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Guu Sakabar (559 Bloor St W, Toronto)

Guu Sakabar just opened close to 2 months ago. It’s located at Bathurst and Bloor, just east of Bathurst (or Honest Ed’s), on the south side of Bloor.
I paid them a visit about a week after it opened. This is Guu’s second location in Toronto, Guu Sakabar seems to have fewer menu items than the other one. Sakabar, however, offers ‘floor seats’, not necessarily more comfortable, but fun to try.

Here are some pics: (combined photos from 2 separate visits)

view from our table

view of the floor seats

Takoyaki Gratin (octopus ball gratin) $5.2
-I didn’t look at the menu too carefully and thought I was getting takoyaki balls, but they turned out to be a bowl of what would’ve been inside takoyaki balls. It was very soft, tasted like salty pudding with pieces of tako (octopus) inside.

takoyaki gratin

Beer ~$10
-I don’t remember what kind of beer this was. Maybe Sapporo? The eerie glow is the light from a blackberry sitting under the glass. It was the only way to take a picture with my phone.

beer (possibly Sapporo)
They pour beer out of samurai swords.

Uni (sea urchin) special of the day ~$10
-This was on their special menu and I was lucky they had this on my first visit. (They didn’t have uni during my second visit.) I love fresh uni. The wasabi they use for this, you can see bits and pieces from the ground-up wasabi root.

about 5 pieces of uni (sea urchin – the spikey sea creature)

Okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake) $6.2
-”deepfried pancake with yakisoba noodles, tonkatsu sauce, mayo” – copied description from their menu
-BE CAREFUL when you order this okonomiyaki, if you’re looking to get something identical to the okonomiyaki you got from the other location (which is $6.8), you might be disappointed. This one here is smaller, thinner, cheaper, and they added a little bit of noodles (aka yakisoba) on top. I prefer the other Guu’s okonomiyaki.

okonomiyaki with yakisoba (noodle)

Kakimayo (baked oyster) $6.8
-I already talked about this dish in a previous review for Guu, but I like this picture.
-Baked oyster with spinach, garlic mayo, and topped with cheese. (I thought I also tasted mushroom…)

kakimayo (baked oyster)

Karaage (fried chicken pieces) $5.2
-Meat was sooooo tender and unbelievably juicy. It’s like they injected juice into this chicken after they fried it. And by ‘juice’ I mean tasty oil.

karaage (fried chicken with garlic mayo)

Temari Zushi (torched salmon, cream cheese sushi balls) $8.9
-I liked the presentation on this. I was sitting at the bar and I saw them prepare this. After they wrap the salmon around the rice, they sprinkle some seasoning (sea salt + pepper?) on top and flame-grill the top surface briefly. When you bite into it you get a smokey taste in your mouth. I liked it.

temari zushi

Carbonara Udon $8.3
-east meets west, carbnara and bacon meets udon and seaweed, with a half-boiled egg on top.
-I really liked this udon and its creamy goodness. It doesn’t look like much but looks can deceive. I broke my egg and mixed it up into the udon. The egg completes the dish in my opinion. Like painting a dragon and drawing the eyes at the end. Then the dragon flies away… (I doubt many people will get this reference.)

carbonara udon

Takowasabi $3.5
-Good appetizer. I would recommend this if you’re not scared of wasabi since the mixture you see in the picture has marinated octopus with chopped wasabi stem, oh ya, and vegetables.
-You have to wrap the seaweed around the mixture yourself.

takowasabi

Roasted Green Tea Cheesecake $4
-This was average, but because it was roasted, it had a different layer of flavour beyond the green tea.
-Interesting to try, but I wouldn’t order it again.

roasted green tea cheesecake

Free cake for my birthday $0
-Free always tastes good!

oreo cake

Service: 5/5 (They were able to put all 11 of us in the same table during peak hours on a Sunday night, AND I got free cake!)
Food: 4/5
Price: $$$ (if you want to be full)
Ambiance: loud, noisy and fun

Guu SakaBar on Urbanspoon

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Fin Izakaya (55 Eglinton Ave. East, Toronto)

Fin Izakaya is similar to Guu Izakaya but the ambiance is not as lively. The waiters and chefs still acknowledge your entrance to the restaurant; it’s easier to have a quiet conversation in Fin.

I found this place because they were advertising on TeamSave on September 29, 2010. $15 for $30 worth of Jap food. I bought it because I read some good reviews about this place.

I finally got around to trying this place a couple months ago. Located just east of Yonge/Eglinton on the south side. You can find entrance to the free parking lot (for customers of Fin) slightly east of the restaurant, but the hostess/waitress had to come out of the restaurant to let me into the parking lot. That’s a bit troublesome.

view from one corner of Fin Izakaya; that’s the sushi bar

Here are the dishes:
TUNA NEGIMA SKEWER $7.00
-Deep fried tuna & Japanese Leek on a bamboo skewer
-I liked the texture on the tuna, the inside was still very soft. Leek was too much for me, couldn’t finish.

tuna & leek skewer

inside the tuna

BLOW-TORCHED MACKEREL $8.00
Vinegar-pickled mackerel
- choice of blowtorched, grill or sashimi style
; I chose blow-torched.
- Slices of blowtorched mackerel (should have taken a video instead, they torch it right beside your table); put some ginger and green onion on it and dip it into the sauce. Not bad.

blow-torched mackerel

JUICY PORK BELLY SKEWER (1pcs) $3.00
Chicken Skewer (1pcs) $3.00
- this picture shows 1 pork belly skewer and 1 chicken skewer.
- They give you the choice of sea salt or Fin’s teriyaki sauce. I tried both, definitely go with the teriyaki sauce, at least for the chicken skewer.
- Pork belly skewer is quite special, but I can’t remember what it tastes like.
- I really liked these skewers. When I go next time, I will order these 2 again and get teriyaki sauce on all my chicken skewers. Sure, you lose a little bit of the chicken’s natural flavour, but with sea salt, it’s a bit dry.

1 pork belly skewer and 1 chicken skewer

Grilled Squid ~$6 (~ means approximately)
- I can’t find this item on their online menu for some reason, but it was there on the restaurant’s physical menu.
- Nothing special imo

Meat pancake with an egg on top and some mayo ~$5
- This item is also not on their online menu. (Probably should’ve taken a pic of their physical menu in-store.)
- I would not order this again, very plain in taste and not worth the wait. It took about 10-15 minutes to make this dish.

meat pancake with egg on top and some mayo drizzled in a criss-cross pattern

Food: 4/5 (the skewers are solid 4+)
Service: 5/5 (Jap waiters and waitresses, very polite)
Price: $$$ (about the same $$$ as Guu)
Ambiance: clearly a lot more quiet than Guu, in terms of business and ambiance; more suited for an intimate meal rather than a birthday party

Fin Izakaya on Urbanspoon

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Ten Ren’s Teatime (111 Times Ave, Richmond Hill)

This is the location on the south east corner of Highway 7 and Times Ave.

I know people think bubble tea places just have the typical fried snacks and expensive combos and expensive drinks. While all of that is true and also applies to Ten Ren’s, I discovered not too long ago that Ten Ren’s is one of the only places in Toronto that makes oyster pancakes. Please correct me if I’m wrong, I’d love to find other places that sell oyster pancake. (There were 2 restaurants in Toronto that used to sell it. I know YES used to have it but closed down, and Stop & Seat aka Tea Shop stopped serving it – both on Yonge street south of Finch. I think sometimes the Metro Square night market will sell oyster pancakes, but last time they ran out of oysters in the first hour!)

Oyster Pancake (~$7):
I enjoyed their oyster pancake, the colours looked true to the original (in Taiwan). To some of you, this may look disgusting, but to me, it’s a delicacy! Try it, but it’s an acquired taste. You’ve been warned.

Oyster pancake – gooey goodness

Here’s a picture of their takoyaki (octopus balls).

That’s all I got. The only reason I brought up Ten Ren’s is because of the oyster pancake. Everything else is not particularly good.

Price: $$$ expensive for what you get
Oyster pancake: 4/5

Ten Ren's Tea Time on Urbanspoon

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Villa Malaysia (140 York Boulevard, Richmond Hill)

Villa Malaysia is in that plaza along with Alice Fazooli’s, Destiny, Chako, Boston Pizza, etc.
140 York Boulevard is basically right off of East Beaver Creek, north of Highway 7.
Once you’re in the plaza, it’s pretty difficult to spot it. If you stand at Boston Pizza and look towards the round-about, you should be able to see the sign for Villa Malaysia. (It replaced Spezzo that was there before.)

It took us about 5 minutes and a phone call to find this place.

It wasn’t too busy inside for a Friday lunch. My friend tried this place before and recommended it.

This is the roti curry beef? $8.5 (My Indian friend said it was paratha and not roti.)
I tried some of the paratha and it was crispy, warm, soft, and a little bit sweet. I tried a bit of the meat and curry sauce, very spicy. (It’s all relative.)

Roti Curry beef

At first I wanted to try their Pad Thai, but after checking with their waiter to see what kind of sauce they use for their Pad Thai and he said some kind of tomato sauce, I was disappointed and decided to go with the Assam chicken with rice.

Assam (tamarind) chicken with rice ($8):
Tamarind is a tree and the sweet and sour sauce is harvested from the tamarind pods. It tastes different from your typical Chinese sweet and sour sauces, it leans slightly more towards the sour side. Worth a try.

Assam Chicken with rice

Here are 2 other dishes that I didn’t get to try and don’t remember the names of:

This is a chicken dish – don’t remember the name. I’ll take notes next time.

Spicy beef or lamb

Service: 4.5/5 (Our waiter gave my friend a shot of fruity yogurt on the house to relieve her of the spiciness. Although according to my friend, it didn’t taste very good, but it was still a thoughtful gesture.)
Food: 3.5/5
Price: $$ ($7-$10)

Villa Malaysia on Urbanspoon

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Jetsun’s Juicyburger (5165 Yonge St, Toronto)

Jetsun’s Juicyburger (JJ) is located on Yonge St, on the east side.
I never would have noticed this joint if my friend from Queen’s University had not recommended it to me.
I decided to give it a try since we had the coupons handy.

One of the first things I noticed about this place was how ghetto it looked and how uncomfortable their seats are. They are not designed for long-term sitting. The environment was not very lively and their staff wasn’t too friendly either.

 
JJ advertises never-frozen beef patties, so I ordered the basic hamburger combo ($8.84, might have paid more for onion rings but the coupon made it slightly cheaper) and indeed it was very soft, cooked to medium. Minimal toppings were in the burger, just your basic lettuce, onion, and tomato slices. Bread bun was soft too.
I personally thought the onion rings were better than the burger, which doesn’t say much about the burger.

My hamburger combo with onion rings (yellow sheet is the coupon)

close-up of the hamburger – not impressed

Come to think of it, the Jetsun’s Juicyburger reminded me of the Shake Shack Burger in New York City – both very tender. But somehow, Jetsun’s on Yonge street just can’t be compared to Shake Shack in NYC. It’s true what they say, where you eat your food really matters.

Service: n/a
Hamburger: 2.5/5
Price: too expensive for the amount of meat and toppings I’m getting, I’d rather get a Hero burger

 Jetsun's Juicyburger on Urbanspoon

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Ciao Bella (665 Millway Ave – unit #17, Vaughan)

Ciao Bella is a very hidden place, almost impossible to find at night.
We only knew about this place because RH eats at Ciao Bella all the time.
Somehow we got the second floor all to ourselves. Decor was nice – dimly lit for atmosphere.
Waiters were friendly and patient.

First off, the standard-complimentary-bread at an Italian restaurant was toasted, garlic-y, tasted fresh and had small pieces of tomatoes. Good!

garlic bread

For appetizers, I tried the following 3 items:
i. stuffed eggplant with goat cheese & roasted bell peppers served on a bed of mixed greens
ii. portobello mushroom goat cheese napoleon
iii. grilled calamari served on a bed of organic greens with a balsamic vinaigrette

i. Stuffed eggplant with mixed greens: stuffed eggplant was lightly battered, crunchy and mushy at the same time; subtle flavours, decent, but not amazing
ii. portobello mushroom with goat cheese and mixed greens: goat cheese and tomato with portobello mushroom was very interesting – recommend

iii. grilled calamari and mixed greens – I liked the calamari and so did my friends: “good sauce”-K.C., “grilled to perfection…tangy”-M.T.

Entrees:
i. Oven roasted chicken supreme stuffed with wild mushroom, sundried tomato & mozzarella drizzled with pan jus served with grilled vegetables & potatoes ($25 with appetizer & dessert)
ii. Grilled Rack of lamb topped with a honey dijon pistachio crust drizzled with wild mushroom red wine reduction served with grilled vegetables & potatoes ($35 with appetizer & dessert)
iii. Risotto funghi with truffled oil ($25 with appetizer & dessert)

i. oven roasted chicken: I remember it was moist.
ii. Grilled rack of lamb: no mint, cooked to medium rare, good
iii. Risotto: looked plain and tasted meh, not a good choice

Dessert:
i. Creme Brulee
ii. Tiramisu

i. Creme Brulee: I didn’t have any, but I also didn’t hear any praises or complaints.

ii. Tiramisu: This tasted pretty good, but the presentation was very weak. It made the dessert taste half as good.

Ciao Bella – Vlog (Video Log):
MT comments on grilled Calamari
KC comments on Portobello mushroom and grilled Calamari
LC comments on Portobello mushroom
RH comments on Rack of lamb
SW comments on Portobello mushroom, grilled calamari, and stuffed eggplant.

Honourable mentions:
I enjoyed the free/unlimited bread, the calamari, the portobello napoleon, the lamb, and the tiramisu.

Food: 4/5
Service: 4/5 (could’ve used more water refills, but they did bring us more bread when we requested for more)
Presentation: 4/5 (aside from the Tiramisu that was falling apart, the rest of the dishes were well-presented)

Ciao Bella Ristorante on Urbanspoon

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Le Pain Quotidien (10 Yorkville Ave, North of Yonge/Bloor)

Le Pain Quotidien means “The Daily Bread” in French. I will refer to it as Le Pain for short.

“Le Pain Quotidien offers tartines, soups, salads, quiches, pastries and desserts.” – Wikipedia.org
I would classify this restaurant as an all-day breakfast restaurant that serves the above.

I liked the effort they put into their decor.

You can’t really compare Le Pain to Boom Breakfast or Cora’s or Denny’s because Le Pain offers the atmosphere that you’re sitting in a quiet little bread shop. Whereas if you go to Boom, Cora, or Denny, you feel like you’re in an assembly line waiting to get fed, sitting in cramped seats where you can’t back your chair up because you’ll bump into the next table behind you. (Denny’s in Mississauga has more space in the restaurant, but that’s because it’s in Mississauga.)

Enough talk. Bringing on the food!

Croissant with ham inside and greens on the side: ~$8?
I ordered this one because I thought croissants went well with a French-themed restaurant. I really enjoyed the croissant and ham, and the dip was good too, not sure what it was. Greens are greens. Portion is a tad small though.

Organic egg omelet with bread and greens: ~$10?
I tried my friend’s organic omelet and sure enough, I don’t know what organic eggs taste like, but this, it tasted organic! In a good way. Bread was a bit hard, maybe not fresh anymore?

I also tried their latte and my friend’s cappuccino. With enough sugar, both tasted good. (I’m not an expert on coffee.)

Overall, I WOULD come back for a lazy brunch. I wouldn’t do it too often obviously due to its price. However, it is a good place if you want to have a conversation in a nice atmosphere.

Food: 4/5, bread could have been fresher
Service: average
Price: a bit expensive for the amount

Happy 2011! I’m very pleased to have reached the 1000-visitors milestone by the end of 2010. I couldn’t have done this without your support. Thank you all.
I’ve been listening to some suggestions and I promise I won’t listen to all of them. One thing I will be incorporating into some (if not all) of my blogs will be vlogs (video logs of people’s reaction and comment to food). My next post will be a vlog of my food adventure at an Italian restaurant.

Stay hungry.  :P

Le Pain Quotidien on Urbanspoon

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Lucky Bamboo (3175 Rutherford Rd, Vaughan)

Lucky Bamboo is originally known as Temptation Tea Shop (I have a previous post about it), located beside Vaughan Mills; this is the place I always go to for lunch before night skiing/snowboarding at Blue Mountain.
Even though this restaurant has changed owners, their quality remains the same.
It is known for their bubble tea, pho, vermicelli, rice dishes and basically Vietnamese cuisine.

For appetizers, I ordered 2 giant shrimp and pork spring rolls for $3.99 and shared the plate with a friend. The sauce for the spring rolls comes with a lot of peanut chunks so if you have peanut allergies, get your epi-pen ready, or you can just tell them not to put any peanuts in the sauce. For $3.99, this is a lot of spring rolls.

For the main course, I usually go for their rice dishes because I find them more filling than pho.
This time, I got their pork chop + beef + fried egg (substituted for crab quiche) on rice with a side salad for ~$8.99. It’s very mouth-watering just looking at it. Normally, it comes with crab quiche, but I asked for an egg replacement and they were happy to oblige.

My friend ordered this noodle dish with shrimp, pork, veggies, and a fossilized shrimp ~$7 where the batter tasted like shrimp crackers. The presentation looks a little messy because I took the pic after my friend stuck his chopsticks into it. This bowl of noodles comes with a small bowl of soup on the side and I think you’re supposed to drink that as you eat your noodles. Very interesting, I think I’ll try it next time.

Here is a closer look at the fossilized shrimp:

This restaurant has always been on the top of my list.
Side note: Another Vietnamese restaurant opened right next to this one and almost never gets any business.

Service: 4.5/5
Food: 4.5/5
Bubble Tea/Specialty drinks: 4/5

Temptation Tea Shop on Urbanspoon