Posts tagged Toronto
Posts tagged Toronto
After trying to impress my readers with a few initial posts on fancy restaurants, I believe it’s time for me to get off the culinary high horse and blog about some friendly neighborhood restaurants that are just as worthy of noting.
I cannot take credit for discovering this little diamond in the rough (it’s just a saying. The restaurant is in a good neighborhood). I got indoctrinated into the Laterna “cult” by my colleagues at work. One of the many great things I quickly noticed about working at my company in my first year is that we are a bunch of hard-working, diligent, cohesive, and goal oriented foodies—we take the birthday boys and girls on our team out to lunch every year, rain or shine. Our team takes it very seriously too. We schedule it on our Outlook calendars and make sure everyone RSVPs. If the venue is TBD we will mark it as TBD in the meeting invite but make sure to update along with web links for GoogleMap directions when the restaurant is determined after a democratic vote.
Apparently, our team holds a tradition every year to take our well-respected Greek colleague, Dilbert* (names have been changed) to his favorite Greek joint to celebrate his birthday. Now, he has been with the company for at least 15 or 16 years so you can imagine how much history our team has had with this particular restaurant. Of course the faces accompanying him to his birthday lunch tradition has changed over the years but I’m sure it has remained one of the high notes of his career. I must say the fact that Latena is across the street from a mall that has a kiosk for renewing license plate stickers before they expire on your birthday deadline also makes this restaurant stand out as a good birthday lunch spot.
Before we begin talking about the food at this restaurant, let me give you the benefit of the same rundown of procedures that my colleagues have passed onto me. The lady server at this restaurant is awesome and friendly, but at the same time she exudes an air of aloofness. You know the feeling you get when you come across someone who commands respect due to his/her seasoned experience? You know, the no-muss-no-fuss-I-know-my-sh*t-and-I-own-this kind of presence that some individuals have? Yeah. You get that feeling when she comes take your order. Don’t get me wrong, she is very friendly, but I also don’t want to mess with the lady in the house. :) Rumor has it that amidst all the items available on the menu, the Super Souvlaki is the bomb. I repeat, the SUPER souvlaki is the bomb. However, when you order from this lady, you mustn’t say the word “souvlaki.” You should simply say the main ingredient. So, for example, if you wanted to get a chicken souvlaki, don’t say “chicken souvlaki,” just say “Chicken.” Otherwise, you will be corrected. She will instruct you to just say “chicken.” I guess when you have such an outstanding souvlaki, it’s very redundant and almost a waste of time to say it out loud. Who cares about the homemade lasagna or pizza on the menu or the today’s special chalk board? You are at a Greek restaurant, for God’s sake, order “Chicken”, “Pork”, or “Gyros”! Get on with the program! Again, it’s just “CHICKEN.” Not “chicken souvlaki”, and God forbid, do not mutter the entire phrase, “the chicken super souvlaki.” Just say “Chicken.” As long as we are on the same page, we shall proceed.
I can honestly tell you, I know nothing about the rest of the menu. I have only tried the Gyros and the Pork. Oh, and our constant starter: the Greek salad with iceberg lettuce, chopped celery, tomato, cucumber, onion, and black olives, sprinkled with some feta cheese. The salad is mixed in a very tangy and refreshing salad dressing that one cannot see but can only taste. It is one great salad. We always get two large bowls to share around our table. Frankly, all the other items on the menu are rather elusive to me because I have never seen them materializing before my eyes. Certainly not at our table but also never at other people’s table but maybe I’m just not very observant due to our usually lively conversations. And so are all the cocktails that are featured on what I call the Throw Back Thursday place mat. The restaurant must have printed 5 million copies of these back in the day. They are in front of you, which might suggest that they are available for ordering, but I have honestly never been so turned off from drinking by merely looking at pictures of cocktails, but hey, that might be just me or the fact that I have only gone there for work lunch.
Now, let’s turn our attention to the Pork. I LOVE the Pork. I have tried the Gyros the very first time I was there. It was good but once I tried the Pork, I fell in love and never looked back. My coworkers also love the Chicken and the Lamb. The Pork (or whatever meat you order) comes in a wrap. The homemade pita is fluffy and soft, but has a crisp to it at the same time. Inside the wrap, juicy and tasty pork slices are accompanied by finely chopped tomatoes and onions in a very creamy tzatziki sauce. The best way to eat the wrap is to hold it on one end and keep unwrapping the wrapping paper as you go. The reason why this is significant is because they don’t skim on the tzatziki sauce. It can get fairly messy if you don’t start from the open end or if you cut them in halves leaving one side with a complete open end. Aside from the trickiness of containing the sauce and not letting it run down your hand/wrist, the Pork is the best Greek souvlaki I have had. Even though I love the kind of potatoes that most Greek restaurants tend to serve souvlaki with in a regular souvlaki dinner, I can sacrifice not having that because the Pork is so good at Laterna.
So there you have it. My single item blog for a friendly neighborhood Greek restaurant.
P.S. I have had the pleasure of seeing the server lady’s softer, more sensitive side once. One time, our charming coworker, Clyde*, from another team joined us for lunch. We all felt that somehow Clyde won the usually calm and composed server lady over and got more smiles from her than any of us, combined. I believe she also made sure that we serve Clyde the salad first. When asked for his comment on the seemingly special treatment, Clyde just shrug his shoulder and replied in his self-assured tone, “I’m just likable.” We can all learn from him. To this day I still secretly rehearse “Pork” in my head before I order so as to not mess it up when it gets to my turn to order…lol
Parts and Labour
When my friend first mentioned to me let’s go and try Parts and Labour, I thought he wanted to go get some parts for his next DIY project. Little did I know Parts and Labour was the name of a restaurant.
As the name suggests, the restaurant certainly evokes an industrial feel in terms of its interior design. The bar area is decorated with lights made out of recycled tin cans. Florescent lights are bundled together to form tubules which are hung over long communal dining tables. They remind me of light installment art pieces that I have seen at the MOMA. Yet strangely, the dining atmosphere did not feel too communal. We still managed to maintain our own space without feeling like the strangers sitting next to us on either side are joining us for dinner. The ladies room is filled with a variety of recycled rear view mirrors. Now that’s a pretty cool idea because they resemble those wall-mounted magnifying ones with extending arms that Ikea sells. If you happened to get paranoid about food pieces being stuck between your teeth during a meal, you can double check, triple check, quadruple check your smile before you exit the ladies room. (Honestly you should be paranoid if you’re having a dish that includes spinach or some other dark pieces of vegetable because quite frankly, no matter how nice the other person’s intentions are when they point it out to you that you have something stuck between your teeth, it still feels very awkward for both parties. I’m not too sure if they supply the same utilitarian decor in the male washroom though).
I digress. Let’s get back to the food. Well, it’s been a while since I have gone to the place so please excuse me if I am not providing the most accurate ingredient info. All I can remember is that it was so good that we ordered an extra round of bread to savor it all and ended up going home fully stuffed! I remember each piece of paté/terrine had such distinctive taste and texture. The right most piece includes two outer layers of pig ears that gives a crunchy texture juxtaposed with a softer fat/liver center. The smooth, creamy, and rich chicken liver paté 2nd to the right was just to die for (my favorite across the board, no pun intended). The other terrine wrapped with condensed fat jelly as well as the other paté which I believe was duck liver? were also superb. I remember nick-naming the terrine board Lord of the Flies (no, it’s not a typo and yes, after the novel by William Golding about a group of British boys stuck on a deserted island) because when the server patiently introduces all the ingredients featured on the terrine board, I heard enough parts of a pig’s head like ears and cheeks that made me think of a certain scene in the novel. But trust me when I say this, if you love terrines, you will love this terrine board.
In terms of the game meat main course, again, my memory is getting fuzzy. I believe it was rabbit meat but perhaps I can verify from my friend and update this at a later date. Sorry, I did not try it because although I am very experimental with food, I have strict rules about not eating anything that can potentially be my pet.
***OK. Update to this mysterious game meat: When asked to fill in the holes, my friend who shall remain anonymous due to the fact that he seems to have trouble finding the correct term to describe a certain animal with antlers (LOL, what a sell-out I am) gave the following email response: “Awesome! I love your Parts & Labour post. Man, that brings back memories. I honestly can’t remember the type of meat I was eating. I think it was dear [deer] or something.” (Or maybe he did mean it was very dear to his heart. I apologize in advance if I had wrongly accused him of not finding the right word.) Please don’t take his hazy memory as a reflection of his rating on the game meat. I specifically remember his eyes lighting up when he first tried it. Now I know I probably didn’t try it because I didn’t want to eat Bambi. Thank you for the clarification, or lack thereof, Dear Anonymous.***
My main was the black cod. It was nicely done—juicy and fluffy. Spinach was good also (and any possible pieces stuck between my teeth were removed). However, I still find the Japanese way of marinating black cod in miso, grilling it, and dipping it in Japanese mayo (not Western style mayo) the best. I guess it is rather obvious from my descriptions that the terrine board was definitely the winner of the night.
Overall, I loved the unique industrial, castor-feel to the restaurant and all the labour that goes into the food preparation was superb! Service was outstanding. I would highly recommend this restaurant!
Terrine board - patés, rillettes, terrines, preserves, bread (small 25 large 34)
Roasted game meat, pickled beets, pickled blueberry jus
Pan seared black cod with sauteed spinach
Parts and Labour website:
The Black Hoof
If I were to write just one entry for the Black Hoof, my favorite tapas restaurant, I feel like it just won’t do justice.
The fact that it does tapas, which means I get to sample and savor many different small plates, is enough reason for me to give the restaurant a thumbs up. The fact that they change their menu constantly also means that I get to sample many, many more small, exquisitely prepared dishes. More importantly, they make my all-time favorite, roasted bone marrow, a constant. This means I will never be disappointed when I go there to satisfy my intense bone marrow cravings which occurs almost on a monthly basis.
The only problem: they don’t take reservations. That means you better get there as early as humanly possible for dinner, or be prepared to wait till the HANGRY Hulk comes out (I am really referring to myself here).
It can sometimes turn into a 45 minute to 1.5 hrs wait, which is not too bad now because recently they ingeniously opened a cocktail bar right across the street from the restaurant so you can sit down, have a cocktail or two (I find their cocktails a bit too bitter for my liking as I personally have a sweet tooth for drinks [or I should say unexpectedly bitter given such beautiful names like “Peruvian Flower”], but my friend seems to enjoy them a lot) and start your night with a nice foie parfait or some duck wings (not pictured here). However, once you get seated and the food starts coming, you will forgive and forget the long wait and be happily transported to a heaven for your taste buds.
I am not going to describe how each of the following dishes tastes here because once again, I feel like it just won’t do justice due to the meticulous attention the chef (or should I say the chefs…you can see everything going on in the kitchen because it’s all open concept) pay in creating the perfect harmony of different tastes and textures, often within the same plate.
(Prices are included below for those I can find from the current menu posted online)
Smoked sweetbread in bechamel sauce 16
Terrine board: Pork liver, prune, and pistachio; pickled headcheese; braised beef cheek 16
Terrine board conceptualization sketch posted from the owner’s Twitter account: https://twitter.com/#!/TheBlackHoof
Pork Belly & Nori: Shiitake mushrooms on pork belly w/ nori paste
Foie & Nutella: Finely crushed toasted hazelnut sprinkled on seared foie and roasted banana in nutella and maple syrup streaks 26
Foie gras in rhubarb sauce & pistachio
Beef Tartare: smoked beef tartare with horseradish, watercress, and cheese on brioche —>BEST TASTING BEEF TARTARE HANDS DOWN. No other restaurant have been able to give me the same satisfaction. (They have a beef tartare dish prepared slightly differently featured now. It’s good but still not as good as the one featured in the pic.)
Bone Marrow with finely chopped watercress and sea salt 9
Duck liver, chicken from the woods mushrooms, sweet roasted shallots, and crispy croutons 14
The Black Hoof website: