The Crowd Comes Back for La Carnita

La Carnita

For a friend’s birthday we hit up La Carnita. The casual and hip establishment on College was buzzing at 5pm on a Saturday. That says a lot about a taco joint that’s been open since 2012. What makes these loyal taco noshers come back again and again? We think we know

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Made In China Hot Pot – Markham

hot pot 5 As we drove into the Commerce Gate plaza to get our weekly ChaTime fix, we noticed a new hot pot restaurant that had taken over the Love Getty arcade. It was empty but somehow, we found ourselves drawn to the high end decor that was once a run down hole in the wall establishment. We were in for a surprise!

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OOAKS 14: Top Picks

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We dived into a world of handmade crafts, gourmet foods and unique gifts to celebrate the arrival spring at the One of a Kind Show. It was refreshing to escape the big box companies and discover pure Canadian products. The best part was meeting the creative minds and small-business owners to hear the stories behind their craftwork. Here are our top picks of the booths we loved and felt enriched our experience. Make sure to check out their site!

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Teppan Kenta

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As dinner time arrives, I walk into the small Izakaya restaurant hidden in an alley way behind Rabba Fine Foods. The 50 seat spot is cozy, well decorated and quieter than your usual Izakaya. The friendly waitress gushes us to our seats at the bar where you can watch the chef cook . I highly recommend this option if you have a small party! Waiting for me, is a little place card that reads: “Have fun Jessica!”. What a nice gesture!

We chose a combination of dishes recommended by our waitress and from what we observed being cooked up right in front of us. One of the highlights was the okonomiyaki prepared Hiroshima style. I’ve had the original Japanese pancake many times but was fascinated by the Hiroshima twist. This version takes longer to make and includes a few more ingredients:

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Weslodge: The Good and the Ugly

Last night a few girls of mine got together to celebrate a friend’s birthday at Weslodge. The experience can be described as a string of tidal waves. There were high and low points of the fare.

Venue: Upon entering the restaurant, you feel like you’ve become a part of a secret society. It’s a merger between cowboys and the modern city. Servers dressed in traditional saloon wear wait on suited businessmen. The dimly lit restaurant has their details all thought out, from the abstract tiles to mahogany and woody décor. We love how this place makes us feel.

Drinks: Weslodge takes their cocktails very seriously. Led by Elan Marks, the menu is creatively crafted with standouts like ‘The Streetcar’ and ‘La Floridita’. ‘The Devil In A Blue Dress’ tickled our tongue with flavours of sweet autumn and hints of smoky tobacco. Each story seems to have a story to tell from the savvy combination of ingredients. Elan Marks has crafted the cocktail programs at city hotspots such as Nyood, Kiltura, The Drake and Patria.

Food: Our party partook in the $55 prix fixe menu. It’s a shared concept so we were able to agree on what was a standout dish and what could have been taken off the menu together. We particularly enjoyed the scotch (quail) egg where pork is grinded in house and the yolk is runny. The sweet tomato jam and freshly shaved truffle also gave it an extra kick of flavor. We’re also fans of the green pea pesto toast with bufala cheese, truffle, pickled red onion and mint.

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Fresh on Spadina

A week ago my friend suggested trying out Fresh, a chain of vegetarian restaurants in the Toronto area. Ever since I visited Teresa Carles in Barcelona, I’ve been eager to find a joint in Toronto that produces on the level of Chef Teresa and Chef Ramon. The goals of yesterday’s dinner were twofold: prove to Tim that satisfying meals do not have to be planned around meat and second, find my go-to vegetarian restaurant in Toronto.

When we walked in, we notice a young but diverse crowd: yogi’s enjoying a dinner after class, tatted up gen y’s and young couples who had just walked down in their sweats to grab takeout. To start, we ordered the quinoa onion rings ($6). We were drawn when a group of girls next to us dived in and declared their love for the plate. After our first bite, we did the same too. This is no ordinary onion ring. The combination of puffed quinoa and breadcrumbs make for a hard crunch instead of the usual oily crispiness. For a dollar more, you can choose from a large variety of house made dips to go with your rings.  We chose the barbecue sauce made with molasses, allspice and sesame oil. If I return, the avocado chipotle is next on my hit list.

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Kingyo Izakaya

Jessica and I ventured to Kingyo, an Izakaya, located in the Cabbagetown district of Toronto. An Izayaka is commonly known as a Japanese drinking establishment  where bar type food is served. Traditionally, Japanese businessmen would go to these small joints after work and casually eat glutinously on delicious grilled skewers, consume copious amounts of alcohol and have fun conversations with the chef. Kingyo’s adoption of the traditional Izakaya, was just a little different.

Surrounded by flashing lights of Pachinko machines pinned up against the walls in a dimly lit room, Kingyo is a large and well-decorated restaurant that embodies the Japanese culture. As soon as we set foot into the door, we were greeted with cheers and applause by the hosts, servers, and chefs. In the background, Doraemon episodes (famous Japanese cartoon) streamed in the back. We were particularly drawn to the quirky menu where items like “The Legendary Chicken Wings by Kinchan: Kinchan’s famous chicken wings. OK maybe little EXAGGERATED but it’s that good. No word of a lie.” read.

The first dish we tried was the Red Tuna & Black Tiger Prawn Avocado Tartar ($10.80), served with garlic toast. The tartar had the perfect balance of fat from the tuna and avocadoes, followed by the sweet tomato, salty fish roe, spicy wasabi, and crunchy garlic chip, which makes for a very well rounded dish.

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The County General

On a bright sunny afternoon, Jessica, myself and our friend Frankie went over to The County General. It’s located right on the corner of Queen Street West and Shaw in the trendy King West neighbourhood. As soon as we ventured inside, the wooden interior gave the place a rustic and homey feeling. The mason jars and checkered clothes placed on the tables added to the restaurant name. Overall, the atmosphere was easy going and you could tell locals frequented this spot. The patio consists only of a bar style table due to space but we didn’t mind since we were being surrounded in a pretty suburban Toronto environment.

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Sabai Sabai Kitchen and Bar

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Do we expect a table without a reservation on a busy Friday night? Nope. That’s why we settled eating at Sabai Sabai’s bar which was a refreshing change. The restaurant, located by Church and Dundas, is an intimate Thai restaurant featuring tapas sized dishes to share. The bartender, Jason, was good company as he mixed us a tasty Tropical White Wine Sangria to start ($30). While we were happily sipping and browsing the menu, we took notice of the lively atmosphere and charming decor. Lanterns hang from the ceilings while complementing the wooden interior and vintage posters on the walls.

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