Khao San Road
There’s a reason why this is one of the most popular restaurants in town: this place has excellent food. I first wrote about it here. When I first went there, it was in search of Massamun curry (my favourite at the time). They have this dish, and all my friends loved it but I fell in love with Khao Soi instead, and to this day, it’s still one of my top picks. This is the sort of place where you can bring out of towners, and they’ll get why Toronto is such a foodie city. Consistently excellent food, great location and just the right hip ambience to appeal to almost everyone :)
For full disclosure, I must say that I’ve since discovered that Suko Thai (which I tried post challenge) used to be Khao San Road’s sister restaurant (and the original!), which is just as good with a lot of the same dishes, and no line up so I go there more often now.
Beast is one of those places where the unpretentious, cozy service makes you wonder if the kitchen will be able to whip up some of the most innovative, quality and delicious dishes you’ve ever had, and then not knowing how to contain your happiness when it you realize that it does. Ok, that sentence probably made no sense, but that’s the rambling of a happy-full-stomach. I’ve been to this place thrice, and wish I could go more often. Tucked away on a quiet side street off Bathurst, this was one of my favourite discoveries. The restaurant is super small, but with strategically placed tables, interesting art work on the walls and a brilliant menu inspired by Canadiana featuring local ingredients, eating at the Beast as a memorable experience. Go with friends, order at least 3 items from each section of appetizer/main etc and keep the wine flowing. It’ll be worth it!
I just really enjoy this restaurant. Right in the middle of Spadina, it just exudes a fun, relaxed atmosphere and when you can have a solid steak frites or cote de boeuf, followed by an awesome selection of pies and other desserts, you can’t go wrong. Vive casual french bistros :) I’ve been to this restaurant several times, with different groups of friends, and so far, it’s never been a disappointment.
So I debated writing about this place because until a month ago, this was one of my favourite restaurants in Toronto. But since at the time of the challenge, and for a while afterwards, I LOVED this place, I decided to include it anyway.
I have been to Ka Chi at least 30 times that I can think of. There were times when I went there 3 times in a week, I loved it so much. This one particular dish with ricecakes, beef and vegetables in a sweet tangy broth filled my dreams, had me gallavanting off in search of the right ingredients to replicate this dish and in general, had everyone I know shaking their head in amusement whenever it was my turn to suggest a place to eat. It had to be Ka Chi.
So what was it about this place? This was my first foray into Korean food, right after my obsession with Korean dramas started. The explosion of flavours of the beef broth and the rice cakes, especially the ginger, just permanently stained my brain for ages. And all the side dishes, particlarly the simple boiled potatoes… I was in heaven. As I said, it was all I could think for a while. Kind of like falling in love at first sight, and walking around with a goofy grin on your face :)
Terra Cotta Inn
Strictly speaking, it is actually outside Toronto but I really like it and it’s close enough anyway so I’m including it in my list. Terra Cotta Inn is in a cozy old building with several different options (pub, restaurant, patio etc), each with a slightly different menu. The setting is very picturesque and lovely, and makes me think of romantic getaways, small town living and the Gilmore Girls. Weird, I know but I wouldn’t be surprised if Suki popped out of the kitchen to make sure you taste one of the dishes!
I’ll admit right now that it is very unrealistic to expect me to finish the write ups of the 101 restaurants. The experiment was undertaken to help Naina and me connect (or in my case, reconnect) with New York and Toronto respectively. Which it did. In spades. My transition back home was seamless, and I credit this project for helping me settle in so quickly. I realize now that my taste buds have evolved, in part due to this experiment. I know areas in Toronto that I had never visited before. I recognized what matters to me when dining out, and what doesn’t. The best part was the involvement of my friends here in Toronto who joined in whole heartedly, looking up options, giving their opinions, helping me keep track, and joining me in my quest. So it’s been bugging me that while this project had such an impact, I don’t foresee myself writing up the individiual reviews for each of them. At this point, it’s not just laziness. It’s the realization that my shoddy memory is working hand in hand with my limited vocabulary (and ability to describe my experience). But here is my compromise. I will go through my list again, and share with you The Five that Make Me Glad I Moved to Toronto.
And we’ll take it from there :)
And we’ll take it from there
Our hiatus (hiati’i? hiatuses?) have been so many and so prolonged, that it’s sometimes easier to refer to the sporadic bursts of activity as the exception to the norm …
With summer 2014 now formally kicked off and in full force, I’m excited to rejoin forces with Simika to rejuvenate our adventures and forays into the culinary worlds – dining out explorations to complement our Project 101 (and complete it, really, at least from a writing standpoint), experimentation in our test kitchens as well as sharing our evolving ideas and perspectives about food at the crossroads of science, culture, history, anthropology and life.
So, let the games begin? I know I’ll be taking any and all bets of how sustainably we’ll keep at it this time, and how shortlived (or not) our period of activity may be!
-Naina, June 7, 2014
An Excellent Article from NPR.
It’s been a while since I’ve written. It’s been rather busy the last couple of years – with my travels, schooling and exploring the culinary offerings of Toronto, Oslo, Dhaka, New York and San Francisco. I haven’t given up trying out new restaurants, or thinking about food, or reading up about cooking. I just haven’t been blogging much about it all.
Well, that is about to change. With school over, my job search commenced and plenty of time to finally start writing again, I promise to do so. Until I get a job, I may not eat out as much but I’m definitely going to be cooking more. So I have a few thoughts on what I want to write about. I hope you will stay tuned! :)
State Bird Provisions may have been the ultimate best dining out experience. Ever. There, I’ve said it.
Dear State Bird Provisions – I want to be you. I want to be the unique combination of quirky and adventurous; the just-right blend of form and function, aesthetics and taste; the no-comparison daring innovation and creativity that leaves the diner stunned, paralysed even.
But I digress. Taking it from the top …
My friend picked State Bird Provisions for my birthday treat. It all happened very last minute, and when she tried to get reservations, she faced a few weeks worth of a wait. Yikes. Neither of us plan that ahead of time to comfortably commit to reservations (I’m breaking into hives just typing out the word commit).
I’d be up for pretty much anything, I told her, but she seemed pretty set on this idea. We called them anyway, disregarding their online reservation cautionary notes. Turns out they do have a handful of seats at the bar/counter that are first-come first-served and are not under the control of the reservations gnomes. Show up and wait, and the seat’s yours when it’s free, they told us.
We had to hatch a plan. Maybe we could get there an hour before the establishment opened and trip everyone who walked by. Not our brightest idea, admittedly. We mulled, we scribbled, and mired in the sea of crumpled paper and flipchart paper … In the end, our conniving settled down to a rather innocuous plan of getting there right at opening to try our luck. We identified a backup eatery in case we weren’t up for a two hour wait at the doors, and satisfied with our game plan, we dispersed.
Right at opening meant we were there about a half hour into dinner time. I had gotten there earlier, and I watched as throngs of twos and fours made their way through a rather nondescript door, merrily chatting amongst themselves and eagerly looking forward to their reservations.
When my friend did come, we hustled inside, eagerly waiting to hear how long of a wait we are facing.