Guu SakaBar (Toronto, ON)

Located on Bloor St., Guu Sakabar is easily one of my favourite restaurants in this city. If you are looking for an authentic Japanese izakaya (tapas) experience, this is the place for you! (Approx. $15-20/person + drinks)

Guu SakaBar operates on the same basis, menu, and overall feel as it’s original location Guu Izakaya, but can be distinguished by a few key features. It offers a quieter section where you take off your shoes and sit at lower tables for a more traditional Japanese feel (if you want to sit in this area be sure to arrive early, or reserve a spot in advance!). There is a different sake selection, which includes the Murai Family Junmai- a must for those looking for a good drink to have before or with dinner! Finally, in my experience at least, the food is made a bit better at this location (odd considering the other location is the original).

I went here yesterday and got three dishes that I’ve never tried before, which I figured would be the perfect opportunity to attempt a ‘non-bias’ review of the food. I kept things exciting by getting Kurage (Jellyfish), Gyu Carpaccio (Beef Carpaccio), and Kabocha Korokke (a pumpkin/egg croquette).

The Kurage ($5.50) was sweet tasting with an odd crunch to it, and was served with glass noodles and a dressing reminiscent of (or possibly the same as) the one used on seaweed salads.

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The Gyu Carpaccio ($7.20) was amazing- slightly seared on the edges with a drizzle of wasabi mayo and ponzu sauce made it a very exciting dish, I was tempted to order another. The meat was chewy (to the same extent as carpaccio usually is) but the sauces made every bite (chew?) worth it!

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Finally, the Kabocha Korokke ($6.00) had a texture reminiscent of baked potato, but was made from pumpkin and had a hard boiled egg in the centre. I found this to be a bit too much for one person, but I’d expect it to be a great dish to share between 2-4 people. Only get this dish if you really like pumpkin.

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Overall, this restaurant is truly unique for Toronto. It offers an authentic Japanese Izakaya (tapas) experience, two areas- each offering a different look into Japanese dining, a wide variety of food that you’ll rarely (if at all) find anywhere else in Toronto, reasonable prices ($15-20/person) and enthusiastic staff. If you love Japanese food and want an authentic experience, this is the place to come.

5/5

If you want to try Guu SakaBar for yourself:
559 Bloor St. W
http://guu-izakaya.com/sakabar

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168 Sushi Buffet (London, ON)

I am a massive fan of sushi. I’ve been eating it since I was about five years old and have been to several of the top sushi restaurants in Toronto as well as to Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, Japan. Additionally, I have recently learned how to make it myself, which has allowed me to get a better sense of what’s good and what’s not.

Living in London for university I find myself going for an AYCE (All You Can Eat) Sushi Lunch at least once or twice a month with friends. There are several options for this, a few of which I may review at a later date. However, my personal favourite is 168 Sushi Buffet.

On most visits the rice is a decent quality, not seasoned too well but when you’re downing an excessive amount of sushi you tend not to notice (I may simply have higher standards because I have made it in the past), it is also room temperature or cold, which does make it slightly less enjoyable. If you’re lucky you’ll get your sushi when the rice has been freshly made and is still warm, which in my experience makes the sushi more tasty.

The fish itself isn’t great to be honest, but it’s more or less the best you’re going to get at an AYCE sushi place in London, ON. The cost for lunch is $14.95 on weekdays, and $15.95 on weekends.

You use an iPad with food organized into simply categories to pick from the large selection of food, then tap the “Call Server” icon and your server will appear within a few minutes, if that. Even on busy days the service is very fast- a side note here: the hot food tends to arrive before the cold food. The only true downside to the service is the random unexplained disappearance of things you have ordered. Typically with the sheer quantity of food my friends and I tend to order it’s not much of a problem, but it is really annoying when you’ve been waiting for over 30 minutes for a particular roll or set of rolls. Reminding the server usually fixes this problem, but it happens far too often to just look past.

While the quality of the rice and fish is certainly not top notch, the combination of fast service, easy ordering, large selection, and reasonable cost makes this place worth visiting for lunch when you have a craving for AYCE sushi.

3/5

If you want to try 168 Sushi Buffet yourself:
660 Oxford St. W, London, ON
http://www.168sushibuffet.com/

Cooking Essentials

I’ve found that most students have no idea where to even begin with getting their kitchen ready to make basic meals. Apart from having the proper pots and pans that they bought or share with their roommates (and in many cases have never touched), they really have no idea what to do. Before I started investing more time into my passion for food I knew how to make pancakes, pasta, omelettes, and… yeah that’s about it actually. It’s easy to watch a cooking show and think you need a bunch of complex stuff, and its also easy to think you can get away without a lot of essential equipment or ingredients. This post will help you find a middle ground between those two ends of the spectrum.

1) Knives

(Optional) Chef’s Knife: I say optional because you can probably just get away with pairing knives, but it would make your life 10x easier to get a proper chef’s knife. They tend to be a bit more costly ($20-40) but are definitely worth the cost. Get one with a good grip and that feels good in your hand. If you only buy one knife for your kitchen, I highly suggest you make it a chef’s knife.

Pairing Knife/Knives: These are smaller knives that are ideal for cutting vegetables. If you want you can use them for other things like meats, but it will be more difficult.

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2) Basic Tools

I’m going to assume you already own a set of pots and pans, wooden spatulas, and the like and talk about things that tend to be less common among students living away from home.

Box Grater: Instead of buying pre-grated cheese it tends to be a lot cheaper to grate your own. Not to mention it can be used for any other recipe that involves grating things.

Cutting Board: Pretty self-explanatory. Good to have at least one or two of these of a medium to large size.

Parchment Paper/Aluminum Foil: Use it to cover your baking pans so you aren’t constantly having to wash them. The parchment paper is a must when using a bamboo steamer.

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3) Basic Ingredients

(Extra Virgin) Olive Oil: Used mainly for coating pans or cooking pasta. I use a cheaper one for most things, but occasionally use a more expensive (better tasting) one as pasta sauce.

Salt & Pepper: For seasoning in most recipes.

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Butter: Used mainly for coating pans and is a key ingredient in a lot of recipes.

Eggs: Not 100% necessary but good to have for cooking a lot of different kinds of breakfast. I use it to make pancakes.

Milk: Again not 100% necessary, but also good for cooking (or having with) breakfast.

I may add more to this post later on so be sure to check back occasionally.

Cheers,

FP

Pasta Tips

During my first year and a bit of living on my own for university I came to find myself cooking pasta a ton. It takes 10 minutes, it’s easy, limited clean up, and it’s a good break from microwave meals. While some people can just eat the same pasta with butter or pasta with bought sauce over and over again, I find that can get really boring really fast. So here are two quick and simple ways to make pasta more interesting, without taking more than 30 seconds more out of your day:

Tip 1: Salt and Olive Oil

Rather than just walking away for 10 minutes once you’ve added your pasta to the water you can do two quick (less than 10 seconds) things to make your pasta-eating experience better. Adding a few dashes of salt to the water will make the pasta taste a bit better (seriously, just grab a thing of salt and flick your wrist a few times, doesn’t need to be exact), and will also prevent the pasta from sticking together. Adding about a tablespoon, more or less, of olive oil will help prevent the water from frothing and boiling over.

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Tip 2: Whole Grain Pasta

After eating countless boxes of white pasta last year I had a chat with a friend studying Food and Nutrition about eating healthy, and was told that whole grain (NOT whole wheat) pasta is a healthier choice. Even if you don’t really care about the health benefit, it does change up the flavour a bit, so that should offer at least some incentive.

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In my next post I’ll be talking about kitchen essentials.

Cheers,

FP

Simple Stir Fry

Stir Frys are really easy to make and take about the same amount of time as making pasta (which I’ll explain how to make more interesting in my next post!). They can be more healthy as well depending on if you add vegetables and/or meat. Here’s a simple recipe for making one:

Prep Time: 10mins

Serving Size: 2

Ingredients:
150g rice noodles ($3/kg from Food Island)
2-3tbsp soy sauce or teriyaki sauce
1tsp honey
2tbsp olive oil
Optional: 1 clove of garlic, crushed
Optional: 1/2 green pepper, finely sliced

Ingredients

Directions:
1) Boil water in a pot, once it starts boiling turn off the heat and add the noodles
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2) After six minutes strain and set aside
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3) Heat olive oil in a wok or pan on high
Optional: Add garlic and pepper and let cook for 3mins, stirring occasionally
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4) Add noodles to pan
5) Add soy sauce/teriyaki sauce and honey and stir until everything is mixed together
6) Put everything onto a plate or in a bowl and enjoy!
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