Against The Grain

Against The Grain is a casual tavern that offers Canadian dishes at mid-range prices. It is located in the Corus Entertainment Building and overlooks the nice view of the Harbourfront. 

Having heard good reviews about this tavern from a few friends, I decided to venture out to have dinner here one night with my boyfriend. I thought that the atmosphere was fun and relaxing, but the food and service were definitely lacking. The food took a while to arrive, and our waiter wasn't too pleasant. Overall, my dining experience at Against The Grain was only okay and I don't think I'd return. 


I ordered the house smoked ribs ($19.00) which was sweet hoisin & ginger glazed pork ribs. The dish was served with fries and crunchy coleslaw. I really liked the fries, as they were very crispy. I didn't like the ribs that much as I thought that there was too much sauce on the ribs which made it overbearingly sweet.


RATINGS:

Quality of Food: 3.5/5
Service: 3.5/5
Overall Dining Experience: 3.4/5
Price: $$

Address: 25 Dockside Dr, Toronto, ON, M5A 1B5

Against the Grain Urban Tavern on Urbanspoon

Nak Won

Nak Won is one of the more popular Korean restaurants on Yonge and Finch. I have been to this location about three times in the past year, and it's been busy virtually every time. One of my friends works in the area, so he and I decided to grab dinner here one night (Thursday). 

There are several reviews online that states that the service provided at Nak Won are usually minimal, poor, and rude. I do agree that the service was relatively minimal (gave us a menu, took orders, and then brought food to the table), but our waitress' attitude was pleasant. My friend and I weren't rushed to leave by the staff even after we paid our bill.


The meal started off with small dishes of complimentary bachan. One of the great things about Nak Won is that they offer a wide selection of bachan; kimchi, white radish, seaweed, glass noodles, beans, fish cakes, and bean sprouts.

Nak Won Korean Restaurant on Urbanspoon


Kalbi is usually the classic staple for me; a dish that I'd have to try at least once at every Korean restaurant that I eat at. Looking through their menu, I opted for the LA Kalbi Jungsik (seasoned marinated, and BBQ beef short ribs served on a hot plate with rice) ($12.99). I thought that the dish was mediocre and that many of the pieces contained a lot of fat which I did not like at all. Instead of being savory and tender; the LA kalbi lacked major flavor.


RATINGS:

Quality of Food: 3.4/5
Service: 3.6/5
Overall Dining Experience: 3.4/5
Price: $ || Online Menu

Address: 5594 Yonge St. North York, On M2N 5S2

Nak Won Korean Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Barberian’s Steakhouse


Barberian’s Steakhouse is a traditional steakhouse that opened in 1959, and has been serving the downtown core of Toronto ever since. The restaurant inhabits an old 1860's house so much of the décor inside of the establishment retained that old-fashioned feeling.  


The ambiance of Barberian’s Steakhouse was good as the place offers a cozy and warm dining experience. My companions and I were quickly seated and got a table in the middle of the room for a party of four. 


The meal started off with complimentary garlic bread with butter, and some cooked vegetables. I snacked on the garlic bread as I looked through their dinner menu. Additionally, the menu offers a good selection of steaks ranging from $40.00 to $60.00+.


For my main course, I ordered the Surf & Turf (Filet Mignon & ½ Live Lobster); the menu says "market price" so I didn't know the actual cost of the dish before ordering. It came out to be $77.60, so it was a pretty expensive meal. However, it was a very delicious one, and I enjoyably devoured my dinner.


The filet mignon was a thick piece of beef that was gently browned and seasoned with the steakhouse's signature spice. The spice that was used at Barberian’s Steakhouse really added flavor to the steak. My dish also came with a side order, which I chose fries (as I usually do). Unfortunately, I did not like the fries as it was a little dry.


The lobster portion of the meal was huge, and it had a lot of meat. The chunks of lobster were absolutely delectable, especially when dipped into the hot butter.  


My boyfriend ordered the 16 oz rib steak ($44.00) and he thought that it was delicious as well. I didn't try his plate so I can't comment on his cut of steak.


I rarely drink alcohol, but did find that the wine list was impressive. The entire wine booklet was extremely lengthy and extensive. However, I couldn't help but ordered a glass of red wine ($16.00) to drink with my meal .... unfortunately I forgot the name of the wine.


I ordered the New York style cheesecake ($9.75) for dessert. The flavor of the cheesecake was well balanced (not overly cheesy) and rich in texture.


The one stand-out thing that made my dinner at Barberian's Steakhouse memorable was the sheer professionalism of the staff. They provided exceptional service, especially our sever, Fraser, who was great. He was prompt, friendly, and attentive despite having other tables to attend throughout the restaurant. At the end of our meal; he gifted us a bottle of Barberian’s Steakhouse's signature spice which was appreciated. 


Additionally, he also gave us a quick tour of the wine room that was located downstairs of the Barberian’s Steakhouse. It was quite a sight, as the room displayed more than 1000 different wine bottles (some bottles were priced at $1000 each).

Overall, I had a great night, and would definitely recommend Barberian’s Steakhouse for dinner. This place has top notch service and the food was delicious. 


RATINGS:

Quality of Food: 4.5/5
Service: 4.7/5
Dining Experience: 4.5/5
Price: $$$$ || Online Menu

Address: 7 Elm Street, Toronto, ON M5G 1H1

Barberian's Steak House on Urbanspoon

Vargas Steakhouse & Sushi

This post is long overdue but better late than never. I spent the Canada Day long weekend with some friends in Montreal, QC. Some of the landscapes in the city were really breathtaking but my main focus was on the food. I spent my last night in Montreal eating at Vargas. The restaurant was only an 8 minute walk from The Marriott Chateau Champlain (where I was staying), so it was pretty close by. I was not in the mood for a very long walk anyway :P 


Vargas is a steakhouse and sushi restaurant located in downtown Old Montreal. I was a little skeptical of the idea at first since the two were a rather odd but interesting combination. Stepping foot into the restaurant; I found the interior very spacious and well decorated with modern pieces. There was also an outdoor patio, where most of the customers that night were seated. The four of us opted for indoor seating instead.


Our waiter for the night came over to hand us the menus and brought us glasses of water. We were given a few minutes to decide on our meal for the night. I thought that our waiter was friendly, witty and helpful as he did check up on us throughout the night without being overly imposing. He evened suggested my boyfriend and I to get a dish called The Lost Paradise ($16.00). The dish is described on the Vargas' menu as a creation of "red tuna, spicy crab, avocado, tobiko, smoked salmon topped onto four pieces of salmon tempura leaf". The Lost Paradise was delicately prepared by the chef, and the ingredients that were used taste extremely fresh. The red tuna and smoked salmon were really soft in textures which contrast well with the crunchy tempura leaf. One word = delicious!!


For my main course, I ordered the 18 oz rib steak ($36.00) and had it cooked medium. The food took a few minutes to arrive, and I was pretty much starving. When it arrived, it came out piping hot, and it was huge in size. I thought that the steak was juicy, tender, but a little salty. I chose fries as my side order (as usual). Their fries were cut rather large, but it had a very crispy crunch to it, and it was soft on the inside. I actually liked their fries a lot due to its crisp.


My boyfriend ordered the Caribbean rock lobster tail ($45.00), which was an 14 oz tail with garlic butter. The lobster was pretty large, and the meat tasted so delicious with the butter. My two other friends ordered the chicken teriyaki ($17.00), and braised lamb shanks ($27.00) respectively, and the both of them appeared to have enjoyed their meals. Overall,  I had a nice dinner, and it was a great way to end my trip in Montreal.


RATINGS:

Quality of Food:4/5
Service: 4/5
Dining Experience: 4/5
Price: $$$$ || Online Menu

Address: 690 René Levesque W, Montreal, Quebec, H3B 1X8


Pho Tien Thanh

I was hungry one afternoon and wanted some Vietnamese food. I decided to check online for nearby Vietnamese restaurants and Pho Tien Thanh popped up in the results. The reviews on the restaurants are rather favorable so I decided to give it a try. 


Once I arrived; I realized how the decors were very minimal but the restaurant was completely packed with customers happily eating away. 


There was a long line up inside, and I didn't really want to wait for a table. So we decided to get some food for take-out.

I have read some good things about the pho here, but I didn't order it. Instead, I opted for the vermicelli with pork, beef, and chicken ($8.00). The portion of the meal was pretty substantial and the meats were thinly sliced, and lightly marinated. 

I also ordered two orders of spring rolls on the side (each order comes with 2 spring rolls for $4.00). I thought that the spring rolls were quite different from other Vietnamese joints. The ones here were really long and skinny (pictured below).

RATINGS:

Quality of Food: 3.5/5
Service: N/A
Overall Dining Experience: N/A
Price: $

Address: 57 Ossington Ave, Toronto, ON, M6J 2Y9

Pho Tien Thanh on Urbanspoon

Gold Diamond Chinese Restaurant

Gold Diamond Chinese Restaurant is located in the building that used to house the now-defunct Bright Pearl. The restaurant offers dim sum dishes and Chinese cuisine. 


Like a majority of other dim sum places, customers are given a sheet of paper and pencil to mark off the items that they want. However, I did see a few carts going around the restaurant, so I believe that my boyfriend were just a little late for the cart service.


The restaurant was fairly large, and the ambiance was nice and bright. Additionally, the Gold Diamond Chinese Restaurant has a reasonable selection of dim sum choices and their prices were pretty standard.

The prices are as followed:

small - $2.20
medium - $2.99
large - $3.50
extra-large - $4.50


The deep fried shrimp rolls (L) were really good as it was super crispy on the outside and the insides contained soft shrimp pieces.

Both the steamed shrimp rice roll (L) and steamed beef rice roll (M) were decently made, and has enough filling.


I was underwhelmed with the steamed shrimp & pork dumplings (M) as they were pretty small in size. The shrimp/pork filling was just seasoned okay.

The steamed shrimp dumplings (har gow) (L) were good as its skin was not too thick and the shrimp pieces were plump.


The freshness of the boiled Chinese greens (XL) was definitely notable.

The deep fried crab claw with shrimp paste ($3.50 each piece) was freshly made, but was a little too salty. 


The service itself was a little beyond average as the dishes did arrive quickly to the table, and they do refilled the tea pot. However, our server was unresponsive, and I don't recall him saying anything really (no hello or even you're welcome when being thanked by patrons).

Overall, nothing particularly stood out about the Gold Diamond Chinese Restaurant to me. However, it is a a decent place to get some quick dim sum on the weekend. 


RATINGS:

Quality of Food: 3.5/5
Service: 3.4/5
Overall Dining Experience: 3.5/5
Price: $$

Address: 346 Spadina Avenue, Toronto, ON, M5T 1J5

Gold Diamond Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Toji Sushi

Toji Sushi is a small family-run Japanese restaurant located in the west end of Toronto. The restaurant was clean, and decorated with lanterns, and wooden-panels seating. Toji Sushi has several lunch bento specials which are served from 11:00 am until 3 pm. I opted for the #34 BBQ Galbi bento box ($9.95). 


The bento box (#34) that I ordered came with three pieces of California rolls, steamed rice, four pieces of agedashi tofu, four pieces of galbi, and green salad.


Overall, I enjoyed my bento box. For those who are not familiar with galbi (Korean cuisine); it is marinated beef ribs with special sauce. The pieces of galbi were well-marinated and very sweet. I also liked the tangy salad dressing. The pieces of agedashi tofu ($4.50 for a full dish) were also delicious as they were soft, and the sauce was really good. Additionally, I normally don't like California rolls but the ones here were actually made well.


The toro (tuna belly) ($6.50) was neatly presented on its plate. The two pieces of sashimi were both fresh, smooth, and not overly thick slices, which made it enjoyable to eat. 

The sushi chef was friendly, and had a good sense of discipline. My overall impression of Toji Sushi was that the food was really good, and the service was friendly and relatively quick.


RATINGS:

Quality of Food: 4.4/5
Service: 4.4/5
Dining Experience: 4.4/5
Price: $ (lunch)

Address: 5088 Dundas St W, Etobicoke, ON M9A 1B9

Toji Sushi on Urbanspoon

I-Cook Buffet

I-Cook Buffet is located in a plaza located off of Warden & Steeles. The interior of the restaurant is large, and clean-looking. Between the hours of 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, I-Cook Buffet serves dim sum, and from 4:00 pm to closing, it is an AYCE hot pot. 


I ate during the morning hours, so the following review will be on the dim sum dishes.


There is a special fixed price of $2.88 for each item on the menu if you go between the times of 9:00 am to 11:00 am and 1:30 pm to 4:00 pm.

Otherwise, the pricing are as followed:

Small: $2.88
Medium: $3.38
Large: $3.78


One of the great things about uptown restaurants would be the non-hassle of parking, and also it's free (since I-Cook Buffet is in a plaza).

I was pretty surprised about the service at I-Cook Buffet. It was actually pretty good as the dishes arrived fast, and the waitresses were efficient in taking the empty steamer baskets away and refilling our glasses of water and pots of tea. Two thumbs up :)


The fried cuttle tentacle (L) was lightly battered and crispy.

I really liked the BBQ beef ribs (L); the flavor was very sweet and there were no fatty pieces.

The chicken feet with chu hou sauce (S) had a good amounts of cartilage, but the sauce was way too sour for me.


Shrimp dumplings (L) are generally a staple at dim sum and I always ordered them whenever I go. The dumplings at I-Cook Buffet contained plump shrimp but the skin was not as translucent as other places.

The fried chicken wings (L) were fried to a golden brown and it had a nice flavor.  


I didn't like the turnip cakes (S) that much as the texture was too dry. I'd pass on this dish.


The shrimp steamed rice noodle (L) was steamed perfectly.

On the other hand, the beef steamed rice noodle (M) was standard. Although I did find the beef feeling to be a little too salty.


I didn't get to try the steamed seedling dumplings (M).  


The chiu chow dumplings (L) were wrapped in a translucent dumpling wrapper and filled with pork, dried shrimp, chives, and mushrooms. It was quite tasty.

The bun with custard (M) was considered as a dessert dish. The bun itself was light and fluffy, and it had a very sweet filling.


RATINGS:

Quality of Food: 3.9/5
Service: 4/5
Overall Dining Experience: 3.8/5
Price: $$

Address: 7030 Warden Avenue, Markham, ON, L3R 4N3

iCook Buffet on Urbanspoon