Friday, January 25, 2008

15. Jamaica: Ocean Grill

Ocean Grill
2442 Dufferin St
(just north of Eglington)
416 787 9181

It's Friday night and the crowd of young locals waiting for their take-out orders is loud and boisterous. There are disputes over who's blocking in who in the parking lot and a tussle over the TV remote. The wall sized murals of sandy beaches and the blue Caribbean help you forget about the below-freezing temperature outdoors.
Raphael comes out of the kitchen to greet us and recommends I try a fish dish. I opt for the red snapper [pictured above] that comes cooked to perfection with mixed vegetables in a delicious sauce and serving of rice and peas on the side, $12.65. Our other main courses are curry goat, with an extra helping of oxtail, that comes with salad and rice and peas $9.00 and a portion of curry shrimp that my friend takes home. We sip ginger beer and bottled water.
Total including tax and tip $40 for three dinners.
It is basically counter service and a large part of their business is take-out. They also do catering and serve traditional Jamaican breakfast dishes like ackee and salt fish, cornmeal porridge and fried plantain in the morning hours.

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

Friday, January 18, 2008

14. Colombia: El Arriero Restaurante

Los Arrieros Restaurante
276 Jane St
(north of Bloor at Ardaugh)
416 761 1600

The restaurant is named for the Arrieros who are Colombians that transport coffee, maize and other agricultural products to market in the traditional way - with their mules.
We are greeted promptly and help move rustic wooden tables and benches to accommodate our party of eight.
We try a traditional starter: Arepa con Queso - corn cake with cheese $3.50 and find it a bit bland.
Our main courses: Chicken burrito 6.99, Chicken taco three for $7.99, Fajitas Tejanas - Grilled shrimp, chicken, steak strips, onion , pepper, bean lettuce and sour cream [pictured here] $13.99, Bistec Encebollado - Steak with onions rice and salad $12.99. Those who order the Mini Paisa - beans, rice, Spanish bacon, plantain, avocado, beef, corn cake and egg $11.99, find the portion generous and can't believe they've got the mini version. There are no Vegetarian main dishes on the menu but we ask the server for suggestions and get platters with rice, beans, plantain, avocado, salad and a fried egg on top.
The mango juice (with water) $2.50 - so thick that the straw stood up on its own -was delicious and not overly sweet. Chilean red wine by the half litre is reasonably priced.
Entertainment is provided by Leo Del Ayer who sings to recorded tracks. The walls are covered with traditional folk art and Colombian souvenirs.
Overall - a down to earth local restaurant with large portions of tasty South American fare and exceptional service.

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

Saturday, January 12, 2008

13. Tibet: Little Tibet

Little Tibet
712 Queen St West
(West of Bathurst at Manning)
416 306 1896

Little Tibet is a spacious, light and airy restuarant with woodwork and yellow paint and a colourful frieze. It's on trendy Queen Street West, which comes with a hint of menace.
Our starters included: Tenchung soup - red lentil and garlic $4.25; Teme-dhangtse - chickpea and cucumber salad $4.65; Temae - steamed green soybeans (it's like snacking on peanuts) $3.95; shogokatsa - a Llasa style spicy potato salad which was hot and filling $4.95. We shared the tse momo - steamed veggie filled dumplings with salad $9.50 [pictured here].
The tse nanzem - shrimp in a garlic ginger sauce, was tasty with plenty of seafood, $13.95. The vegeterians and vegans chose: tse-tofu - snowpeas, peppers and tofu, $9.25; potse veg - spinach, tofu in garlic and ginger ,$8.95; shogo-ngopa - sliced potatoes, spinach and cilantro ,$8.75, and were not disappointed.
We round out the meal with a tasty rice and dried fruit dessert, Mindha, $5.50. The Tibetan herb tea, which promised stress relief ($2.50) and ginger tea ($2.75) were very well received. Sawmill Creek, an Ontario red wine was $16.65 for a half-litre. Total for 5 people - $137.54 plus a gratuity of $20.63 came to $158.17.
The service was friendly and helpful and we were not under any pressure to leave after the meal on this busy Saturday night.

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

Friday, January 4, 2008

12. Sri Lanka: Rashnaa

307 Wellesley Street East
at Parliament)
416 929 2099

This unassuming Tamil restaurant is somewhat off the beaten path. A large part of their business is take-out and this detracts from the dining room experience. We asked for water which took a long time to materialize. The mango chutney and poppadoms we ordered never did arrive.
The rectangular wooden tables have no table cloths. Background sitar music & traditional art work add to the ambiance but the rather tatty menus need replacing.
All that being said, the food was excellent and the portions generous. Our starters - Ulunthu Vadai (crushed lentil donut shaped dumpling, deep fried and served with coconut chutney), 2 pieces $3.45 and vegetable samosas (potato, carrots, green peas and spices in a savory pastry deep fried and served with a sweet spicy sauce), 2 pieces $3.45 were very good.
Our main courses were equally tasty: Butter chicken - Tandoori marinated barbecue chicken cooked in a tomato based sauce flavoured with a touch of butter and a dash of cream
$9.95; Vegetable Delight - Ghee basmati rice, aromatic with curry leaves and accompanied by dishes of kalla curry (eggplant, breadfruit, potato), cashew and green peas curry, potato in a mild creamy gravy and achar) $8.95; String Hopper Kottu [pictured here]- Red (roasted) rice flour noodles chopped and sauteed with onion, green peppers, eggs, spices and vegetables $7.95
We round out the meal with coffee, chai tea and Vatalapam - a scrumptious flan with Kitul syrup (made from the sap of a palm tree) shredded coconut and cardamon, $3.25. The house red wine, at $12.25 for a half-litre, was acceptable.
Total cost for three was $71.49 - $83.00 including tip. Overall, well worth visiting for the food.

Ambiance (2)
Service (2)
Food Presentation (3)
Food Quality (4)
Value for Money (4)