Saturday, February 23, 2008

19. Iran: Pomegranate

420 College Street
(just east of Bathurst)
416 921 7557

Reservations highly recommended.

To the Pomegranate restaurant on a Saturday night. We arrive at 5 o'clock, just as the doors are opening. Soon tables are filling up in this well patronized restaurant. They're not open for lunch and they rely on two sittings each night so if you're planning a leisurely meal, it's best to let them know. Many folk, without reservations, were turned away while we were there.
We enjoyed a shared starter: noon-o paneer-o gerdu which included creamy feta cheese, black kalamata olives, herbs and walnuts served with warm Barbary bread, $5.95.
Our main courses were: mirza qasemi with baqali polo - charred eggplant purée in a mildly spicy garlic tomato sauce served with saffron basmati rice and salad, $12.95; Adas polo - lentils, dates and sultana raisins blended into a saffron basmati rice topped with crispy onion and barberries, $9.50; morasa polo - jewelled rice (slivers of seville orange peel, almond and pistachio with diced carrots and barberries blended in saffron basmati rice) served with a braised lamb shank, creamy yogurt and salad, $14.95; aloo gheysi - bokhara plums and dried apricots in a saffron sauce with boneless chicken pieces served with creamy yogurt, $13.95.

We round out the meal with Robert’s Rock South Africa Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon, Persian tea, Persian rose-water ice cream with slivered pistachios and pomegranate seeds. This restaurant scored high all round with good food that was beautifully presented, pleasant service, exquisite decor and reasonable prices.

Ambiance (4)
Service (3)
Food Presentation (4)
Food Quality (4)
Value for Money (4)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

18. Hungary: Country Style Restaurant

Country Style Hungarian Restaurant
450 Bloor Street West
(just east of Bathurst)
416 536 5966

Cash only - no credit cards or Interac.

In the heart of Toronto's Annex neighbourhood, the Country Style has been serving huge portions of traditional Hungarian dishes for over 43 years. At one time there were 5 or 6 Hungarian restaurants on this stretch of Bloor Street West, but now only the Country Style remains.
The wiser members of our group ordered from the appetizer section of the menu and were not over-faced by massive portions: cabbage roll with potatoes on the side $ 7.95; perogies and sausage, topped with heaps of fried onions $8.95; and a large bowl of chicken noodle soup for $4.95. The main courses came with a choice of coleslaw, beets, cucumber or lettuce salad to start and either rice, dumplings, home fries or mashed potatoes on the side. The chicken paprikash was deemed bland and the veggie offerings - breaded mushrooms or cheese - were distictly lacking in veggies (even a few carrots on the plate would have been nice).
The dining room is surprisingly light and clean with traditional art work on the walls. Most of the other diners were speaking Hungarian to the team of friendly and helpful waitresses who kept up a brisk pace.
We ask for suggestions when choosing dessert and are not disappointed with the chestnut puree [pictured here] $6.95 and chocolate filled crepe, $3.00. We linger, chatting over coffee and are not hurried out of the restaurant even though they are fairly busy.

Rating: Ambiance (3)
Service (3)
Food Presentation (2)
Food Quality (2)
Value for Money (2)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

17. Cambodia: Khmer Thai

Khmer Thai
1018 St Clair Ave W
(east of Dufferin)
416 654 0609

It's -30C with the wind-chill factor when we get off the bus a block away from the restaurant. I'm instantly taken by a large oil painting of the Cambodian country side [seen here] and the pots of tropical plants on the window ledges.
I ask if they have ginger tea. It's not on the menu but they quickly make a pot from fresh ginger root and don't charge us for it. The guava drink is not as thick and rich as we're accustomed to.
For starters we try the fish cakes which come with a tangy, orange sauce and diced tomato and cucumber $5.99 [seen here] and veggie spring rolls, which are a bit disappointing at $3.99. We choose these main courses: number 12 - Thai Green Curry Chicken, $7.89; number 37- tofu with red curry, basil, coconut, peanut and rice, $6.45 and number 33 - tofu with red curry and vegetables and rice $6.75. The portions are generous so we take some of it home. We've wisely left room to try the only dessert on the menu - banana fritter with ice-cream which is delicious. Total for three dinners $37.84 plus tip.
Friendly, helpful service slowed down somewhat when a party of seven arrived. Many folks pick up take-out orders and regular customers were greeted warmly.

Ambiance (2)
Service (3)
Food Presentation (3)
Food Quality (3)
Value for Money (4)

Sunday, February 3, 2008

16. Korea: Booungee

Booungee or Owl of Minerva
700 Bloor St West
(Between Christie and Bathurst)
416 538 3030

This restaurant is located in Koreatown which is one of Toronto's newer ethnic neighbourhoods. Don't be put off by this special sign at each table, "Small intestine of cattle with vegetables in a hot plate. $11.99." We met with a kind reception, had we eaten Korean food before and did we appreciate it was quite spicy? enquired our lady server. Free appetizers, shown here, were warm, mashed potato salad; seaweed with spicy sauce; cabbage with sesame seeds; tofu with spicy sauce and a welcome water jug. A small touch often neglected elsewhere.
We tried: Kimchi - cabbage and radish soaked in salt water, then seasoned with different spices before being fermented. Nakji Bokkeum, stir fried octopus with carrots and onions. Japchae - noodles made from potato and sweet potato, with mixed vegetables, soy sauce and sesame oil.
Open 24 hours a day most patrons are Korean youngsters and Korean television is playing constantly. Total cost: $29.69 plus tip for three generous lunches - enough food left over for a takeaway. A truly exotic experience at an everyday price. We picked up some nice produce from a local fruit & veg shop before hopping back on the subway.

Rating: Ambiance (3)
Service (3)
Food Presentation (3)
Food Quality (3)
Value for Money (4)