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Cheap Champagne to buy in Toronto

A lot of people have recommended Prossecco (sp?) and other types of sparkling wines.

May I offer this recco...

Try Cremant (it's a style of wine - not a brand). Cremant is not officially Champagne, because it is not from the strict region of France that "Champagne" comes from. However, it is made in exactly the same style, from exactly the same grapes...just miles from the region.

Therefore, it is delicious. And, like *real* Champagne stands well on it's own, while many other sparkling wines are best mixed...

Best of all, you can get many really yummy Cremants for under $20, whereas a "real" Champagne is easily $50+.

It all comes down to, are you looking for something to drink or a label to impress? If it's the label you're looking for, can't help you...

Fin Izakaya

Went to Fin Izakaya, a Japanese tapas place up in the Yonge and Eglinton area. Can't say whether it's new, as I don't know how long it's been there...

However, I can say, don't bother going, as it won't likely be open long.

Where to start...

Went with 4. While you can try ordering off the pictures on the menu, the food is nothing like it. Our chicken wings were tiny, deep fried single bones with minuscule scraps of meat on them - not a whole wing. I was hungry so I ordered the chicken tatsuka which ended up being tiny, booger-sized balls of deep fried chicken. In fact, our food took so long to come that I was about to get out of my seat to walk to the McDonald's down the street for a burger, but my partner complained and the food started coming...

Not like it made a difference.

The grilled squid was cold and hard as rubber.

The $18 "super-sized" sushi was so terrible that out of 6 pieces served, only 1 and a 1/2 were eaten. And then only because everything else had been so meager and scrappy... like maybe this was *North* Korean-style Izakaya...

$140 for 4. everyone left hungry and grumpy.

Maybe they'll put in a nice burrito place after Fin goes under...

Angelo's Hot Table - Yonge & Harbour

Tried a new (new to me) place today that was interesting. A little hole in the wall at the corner of Yonge and Harbour that seems like a "genuine" Italian sandwich shop. I was on my way to the Subway (sandwiches - not TTC) and tripped over it.

Had their meatball sandwich and it was (I thought) excellent. Fresh bun, nice meat and sauce. Lots of red peppers, fired onions and giant mushrooms and a nice mozzarella to top it off. And it was big. I had the small and was groaning as I finished it. I felt embarrassingly gluttonous eating this in public.

I think the experience was best summed up by a passerby, however. As I sat at the outdoor table, holding up this football - wondering where to bite first - some guy walking by actually yelled out, "Now THAT'S a sandwich! Good grief...!!" How right he was.

No doubt there will be lots of people ultimately weighing in that they've had better or it's not as good as Nona's, but if you work at 10 Bay, the Toronto Star building or are staying at the Westin Harborcastle stroll up a block and give it a try.

But bring a clean shirt to change into afterward...

Böhmer on Ossington

We went last night as one of our group highly recommended it. I do have to say that while it is an interesting space, it missed the mark in multiple ways. Short review of the experience. We were a group of 5:

Neat room. Atmosphere a bit schizophrenic. They couldn't quite figure out the music. Switched from old school hip hop, to oldies, to '80's, all within minutes. And not in an intentional, DJ'd way. At multiple points someone stopped the soundtrack mid song and flipped to something else. Lighting went from lit to dark in an instant (it's daytime. now it's night-time). So whoever was responsible for *mood* was pretty clumsy.

Not particularly special or memorable. And overpriced for what you get. Nice presentation but as someone mentioned, the ingredients don't seemed sourced or prepared at the level you'd expect for the price ($28-38 for a main). Like someone hinted at above, the ingredients all looked and tasted a little too supermarkety.

I had the trout starter, delivered on a mini rosti, with "salmon caviar." The trout tasted like it was from a package, the rosti cold and greasy, the caviar just gloppy and mushy roe, straight from a jar - not clean or firm; and 2 lines of Presidents Choice mustard which really didn't have any flavour tie-in as a condiment.

My main was the 10oz beef with fries. Pretty straightforward. It all came cold - very little warmth left in either the meat or the fries, so I know the meat hadn't just been "resting." Meat was ordered rare and came medium well. No juice left in it. Char wasn't that nice toothy, flavorful kind, but the chippy, flaky, tastes-like-dirty-grill-with-a-hint-of-gas kind that you get on an uncleaned BBQ. Not pleasant. Fries were good, but would have been better warm. Why didn't I send it back? Because by the time it came I was about to start eating the table...

Can't speak to other experiences in our group because I kept my mouth shut and ate, instead of being the curmudgeon who spends all night chirping about their lunchbag letdown...

Skipped dessert. And their cocktail prices are high at $12-15...

Our waitress was attentive and polite and *present,* which I thank her for, as it is a pleasant change from many of the wait-staff experiences we've had lately.

Starters came out together, but mains came out in 3 separate waves, minutes apart. So that left everyone uncomfortable about starting to eat. The wait was long enough that we had to urge people to eat.

Don't know what the other wait staff were like. I was observing the waitress serving the table across from us as she watched uncomfortably while a wasp (yes) crawled around on the shirt of one of her guests. It was on there for some time and I know that she saw it, but didn't mention it or do anything about it. At one point, she was taking their order (watching it the whole time and saying nothing) and it almost crawled down the inside of his collar. A bit irresponsible...

All in all for the price, there are lots of better choices.

Browne's Bistro on Woodlawn - what's the story?

then if that's the case, things are beginning to feel like a bit of a shell game in the 'hood...

terroni's is opening what seems like an old world train station themed bistro-pub in the old MbCo spot and there's another Italian themed spot by (apparently) the Capoccacia people taking over the old Lakes tuned for the bun fight...

Browne's Bistro on Woodlawn - what's the story?

All great stuff. Thanks for the background. Interesting to hear that the menu hasn't changed in years. I see why. I've lost track of the number of times I've had to dodge multiple people folding a senior into the back of an S-Class and often see 3 generations of family members standing outside together in their matching Topsiders and tortoise shell glasses...

Guessing that the message to whoever buys this place each time is "whatever you do, don't change the menu!!!"

They'll have to re-invent themselves one of these days. Those people won't be around for much longer...

What's your most disappointing dining experience?

George. Hands down.

Should You Tip on Takeout?

Oh, pleeeeeeaaaassssse....

That's what these people get paid for. Lining up behind those who say that the rationale of tipping anyone who does anything as part of their job description just doesn't float. That's what those people get *paid* for. The hourly wage isn't just for showing up...

And this is coming from an ex-waiter, so save the wails of "you don't know how hard it is..." please and thank you.

Jul 09, 2010
Thatcher in Features

Duff's Wings -- review

do they offer you a choice of dry or wet? I prefer day wings but most places I've been to in the city serve them wet - so I end up ordering something else...

Browne's Bistro on Woodlawn - what's the story?

So, I walk by this place daily. Have always thought it would be interesting to try, as I'm looking for a neighborhood "local" that's an alternative from the pub offerings that line the street. Likewise, Terroni's doesn't exactly make for a welcoming place where I can sit at the bar, chill out and eat a late meal at my leisure, after a long day work.

Thing is, the place smells like death. What I mean is, even though the it's always packed, it's also always full of blue-hairs, walkers and octogenarians. Seriously. The parking area is lined with Merc's, Audi's, Jag's and the rest, but the average customer age must be pushing 73. And it's slammed by 7:00 and empty by 9:00...

Either the food is so gobsmacking good that these people are eating here in the hope that it's their last meal, or the service is so hypnotically smooth that one can dine in blissful peace; unruffled by arrogant youngster waitstaff who can't wait to get home and play with that ridiculous interweb foolishness...

Anyone ever eat here? What's the inside scoop?

Restaurants with lineups

Will not line up for Pizza Libretto ever again! What a joke! Was dragged there by frineds who *insisted* that this was the *only* place to eat.

The gnocchi starter was so salty it was literally inedible. Plus, it tasted like supermarket mush - not authentic Italian...

The pizzas finally came over an hour later - after the hard sell for more wine by the wait staff - and those too were a major letdown. I could have done better in my oven at home with some pre-fab pizza dough from Loblaws.

This place sucks!!! How does it stay full every weekend??? Are you all sheep!!!!????

Toronto Steakhouses

Have to agree with Jacob's.

IMHO, Harbour 60 was a decent cut of meat, but was over priced and felt too "old" for us. Though we weren't the youngest in the room, we felt like going to meat our grandfathers for dinner...

That said, in terms of that actual meat itself, we found neither competed with Montreal steakhouses like Moishes and Que de Cheval...

7 yr old daughter looking to try lobster in TO

Cook one at home and show here how it's done!

If it's for a 7 year old, 1 lobster, some boiling water and melted (garlic) butter are all you need...

Not only are you not blowing your brains out on resto prices for a 7 year old, you're providing a valuable lesson where food comes from - living things that die for you - and therefore, have some respect for what's on your plate...

Chowfind: Hog Tails BarBQue in Waterloo


Thanks for that! Will have to check it out. I go back once a week to visit family, but rarely eat while there. Having grown up there, I've had my fill of schnitzel and bad pub food.

Looking forward to trying this later this week!

Tim Hortons on W 72 street

Oh, yuk!!!!

Don't tell me people in Manhattan are actually drinking that crap, are they???!!!!

I drive by one every 5 minutes and won't bother stopping in. Worst toxic waste in the world! If you're that desperate for a taste of Canada, buy a jug of maple syrup or something. Tim's is an over-rated blight of sewage, be it in North Bay, Kandahar or Manhattan....

Dec 27, 2009
Thatcher in Manhattan

Knife sharpening - downtown

I acknowledge that I am not a *real* foodie until I can do this myself, but, I give up. I just have no innate feel for the tempering of metal. Didn't have it in Grade 9 metal shop class, don't have it now with a whetstone. It is what it is...

That said, any good recco's for where to bring my knives...?

Jan 1st dinner - Downtown Toronto

Avoid Beerbistro.

Horrible, horrible, horrible. Especially when it over 6 people and anything close to busy...

Duck Proscuitto or Duck Bacon

Although I haven't yet been to Taste of Quebec (awesome lead, btw!) you might want to try there. Quebec is crazy about their duck and I know of a number of places in MTL that sell nothing but local, provincial duck by-product. So that might be a reliable option...

Pleas let us know what you find there.

Yet another Diana's Seafood rave...

Well, in the 45 minutes or so that I was there, I didn't see a *single* Asian (other than the Japanese lady behind the counter).

I saw lots of Portuguese, Italians, Spaniards, Eastern Europeans (going by the languages I overheard) and plain old Wonderbread whities but NO Asians!

Where were they all??!!

Maybe they were shopping someplace cheaper? Where they can buy carp disguised as cod for $1.99 a pound...? Or maybe mystery "garoupa" and "bassa" for $$$ below market value perhaps...?

It's a pretty short-sighted and arrogant to presume that the Chinese grocers have cornered the market on seafood. Volume and scope of selection doesn't automatically equate to quality and desirability...

Yet another Diana's Seafood rave...

You are absolutely right. I meant Pisces. I'd been into the rum and eggnog prior to our party tonight and was a little loose of lip...

Yet another Diana's Seafood rave...

Sorry. Know I've said it before, but Diana's never fails to differentiate on selection, service - and price.

Went there again this morning to stock up on oysters and fresh fish for the next few days. Beautiful, fresh selection. Malpeques $20 something for 48 count pack ( I bought other choices from BC and the US , however) and mussels $2.99 pd just a few of the "value" deals.

Everything fresh, fresh, fresh.

What impressed me most - as always - was the staff's engagement. No less than 4 people approached me, unsolicited. Not only that but *every one* of them knew their stuff and I was able to have a useful, insightful conversation with each person.

As previously mentioned, I live around the the corner from Oliffe (where I *used* to shop) and can compare them to Diana's. Oliffe charges higher prices, demonstrates less product knowledge, projects a sense of having to "earn" their service and just can't compete in selection. Don't know if there is anyone at the market who can punch their weight the way Diana's does. If so, please advise...

In this day and age of mediocre service, staff ingnorant of their product and general indifference to the customer, Diana's is a welcome breath of fresh air.

Full disclosure - I have no stake in this business. Just a relatively new customer who appreciates an "old school" approach to customer service. Please shop there so that this place stays in business forever!

Rave over. Go if you can.


Oyster Boy - open or closed?

Walked by last night during business hours and the lights were off...

What do you recommend for a Montrealer?

I agree that there are better choices than Diamond or Jim's, I just don't remember there names at the moment because I know them by sight. I also picked some of these because they are easier to find (with the exception of Sam Woo) and all in close proximity to each other. There are, for example an number of good places around Corvette, off Steeles, but I wouldn't send tourists who don't know the area to navigate around that clown show. It's just asking for tears...

Re: Inatei - is it the place by in the strip mall across from the Tim Hortons on Woodbine? If so, their soup is excellent.

Re: dim sum, you can argue this with 10 different people and get 10 different reccos. Re: comments about comparisons to HK - not my words but of my in-laws and their friends - who I dine with - who are all from HK and say, "this is as good as we have back home..."

What do you recommend for a Montrealer? before you come...

Seriously though, if you have a car I'd highly recommend making the drive to the Highway 7 area in Markham and trying the Asian food on offer. All the good Asian restos have moved out of Chinatown and up to Markham/Richmond Hill. There is so much to see and try you can make an afternoon of it.

I spent over 100 days in Montreal last year and ate 3 meals a day in restos during that time. IMHO most anything else you try here will be a lunchbag letdown. Our Little Italy has become a pool of mediocre to barely-passable restos. Much of our finer dining pales in ingredients (try finding horse tartare here), quality, ambiance, service and pace. Our deli...well, there are a lot of other threads here about that. You even have better Mexican there. And all at more affordable prices than we pay here.

What you *don't* have in Montreal is decent Asian food. Not Chinese, not Vietnamese, not sushi. It's all horrible (I'm sorry, it really is). So why not aim at some of those? Here, you'll find better Japanese, great Indian, authentic Malaysian and a level of Chinese dining equal to HK.

A few recco's for the Highway 7 area are:
a) Dim sum at Diamond, First Markham Place
b) BBQ duck at Sam Woo, Warden & Steeles
c) Shrimp wonton soup at Jim Chai Kee, Highway 7
d) Tawianese at Go For Tea, Highway 7
e) Sushi at Gale Sushi, Highway 7
f) Tea at Ten Ren's flagship location on Hwy 7

Downtown, try GUU for an interesting, quality Japanese experience (and there are many others as well).

And there's many, many more. PM if you want directions, because you won't find these places on websites and many of them are tucked into little strip malls.

December 26 My Birthday Anything GOOD Open?

If you like Chinese food and want a celebratory meal in a place elevated beyond the standard plastic tablecloth and hurled cutlery, try Lai Wah Heen. It is a nice, upscale space in the Metropolitan Hotel, so it's likely open, the food isn't bad, you won't be offended by the service and the setting is appropriate for a b-day...

Need a Kitchener Area Butcher Shop

By "St Jacobs Market, are you actually referring to the Waterloo Farmers Market (just on the outskirts of Wloo, but well before St Jacobs)?

If so, that would have been my first recco, as it's where locals go to buy non-grocer meat. This is farm country, so if someone is using a butcher and *not* going to the market, they're likely driving out towards Elora, St Clements, New Hamburg, etc.

If you're not looking for anything high end or status-y (i.e. Kobe, Wagyu, etc.), then your best bet is Central Meat Market on King Street, just past the hospital. Don't let the look fool you. Central is a meat go-to for a lot of locals in the know and they also tend to cater local tastes (i.e. German). Give it a try, you'll likely find what you need.

Another option might be Vincenzo's on Belmont. It is a little specialty foods shop that tends to focus on Italian, but carries many European, imported foods (The only place you can get Montreal style bagels in town). Their strength is cheeses, breads and condiments, but you might sniff around for meat. BTW - if you do go, go hungry and get one of their sandwiches. I've been away for 10 years but still stop in for one everytime I'm back in town...

Restaurant recco for marriage proposal

Thanks again all, for weighing-in on this. Since V-Day is such a lunchbag letdown in NYC, I've bought us 2 tickets to Paris instead and will make a long weekend out of it. Now I need to start all over again and look for a recco in that city.

We will definitely hit EMP when we get to the city, however. Thanks for confirming that it's worthwhile. I'm excited about eating there.

Dec 19, 2009
Thatcher in Manhattan

George Restaurant on 111 Queen St. East in Toronto- seeking info

I did a report on a night at George about 6 weeks ago.

Have to say that we were pretty underwhelmed - disappointed, even. With both the food and the service.

We went later on a Friday night and the place was far from jammed. Our waiter was surly and absent. Most of our dishes came cold and had that look of sitting under the lamp too long. All of the food tasted the same, with little distinguishing flavour. We were actually fidgeting to get out of there. No atmosphere or desire to linger. Interesting looking room, but sterile and indifferent atmosphere - from both staff and customers. For the cost, we should have spent our money at Auberge or Jacob, or almost anywhere else.

It feels over-rated and under-achieving...

Restaurant recco for marriage proposal

Thanks all for weighing in and other suggestions. Seems like I've been roundly spanked on the Valentines evening idea. Can't fault a guy for good intentions...

I do like the idea of an over the top, morning after surprise champagne brunch in the room. That's a great plan. As for the night of, it looks like Daniel or Eleven Madison are at the top of my list.

Thanks again.

Dec 14, 2009
Thatcher in Manhattan

Restaurant recco for marriage proposal

Yes, I realize that doing this on Valentines Day is a major league cliche, but I've already had to postpone this more than once. We are both busy and travel frequently so I typically have to plan *surprises* at least 6 weeks out. If I don't do it then, it'll have to wait until spring...

Didn't realize there was such a hate on for Valentines Day, however...

Dec 13, 2009
Thatcher in Manhattan