Bar Isabel

Bar Isabel is a popular restaurant known for their Spanish-influenced tapas dishes. Its location on College and Ossington is easily accessible, and there's a paid parking lot nearby (where Metro and Shoppers are located). I called about 2.5 weeks earlier to secure a reservation for three people for a Saturday. The hostess informed me that their small table might not be comfortable for three, and that they'll need the table back by 8:15 pm. I ended up accepting the 6:30 pm reservation slot as I wanted to try out the restaurant.


The decor is supposed to resemble a Spanish tavern with its wood panels and decorative yet mismatched floor tiles. The atmosphere itself is very lively around 7:30 pm and onwards. I am not too fond of the red lighting that emits throughout the establishment but it's not overly distracting.



I got the sparkling water bottle ($6) for the table, and two coke for the bf and I ($6 for 2 glasses). My friend ended up getting an alcoholic beverage which is not pictured as he was drinking it while I took this picture.

 

To start off the night, we got a bowl of bread ($4) to share, and that came with olive oil and butter. I believe that it was sourdough bread and sadly it was not warm. 


Originally, we got one order of 6 oysters, but ordered another 6 as we really liked the first batch. We ordered a total of 12 oysters ($32), and each was exceptionally tasty and fresh. Each batch arrived on a bed of ice with two condiments and lemon slices.


The 1/2 grilled octopus ($34) was enjoyable, and more than enough for the three of us. Surprisingly, the octopus and its suction cups weren't chewy at all. It was rather tender and had a nice charred taste to it. The dish was also served with greens and roasted potatoes. There's a whole octopus for $59 for those with larger parties, or if you really love octopus.


The spicy fried squid, crispy tongue & kale ($8) was another dish that I enjoyed a lot. The outside texture of the fried squid was flavorful and slightly crispy. The lemon adds an extra zest to the dish, but it's not absolutely needed.


The roast bone marrow ($11) was rich! It's very well expected that portions at tapas-based restaurants tend to be a tad smaller. So it wasn't surprising that this dish came with only two pieces of bone marrow. However, one piece of bone barely had any bone marrow in it which was disappointing. Also, try not to overload on the chimicurri sauce as it has a strong flavor to it.


The spicy pork anticuchos (5 pc) ($12) are essentially long skewers of pork. The meat on the sticks were tender with a good hint of spiciness.


The last dish of the night was the Albacore tuna tiradito, Asian pear, celery, jalapeno & fried rosemary ($14). Personally, I thought that it was a decent dish, but not a personal favorite of mine. The tuna was sliced fairly thin and quickly fell apart when I attempted to divide and scoop everything onto my plate.

Bar Isabel doesn't assign one server per table; I believe that they do work as a team. Our table of three was served by about 2-3 different servers throughout the entire dinner. They were knowledgeable of the menu, and our initial server provided some recommendations. Although the service was not exceptional; it was still rather good as our servers were polite, and quick to take away our finished dishes. Overall, the casual Bar Isabel is a good place for Spanish inspired dishes. Our bill for three came out to be around $188 (including tax and tip); so that's roughly $63 per person. It was not the cheapest tapas, but all of us left feeling full which is always good. To sum it up, their menu offers a variety of Spanish tapas dishes, drink menu is impressive (according to my friend who does drink), and the service was good. 

RATINGS:

Quality of Food: 4/5
Service: 4.2/5
Overall Dining Experience: 4/5
Price: $$$

Address: 797 College Street, Toronto, ON, M6G 1C6

Bar Isabel on Urbanspoon

Spoon & Fork

About: Spoon & Fork is an AYCE that serves Chinese, Japanese, and Thai dishes. I believe they have four locations serving Japanese Thai; Vaughan, Queensway, Oakville and Mississauga. They do have other restaurants under the Spoon & Fork name but they serve either only Japanese (à la carte) or Thai Vietnamese (AYCE). This review is based on the Vaughan location which is located in the large Colossus Plaza. There is ample parking in the plaza, and the decor of the restaurant is modern and upscale.

Price: A friend and I went there for dinner a couple of weeks ago at their Vaughan location. The prices at Spoon & Fork was rather steep in comparison to the standard uptown AYCE. Dinner prices for Monday to Thursday was $26.99, and Fri to Sunday was $27.99 per person. 

Menu: The menu offers a wide variety of items from appetizers, salad, sashimi, maki/hand rolls, noodles, sushi, curry, and many more. The menu also has clear and colorful pictures of a majority of the dishes.

 Food: I am a fan of both Japanese and Thai food, so this was why Spoon & Fork appealed to me when I first learned of its existence. However, after dining here, I don't think the quality of the food really justify the cost of the weekend buffet. Perhaps it may be worth it if you go with a larger group, so you could try out more food. My dinner alone was a little under $45 (that includes the cost of dessert, tax, and tip) for a Friday night. The food was relatively decent for an AYCE, but there was nothing stand-out to me.

I'll start with the items that I did enjoy though. The crispy texture of the calamari was good, and the spicy fish sauce went well with it. The beef teriyaki arrived in one large piece, and uncut. This was the first time where I have seen it presented that way. Normally, it would either be shredded or in small pieces. However, it wasn't dry and rather flavorful. The bite-sized salmon sushi pizza was a favorite of mine, and each order comes with 3. The pad thai was edible, but unfortunately they covered it in ketchup instead of tamarind sauce. The fish quality was slightly above average and were sliced rather thin. Additionally, the hand roll, maki roll, and sushi were very standard for an AYCE. Normally, I loved chicken but none of the chicken dishes appealed to me as they were dry with little flavor (such as the chicken teriyaki and chicken wings). The rest of the items were rather average.

I was surprised that desserts wasn't included in the cost of the AYCE considering the higher price point. I can understand why they wouldn't include the deep fried desserts, but a bowl of ice-cream was an additional $4 for each flavor. Nonetheless, my friend and I decided to order desserts, as we were short on time to go anywhere else. I got the crème brûlée ($6.50) and my friend got the green tea ice-cream ($4). The portion for the crème brûlée was small, as I finished it in about 3-4 bites.

Service: From what I can recall; the service was good. Our server was welcoming, quick to take our orders, and clear the empty dishes. Additionally, the dishes came out at a reasonable time, and none of our food items were missed.


RATINGS:

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

Address: 11 Colossus Dr Vaughan, ON, L4L9J8

Spoon & Fork on Urbanspoon

Jangwon Korean Cuisine

 Jangwon Korean Cuisine is a mid-sized restaurant serving traditional Korean food. The restaurant itself is decorated simplistically, and there are some private booths to the side made available for larger groups (who order KBBQ).


Since its opening in early 2013, my boyfriend and I have dined in on many occasions. However, we stopped going to the restaurant starting in January 2014 due to its deteriorating quality. When the restaurant first opened; the food was really tasty, consistent and the prices were very appealing. The prices still remain the same, but unfortunately, the food started tasting more bland and flavorless. This review is based on the latest dining experience that I had back in December.


 One of my favorite appetizers at any Korean restaurants has to be spicy rice cakes. I got an order of the dukbokki ($6.99) and the portion was generous. The dish contained a good ratio of rice cakes to fish cakes, so it could be filling on its own. The texture of the rice cakes was very chewy (good!) but the sauce wasn't as spicy as before.


I used to love this dish from Jangwon Korean Cuisine, but sadly it has changed. The bulgoki dup bap ($5.99) wasn't very flavorful and more chewy this time around.


According to my bf; the soon tofu chigae ($6.99) was lackluster. The soup base wasn't very flavorful or spicy, and there was barely any tofu in the bowl.

Their specialty is grilled meat on the table-tops which is about $15.99 to $17.99 for each (kind of) meat (but that one meat is AYCE). Additionally, I saw a poster advertising all-you-can-eat pork belly + vegetables for $17.99 hanging on the wall. I am not a huge fan of pork belly, so I didn't order their AYCE this time around. Perhaps, the quality for the meat hasn't deteriorated since I saw quite a few people around grilling their meat, and maybe it's for certain items on their regular menu.

Each table is equipped with a bell, so you can ring it and a server would come to your table. The servers are usually pretty quick and attentive at Jangwon Korean Cuisine. They don't really interact with the customers (but this regular occurrences at most Korean places), but they do get their job done efficiently (take orders, refill bachan, drinks, clear plates, etc...) Lastly, it should be forewarned that the ventilation isn't the greatest, so you may exit smelling like BBQ.

RATINGS:

Quality of Food: 3/5
Service: 4/5
Overall Dining Experience: 3/5
Price: $$

Address: 708 Bloor Street West, Toronto, ON, M6 G1L5

Jangwon Korean Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Ajisen Ramen [revisited]

Ajisen Ramen is a chain based out of Kyushu, Japan, and there are three locations in Ontario. My review on this location was back in late 2012. Unfortunately, that meal was rather disappointing as we felt extremely rushed, and the portions were miniscule. It might not have been an unfair assessment as that dining experience took place about 45 minutes before closing time. We were the only customers at the time, so it could have been the particular staff (at the time) who wanted to clean up and go home.




Since my last review, I have returned to the Chinatown's location a couple of times. They have updated their menu again a couple of months back. The extensive menu offers bright and clear images of the food items. Additionally, in my opinion, their food and service seem to be quite consistent these days. Our severs are often friendly, quick and efficient.


One of my favorite items (and usual order) is their Aijisen shoyu BBQ chicken udon ($9.75). Despite their namesake, I rarely order ramen from Ajisen Ramen as I don't eat ramen all that often. I would eat it occasionally, but my favorite noodles would have to be udon. The udon at Ajisen Ramen is one of my favorites in Toronto. I was sad when I couldn't find it on their updated menu. However, I was informed that the ramen could be substituted for udon (for no additional cost) and I can get it with chicken broth. The chicken broth is a lot lighter than the pork broth used for the ramen soup.

The udon came out hot, and the broth had a good flavor (enhanced by the spices on the table). They actually don't mix the chicken into the broth anymore. Rather, the shoyu BBQ chicken udon would arrive to the table on a sizzling hot plate.


The Japanese deep fried tofu ($5.50) was crispy on the outside, and soft/warm on the insides. Delicious!


RATINGS:

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

Address: 332 Spadina Ave, Toronto, ON, M5T 1J5

Spin Dessert Cafe and Bistro

Spin Dessert Cafe and Bistro have a few locations in Ontario, and the one in Vaughan, ON, is the closest one to me. I first heard of the establishment when my brother bought me home their traditional New York style plain vanilla cheesecake and and red velvet cheesecake to try. I really enjoyed both desserts, and decided to check out the place for myself with my family (sans mother and grandmother as they're not fans of sweets). I believe that the Vaughan location also follows the same decor scheme as the others do. It's a modern establishment with the bright pink decor, and off-white furniture.


Spin Dessert Cafe and Bistro's menu consist of breakfast items, savory crepe, sweet crepes, cakes, cheesecakes, ice-cream, and drinks (both hot and cold). Some of their cheesecakes are from the well-known USA chain The Cheesecake Factory Bakery, but most of their meal and dessert items are made in-house.

 
Cappuccino ($2.85) - shot of expresso with foamed milk.



Both my brother and I got the chicken Caesar crepe ($11.25 x 2) [chicken Caesar crepe [a fresh crepe filled with chicken, bacon, tomatoes, lettuce, mozzarella cheese and finished with Caesar sauce] which came with a side salad. They used a rather large white plate in contrast to the size of the crepe itself. So when it was brought to our table; it did not look very filling. However, the crepe was filled with plenty of filling inside, and we were satisfied with our meal. Additionally, the overall texture of the crepe was soft with a rather crisp edge, and was thin.


 The steak fajita ($12.99) - a fresh crepe filled with steak, onions, green peppers, salsa and mozzarella cheese, was served with sour cream and guacamole on the side.


Spin Dessert Cafe and Bistro have monthly features where they have desserts and drinks of one particular flavor. For example, we went during the month of Dec (2013) and the the featured flavor was candy cane. I got myself the Holiday Cheesecake ($9.25) - New York-style cheesecake with white chocolate swirls, studded with holiday M&M, and topped with whipped white chocolate mousse. I absolutely loved that they put effort into presentations, as a few places that I have been too often neglect this part. The cheesecake was brightly decorated and very suiting for the holiday seasons. The cheesecake itself was delicious, moist, and full of chocolate flavor.

For the rest of May 2014, the feature flavor is mango. So if you're a fan of mango flavored drinks or desserts, then this month's feature would be perfect for you.Their website changes monthly!

Onto the service; most of the negative reviews online attributes to their service more so than their food. Fortunately, I didn't experience any long wait for either being seated, getting the food or bill. Our server was friendly, quick, and courteous enough throughout our meal.

RATINGS:
Quality of Food: 3.8/5
Service: 3.8/5
Overall Dining Experience: 3.5/5
Price: $$

Address: 7600 Weston Road, Vaughan, ON, L4L 9L9

Spin Dessert Cafe on Urbanspoon

Akita Sushi

About: Akita Sushi is an AYCE restaurant in Woodbridge (Vaughan), but they also offer a la-carte as well.  Additionally, the interior was decorated with Asian influence, and rather spacious inside.

Price: My family, boyfriend, and I went to eat dinner on a Sunday about 2 months ago. The price was pretty standard for an AYCE as it was $22.99 (per person) from Friday to Sunday. I liked that the price also includes pop drinks with the meal. We weren't aware of the mandatory 10% gratuity as I didn't see it while perusing the menu, so we ended up double tipping. However, we didn't mind because the service was fast and efficient for the five of us.

Food: Akita Sushi offers the standard sushi fare along with a variety of appetizers, cooked food, teriyaki, donburi, noodles, fried items, and ice-cream for dessert. They had a selection of 6 thickly sliced sashimi, Their sushi selection was also rather standard with the usual white tuna, snapper, red tuna, salmon, crab meat, etc ...  Overall, I didn't find their sushi rolls to be very creative, but the fish quality was good for an AYCE. I also enjoyed their cooked food; especially their ribs, fried scallops, and chicken skewers. However, I would definitely skip their beef skewers as it was overly salty.


RATINGS:
Quality of Food: 3/5
Service: 3/5
Overall Dining Experience: 3/5
Price: $$

Address: 4450 Highway 7 East #3 Markham, ON L3R1L9  
Akita Sushi on Urbanspoon