Friday, November 23, 2007

6.Cuba: Julie's Cuban Restaurant

Julie's Cuban
202 Dovercourt Rd
(east of Dufferin, between Dundas and Argyle)
416 532 7397
Reservations recommended.

Ideal restaurant service is friendly, fast and efficient and not condescending or "in your face". The service we received at Julie's Cuban Restaurant came very close to that ideal. The ambiance on a freezing Friday night was enchanting. Picture a retro snack bar in a downtown residential neighbourhood that's been preserved and jazzed up, Cuban style. However, we got an icy blast every time customers did not close the entrance door firmly behind them - this needs fixing.
After starting with a traditional soup - Potaje de Frijoles Negros (Black Bean) that was thick and tasty, I chose two veggie options from the tapas menu: the Tostones Rellenos - green plantain cups stuffed with a creamy avocado and onion mixture (pictured here) was exceptionally good both in presentation and taste; and Yuca con Mojo which was nicely cooked if a little bland. Yuca, known variously as manioc and cassava, is a starchy root vegetable and a staple food in the tropics. It is also what tapioca and the "bubbles" in bubble tea are made of. In Cuban cuisine, mojo is sauce made with garlic, olive oil and a citrus juice, frequently lime.
The tapas menu and entrees are good value for money. The Camarones al ajillo (garlic prawns), $7.25, were very good and Pollo con Platano Maduro (chicken breast stuffed with plantain), $16.95, was a huge portion if a little bland. We found the wine list (no house wine, cheapest bottle $33) and the peppermint tea at $3.50 a cup to be pricey. The Key Lime Pie was heavenly. Total cost incl tax for three persons $111.89 plus tip.

Ambiance (4)
Service (3)
Food Presentation (4)
Food Quality (4)
Value for Money (3)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

5. Malta: Malta Bake Shop

Malta Bake Shop
3256 Dundas Street West
(just east of Runnymede)
416 769-3254

The Malta Bake Shop is a cheery, clean cafe with scenes of Malta around the walls. We chose a Window seat so we could watch the film crew setting up across the street. On this Saturday afternoon it seems the cafe caters mainly to the folk of Malta Village. A TV showing an NFL game like a sports bar detracted from the atmosphere somewhat.
We selected a trizzi at $1.50 (pictured above), a rock cookie, and imquarett (date filled, deep fried pastries). The savoury pastizzi, cheese filled flaky pastries, were thought to be a bit bland. The apple strudel with cherries, however, was well received.
There is basically counter service, but the counter girl came around with the coffee pot with free refills.
A down-to-earth cafe worth stopping by for coffee and cake or take away service.
Iggy's comments: "My first impression upon entering the cafe was not only the Maltese artwork in the walls but the display under the TV and the cabinet just inside the door that contained Maltese souvenirs, some for sale. I noticed several people looking at the memorabilia that seemed to attract the attention of both patriots and patrons alike.
My second impression was the large display counter containing an array of goodies and the anticipation of selecting some of them to snack on."

Ambiance (2)
Service (2)
Food Presentation (3)
Food Quality (3)
Value for Money (3)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

4. Czech Republic: Prague Fine Food Emporium

Prague Fine Food Emporium
638 Queen Street West
(West of Bathurst, at Palmerston)
416 504 5787

We waited a full twenty minutes to get seated at Prague, on a busy Saturday lunchtime, in this Bohemian part of Toronto. We probably came at the busiest time as customer arrivals were somewhat tidal. The restaurant was buzzing - a home-from-home for East Europeans. The deli counter was also busy serving a range of imported foodstuffs, including Hero jam.
We chose a Cucumber Salad - cucumbers in yogurt dill dressing - $4.00 for a shared starter followed by Palacinky [crepe] stuffed with strawberry, banana, and orange, covered with yogurt & blueberry compote for one main course and Wiener Schnitzel with Classic Czech Potato Salad for the other. The food was well presented but not exceptional.
Good strong coffee followed, also Chai tea. The waiter decided he should have served the drinks with the meal so gave us a Kolache pastry to take home. The service was good once seated with the busy waiter placating other customers with an easy style. This restaurant is not an alternative to fast food.
Lunch for two came to $24.64, $30 including tip - good value for money.

Ambiance (3)
Service (2)
Food Presentation (3)
Food Quality(3)
Value for Money (3)

Saturday, November 3, 2007

3. Mexico: Mexitaco Restaurant

Mexitaco Restaurant
828 Bloor St West (east of Ossington, at Shaw)
416 537 6693

Mexitaco is a small corner cafe on a very ethnic strip of Bloor Street West. First impression: It looked more like a U.K.- type cafe in a downbeat neighbourhood. It was entirely lacking in "Mexican" ambiance, save for some Mariachi music piped from a TV digital audio channel and a colourful mosaic tile sink in a clean but cramped washroom tucked into the corner of the kitchen. The one server in the room greeted us as strangers in a room that seemed full of "locals" though she warmed up a bit as the meal progressed. Our mains were unimaginative in presentation and varied in quality: Chorizo Tacos - topped with spicy sausage made fresh on the premises topped with cilantro and onion; Enchilada pollo - four tortillas filled with chicken baked in a zesty sauce served with rice and salad; Chile Relleno - poblano pepper stuffed with cheese then battered and fried, served with rice, beans and tortillas.
Desserts were a highlight: Cajeta Burrito - mini burrito stuffed with cheese, deep fried then covered with cajeta (caramel); Flan - homemade sugar custard pie. Unfortunately they were not yummy enough to save a disappointing eating experience.


Ambiance (1)
Service (2)
Food Presentation (1)
Food Quality(2)
Value for Money (2)