I’m so happy to say that there is a Part II to the Toronto Dineout Reviews I made in early January as I was able to go back for a whirlwind three-day weekend last week.
However fun it was to go through Toronto’s Winterlicious menus to find a restaurant downtown to have a celebration lunch, getting a reservation at Osgoode Hall Restaurant was the most appropriate place for us to dine. We were a small party of six: mum and her older brother, me and a cousin just 2 years older than I, and my sister and her friend. We ambled over from the ceremony at Roy Thomson Hall and took in the grandour and ceremony of Osgoode Hall before arriving in the library-turned-restaurant. It is a beautiful space with ten colourful sectarian stained glass windows, walls lined with serious law volumes, portraits of prominent Ontario lawyers and judges, and an (empty) gallery area above.
The $21 prix fixe menu did not entice any of us: chicken noodle soup or some non-appetizing salad, no choice but seared tuna as a main, and no choice but a key lime meringue tart for dessert. We ordered some champagne/sparkling wine (13th Street Cuvee) and separate entrees and desserts. More of us ordered quiche than they had left so MY’s friend had to order the ravioli.
My quiche was more creamy than eggy and I liked that very much. MY’s chicken pot pie was not creamy as it was stew, and prepared the “new” way of just a pot topping. Mum ordered the ocean trout over cauliflower puree and beurre blanc and rated it “100%” which is quite the praise from her. It was very tender and boneless, unlike lake/rainbow trout. My Grand Marnier creme brulee was wonderful and potently orange-flavoured while the scoop of ice cream was less than thrilling. MY’s butter tart is a best seller at Osgoode Hall and really hit the spot.
The Sultan’s Tent & Cafe Moroc
Upon learning I would be in Toronto around the same time Dineout Vancouver was taking place, I went to find the Winterlicious dates and checked menus as soon as they were available. My friend Vee knows Toronto and the downtown area better now than I ever did and found Cafe Moroc, some place different from “the usual” Winterlicious. It was only a few days after the menus came out and we could only get a 9:30 reservation on a Saturday night–it’s a good sign.
I do believe that I ended up making the least Moroccan choices off the menu, somewhat inadvertantly. My braised beef short rib was very tasty and tender, in a sauce with faint Moroccan tones. Vee said her couscous, that came in a mass amount, was on the salty side. When she switched her dessert to creme brulee, I switched my creme brulee to “Moroccan treats”; afterall, I had creme brulee just the day before! I don’t know what the items were called–the white cylinder had a slightly sweet dark paste while the outer layer was a bit grainy and didn’t entirely melt in your mouth; the brown cookies sandwiched a slightly sweet paste. It wasn’t bad. We enjoyed a glass each of Charamba wine from Spain/Portugal.
The restaurant space was nice and lounge-y but with a table by the door and the back-to-back service such that we were done in 90 minutes, I felt a bit rushed. Just an effect of Winterlicious, I hope.
Our cousin, a most Toronto fellow, couldn’t make it out to lunch or dinner on Friday so we met up with him and his wife on Sunday for brunch in their area. I decided to have lunch-type food (instead of brunch) and he selected Capocaccia Cafe on Yonge near Eglinton. The space is nice and cozy–elegant with the curtained entrance, vintage chandeliers, and damaske-patterned wallpaper.
We all ordered lunch although a brunch menu was available: three pizzas and a pasta, the latter for MY. Unfortunately the pasta was very oily and the lamb crumbs used cooked too dry. To me, it seemed like an Asian stir-fry tossed with pasta what with the chili oil used to flavour the lamb and broccolini. The pizzas were alright.
Since we were in the area and did not get coffee or dessert with our Italian lunch, we went to Jedd’s for their frozen custard. On an impulse, but perhaps not the best idea, we went for a regular-sized affogato: a single scoop of vanilla frozen custard with 2 shots of espresso. It was messy to eat while sharing and the frozen custard was masked with the topping, although it wasn’t bad. We should have gone for two scoops and tried both vanilla and chocolate flavours. There is also a pastry counter that is very pretty and seems more the highlight of the shop despite the shop name.
Upon MY’s friend’s recommendation, we went to Coconut Island for some better Malaysian food. Coconut Island is located in Peachtree Centre near Kennedy and Highway 7 and Peachtree pretty much melds into the neighbouring plaza, New Kennedy Centre and given every shop seems to be restaurants, there’s about 60 restaurants sharing one tightly packed parking lot! We found a spot without too much delay and entered the cozy restaurant that instantly feels authentic.
MY let me order which is sometimes risky but I think I did quite well. I ordered Malaysian curry chicken with roti canai (a regular size order of roti with a smaller size of curry) and the Penang Assam laksa. There was a curry laksa available and I wondered what we were getting into….!
The roti canai was prepared much more like a flatbread but was adequately flakey and it smelled even like they used butter–perhaps that is quite wrong?? And the curry chicken was good with a strong, delayed spicy kick. The laksa was a little evil-looking with the dark green fish broth but I really liked the deep fish flavour, the slippery lai fun noodles, and the dried bean curd sheets–it was a great menu pick, in my opinion! We also tried to order bo bo cha cha but they were out–too bad!
I ordered modestly but the prices are also great coming in just $20 for the meal.
Grand Ocean Restaurant (“Scarborough”)
My eldest uncle organized a family dinner that can be considered “tuune neen” because it’s within a week of Chinese New Year and is traditionally the dinner where family gathers together. Mum and her three brothers were all represented–everyone else lives at least as far as Vancouver–and a few cousins. Scarborough Grand is an old family stand-by restaurant in no small part because it’s located so close to where my grandparents lived and Big Uncle is friends with the proprietors. It has changed names but has the exact same quality, or, as my cousin put it, “time stands still.”
We feasted and I took no pictures because nothing was spectacular-looking. It cost like $138 or something really cheap for about 10 dishes and then there was a 20% discount for its grand opening, paying in cash, friends discount, whatever!
We were pretty much on the go the entire time and I wish I had more time, more meals available in the city. Two places came up when I was visiting Vee and El that I want to try next time around.
It seems that Williams has been re-branded and officially called a different name but we’ll always know it as Williams Coffee Pub. We were in Waterloo different times (ten years apart) but enjoyed spending time at Williams, which was new when I was there. It’s a chill casual restaurant cafe with decent coffee and food and ample space and invitation to spend time there working. We did a lot of that while in Waterloo!
Williams came to Toronto first in Etobicoke and Mississauga but they’ve learned that there is one at Queen’s Quay in their area. I need to go there and see what memories it sets off!
The night before going to Cafe Moroc, Vee and El went to Southern Accent for a Winterlicious meal and enjoyed it very much. Vee was telling me about the meal and when she got to describing the guys’ mains as a “duck stuffed with turkey stuffed with chicken”, I cried out, “Turducken!!” I so would have ordered the orzo (“Orzo pasta tossed with pumpkin, shallot, parsley, fresh thyme in a white wine cream sauce topped with lightly seasoned paneed scallops”), Turducken (“Turkey, duck and chicken with 3 stuffings: oyster, cornbread/andouille, and sage/onion with pecans served with Bourbon yam gravy, Cranberry citrus compote, garlic mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables”), and bread pudding (“with apples, pecans and raisins served with bourbon sauce”)!! I don’t seen Turducken on their regular menu so I’m not sure when I would get to try it….