Saturday, June 28, 2008

37. Spain: Casa Barcelona

Casa Barcelona
2980 Bloor Street West
(at Royal York Road)
416 234 5858

You can either order several tapas dishes to share or a main course for yourself. Six of us choose to sample some of the dozens of tapas items from the extensive menu:
Salads: Barcelona salad - tomatoes, cucumber, red onions, extra virgin olive oil; mix salad - spring mixed greens, tomato, cucumber, $7 each.
Tapas: salmon marinado - marinated salmon, grilled peppers, asparagus with alioli sauce [pictured below]; sliced eggplant with goat cheese, organic mushrooms and piquillo pepper sauce; tournedo Rossini - beef tenderloin topped with duck foie & demi glace; grilled shrimps, Catalunian style; Canadian fresh lamb stew; my mother’s chicken and sausage croquettes - $9 each. And mini seafood paella - assorted seafood with saffron rice, $10.
Hubby wanted to try the shrimp paella as an individual main course - shrimps & vegetables in saffron rice, $29. I opted for a very different sounding desert - fig loaf - which is made with dried figs and almonds has a very firm texture and is quite delicious, $7
You write out your menu choices on paper and they arrive as they are ready so you've got a stream of plates being brought to your table. We ask for water and seven very tall glasses appear promptly. They were not overly busy on Saturday lunchtime and service was hospitable and relaxed. The patron greeted us, re-arranged tables for our party in the window and explained the menu. They offer steak-and-egg breakfast on Sunday mornings. Gratuity is added to the bill for parties of six or more. Seven lunches including tax and tip $145.00.

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

Saturday, June 21, 2008

36. Nepal: Mt. Everest Restaurant

Mt. Everest Restaurant
469 Bloor Street West
(between Bathurst & Spadina)
416 964 8849

The decor is a mixture of east and west with comfortable wooden tables and chairs and a typical bar against one wall. Interesting marionettes and large, original oil-paintings of Himalayan landscapes add eastern flavour.
The $8.95 Saturday lunch buffet is bringing in a steady stream of customers of a mixed demographic. There are plenty of vegetarian choices on the buffet for salad, main course and dessert. From the buffet, hubby chooses tandoori chicken, basmati rice, salad, mango chutney, raita, with fresh fruit for dessert. My veggie friend goes to the buffet too enjoys the cucumber salad, Indian fries & veggie entrees finishing with rice pudding & gulab jamun (golden fried balls of powder milk soaked in sweet saffron syrup,served warm).
I order from the menu and choose a traditional Nepalese entree - aloo tama bodi: Potatoes, bamboo shoots, black eye beans cooked with mountain spices, $10.29 [pictured here], naan, $2.29 and follow it with a dessert of ras malai - cottage cheese patty in a sweet milky sauce flavored with saffron and rose water, $4.49, and masala tea $2.49. The buffet is definitely the better value for money but I wanted to try things from the Nepalese rather than north Indian side of the menu and was not disappointed.
Total for three lunches $42.34 plus tip.

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

Saturday, June 14, 2008

35. Tanzania: Simba Grill

Simba Grill
375 Donlands Avenue
(at O'Connor Drive)
416 429 5067

Don't let the sign fool you, this place not does not serve typical Indian cuisine. The Simba Grill is Toronto's only Tanzanian restaurant. Its decor may not be polished but, from the murals to the carved wooden boxes on the tables, it certainly conjures up images of Africa.
Our host, owner Sultan Jessani, was gracious and hospitable. He showed us clippings of restaurant reviews and helped with menu selection.
A pitcher of water and condiments are quickly brought to the table. There are four chutneys, in order from mildest to hottest: tamarind, coconut, green chili with cilantro, and red chili. For a starter, we share the Mogo (Cassava) which is cut and cooked french fry style but has a taste and texture of its own [pictured below], $ 3.75. My friend, who was born and raised in the Congo, opts for the Ugali with bean and coconut curry, $13.50. When her meal arrives, at first she's disappointed that the Ugali is made with cornmeal and not cassava but after tasting it she prefers the East African cornmeal version. She finds the portion generous and so takes some of it home. My Fish Thari arrives on a compartmented tray: seasoned potatoes, daal, basmati rice, whole wheat roti, kingfish steak (cooked to perfection) and pickles, $ 14.00. Again it's a generous portion. Total for two dinners $41 including tax and tip.
We are tempted by our host's description of his Tanzanian style ice cream but will have to sample that on our next visit.
The Simba Grill serves 100% Halal food and does not have a liquor license.

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

Saturday, June 7, 2008

34. Brazil: Caju

922 Queen Street West
(East of Ossington)
416 532 2550

As we arrive at this stylish restaurant in "trendy" Queen St West Friendly, a friendly greeting from the servers makes us feel welcome. The interior has a clean, contemporary decor with gleaming Jatoba cherry wood flooring, wooden table tops and chairs. The framed photos of Brazilian urban and rural life are engaging.
A small wooden platter of bread and butter & glasses of water arrive promptly. Our server described the specials, helped with food selection.
We share a starter [pictured below] : Beringela Grelhada: Grilled eggplant with roasted garlic and goat cheese purée, with field mixed greens and passion fruit dressing, $ 9. Main course: Peixe com Vatapa: Seared fish of the day (today's catch is Monkfish), served with Vatapá (a blend of cashew nuts, ginger and coconut milk) with a red pepper sauce, $ 24. We finish up with decaf Cafe Americano, $2 each and share a rich dark chocolate confection topped with passion fruit for dessert, $7. Total for two with tax and tip, $85.
The quality and freshness of the food is excellent. It may be a bit pricey, but it does not disappoint. The staff are very well trained and gracious in guiding you through an exceptional dining experience.

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