Han Ba Tang

Han Ba Tang opened up earlier this summer, and is one of the latest additions to the Yonge and Sheppard area. The name translates to meaning "one full round" in Korean and is like a Korean-styled izakaya (or pojangmacha). I was invited to their bloggers' media tasting to preview some of their menu items. The three of us were happily greeted by the owner and a few of the organizers and staff before being shown to our table. 

The restaurant may be unsuspecting from the outside as there is no signage. However, there is a large bright sign inside the restaurant and it kind of illuminates from the outside. The reason for the no signage is that the owner, Chae, wanted to preserve a rare Vitrolite tiling which was uncovered during the removal of the previous establishment's sign in the construction period. There's an industrial feel to the place with its unfinished wood floors, chalkboard menu, communal tables, and wooden decor which lends a welcoming atmosphere to the space. Rather than being a traditional Korean restaurant; Han Ba Tang strides to bring Korean-Asian fusion influences to their everyday menu while still providing affordable prices.


The cocktails are brightly written on the blackboard located at the front bar; each are priced between $8 to $12.


Kandy Crush ($8) - strawberry soju, triple sec, raspberry sour (left) and Ocean Popsicle ($9) - blue curacao, raspeberry sour and southern comfort (middle).
 We started the night off with the chilli shrimp ($8) - lightly battered shrimp dipped in sweet chilli sauce, which arrived in four small dishes with 3-4 pieces each. It was dipped in a chilli sauce that tasted both sweet and spicy at the same time. I'd say that it had a very similar texture of sweet and sour pork as the shrimps weren't super crispy.


The lobster - steamed lobster with a house salad, is one of their new items that is on their winter menu. For an appetizer dish, there was a generous amount of lobster meat that peels right off the shell.


I am a huge fan of Korean kalbi, so I was thrilled to see kalbi tacos and spicy pork tacos - grilled kalbi or spicy pork on a bed of shredded cabbage with red onions and a light house aioli, on the menu.


My favorite dish of the night had to be their kimchi fries ($8) with bulgogi (+ $3) - extra crispy fries topped with kimchi, aioli gravy, sizzling bulgogi and green onions. The small portion is $10 while the larger portion is $15. If you'd like to add bulgogi to your kimchi fries then it's an additional $3. The one that we got was the small and it was more than enough for the three of us to share. I loved how the fries managed to retain its crispiness even though it was topped with hot gravy and bulgogi. Additionally, there was a generous amount of fries and bulgogi, and in my opinion, worth the price. 



A fusion dish that we got to tried was the black squid ink pasta - squid ink pasta, mussels, with a house made gochujang cream sauce topped with Korean beef cake. The briny flavor of the ink pasta pairs rather well with the mussels, and the gochujang cream sauce added the Korean flavor to the dish


The spicy chicken with fondue ($9 + $3 for fondue) - grilled chicken in a sizzling plate with a mix of rice cakes, onions, and carrots with a side of creamy cheese fondue, was not the most innovative dishes of the night. However, it was still good as the chicken went really well with the hot cheese when mixed together.


Personally, I have never heard or tried spoon pizza ($8) - mashed sweet potato crust with vegetables, tomato sauce topped with cheese and bacon or kimchi, before and I am glad that I did. Instead of a hard crust; mashed sweet potato is used as an alternative and works as the base for the pizza. You'd need a spoon to scoop up the sweet potato crust that is layered with cheese and vegetables. It was an interesting dish!


The spicy seafood soup ($10 for small) - a spicy seafood soup with shrimp mussels and crab with Korean ramyun, kind of reminds me of a fusion styled bouillabaisse (one of my favorite classic French soup). The soup base was rich in flavor, and the spiciness added a lot of kick. The portion contained a fair amount of seafood, and it's a perfect soup dish for this cold weather. The chef forgo the Korean ramyun (as it would be super filling) for the tasting, so I am not sure how it'd taste with the soup.


Lastly, we were served a decorative slice of dried persimmon cake with whipped cream for dessert. 


In addition to having various cocktails on their drink menu; they also offer in-house made infused soju. The jars of soju are beautifully displayed at the front, and the flavors rotate weekly. You can order a Soju Flight ($15) which comes with four shots, and you can choose the four flavors. 

 

Soju Flight - cinnamon apple, pineapple, and strawberry soju.

The upper Yonge area is one of the quintessential haven for traditional Korean food. However, Han Ba Tang is a welcome addition to the area as they offer a more modern take on Korean food, and is sure to please the younger crowds looking for late night eats and drinks. Thank you to both Acorn Communication and Han Ba Tang for the wonderful media tasting.

Address: 4862 Yonge St Toronto, ON, M2N 5N2
Website: http://instagram.com/hanbatang
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hanbatangON
Instagram: http://instagram.com/hanbatang

Disclaimer: The food provided in this post was complimentary. However, all of the opinions expressed in this review are of my own.

Han Ba Tang on Urbanspoon

Fresh Burger

 Fresh Burger has built quite the following in Richmond Hill, ON, with their no frills burgers menu. They were the recipient of the 2014 Yelpie Award for "Favorite Burger Restaurant"; an annual award run by the people of Yelp. They have now expanded to their second location and it's located on Church St in downtown Toronto. A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to their launch party where guests were given the opportunity to try out their burgers and poutines. Additionally, they were also giving away FREE burgers that night to celebrate their grand opening, and it bought out a lot of people.

** Photography by Steve Blackburn from YYZ Events **


 The burgers at Fresh Burger are made with 100% fresh premium quality meat which they grind on-site daily. Although, the simplicity of their menu only offers a few choices, they do offer quality burgers - without the high prices that are all the rage these days. You can check out the rest of Fresh Burger's menu at http://www.fresh-burger.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/menu-web.jp.


I opted for their freshburger (4 oz) combo which came with fries and drink ($8.85). If you'd like to upgrade your fries to a poutine; it's an additional $2.99. All of their burgers are dressed with cheese, lettuce, tomato, and Freshburger sauce. You can also request them to add onions and pickles for no additional charge. Other toppings that you can add onto your burger for an extra $1 each is bacon, caramelized onions, sautéed jalapeño, mushrooms or cheese ($1.50). I liked the soft bun and how the burger patty was lightly seasoned. They lightly seasoned their beef patties with salt while it's on the grill. It was a tasty burger and I'd definitely come back to check out the other items on their menu.

Fresh Burger on Urbanspoon




I really liked their poutine ($2.99 to upgrade combo or $5.99 individual), and the portion was more than generous for its price point. Additionally, the fries are cut freshly cut judging by the large sacks of potatoes located in the kitchen. The poutine also contains real cheese curds with a generous helping of gravy to provide an authentic poutine experience. 





For those with big appetite, there's a double prime burger (12 oz) burger which is $10.95 on its own or $14.60 for a combo.

Fresh Burger is open Mon-Sat from 11 am to 10 pm and Sun from 12 pm to 7 pm. For those who take the TTC, the restaurant is only a few minutes walk away from Wellesley Station. Additionally, Fresh Burger is currently offering some coupons until the end of Jan 2015 for their Church location so check out their Facebook for them.

Address: 542 Church St Toronto, ON, M4Y 2C6
Website: http://www.fresh-burger.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Fresh-Burger/557111641000196
Twitter: https://twitter.com/freshburger2

Disclaimer: The food provided in this post was complimentary. However, all of the opinions expressed in this review are of my own.

Fresh Burger on Urbanspoon

Holy Chuck

Over the past few years, there has been an abundance of gourmet burger joints opening up in Toronto. One of the burger joints that made an impact since they opened up in late 2011 was Holy Chuck. A couple of my friends and I decided to meet up for dinner one afternoon at their St. Clair location (there are two locations) a couple of months ago. Some of my friends ordered the same burger, so I didn't take photos of any duplicate orders. Anyway, we were greeted with a large wall-mounted menu with an extensive list of burgers with pretty novelty names at the front. The order system is pretty straightforward, you order at the cashier, and they'll call your name once your order is ready.



I opted for their signature burger called The Holy Chuck, and they do not allow any additional toppings on this particular one. I am not sure how stringent they are with this policy as I didn't bother to ask for any toppings. I also got to try out the You Fat Pig as well, so it was nice to taste test two different ones. All of their burger meats are ground in-house so it's fresh daily, which is great. There are no additional fillers in their burgers and they guaranteed that their meats are "the absolute highest quality". While eating the burgers, I could definitely taste that the meat was freshly made and it was juicy. However, I found the You Fat Pig to be slightly too salty for my taste buds. Salty enough that I needed to order a milkshake to go with my meal which I will get to later. Usually, I am not a fan of onions on my burgers, but the caramelized onions here enhanced the flavors a lot, and I really enjoyed it.

Holy Chuck on Urbanspoon

Holy Chuck's fries are hand cut in-house daily and they use only trans fat free oil. The fries are crispy without being overly oily and had a decent amount of salt on them. Now onto the milkshake that J and I got to share since it was a pretty good size for the both of us. Some of the flavors of the specialty shakes stood out to me, but I decided to play safe, and got their strawberry cheesecake. Imagine my surprise when actual chunks of strawberry cheesecake came through the straw. The milkshake was creamy and thick, and wasn't overly sweet. This particular shake is probably one of the best milkshakes that I have had in a while now, so I highly recommend it.

Their burger prices can be a little steep as I saw one for $29.99 but it was topped with seared Quebec foie gras. However, most individual burgers are priced between $9.99 to $14.99. If you add any fries and drink to your burger order, you'd save 85 cents. It may costs you about $15-$20 for a combo, but Holy Chuck has established themselves as a gourmet burger establishment from the beginning so the higher prices are expected.


Are you up for the Go Chuck Yourself Challenge? If you can finish the "Go Chuck Yourself Burger and any specialty shake" in 6 minutes, then you'll get your picture taken on the Wall of Fame, exclusive contest t-shirt and bragging rights. The burger is crazy as it's six patties, six cheese, triple bacon, caramelized onions and stacked between three grilled cheese sandwiches ($21.99).



Big Chuck Fries - special sauce, lettuce, onions, pickles and sesame seeds ($6.99).


 The Holy Chuck (signature burger) - double cheeseburger with bacon and caramelized onions ($9.99).


The Farmers Threesome - one lamb patty, one beef patty, one all bacon patty, triple cheese, bacon and caramelized onions ($12.99).


You Fat Pig - two 100% all bacon patties, triple cheese, crispy bacon and topped with our homemade creamy bacon dressing ($11.99).


Specialty Shake - strawberry cheesecake ($5.99).

Address: 1450 Yonge Street Toronto, ON, M4 T1Y7 

Holy Chuck on Urbanspoon

The Happy Hooker

I have been to The Happy Hooker a few times now as it's literally a 5 minute walk from J's house. As I have mentioned before in a previous blog post; the place has an outdoorsy feel with its wooden panels, paintings, random items like a Pacman machine, and even a washroom marked "outhouse".


I was invited to a media tasting in late October at The Happy Hooker to preview some of their new menu items. Chef Bethany McBride now heads the kitchen of The Happy Hooker and is originally from the South. She has incorporated and brought a lot of southern influence from back home to the seafood-centric establishment.



To start off the menu tasting, we had the Southern comfort chowder. I am not a huge fan of chowder, but I absolutely enjoyed this bowl of hearty goodness. Normally, I find that chowders tend to be really chunky. However, I found this dish to be comforting and creamy without being overly thick. In addition to the veggies that are mixed into the chowder; there are also three types of clams (Maine, Nova Scotia and Edmonton). This dish is perfect for the extremely cold weather that we're experiencing on and off in Toronto these days.


The next dish was the seafood popcorn ($9) which consisted of breaded calamari, shrimp and mahi mahi. This appetizer comes with three different dipping sauces; Chipotle aioli, Chipotle adobo and lemon aioli. This is a great starter to get, especially if you're a fan of deep fried seafood like I am.


This is how the seafood popcorn looks like when you order it.


Another starter that we were introduced to was the lobster spring roll. Chef Bethany McBride wanted to create an appetizer that was slightly different from the traditional lobster roll that they already offered on their menu. The fresh Maine lobster meat was wrapped in traditional rice papers, and deep fried. Instead of  aioli, there is cream cheese in the filling which complements the taste of the lobster. The lemon honey sauce that was served with the spring roll was brought over from Ireland. I just think it's a matter of preferences, but I did think that the sauce was a little too strong in taste. 


The Happy Hooker offers a few sandwiches on the menu as well, and we got to taste both the Louisiana Black Cat and Creole Shrimp Po Boy. 


The chef's take on the Louisiana Black Cat ($9) offers a taste of the South as Chipotle aioli and lime were used to complement the blackened catfish. The catfish was lightly battered and tasted good with the Portuguese bread. The bread was a debated issue within the small group of bloggers who attended the event. Some thought that the doughiness of the bread overwhelms the texture of the catfish,while others liked it. The bread used is from a neighboring Portuguese bakery so they're not baked in-house. 


The Creole Shrimp Po Boy ($11) seems to be an updated version of their previous po boy sandwich, which was fried. Unfortunately, I have never tried the previous one, so I can't really offer a fair comparison. The one that I had that day contained a good helping of shrimp and it was topped off with a lot of spicy Creole sauce (mustard).


Lastly for dessert, we were served key lime pudding. While thinking of a dessert that could be perfectly paired with fish; the chef thought of key lime. I thought that the light citrus dessert was good to end the dinner with. The dessert was made fresh from scratch, and contains 6 lbs of key lime and topped off with whipped cream.

 Although their menu may be limited compared to other places; it's one of the better places in Toronto that does seafood right. They also have a full service bar with a good selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Additionally, their bartender also likes to create plenty of creative mixes that are often featured on the menu.

Address: 887 Dundas St West Toronto, ON, M6J 2P8
Website:  http://www.happyhookerfish.ca/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/happyhookertdot

Disclaimer: The food provided in this post was complimentary. However, all of the opinions expressed in this review are of my own.

Happy Hooker on Urbanspoon

Sakura Japanese Cuisine

Sakura Japanese Cuisine is a Japanese restaurant located in the Annex; they offer both AYCE and a la carte options. This short review will be on my first visit to Sakura Japanese Cuisine where we opted for their a la carte menu for lunch. We were short on time as we had a meeting to attend, so we only had less than an hour that Saturday for lunch. However, we enjoyed our visit, and return soon after for their AYCE. That is going to be a separate review on its own.



I opted for the beef short ribs bento box ($10.99). Please note that the following bento box that I ordered was not part of their lunch specials and part of the dinner. They had a beef short ribs lunch special for a mere $6.99 but it didn't come with any sashimi or sushi. Normally, most places would give you tempura but in lieu of that, Sakura Japanese Cuisine gives you three pieces of salmon sashimi. It's a welcome alternative for those who like sashimi much more than tempura. Granted this was still an AYCE, so the sushi and sashimi aren't on par with high end places, but the quality was still pretty good. I'd say that Sakura Japanese Cuisine had a constant flow of customers during their lunch hour, so there was definitely a steady movement of fish. I also can appreciate the fact that there were more than 7 pieces of meaty ribs; the norm is usually four at other places.


J ended up getting the tempura udon ($8.95) which arrived out pretty quickly. He liked the fact that the tempura wasn't in the soup and on its own.

Sakura Japanese Cuisine on Urbanspoon