Banh Mi Boys

I went to grab a quick bite at Banh Mi Boys located on Spadina and Queen over the weekend. The restaurant is a small trendy establishment known for their Vietnamese subs. Banh Mi Boys is actually touted as being able to provide a modern take on the traditional banh mi with an Asian twist. They also have a few other Asian-fusion items on their menu including variations of steamed bao, tacos and fries. A friend and I arrived a little after 3:30 pm thinking that the lunch crowd would have subsided. How wrong we were! The place was still packed, with line ups nearing out to the front door. 


One thing that did catch my eyes was the kimchi fries ($5.99). While the idea of mixing fermented sour cabbage with french fries may not sound the most appetizing. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to try this rather interesting mixture, and ordered a box of it to share. The portion may look tiny from the picture, but it was enough for two. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised that the combination of fries, kimchi, and pulled pork went well together, and provided an intricate taste.

My friend and I ordered the five spiced pork belly banh mi ($5.99) and kalbi banh mi ($5.99). The subs were cut in half so we had one of each. The pork belly was seasoned nicely and served on a toasted sandwich with carrots, Japanese pickle cucumbers, cilantro, and mayo. My personal favorite has to be the kalbi banh mi, as the marinated sauce that coded the sandwich provided a nice tang to the flavor. I also liked the fact that they didn't skimp out on the kalbi.


I also ordered the five spiced pork belly steamed bao ($3.49). I really enjoyed the combination of the tender pork belly and soft bun, as it created a very interesting contrast of taste. The only thing that I didn't like was that the pork belly was a little too fatty for me but overall it was good.

There wasn't much service as it's pretty much a takeout place. You'd need to line up, ordered your food at the cashier, and then move along down the line to grab your food when it's ready. Overall, I think that Banh Mi Boys is a great place to grab a quick lunch or dinner, and it's very affordable too for what you get.

RATINGS:

Quality of Food: 4.3/5
Service: N/A
Overall Dining Experience:4.3/5
Price: $ || Online Menu

Address: 392 Queen St W, Toronto, ON, M5V 2A9


Banh Mi Boys on Urbanspoon

The 3 Brewers

My friend, Raj, held his birthday party at The 3 Brewers back in mid-January 2013. He reserved the entire upper third floor for a party of about 20+ people. The 3 Brewers' a microbrewery-restaurant as they brew their own beer right on-site which I think is a very interesting concept. The pub was large in size, and has three floors. Given the large party, I thought that the staff was accommodating and the service was pretty good. 

The menu was printed like a newspaper and offers the regular pub fare at standard prices. Overall, I enjoyed the atmosphere of The 3 Brewers, and the food was just okay. 


I thought that the nachos ($10.99) could have been better as the cheese was not melted enough so it was hard to scoop it up with the nacho chips. The dish is a reasonable size for the price point so it wasn't too bad.

My personal favorite of the night would have to be their maxi fries ($5.75). The fries are dipped in beer batter and was very crispy.

The 3 Brewers Restaurant Micro-Brewery on Urbanspoon

I personally did not like the flammekueches ($11.99) that we ordered. The one that we got came with pepperoni, mozzarella cheese and topped with spicy olive oil. What is a flammekueches? It is a dish that resembles a very thin crust pizza. The entire thing was pretty tasteless and dry to me, which I did not enjoy.

The crème brûlée ($5.99) was good as it was creamy in texture.


RATINGS:

Quality of Food: 3/5
Service: 4/5
Overall Dining Experience: 3.7/5
Price: $$ || Online Menu

Address: 275 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M5B 2H1

The 3 Brewers Restaurant Micro-Brewery on Urbanspoon

Momofuku Noodle Bar

It has been more than a few months since David Chang brought his Momofuku brand to Toronto. I have always wanted to try the place out since it opened but there were other restaurants on my list that I wanted to eat first. About 2 weeks ago, I finally rounded some friends and we decided to have dinner at Momofuku Noodle Bar. 


The Momofuku building is adjacent to the Shangri-La Hotel and the Momofuku Noodle Bar is on the ground floor of the three-story complex. We all arrived at exactly 5:00 pm which was when they opened up for dinner, so the wait wasn't too long at all. Although, the seating wasn't too comfortable as they only have communal wooden tables with racks underneath for jackets/small bags (coat check is also available).


The menu was basically one page so the choices of food items were a little limited. There were only a few ramen options and the most staple items on the menu would be their Momofuku ramen ($15.00). Unfortunately, I wasn't feeling ramen that night so I didn't order it. However, one of my friends who did ordered it thought that it was decent, but that she had much better and cheaper ramen at other places.


One of the most recommended items on the menu would be their pork buns with scallion, cucumber, hoisin sauce, and wrapped in a white bun. The pork buns (2 for $10) did live up to the hype for me, and was definitely a personal favorite of mine. The bun was both chewy and soft. Additionally, the pork was savory, tender and basically melted in my mouth. 


Rice cakes are definitely one of my favorite Asian appetizers so I was very pleased that they offered it on the menu. The roasted rice cakes ($11.00) were cut into small pieces and topped with sesame and garnish. I enjoyed the chewy and crispiness of the rice cakes. Although, the portion was incredibly small for its price.


One of the guys ordered the cauliflower ($7.00) which I also did not try. 


For my main dish, I ordered the chilled spicy noodles ($14.00). The dish consists of cold noodles, sichuan sausage, black bean, and topped with cashews. I was a little underwhelmed with my meal as it was more salty than spicy.


Another friend ordered the hanger steak ($18.00). I tried a piece of the steak and thought that the steak was very tender. He enjoyed his meal though.

Overall, I found that the hype surrounding Momofuku Noodle Bar was pretty overrated. The food was pretty decent, but not super memorable. Momofuku Noodle Bar is however a great place to have a casual meal with friends over some shared dishes and sake. I found the service to be very prompt and the staff was friendly. I'd come back here; mainly for the pork buns.


RATINGS:

Quality of Food: 3.5/5
Service: 4/5
Overall Dining Experience: 4/5
Price: $$

Address: 190 University Avenue (Ground Floor), Toronto, ON M5H 0A3

Momofuku Noodle Bar on Urbanspoon

Momiji Sushi Bar and Grill

My friends and I decided to stop by Momiji Sushi Bar and Grill for dinner before heading off to a house party last weekend. The restaurant is located in Etobicoke, and the ambiance is more upscale.


The restaurant was not too unreasonably priced  but compared to the average sushi joints; the prices are higher. The décor was more modern in design, and the dark interior provided a very calming dining atmosphere.


I ordered the beef teriyaki dinner ($18.00) which was served with miso soup, green salad and rice. The beef teriyaki was very tender and the sauce was noticeably flavorful. Additionally, the portion was a decent size, but there were about 2-3 pieces of pure fat.


My dish was good, and I did enjoy the atmosphere at Momiji Sushi Bar and Grill. However, I was quite disappointed with the lack of service. We were promptly seated and given the menus, but it took a while for anyone to come by to take our orders. Additionally, the food took long to arrive, and throughout the entire meal, no one came by to check up on us, and no one refilled our green tea.


RATINGS:

Quality of Food: 3.7/5
Service: 3/5
Overall Dining Experience: 3.4/5
Price: $$$ || Online Menu

Address: 2955 Bloor St W, Etobicoke, ON, M8X 1B8

Momiji Sushi Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon

East Side Mario's

East Side Marios' a chain of restaurants specializing in Italian cuisine, and there are multiple locations throughout Canada. 


I ordered the budda boomers ($5.99) as a starter. The budda boomers are basically deep fried pizza dough sprinkled with herbs and garlic. I really liked it, as it was both chewy and cheesy. 


The caesar salad ($9.49) was nothing special, but it did contain a few pieces of croutons and bacon.


 The garden salad ($9.49) had a good mixture of greens. However, their "famous house vinaigrette" tasted really sour, and it was not appetizing whatsoever. I definitely do not recommend this salad.


The seafood linguine ($17.49) contained a good amounts of mussels. However, the pasta was too overcooked and tasteless.


The sausage & pepper penne ($15.49) may not look appetizing due to its messy appearance. However, it was a decent pasta dish as it was flavorful. The grilled Italian sausage, and various peppers were plentiful in the bowl.

If you're looking for authentic Italian food, then you should look elsewhere as you won't be able to find it here. However, their menu does offer a wide variety of choices, so you should be able to find something that suits your tastes. Overall, I thought that the prices of the pasta were way too expensive when compared to the mediocre quality food.

RATINGS:

Quality of Food: 2.9/5
Service: N/A
Overall Dining Experience: N/A
Price: $$ || Online Menu

Address: 51 Front St W, Toronto, ON, M5J 2N1

East Side Mario's on Urbanspoon


East Side Mario's on Urbanspoon

YUZU-NO-HANA Sushi and Sake Bar

I had to deal with some personal issues, and therefore was unable to blog for the past 2 months. Anyways, my first review back is of my dining experience at Yuzu Sushi & Sake Bar from back in August 2012 (sorry major delay). 

YUZU-NO-HANA Sushi and Sake Bar is a mid-sized Japanese restaurant located within the clubbing district in downtown Toronto. The restaurant provides a clean and contemporary atmosphere with decorative sake bottles stacked behind the sushi counter. There are also seating all throughout the restaurant, and enough spaces in between tables for those who want to enjoy an intimate dinner. 


I made reservations about three days prior to the dinner on a Saturday as we wanted the omakase (which required a 24 hours notice). The omakase at Yuzu is $80.00 per person for a 9 course meal, and it is basically a selection of dishes made by the head chef.

For those who are curious .... omakase is pronounced as oh-mah-kah-say.

Yuzu exemplifies all of the qualities that I look for in a great Japanese restaurant; high quality food, the freshness of the fish, creativity in the dishes and knowledgeable and friendly staff.


What makes a great restaurant is not only the delicious food, but also the service and hospitality of the staff. I believe that great services enhance customers' experiences, and it is something that I take into consideration when deciding on tipping amounts (15% being the standard for me and it goes up from there), whether to return or not, and also recommending to friends and readers. With that being said, I thought that the service was excellent at Yuzu Sushi & Sake Bar, as our main server and waitresses were very efficient, professional, and friendly. We had the most interactions with the main server, Kaz, as he was the one who brought out our dinner (omakase and bento box). Kaz was friendly, personable, and was knowledgeable about the omakase dishes and fish.


As an appetizer, I ordered the calamari ($12.00) which was grilled squid with herbs, marinated in shoyu, and salada greens. The salad that accompanied the squid was crisp and refreshing. The citrus dressing provided a very tangy taste, which I enjoyed.


For my main course, I decided upon the Yuzu Bento ($30.00) which was a two layer bento box that came with beef teriyaki, rice, miso soup, sashimi, sushi, tempura, and some veggies as side dishes. The beef teriyaki was really delicious as it was very moist and tender.

Now onto the omakase ($80.00 per person).


The 1st course: Oyster shooter (fresh oyster, quail egg, tobiko, yuzu ponzu, uni and green onion). The shooter came out in a decorative long-tubed glass and who knew that raw oyster and quail egg would actually taste good ... I sure didn't. 


The 2nd Course: Edamame (paste). Unfortunately, I passed upon this dish so I don't know how this tastes like at all. I did try the edible flower though.


The 3rd Course: Assorted appetizers platter. I was impressed with both the freshness of the fish and also its presentation.

- Egg/eel
- Baby clam wrapped with seaweed
- Baked egg yolk
- Seared eggplant
- Salmon
- Japanese yam with uni (sea urchin)

The 4th Course: Assorted sashimi (chef's selection). The three pieces of sashimi were fresh and the rice had the right amount of seasoning without being overly overwhelming. 

- Yellow jack
- Suzuki (sea bass)
- Red snapper


The 5th Course: Sweet fish (ayu) with miso paste. The fish was grilled and the sauce was made using ginger stock. The name is quite deceiving as the fish was not sweet at all; instead it was extremely salty. According to the chef, salt is needed to marinate the sweet fish so that it won't burn. 


The 6th Course: Grilled duck. I really liked the duck as it was flavorful and tender. The presentation of the dish was also aesthetically pleasing. The only complaint that I really have of this dish would be the small portion as there were only three slices of duck.

The 7th Course: Assorted sushi (chef's selection). The overall quality of the fish was excellent and the chefs did a great job with the nice smooth cuts.

- King salmon
- Hamachi (yellow tail)
- Searobin
- Seabream 

The 8th Course: Cold sōmen (white Japanese noodles) wrapped around a thin egg wrapper with shiitake mushrooms and shrimp. The combination of the noodle and egg wrapper provided an unique taste. However, this was probably my least favorite dish of the night as I have never been particularly fond of cold noodles.


The 9th Course: Yuzu crème brûlée. I was hoping to try their green tea flavored one and was a little disappointed when Kaz told me that they don't make it anymore. However, they are now serving a  traditional flavored vanilla version, so I ordered it since I absolutely love crème brûlée. The caramelized top was good, the fresh fruits were sweet, but I thought the custard base lacked a little sweetness.

Overall, I highly recommend Yuzu Sushi & Sake Bar for its offering of beautifully presented authentic Japanese food, and great service. Additionally, the chefs (in the kitchen and sushi) all use high quality ingredients to ensure an unique and tasty experience, especially with their omakase.


RATINGS:

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

Address: 236 Adelaide St W, Toronto, ON, M5H 1W7