Ematei Japanese Restaurant

A few months ago I ventured off to downtown Toronto to check out one of Toronto’s few authentic Japanese restaurants. I was tres excited as I have heard many good things about Ematei. I really enjoyed dinner there and unexpectedly came out loving Japanese style curry dishes =D

Ematei is located  in the entertainment district. It’s like a hidden gem on St. Patrick St so it’s easy to overlook this restaurant if you aren’t actually looking for it.

When you walk into the restaurant there’s a sushi bar on your left and a few tables on the right and all in the back. Actually, I had an awkward experience while waiting to be seated. My friend and I stood at the front of the restaurant for a while to wait for the hostess to seat us. And at one point, we thought we had to seat ourselves because the hostess/ servers clearly saw us waiting but they just walked past us without acknowledging our existence and it wasn’t like they were busy or anything… I honestly don’t mind waiting but I was just hoping they would at least say something to us and not leave us standing there

I loved this squid tempura. It sort of reminds me of the ones that you can find at dim-sum. The batter wasn’t too thick – it was deep fried perfectly =] I can honestly nibble on these all night hehe!

This dish is basically curry rice with pork cutlet and is now my all time favourite. There’s just something unique and tasty about Japanese curry – I highly recommend it for curry lovers!

I ordered this sushi set and thought it just mediocre. It was really fresh and great quality – but I have had better. I personally  think Yuzu still has the best sashimi/ sushi in Toronto.

Just like any other Japanese restaurants I visit, I almost always order their house or special roll aka the most expensive roll on the menu (lol) This roll was ridiculously large. Almost twice or three times the size of a regular piece. It started to fall apart when I tried to dip it into soy sauce. Nevertheless, their house roll was pretty good but a bit overpriced.

Here’s a closer shot of whats inside the roll:

Overall, I thought the sushi here was good but not great. Their other  cooked food dishes that I tried were awesome (i.e. curry =D)  They also offer take out if you are not inclined to stay and eat. Ematei is definitely worth the visit if you’re in the area!

Ematei Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Cafe by Crêpe it up

Crepe it up is definitely the best crepe joint in Toronto by far!!! I’ve tried many dessert places around town but none of them have made me crave their desserts the day after (lol). I have past by this place numerous times and if I had known about their amazing crepes I wouldn’t have wasted so much time looking for the perfect “crepe place”

Crepe it up is a small and some what cozy place in the village. There have a  few small round tables and a communal table that seats about 10 people sitting in the middle of the place. If it gets real busy you definitely can’t study or lounge around the place.

Crepe it up serves a wide range of home made goodies from sweet and savory crepes to fresh sandwiches, home made soup, pastries and hot beverages. You can also purchase specialty coffee beans here.

Dark Angel Crepe  ($4.25)

  • Chocolate hazelnut crepe wrapped around an ice cream ball
  • this crepe was amazingly good – the texture was very soft and chewy – the batter was perfect – it instilled a smooth texture of buttery and creamy flavour
  • the crepe stays warm for a very long time – even the very last bite the crepe was still warm and was surprisingly filling
  • the combination of everything was absolutely perfect- I honestly felt like I was in heaven

I absolutely love this place- its friendly and affordable. I can’t wait to come back and try their savory crepes or sandwiches as a snack or late lunch.  Honestly, if I lived in the area I would be here indulging in their perfect crepes every night.

P.S In case I do not post within the next few days, I want to wish everybody a very MERRY CHRISTMAS! Be safe and eat lots = ] 

Cafe by Crepe It Up on Urbanspoon

Zee Grill Seafood Restaurant & Oyster Bar

Zee Grill Seafood Restaurant is one of the oldest and best seafood restaurants in Toronto. I read several great reviews and a friend had also recommended their “surf and turf”. I absolutely LOVED my experience there – minus 1 thing… but will definitely come back!

The exterior of the restaurant isn’t fancy or anything but when you walk in it’s a totally different vibe – romantic with lots of candles and spotlights. I loved how they filled up the exposed brick walls with random quotes!

 

I loved how cozy and warm the restaurant felt. There’s also a private party room to the left of where I was seated

All your dreams can come true… if you have the courage to pursue them.” – Walt Disney (Sorry about the glare – lol)

I was slightly disappointed when I found out they didn’t offer any mixed drinks i.e. cocktails =( They only offered wine and pop …

Bread to start:

  • I didn’t like the bread – it wasn’t warm and was extremely chewy and hard

B.C. Dungeness Crab Cake ($13)

  • the crab cake was served with corn relish & sambal aioli
  • Although the crab cake wasn’t large (finished in about 3 bites lol) literally every bite was ALL fresh crab meat
  • it was incredibly delicious and scrumptious

Surf and Turf ($28)

  • 5 oz AAA Alberta Angus Tender Loin & jumbo prawns & spinach-potato mash vidalia onion rings
  • I loved how the chef was so gentle in assembling this dish
  • I usually opt out when it comes to mushrooms- I don’t mind the texture but I simply dislike the taste of it – however, I finished all the mushrooms on this plate (for the first time); it was flavourful and delicious

Close Up of the spinach-potato mash vidalia onion rings

  • the onion rings were crispy – not too hard or chewy
  • I thought the spinach potato mash went SO well together
  • the mash was so soft and creamy – I wish they added more to the plate (lol)

Close up of 5 oz AAA Alberta Angus Tender Loin & jumbo prawns

  • the prawns and my medium rare tender loin were both cooked perfectly
  • flavourful and well-seasoned

Wild Stripped Sea Bass ($27) – can’t comment about the sea bass because I didn’t try it

And of course I didn’t order desserts because I like to optimize my experiences by trying new places after dinner : ) I would definitely come back because my surf and turf was delectable; honestly one of the best surf and turfs I ever had – and also need to try their oysters : )  The only downside is that maybe it is a tad pricier than other seafood restaurants but its money well spent!

Zee Grill on Urbanspoon

Dinner @ 新疆 (Xin Jiang)

My friend had been going on and on for almost a year and a half (lol) about the best lamb skewers in town and I didn’t think I was much of a lamb person or a skewer person for that matter until she brought me here a month ago. I absolutely loved it and went back with my parents recently! I actually regret not coming here earlier and have no idea why it took me SO long (lol)

I went to Xin Jiang on a Saturday night around 6pm and around an hour later – the place was COMPLETELY packed and people were huddling around the door! My parents and I felt under pressure to quickly finish our meal since people were waiting outside in the freezing cold.

The Menu: reminded me of a viet -pho menu only because of the numbers labelled beside the dishes and also because of the pictures on the right side of each page

The place mat – and I wished I only noticed this earlier T____T It showed some of their most popular and their specialty – traditional dishes from the Xin Jiang region in China that you can’t find at a typical Chinese restaurant

特色炒餅 Stir fry shredded pancake ($7.99)

  • For me, this was absolutely mind-blowing – I ordered this both visits and LOVED it
  • I believe they used a special kind of Xin Jiang noodles because the texture of the noodles isn’t the typical noodles you can find at other Chinese cuisines
  • You have a choice of chicken / beef / just vegetables – I opted for the chicken
  • I know this just looks like a typical Chinese noodle dish but there’s just something so unique about it – maybe it was the sauce they used or just the combination of the bean sprouts and shredded veggies with chicken….
  • All in all, it was the perfect combination, everything blended so well together – absolutely flavourful

四季豆炒牛肉 Stringed Beans and Shredded Pork ($7.99)

  • This dish was mediocre, I prefer this dish at Shanghai-nese restaurants
  • The spices that they used were really powerful – maybe a bit overpowering that I couldn’t really taste the stringed beans
  • Please note that dish is extremely spicy for those that can take in little to no “spices”

BBQ Skewer Kabob ($2 / skewer)

  • BBQ skewers are one of the most popular Xinjiang dishes in China – the chunks of meat came out on really long metal skewers
  • I opted for the tofu, chicken wing, beef and lamb skewer
  • 4-5 pieces on each skewer
  • Honestly, I didn’t like the tofu skewer that much because they grilled it way too dry =S
  • The chicken wings skewer and beef were mediocre

Lamb Skewer [Round 2]

  • the lamb skewer is definitely a MUST TRY – I had to order another round of pure lamb skewers
  • the lamb was very juicy, tender and cooked perfectly – not dry at all
  • I’m assuming they used some sort of of Xin Jiang spices to make the skewers even more flavourful
  • However, the spices they used is a “love it or hate it” thing
  • My dad found the spices tasted weird with the skewers (not your typical kind of spicy-sauce)
  • I wouldn’t use “weird” to describe it – it’s unique –  but I absolutely loved it =]

This place for me is definitely a hidden gem. From both the times I have been here, they didn’t disappoint with the lamb skewer and the fried pancake noodles =] Will definitely come back!

Xin Jiang Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Windsor Arms Hotel

I had my very first high tea experience at Windsor Arms Hotel EIGHT MONTHS AGO back in May (lol) YES! I realize how late this post is – and for those that know me –  I am a HUGE procrastinator. Anyways, enough about me!

Windsor Arms Hotel is located on St. Thomas Street, steps away from Yorkville.

 

The lobby of Windor Arms Hotel

The tea room is absolutely stunning and beautiful. The room is painted dark purple with light purple drapes, white ceiling and a beautiful crystal chandelier filling the center of the room.

This picture was taken when we first arrived. But when the room started to fill to capacity- I thought it was way too noisy for what I imagined high tea to be – quiet and leisurely. I was starting to get a headache with kids screaming at the table next to us T____T

There was only 1 or 2 servers responsible for the whole tea room which was fine because I thought he was overly attentive when we were first seated.

I loved how the whole tea set was almost white – simple and elegant.

We ordered the Full Tea Set which included a choice of a Loose Leaf Tea which comes with fresh scones, sandwiches and desserts!

The Tower of Goodies =]

The presentation of the sandwiches included:

  • Smoked Salmon and Wasabi Sour Cream with Salmon Caviar
  • Cucumber with Sundried Tomato Paste and Dill Cream Cheese
  • Grilled Chicken, Granny Smith Apples Citrus Mayonnaise, Greek Yogurt & Chives

The smoked salmon sandwich and the grilled chicken were my favourite <3 It was uber delicious! Each of the sandwiches were bite sizes. And because there were the 3 of us, each person could only have 2 of each of the different sandwiches. I have no idea how we split the desserts T____T

The desserts and the scones I found were extremely filling and I personally didn’t enjoy them as I hoped. I found that the desserts were WAY too sweet for my liking and the scones were just average and filling. However, I enjoyed taking pictures of the desserts – they were a work of art =]

Finished off the tea with fresh strawberries and whipped cream!

My friend wanted to pack the scones away =p I like their bag


Overall, I really enjoyed my first high tea experience. Although, I don’t think I will be high tea-ing in the near future just because I found it rather expensive ($55 included tax + gratitude).  Besides the sandwiches I thought everything else including the tea was just ordinary – but I’m glad I chose Windsor Arms Hotel to have my very first high tea experience at.

PS. I realize this post is under “bistro/ fine dining” and thats the closest it gets because I’m too lazy to start a new category for “high tea” =p

Shiso Tree Cafe

Drove all the way out to J-town and indulged in a delicious Japanese inspired Italian cuisine for the very first time. When I first heard about it I was like huh? How does Japanese & Italian work?! But nevertheless, when I arrived at this particular comfortable and cozy cafe, I came to realize that this was a Japanese owned pasta house. I am a sucker for pasta and I must say their pasta was very “detail -oriented” – the uniqueness and combinations is very different then the pastas you usually find.  The pasta was pretty good but I’ve had better but I did indeed loveeeeeeeeeeed their fries *nom nom nom*

They have 3 different types of pasta: Cream Sauce, Tomato Sauce and Wafu (Japanese inspired pasta) The price of the pasta ranges from $10-$15 depending on which section you order from.

And for $7 more, you can turn your pasta entree into a combo that includes: a salad, soup of the day, and a slice of cake from Bakery Nakamura

Taro Smoothie (Left) & Mango Smoothie (Right)

Yukon Golden Nori Fries

  • seriously best fries ever! I couldn’t stop munching on them all night
  • the ends of the fries were really crispy – seasoned perfectly

Soup of the Day (can’t remember the name of the soup for the life of me T___T)

  • I really enjoyed the soup – came out super hot – the “Croutons” were still semi-crunchy
  • the soup wasn’t too concentrated or too filling =]

Sukiyaki Pasta

  • the flavours for the sukiyaki pasta was blended perfectly
  • thinly sliced beef with herbs on top & fresh slice of garlic bread
  • this was part of the “Wafu” section of the pasta (Japanese inspired)

Pasta with Prawns with Tomato Sauce

  • So I decided to try a different category of their pasta section and chose tomato sauce because it’s one of my favourite
  • 4 pieces of prawns & garlic bread
  • I enjoyed this pasta but I have had better – I guess it didn’t WOW me like the sukiyaki pasta

Chocolate Mouse Cake by Bakery Nakamura

I’m definitely looking forward to my next visit at Shiso Tree Cafe. Can’t wait to indulge in more yummy Golden Yukon Niro fries (highly recommend) and maybe next time i’ll order from their cream pasta section =]

Shiso Tree Cafe on Urbanspoon

Toula Ristorante & Bar

(Super delayed post! & a Super short post- because I’m in a rush!) My relatives from Hong Kong came to visit during the weeks of Summerlicious. I was totally excited to take advantage of the summerlicious deals and chose go to  Toula again.
Despite the mixed reviews, I actually enjoyed my first visit there a year ago- absolutely loved the lobster pasta and the tiramusi I ordered for dessert. Server was friendly and attentive. The restaurant itself had magnificent views during night – overlooking the nightlife of downtown Toronto.
However, I was really disappointed with my whole experience during this second visit. The food and service was “meh” so I was literally just paying for the ambiance and the location. Its safe to say that I don’t think I will be returning again!

View of the restaurant & sparking lake!

Amore Salad with Baby Arugula

  • toasted Pine Nuts, fresh Strawberries and shaved Parmigiano Cheese, Honey-Champagne Dressing
  • the appetizer was a beautiful piece of art! – but too bad it tasted the complete opposite of how it looked

Handmade P.E.I. Lobster Ravioli

  • with a light Basil Pesto a la Genovese
  • about 15 ravioli pieces
  • Ok – who orders Ravioli at summerlicious?!?! Well me. My relatives decided to each order a different item from the menu and I was stuck with this (lol)
  • This pasta was extremely dry despite all the pesto sauce you see in the picture below
  • The lobster pieces inside the ravioli had no flavour – everything was just bland and dry – urgh!

Homemade Creme Brulee

  • So I actually enjoyed something during this meal….
  • The creme brulee was smooth and yummy underneath the fruits and the all layer of sugar!

Overall, spectacular view, location and ambiance. I already said enough about the food. Actually, I didn’t get a chance to take pictures of the food my relatives order nor did I get to try them but they told me they didn’t enjoy it either. So I’m definitely going to spend my $$ trying new restaurants during licious.

Price: $35 + tax + gratuity

Toula Ristorante & Bar on Urbanspoon

Nami Japanese Seafood

Driving along Adelaide, I noticed Nami Japanese Seafood. Judging from the exterior, I thought Nami was something mysterious because the outside is solid black with just “NAMI” written. You definitely couldn’t tell it is a restaurant – and at one point I thought it was a nightclub because the entrance looks so much like the entrance to Embassy Night club (lol)

 

Anyways, after doing some research about Nami, I came back a few days later =D

The traditional cuisine is really warm and cozy. Booths were lined up along one side of the restaurant, the back had long tables for larger groups and on the right was an open sushi bar and a open grille/ teppanyaki section. We were seated in one of the individual booths and I was happy because they had good lighting for me to take better pictures =D

The first dish that started off the meal was:

寿司ピザ Sushi Pizza ($12.50)

  • this sushi pizza was definitely LARGE compared to ones that I’ve had at other sushi places
  • marinated salmon sashimi topped with onions and flying fish roe, garnished with spicy sauce, and served on a deep fried sushi rice cake
  • i know it’s just a sushi pizza, but I couldn’t stop smiling when I saw this (lol)
  • the pizza looks great but tasted amazing!!!
  • usually salmon sashimi only covers 2/3 of the pizza but i was surprised to see it cover the whole pizza with so much flying fish roe filling up the center

 たたき Nami Tuna Tataki ($18.50)

  • seared tuna thinly sliced  and served with citrus ponzu sauce
  • the sashimi was absolutely fresh and tasty
  • the tuna was cut to the perfect thickness
  • 6 tuna pieces on plating

寿司の春巻 Sushi Spring Roll

  • i absolutely love rolls but sadly the sushi spring roll didn’t WOW me like the other dishes
  • actually – it didn’t leave me an impression at all

鮭かま Sake Harami ($8.75)

  • salmon belly  with a light teriyaki sauce (you get a choice of teriyaki or salt)
  • grilled perfectly just the way I like it
  • they had slices of lime on the side in case you wanted to add more flavour to this delicious salmon

牛網焼きBeef Amiyaki ($13.25)

  • US Black Angus cut into cubes and cooked at the table on a small Hibachi. served with sesame sauce
  • I absolutely love this dish because of the presentation and love how you can cook the Angus to your liking
  • I found the Angus was a lot juicier than the one I tried at Inayaka (I will post about my dining experience there later)

焼き鳥 Yakitori ($7.45)

  • Dark meat chicken pieces and green onions skewered and grilled in salt taste or teriyaki taste
  • I don`t even know where to begin about the yakitori – I am usually hesitant to order chicken or any kind of skewer because I`m always scared that it will turn out extremely dry etc.
  • The yakitori was absolutely mind-blowing, flavourful and well-seasoned
  • I honestly couldn`t stop eating yakitori – I usually just take a small piece of the skewer but this time I almost finished all of it without noticing (lol)

スパイシーまぐろ巻き Spicy Tuna Roll 6 pieces ($8.50)

  • Tuna and cucumber with spicy sauce
  • I love my rolls and spicy tuna is one of my favourite – that being said – I was disappointed with this roll
  • the presentation was sloppy
  • in terms of taste –  i thought it was just mediocre, nothing special or memorable

ざる うどん/そば Zaru Soba ($9.50)

  • Cold noodle broth served with soy based bonito dipping sauce
  • this was my second time trying zaru soba and I’m still indifferent about this dish
  • You basically pour the egg into the soba and mix it and then EAT
  • I don’t find it special or anything (yet) – probably because I don’t like eating cold noodles

I walked out of Nami Japanese Seafood super full and satisfied (minus the rolls). This place might be slightly expensive but I think its money well spent. This restaurant definitely does not disappoint!

Nami Japanese Seafood on Urbanspoon

Five Guys

When I walked into Five Guys, I noticed that it was a very “50s” feel – red and white checkered throughout the whole restaurant and then I noticed all the signs along the walls reading = “Voted Best Burger for Families” ,  “Voted Best Bargain” , “The BEST $5 Burger a man can eat” etc. – Umm, I guess I was slightly disappointed and don’t get me wrong – the burgers were fresh – but nothing special in my opinion (I’ll explain more later).

The menu is simple and easy to read. There are no combos – so it becomes slightly more expensive.  A meal can cost a person up to $10-$15 if you get fries with the burger (and depending what burger you order). So my friend and I each ordered our own cheeseburger and shared a large fries and a pop – which came out to around $25!

Cheeseburger

  • the burger was fresh and hot – but greasy
  • the patty was cooked to well done
  • or a little bit TOO well done – because I didn’t find their burgers juicy
  • excessive amount of cheese don’t you think?

I forgot to take pictures of the fries T______T but I thought the fries were just like the burger – Fresh – but nothing special. Overall, they were alright but definitely didn’t live up to all the hype about it.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries on Urbanspoon

Yuzu Sushi & Sake Bar

Hands Down. Yuzu Sushi & Saki bar is one of my top picks for sushi in downtown Toronto. I enjoyed a delicious dinner at Yuzu a few months ago. Everything I ordered was made insanely fresh and well presented and the sashimi was UBER DELICIOUS!!. I absolutely love everything about this restaurant. Yuzu is very modern and comtemporary looking – opened by Chef Ken (owner of Sushi Couture, former owner of Japango). However, Yuzu is more on the pricey side but it is definitely money well spent.  I would definitely recommend this place for sushi lovers =]

Website:

Interior of the Restaurant:

Spicy Tuna Roll ($7)

  • absolutely loved this roll
  • the only thing I didn’t like was the cucumbers – usually salmon/ tuna rolls aren’t suppose to have cucumbers
Closer shot of the roll:

Sashimi Dinner – Chef’s Selection, 15 pieces of Sashimi ($25)

  • The sashimi was the most juiciest  and freshest sashimi I have EVER eaten – I literally felt like I was in heaven!!!!
  • Every piece was cut into the exact same thickness
  • My favourite piece was the sea beam <3
  • I’m craving for more again while blogging about it (lol)
Closer shot of the sashimi dinner:

Yuzu Maki (House Roll) – shrimp, tempura, spicy scallop, avocado, tobiko, seared at table ($18)

  • Whenever I go eat sushi, I always order the house roll – and this one did not disappoint AT ALL!
  • I couldn’t capture the flames that surrounded the roll =(
  • Seriously, one of the best house rolls I ever had
Closer shot:
Green Tea Creme Brulee ($
  • I love the presentation of this dish – very simple and elegant
  • Green tea was very prominent in the creme brulee but not overpowering
  • The custard was very smooth and tasty
I usually never eat the foods that are used to decorate the dish because they never look fresh. But I made an exception and finished all the fruits on the plate =]
Closer shot of the Creme Brulee

Everything at Yuzu is just simply divine. Definitely looking forward to my next visit (if I can afford it) hahahaha =)

Yuzu Sushi and Sake Bar on Urbanspoon

Lunch at Spencer’s Restaurant

I just realized my favourite way to destress myself is to photoshop pictures.
I just photoshopped some pictures from about a few months ago when I went to 1340 Lakeshore Road in Burlington! Indulged in a yummy duck confit pizza at Spencer’s Restaurant facing the sparkling lake.

The view from the restaurant was absolutely breathtaking!! Wish we made an earlier reservation to sit on the patio to face the lake but we got a window seat so – Not bad at all *smiles*

The food at Spencer’s Restaurant is just average – well at least I was satisfied with my entree. I can’t vouch for anything else because there has been mixed reviews about the food here. In terms of the service, our server wasn’t very friendly – and it made me feel uncomfortable as well. It actually took quite long for our food to come out so we just sipped our drinks and enjoyed the view while waiting.

Website:

View from our seats – so pretty!

Virgin Pina Colada ($7) & Jasmine Iced Tea ($5)

Steak, Egg & Frites – 6 oz striploin, Yukon Fries, fried egg, mushroom, watercress ($24)

  • This entree definitely looked better than it tasted
  • My friend told me the steak was mediocre – but the yukon fries tasted delicious

Confit Duck & Shitake Mushrooms – panna, white bean, Ontario raw sheep’s milk feta ($18)

  • This tasted so much better than it looked – absolutely loved this pizza
  • the duck and the feta went so well together
  • It came on its own personal pan – which I thought was really cute
  • When I ordered this I thought it was a duck confit entree and completely didn’t see that it was under the “pizza section”
  • nevertheless, absolutely loved the pizza
  • I only finished half – and packed the other half =)

Spencer’s had a open wood pizza oven – that was something I liked about restaurant.  The food was just average – the view is nice and everything but I find that our meal was rather expensive… and it was only lunch. I’m not sure i’ll return because its pricey and also I rather spend my money trying other restaurants on my list =D

After lunch, we strolled along lakeshore and I took my camera for a tan, snapping a photo here and there. Apparently they turn the pool beside the restaurant into a skating rink during winter =D

Spencer's at the Waterfront on Urbanspoon

Kikoni Izakaya

Kokoni Izakaya is located in the heart of “The Village” and has been open for a few months now. The cozy restaurant is just located steps away from Guu Izakaya and serves a variety of small tapas-style specialty dishes that goes well with beer! I really enjoyed indulging in the foods here. In my opinion, I found that their food tasted average – not really memorable prices are a lot cheaper than Guu. However, their service is closer to the slow side and this was expected as I read reviews about their “slow service but good food”

Despite the slow service, I actually don’t mind waiting for food (as long as I’m not in a rush)

Pork Belly Yakitori 

Wasabi Salad

Takoyaki

Okonomiyaki

Beef Tataki 

Green Dragon Roll

Kokoni Izakaya on Urbanspoon