This place will become your home

Dine: Glassroots

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I won’t lie -– when I lived in London I came here almost weekly and it is easily my favourite restaurant in London. What started off as an assignment for the Gazette quickly became a weekly ritual and a second home.

Between the weekly rotating menu, the incredible wait staff, kitchen, and owners, the homey and intimate atmosphere, the locally sourced decor, and much more (I could go on for ages), everything comes together in a perfect medley. Within but a year of opening they’ve won numerous London restaurant awards. Growing up in Toronto I’ve been exposed to a lot of quality food, but even their top ranks seldom come close to Glassroots’ unique and ambitious design.

Drink: Milos’ Craft Beer Emporium

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Its rare to find a pub in London that has exemplary food and drink, friendly service, and a relatively quiet atmosphere. Nine times our of ten, Milos’ has it all. The staff can excitedly describe their best and most popular brews of the day (or the brew of your choice) and welcome familiar customers.

As far as drink concerned, there is a rotating menu of over 30 craft beers on tap (plus wines, bottles, and mixed drinks). But the fun doesn’t stop there; their food menu is to die for. Milos’ is an ideal spot for lunch or dinner as well – I recommend trying the cheese (and charcuterie) board.

Indulge: Marky’s Creperie

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Jenny Jay // The Western Gazette

Personally, I cannot say enough good things about the owner, Milica Markovic. I found myself ordering from here more often than I’ll admit. My go-tos were always Fruity Haze Nut and Omelet but the rest are amazing as well.

While ordering in gets you the good taste, it severely misses out on the excellent atmosphere of the location. One wall is chalk full of affirmations that somehow manage to dwarf in comparison to Markovic’s brilliant attitude – an attitude that rubs off on the students working there. Perhaps the most magical part of Marky’s isn’t just the attention you get, but witnessing other regulars who have been coming for years interact with the owner – every bit of which is like seeing two long lost friends reunite. Perhaps if you stay around long enough you’ll join those ranks too.

 

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Dessert with a side of inspiration

This article originally appeared on www.westerngazette.ca

By Ellis Koifman

Marky’s Crepe Cafe is a small, intimate spot at the end of the Richmond Row where you can enjoy a large selection of crepes and enjoy the inspirational messages covering the walls.

Owned by Milica Markovic, this little shop offers 20 different kinds of crepes. While people may typically associate crepes with the Nutella-filled joys you can find at various places around the city, here you’ll find a huge selection of crepes that can be eaten for a meal or dessert.

“If other places have waffles or crepes it’s only one or two kinds because they serve other food. Here, we are specifically crepes and waffles,” says Markovic. “We also make crepe cakes. Nobody does that in London. 15 layers of crepes and different fillings. Really unique cakes for birthdays.”

The crepes range from “Fruity Hazelnut” with Nutella, strawberry, banana and whipped cream to the “Omelet” with scrambled egg, bacon, onion and tomato. They even offer some chicken crepes. Markovic emphasizes there are also vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options.

Beyond the food lies the heart and soul of the business — Markovic. She is at Marky’s seven days a week working hard to ensure every customer has a great experience.

“It never gets boring because you always have somebody to talk to, to laugh with,” says Markovic. “Lots of our customers like our store because we have a friendly image; they come and say they feel like family.”

In the years since the restaurant opened it has also gained a number of regulars who come in and chat with Markovic and the staff. Some couples even started dating at Marky’s and now bring their children with them to enjoy the crepes.

Despite being popular amongst students today, Marky’s had a rough start. She attests her success to being patient.

“Impatient people, they expect big success, they get disappointed and they close,” she says. “Patience, patience, patience, always…. I could go in some different field, but if [you’re] good in something I think you should keep doing that.”

An entire wall of the small restaurant is covered in inspirational messages, some of which Markovic says had real changes on the customers’ lives. Students sometimes take pictures and then later return to tell Markovic how much of an impact they had.

Markovic came to Canada 25 years ago from Yugoslavia and started from almost nothing, having lost her nutritionist credentials in the move, only to persevere and open a successful crepe cafe in London. She uses this experience to impart life advice on her customers (typically students), acknowledging today’s difficult job market and emphasizing patience.

“I believe if you like something, if you think you are good at something, then you should keep doing that because results will come.”

Marky’s Crepe Cafe can be found at 484 Richmond St. and is open seven days a week.

Glassroots – local food from the heart

This article originally appeared on www.westerngazette.ca

By Ellis Koifman

Glassroots is the newest dining experience to come to Richmond Row. After a hugely successful summer of dinner service, they’re soon opening for lunch with reasonable student prices.

The idea behind Glassroots is its grassroots approach to everything from décor to construction to food. Everything is local; everything comes from the heart.

“We are fiercely local. Almost everything we do comes directly from farmers, directly from local buyers,” says Mike Fish, co-owner and front-of-house manager. “A lot of our cherry tomatoes and our herbs come from our patio. We’ve got 22 planter boxes that surround the patio.”

Located where Veg Out was open for several years, this new restaurant with new owners is entirely vegan. But you won’t find the word “vegan” anywhere in the restaurant. Instead they want to be known for their environmentally friendly and healthy experience.

“For us it was like every other restaurant, the food just happens to be vegan,” says Fish. “We get people in all the time… They’ll leave not having a clue that they just ate at a vegan restaurant. That’s really neat.”

If you check the Glassroots website, you’ll be able to find last week’s menu with items such as the mushroom melt burger and the late summer barbeque bowl. Whereas most restaurants will change their menu quarterly, they have a new one every week. “After the end of one calendar year we’ll have done 50 menus, which would take a restaurant 13 years to do,” says Fish.

Fish shares ownership of the restaurant with Glassroots’ chef Yoda Olinyk. The pair’s lives have always been surrounded by food.

When Olinyk was 18, her parents split up and she was left with the responsibility of cooking a decent meal for her dad and herself. “I bought a cookbook and pretty much since that first meal I made… I just loved it,” says Olinyk. Since then she has worked at several restaurants and ran the first plant-based catering company in southwestern Ontario, often serving at vegetarian and vegan events.

Fish’s story is similar. He discovered a love for food and worked in the food business. At the age of 18, he got into bartending and learned the “artistic mixology experience” at the Whistler Fairmont in British Columbia. He has spent years working as a wine rep and has become known for his drink-mixing skills.

Sitting down for a meal at Glassroots will provide you with more than just a vegan dining experience — you’ll get to join the intimate atmosphere that Fish and Olinyk have created. With their limited hours — only open five days a week — they’re able to prioritize interacting with their patrons.

“That’s why our tagline is ‘A food and wine revolution’ — we really want to change the way people think about food in general,” says Fish. “Everyone can be comfortable here.”

“At the same time, we wanted to have a place where vegans or anyone dabbling in that lifestyle could come in and not just have a kale Caesar,” adds Olinyk. “We’ve got everything from Creole food to Mexican food to Italian food to Asian-inspired dishes.”

On Sept. 30 Glassroots will be opening for lunch. Olinyk emphasizes the value-driven reasonable prices for take out items like fresh soup and salad. If you’re downtown and in the mood for a new experience, Glassroots is the place to try.

Glassroots can be found at 646 Richmond St. and is open from 4:30-11:00 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday (soon opening for lunch).

Experiencing Alo Restaurant

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Alo is a filling tasting menu experience that leaves you speechless.

Toronto has its fair share of restaurants with extravagant tasting menus. Each is known for its fantastic food, but is limited by one critical aspect – you leave hungry.

My visit to Alo Restaurant was to celebrate my 22nd Birthday. After struggling to get reservations, I was given the opportunity to eat at the Chef’s Table with my family. This involved enjoying a 17 course meal that I can say with certainty was the best dining experience of my life.

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Upon entering you go up a squished elevator and walk out to an elegant upscale dining room. On one side there is a bar and on the other are tables. In between the two is the Chef’s Table – a bar counter with six seats looking into the open kitchen – where I enjoyed my meal.

From the vantage point of the Chef’s Table I was able to peer into the beautiful process of creating and plating each dish and even having a few dishes served by Chef Patrick Kriss himself.

Food

Each course was a small piece of art, making you focus on savouring the combination of fresh high quality ingredients rather than having you rhythmically consume a heap of food without much conscious thought.

While the courses are too many to recount, a few stand out as highlights of the night.

Kusshi oyster: a single oyster on a bed of crushed ice, seemed so minuscule, yet easily stood out as the best among many dozens of oysters I’ve enjoyed in the past year.

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Toro: as a sushi fanatic I was thrilled when this was served. This fatty piece of tuna belly had quality reminiscent of Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo, Japan.

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Bluefoot chanterelles: a slightly salty and very memorable mushroom dish with rich creamy flavour.

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Hamachi sashimi: the chef finished the dish with a sauce just after it was served and personally explained the dish. As with the toro, the fish was the freshest and best quality I have experienced.

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Beef rib cap: a relatively sizeable chunk of meat served with puréed mushroom and king oyster mushrooms. Despite being the only meat dish in the seafood-heavy tasting menu that evening, it fit perfectly, its rich flavour setting the bar high for future steak dinners.

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At the end of the meal three hours had elapsed and I was too full to consume another morsel of food. In addition to giving me the meal of a lifetime I was left more than satisfied, a genuine surprise considering the nature of upscale tasting menus in Toronto restaurants.

Truly, Alo Restaurant is the right way for a tasting menu to be done. If you’re looking for a celebratory meal that is worth every penny and will be memorable for years to come, this destination is a must.

Rating: ★★★★★

 

Review: Antonio’s Steakhouse (April Fools)

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If you’re looking for one of the most disappointing steakhouse experiences of your life, look no further than Antonio’s Steakhouse on John St., just south of the newly opened Fish Market.

Catering to a student audience, this restaurant brings in a life-changing assortment of flavourless dishes that make you question why you ever even bother eating. The potential of food being this bad will turn any adventurous foodie into a pasta-with-butter-everyday fiend.

As soon as you walk in you are greeted by the magnificent wait staff, who quickly seat you at a table seemingly meant for a large party. It’s meant for you. Just you. Any other guests you brought along will be asked to wait in the lobby until you finish your meal.

As soon as you see the menu your jaw will drop. We’re talking 16oz Wagyu beef steak for $10, 32oz 60-day aged prime ribeye for $15, and a wide range of salads for $40 a piece.

Naturally, I went for a salad – it is a steakhouse after all!

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It was a traditional caesar salad with a vegan twist.

A highly interesting medley of romaine lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, croutons, vegan ranch, lavender and, last but not least, sand.

Needless to say the salad was drier than an oasis in the desert and more flavourful than a piece of cardboard covered in tomato sauce (AKA gluten-free pizza).

The sand added a strong crunch to every bite that the croutons just didn’t quite provide. Insufficient dressing made the salad even drier – more so than a swimming pool in the middle of the summer.

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The beach I’m told the sand came from

For dessert I had the 16oz filet mignon, but was disappointed at the lack of sand which I had grown accustomed to, so I sent it back.

At the end of the meal my friends were waiting for me, starving and begging me for any leftovers I might have from my tedious 14 hour meal (they had been locked inside the restaurant by the manager about halfway through my meal after my friend Greg attempted to escape leave).

After thanking the wait staff and leaving a 4% tip (followed by a 15% tip then a 20% tip after a series of angry glances by the knife-wielding head chef) I ran out of the restaurant with my friends never to return.

Rating: 2/17

If you’d like to try Antonio’s Steakhouse for yourself I suggest you don’t.

Happy 4th of July April Fools!

Images: Pexels (3)

Londonlicious

Londonlicious is London’s take on Toronto’s notorious Summer- and Winter-licious events. Unfortunately, the pricey menus leave little room to explore local cuisine.

The event features prix fixe menus offered at a collection of popular London restaurants. This provides people an opportunity to taste popular dishes, without paying full price. If you have a really good experience during the event, maybe you’ll come back for the full menu, ready to dish out more cash.

Londonlicious includes a good number of top London restaurants, but most menus have shockingly high prices that leave you little room to “try” anything and hardly give you any real bang for your buck.

One example is Fellini Koolini’s, an upscale Italian restaurant downtown known for its quality and reasonably priced dishes. You would think Londonlicious would be a perfect opportunity to test this place out before suggesting it for a special night out.

Among other high priced items, the lunch menu includes a seven-ounce New York striploin for $35 (with appetizer and dessert).

Other top restaurants offer more of the same. Dinner at Garlic’s is $35/person, as is dinner at Blu-Duby and Che Restobar.

With prices like these you’re better off paying the same (in some cases a bit less) for their full menu, where your options aren’t limited to a prix fixe menu of questionable value.

Fortunately, Tamarine, an upscale Vietnamese restaurant offered a dinner menu for $25/person, so I was able to give it a try without having to dish out a ton of cash.

The owner said things have been very busy, especially on weekends.

That said, the restaurant was already busy with plenty of reservations being made when I visited on a Tuesday evening.

Tamarine’s Londonlicious menu features several dishes spread into appetizers, entrées and desserts.

A waitress commented that the Londonlicious menu has Tamarine putting its best foot forward.

The food was fantastic, which combined with the reasonable price made it a saving grace of upscale Londonlicious restaurants this season.

With such a significant student population in London it would be nice to see more affordable menus offered by restaurants participating in Londonlicious.

Hopefully in future years the student population will have more of an opportunity to taste the culinary diversity the city of London has to offer.

Review: Tamarine by Quynh Nhi

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Once recommended to me as a top restaurant in London, Tamarine is an upscale Vietnamese place that easily lives up to its reputation.

The atmosphere sets the tone for the meal: an elegant display of unique lighting fixtures and paper lanterns, which help make the restaurant warm and welcoming.

Staff were extremely friendly, pacing each dish perfectly and frequently checking to ensure the meal was to my liking.

The cocktails are all in-house specials that complement each and every one of the menu options.

While looking at the drink menu the owner came over and talked to me. He knew my name (presumably from when I called earlier to confirm the reservation) and asked where I was from and how I had heard about the restaurant.

In addition to offering a warm welcome, he suggested getting the Mekong Martini to drink– a sweet and sour cocktail with a strong taste of lychee, lime and mango.

Food

Canh Chua Soup:

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Tamarind soup base, chicken, plenty of vegetables including baby okra, pineapple, two large pieces of tomato, cabbage, slivers of celery and plenty of sprouts; garnished with basil & chili.

A fresh, spicy soup with plenty of vegetables. You are given the option to remove the chili, which otherwise gives the soup an extra spicy kick.

Chicken Pad Viet:

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Vietnamese rice noodles, chicken, baby bok-choy, celery, green onions, sprouts and fresh chives; garnished with crispy shallots and served with chili-lime soya sauce.

The light soya sauce adds a sweet undertone that brings out the best of every ingredient. Chicken isn’t as much a pronounced feature as it is a well-portioned complement to the rest of the dish, which offers a nice medley of flavours.

This is a fantastic dish in all of taste, portion and aroma.

Black Eyed Pea Che:

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A petite sticky rice dessert that offers a light, fluffy and creamy blend of perfection in a coconut milk reduction. The dish is accented by black eyed peas that bring a nice contrast.

Each bite is a heavenly bliss.

If you’ve never had sticky rice before, this is absolutely the place to try it.

Conclusion

As a Torontonian I admittedly had a combination of high expectations and low hopes, but Tamarine shone through and really impressed me. I highly recommend giving this place a try!

Rating: 5/5

http://www.tamarine.ca
118 Dundas St.

Cheers,

Ellis Koifman