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2011 Food and Resto CLOSINGS

I'm glad to read this thread -- I don't know where I'd gotten the impression that Rain was an amazing restaurant with flawless, innovative food -- but I thought I'd pass them through my vegan test when I was in my vegan days. I figured because they kept talking about their "Asian-inspired" cuisine, they'd have some fresh takes on vegan food. Most Asian food does vegan well (broadly speaking).

The experience was disappointing on all levels. On the food front, everything was bland, or (oddly) overly vinegared, and uninspired. It felt like they thought I should be fine with garnishes and pickles, charged at entree prices. Service-wise, although we'd told our servers when making our reservation weeks in advance that I would need a vegan menu, they forgot, then made a fuss when I reminded them after we arrived. Since I'd been accommodated at an oyster bar in the Distillery district (of all places!) with no notice -- and thrilled by a delicious vegan meal made on the spot by a charming chef -- I expected similar service at this restaurant that was charging 3x what that oyster bar did.

Ugh. That brought back some bad memories.

Aug 15, 2011
cdnexpat in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

chowhound vs. yelp-pros & cons?

I don't know what the ranking criteria are to be an elite, honestly. I hadn't posted much (something like 70+ posts over 2 years) before I was invited to be an "elite." I'd like to think it's because Yelp changed its ranking system to invite more thoughtful reviewers, but that might just be me patting myself on the back for being invited to a club that I (still) eye with some skepticism.

I've written 1-star and 5-star ratings, but most of mine fall in the 4- or 3- star category. A restaurant has to really wow me to get a 5-star, and I try to make sure those represent the best of the best. I will also revise previous high rankings lower if something (food, service) changes.

I've lately written a bunch of 1-star reviews, so we'll see if I'm invited to be an elite again next year.

Aug 15, 2011
cdnexpat in Food Media & News

Toronto's Best Chicken Wings

Will definitely give it a shot. Any particular location that you prefer to others?

Aug 15, 2011
cdnexpat in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Toronto's Best Chicken Wings

Shame. I dragged a skeptical friend there, too, saying I'd heard great things about the wings. She ragged me hard and long about my choice of wings (she too, was unimpressed). If they pull up their standards, let me know! I'm still looking for a good wing place, buffalo-style or no.

As for Pho Hung, while their wings are big, meaty, greasy and good, I can't recommend them any more either. Their service last time I visited was just shockingly rude. Back to the drawing table for wings.

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Pho Hung
350 Spadina, Toronto, ON M5T2G4, CA

Aug 15, 2011
cdnexpat in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Best Pho in T.O.

Last time I tried (shortly after it opened), the pho was pretty awful -- lukewarm and one-dimensional. Their menu states tendon, not tenderloin.

Aug 15, 2011
cdnexpat in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Restaurants around Yonge and Finch area

I tried WonderPho shortly after it opened and it was awful. The broth was heavy on anise, and otherwise flat. Noodles were clumped at the bottom of the bowl, and the servers just couldn't get the table numbers right. We paid a ridiculous $4 for 2 small deep-fried previously frozen spring rolls that tasted like they were straight out of Food Basic's freezer section. My friend's kid had a "fresh" fruit mango smoothie that was so sweet even he couldn't drink it. It seemed made of mainly crushed ice, packaged orange juice, and some mango puree (from a box? Couldn't tell the freshness under all that sweetness).

Apparently they've improved their service and changed their recipe for the spring rolls since then, but I'm going to wait a bit until I give them another shot... Appallingly bad, first time around.

Aug 15, 2011
cdnexpat in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Best Montreal smoked meat in NYC?

Yes, thanks! My husband went there and saved me half of his sandwich. It was exactly what I was looking for, but the price tag was a little rich for me. Yes, it's New York/Brooklyn, and yes, it's trucked in from Montreal, but the price made me even more nostalgic.

I tried Katz's, but I was not impressed. It's just not the same without those melt-in-your-mouth pieces of fat dotting the flaking brisket.

Jun 19, 2011
cdnexpat in Manhattan

chowhound vs. yelp-pros & cons?

I'm a Yelp "elite" this year (invited to be one) and a long-time CH reader, lurker and occasional poster.

I was skeptical about Yelp and actually participated once in their discussion forum after being frustrated with the way that a search for "Best Lobster Restaurant" in my borough turned up Red Lobster. I started a discussion suggesting that the "star" system created a silly ranking system that in some instances established a false claim to authority -- does every reviewer have strict rules on the distinctions between a 4- and 5-star restaurant? What qualifies as 5-star? Can a fast-food chain be a 5-star restaurant? I suggested that perhaps a better voting system should be a simple "thumbs up/down" button, instead of a ranking system that suggests some kind of accuracy to rating.

Well, the snarky, downright rude and aggressive responses convinced me never to bother participating in their discussion boards again. A strike against their social networking ambiance, for me.

CH, on the other hand, for all the snarkiness I've read, has rarely disappointed when it comes to solid food suggestions and thoughtful (even if heated) commentary.

I also echo the "reviews can be incredibly lop-sided" sentiment, as proven by my aforementioned search for the best lobster restaurant, and by reading through a lot of the 5-star reviews.

That said, I use Yelp more extensively and write more extensively on it, thanks to its freer posting rules. As Thew says, it's a different system. I'm not keen on the social network thing, but that doesn't mean it doesn't work for everyone. I've never attended any elite events, but I might attend one in the future, just to see what the fuss is all about.

I think both CH and Yelp can exist in the same universe in a complementary way, but both definitely do have their down sides. Honestly, though, when I'm looking for the final word in food authority, it's CH for me, not Yelp.

Jun 19, 2011
cdnexpat in Food Media & News

Toronto's Best Chicken Wings

Please do NOT bother trying Sneaky Dee's wings! They are entirely mediocre. I was very disappointed after reading some rave reviews here! Come on, CHers, we know better. Pho Hung's wings are still the closest to decent buffalo wings I've found in town -- non-breaded, super crispy skin, and Frank's red hot and margarine coated. Absolutely delicious.

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Pho Hung
350 Spadina, Toronto, ON M5T2G4, CA

Jun 19, 2011
cdnexpat in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Popcorn

What's with all the savoury recipes? I like mine popped in a pot with a little corn oil, with melted, caramelized sugar drizzled on top at the end. Toss and add some freshly grated black pepper for a kick.

Jun 19, 2011
cdnexpat in General Topics

Food for a pet's death?

I'd forgotten all about this thread until today when I was looking for my recommendation of a BBQ place for someone. Reading through the thread brought back so many memories. A brief update: I guess weird coincidences around Lionel's death kept going for a while. Besides the cats on watermelon artwork we saw at the MoMA the week after his death, I realise that the last post to this thread was an hour after I got married for the second time (January 27, 2010, 1:30 p.m.); then a month after Lionel died, I dreamt the only dream I ever had of my cat after his death. In the dream, he needed me to rescue him--lo and behold, that evening a puppy was abandoned in our apartment building's lobby. Never had a dog abandoned in a building before, or since. We ended up keeping the dog, despite having no intention to do so, and now we feel extremely fortunate every day that he came into our lives.

Every year we will have a piece of watermelon on the anniversary of Lionel's death and celebrate his memory. Thanks to everyone for sharing such lovely, touching memories and stories of sharing food with your pets.

Feb 03, 2011
cdnexpat in Home Cooking

How to freeze dry at home?

My dog is putting us in the poorhouse with his absolute adoration of treats like freeze dried lamb lung, pigs' ears and the like.

So, I thought -- what about if we did it on our own?

Anyone have any experience freeze drying at home? I found some resources online, and it sounds fairly straightforward, but the instructions are generally for apples, potatoes and carrots. Anyone successfully freeze dry meat? How did it turn out? Was it breakable? Or just bendable? How long were you able to store it?

Many thanks!

May 13, 2010
cdnexpat in Home Cooking

Recipes You've Never Heard of Outside Your Family - Part 2

Fantastic! Glad you worked it out. So sorry to hear about your husband's aunt, though.

May 13, 2010
cdnexpat in Home Cooking

Recipes You've Never Heard of Outside Your Family - Part 2

I asked my good friend, a German food fiend, if he might have heard of this. He suggested that it might be a variation on the Austrian dish Kaiserschmarnn. I'm wondering if your husband's family called it "Schmarnn kuchen" ("Schmarnn" (i.e., "mishmash") cookies, basically), to describe the pastry?

In any case, here's a recipe for Kaiserschmarnn: http://www.deliciousdays.com/archives...

Better images of the dessert: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaisersc...

Feb 02, 2010
cdnexpat in Home Cooking

Help! Restaurant week recommendations for wedding day dinner?

Back to report -- we made reservations at Giorgio's through OpenTable, with a note that it would be our wedding dinner. I was really looking forward to it, but we had a few hiccups along the way.

We arrived about 10 minutes before our reservation and had to wait for our table -- not too long, about 5 minutes -- but I was a bit annoyed to have to be seated after a walk-in. The maitre'd didn't make any mention of our event, either as we waited, or when he sat us, so we brought it up with the waiter. I thought perhaps the maitre d' was just being polite or unobtrusive, but when the waiter expressed surprise, I was a little disappointed. On serving our entrees, the maitre'd again gaffed and switched our plates, presenting me with my spouse's dish, and vice-versa. We hadn't switched seats, so I'm not sure why that happened.

In general, I found the food well prepared, but unspectacular. Since the price difference between the Restaurant Week menu and the regular menu wasn't that much of a gap, we ordered off the regular menu. I had the pork loin, and my spouse had the lamb. We had a great chat with our waiter (turns out he has work aspirations in the same field as my spouse), and he made sure to bring us a glass of champagne and a complimentary baked alaska for dessert. Not sure why we had limited service, but hubby had to go to the bar, several times throughout the night, to ask for various items. We seemed to have been forgotten at the front window. We'd already ordered a fig tiramisu for dessert, and were pretty stuffed, so the complimentary baked alaska didn't really help. I found both desserts to be really rich and sugary.

On the other hand, Nobu for lunch was spectacular, and they really made our day. The food was well-prepared, very fresh and well presented. Portions were a little small, but satisfying. All the waitstaff were unpretentious and very kind to us and helped us celebrate with their signature dessert, signed with a "congratulations" piped around the edge. It was a small gesture, but the personal touch went a long way.

I'm so sorry I didn't have a better report for you! I am still very grateful for your recommendation. Maybe it was just an off night?

Feb 01, 2010
cdnexpat in Manhattan

Help! Restaurant week recommendations for wedding day dinner?

Tocqueville was indeed completely booked, but we managed to find spots at Giorgio's. Thanks for the recommendation! We're looking forward to our visit.

Jan 27, 2010
cdnexpat in Manhattan

Food for a pet's death?

I just wanted to thank everyone for sharing their stories about their pets and their food memories. I had no idea that Lionel was in such good company! On his last day, he only wanted to eat watermelon. Along with cucumber, strawberries, tomatoes, bread, and honeydew melon, watermelon was one of his most favourite things to eat in the world.

I knew it was time, though, when even warmed duck fat drizzled over salmon made him turn his nose away. It was very upsetting to see a cat who would outwit me and steal food, now completely uninterested. This was the same cat who, when younger, I would find nowhere in sight after I dropped off the groceries a scant 2 minutes after arriving -- his suspicious absence would be marked by a half-chewed tomato on the floor, or a torn bag of gnawed bread in a corner. I can't tell you the number of times I was awakened, yet again, by the clatter of the garbage pail on the floor, hidden safely (so I thought) behind a tightly shut kitchen cupboard door. I never did find out how the heck he got in there.

Since we've had to say goodbye to him, we've been slowly finishing the morsels of watermelon from the container from which we'd fed him his last pieces. Maybe it was unconscious, but we finished the remainder of the watermelon Lionel had shared, on the day his ashes returned to us. Somehow, that was a comfort.

That, and strange coincidences, like seeing this image in the MoMA while trying to distract ourselves: http://www.janinegreen.com/web_images... The cat on the can has the same markings as Lionel.

Thanks again for sharing! My sympathies and condolences go out to those of you also dealing with a loss. I raise my glass to you and wish you bon appetit as you also remember your beloved family friend warmly.

Jan 23, 2010
cdnexpat in Home Cooking

Food for a pet's death?

These links were so great. They made us laugh!! Thanks for sharing. The rainbow cake, in particular, was an experience all by itself...

Jan 23, 2010
cdnexpat in Home Cooking

Help! Restaurant week recommendations for wedding day dinner?

We're pretty broke, but love food -- and so are excited that restaurant week falls on the same week when we're getting married!!

Hooray!!

Only problem: Neither of us knows what restaurant to choose. The Boathouse in Central Park was our first choice, but it turns out they're not participating for dinner. They're also not open for dinner until April. Next option was Nougatine, but they have no time slots for Weds the 27th around 7 p.m. We're now thinking of Barolo, but before committing to it, I thought it would be great to hear from fellow CHers.

We want something low-key, friendly, not too stuffy, and the kind of place you'd remember. We're having lunch with friends at Nobu, choosing from their lunch restaurant week menu. Something staying in the lines of seafood would be ideal for dinner. Dinner will be just the two of us, so something romantic would be great.

Thanks in advance!

Jan 23, 2010
cdnexpat in Manhattan

Food for a pet's death?

A rather morbid topic, perhaps, but I'm wondering whether anyone's made particular dishes or shared dishes to commemorate a beloved pet's passing?

I'm in the unfortunate situation of having to say goodbye to my adored first feline. He's seen me through my first apartment, my marriage, my divorce, and several international moves. Now he has a weak heart and failing kidneys and it looks like it's time to bid him adieu. He's had a rich life, but my heart is breaking.

I'm also reminded of a Shiva that a friend threw for her beloved dog, and how lovely it was to commemorate the event with her. I'd love to hear from other pet owners and/or friends about their own food-related pet passings: what did you make? For yourself or your pet? How did you commemorate and/or celebrate your pet? Favourite food memories?

Jan 06, 2010
cdnexpat in Home Cooking
1

Do you remember the first dish you ever cooked?

What a great thread.

My own addition: first was probably scrambled eggs -- rubbery and dry, around 5 or 6. The first one I remember thinking about though was "talcum powder cake". Probably around 8. My mum was running a restaurant and a catering business and was always baking. I thought I'd like to find out how, too, and asked her what the basic ingredients were. She described, flour, water, eggs and sugar.

I asked, "flour? What's that? Is it like a flower?" to which she briefly but patiently explained that it was a "kind of powder." So I thought, "oh! Like the baby powder we have!" and grabbed the large talcum powder canister and a small spouted plastic jug we used to bathe with.

I added the "powder" to the water and ran to my mum and said, "now what?" and she, harried and rushing to fill an order, told me to stir it until it was a smooth consistency. I obliged, pestered again, "now what?" and received a curt but not unkind response to add sugar and eggs, but to not worry about it. After stirring for a while, I got bored and decided to throw it out. Good thing.

My mother was never a patient woman, and often not very kind, but she never faulted or discouraged experimentation and learning -- to which I owe my continued love of food.

Jan 04, 2010
cdnexpat in Home Cooking

Recipes You've Never Heard of Outside Your Family

No one seems to share these ones? From my mum:

*Canned sardines in tomato sauce, cooked with onions caramelized and sauteed with nutmeg (still my favourite way to caramelize onions). Served over toast (a variation of sardines on toast, I suppose).
*Thinly-sliced spam, pan fried to crispness, served with white rice and a can of baked beans in tomato sauce on the side.
*Also, spaghetti with meat sauce, but with lots of ketchup as the tomato base. Topped with cubes of Kraft singles -- gooey orange, plasticky goodness melting over the pasta "sauce".

I still crave these things from time to time -- but other than the sardines on toast, I have yet to eat them again!

Dec 06, 2009
cdnexpat in Home Cooking

I miss my mom's______dish!

Jeniyo, I was going to list exactly what you already did. One positive thing: I just had pork belly + preserved mustard greens for lunch in NYC (can't remember the name of the restaurant, but it was, of all things, a tourist trap). Bizarre afternoon, sitting there and having to attend to an emergency as well as an elderly man fell right outside of the restaurant, not 6 feet away from us (we helped him to a chair and tried not to embarrass him any further as cops and a crowd gathered and gawped). Having that pork belly, though, made me want to try to make it myself. Maybe soon!

Sep 10, 2009
cdnexpat in General Topics

Where do you go for Malaysian cuisine?

That's entirely possible (and regrettable). FWIW, I don't look Malaysian, although I was born there and lived there until I was 16. Heck, I get that treatment you're talking about from Chinese waitstaff ALL the time, who think I both am not Chinese and can't speak Chinese. Funny what happens when I reveal that they're wrong on both counts... I blame it on the curly hair.

Aug 21, 2009
cdnexpat in Manhattan

Toronto's Best Chicken Wings

We were at the one in Roncesvalles. The bf and I also decided to try the wings at Pho Hung on the suggestion on this board too, and we were really surprised! They are definitely the closest things to buffalo wings outside of Buffalo. Crunchy, juicy wings coated in margarine and, I'm almost positive, Frank's. Only drawback: cost works out to something like $1 per wing. To me, that's a little too much for food that is generally not exactly considered a "premium" cut.

Aug 21, 2009
cdnexpat in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Where do you go for Malaysian cuisine?

I don't know, yet -- but am very excited about a place I just tried today called Redang Island: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/530291. It's all the way in Brooklyn, near Sunset Park, but my first meal was exactly the authentic experience I'd been craving. I'll try the cendol and get back to you!

Aug 21, 2009
cdnexpat in Manhattan

Redang Island (Bath Beach)

I actually had a really great experience at Redang Island today. I'm very excited to have found the restaurant because I'd stumbled across it, and decided to give it a shot by virtue of the menu. When the food I had (which was ridiculously cheap: nasi lemak for $4.95??) lived up to my standards (I grew up in Malaysia, in Kuala Lumpur), I could have cried. It's been YEARS since I've had decent, authentic Malaysian food from my home town. Not counting the time two years ago when I was actually there, of course.

I usually go to Nyonya, and it's good, but it's definitely not KL-style. The name suggests that it isn't anyway, something I posted on on another board here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5928...

I only had the nasi lemak, but am impressed by the dishes listed on the menu, some of which I haven't seen since I was a little girl. I will go back and report on my next visit!

Aug 21, 2009
cdnexpat in Outer Boroughs

Toronto's Best Chicken Wings

Ugh. On these two recommendations, I took my boyfriend to Gabby's. It was near my house, we love wings, it was a Monday, and it was part of his birthday celebration.

PLEASE DO NOT RECOMMEND GABBY'S! Their wings were tiny, soggy and dry. The sauce was fine -- most likely the best part of the whole meal -- especially if you're looking for a Buffalo wing type of sauce. Nice vinegar bite, even if it was missing the heat.

An utter disappointment.

Aug 06, 2009
cdnexpat in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Where do you go for Malaysian cuisine?

I'm Malaysian too, but I didn't think Nyonya wasn't "real" Malaysian food. I did think it was more Nyonya-style than, say, KL style, but that wasn't a surprise to me, given its name. I was impressed when I asked for green mango to be included in the rojak appetizer, and it arrived totally fishy and smelly, just as I'd been craving.

I'd been to Laut a few times but found the prices and menu better at Nyonya than at Laut. The ambiance and service is probably better at Laut, though, if you're looking for something a little less greasy-spoon-like.

Stay away from the cendol at Nyonya, though. That was a real disappointment: too much ice, no gula melaka (some kind of insipid brown syrup instead). It tasted more like an imitation of ABC instead of cendol. Highly recommend the (very sweet, very strong) iced coffee, especially as the summer progresses.

Jun 16, 2009
cdnexpat in Manhattan

(Not about) Food words I'd like to never see again.

Then I take it you would be a customer of the "The Best(worst) Purple Prose in Food Writing" book?

Re: cookbooks, I was making a gross generalization. No insult intended to anyone who loves (or doesn't) cookbooks with/without photographs and/or attendant recipes.

Mar 10, 2009
cdnexpat in Not About Food