Batter Up: Canteen Serves Up Corn-Dog Realness

Listen up Toronto and listen up real good. I have found some legit corn-dogs.

None of this fried and disgusting stuff that makes you feel like you’re going to be sick afterwards. Oh no. This corn-dog was heaven-sent and thy heavens name is Oliver & Bonacini’s Canteen!

To celebrate the beginning of a new Blue Jays season (I wonder if my homeboy Drake has stocks in the Jays too?), the O&B team developed this fab new deal titled, Dugout Dogs. Beginning on April 4th, enjoy a blue cornmeal Dugout Dog, doubled up, for your pleasure for just $12 with a pint of Mill Street Tankhouse to wet the whistle for $5.

The Dugout Dog offers up more than just dogs & beer, which in theory you could get at the Jays game (for way more than $12, might I add). This thick and juicy realness is all beef, gluten-free served up with house-made mustard and ketchup and plated up with dem thick Yukon Gold fries.

This deal happens on every time the Jays play at home from 11AM onwards. If you don’t think you’ll be able to eat dem dogs in-house at Canteen, then don’t feel like you’ll strike out on this deal. Take them to go!

Go march your butt down to Canteen and check em out for yourself. Sports fan or not, Dugout Dogs are where its at.

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Amaya Group of Restaurants take on Indian Street Food

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I am a huge Indian food fan. One of my go-to take out joints on Just-Eat.ca is Amaya Express on Ossington. So when we were invited to check out the new spring menu at Amaya the Indian Room on Bayview, I was pretty excited. This would be some OG stuff, as it is one of the original Amaya Group of Restaurant locations.

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The Amaya Group of Restaurants was founded back in 2007 by Chef Hemany Bhagwani which currently has 15 locations to date. Chef Bhagwani told us that for the new spring menu he waned to recreate the Amaya experience from start to finish with some new dishes drawing inspiration from India’s vibrant street food culture whilst dipping its toe into some molecular gastronomy.

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Chef Bhagwani started us off with a beautiful amuse bouche consisting of a Yogurt Egg filled with Pomegranate Juice. This was a light airy and simple bite that started off our meals just right.

From there, we were given another amuse bouche of sorts, which was one of their street foods inspiration dishes: Prawn Papdi Chaat with cumin and chutney. Very similar in texture to a ceviche, it was absolutely delicious and all the flavors married so well together. I could have had several more of these, if offered.

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Next up, we were served this new version of Pakoras. Now with kale and tomato chutney. Oh my glob, these were out of this world. Kind of like crispy, deep fried kale chips but little balls. Then with the chutney? Get out of here!

We were finally shown a bit of the seafood side of Amaya with some Scallops paired with pickled lemons, shallot confit and coconut snow. It was beautiful presented and a lovely light taste.

You would think that Tandoori Chicken could not be any different but this was incredible. Spicy, tender and delicious – something about it was great. Plus the foam on it that created a enhanced simple flavor.  Oh, and dem cheese balls. Need I say more?

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Back on the seafood tip, we were treated to some more Prawns (simply titled the Amaya Prawns) – which were juicy and bursting with flavour. Add a bit of beet gel to it and you have yourself a whole new dish. Plus: I am not lying that these were some of the biggest prawns I have seen in my life.

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I would have to say that my favourite dish of the evening though was the Lamb Tenderloin with the Wasabi Ice Cream on top. I was a little bit taken aback when I heard Wasabi Ice Cream but trust me: it works and with all of these flavours. I want more. Please just give me more of this dish forever and always.

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If I haven’t sold you on Amaya’s new menu or on heading to Amaya, then I don’t know what could. They have put so much heart and soul into all of their new offerings, it comes through in each of the plating’s and each of the menu offerings. All of the menu items are so innovative yet so familiar that it’s so comforting. Worth heading to the main location on Bayview! Also of note: all menu items are reasonable priced (between $12-$18) so this makes a great dinner out.

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Photos by Yuli Scheidt

Get to know: The Cutting Board at Weslodge

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Originally posted to Ama’s weekly column on Toronto Is Awesome.

It’s not hard to miss the bright yellow doors of Weslodge on King Street West with the flashy signage. I’ve always wondered what was inside those doors but never experienced it for myself.

Thankfully just the other week, I was invited to the saloon inspired restaurant to experience the launch of their meat board aptly titled, The Cutting Board.

Toronto seems to be all about shareable plates right now and well, sharing is caring. The Cutting Board consists of an impression selection of meats on meats on meats which include hen, beef, pork, lamb, and poultry. Each have been aged, smoked, marinated or slow-roasted to perfection.

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The Cutting Board has some definite hits and some misses (for sure). For starters, the hen is sous vide before being breaded and deep-fried, which makes it just crazy good. The 32-day aged ribeye? So tender that you’ll never want anything else ever again. But the lamb ribs? Such a miss as they were so dry and tough.

Does it stack up to some of the other BBQ places in the city? Absolutely, especially for the price that you’re paying. It also just depends on the type of BBQ you are looking for and the amount of meat you are looking for (example: do you want a full dish for yourself or are you into sharing). In my opinion, the Cutting Board offered more than enough food. For example, my dining partner and myself that evening didn’t finish off our portions and we were plated what would have been given to 2-people.

Available on Sunday and Mondays from 5pm onwards at $29 per person, enjoy the Cutting Board at Weslodge now.

Upscale pub grub done right at Habits Gastropub

Originally posted to Ama’s weekly column on Toronto Is Awesome.

When I hear the word ‘gastropub’ the immediate thought that comes to mind is comfort.  Thankfully, Habits Gastropub (928 College Street) serves up just that and more.  Owners Michelle Genttner and Luis Martins have taken every consideration into heart since opening up their establishment (in 2012) to ensure not only did they serve quality food but they provided a warm, homey atmosphere.

The interior features beautiful exposed brick, reclaimed and refinished wood tables and warm lighting.  The bar is stocked (to date, Habits has 300 bottles of whiskey, giving it the third largest collection in Toronto) with some of Toronto’s finest craft brews and wines.  Each week, several different events and live performances take place – so depending on the evening, you and your friends could enjoy something new.

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So how does the food at Habits stack up? Well the best way to describe everything here is high-end pub fare and for that, it is impressive.  We started off our evening with some Buffalo Sweetbreads with homemade blue cheese & spicy BBQ dipping sauce.  This little gem of a nugget was tender and delicious.  I’m a huge fan of sweetbreads and found it perfectly cooked.  Paired up with the blue cheese sauce, it was fantastic.

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Next up we were treated to another high-end comfort food of their Salmon Duo (Cured Salmon & Pate) with Homemade Mustard and Pickles.  It was simple and properly executed with all the richness of the salmon marrying well with the saltiness of the grainy mustard.  Also: a beautifully plated dish.

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As mentioned, a huge trend that I’m seeing at a lot of Toronto restaurants right now is Cauliflower.  To be honest, I am not complaining one bit.  Habits introduced me to their Cauliflower salad marinated in anchovies and chili.  It was probably one of my favourite dishes of the evening: perfectly sized florets and outstanding tastes.  Just the right amount of heat.

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Another thing I’ve been treated to a lot lately is Bone Marrow and sure enough, Habits has it on their menu as well. What I can say is this: Habits does it well and just a bit different. The dish we had this eve was Bone Marrow on Toast with a Cucumber and Radish Salad. It was so rich and delicious with the salad atop giving it an extra crunch and feel.  This was probably my favourite dish of the evening.

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We were then treated to Chicken Livers and Sage Pappardelle which was absolutely divine. All the pastas are made in-house (which comes through) and the dish was rich.

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You cannot go to any restaurant in the city without having a good ol’ fashioned Slider. The Habits slider was mouth-watering. A huge ol’ slice of bacon atop that mini-patty with a Putanesca relish, crispy onions and a toasted brioche bun. Come to mama.

Habits Gastropub had everything that eve that one would want in a high-quality pub with high-quality pub-grub. If you’re looking for somewhere to watch the game or have a casual and relaxed date night while also indulging in your finer dining side, then Habits Gastropub is the next hidden gem you should visit.

Photos taken by Rochelle Latinsky

East Thirty Six breathes new life into St Lawrence Market area

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Originally posted to Ama’s weekly column on Toronto Is Awesome.

A new restaurant has opened up in the St Lawrence Market area taking over the former Lucien spot on Wellington. Opened by restauranteurs Julien and Devon Salomone (the same owners who brought us Boutique Bar) bring us the newly revitalized cocktail and food restaurant, East Thirty Six.

As you walk through the doors of East Thirty Six, you are greeted with opulent wood finishes (retrofitted), beautiful overhead blue-purple art-deco lighting fixture and lovely pops of silver and purple everywhere. The room is cozy but gives off a certain richness and warmth, no matter where you are seated in the room.

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The cocktails here are stellar and not to be missed. Co-owner / mixologist Julien Salomone runs the beverage program and has paid great details to the making of such cocktails as the Rum Row (House-made spiced rum, apricot liquor, lemon juice, ginger syrup, tonic float) or French Connection (Muddled cucumber, gin, chartreuse, lillet blanc, coriander syrup, peychaud bitters, coriander tincture). Each of the cocktails range in price between $12-14 a drink but every sip is totally worth it. At the end of the evening, we were even treated to one of Julien’s barrel aged cocktails (off-menu) and this man knows what he is doing.

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So how the food from East Thirty Six measure up? On the evening in question, we were treated to a lovely selection of their offerings from their new upcoming menu. Some of the standouts from the evening were our Winter Salad (castelfranco, kale, endive, ricotta salata aioli, focaccia) which was full of flavour and rich. So many times you encounter a salad with hard, tough croutons and this was just perfect. Next up, Scallop Crudo (lardo, celery, tequila, lime) was one of the dishes with wow factor. It had a freshness that you look for in a crudo with the lardo adding that extra bit of kick.

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Next up, we were treated to a big trend I have been seeing on menus across Toronto (and something I’m not angry about because I love) cauliflower. This dish was served up with capers, preserved lemon, brown butter, hazelnut, parsley and was stunning. The hazelnuts added the nice crunch to it and the lemon gave good acidity. I could ate a whole other plate of this. Next, probably my favourite dish of the evening: Bone Marrow with Chicken liver mousse and toast. Beautifully prepared and absolutely a pleasure. I did not want to share this and reluctantly had to. The marrow was buttery and delicious. A must have.

 

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Rounding in to some of the final courses, we were treated to a flakey and beautifully plated Halibut (with artichoke, carrot, fennel, white wine and lemon). Each piece I put into my mouth was melt in my mouth goodness and the veg in the broth was just an added bonus to the dish. As our final treat, we were shown a dessert course and brought out a lovely Lemon Custard. As I’m not much of a sweets person, I was unsure how I would feel but this tangy sweetness was just right in my books.

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East Thirty Six is open daily for dinner at 4pm and is perfect for an afterwork cocktail. To learn more about the restaurant, visit their website.

Dundas West has its own witchy speakeasy: The Libertine

Originally posted to Ama’s weekly column on Toronto Is Awesome.

A new speakeasy has opened up on Dundas West and let me just say this: it is pretty legit. Say hello to The Libertine (1307 Dundas St. West). You wouldn’t know that it was there, as the door is unmarked. But there is one blinking tarot reader sign that glows in the distance, lighting your way. As you carefully navigate down the stairs to your unmarked destiny, glamour and opulence awaits.

A long wooden bar lines one of the walls which gives way to many of their spirits and liberations. The drinks are unusual and quirky, like the Smoke n’ Mirrors – a spicy drink with bacon marmalade, basil, and ginger. ($12). They have many other drinks which usually come in at this price-point & usually at a generous pour (2.5 ounces). But the bar list changes with the experimentation for the bar keeps and with the seasons. So be prepared for some lovely cocktails.

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The decor features high counter tops and crescent shaped banquets, upholstered in leather, adding to the witchy vibe. The tarot card reader is available five nights a week between 9 and midnight and charges approximately $25 a pop to see into your future.

In the kitchen chef Jordana Schuetze has assembled a “small plates” format menu (ranging from 10 dishes, but changes regularly) which is heavily Asian inspired. The menu changes depending on ingredient availability, but generally offers a fair number of vegetarian options.

We begin our journey with the Korean Short Ribs, which one you dig in, you just can’t stop. The sweet and tender meat coupled with the sauce. Absolutely heavenly. This is a dish that I could eat all night without hesitation.

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Next up, we launched into their version of Deviled Eggs, which seems to be a big trend in Toronto right now. All pickled everything. This made for a quick and easy bite. It had a bit of crunch to it with some chip added to the top. It could compete with your Grandma’s Deviled Egg, that’s for sure.

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We launched into some beautiful and perfectly made Calamari and Shrimp dish, which was succulent and balanced. Everything tasted fresh and with their perfect grill marks, cooked to perfection. Nothing could be better than well-done seafood and this was just right.

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As mentioned, The Libertine has an extensive vegetarian offering including this amazing fried tofu dish. Delicate pieces of tofu deep-friedn and combined in a dashi broth with some aromatic shallots. Throw in some cauliflower and nori strips and you’ve got yourself a winning dish on your hands. I have been on a big tofu kick lately and this dish hit the spot in a big way.

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Finally, we’re told that Libertine offers one dessert nightly – so prepare yourselves for a surprise. This evening, we were treated to a deconstructed Pomegranate cheesecake. As someone who is not much of a sweets person, this was everything my heart wanted and more. Just a bit tangy, a bit sweet and with a slight crunch. Yum.

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The Libertine has nightly events and just recently launched into a brunch service, which has hosted the Great Canadian Burlesque team and Fat Girl Food Squad. For more information on their menu and updated events, check their Facebook page.

Destingo bring authentic Italian to Queen Street West

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Originally posted to Ama’s weekly column on Toronto Is Awesome. 

Queen Street West is not known for its offerings of Italian fare. However, restauranteur Monika Vacca decided to go forth and change that. With a prime location (including 1,500 square feet) including large beautiful windows draping the restaurant with tons of natural sunlight and a casual stroll away from Trinity Bellwoods, Destingo was born.

The restaurant while vast also oozes of old world charm and rustic feel. The fare is much of the same, sticking to traditional classics. Case in point, one of the appetizers they have on the menu, Prosciutto di Buffala ($13.95). With a dish this simple, it could be so easy to mess up but all flavours complimented each other with just the slightest bit of olive oil. Our next appetizers was the Grilled Calamari ($14.50). My issue with Calamari a lot of times is: restaurants do not get it right. But Destingo got this dish so right. It was probably one of my favourite dishes of the evening. All across the huge pieces were grill marks. It kept me wishes there were more plates to come. Finally, we launched into the Beef Capriccio ($12.95) which was tender and melt in your mouth goodness.

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Main courses are handled with intense care over at Destingo and you have many selections, even if you are gluten-free (just ask your waiter for specifics). We launched into the Funghi Risotto ($18.95), which could always be a make or break situation for a restaurant. In this case, this dish was not one of my favourites. This risotto was a bit heavy handed on the saffron and too al-dente for my liking. Perhaps a personal preference? For meat options, we checked out the Veal Scaloppine with oregano in a basil tomato sauce ($18.95), which was super old school Italian and so delicious. Finally, we ended off our meal with Gnocchi four Destingo ($14.95), which was probably my favourite dish of the evening. Pillow-like gnocchi in a creamy and cheesy sauce which was not at all overpowering. It was good until the last bite and then some.

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Like any good Italian restaurant, Destingo offers up traditional espressos, cappuccinos and other coffees with Creme Brûlée and Tiramisu. This will help finish up and encapsulate any meal. Alas, I decided not to partake in any of these goodies while I was there, as I don’t have much of a sweet tooth myself.

As the Queen West neighborhood continues to develop, as does it need for more contemporary and casual date spots or family oriented & unpretentious supper houses, Destingo becomes the spot to go. Since my original visit, I have been back once more for lunch and I was still impressed with all the offerings and what they had. From good food to good prices and staff whom are willing to help you in making great choices (from food to wine), Destingo has you covered.

Chef David Lee introduces The Carbon Bar to Queen East

 

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Photo Carbon Bar – P. Wilson

Originally posted to Ama’s weekly column on Toronto Is Awesome.

Chef David Lee is a force to be reckoned with in Toronto restaurant scene.  He has run the noted Nota Bene (located on Queen West) with front of house partner Yannick Bigourdan and together they have decided to take the plunge on another restaurant.  The space has a bit of history attached (having one housed CityTV) but with this newest venture,  Lee and company have decided to write their own history.

The restaurant is The Carbon Bar and inside you’ll find a smartly designed and hip interior with brick walls and maroon booths.  As homage to the old CityTV days is a bright club-light “Electric” sign.  Everything is perfectly thought out the entire resto – right down to the branding on the plates.
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Photo: Carbon Bar – P. Wilson

I asked David Lee what the most difficult thing was about opening a new restaurant was and he told me, “you have little to no time for yourself and family. But also, it is difficult to get to know a new kitchen, space and a brand new team.”  If David has had any trouble getting acquainted in the new space, the indication did not come to light upon my visit to Carbon Bar. The fare is a simple barbecue restaurant but it pulls from the chef’s Italian and pan-Asian influences.  This is not your typical meat & potatoes.

David tells me, “I’ve been in love with natural wood and charcoal fire cooking since my childhood. Every country has a BBQ story, and mine was growing up in Mauritius and cooking over charcoal in a drum; making Char Sui / BBQ pork belly, & Peking ducks.  I wanted to create a restaurant where these flavors were accessible to everyone”

We saddled ourselves up next to the Crispy Chicken Skins with sweet chill vinegar ($7),  Hamachi with clementines, pear and kombucha vinegar ($14) and the Cabrito Papusa conveniently stuff with goat cheese and tomatillo salsa ($13).  These dishes touted as “Carbon Originals” and they seemed to be smashes.  No lie: I would love a bucket of Crispy Chicken Skins delivered to my house nightly.  I’m not sure if Chef David takes order for that.  But if he does, I hope he is listening.  The Hamachi was lacking a bit of acid which is a shame for a good Hamachi dish.  But please, whatever you do: order that Cabrito Papusa. It is heavenly and cheesy.
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Photo: Pit Master Platter – P. Wilson

From there, we feasted upon what is known as the Pit Masters Platter (for two people at $26 p.p) which contains pork ribs, beef brisket, cornmeal fried chicken, pickles and smoked in white oak and black cherry wood.  Lee tells me, “We season our meat with only salt & pepper. This allows for the guest to taste the meat and all of our cuts come from Cumbrae Farms,”  With each platter, several different sides are to be chosen and on this night we picked the TCB Slaw ($6) and Collard Greens ($5). The signature TCB Slaw ($6) topped with corn nuts is one word: genius!  It adds this little crunch and pop each time you bite in.

But let’s rewind back to that meat for a moment: this platter included some of the juiciest BBQ I have tasted and well, I have been to some BBQ  joints in the city.  The one that stood out most to me was their turkey, which was juicy and tender and moist.  Also, lest not forget the Jalapeño Sausage.  The sausage had hints of jalapeño with little to no fat.  It was pure delicious.  Basically everything on this platter (brisket was fatty and moist, ribs fall off the bone good — I don’t want to spoil the entire platter for you) was incredible and well worth the price.  Even if some meat sweats ensued.
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Photo: Carbon Bar – P. Wilson

For dessert, we were delighted with the Cheddar Ice Cream Sandwich – which I must say – was amazing.  I am not a huge sweets fan and this was everything.  The right mix aged cheddar ice cream, thin wafers and the ultimate Canadian treat: maple syrup.

Nota Bene is a loved restaurant by many in this fine city and David Lee may have just created another restaurant that will be loved by one and all once again. From entry through the door to first plate to exit, The Carbon Bar is sure to be making many Top Ten Lists for 2014.

El Caballito Tequila Bar introduces the Midnight Taco

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El Caballito located on King West is serving up more than just midnight tacos, it also is a lovely little tequila bar in the home of downtown Toronto. Opened since the beginning of February and located near Simcoe Street in a dimly lit basement, as you walk down the stairs you are met with feast for your eyes & ears.

With a live DJ (at least on the night I was in attendance) and lots of neon lights with Mexican style murals, the space feels like you’ve entered this authentic Mexican speakeasy of sorts. With plenty of banquettes and tables (the restaurant seats 120 comfortably), you have the ability to come with a large group or a couple pals. Whatever the choice may be, you will feel cozy and comfortable and still be able to have a conversation – even with the music playing. This I can absolutely attest to.

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As mentioned, El Caballito has a private tequila tasting room which seats four people at a time. Bar Manager, Manny, will walk you through the ins and outs of all things tequila and keep you in good hands. El Caballito currently has an extensive tequila list containing of 64 blanco, resposado and anjeo tequilas and mezcals sold by the ounce.

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But in order to keep all the down, how does the food size up? We were given a small tasting of the menu to discover including the Flank Steak Tacos to start loaded with bell peppers, roasted onions, salsa verde and cheese. The slices of steak were cooked to perfectly and thinly sliced making it juicy and tender. The salsa was heavenly, and the cheese cooked onto the tortilla. I could have eaten about 10 of those tacos in no time.
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Photos by yuli scheidt

Next up was the Tamarind Ceviche (including tortilla shells made of jicima and mango) and holy flavour explosion. This was probably one of the best dishes of the evening. It was light and a quick bite. But it was the perfect sweet and spicy. Plus: jicima tortilla shells? Get out of here!

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I was brought to cheese heaven via El Caballito empanada dish which had chicken, tomato sofrito, chipotle and arrived covered in cotija cheese. Delicious and packed a perfect 1-2 punch.

Just when I thought it couldn’t get better, we were delivered the Quesadilla de Quintero which was stacked with zucchini, bell pepper, cheese & salsa roja on a corn tortilla; Cheesy, light and so good.

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Nothing finishes off a dinner like dessert, so we saddled ourselves up to face the finish; churros! El Caballito provided us with cinnamon doughnuts with vanilla custard, and while I may not be a sweets person, I was most  into this. Another thing that I’ve noticed is that churros are something that are hard to do right, but El Caballito’s did them justice.

So while Toronto is filled with many Mexican restaurants, journey out for something a bit different and take on this tequila bar and midnight taco for size.

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The Happy Hooker is Serving Fish, Hunties

Words by Leigh van Maaren, photos by Yuli Scheidt

I’m cursed. I love seafood. Unfortunately people with seafood allergies surround me, and shellfish just doesn’t taste as sweet when it comes with a side of anaphylaxis. So as you can imagine, I was thrilled to accompany my seafood loving pal, Yuli, to The Happy Hooker on Dundas West.
This particular evening we were attending a media event, so we had the chance to try 8 items from the Hooker’s menu over the course of several hours.  While the restaurant has been open for over a year, they only recently obtained a liquor license, and were looking to show off some of their new boozy prowess along with their extensive seafood menu.
We were greeted with one of their signature cocktails – a Dark & Stormy, boozy and gingery as it’s intended to be. I don’t drink much, so unfortunately cocktails are often lost on me – however, they had an excellent selection of glass bottle pop available, including Sumol, my favourite, which made the wait for our food a little bit sweeter.
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The first item served was a kale salad. While veggie-haters (and Homer J. Simpson) might try to tell you that you don’t make friends with salad –  Yuli and I are two friends you will make with an excellent salad.  The kale salad featured a mix of microgreens and kale, plus thinly sliced  standard and watermelon radishes, cucumber, dressed with a simple red wine vinaigrette. The salad was bitter, sour, and spicy all at once – which doesn’t sound nearly as delicious as it was.  We agreed that we’d have to try making this salad at home, because the flavor balance was totally killing it.
While the family-style serving of the dishes was a little awkward (serving utensils were nowhere to be found) the Happy Hooker is usually more take-out focused, so it’s understandable that family style service wouldn’t translate as well.
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After the salad came towering plates of the Baja fries – essentially a plate of russet fries topped with cheese, chipotle sauce, onion, cilantro, guacamole and a delicious lime crema that we’d come to be very familiar with over the course of the evening.  While the toppings on the fries were delicious, the stand-out was the fries themselves. They were almost unbelievably good – twice-fried russet potatoes stayed crispy and delicious even after they were cooled down, with a potato taste that reminded me more of kettle chips than your typical plate of fries.
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Up next was the token po boy – my least favourite item of the night. The shrimp po boy had cornmeal breaded shrimp with lemon aoli, pickled habanero, lettuce and tomato on a Portuguese bun. I found that the cornmeal breading was a bit sweet – between it and the lemon aoli, left it tasting something like a shrimp pound cake. My portion was also loaded with pickled habaneros. I like spicy food, but after my second bite tears were streaming down my face like I was a dude on the Internet who had just seen a picture of a woman with unshaved armpits. I had to pick the habaneros off and drink several glasses of water before I could keep eating, but the residual habanero burn in my mouth meant I didn’t really enjoy the rest of my po boy. Bummer.
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The shrimp taco fared much better; with tasty, well-cooked grilled shrimp. Its only crime was common to the rest of the tacos; the corn tortillas were all served raw. While I imagine there are plenty of places that do this, a corn tortilla really deserves a quick dip in water and a minute on the flat top to be at its best. Fortunately the well-balanced toppings and well-cooked proteins made this an easy to overlook.
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The next two tacos were the Grouper and Cali Baja tacos, both with battered and deep-fried fish. The Cali Baja has small pieces of breaded haddock, and the Grouper was a large single piece of beer-battered grouper. I’d eat both of these tacos again in a second – although I did feel that cheddar cheese was out of place on both of these California-style tacos. I’m a firm believer that cheddar cheese only belongs on two kinds of tacos: those from an Old El-Paso taco kit, and Taco Bell Dorito Locos Taco. Queso Fresca would have added to both tacos, the shredded cheddar cheese didn’t feel like it belonged. I’d still eat these tacos again in a second, but I might ask them to hold the cheese.
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The last item of the night was my favourite, by far – the lobster roll.  A lobster roll is already one of my favourite foods. You could dice up an old running shoe, add some mayo and a bun and I’d eat it if you told me it was lobster roll. As somebody who ate more than one McLobster this past summer, it is barely an exaggeration. While the lobster salad was standard and very solid, the thing that I find that is often lacking from inexpensive lobster rolls is a properly toasted bun. Where the Happy Hooker faltered on their toasting game with the tortillas, the crunchy, buttery outside of the bun did amazing things for that lobster roll, and I can’t wait to be all over one of those puppies again.
Despite some small areas for improvement, the Happy Hooker is shaping up to be a great little place to get some seafood on Dundas West. I imagine come summer, it’ll make an excellent take-out then make-out location for your fishy Trinity-Bellwoods dates.