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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Grab Sushi Safely

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Not many people are aware of what exactly makes a sushi restaurant trustworthy. This is pretty scary considering you’re eating raw fish – a lot can go wrong. I’ll spare you the details, but let me just say food poisoning is only the tip of the iceberg. Here’s some tips to help you stay informed about quality when it comes to sushi places:

Chef’s Experience

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A lot of health risks are associated with bad fish. If it doesn’t smell right, if the cut isn’t good, if the supplier isn’t reliable, if it’s strangely cheap, if the quality isn’t checked upon arrival, you can be put at a serious health risk. These are all things that an inexperienced chef can easily mess up. So if they don’t look like they know what they’re doing, it’s probably a good idea to walk out.

Proximity of Wholesalers

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Many sushi places in London get their fish from Toronto – this is considerably less fresh than getting it that morning from the market. When it comes to sushi, it’s almost all about freshness, every second counts. This is why a lot of small towns won’t have sushi places – they simply cannot get fresh enough fish for it to taste good.

Proximity to Body of Water

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This ties into the previous point and is also useful for getting live fish, a step up from the already fresh market. If you were in a desert town and they said “fresh atlantic salmon” on their door, would you trust them? You shouldn’t. Where the hell is that fish coming from? I can guarantee it’s anything but “fresh”. The fact of the matter is, if you’re far from any body of water, you’re not going to have have high quality fish.

Timing

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Going for sushi during the week is ideal because chances are the restaurant isn’t getting another delivery of fresh fish until Monday morning. Unless it’s an upscale place that gets special delivery, on the weekend they’re likely to be using leftovers from Friday night. That means Saturday isn’t very fresh and Sunday… Just don’t. Monday you’re probably fine unless it’s a less-than-trustworthy place still trying to unload the last of Friday’s shipment through some Monday lunch special. (I highly suggest reading Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, as he goes into a lot more detail about this sort of thing).

Sanitation

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Don’t get sushi from somewhere that looks sketchy. If they can’t keep their workspace relatively clean or handle it with care how much do you want to bet they don’t treat their food with much care either. Of course this isn’t always the case with restaurants – there are some really crappy looking restaurants out there with spectacular food – but when it comes to raw fish, it’s best to play it on the safe side.

Images: GIPHY (6)

Review: The Cactus Club

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tuna tataki

The Cactus Club is a massive trendy new restaurant in Toronto offering a spectacular atmosphere, great service and acceptable food.

Three separate levels split up this 500-seat restaurant. Each floor is trendy and unique.

The first floor was a bar with tightly packed tables, the second floor offered booths and larger tables with a more homey atmosphere, and the top floor was a massive bar area with plenty of tables and a fully retractable roof.

We were seated on the second floor in a booth. Light jazz music set the mood and allowed conversation to be had without difficulty.

Service was very friendly and quick- a surprise given the sheer size of the restaurant. Our waitress never missed an opportunity to inquire about a refill or answer one of our questions about the menu.

The Food

The menu included an assortment of interesting appetizers, meats, salads and pastas. There was also a feature menu of the location’s unique signature dishes.

The tuna tataki appetizer ($15.50) was fantastic. Great portion size with 12 pieces to share between the three of us. While certainly odd to eat this Japanese dish without chopsticks, the semi-rich umami flavour and melt-in-your-mouth texture easily made up for that.

The ceviche appetizer ($16), was the first on a long list of disappointments throughout the evening. Portion size was good, but that’s where the enjoyment stopped. The dish lacked flavour apart from its fishy taste.

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ceviche

The kale + grilled chicken salad ($16.50) was extremely tart (sadly not an exaggeration), making it inedible. We ended up sending it back and swapping it for another salad.

The quinoa salad ($14.50) had a splendour of different ingredients. This too came with several thin slices of chicken breast.

The first few bites were fascinating as your mouth explores the different ingredients and flavours offered by the dish.

However, it quickly became apparent that the dish both appeared and tasted as if someone had thrown leftovers from the fridge into a salad with the hope that it would work- it didn’t.

Both salads, while unenjoyable, had very large portions and could easily be split between two people.

The Duck Confit ($25), a signature dish, was more fulfilling. The single duck leg was cooked to perfection, topped with tons of greens. It was placed on a large bed of lentils soaked in an excess of vinegar, which made them far too tart.

I strongly recommend paying the additional $9 for another duck leg, otherwise the dish is insubstantial.

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duck confit

For dessert we had the key lime pie ($8.25). This and the tuna tataki made up the two saving graces of the meal.

It was very creamy and somewhat rich. It came served with a large dallop of cream on top which blended perfectly with each bite of the delicious pie.

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key lime pie

Conclusions

It comes as no surprise that this restaurant is popular among Bay street bankers. The trendy, unique and vibrant space offers a multitude of dining experiences.

However, the average Torontonian looking for a nice quality meal will be disappointed if they expect anything more than trendiness and acceptable food from this multi-level establishment.

Rating: 3/5

http://www.cactusclubcafe.com/
77 Adelaide St. W.

Cheers,

Ellis Koifman

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Review: Japango

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Sushi Two

Located near Bay and Dundas, Japango is a squished restaurant that offers some of the best sushi in Toronto at affordable prices.

Upon first glance you may be deterred from going to Japango to eat given its claustrophobic atmosphere. It has a very small seating area where even sitting down at your table is a challenge (I nearly knocked over someone’s drink as I was leaving).

The restaurant as a whole can seat about 20 people and is better for smaller groups. I strongly recommend making a reservation (on my first visit here I was forced to leave after being told there was a 45 minute wait time for the four of us).

The waitress was friendly but very distant. She didn’t do much apart from bring us our food and didn’t readily offer any suggestions or explain anything about the restaurant and its menu.

Service was lightning fast, bringing us the appetizer and mains in quick succession (frankly without adequate space between them) only a few short minutes after we placed the order.

The large round plates used for plating were a great addition to the presentation of the meal, unfortunately they hardly fit on the table, especially with the appetizer arriving at the same time.

Food

I ordered the agedashi tofu as an appetizer – four large pieces of (scorching hot) tofu in a bonito soy sauce. At $5 this made for a well valued dish for two.

For my main, I got the sushi two lunch option, which included 12 pieces of nigiri and six pieces of California roll.

Unlike other restaurants which tend to give you a lot of cheap salmon and tuna in the nigiri platters, the chef here at Japango gives you a good assortment of fish – my sushi two included hotate (scallop), hirame (halibut), ebi (prawn), sake (salmon), and more.

While California rolls aren’t exactly authentic or known for quality, the ones included in the sushi two lunch were an exception. They were certainly the best California rolls I’ve had.

Overall, it was an excellent value at the price of $25 plus tax for a fairly filling meal in the heart of downtown Toronto.

I have yet to try anything on their drink menu but I have been told their sake is amazing – particularly the sayuri nigori sake, a sweet creamy sake with a smooth aftertaste and served in a memorable pink bottle.

Rating: 4.5/5

http://www.japango.net
122 Elizabeth Street

P.S. Those looking for an after lunch dessert should check out Uncle Tetsu’s Japanese Cheesecake or Uncle Tetsu’s Japanese Matcha Café, which are both right around the corner from the restaurant. Their cheesecakes are amazing!

Cheers,

Ellis Koifman

Introducing: Sushi Couture

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Sashimi Dinner

Sushi chef Ken Zhang succeeds in bringing the high quality fresh fish of Japango and Yuzu No Hana to the Bloor Street area.

Those used to massive menus at sushi places with tons of specialty rolls, hand rolls, soups and more may be deterred by the simple menu found at Sushi Couture.

But fear not! For most items on the menu are carefully crafted by the expert hands of Chef Ken Zhang, notorious for his work at Japango (arguably the best sushi in Toronto).

The sashimi dinner was an absolute delight. 15 pieces of assorted fish, such as salmon, surf clam and Japanese mackeral.

Unlike most sushi restaurants in the area you can really taste the freshness and quality of the fish – I left with zero doubts of the chef’s skill in finding and properly serving only the best of the best to his customers.

The menu also includes a $75 omakase – a set meal of eight course hand selected and crafted by the chef. While this may seem pricey, it is very far on the cheaper end of the spectrum when it comes to this type of meal.

Sushi Couture sets the standard for how sushi restaurants ought to be – quality fish, reasonable prices and excellent presentation.

http://www.sushicouture.ca/
456 Bloor Street W.