Monday, October 18, 2010

not taipei: TORONTO - downtown, part i

The last time I went to Toronto was a few years ago in 2007 and I can barely remember what I ate- bar food, hotel food and some expensive dim sum. Oh, I did make it to Mother's Dumplings in Chinatown, but everything else is mostly a blur.

So this time when I went last month, I was determined to eat up a storm in Toronto. Thanks to Yelp, awesome readers from my Facebook page (thanks guys!!) and more food blogs than ever to research from, I had lots of new flavors and a shortlist of places to eat at if I ever go back to Toronto again!

MESSINI AUTHENTIC GYROS - strongly recommend

Of all the spots in Greektown on Danforth to choose from, we headed straight to Messini, which was the only one that still packed a crowd at 4pm in the afternoon. The above picture should say it all- a huge pita stuffed with lamb, tomatoes, tzatziki and then french fries!!! I've never seen that before elsewhere, but man was it genius. When I ordered the gyro sandwich, the waitress asked if I wanted pork, chicken or lamb. When I ordered the lamb gyros pita (C$5), she warned me it would be more fatty than the other meats. I was a bit confused, but I understood why after eating it. Unlike many gyro places where the meat is ground up and processed into a slab and then sliced into strips from the spit, the lamb here was real chunks of roasted lamb, stringy and browned, reminding me of carnitas. If you don't like lamb, then order chicken or pork because the lamb here is quite strong in its smell and taste.

The other thing I couldn't resist was the greek fries(C$3.95) which were fried rounds of potatoes topped with feta cheese.

The servers are quite busy running around, so you will have to work to wave them down. But once your food comes, you should definitely leave full.


I probably wouldn't have eaten here if I didn't have food and beverage credit from staying here, but their food is solid. The creamy Sweet pea risotto with scallops (C$17) had huge, perfectly seared scallops and the great flavors. Their eggs benedict were quite nice too. The feel of the hotel and restaurant are a bit old school, but it's amusing to admire their walls of headshots of celebrities who have stayed there.

WRAP and GRAB- strongly recommend

The chicken shawarma from Wrap and Grab was hands down one of my favorite meals on this trip. It was strongly recommended to me by reader Vicky, so I knew I had to give it a try. It was my first time trying shawarma, though it reminded me a lot of Doner Kebab in Taipei, this was so much more. Along with the meat and lettuce, you can also add garlic sauce and hummus which gives it a creamy, zesty flavor. The flavors seemed to have melded together when they heat it up, and the effect was like a super long wrap in a pressed panini. Wrap and Grab has two locations and there are a ton of shawarma places on every other block, all over downtown, but I'll never forget my first time. Just don't get tempted by the samosa- even after toasting, it wasn't crispy or good.

FRESH- recommend

Reader Olivia strongly told me to try out Fresh so that I could understand what she was looking for in Taipei- sorry Olivia, I'm not sure there's anything like it here! Fresh offers a completely vegetarian/vegan menu with salads, appetizers, wraps, burgers and fresh bowls. Fresh was completely packed when I stopped by for dinner, but it was about a 10-15 minute wait for four people.

My favorites included the cornbread and hummus (C$2.50) and gluten free cashew cookie. Appetizers included quinoa coated onion rings, (C$5) veggie egg rolls (C$8) and sweet potato fries (C$6).

I'd choose the salads over the soba, which varied depending on what sauces and toppings you mixed in. The Fresh bowls are quite expensive, at about C$9-13 for brown rice and C$14-15 for soba noodles. We tried the chopped caesar (C$8) which had crunchy tempeh, edamame, sun dried tomato, jicama, red pepper, napa cabbage, pine nuts and salad greens. If you're hungry, go for the dinner set at C$21, which includes a small appetizer, smoothie, fresh bowl and cookie.

If you're going to go for dessert, definitely pick the cashew cookie over the chocolate chunk, which was a bit dry in comparison. The cashew cookie was surprisingly moist, and reminded us of the texture of the chinese almond cookie.


My favorite thing about the breakfast buffet at the Marriott Courtyard was the make your own waffles set up. The batter came out of a spout and you poured it in to the mini-waffle iron, flipped and waited. I cooked mine a little longer, hoping to have some crispy edges and they didn't turn out half bad.

I have more eats coming soon!! Crepes, waffles and more...

445 Danforth Ave
Toronto, ON, Canada
(416) 778-4861

955 Bay Street
Toronto, Canada
(416) 324-5633

170 Dundas St W
Toronto, Canada
(416) 595-9727

326 Bloor St W
Toronto, Canada
(416) 531-2635

475 Yonge Street, Toronto
(416) 924-0611


黃愛玲 said...

I now have an excuse to visit. =o)

Anonymous said...

Oh man! I wish I knew you were in Toronto. Lots of good eats spot! -mona

Nilcha said...

my god... too much yummy food in one post.... LOL.
the onion ring looks so cruncy n yummy how i wish to ve a bite!
a bit curious abt the chopped caesar, they mixed it with tempe??? in canada they have tempe?? wow!
cos tempe is originally from indonesia. we eat it here on daily basis n i just love it!

joanh said...

黃愛玲: yes, lots of good excuses to visit Toronto!! :)

anonymous/mona: thanks! anymore i should try next time?

nilcha: the onion ring was good.. and yes they had tempe and a bunch of stuff in the caesar! i guess Fresh had a bunch of fusion things- their fresh bowls had soba!