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Review: Elote Cafe - Sedona, Arizona

Mexican food is almost always consistently on the bottom of my cuisine choices, but Elote is an absolute exception. I was in Sedona and asked at the National Parks Tourist Office for a good restaurant -- the best restaurant in town. The woman at the desk drew blanks, but an unlikely fellow tourist officer suggested Elote, which gave the woman even more blank stares. We drove past, and Elote is in a humble hotel, and has little curbside character.

We did the Sedona tour, and had some time to kill, so I decided to 'check out' the menu -- likely, in my mind, to be expensive burritos, tacos and other similar suspects. I read the menu, and thought it imaginative, and interesting, and signaled to my friend to come of the car and look also. She resisted at first, read the menu, and we traipsed upstairs to check it out. Again, don't let the humble interior decor of a restaurant fool you. The woman who opened the door for us (it was well before opening), said they have line ups outside the door starting at 6:00PM.

We decided to come back later, and if indeed there were lines and the place was packed, we'd stay. If not, it was off to Reds which also had a nice American menu.

After seeing a lovely sunset from the Sedona Airport, we headed off to Elote and indeed, the place was packed. Blood Orange Margaritas were the drink specials (we were both still freezing from watching the sunset, so we passed), and in forty minutes we had a great table over looking the balcony which has a lovely view of the Sedona hills.

Service was extremely friendly, no pretensions, and great recommendations.

We started with drinks of a Mohito for my friend, and a Blood Orange Margarita for me -- both terrific. The server recommended the elote (why not, given the name of the place), and took some pains to describe it. We also ordered a small side of guacamole to start. The elote was terrific, the salsa and chips were excellent. The only minor disappointment was the guacamole (I've had better at home).

My friend ordered a goat cheese burrito (she's a big goat cheese fan), but alas they ran out, and she quickly went to her second choice of halibut. I ordered the pork cheeks.

The halibut on the mole verde was delicious. Fish not overcooked -- in fact she remarked that it was better than the dinner the evening before at the Arizona Biltmore, where she had a lovely grouper. My pork cheeks were not quite a perfectly tender as I had hoped, but were nevertheless tasty, full of flavour. Not spicy, but hints of heat.

I, like TNT, and as I mentioned earlier, am not a big Mexican food fan. My friend is more so, but this evening's food was the subject of great discussion and all of it positive.

To top it all off, I was offered a copy of Jeff Smedstad's cookbook from Elote Cafe, which I purchased. Jeff came out, chatted with us, signed the book. Going to have to do some cooking from it.

So, when in Sedona, go to Elote -- oh, and if you're not convinced, dinner, including drinks, and the cookbook, was about half of what we spent at the Biltmore the evening before.

Feb 19, 2011
m4240z in Southwest

where to eat in the beaches

Try Amuse. Great food. Great location. Great service.

May 23, 2010
m4240z in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Ottawa Christmas

Les Fougeres in the Gatineau Hills -- worth the drive.

Nov 15, 2009
m4240z in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Teca, Rousseau Hotel, Muskoka

So for those looking to see if Red Leaves, a J.W. Marriott managed property lives up to it's billing - -it does.

Service is excellent throughout the hotel, the rooms are beautiful, and the views stunning.

The food at Teca is a terrific match for the hotel, and even the more 'common' restaurant, The Cottage serves a fine brunch.

Last night Teca served up possibly the best carpaccio I've ever had. Full stop. I've travelled extensively throughout Italy, and lived there probably seven or eight months of my life. To find such exquisite carpaccio, with just the right amount of salt, oil and arugula 250km north of Toronto, or about 6000km north-west of Italy is amazing. The pappardelle, fresh made, was accompanied with an exquisite ox-tail was amazing. The pasta was a tad crunchy in spots, but the accompaniment made up for any shortcomings.

Good wine list, reasonable pricing, great unpretentious but extremely attentive in a lovely atmosphere makes this well worth the drive for those special weekend getaways.

Nov 15, 2009
m4240z in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Looking for an AWESOME pastry shop

Rahier gets my vote, but I also hear that Patisserie Tournyere is back somewhere in town. Also, in the Beach, Zane is good.

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Rahier
1586 Bayview Ave, Toronto, ON M4G, CA

Nov 09, 2009
m4240z in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Tandoori Host -- Gerrard Bazzar

I haven't really found an ethnic restaurant that offers good food, decent service, good ambiance, at a reasonable price at all. For Chinese food, Lai Wah Heen offers an excellent service, good food, at a stupid price. Indian food -- The Host on Prince Arthur is great, but an arm and a leg. The list goes on.

So, I can live with the plastic forks and spoons (environmental issues notwithstanding), the friendly but frazzled service, and the really weird atmosphere (DVDs of Bollywood movies on flat screen TVs -- most of which are bootlegged), because the food is authentically good (to my non-Indian palate), and it's great value.

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Lai Wah Heen
108 Chestnut St, Toronto, ON M5G 1R3, CA

Wah's Restaurant
23 Simcoe Plaza, Terrace Bay, ON P0T2W0, CA

Nov 09, 2009
m4240z in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Picton Restaurant - Merrill Inn or Harvest?!

Harvest. I've eaten there many times, and each time, found it to be an excellent experience. The decor could be better, and when Michael isn't on the stoves, it suffers a little. However, I find for value, quality of food, it's pretty hard to beat. I really loved it when he and his wife were at The MIlford Bistro.

Nov 09, 2009
m4240z in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

McEwan's - ripped off!

I think the difference in shopping experience is staff getting into the groove -- Pusateri's has had years of experience, and frankly, I found the service at McEwan to be quite good. I think the staff is young, and probably inexperienced. I takes years to understand food, and be good at selling it, and it needs a strong commitment and understanding of the product. Not easy to get when paying retail wages, when most would rather work at American Apparel.

I'm not a big Pusateri's shopper (my wife, on the other hand is), but I do recall buying a birthday dinner of ingredients at Pusateri's. I bought some enoki mushrooms -- I found them for a fifth of the price in Chinatown the next weekend -- same product, same wrapper. But it was there when I wanted/needed it, so I'm not going to begrudge them the cost differential (and there's no valet parking in Chinatown!).

On value -- I bought one of their marinated chickens, and thought it was actually pretty good value, and the next day I convinced my sister to buy one too, and she thought there was value there.

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Pusateri's
1539 Avenue Rd, Toronto, ON M5M, CA

McEwan
75 The Donway W, Toronto, ON M3C, CA

Nov 09, 2009
m4240z in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Tandoori Host -- Gerrard Bazzar

Ah yes, the ubiquitous styrofoam plates. You'll be glad to know they've moved up in the world to real plates, but have kept the neighbourhood norm of plastic forks and spoons (with no knives in accordance with tradition).

It's definitely not about the atmosphere as I had mentioned -- my wife resists going there pretty frequently when I suggest it, as the atmosphere is pretty grim, but for me, the food and price trumps the lack of atmosphere. LIke I said, it's like eating at your Indian friend's mom's place.

I'll have to try Makkah.

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Makkah Restaurant
1020 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4J1M2, CA

Nov 09, 2009
m4240z in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

McEwan's - ripped off!

I don't know why it surprises anyone that McEwan is going to be expensive. It's a big shop, with not a lot of product in there, so guess how they're making it work -- M. A. R. G. I. N. You get the nice shopping experience, and you get to feel like Conrad Black (pre Florida).

McEwan is expensive. Pusateri's is expensive. There are better deals just about anywhere than these two fine establishments, but they gotta make it work somehow. I don't think Mark is quite yet lining his pockets with gravy from the store, nor would I suspect his investors. It's a tough business food retailing, and they're going to take advantage of the ambiance where money is no object.

In this recessionary climate, I'm avoiding the place, but I'm happy to say I'm glad it's there, and I've bought stuff there that I think is reasonable value.

The fact that anyone pays or paid double there is simply a case of buyer beware -- you walk in the door, check your credit card on the way in.

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Pusateri's
1539 Avenue Rd, Toronto, ON M5M, CA

McEwan
75 The Donway W, Toronto, ON M3C, CA

Nov 08, 2009
m4240z in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Tandoori Host -- Gerrard Bazzar

Having been a Lahore Tikka devotee and a Motimahal fan, I have to say I've found my new favourite Indian restaurant in the Gerrard Bazzar. It's a hole in the wall. It's a mom and pop place. It's got no character, and no ambiance, but we're talking the Gerrard Bazzar.

What it does have it the best chicken tikka I've ever had, and darned excellent food -- kind of like stumbling into an Indian friend's mother's kitchen.

Don't go there on a date.

Don't go there is you want to drink.

Don't go there if you think it's a night out.

But do go there for great, and pretty darned inexpensive food.

We discovered this place (it's actually north of Gerrard, on Ashdale) during the summer, when the tandoor was sitting outside on the patio. We've had the butter chicken (excellent), the chicken tikka (terrific as I mentioned earlier), wonderful chana masala, great dal, the onion naan is great. Chicken biriyani may not suit everyone's taste -- the chicken is dark meat, and has bone in it, but I love it.

Best two parts -- no Dehli belly afterwards, and you're out of there for four people for about $40.00.

Check it out.

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Motimahal
1422 Gerrard St E, Toronto, ON M4L1Z6, CA

Nov 08, 2009
m4240z in Ontario (inc. Toronto)