Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Golden Oriental Palace

Just to give a bit of history, this place was formerly called Oriental Century Palace and they were closed for 2 months.  They were foreclosed due to non-payment of rent. This was not our favorite place but it wasn't horrible and we didn't have to wait for a seat.  My family usually prefers Very Fair Seafood Cuisine but ironically they are not fair at all.  The wait times are usually 40+ minutes made even longer since alot of the waitresses sneaks friends and family inside to get a table while ignoring the people already waiting for tables with numbers. This place has good food but we're not going to wait if people can just jump to the head of the line at anytime.  They have a big enough clientele it seems that they don't care if a few customers walk out.

My father was determined to go back there to the new Golden Oriental Palace for a place with decent food and seating. He seems to have a keen eye since he recognized that the waitstaff was the same but with new management.  When the first dish came, it set the tone for the rest of the morning and it was going to be a bumpy one.

This was not how the dish came to us and I wanted to have some fun with the food so I added some hot chili oil and give it a bit of a french presentation. The dumpling wrapping was thick as it should be and I can distinctly taste eat component of the peanuts, coriander, radish, shrimps and pork. Other dishes completely miss the mark for the proper wrapping as I will get to that later.

Next cart that came by had the chinese meatballs for a lack of a better name. It was almost all meat and not a lot of filler or binders.  They were fresh, hot and moist.  The previous time at this location I had it looked like 3 larger red blisters and the texture was like a dense paste instead of a meatball. There was a sweetness that I liked and couldn't tell where it was from until I saw the spinach lining the bottom of the dish. 

Here comes some bad news.  The shrimp on shui mai had consistency of frozen shrimp and also starchy texture on my tongue with the overly liberal use of it to have the meat to stick to the dumpling wrapper. 

Other dishes like the har gow and the rice noodle roll were too thick.  The rice noodle roll also sadly lacked sufficient fillings inside for the seafood especially for a newly opened place. Inside the shrimp rice noodle roll were only two modest shrimps. In between them was just emptiness.  Getting past the tough skin, the har gow was plump, moist and sweet unlike the sinewy bland ones on the shui mai.

I really need a drink of tea after the fried tofu with the fish paste.  A particular taste struck my tongue as I bite into one.  Did someone in the kitchen run out of corn starch and tried to use baking soda to
have it stick onto each other?  This is a simple dish with very few ingredients so why does it taste this way?

One dish that I can find fault are the beef intestines and the glazed side ribs.  Texturally, the intestines was tender with just a bit of firmness like al dente pasta which was how I like it.  All they need to do is to make the stewing liquid a bit more stronger since it did lack a bit of flavor.  Those ribs looks as good as they tasted.  The sesame complimented the mild meaty flavor and the glaze was not cloyingly sweet.

Sadly the dim sum brunch ended on a sour note literally and figuratively.  One of the specialties arrived and I had to get a dumpling in soup (not to be confused with soup filled dumpling).  I was pleasantly surprised to find oyster mushroom inside the dish and the broth had a rich seafood flavor from the baby shrimps and dried scallop.  It was all going well until I added the red vinegar.  They were definitely not using the same one as other restaurants that makes the same dish.  The strong sour taste completely destroyed the dish.  Thankfully I tasted the dish before the dish was spoiled by it.  Next I was shocked to see that it cost almost five dollars since it was an extra large item.  Very Fair restaurant still has a hold on me for that dish since they make a really good one and it cost less too.

Ten dishes plus tips and tea charge came up to about forty-five dollars.  My father's opinion was that this place wasn't going to last long if they carried on like this.  The quality is very inconsistent and not worth the amount they were charging.  At least take the tea charge of the bill since they were still celebrating the grand opening.  A block down is Perfect Chinese Restaurant where you get what you pay for.  The food is not as good but for half the cost and free wi-fi makes it not a bad place at all and they are open around the clock.  It's crazy that they even take orders online! We may come back to them a second time for redemption but if they don't fix a few things then we won't miss them as nothing really wowed us to make us comeback for more.

Golden Oriental Palace Chinese Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 8, 2011

Not exactly 1000 Tastes

Coming to the downtown right after the Deli Duel I rush to the downtown core to catch the tail end of 1000 Tastes. Next time I will have this better planned as not rush everywhere. By around 4pm I got down there and Woodlot, Milagro, and Starfish was already closed up and Woodlot was at the top of my list!

So for myself it turned into something more like 10 Tastes of Toronto with what vendors that were left on the streets.  Even with the remaining vendors it was still quite busy.  Coming from King Street I made a left and see Dufflet's desserts. I was never the kid that wanted dessert before dinner so I casually carried on to until I see an picture of an icon standing before me.

Having never been to Lee, I figure here is a chance to try his spring rolls.  This is such a novel idea of a fusion food.  My mouth was confused and pleasantly surprised by the different crispy textures from the lettuce as well the crispy spring roll skin. The smoked chilli mayo heightened the meat filling taste that was lured underneath. There were some julienne veg on top and I wonder if that was the Singapore Style Slaw that is synonymous with him?

Looking down the street I saw the long lines and immediately headed the north to see the others and hopefully the lines will shrink down by the time I return.  North of King Street is the 1000 dishes display where people share their memories of their events and codify them in writing.

On the north side I wanted to try Khao San Road and Luma while passing on Jedd's, Delight, and Poutini.  Luma wasn't very busy but the smell of grilled sausage lured me to the Khao San Road. For what they were offering for 1 ticket it was quite the deal.  The pork belly sausage with papaya salad came with a iced thai tea.  The casing was crisp and not at all rubbery giving it a golden brown skin holding in the moist meatiness.  There was a large presence of lemongrass eating the sausage alone.  Eating it together with the light fresh salad and crisp shrimp cracker together harmonized the dish much better.

After letting that delicious taste linger in my mouth a little longer I head over to Luma for a Lobster slider.  Another reason I wanted to wait was that I wanted a fresh batch before I hand over my ticket.

Just as I was about to take a big bite I see someone at the corner of my eye. Drop everything because this might not happen again! Camera at the ready I got the shot and he was more than happy to pose for the picture. He even had time for a quick question about judging another food contest at  Harbourfront and he said he would consider it. 

After thanking him, I had to rush back to my slider since I did see a very suspicious person eying my slider.  The slider looked great against the brushed metal table in the direct sun that I had to take a couple of shots.

As you can see there is a nice big juicy piece of lobster meat there.  It was definitely worth the ticket!  Over the course of devouring this slider I got the taste of the lobster.  The initial taste that flooded my mouth was not the lobster but the cucumber which was a bit of a shocker to me. I don't recall seeing a menu at Luma's station but I just noticed now that there are some small couscous or something else sandwiched between the lobster meat and the cuke.  It was a very subtle tasting dish but I wonder if my palate has recovered after the lemongrass blowout from Khao San Road.

All hope seemed to be lost since the server behind the counter said they've (Queen Margherita Pizza) taken all the orders for the day and needed the oven to be properly cooled before closing.  Dejected by this news I drag my feet to the lineup to Chippy's for some deep fried consolation.  Five minutes later I see people walking away with piping hot pies in their clutches.  Rushing back I talk to someone that looked like they were in charge standing by the counter.  There were extra supplies they found and didn't want to carry it back to the shop.  Yes! Score one for persistence and patience!

This was still a good experience even though I missed out on alot of the vendors arriving so late to the venue.  I got a chance to experience some places that I would have not normally go to. After this I want to try their locations for more of what they have to offer.  Next time hopefully they will be back at Queen's Park!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Toronto's Eat St!

This was going to be my first (of many, hopefully) chowmeet to the Food Truck Rally.  Skipping the gym this morning I thought this early start would give us a jump on the crowd.  I couldn't be more wrong when I started to walk toward Balzac's as our meeting place. We finally met up and devised our plan as well as claiming our table. Each of us goes to our respective vendors and just wait.  They just opened half an hour ago; how can they possibly run out, right? Oh how wrong and how naive of me to think that.

Didn't I just wait almost an hour for stinky tofu last week? Am I such a glutton for punishment that I will do almost anything for food? It's sad but true. Weaving through the crowds I can't even tell where one line ends and another begins. Just looking at my line I estimated that it would be another hour. On the upside I started to converse with the person next to me.  It was pretty loud there but I think he said he biked forty kilometers to get here. Huh!?! Bike? Ok, I won't do that...driving is not a problem. My stomach is growling seeing morsel of food flying by.  Hopefully my comrades are doing better than I am.  The stranger's friend brought some food for him in line. I can't remember if this from Cava or some where else but things were starting to look better.

That was until I saw on the camera display that I space for only thirty pictures.  Sure enough when I checked there was no memory card; two batteries but no memory card.  The Fates must be plotting against me on this day!

As time marched on I did get a chance to shake the hand and thanked the man who had organized this event. The line coming ever so closer to the order counter.

Leaving my house in a hurry I didn't have much of a breakfast.  Thankfully some one from our group brought food over.  It was the chicken croquette from Chef Hopgood. A bit of juggling was required with the camera while holding on the food. When I had the first bite I couldn't tell that it was chicken.  I must have not been fully awake since I took the one with minimal sauce and garnish and couldn't really get to fully taste this dish. Must have willpower... can't eat another...

Another friendly face came walking up to me bearing treats later on. It wasn't exactly a smorgasbord but more like a sampling platter of some of the vendors there.  Food is food and I'm not complaining especially since this was delivered to me while I still waited in line inching forward.

Quickly I snapped up this shot of this sweet kulfi and Gorilla Cheese as the crowds cleared for a bit before filling up again.

 Now at the table of Simple Eats food truck I see them assemble them fresh as people continue to line up. Thankfully another hand came by to grab the all those catfish tacos and lobster sliders!

Getting back to our table I see that people have already started to chowdown and I better take some more shorts before they disappear. Now is not the time for my camera to get temperamental.

The top picture is the ice cream sandwich from Marben as my camera was having a bad day for this shot.  Next was the Bahn Mi or as they called it a Mekong Sub from from The Distillery Restaurant Corp (DRC). Thirdly are the half dozen delights from Cupcake Diner. Here in this last picture is what was left after the longest wait for our group; the pork buns from El Gastromo.

It was very hard to get a true taste since all of the portions were split between a large group. The chicken croquette portion I had did not has much sauce or dressing to it. The center was creamy and I can see pieces of pulled chicken. Honestly I wasn't focused on the taste at that point as I wanted some food in my belly. What I thought was salsa on my makeshift sampler platter was actually the Kingfish ceviche from Cava.  The wrappers on what looked like a tamale contained shrimp in one and mushrooms in the other as I poked and prodded. Both were good and moist and held their shape but I have to say I love mushrooms with anything. Marben's ice cream sandwich may have been given just a touch of refinement but it still is not pretentious in being anything else other than a cool messy treat on a hot summer day. My apologies for the picture since I would have really liked to get a better one.  The Mekong sub wasn't anything to write home about except for the five dollar cost.  Our cupcakes came out from the hiding place to the daylight as we divided amongst ourselves.  Out of all of them I loved the chocolate banana since it was just the right sweetness and richness. Disappointment would best describe what was left on the menu for El Gastro.  The steamed buns drowned out the flavor of the small sliver of meat and garnishes that were on it.

Scorching rays of the sun was just too much for me to bear.  Perfectly timed, I received a tweet from a twitter friend saying she was also at this event and also taking refuge at Sweet Escapes so I head on over. No luck here as i couldn't find her but I did find some great flavors of ice cream there like Bananas Foster, Salted Caramel and Cinnamon Toast Crunch!  Not to mention the only location in town that I know that carries sandwiches with meats from Buster Rhino. Communicating back to home base, the organizer rushed in hearing about it since she loves Cinnamon Toast Crunch.  I never would have pictured her as that type. They also had a great picture post card that read "Stressed is backwards for Desserts".  Truer words have never been spoken!

Today was an emotional day of ups and downs.  Some vendors had some great items but they were poorly executed.  A la minute is great for freshness but not practical when it would take ten to fifteen minutes per order for places like Gorilla Cheese.  Many vendors sold out quite quickly and some even gave free drinks afterwards like Buster Rhino.  Customers lining up in the chaos anxiously waiting to try some trendy eats. It sounds just like any other day in the life of a busy restaurant.  That is music to my ears.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Taste of Asia

Originally I wasn't sure to come to this event but Eat here next!!! convinced me to go to form my own conclusions. I didn't have to walk far to smell the stinky tofu to know I arrived! The first thing I see were two line ups and that piqued my curiosity.  Fighting through both lines and the crowds I manage to find that the queue was for stinky tofu and raw oysters.  It wasn't just any stinky tofu but the most pungent of the bunch.  My restless feet just wanted to wander and couldn't wait at the lines.

Walking by the stands I get to see what the fuss was all about.  Those petite perky golden nuggets started to look particularly appetizing.

Has raw oysters becomes as ubiquitous as roasted corn, funnel cake, and cotton candy in these kinds of events? Strolling through the stalls to get a feel of things I counted no less than 5 purveyors of the odiferous delicacy. The taste buds will never forgive me if I tried all of them. To the uninitiated, the assault on the nostrils takes no prisoners and affects the young and the old, male and female.

A particular theme began to emerge as I see numerous stands of curry fish balls, grilled squid and new vice of grilled lamb skewers with cumin.  With all the bamboo spears moving about it was a wonder that I didn't see people get poked or prodded.  Perhaps that the secret to maintaining some personal space in such a crowded area. 

Seeing this vendor again at this event I can finally put a name to a dish that I saw at an earlier event.

Not wanting to waste more time lining up than eating I decided only to try a few items.  It can be really easy also to overspend at gatherings like this as well. After surveying the culinary landscape, I chose 3 items to try as I clearly didn't want to spend the rest my free time this week at the gym.

Hearing about @Foodieyu's tweet about the specialty toast had made it on the top of my list.  Next I wanted to sample a stall advertising authentic Osaka takoyaki and since I went to Japan last year.  Finally I could not leave with out trying the lineup for the stinky tofu at Mother Bear's.

The singular experience with takoyaki in Osaka did compare favorably with the ones they make here.  On the exterior it was crispy on the outside to contrast with the soft moist not yet fully cooked insides. Finishing off the dish was a light brush of what tasted to be okonomiyaki sauce and a generous squeeze of kewpie mayo.  Visually it was a bit lacking since there didn't seem to be any garnishes and I loved to add bonito flakes on top. Internally the piece of squid was just not contributing to the significantly to the taste of the dish.

Next the specialty toast was a spin on the traditional and it seem to garner alot of attention and praise.  I didn't have much of a sweet tooth that day so I opted for just 1 sweet and 2 savory toast.  The composition is quite simple and the tastes surprisingly good.  Next time I will try to make it at home. The strawberry sauce was not overly cloying or artificial with the pie crumb bits and whipped cream did give the illusion of it to my mouth.  The bacon & cheese would be something I would whip up with some velveeta and bacon bits.  Sadly the bacon did not have the punch and the flavor got lost in the cheese.  Lastly was the garlic bread with chopped parsley; it was very pedestrian and light on the garlic.

Finally having savored all that I wanted to try I lined up for the stinky tofu. No doubt that the line up was long but I didn't expect it to take as long as it did.  Trying to kill some time while waiting I tweet about how more people continue to wait behind me.  When it comes to my turn I send off my last tweet mentioning that it took 53 minutes to get this! Was this worth it? The food had a nice sharp flavor with the firms skin worked nicely the crispy pickled cabbage. The extra condiments on the side help to change up the flavor. This may sound cruel but what really made the meal for me was watching some students chiding another to take a bit of the stinky tofu from another vendor. He was bravery was rewarded with a gastric muscular reflex from the unwanted intruder. In other word, he was dry puking in front of his friends! Am I a mean person to find that slightly enjoying?