Saturday, May 31, 2008

33. Lebanon: Falafel World

Falafel World
2396 Bloor Street West
(just east of Jane Street)
416 769 9336

No matter when you drop in, Falafel World always seems busy. It's counter service and, to give them credit, they dish it out quickly. This family run business is popular with the Bloor West Village locals but it will never win an eco-friendly competition. Even if you dine in, you're served on foam plates and have to struggle with plastic cutlery.
That being said, the food is consistently tasty, filling, good value for money and there are many veggie options. I order a Falafel Plate - cabbage salad, hummus, tabbouleh, three large falafel balls, tahini dressing, whole wheat pita, $7.00. Add a bottle of apple juice and tax - $8.50 for a generous dinner.
There are a few faded posters of the middle east but they fail to cheer up the gloomy, cafeteria style decor. It's not surprising that much of their business is take-out.
Rating: Ambiance (2)
Service (2)
Food Presentation (2)
Food Quality (3)
Value for Money (3)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

32. Greece: Astoria Shish Kebab House

Astoria Shish Kebab House
390 Danforth Ave
(at Chester)
416 463 2838

A second attempt to visit the Konditor Austrian bakery on Queen near Woodbine failed as they were once again closed, this time without explanation. They've now officially been crossed of the list.
Faced with the dilemma of where to eat, I decide to visit Greek Town on the Danforth on this warm, sunny Saturday afternoon. I get off the subway at the Pape station, start walking westward and am slightly overwhelmed by block after block of Greek restaurants. How to choose? Then I remember friends recommending the Astoria which I found, right outside the Chester subway station.
There is a large patio but I opt for the cool, relatively quiet dining room. Greek music plays in the background and I hear the language spoken by many patrons, although this being Toronto, I hear other languages as well. I am impressed by how quickly tables are bussed and efficiently cleaned and reset.
I order the Traditional Veggie Platter, $11.99 [pictured above]. A basket of bread and at what at first glance looks to be a run-of-the-mill Greek salad arrives promptly. With very fresh ingredients and just the right amount of a well balanced vinaigrette, the salad is refreshingly good. When my platter arrives I can already tell I'll be taking some of it home. Accompanied by potatoes, rice and tzatziki are three dolmades (grapevine leaves stuffed with rice, herbs and spices) and two sizable spanakopita (filo pastry triangles filled with spinach and feta cheese).
Having lived in Toronto over forty years, it's my first visit to Greek Town. I'll definitely be back.

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

Sunday, May 18, 2008

31. Thailand: Thai Chef Cuisine

233 Roncesvalles Ave
416 915 0095

We turned up on a quiet and rainy Sunday lunchtime in this historic west-end neighbourhood, that grows on you, for lunch in this converted bar. Water started dripping from a skylight once indoors. We presented a 10%-off coupon printed out from their website.
We chose for starters: T & T - deep-fried tofu triangles and crisp taro patties with a peanut dressing on the side, $5.95, tasty and different; spring rolls - three pieces of typical Thai restaurant fare $3.95.

Main courses were: Radnar Raummitr - Fried thick noodles topped with tiger shrimps, chicken, squid, and vegetables in Thai gravy, $ 10.95, light on shrimps; Spicy Eggplant - perfectly cooked baby eggplant with perhaps too many large chunks of onion, $8.95; Cashew nut tofu - stir-fried tofu, oranges, bell peppers, cashew nuts, and onions in chili sauce, $8.95; with the last two we ordered two sides of steamed rice at $1.50 (in retrospect we could have shared one; also regret failing to sample the Thai curry).

I had to ask twice for a pot of Ginger tea, which didn't appear on the final bill, $1.95. Whether this was deliberate or not is debatable, we only spotted it on returning home. Acceptable house red wine at $5.50 a glass. Lunch for three $60 including tip. Overall a quiet unhurried lunch in a pleasant part of town.

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

Friday, May 9, 2008

30. Ireland: Whelan's Gate

1663 Bloor Street West
416 531 1311

An Irish pub with local regulars, a short walk from Keele subway station. Their website boasts of fifteen beers on tap, an extensive scotch list and the 'best' Irish whiskey selection in town.
Our dinners from the main menu were:
Fish and Chips [pictured above] - Kilkenny battered fish served with chips and a bit of salad , $12.95 ; Whelan's Nachos - tortilla chips with onions, tomatoes, jalapeños, diced bell peppers, melted cheddar and Monterrey Jack Cheeses $11.95 and a side order of beef chili for an extra $3.00 ( the nachos were over-grilled and a lot of the cheese was welded to the paper lining the tray); Veggie Curry - chickpeas with veg in a hot & tasty sauce, rice and flat bread on the side. From the specials list: Seafood platter- scallops, shrimp, tuna and calamari (the calamari served in one large piece off the grill, was overwhelming. Cut it into strips or rings would have been more manageable), $12.95, and the Polynesian Chicken [pictured below], by far the best dinner of the lot, $9.95.
We were tempted by the Guinness pecan pie $4.95, apple pie and ice cream for dessert, none of which was exceptional.
Service was fairly prompt if a little brusque. We arrived at 18:00 on a Friday evening, when it was fairly quiet, but it soon got busy. The connection of the menu and ambiance to Ireland is somewhat tenuous. Food and beverage total for eight people was $229.39 before tip.
Rating: Ambiance (2)
Service (3)
Food Presentation (2)
Food Quality (2)
Value for Money (2)

Sunday, May 4, 2008

29. Tunisia: Djerba la Douce

Djerba la Douce
1475 Danforth Avenue
416 778 7870
(just west of Coxwell Subway station)

When I phoned ahead to make a reservation, I was told to come in after 6 pm as that's when the server started work. Everything is prepared fresh so plan on a leisurely meal. Our server recommended we start with the traditional Tunisian before dinner drink - mint tea drunk out of small glass tumblers. We order two large pots for the table, and then a third one at $6 a pot.
Our starters were:-salad grill mushwa [pictured here]- garlic, onion, peppers and fresh tomatoes blended with spices olives, bread, $4.95; salad Tunisienne - Tomato, cucumber, garlic, onion, radish and olive oil, $4.75; brique - pastry stuffed with potatoes, parsley, egg and tuna, $3.99; calamari Djerbieno - green onion, garlic, chili peppers and tomato sauce, $5.95; Shrimp la Marseillaise - grilled shrimp, garlic and tomato sauce, $7.50 and
Djerba la Douce soup - pureed vegetable soup, $4. 25. The calamari and shrimp get rave reviews.
For main courses we try: veggie couscous - carrot, chick peas, greens, cabbage on a bed of couscous $9.95; lamb couscous, $13.99, chicken merguese couscous, $12.95; lamb with mint, served with either veggies or couscous $13.95; and the trout and grouper specials.
We round out the meal with Tunisian coffee which separates in to layers and is attractively presented in glass cups, $2.75. Baklava(not overly syrupy) and "sea shells" (small round pastry shells filled with walnuts and caramel) satisfy the sweet tooths.
The Djerba la Douce serves halal food and does not have a liquor license. It's cash only as they accept neither credit nor debit cards.

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