Saturday, September 27, 2008

42. Argentina: Sky Ranch

Sky Ranch
2473 Dufferin Street
(north of Eglinton)
416 787 0491

Several staff members attempted to entice us to come/stay later in the evening to enjoy the live music provided. We were wary of taking public transit home from that neighbourhood later in the evening and so stuck to our plan for a 6:30 dinner and are safe at home by nine.
The menu is, as one would expect, heavy on the beef but we choose to order differently.
For starters: Camarones al Ajillo Shrimp in Garlic Sauce $10.90; Palmitos con Salsa Golf - tender hearts of palm, on lettuce with black olives with a tangy tomato-mayonnaise dressing, $7.90 [pictured here].
Our main courses were: Salmon a la Parilla - grilled salmon steak served with rice $14.90, which was slightly undercooked; Camarones al Ajillo - Shrimp in Garlic Sauce with rice $13.90.
I ask our server to recommend a dessert and choose the Flan con Dulce de Leche -homemade custard with caramel cream, $4.00, and I'm not disappointed.
It's nice to have a house wine that originates in the same country as the cuisine served (Argentine house red $15.00 for a half litre).
Print up a coupon from their website to save 15% on your food order. Total for three courses with drinks and tax was $71.35 for two people, after the discount.
Service was friendly and informal, if a little quirky. Latin and North American pop background music were alternately played. The band setting up were more on the Latin side. We were the only people speaking English in the place, which enhanced the authentic ambiance.

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

Sunday, September 21, 2008

41. Sudan: The Empire

The Empire
1018 Bloor Street West
(east of Dufferin)
416 532 5511

It's counter service at this busy eatery which does a lot of take-out business. The cook greeted regulars warmly and quickly dished up requests for their "usual" orders .
Much of the menu is mixed plates where you choose items from the steam table. The Veggie Plate [picture above] includes salad with pickled turnip & cabbage, two hot vegetable dishes ( I picked okra and white kidney beans) roasted eggplant, falafel balls and your choice of rice (lentil or raisin) with a whole wheat pita. It makes a very filling lunch for $6.49. The lamb shank plate came with similar choices of sides. Amused by the plastic knife she was given my friend asked, "How will I cut the lamb?". The cook jokingly suggested she borrow his Donair carving knife. Then another customer quips, " The lamb is so tender it will just fall off the bone, you won't need a sharper knife". He was right. The eggplant sandwich was generous and tasty, if a little on the oily side, a bargain at $2.99.
It is a halal restaurant, so there's no liquor license. Beverages consist of self serve tea, $1.50 and the usual canned and bottled soft drinks, juices and water.
The wood panelling is quite distinctive and there's an illuminated copy of the Koran in a glass case with prayer lists taped to the outside. Nearby, a wide screen TV airs a European soccer match.
Rating: Ambiance (2)
Service (2)
Food Presentation (2)
Food Quality (3)
Value for Money (4)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

40. USA: Southern Accent

Southern Accent
595 Markham Street
( Bloor & Bathurst, in Mirvish Village)
416 536 3211

To Southern Accent on a pouring wet Sunday night, when they offer a $19.95 prix fixe menu. We opt for al fresco New Orleans-style eating undercover to the sound of the delta blues. The place is busy but not crowded with a pleasant atmosphere. We start with a butternut squash soup, from the set menu, and crab cakes [pictured] with a ginger remoulade sauce, $8. This is an excellent start and we are willing them on - can they keep it up?
The first foot fault is they don't have my choice of wine, hardly a major ricket, so I settle for a half-litre of Portuguese red at $16. We also order southern-style brewed ice tea. I opt for Bourbon Street Chicken: blackened, boneless chicken breast, napped with fresh lemon beurre, served with fingerling potatoes and grilled baby bokchoy with chili brown sugar sauce. The Mrs goes for St Peter’s Street Ricotta Gnudi, with Enoki, Oyster & Cremini mushrooms in sherry sauce, served with sautéed green beans. They bring the wrong main course - and there is a short delay. Why don't waiters write things down? The dessert is a bread and butter pudding with bourbon - judged to be 'heavenly' - and home-made vanilla bean ice cream.
I am in good mood and apply the port test - yes, they do have a port to finish. The meal is $105 incl tip. Well worth the trip y'all.

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

Saturday, September 6, 2008

39. Hakka: Danforth Dragon

Danforth Dragon
861 Danforth Avenue
(at Donlands)
416 461 9238

Hakka cuisine is true fusion cooking. It evolved in Bombay and Calcutta through second and third generation Chinese immigrants. It blends Indian spices with traditional Chinese cooking methods. The Hakka are an ethnic group of Han Chinese who have settled in many parts of the world including the Caribbean, East Africa, Europe and North America. Be prepared for spicy food!
Our shrimp pakora starter [pictured here], chock full of large shrimp in a hakka spiced crisp batter, which we sprinkled with fresh lemon juice, was exceptionally tasty, full serving, $10.99. The main dishes: Manchurian Paneer, with Chinese greens, Indian cheese with shanghai Pak Choy came with a bowl of steamed rice, $ 8.50; Singapore Rice Noodles, vermicelli noodles with vegetables, egg, shrimp and chicken, $ 8.99 - were equally generously portioned and delicious. We slightly over did it when we ordered a dessert - fried Banana with ice cream, $5.99.
Our beverages were a bottomless pot of Jasmine tea, $1.50; and a half litre of house red wine, $10.99. Total for two, including taxes $53.29 plus tip.
Service was prompt, friendly and attentive.
Chinese artwork on the walls is an attempt to liven up the decor, but you get the feeling that take out and delivery are what keep the place going. Saturday night disco music did not add to the ambiance.
Rating: Ambiance (2)
Service (4)
Food Presentation (3)
Food Quality (4)
Value for Money (4)