Saturday, June 23, 2007

Politica - 127 Strachan Ave.

Graham: A week ago Friday we visited Politica for dinner right after work (around 7pm). We sat outside on the patio under the huge umbrellas. Liz had the Quattro pizza and I had the goat cheese penne. We both really enjoyed our meals and decided to return to the restaurant last night with the camera so that we could blog our experience.

We headed out to the restaurant a bit later this week, around 8:30pm.

When we walked in the main dining room was full, and it was a bit too cold to sit outside, so we were seated in the second dining area at the back of the restaurant, near to the kitchen. Liz snuck a photo of the main dining area from our little room.

We ordered the house red wine, and the "Crispy Cornmeal Crusted Calamari" to start. Try to say that 5 times fast.

The calamari arrived fairly quickly, and had a very creative presentation. I could definitely taste the cornmeal in the batter. The squid itself was a little chewy, but had a nice flavour, especially with the lemon and red pepper sauce that was drizzled on top. We quickly polished off the appetizer, and ordered our main meals.

While we were waiting for our meals to arrive, the restaurant continued to fill up. Even our little room at the back became quite full, and the two waitresses were running off their feet. Some of the tables in our room were given bread, while others (such as ours) were not. After about 45 minutes of waiting, the waitress came over and told us that our meals would be out in "two more minutes". Fifteen minutes later our food arrived.

Liz ordered the pizza special, which was pepperoni, old cheddar, mushrooms, tomatoes, and chili flakes. Liz doesn't like spicy food, so she asked the waitress to "hold the chills", to which the waitress replied "hold the cheese, ok." Luckily for us that she repeated it back so we could catch her error immediately, or we probably would have had another half an hour waiting for them to correct the mistake.

This pizza (along with the one we had the previous week) was excellent. I ate two pieces, and the only thing I think was missing was the chili flakes. We probably should have asked for them "on the side", which also might have saved us 50 cents (more on that later).

I ordered the "Grilled Frenched Veal Chop". I'm not sure what the verb "frenched" means exactly. I was interested to see what a 30$ piece of meat tastes like.

I discovered a 30$ chop tastes much like a 10$ chop. It was tasty, but nothing special. The best part about this dish were the sweet potato french fries that the chop was served on top of. I've never had them before, the salty/sweet flavour is surprisingly good. I think we'll try to make them at home some day (and save ourselves 30$).

We completely cleared the table of food. We barely saw our server the whole meal. I drank my water and Liz's, and could have used a refill.

Eventually, the bill arrived, and it contained a little surprise:

If you click on the photo for a larger view, you'll notice that we were charged 50 cents to hold the chili flakes off the pizza. What's the deal with that? Is it a "chef inconvenience" fee? If anything we saved him some inventory and work. I just don't get it.

I now have really mixed feelings about Politica. Overall, the food ranges from fair to excellent, but some menu items are very pricey for what you actually get. The service seems to be variable, probably depending on what time you arrive at the restaurant. I do think we'll probably return to Politica in the future, making sure to arrive early and probably sticking to the pasta and pizza portions of the menu. They also serve weekend brunch which we might decide to try out sometime.

127 Strachan Avenue
(416) 366-0990
Price: 90$ dinner for 2 people
Rating: 3/5

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Cafe Cinquecento - 791 King Street West

Graham: Just east of the intersection of King and Niagara, two doors down from the The Foggy Dew Irish Pub, there lies a small, easy to miss restaurant named Cafe Cinquecento.

Liz and I drive past this restaurant every day on our way in to work, and we've been looking forward to trying it for some time now. Yesterday we finally got our chance to dine at Cinquecento with some of our friends. We invited our two favourite couples to join us: Mira & Djula, and Ana & Milan.

We arrived around 2:30pm, and the place was pretty deserted. The patio out front looked very inviting, but unfortunately it was a bit too cold to sit outside in the shade.

Inside, the atmosphere is very warm and comforting. There is a bar in the main room with a very large cappuccino machine, and only has one beer on tab (Stella).

At the back of the restaurant there is a large chalkboard displaying the day's specials above a window to the open kitchen.

After ordering, the waitress brought out sliced Italian bread with oil and balsamic vinegar dip, which we promptly devoured. She brought a second round, which disappeared just as quickly.

Some excited talking and waiving arms caused a bit of an accident. No problem, waitress helped clean it up in seconds.

Ana ordered the Calamari Alla Positano, which is squid in a jalapeno tomato sauce.

We all sampled the squid, which was good, but possibly a bit overcooked (it was a bit rubbery). The sauce was very tasty. Mira favored this meal.

Liz: I found it a bit too spicy for me. The squid was a bit rubbery. If you're in a mood for a spicy seafood meal that's light, this might be good choice.

In my opinion the best squid we had so far was at The Bungalow Cafe.

For my meal, I chose the Saltimbocca Di Vitello: Veal Scaloppini with prosciutto and sage. It was served with a side of vegetables, carrots, potatoes, and some unidentified green vegetable that was not spinach, but not entirely unlike spinach.

This dish tasted pretty good, but was not great. The layer of prosciutto added a nice bit of saltiness to the veal, and the vegetables were tasty, although I didn't care much for the mysterious green thing. Overall, the dish was nothing special, and yet it was the most expensive of all the meals ordered.

Elizabeth chose the special: Spaghetti with fresh clams in white wine sauce.

Liz: Out of all the meals we ordered at Cinquecento, this one was my favorite. I've been trying to find a pasta dish that's not covered in a creamy sauce but has a bit of cheesy flavour to it. I had a dish like this at Mike Ditka's Restaurant in Chicago and have been craving it since. This meal came pretty close to what I was expecting. The spaghetti were al dente and tossed in olive oil. There was white wine sauce at the bottom of the plate and i was able to dip pasta into it. This was much better than to have the pasta soaked with oily sauce. I enjoyed my meal and would order it again.

Milan chose the Funghi Pizza.

The thin crust was topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella, and mushrooms. The waitress also provided a hot-pepper oil for us to put on the pizza. I sampled this pizza, and really liked it, despite the fact that I am not the biggest fan of mushrooms. I thought the oil was a perfect compliment to the flavour of the sauce.

Mira ordered one of the lunch specials on the menu, the Cinquecento Panini with minestrone soup.

The panini contained prosciutto, provolone cheese, arugola, and tomato. Mira said she enjoyed the meal. I has a small piece of the sandwich, which like my meal, was good but nothing special.

Djula ordered the Tortellini.

The tortellini was cheese filled, and served in a tomato cream sauce with mushrooms and pancetta. Everyone tried a bit of his meal, and it was the clear favourite of all the dishes. The tomato cream sauce had a very delicious rich flavour. The next time I return to Cafe Cinquento, I will definitely be ordering this as my meal.

Considering the quality of the food, the prices are fairly reasonable. The food total came to eighty dollars, but with drinks, tax, and tip the total was one hundred and twenty dollars, about twenty dollars per person.

Overall, I really enjoyed the meal and the atmosphere. Unfortunately, I pass this restaurant often, and it never seems to be very busy, especially compared to its neighboring restaurant The Foggy Dew. I'm hoping that this place does not close down due to lack of business, because I'm looking forward to returning here.


Cafe Cinquecento
791 King Street West
(416) 203-9390
Price: 120$ for 6 people
Rating: 4/5

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Foggy Dew - 803 King Street West

Graham: After two failed attempts to get into The Foggy Dew, we finally succeeded on Thursday evening.

The Foggy Dew is at the south east corner of King and Niagara. The daily specials and draft beers are displayed on a chalkboard out front.

We arrived around 6pm and the place was already pretty full, there were only a few tables available. The atmosphere is very warm and cozy. There are televisions scattered all over the place, making it easy for anyone at your table to see whatever sporting event is on.

For my meal, I decided to go with a pub staple, the club sandwich. It was served with fresh cut fries, and creamy coleslaw.

My meal was great.
I really enjoyed the fresh cut fries, and Liz must have too because she ate most of them. The sandwich and coleslaw were also very good. I wouldn't hesitate to order this again.

Liz decided to go with the Thursday special, Liver and Onions:

Liz: I was excited to order liver & onions because it has been a while since I've had it. Back when I worked in Welland, Ontario one of my favorite lunches was beef liver & onions over mashed potatoes at the 'Blue Star' cafeteria. It cost $4, and came with a free pop. If price is any indication of how good a meal is then $11 bucks for the same meal should give me some darn good food, right?

Not quite.

After my first bite I forced myself to try 3 more but could not continue. I was pretty upset with how poor my food tasted. I had a small lunch at work and was quite hungry. The mashed potatoes were watery and tasteless. Heated up frozen peas .... not my taste. The liver tasted bleak, and the gravy just made it worse. After the waitress spotted my plate still full and pushed to the side (picture below) she asked me if the food was alright. I told her I was not happy with my meal and could not eat it. She said, 'Sorry', and brought us the bill. It bothered me that I was asked to pay $11 for the food that was not edible. I wanted to leave the place ASAP.

I rate my meal 1/5

Thanks to our favourite couple, Ryan & Monique, for the gift certificate. The prices here are fairly reasonable, and it covered most of our meal.

But, I didn't eat my meal.. I guess you can't 'return' a meal even if you have a receipt.

This place has become very popular. If you're going to try and get a table on the night of a hockey or basketball game, make sure to arrive early. They fill up quickly and stay full for the whole event.

True. We tried to get in on the St. Patrick's Day, for lunch, but it was sold out.

This is our third time at this pub and every time the atmosphere is friendly and relaxing. Its a great place to go with your buddies and watch a game while chugging beer and eating fries.

Overall, the dinner was pleasant, and I enjoyed my meal. I'd rate this place at about the same level as the Old York, although I think I prefer the Old York's more secluded patio.

Despite my meal review I will give this pub a good rating. The reason being that interior design that makes it my favorite place to watch a game. The seating arrangement creates relaxing and 'at home' atmosphere. TVs are set up in such a way that its easy to see whats on from where ever you may sit.

The Foggy Dew
803 King Street West
(416) 703-4042
Price: 40$ for 2 people
Rating: 3.5/5

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Niagara Street Cafe - 169 Niagara Street

Graham: When walking from King Street to the Old York Bar and Grill 2 weeks ago, we noticed a nice looking restaurant on Niagara Street. It looked really inviting, so we decided that it should be our next destination. So it happened that on a freezing cold Saturday evening we made our way to the Niagara Cafe for dinner.

We found the hours and single page menu posted on the fence in front of the restaurant. The menu advertises, "We proudly use naturally raised meats, organic dairy, and local artesian products".

Inside, the restaurant is essentially one fairly small room with tables tightly packed in. Brown paper covers each of the candlelit tables, and soft ambient music plays in the background. The atmosphere is warm and cozy, but due to the number of tables in the small room, I found the noise of people talking at other tables to be a bit distracting.

Before we ordered, the waiter brought us potato bread with roasted pepper oil and olives.

I've never eaten potato bread before, and it was delicious. The inside is a little more chewy and more dense than normal bread. The loaf was prepared with potato skins on the top, giving a flavour of baked potato. The oil and peppers perfectly complimented the flavour of the bread.

For my appetizer, I chose the grilled octopus with almonds in charred onion broth.

I had high hopes for this dish, but I found the octopus to be a bit too chewy (maybe this is normal for octopus?) and without much flavour except for the charred parts, which were bitter. The onion broth it was served in was also not exactly my taste, and had a bit of an unpleasant flavour.

Elizabeth ordered the soup of the day, which was parsnips with cream.

Liz: When I was little, my mom used to make chicken soup with carrots and parsnips. Oh, how much I hated parsnip! I would always pick them out, yucky.
So, when I heard that this soup was all parsnips, I just had to try it.

Either parsnips have changed, or my taste has. The soup had delicious sweet flavour, kind of like squash but I could definitely make out the parsnip taste. It was rich and creamy, perfect for a cold day. I would definitely have this soup again.

For my main course I chose the pork with white beans and vegetables.

The pork itself was perfect. On the top, the skin was hard and crispy, which went well with the juicy meat inside. Unfortunately, the sauce for this dish was ok, but not great. The flavour of whatever bean/vegetable combination it was made with really did not compliment the flavour of the pork. It's too bad because with a better sauce this dish would have been fantastic.

For Elizabeth's main course, she chose the duck breast with cabbage and spanish paprika sauce.

Liz: I was really hoping for duck not to be too greasy, but it was :( Grease seeped into the soup base so savory cabbage tasted greasy as well. Meat was juicy and flavorful and there was just the right amount of it. All in all, the dish was average. I would probably not order it again.

Overall, the experience at the Niagara Cafe was pleasant. The service and atmosphere were good, but the taste of the food did not dazzle us. I can't help but compare this restaurant to the Bungalow Cafe (our first review), which had better food for a similar price.

Niagara Street Cafe
169 Niagara Street
(416) 703-4222

Price: 80$ for 2 people
Rating: 3/5

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Old York Bar & Grill - 167 Niagara Street

On Friday evening, after a few drinks and some DDR (that's Dance Dance Revolution for you non-gamers), we decided to head out to our next destination "The Foggy Dew" at the corner of King and Niagara. We actually tried to get out here last Saturday for lunch, but there was a huge line up out front PLUS a cover fee for St. Patricks Day, so we decided to hold off.

We arrived at the pub, and found the place completely full. There was a Leafs game on, and we were informed by the waitress that there were no tables available, and might not be for a few hours (game was still in the first period). So after a short discussion, we decided to try out the Old York Bar and Grill, a pub on Niagara street that we had passed a few times, but have never visited.

This week, we were joined by our favourite couple Ana and Milan.

Inside, the bar is pretty small, about 7 or 8 tables, with a small stage beside the bar. A placecard on the table listed out all the acts that will be playing each Saturday, mostly bands I've never heard of. There is going to be an open mic comedy night next Saturday which could be very entertaining.

Milan ordered the special, which was Haddock and chips:

I had a small bite of it and it was pretty tasty, and not too greasy. Milan said he enjoyed his meal.

I decided on the "Veggie Beer Chili", because I thought it sounded interesting.:

Now, I'm usually pretty tolerant when it comes to spicy food, but this chili was still very hot for me. By the end of it, my tongue was burning and my face was sweating. Fortunately, I enjoy this type of food, but if Elizabeth had ordered it, she would not have been happy.

Liz: I scooped a pea size of chili and my tongue was burning for the next 10 minutes. Toooooo spicy for me.

The chili was mostly sauce and kidney beans, with some pieces of broccoli mixed in, and cheese on top. The taste of the chili was decent, but it would have been so much better if there was meat of some kind in there. It really felt as if something was missing.

Elizabeth got the Falafel Burger:

I actually wanted fries and there were 2 meals that came with the fries: special and burger.
Since Milan chose the special I settled for the Falafel Burger. Lucky me, falafel was yummy. Between the four dishes we ordered I liked my meal the best. Put some ketchup and mustard on it, perfect. Bun was not the freshest, so I took the top bun off. Fries were the typical bar fries, fried in old oil. I enjoyed the tasted of overcooked know what I'm talking about.

Ana got the Jerk Chicken Wings:

The wings were served with a mix of rice and kidney beans. These wings were tasty, but also very spicy.

Oh, oh! I also tasted Ana's chicken wings. S P I C Y ! If you are not into spicy food do NOT order chili or jerk chicken wings. It burned my tongue.

When the meal was over, Milan wanted it to be his treat, but he only had a 500 billion dollar bill, and the bar couldn't make change, so we just ended up splitting the cost.

Overall, I'd recommend this place. The food was decent and reasonably priced. The bill came to just over 66 dollars for the four of us, including drinks. It's a great local pub.

I'd like to visit this place again in the summer, because I think they have a great patio and I really like that they are not located on a busy street.

Old York Bar & Grill
167 Niagara Street
(416) 703-9675
Price: 75$ for 4 people
Rating: 3.5/5

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Red Fuji Sushi - 930 King Street West - Toronto

Graham: Right next door to the Bungalow Cafe, on the north side of King, you'll find Red Fuji Sushi, a tiny sushi restaurant.

We came in and looked around for a "menu". The only thing available was the take out flyer, and the specials written on a whiteboard behind the counter. We sat down at one of the two tables to decide what to order.

At first we thought the selection provided by the take out menu was pretty good. Elizabeth decided on the Seafood Udon (aka #46), and I was going to have the Chicken Set (#42). When we tried to order these, the chef mumbled something like "take too long", and shook his head. So our initial choices were rejected and we sat down again to pick something more to the restaurant's liking.

Elizabeth: The were only serving sushi. Not sure why they have take-out menu.

For our second choice, Liz picked Ume Sushi (#24) and I picked "Special D". These were accepted and we sat back down while the chef made them.

We were planning on eating in the restaurant, but when the food was finished (after about 10 minutes) it was presented to us in plastic containers inside of a plastic bag. We decided to take the food home and eat there. The total price was only 24 dollars, which I found very reasonable.

Both of our meals came with Miso Soup, which tasted a bit more like salty water with rubbery chunks of tofu than the Miso I'm used to.

I didn't like it either. Too watery, not much taste to it.

I took a single bite of one of Elizabeth's sushi pieces (the salmon) and it left an unusual fishy aftertaste that I did not like.

The fish was cut very thin, and not too fresh. There was way too much rice in the sushi. Just like the miso soup, sushi was tastless. I eat 3 pieces and had to throw the rest away. For the reference I think that 'Japango', a small sushi restaurant on Elizabeth st. (Bay/Dundas area), is a bit more pricy but way better tasting.

I will not go back to Red Fuji Sushi. I give this restaurant 1/5 stars.

My sushi selection consisted of 6 California rolls, 5 salmon tempura rolls, and 3 inari sushi pieces. I have to say that I really liked the inari. It's the first time that I've tried it, and the sweetness of the inari along with the saltiness of the soy sauce and the heat of the wasabi was an excellent combination. Unfortunately I didn't enjoy the rolls as much. They were covered in toasted sesame seeds, and tasted ok, but they were nothing special, and the two roll types tasted almost identical to each other.

Overall, I'd say while this restaurant is very cheap, you do get what you pay for and the quality is definitely a bit lower than average. I don't think I'll be going here again.

Red Fuji Sushi
930 King Street West
(416) 603-9992
Price: 24$ for 2 people
Rating: 1/5