November 28, 2012

Nota Bene

Nota Bene has been around for a long time and no matter how many reviews I have read, I always thought it was a Japanese restaurant. You know what that means? First impressions has a long lasting impact. I had the honor of dining at this restaurant for my birthday, thanks Ah Gor. We arrived an hour early of our reservation, they were accommodating and seated us immediately. Complimentary coat check is available, which is a plus during the winter times.

I really enjoyed this appetizer. The deep fried taro chips paired well with the tuna tartare by adding additional texture to the bite. Since the tuna tartare itself did not have any flavor, the citrus soya provided just the right amount of saltiness. I found the avocado to be over-powering in the dish and took the shine of the tuna. In the end, everything did go well together.
 The lobster salad was order by my friend, and I had a try of the lobster and it was fresh. However, I found the mayonnaise dressing to be uncomplimentary to the dish. I would of preferred it with a light/citrus-y dressing.
The scallops were fresh and perfectly seared. They were topped with a thin slice of salami. The scallops were wonderfully done, no complains here. The big blob which I thought were mash potatoes turned out to be a crab meat puree or something. In the end, it tasted like crab cakes in mash potato form. The broccoli rabe was good and tasted very Asian, like something my dad would make at home. Overall, I enjoyed the scallops, however, I found that the crab cake mash did not compliment the dish at all.
My friend ordered the 8/OZ GRASS-FED BEEF TENDERLOIN which I did not take a picture of because it was literally a piece of meat on a white plate.

We decided to skip dessert as nothing on the menu seemed appealing to me and we were quiet full.

Final Verdict: Par

Nota Bene on Urbanspoon

November 25, 2012

RAIJIN ramen (Toronto)

Okay... I know... I been posting way too many ramen posts, but I promise this is the last one because I have officially been to all of them =)

RAIJIN definitely did not get the press of Sansotei or Santouka. I only figured that this place was opened through reviews on Yelp. The news regarding this ramen joint dated back months ago. No official website is available, all information are found on Yelp. From previous news article I read, RAIJIN is from Vancouver. I arrived at location around 5:25pm and was told they open at 5:30pm and to wait outside. They are very persistent on this 5:30 opening time. It's fine that you open at 5:30 but if your door was open and you even greeted us, is it too much to sit us down while we wait the 5mins?

Spacious interior with more seating along the kitchen bar. Most comfortable seating of all ramen places. 
 Ordered the below ramen with less salt which I regret. I found the broth to be a little bland. The noodles had a good springiness. The black dots you see are house-made black oil which I'm not sure what they are exactly. Flavor wise, I wasn't able to taste anything special The "pork shoulder butt" was tough and lacked in flavor. It was too lean in my opinion. First time seeing cabbage and canola flower as toppings. They were just blanched vegetables. I like the egg, the most flavorful topping. All in all, it was an average bowl of ramen. Nothing particularly stood out for me.
Tonkotsu Shio Ramen
There are currently NO LINEUP as the words have yet to spread. RAIJIN ramen provides attentive service and decent ramen. Would I return? Probably not.

Please see below for my ramen ranking in Toronto.

1. Sansotei
2. Santouka
3. Raijin
4. Kenzo
5. Kinton

Final Verdict: Par

Ramen Raijin on Urbanspoon

November 22, 2012

Afternoon Tea @ The King Edward Hotel's Victoria Restaurant

As an early birthday celebration, I was able to enjoy an afternoon of catching up with my close friends while savoring an array of tea sandwiches and pastries at the The King Edward Hotel. Afternoon tea is offered by the Victoria Restaurant.

A very elegant grand hall with high ceilings and ornate moldings. 

We all selected the King's Tea ($35/person) and comes with the below. As for the menu below, I wasn't sure if we got everything on that list. If my taste-buds were correct, there might have been replacements for some items.

Finger Sandwiches
Lightly Curried Chicken with Mango Chutney
Egg Salad and Arugula
Roast Beef with Watercress and Peppered Horseradish 
Duo of Smoked Salmon and Lemon Dill Shrimp
Thinly Sliced Cucumber and Radish with Cream Cheese
Selection of Delicate Pastries

Summer Muddled Berry Pudding
“Millionaires” Shortbread with Salt Caramel and Chocolate
Wild Blueberry and Lemon Bakewell Tart
Floral Earl Grey Infused Madeleines

Traditional Scones with Currants
Served with Imported Devonshire Cream
And Strawberry Preserves

Your choice of premium tea from our humidor

First tier of petite fours
According to the menu, we were suppose to get the below;

Summer Muddled Berry Pudding ??? I think we got the shot glass of coffee chocolate mousse with pistachio biscotti instead. 
“Millionaires” Shortbread with Salt Caramel and Chocolate ??? No where to be found...
Wild Blueberry and Lemon Bakewell Tart - Did not taste the lemon. The filling of the tart looked like blueberry muffin and tasted like one too. 
Floral Earl Grey Infused Madeleines - No taste of earl grey either.

I think my description of the petite fours sounded a little bitter, but I'm just giving my honest opinion. Nothing was terribly bad, nor was it good. No matter how much I did not get the "Wild Blueberry and Lemon Bakewell Tart" execution, I would say it was my favorite. ***Due to my lack of knowledge on bakewell tarts, I did some research and the center is suppose to be like that, ops~***

Currant scones
King Edward is rumored to have the best scones in town. As a scone lover, it disappointed BIG TIME. They were not flaky or crumb like as scones should be, but they were a doughy bread consistency. They were good as bread, but not as scone. Windsor Arms wins for best scones.

Bottom tier of finger sandwiches
As for the finger sandwiches, nothing stood out and all the varieties were meh.

All in all, I do like the environment but the food did not do the elegant environment justice. Ritz Carlton wins for best dessert selection and overall food palate. Windsor Arms wins for fancy settings and tender scones. Kind Edwards wins... awesome moldings on the wall!

Final Verdict: Par

November 19, 2012


Hmm... I have a mixed review about this place.

I came here with a group buy coupon. Unfortunately, the owner spent half an hour trying to figure out if I've used the group buy coupon before. Someone crossed out my coupon code wrongfully, so the owner spent a while searching through her coupons to see if I had used it before.

After clearing that up though, the rest was fine. This is a small family restaurant and the owners do not speak English very well, so I'd recommend bringing a friend fluent in Korean here. Or come visit without anything that could be a potential hassle (like don't bring a group buy coupon if that'll cause trouble).

My friends and I ordered a few things here. Pork bone soup, Galbi (Korean short ribs), and some kind of spicy thing. I don't remember what she ordered actually, and she can't seem to remember the name either. Forgot to take a pic of the ribs, but I have pics of the other two below. Also ordered Korean pancake and grilled squid. Interestingly enough, they didn't serve the appetizers first. The pancake came after two of the three mains were served, and the squid came after everything else was served.

I'm kind of sad I didn't take a pic of the Galbi, because in my opinion, that was the best dish of the bunch. But maybe I just really like my meat. Very savory. Delicious choice.

<insert delicious looking galbi photo here>

My friend likes to judge Korean restaurants based on how well they make pork bone soup (gamjatang). She liked her dish. I sampled some of the meat, and though the flavor paled in comparison to the Galbi (which was really good!), the meat was nice and tender.

I didn't get to try the spicy-looking bowl pictured below (which I think might be Dwenjang Jigae, which is pork/seafood with veggies and tofu stewed in soy bean paste), but apparently it was disappointing since there was next to no meat in the dish. The soup is supposedly good though.

The pancake wasn't anything outstanding. It had some veggies tossed in between, and there was some kind of sauce included. Not much to talk about here, but it's worth mentioning that this is the appetizer pancake. There's a main course version with seafood mixed into the pancake, but we got this on the side instead.

The grilled squid was quite delicious. They thought they didn't have any more left, but after double checking with the kitchen, they confirmed it was available. The squid is drenched in sauce, but it's not overwhelming (since the squid doesn't absorb the sauce or anything).

So the food can vary depending on what you order and your tastes, but it's still good overall. Don't expect excellent service though. Well, maybe you can if you speak Korean.

Side note: they have free wifi here. I saw several people on computers while eating. It was kind of surprising.

Rating: . I'd come back for the Galbi.

Mihwa restaurant on Urbanspoon

November 17, 2012

Santouka Ramen - Soft Opening (review #2)

Ah, I feel like I'm being pressured by JL to write a review, since she said I would in her main post about the place.

Her post here pretty much addresses everything. Read it if you haven't.

I got the Toroniku Shio Ramen (which, I'm told, is one of their signature dishes). Unlike the other ones my friends ordered, the noodles were separated from the toppings. I'm not entirely sure why they do this. I just dumped it all into the noodles anyway, but I guess it's good if you want to share with others or if there are some ingredients you don't want in the ramen.

The ramen was pretty good, and the meat was nice and moist. The broth was good too, though it was really salty. I asked for the normal amount of salt, but if you plan on getting it, ask for less. I thought I couldn't finish the soup at first, but I ended up drinking it all after getting a bit used to it. 

But seriously, there was like two days' worth of salt in that bowl of soup. If that's how they typically make it, you should definitely ask for less salt if you order this. Others have said it was too oily, so you may want to ask them to cut back on the oil too. I didn't notice this, but maybe I was overwhelmed by how salty it was at first to have even bothered nit-picking at the oil.

Rating: ½        (would've made it a 4/5 rating if it weren't so salty)

Bonus: extra pics!

During the soft opening, these two pages were the only ones we could order from.

Seating in front of an open kitchen for diners looking to quickly slurp down some ramen

Different camera setting to take the same picture I used in the review. I wasn't sure which one would turn out better.

Kara Miso Cha-shu Ramen

Shio Ramen

Toroniku Shio Ramen (noodle)

Toroniku Shio Ramen (toppings)

Total bill(s), after tax

November 15, 2012

Hokkaido Ramen Santouka (Toronto)

This post is fresh off the grill! I literally just came back from visiting Santouka and I want to be the first
to blog about it! I have to say, Toronto is on a ramen frenzy! Following the tail of Sansotei (please read review here and here) and Momofuko, here is Santouka. A ramen chain originated from Japan has various locations around the world. This is Santouka's second franchise in Canada, the first one being in Vancouver (they always get first dibs, not fair). Santouka opened last weekend with a soft opening and is building anticipation for it's grand opening Nov 23rd. During the soft opening, only a limited selection of the menu is available. The place is small like all ramen joints, seating only 23 hungry patrons.

Around 5:15pm, no lineup, yay!
Window display of Santouka's ramen replica. 
The below are the menu pages available during the soft opening. What's special about Santouka?Customers are given options. The option on the hardness of your noodle, the saltiness of the soup, the amount of lard and your portion size. +/- $1 you are able to go up a size or go down a size on your bowl of ramen. 


Another interesting aspect is that waitresses does not take your order on the plain old pen and paper but on an ipod touch/iphone 3 type of device. I'm interested in seeing if an order taking app is developed for use only at Santouka.

By the way, they provide little folders laundry type of baskets for your personal belongs since the space can get cramped.

Pigeon hole of chef assembling our delicious ramen. 
I order Shio Ramen with less salt. I don't tend to like Shoyu or Miso as I have low sodium tolerance. When the bowl of ramen came, I took a sip of the soup. Perfect level of saltiness and just the way I like it, creamy and flavorful. As for the noodle... it was PERFECT as well! It wasn't the white soft noodle Sansotei offered, but it was more like the noodle Kinton offered but better. However, I did find the the amount of oil floating on top to be too much, thus I will request for less lard next time.
Shio Ramen is our signature ramen which is mild and creamy soup seasoned with salt. Shio Ramen is our only ramen that is topped off with a Japanese pickled plum. (from website)
As for the 2 slices of pork belly, I found the cut to be thick and uneven. I prefer my cut of pork belly to be thin where I am able to savour it all in one bite. The side toppings of the ramen needs improvement. I missed my soft boiled egg and julienne sliced black fungus and bamboo shoots. The bamboo shoots at Santouka appears to be the re-hydrated bamboo shoots and not the fresh ones.

Kara Miso Ramen
The review for the below ramen will be updated by the occasional contributor of this blog, RY. Please see review here.
Toroniku Ramen is our signature ramen which has the toppings served separately. Toroniku Cha-shu is simmered pork cheek (jowl) meat. Pork cheek meat is very rare and only 200-300g can be taken from each pig. It has a very rich flavour and it is tender like fatty tuna. (from website)
As of now, the fight for the king of ramen in Toronto is definitely between Sansotei and Santouka. Kinton, please step aside. Sansotei's tonkotsu broth is no doubt the best of Toronto with Santouka a close second. However, Sansotei's noodles are in the needs improvement department, and seems like the owners heard our voices and is now offering a choice noodle. I have to go back to try that option. Sansotei and Santouka are neck in neck in ramen race. To be honest, without having try Sansotei's new ramen option, overall Santouka is a winner for me. The soup, noodle and topping was good. It's a well executed bowl of ramen, the most well rounded bowl of ramen in Toronto.

***Update: 11/21/2012 - Revisited Sansotei, tried their thick noodle option, and I have made my decision. In terms of broth, noodle, toppings and value, Sansotei wins the ramen race in my book =) *** Please see here for update review on Sansotei.

Lineup at 6pm.
Anyways, Toronto's ramen frenzy doesn't stop here. Two more ramen joints are just around the corner and I will definitely try them all~

***NOVEMBER 23, 2012*** Passing by at around 6pm and this is what I saw...

Final Verdict: Slightly Above Par

Santouka Ramen on Urbanspoon