Ditch Your Picky Eating Habits

I had a picky eater friend in university who stands out from all the rest. Whereas most picky eaters would perhaps have a list of ten or twenty acceptable foods, he had maybe five. These were limited to: steak/beef, chicken fingers, pasta, tomato sauce, and pizza. (Okay, I’m exaggerating, but not by much). As a foodie this habit drove me insane and naturally led to many discussions about the merits of trying new food.

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The most adventurous dish my friend tried in university.

If you’re a picky eater, I strongly urge you to ditch your habits. First and foremost, it helps fill my ego when someone ends up loving a food I recommended to them. But as much as filling my ego is awesome, it also gives you the ability to open your mind.

Now, you’re probably wondering, how the hell eating some sushi might open your mind. I’m not talking about an unprecedented blast of flavour changing your world. I’m also not talking about telling a potential employer how worldly you are because you went to a poke place once. Eating new foods helps you open your mind by exposing you to new cultures and unique values. 

For example, let’s say you’re like my friend and only eat typical broke university student foods for 98% of your meals. After 300 invites to go to Korean BBQ you finally break and accept, promising yourself and others that you’ll eat more than just the beef.

You arrive a tad late after battling food anxiety (I’m told this is a thing) and discover your friends have already ordered. For those of you familiar with Korean BBQ, this means they’ve brought the unlimited sides (kimchi, sweet potato, salads, cold soup, lettuce, onions, sauces, lotus root, glass noodles, and more).

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Just look at all those sides!

Kimchi is thrust upon you and you take your first bite. Then another side and another. Eventually, you find one that you love or at the very least tolerate. As the meal goes on your friends tell you about the different types of foods in painstaking detail as that’s the only way you’re willing to try them. By the end of the meal you’ve learned a bunch about typical Korean foods that everyone loves and your culinary palate is slightly larger.

As you begin to explore more cuisines your curiosity grows and you question why Asian food has so much rice (history lesson about Asia), why vegans are obsessed with eating local (farm to fork movement), why Indian food is so spicy (valued cooling effects of hot food), and more. Even if you don’t turn into a full blown foodie like what happened to me, you’ll more than likely end up learning a lot of new things. As an added bonus, you’re likely to get invited to more hangouts and making friends with people from other cultures will become easier. And perhaps greatest of all, travel will become less scary and more enticing.

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Lessons in history (Tokyo).

In case education, new friendship opportunities, and travel aren’t enough to convince you, take this word of advice from the once super-picky-eater friend of mine:

For me it was like, well, I know I’m not allergic to anything (or there’s a 0.0001% chance I am but who knows), so why shouldn’t I just go for it?

Worse that happens is I don’t like it.

As a foodie, blogger, and fellow human being, I sincerely hope you’ll think twice before your next meal of chicken fingers and push yourself to try something new. And remember, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.

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Travel Blog #6: Osaka Nightlife

August 25: Aided by the air conditioner I had set to 18°C (to remind me of Canada), I finished my nap and made a beeline for some dinner.

It should come as no surprise that my first proper meal in Japan was sushi. I opted for a conveyer belt restaurant since they’re plenty of fun. The meal came with free matcha green tea, which I was absolutely stoked about.

If the sushi in Taipei was 10x better than back home in Toronto, then the sushi here was 10x better than Taipei. Best sushi of my life at the best prices of my life.

Exhibit A: Otoro (fatty tuna)

– The highest quality tuna, revered for it’s ability to melt in your mouth (and in my case, appear in dreams).
Canada Price: $16-20
Local Price: ¥291 ($3.43)

While I won’t break down their costs, the other pieces were just as amazing.

The plan for after dinner was to head to Dotonbori for shopping, but I stopped in my tracks after spotting something that I couldn’t pass up: an owl café.

Sunset Owl Café charged ¥1,500 for 50 minutes with the owls and a can of good beer (or juice, milk, or tea).

I ordered my drink, paid, and stepped into the owl room. The entire 50 minutes was spent in that room (apart from leaving briefly to down my drink). Between talking to the owl caretaker, petting the owls’ beaks (anywhere else usually makes them anxious or sad), and taking a ton of pictures, time just flew by.

I also got to hold an owl.

Then take more pictures.

When my time was up, the staff thanked me and I went on my way to Dotonbori

Only a few minutes later I hooked myself into another stop that would last from about 9 p.m. to 12:50 a.m. It was a multi-floor arcade called Round 1.

The first floor was all claw machines (and it was here where I spent the majority of my evening). I won two large plushies and a big box of cookies. By the end of the night, I was going around helping the occasional Japanese person win and save several hundred yen in the process.

The other floors had coin pusher games (like an entire floor was just that game x200), rhythm games, fighting games, and more (plus three floors of bowling).

By the end of spending a perfectly reasonable amount of time and money at the arcade, I desperately needed some sleep. Instead, I went to a 24-hour restaurant for some sukiyaki.

From there, I set out on the very long walk to the AirBnB (transit was closed and there was no way I was going to take another taxi anytime soon). An hour went by and I stopped into another place for some more food (and honestly some rest since my legs were killing me). This time I got a japanese omelette, beer, and roast beef (for under $10 by the way).

At 3:30 a.m. I was home. Tired and exhausted I laid down and went to sleep.

Travel Blog Entry 3

August 19: Having thoroughly not beaten the jetlag I decided to have a slow morning, skip breakfast, and sleep in. I made some calls to family and friends and then decided to explore a much more exciting part of town: Ximen. 

So far I had only been to Da’an, which is a residential district (located near the previous day’s Taipei 101); Ximen was a HUGE change of pace. 

Having landed in a busy square I struggled to find the restaurant I was seeking out for lunch. Getting lost several times along the way was part of the adventure, but my rumbling stomach wasn’t very amused. Finally, I made it to my destination; I arrived at Modern Toilet.

As they say, when in Rome… Uhh.. I mean Taiwan.

Looking past the absurdity of it all, the décor and atmosphere was great. As with everywhere else in Taipei, the staff were extremely friendly. I ordered my food (bread, and beef curry) and waited patiently.

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves, but I will say one thing: depsite looking like crap, that food tasted amazing!

With newfound energy I sprung forth from the building to begin my adventure anew!… Okay, okay, I awkwardly walked out of the restaurant and tried to find my way back to the main area. 

Over the next few scorching hot hours I found various strange shops:

A candy shop that sold everything from sushi shaped sweets to chocolate condoms (not sure if flavoured or just chocolates, but they were all over the shop), to first aid kits; also normal chewy gummies, for the less adventurous lot.

Several shops selling all the random Japanese/Chinese gadgets you see back home in Canada and the States (except here they cost a fraction of the price). Beyblades, Pokémon merch, multi-coloured cat lamps, piggy banks with cats that collect the coins, and more.

And a two-floor One Piece shop (it’s a very well known anime, for those unaware). 

I eventually got overheated and tired and started making my way back to the AirBnB for some rest. On the way, I stopped to try a Taiwanese delicacy: Mango shaved ice.

It was amazing!

When I got home I had spoke to Ren for a bit (the owner of the AirBnB) and then watched some movies before passing out for the night. (By the way, Taiwanese Netflix is MUCH better than Canada’s)

August 20: Again I had a slow start to the day so at around 2 p.m. I arrived in the northern area of the city. 

After struggling to figure out the buses for about half an hour I made it to the Northern Palace Museum.

By the time I left, several hours later, I hadn’t even seen half of the museum (perhaps I will visit again another time). Here’s a fraction of the exhibits I saw:

I found myself desperately craving Japanese food. Luckily, I stumbled upon Sushi Express, which is one of those sushi-go-round places with the little plates. Each plate here costing about $1 US.

I really did mean to take more pictures of the food…

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: 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.

Review: Miku

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Smoked Soy Grilled Octopus

While Toronto is no stranger to upscale sushi restaurants, Miku’s focus on aburi makes it a unique experience and a must-try. Bay street bankers, sushi fanatics, and people celebrating special events will enjoy the high quality fish here.

Recently opened at Bay and Queens Quay the atmosphere fits the location. Whether you’re sitting at the bar, at a table or in a booth your meal will be an absolute pleasure. Lighting fixtures hang down from the ceiling piquing any and all architectural curiosities.

If you are unfamiliar with the cuisine, or with aburi sushi, fret not. The wait staff will provide in-detail explanations of each dish and its preparation. They are efficient in both their delivery of information and of the food itself.

As an appetizer we shared the Smoked Soy Grilled Octopus ($19): togorashi spiced crispy chicken skin, ruby steaks mustard greens, sea salt crusted baby potato, meyer lemon, wasabi chimichurri and aioli. Octopus was plentiful in this dish, making it well worth its price.

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Aburi Sampler

Their aburi is lightly seared by a butane torch to provide a unique texture without letting the gas seep into the flavour. Each piece is paired with its own sauce or garnish to maximize its flavour and give you the exact experience the chef has designed.

From their chu-toro to their oshi (pressed) salmon aburi everything tastes amazing and leaves you wanting more.

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Salmon Oshi Sushi

The quality of the fish used in their aburi and nigiri was reminiscent of Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, Japan.

The premium nigiri comes with six delectable pieces, offering a wide variety of flavours. Salmon, mackeral, chu-toro and others are possibilities according to the chef’s choice when ordering this dish.

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Premium Nigiri

The waiter noted that the shrimp head is fully fried and fully edible, albeit sharp. (I took him up on this suggestion and found it to be very crispy and fairly salty, an interesting experience, but not something I would go out of my way for).

Served with their nigiri is both standard and high quality soy sauce.

À la carte is also an option with everything from mackeral to o-toro.

The quality of their food is not limited to their sushi.

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Cast Iron Baked Mussels

Cast iron baked mussels are a must-try: wild boar bacon, brussels sprouts, melted iwa-nori butter and grilled lemon.

I strongly recommend dipping the mussels in the butter that helps bring out their rich flavour.

To finish things off we got the dessert option of Warm Matcha Chocolate Fondant: valrhona dark chocolate, molten matcha ganache, roasted berries, white chocolate powder and jasmine tea ice cream.

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Warm Matcha Chocolate Fondant

Warm chocolate and matcha filling ooze out of the cake as you cut into it. Each decoration on the plate is an interesting addition to the already fantastic dessert and shouldn’t be ignored.

I have nothing bad to say about this restaurant. It has a great upscale atmosphere, efficient and informative service, reasonable prices and excellent food reminiscent of Tsukiji. It would be a shame to visit Toronto and not give this place a try.

Rating: 5/5

http://mikutoronto.com/
105-10 Bay Street