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We spent the day walking and shopping all over the city of Toronto, from the downtown core all the way through to Parkdale. With tired feet and hungry stomachs, we walked just a couple blocks more to wait in line at Grand Electric. Arriving only two minutes before opening at 6 pm, a huge line had already amassed outside its wooden doors. A good thirty to forty people had gathered in anticipation of being among the first to be seated that Saturday night. We were hopeful but dubious as to whether or not we would get in on the first round.
The bright orange colour that seems hallmark to the cheery little soba shop is hard to miss walking down Delancey street. Cartoon figures welcome you from the windows and wait for you between the pages of the menu, helpfully pointing out nutritional benefits as well as tips and suggestions on how best to enjoy your meal there. Instructional cards are handed out according to the dish ordered, giving you a little bit of extra info on the history of the dish and the method of traditional consumption.
Located immediately next to Le Panthere Verte, Crudessence is in tied in tough competition with its neighbor, pulling vegans and vegetarians and those who have a craving for something a little healthier for lunch this way and that. Just by rough comparison, Crudessence seems to be a bit more trendy in style – walking in you’ve got a long row of wooden banquettes and stained glass windows in the back bouncing beautiful rays of color all over the wooden floors, giving the whole place an organic feel. Flipping through the menu, I was surprised and delighted to find so many interesting sandwiches, salads and cakes that used unconventional ingredients to spice up standard dishes. Places like these are bound to arouse curiosity and shock – how can something so healthy taste so good? It’s almost an oxymoron.
Having opened its doors about two months ago, Restaurant Biarritz is a new restaurant venture headed by Stéphane Bouzaglou who has previously worked with celebrity chef Daniel Boulud (check out this post from Singapore for a review on his Bistro Moderne). The place is a cozy, tiny little thing that exudes friendliness and warmth, offering up a casual chic atmosphere to meet up with friends and family.
The West Island welcomes a new addition to its ethnic roster of restaurants: Aryana. And no, it’s not another serving Indian food – this time its Afghan. It’s nice to see some more diversity in the curry, stew and grill departments on des Sources Boulevard. Having been open a mere three weeks, the family run restaurant is still very new to the scene in terms of notoriety and recognition – hopefully people will hear more about it and take the time to visit the place because it is unbelievably good. Some even make comparisons to the more established Khyber Pass on Duluth and conclude that Aryana has a better grasp on the authenticity of the cuisine!
One of my favorite spots to go to for a quick and easy lunch is the Vietnamese Hoai Huong, located a block away from the Cote-St-Catherine metro station. We sat on the terrace out front which was quite roomy and equipped with sun umbrellas so those who don’t like to endure the heat can eat in comfort. I had the “pink Vietnamese drink with coconut milk” which was exactly that- the pink color comes from the red jelly at the bottom which was chewy and a little sweet. Great chiller for summer weather.
World renowned French chef and restauranteur Joel Robuchon – the only one in the world who has received as many as 24 Michelin stars – has opened a Salon de Thé in Taipei’s Bellavita high fashion complex. Beautifully decorated with not a single item out of place, the furniture, the floors and the couches alternate between a jet black and a bright red, providing a stark contrast. We went around 11 am, a little early for afternoon tea granted, but we were anticipating waiting for a while, having heard that lines to get a seat inside are common. To our surprise, it was completely empty! We were the only customers until a few minutes before we left as some more groups started to trickle in. The place is gorgeous – as are the pastries served here.
Walking into Joe Beef, one immediately senses a kind of warm intimacy few restaurants are able to successfully achieve in terms of both physical space, ambiance and decor. The space out front is quite small; tables are set one next to the other with only a few inches separating diners from one another – for those who sit on the inner banquettes, tables must be pulled out for them to exit gracefully. Even in such close quarters, fellow diners have been the most friendly and cordial I have ever met. The owners have recently closed their luncheonette next door (McKiernan’s) in favor of expanding Joe Beef, creating an oyster bar in its place while at the same time increasing its capacity for more people to stop by. Due to the popular demand for the restaurant’s exquisite food, the terrasse out back has been opened up as well. I had actually never been in the area before and our lovely waitress Vanya was nice enough to show me around. The garden where ingredients are freshly grown and harvested lines the terrasse; adjacent to this, a separate plot of land is sectioned off by a fence – here they house a large metal smoker where they treat some of their meats and fish.
If you’re looking for an alternative to your routine breakfast/brunch joint, you’ve found it. Byblos is an Mediterranean influenced Iranian restaurant that is one of Montreal’s best kept secrets. Located on the eastern most section of Laurier street next to Le Fouvrac (an amazing gourmet food store) and across from Frite Alors, this area of the city is beautiful in the summertime as the street is lined with trees and storefront flower beds. Byblos has high ceilings that give the place a lofty, open air feeling and wall paper that brings to mind a meeker, more subdued Pollock painting. Traditional Iranian swords, tea pots, plates and furniture are artfully placed throughout the restaurant further enhancing the authentic feel of the place.