enjoy alongside regular dim sum dishes. Having had this twice, I’ve found that they change up some of the items.

Dragon Boat Fusion - Platter 1

Top Tier (of the platter)

Assorted sweets including birds nest milk tart, coconut pudding on papaya, red bean paste dumplings, assorted jello, fruits, and cherry tomatoes.

Dragon Boat Fusion - Platter 2

Bottom Tier (of the platter)

White cloud chicken feet, eel/meat pastries, seaweed salad, and beans.

Service

The service here is generally quick and efficient  Though it’s the kind of service you’d expect from typical Chinese restaurants. When it gets crazy busy, you’ll have a harder time waving down wait staff.

Décor and setting

Overall, this joint is well lit with a pleasing modern decor in a gold and white theme.  Modern style tableware with many dim sum presented in branded square steamers. Both tables and chairs are adorned in cloth. And of course, as the focal point, a somewhat blinged out double happiness raised platform area for all those dope wedding banquets or dope dim sum sessions in this case. (It does seem a bit quieter up there.)

Crazy line ups

When I have some time off at non-peak times during a weekday, I love whisking away to dim sum hoping to enjoy small lines and very short wait times.  Not so at this joint. If you want to avoid the crazy lineups, be ready to get there before the doors open at 9am, even on a weekday.  Tables fill up minutes after the doors fling open and then the crazy wait begins.  Also, as is the case with many Chinese restaurants, even if you make a reservation you will most likely end up still having to wait a while when you get there.

Inadequate Parking

In terms of parking, there are only a handful of spots outside the restaurant reserved for it.  Around the corner, are a handful of unreserved spots available.  But when those are all filled up, take a detour to park over at the adjacent parking lot where The Keg is and then cross over the small hill.

Regardless of these cons the quality, variety and unique fusion takes on dim sum as well-made standard dishes makes this joint a worthwhile visit.

Address: 160 E Beaver Creek Road, Suite 4-6, Richmond Hill, ON L4B 3L4
Phone Number: (905) 731-3718

No Comments

Dinner Lunch Out with Markham Food Reviews Thai

Little Bangkok Thai Cuisine Review – Out with Markham Food

November 19, 2015

We used to drive past Little Bangkok Thai Cuisine all the time, but never ventured into that little plaza. Authentic Thai food is hard to find in Markham, so when we were invited to try some of their dishes out, we were excited! This family-owned restaurant takes pride in their hand-picked ingredients. They believe in serving quality Thai food to give their customers a taste of Thailand in the comfort of their restaurant on Main Street Markham.

This was our first dine-in experience at a true Thai restaurant since our earlier experiences all took place at “fast food style” restaurants. Here’s a look at some of the dishes we had:

Appetizers at Little Bangkok Thai CuisineAppetizer Assortments – A combination of Thai appetizers served for two (2 Chicken Satay, 2 Thai Spring Rolls, 2 Fresh Spring Rolls, 2 Shrimp Rolls, Deep Fried Taro and Mango Salad) ($12.99)

Since it was our first time, this appetizer plate was a great introduction to Thai cuisine. The mix of nutty, sweet, and spicy played very well on our palates. The Mango Salad in particular was our favourite.

Spicy basil mussels, dry curry salmon, and pineapple fried rice - Little Bangkok Thai CuisineTop: Spicy Basil Mussels – Stir-fried fresh mussels with onion, chilies, sweet pepper and Thai basil leaves ($12.99)
Middle: Dry Salmon Curry – Salmon fish, lime leaves and fresh Thai basil leaves cooked in thick red curry paste and coconut cream ($14.99)
Bottom: Fried Rice with Pineapple – Thai style fried rice with tiger prawns, chicken, fresh pineapple, cashew nuts, and egg ($12.99)

We love seafood so we had to try the mussels and salmon. The mussels tasted as expected and were really good (and spicy!). The Dry Salmon Curry was true to its name, but it wasn’t our favourite. The pineapple fried rice however, was surprisingly filling given how small it looks in the photo above. They definitely packed a lot of rice in that little dome.

Thai Iced Tea - Little Bangkok Thai CuisineThai Iced Tea

Can you believe that this was our first time trying Thai Iced Tea? That first sip had us like WOW! We’re big fans of Hong Kong-style milk tea and thought this would taste the same, but the flavour is very distinct. Needless to say, this is going on our list of drinks to order at Thai restaurants.

We hope you’re craving Thai food now because we certainly are. You can find this hidden gem near the GO station on Main Street Markham. They’re located in a little plaza, so there is plenty of free parking.

Address: 227 Main Street Markham North, Markham, ON L3P 1Y6
Phone Number: (905) 471-8818

No Comments

Giveaways Lunch Taiwanese

Giveaway with It’s a Bao Time

November 12, 2015

In case you missed our Instagram post, we’re hosting a giveaway with one of Richmond Hill’s newest restaurants, It’s a Bao Time. This place caters to the lunch crowd serving steamed buns, Vietnamese sandwiches (banh mi), and tacos with fillings like pork belly and beef brisket. Yum! Visit our Instagram page for more info on how you can win a meal for two at It’s a Bao Time!

It's a Bao Time

No Comments

Brunch Chinese Dim Sum Lunch

10 Dim Sum Dishes You Should Try

November 2, 2015

One of the best perks of Markham is the plentiful supply of high quality dim sum. On weekends, popular restaurants will have a queue outside, long before they open. For me, dim sum is one of the only reasons to wake up before 10am on a Saturday. There are two types of dim sum restaurants, ones with carts loaded with dishes and wheeled around the restaurant for diners to order tableside, or those with ordering sheets. Most dim sum restaurants today favour the ordering sheet. If you’re new to the morning tradition of “yum cha”, the bevy of steamed dishes and Asian-centric ingredients may be daunting. Add in the fact that many restaurants lean towards exclusively speaking Cantonese or Mandarin and an order sheet with minimal descriptions, it gets even harder to figure out what to order. To help, here are 10 dishes, savoury and sweet, that would be a good start to any dim sum journey. Each dish is listed with their English name followed by Cantonese and Mandarin pinyin.

(1) Shrimp Dumplings – Har Gow, Xia Jiao
A staple, plump shrimp wrapped in a transparent wrapper and steamed to perfection. The wrapper should be thin and the dumplings shouldn’t stick to the paper or other each. I like mine with a dab of hot sauce.

(2) Shumai – Siu Mai, Shao Mai

Another classic steamed dish, generally with ground pork, shrimp and mushrooms wrapped as an open dumpling.

(3) Chicken Feet – Fung Zau, Feng Zhua

Yes they’re the feet of chicken and look odd, but when prepared well, the perfectly rendered skin and cartilage melt off the bone. Start with trying just one knuckle.

(4) BBQ Pork Bun – Char Siu Bao, Cha Shao Bao

Steamed and soft or crispy and baked, BBQ pork buns are a must.

(5) Lotus Leaf wrapped Sticky Rice – Lo Mai Gai, Nuo Mi Ji

A sticky rice ball filled with chicken, shiitake mushrooms and Chinese sausage all wrapped in a lotus leaf and steamed. This dish is filling and full of umami flavours.

(6) Rice Noodle Roll – Coeng Fan, Chang Fen

In general, this dish consists of a long sheet of rice noodle rolled with a filling and steam. Typical fillings are fried dough fritters (my favourite), ground pork or shrimp. The fish is served with a seasoned soy sauce that’s poured on top of the roll.

(7) Steamed Tripe – Ngau Pak Yip, Niu Bai Ye

This was the dish that made tripe one of my favourite proteins. Thin slices of the white offal is steamed to a perfect tenderness with fragrant ginger and green onion.

(8) Beef Offal – Ngau Jaap, Niu Za

Honeycomb tripe is featured in this dish along with lung, spleen, daikon and various other goodies. It’s like a treasure chest of textures and taste.

(9) Sesame Ball – Jin Deui, Ma Tuan

Made with glutinous rice flour, often filled with a red bean paste and rolled in sesame seeds, half a ma tuan is my favourite way to end a dim sum meal. Half, because that’s usually all there’s room left for.

(10) Egg Tart – Daan Taat, Dan Ta

Puff pastry filled with an eggy custard, egg tarts are a one bite wonder. The pastry should be flakey and the custard silky smooth, creamy and not too sweet. When I find a good plate of egg tarts, I will happily take a plate to go.

No Comments

Dinner Japanese Lunch Reviews Sushi

Top 5 Sushi Restaurants for Maki Rolls in Richmond Hill & Markham

October 28, 2015

Maki rolls no longer only refer to the simple California rolls or cucumber rolls that people used to eat.  Many Japanese restaurants in the Greater Toronto Area now offer special maki rolls that show them off under a more creative light. Here, I’ve compiled my top 5 favourite Japanese restaurants for maki rolls in York Region.

5) Hana-bi Sushi

Hana-Bi Sushi is a Korean-owned Japanese restaurant located at First Markham Place. To be honest, their food is good, but not to-die-for. What keeps me coming back is the consistency of their food quality, reasonable prices, good customer service, and location, which is close to where I live. I wouldn’t recommend someone to drive far to get here, but if you are in the area and are craving maki rolls, I’d recommend Hana-Bi. My favourite maki roll there is the Tataki Roll. Their udon is great as well!

4) Gal’s Sushi

I love specialty maki rolls, but they are not the cheapest thing to eat. On days where my maki roll cravings kick in (while on a tight budget), I go to Gal’s Sushi for their Lunch Special Rolls Box. For $9.99, it comes with a combination of California roll, spicy salmon roll, crab salad roll, and deep fried roll. Their specialty rolls such as the Shrimp Caterpillar Roll and Cloud Roll are also very good.

3) Akane Sushi

Akane Sushi is a Japanese restaurant located near Highway 7 and Bayview Avenue. They’re always busy so I suggest coming early if you have a large group. Their prices are affordable and food quality is good. My top recommendation is their love boat (which includes a variety of sashimi such as salmon, tuna, uni, scallop, and shrimp) and their Akane Roll combo. Their Blue Mountain roll is also amazing!

2) Osaka Sushi

Toronto Roll - Osaka Sushi

Toronto Roll

Osaka Sushi is one of my favourite sushi restaurants. Some restaurants only have good maki rolls and average food, or vice versa. Osaka Sushi is not one of those. Pretty much everything I’ve tried there is great. My top recommendation is their Toronto Roll and Amazing Spider Roll. In case maki rolls don’t fill you up, their spicy beef ramen is delicious. They also make custom rolls!

1) MI-NE Sushi

Assorted sushi rolls - MI-NE Sushi

Orangeville roll, Tuna Love Roll, Golden Dragon Roll, assorted nigiri sushi, California Roll and Spicy Salmon Roll

MI-NE is my no doubt my favourite place to go for special maki rolls. Pretty much all the maki rolls I’ve tried here are delicious. My absolute favourite is their Orangeville Roll. For vegeterias, their yam rolls are great as well. Tip: Their specialty rolls are gigantic so don’t order too much! To get the best value, visit them during lunch time when they offer Maki Roll Set Lunches. The sashimi here is average, so skip that and only order the rolls.

(Pins on map labelled backwards to match numbering above.)

2 Comments

Chinese Dinner Lunch

Baked Pork Chop and Rice with Tomato Sauce — Cha Chan Tang Exclusives

October 21, 2015

I’ll be honest, I’ve spent most of my life growing up on “fast food.” Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a fan of the Super Size diet from McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, or any of your regular fast food joints.

No, I grew up on a different kind of quick meal diet; the kind that combines the best of Asian and Western cuisine into helping plates of food less than 10 minutes after you order and can just as quickly down. Let’s talk Hong Kong cuisine; let’s talk cha chan tangs.

Cha chan tangs are cafés that serve a variety of different food and provides for every single meal you can possibly eat. I may be guilty of sitting at cha chan tangs as a kid for hours on end, while my parents chatted with the servers and the other patrons at the cafe. Breakfast would slowly turn into brunch, and then maybe it would be time for an afternoon tea snack. Such is the way that these restaurants operate, as a place for people who may not speak to each other anywhere else to come and banter about the latest news and trends.

To avoid a long political history, all you need to know is that a lot of Hong Kong cuisine, the kind that you can order quickly at a sit-down café, has influences of Western flair. Baked casseroles, meat sauce spaghetti, and mixed grills are only some of plenty of dishes that don’t immediately shout Asian. But they are, and they come synonymously paired in the same menus as your regular chicken and broccoli, beef fried noodles, and Cantonese chow mein. Here’s where quantity and efficiency doesn’t get downplayed by quality because how can you complain about food when you’re sitting in front of a mountain of deliciousness for a pretty affordable price? Just pick and choose from hundreds on the menu. There’s bound to be something for you.

Speaking of which, I thought long and hard about the signature dish to introduce to someone who might still be confused by the authenticity that is a Hong Kong cha chan tang cuisine. I couldn’t really look any further than Baked Pork Chop and Rice with Tomato Sauce. This is by far one of the best comfort foods you can possibly order when you’re starving. It is a staple of any cha chan tangs you go to, especially those who want to serve the masses!

Baked Pork Chop and Rice with Tomato Sauce - Keung's Delight

This dish is everything and more. Here’s a photo I recently took from a meal at Keung’s Delight at the Warden & Steeles T&T plaza. Not so much your classic cha chan tang, but a great place to dine and reviewed previously on my blog. Don’t be afraid of using extra cutlery and plates because it’s almost impossible to eat this during a meal without additional utensils! Here’s a technical look at the assorted components: fried pork chops nestled on top of rice (choice of egg fried rice or the regular variety), and blanketed by a gooey tomato sauce. Baked for a few minutes (literally, a few minutes), and voila! Your famous Baked Pork Chop Rice casserole dish.

Baked Pork Chop Rice - Keung's Delight

 

No Comments