Signs Restaurant (Toronto)

Immerse yourself in deaf culture at Signs Restaurant, a one of a kind restaurant with deaf staff where you use sign language to order from their assortment of high quality dishes.

After hearing about Signs Restaurant at Fan Expo where Cherami Leigh mentioned it during an anime panel I quickly made a reservation through their website.

Upon entering through the front doors of this unique dining establishment you are quickly greeted by the Maitre D’ (who managed to get my name on the first try- a feat which many if not most in the past have failed) and immediate took us to our table.

The restaurant is decorated with various posters of signs- such as how to say “Thank You” and the entire alphabet (one poster each), from “A” to “Z”.

Once you are seated someone will come with your waiter to verbally introduce the concept but afterward you deal exclusively with the deaf waiter.  You order your meal using sign language- the menu has pictures to show how to do the signs and the table has a cheat sheet on it that shows you various signs such as indicating allergies, saying thank you, and asking for a split bill.

After ordering the waiter shows you a picture with the name of the dish on it to double check that they correctly understood you. Since I ordered three dishes the waiter also showed me the order the dishes were to come out in and gave me a chance to make changes.

It is as difficult as you want it to be. If you want to challenge yourself to not making any gestures, keeping your lips sealed, and perfecting the signs in the menu that is your prerogative. I myself let several words slip (like the odd “thanks”, “yes”, and “no”) and made a lot of hand gestures which in hindsight likely had unintended meanings.

The Food

There are cheap but good quality cocktails at $7-8, and beer as low as $5.5 for a 20oz pint. Alcoholic drinks took a while to come but non-alcoholic drinks arrived quickly.

Chili Lime Shrimp: On the expensive side. Three large shrimp for $15, also came with corn and a small pile of greens as garnish. Shrimp tasted excellent, good amount of lime flavour and not spicy at all. Would recommend if you don’t mind dishing out extra cash or to split with one or two other people.

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Duck Confit Poutine: Good quality poutine with a pile of duck confit in the centre. A sizable amount of duck confit, was not disappointed. For $11 it is a great value and very filling. If you want to keep things on the cheaper side this would be an excellent starter dish to share, or even to have as your main course.

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Pork Belly Bahn Mi: Very filling and a good bang for your buck at $15. Comes with fries, soup, or a salad. I got it with a caesar salad. Good medley of flavours and a generous amount of pork belly.

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The Owner

The owner came by and talked to us for several minutes at the end of the meal. He asked us for feedback and explained the idea behind the restaurant. The owner told us 80% of deaf people are unemployed- which makes a restaurant like this an amazing opportunity.

He was very friendly and told us a few funny stories involving signing- in all cases wait staff remains polite and friendly. It truly added to the experience to have this one-on-one with the owner at the end of the meal.

Rating

Price: 4/5: Food is reasonably priced, minus the costly appetizers. Drinks are very cheap.

Atmosphere: 4.5/5: Upscale, unique, and very welcoming. Appropriate decorations. Informative and interesting experience of deaf culture.

Service: 4/5: Servers are very patient and helpful. Service is definitely on the slow side- the owner mentioned that most employees lack former experience and given the inherent complications of the unique restaurant design this is mostly admissible.

Food & Drink: 4.5: Was expecting a drop in quality due to the restaurant’s nature but was pleasantly surprised. Good variety of dishes.

Overall: 4.5/5

To try Signs Restaurant yourself:
558 Yonge St.
https://signsrestaurant.ca/

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Mamakas Taverna (Toronto)

Upscale Greek restaurant in downtown Toronto with a full view kitchen offers pricey unique dishes and excellent seafood.

When you think Greek food you probably think Greek salad, crispy fried calamari, and olives galore. Mamakas Taverna attempts to provide a new twist to the cuisine; unfortunately you’ll only get a taste as most portions are rather small.

This is by no means a tasting menu restaurant, as the portions while small are quite filling. Tables seem to be set up to accommodate larger groups, and the menu is set up for ordering a bunch of dishes- mostly sides, salads, and starters (and maybe one main if you’re willing to dish out the extra cash). We had about 7 dishes for five of us (including two mains) and it was very filling.

The waitress was super friendly and accommodating. She paced the meal perfectly and gave us a ton of options for exactly how we wanted the meal to play out (timing, order, pauses).

Tzatziki House Dip ($7) – came with fresh hot pita bread with olive oil drizzled over it. It was creamy, salty, and sweet, and just enough for the five of us to have our fill.

Oktapodi (Octopus) (main, $20)- very pricey but cooked to perfection. Soft, mushy texture, with flavours that melted in your mouth. If you’re a fan of octopus don’t leave the restaurant without trying this!

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Horiatiki Salad ($18)- barely enough for each of us to have a small taste of each ingredient in the salad. Nothing special apart from the high quality ingredients.

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Whole Grilled Sea Bass (main, MP)- Amazing. salty crispy skin, and flavourful fish with a brilliant olive oil glaze, excellent portion size. A few small bones but nothing major.

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Keftedes (Meatballs) ($14)- sauce adds strong mint flavour, the unpleasant tough outside texture on the outside is easily forgotten as you taste the flavourful blend of pork and beef.

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Spanikopita ($12)-, perfectly cooked crispy pastry with rich creamy spinach. Small portion size.

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Aginares (Fried Artichoke) ($10)- very small and pricey dish, melt in your mouth texture and very flavourful but outside was burnt and crispy.

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Halloumi ($14)- salty, sweet cheese, grilled to give a rubbery texture, plus sweet grilled peach wedges that melted in your mouth.

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All food and alcohol menu items are Greek.

We were seated right beside the open concept kitchen- amazing view of meal prep and cooking added a lot to the overall dining experience.

4/5

To try Mamakas Taverna yourself:
80 Ossington Ave.
http://mamakas.ca/

Oyshi Sushi (Toronto)

If you find yourself on Queen’s Quay looking for a quick, easy, and inexpensive bite, then Oyshi Sushi is exactly what you’re looking for! Unlike most restaurants in downtown Toronto the prices here are very reasonable. My meal ended up being under $15 and it was surprisingly filling.

After taking an embarrassingly long amount of time to figure out how to get to the restaurant (and nearly entering a private apartment complex in the process), I sat down at the sushi bar for my meal at about 1:30PM on Friday.

Sitting at the sushi bar I was able to see all of the Japanese decor- signed baseballs, pictures of baseball players, fishing antiques, a katana, and various trophies. It felt like I was looking at someone’s past memories of growing up and living in Japan.

The restaurant is small and quite crowded, with a few booths and tables, and about six or seven spots at the sushi bar. It was nearly full when I arrived yet immediately the lightning fast waitress gave me a menu and asked if I would like anything to drink. I decided on Sushi A ($11.95), which came with 8 pieces of nigiri and 3 maki rolls, and included a soup and salad to start.

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Sushi A: Chef’s Selection of 8 Nigiri, plus 3 Maki

Miso Soup: Standard miso soup with a good amount of toppings.

Garden Salad: Perfect amount of dressing and not too sweet, but otherwise nothing special.

Nigiri: The fish was very good and tasted quite fresh with the perfect amount of wasabi in it. Unfortunately, there was too much rice, which was a bit tough and took away from the great flavour of the fish itself. It also would have been nice if three of the eight pieces hadn’t been salmon.

Maki: The entire roll was very mushy with some dry, flaky shrimp tempura. It didn’t taste very good with its poor blend of flavours. Was a disappointment after the great nigiri.

A quick and inexpensive sushi restaurant sitting right on Toronto’s Harbourfront. Excellent nigiri and high fish quality but avoid the maki. Great decor and lightning fast service. I would highly recommend trying this if you’re in the area.

4/5

If you want to try Oyshi Sushi yourself:
12 Queens Quay W
Menu

Cheers,

FP

The Ultimate Student Cookbook

When I had first taken up a serious interest in cooking this cookbook was gifted to me. It was a massive help. It had a decent variety of common dishes and gave me recipes that taught me the essentials of cooking. Not to mention it had copious amounts of pictures which made each step easy to follow.

For the most part, this is a great cookbook to get you started. But there are some problems with it that should be noted before you consider getting it, or making it your only cookbook:

Almost every recipe tells you to add A LOT of garlic. I like things tasting garlic-y, but this cookbook takes things to a whole new level. I was using half the garlic the recipe asked for.

Most of the recipes are far from healthy. So if you’re using this cookbook for every meal it would be extremely difficult, perhaps even impossible, to maintain a healthy diet.

It is very much a beginner cookbook. Which is good for its intentions, but once you’ve made a few dozen recipes you get bored and start to want more variety.

This cookbook is perfect for students who want to get an intro to cooking, while still eating most of their meals on campus, or from the microwave. However, if you want to pursue cooking as a hobby, it will only last you a few months.

Reference: The Ultimate Student Cookbook

Cheers,

FP