[Winterlicious] Cluny Bistro and Boulangerie

Restaurant: Cluny Bistro & Boulangerie
Location: 35 Tank House Lane, Toronto, ON M5A 3C4 Price Range: $$$
Overall: 4.5/5
Note: This review is only for Winterlicious 2015 Dinner, it does not reflect the normal service. In addition, part of this review is written by my friend who accompanied me to the dinner.

My second Winterlicious dinner was at Cluny and their 3 course prix fixe dinner was priced at $35. This dinner was quite a spontaneous one as I didn’t plan to come here at all, but my boss recommended it, and I was not disappointed at all. Note to self: when a Parisian recommend you to an authentic French restaurant, you listen and trust their taste ;).

The interior of this restaurant is beautiful. For a French restaurant, it had a modern decor and a partially opened kitchen, a seafood bar (I believe?) and an open bread bar. The wine rack is quite impressive as well.

Open bread bar

Open bread bar

Open seafood bar

Open seafood bar

They also had a separated bakery, but unfortunately I was too full and couldn’t have any of their pastry offerings, they looked delicious though. I think Cluny would be a perfect spot for a date when summer comes :).

Bakery

Bakery

Bakery

Some of their bakery offerings

Below are my friend’s courses:

Pressed Chicken Terrine “Nicoise Style” -  pickled beans, tomato jam and black olives

Pressed Chicken Terrine “Nicoise Style” – pickled beans, tomato jam and black olives

To be honest we never had a “Terrine” before and I must say, it is quite delicious! This was a cold appetizer and surprisingly, the chicken was still soft and juicy. While the chicken terrine itself did not have much flavor, the tomato jam gave the terrine a hint of sweetness, while the olives and picked beans provided a touch of sourness and brightened up the dish. The yellow and smooth hollandaise sauce rounded out the contrasting flavors and made the dish cohesive. This was a well composed appetizer and a great way to start the meal!

Beer Braised Beef Cheeks - celeriac and barley stew, roasted sprouts, fresh horseradish

Beer Braised Beef Cheeks – celeriac and barley stew, roasted sprouts, fresh horseradish

This was my first time trying out beef cheek (a lot of firsts for this meal!) as it is not a common ingredient for an every day meal.The cook of the beef cheek was perfect, it was very tender and succulent, the seasoning was spot on as well. The roasted brussel sprouts were a nice addition to the dish, and the horseradish add a nice, little touch of freshness to this “meat-heavy” dish. The barley gave the dish a hearty-comfort-food feel, a stew great during the winter months in Toronto :).

Roasted Hazelnut Profiterole - chocolat chaud and chantilly

Roasted Hazelnut Profiterole – chocolat chaud and chantilly

Hazelnut and chocolate are always the perfect match. The profiterole itself was airy and light, delicious not overly sweet. The dark chocolate ganache was divine and the slight bitter taste helps to cut down the sweetness of the profiteroles, a very well balanced dish. The hazelnut chantilly and bits of cookies (?) added some texture to the sauce, but it was not really needed in my opinion. If you enjoy dark chocolate, I highly recommend this dish!

And these were my courses:

Tomato and Saffron Braised Calamari -   basque style stewed peppers and fennel

Tomato and Saffron Braised Calamari – basque style stewed peppers and fennel

Normally I enjoy calamari grilled or deep fried, but I never tried it braised before and it did not disappoint. By braising, it allowed the calamari to soak up the broth, leaving the calamari very tender and juicy.  I don’t think the fennel was needed as it didn’t add any flavor to the dish, and I wish the broth had a bit more salt or spice, it was a bit under-seasoned for me. Nonetheless, the broth was perfect for dipping pieces of soft bread ;).

BBQ Steelhead Trout - flageolet beans, roasted heirloom carrots, almond sauce

BBQ Steelhead Trout – flageolet beans, roasted heirloom carrots, almond sauce

When the trout arrived, I thought it was going to be over-cooked as skin seemed to be too charred. Surprisingly the fish was flaky and moist, no “burnt food” smell and the seasoning was spot on. The almond sauce seemed non-existent. The beans had no flavor, but the roasted carrot added a nice touch to the dish with their natural sweetness coming through. The salad also added some nice texture and quite refreshing :).

Lavender Blackcurrant Macaroon - wild strawberry coulis and torched vanilla meringue

Lavender Blackcurrant Macaroon – wild strawberry coulis and torched vanilla meringue

To be honest I was quiet skeptical with this dish, as I had a bad experience with Lavender macaron previously. To my surprise the Lavender did not taste like Bouncy sheets at all, it was very mild and the blackcurrant tasted like a concentrated blackberry flavor to me, not to sweet at all! I believe the ice cream was raspberry as it was a bit sour along with the coulis, but the sweetness from the meringue helped to cut down the sourness. There were a lot of flavors going on with this dessert and everything blended together nicely, I really enjoyed it.

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Overall I enjoyed my dinner at Cluny. While my main course wasn’t the best, my friend really enjoyed her dishes and I did too! Our server was very friendly and relaxed, she did not rush us to finish our dinner, unlike some restaurants. Each dish arrived quickly and plates were cleared off promptly. With the lovely location and patio, I can’t wait for the weather to warm up and return for their brunch :).

Cluny Bistro on Urbanspoon

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[Winterlicious] Trevor Kitchen and Bar

Restaurant: Trevor Kitchen and Bar
Location: 38 Wellington St E, Toronto, ON M5E 1C7
Price Range: $$$
Overall: 5/5
Note: This review is only for Winterlicious 2015 Dinner, it does not reflect the normal service. In addition, part of this review is written by my friend who accompanied me to the dinner.

My final Winterlicious dinner was at Trevor Kitchen and Bar and they only offered a 3 course prix fixe dinner menu at $35. The decor and overall feel of this place was very nice and intimate. They had 2 sections, one for the bar and one for dinning. The service was superb, our waitress was incredibly nice and friendly, I must also note that this was the only time I have tipped a waiter/waitress 18%!

The bar area

The bar area

The dining area

The dining area

My friend and I shared a poutine together as it sounded so good… we couldn’t resist.

beef cheek & smoked cheddar poutine

beef cheek & smoked cheddar poutine

The poutine was not part of the Winterlicious menu and it was $12, a bit pricey but it was worth it in my opinion. I wished there was more cheese though. As you can see there was barely any cheese, but the beef cheek just melted in your mouth… it was so good..

Below are my friend’s courses:

spicy wagyu tartar with coriander, peanuts, soy lime dressing & taro chips

spicy wagyu tartar with coriander, peanuts, soy lime dressing & taro chips

This dish was really good! The taro chips were crispy and flavorful, it wasn’t too soggy nor stale. The Spicy wagyu tartar was amazing. Firstly the portion was very generous; I was able to finish all the chips with some leftover. The tartar itself was a little spicy which I enjoyed. The dressing was amazing because it helped mask some of the raw taste of the beef yet wasn’t overpowering, the lime taste at the end provided a refreshing aftertaste.

northern ontario whitefish with red barley, black olive, roasted tomato & crispy shallots

northern ontario whitefish with red barley, black olive, roasted tomato & crispy shallots

I actually hate vegetables, however this place was doing a great job with every order so I felt obligated to at least try the veggies! There was no dressing for the vegetables and it wasn’t needed. The juices from the tomato as well as the fish itself provided a nice flavor to the vegetables it was sitting upon. The tomatoes were a little sweet which was a huge plus, The fish was cooked really well, it was moist yet they were able to make the skin crispy!

honey crisp apple raspberry crumble with vanilla ice cream

honey crisp apple raspberry crumble with vanilla ice cream

Lastly, the dessert! I actually let my friend who hates sweet stuff try some. To her surprise it wasn’t overly sweet which one would expect from a crumble. I on the other hand enjoy sweets and for that matter the sweeter the better! Having said that, I still enjoyed this dessert because with each bite you get to taste hints of honey. The honey never took away from the dessert itself and you were able to still taste the raspberry.

And below are mine!

shrimp & chorizo salad with zucchini, avocado & queso fresco

shrimp & chorizo salad with zucchini, avocado & queso fresco

This is probably the first time for me to say this, but I really enjoyed this salad. It was really refreshing and light, a great way to start off the meal! The shrimps were cooked just right, not too rubbery (but I wish they gave me a few more shrimps though :p but that’s because I love seafood). The chorizo was a tad spicy, but the queso fresco helped to cut down the spiciness and gave the salad a salty-sour kick.

8oz aaa sirloin steak with winter truffle mashed potatoes, brussel sprouts & bacon

8oz aaa sirloin steak with winter truffle mashed potatoes, brussel sprouts & bacon

The steak was excellent, perfect medium rare and it was seasoned nicely with salt and pepper. They were very generous with the portion too! The winter truffle mashed potatoes was not grainy, very creamy and the truffle added just a light touch of earthiness to the mash. The brussel sprouts were okay, it didn’t have much flavor. I wish they roasted it longer (more caramelization) or perhaps cook it with the bacon a bit longer?

Just a small complain, my steak and the vegetables were lukewarm, but the plate was piping hot. My assumption is that they finished cooking the steak while I was still trying to finish my appetizer,  and left the plate on a hot surface to keep it warm.

espresso chocolate mousse with bourbon caramel

espresso chocolate mousse with bourbon caramel

LOVE LOVE this dessert. The mousse itself is not sweet, the texture was really creamy and light. I can definitely taste the espresso in here, not so much the bourbon though, but the caramel added a nice touch of sweetness, and the sour strawberries helped balance the dish.

The bill came with cotton candy

The bill came with cotton candy

The bill came with a huge white fluffy ball of cotton candy :D. You can tell it was made fresh in house, not sticky at all.

I really enjoyed my dinner at Trevor, probably the best dinner along with Cluny Bistro. $35 for a 3 course meal is worth it and I strongly recommend this place for Winterlicious, or any other event (if you can afford the normal dinner price :p).

Trevor Kitchen and Bar on Urbanspoon

[Winterlicious] Nota Bene

Restaurant: Nota Bene
Location: 180 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5V 3X3
Price Range: $$$
Overall: 1.5/5
Note: This review is only for Winterlicious 2015 Dinner, it does not reflect the normal service. In addition, part of this review is written by my friend who accompanied me to the dinner.

Winterlicious have been running for a few years now, and apparently every year it gets worse because the food is mass-produced, meaning less effort is put into the quality.  With that said, I don’t mind trying out Winterlicious restaurants, and decide whether to return later for normal service (for special occasions of course) :). This year I tried three Winterlicious restaurants, with Nota Bene being the first one. For dinner, Nota Bene offered a 3 course prix fixe menu at $45, while the lunch costed $28.

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Inside Nota Bene

Sorry if I couldn’t take a better picture of the interior, I get quite nervous when I take pictures inside a fine dining restaurant lol. The restaurant is spacious and very modern looking.

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[Ramen] Hokkaido Santouka Ramen

Restaurant: Hokkaido Santouka Ramen
Location: 91 Dundas Street East, Toronto, ON M5B 1E1
Price Range: $$
Overall: 4.5/5

From 2012 – 2013, Toronto was suddenly hit with a ramen craze and there were one or two ramen restaurants popping up every month. Luckily I am a huge fan of ramen and I have tried most of them. Albeit there are some new restaurants over the years but I got tired of ramen after a while, hence I didn’t bother trying unless something new was being offered..

Hokkaido Ramen Santouka

Hokkaido Ramen Santouka

On a chilly winter night, I revisited Hokkaido Ramen Santouka – an international ramen chain – with a good friend (who whole heartedly support my blogging life <3). Since the restaurant is located near Ryerson University and Eaton Centre (tourist alerts!), I strongly recommend you to come early as there can be a long line up. Although I was lucky enough to get a table within 10 minutes, but if your party haven’t arrived yet, they will not seat you. Also, the restaurant does not take reservation so if you decide to come with a large group of people, it will be extremely hard to get seats.

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Inside Santouka

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[Dessert] Delysees Bakery

Restaurant: Delysèes 
Location: 780 King Street West, Toronto, ON M5V 1C9
Price Range: $$
Overall: 3.5/5

Hi everyone! Sorry for the hiatus. During the past 2 months I tried several new restaurants and I took a lot of pictures for blogging. However I keep forgetting to take pictures of the interior or menu of the restaurant (fail lol), hence I couldn’t do a proper blog post. I promise I will blog more often from now on and have different variety of restaurants, not just dessert places..

Inside Delysees

Inside Delysees

This time I visited Delysees – a modern and authentic French Bakery located on King Street West. First of all, I have to mention this place is beautiful! It’s a lovely space with clean lines and glossy whites everywhere. The inside is spacious and I believe the glass wall at the back is the entrance to their kitchen? The glass counters showcases the sandwiches and salad, ranged from $5-10. Unfortunately by the time I visited it was almost dinner so I didn’t want to try any, I will try some next time!

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[Dessert] Bang Bang Ice Cream

Restaurant: Bang Bang Ice Cream
Location: 93 Ossington Avenue, Toronto, ON M6J 2Z4
Price Range: $
Overall: 4.5/5
Note: Cash & Credit Only

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For my birthday, I decided to venture to Bang Bang Ice Cream as my Instagram new feeds have been dominated by pictures from this place, especially the Macaron Ice Cream Sandwich! Beware, the shop is small and the place is easily missed as there was only a little sign by the window. The decor is minimal and they had the ice cream selections of the day on the bucket, which I thought was a cute idea.

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The cookies selection looks great! Unfortunately the Macaron was sold out for the day, I ended up ordering the London Fog Ice Cream Puff Sandwich instead.

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