Tita la Guanaca ~ 1028 St Clair W ~ (416) 656-3519

tlg

There is a lot of great food on St. Clair West. Tita la Guanaca (1028 St Clair Ave W) is no exception. Translated as The Little Salvadorian, this take-away makes great Pupusas. Corn-flour dough is wrapped around Pork, Beans and Cheese and is fried for 5 minutes a side. Hot off the grill, they top it with Vinegary Coleslaw, all for $2.50. Be sure to also ask about their sensational $2.50 Tamales, $1.75 Empanadas and whole roasted Chickens.

Hey, in today’s world of the ten/fifteen-dollar lunch, it’s always good to know a few places that don’t break the bank. I miss living on St. Clair West for a lot of reasons. Proximity to places like this is one of them.

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Restoran Malaysia ~ 815 Major Mackenzie Dr E ~ (905) 508-1432

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I wanted to keep my birthday as simple as possible. No fuss; no muss. I was quite specific about this. My wife obliged by taking me to Restoran Malaysia… exactly what I wanted. Now, since I started this blog, one of the most memorable things I have eaten is Rendang Beef… enjoyed at an Indonesian restaurant in De Pijp, Amsterdam, called Sari Citra. I have been trying to recreate this meal ever since. Lured by the possibility of eating this elusive dish once again, we headed up the 404 to Richmond Hill in the hopes of arriving for lunch before our baby daughter fell asleep in the car.

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Success! Molly is awake and ready for lunch… as are we. The staff greet us with smiles and seat us at a large table that comfortably accommodates both our stroller and the massive spread of dishes we’re about to order. We start with a delicious Red Curry Chicken that’s filled with generous pieces of White Meat, Cilantro and Red Peppers. The best part is that it comes with both rice & roti, which basically turns everything into a wrap. Amazing!

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Next up: Nasi Goreng. Think Indonesian Fried Rice that’s full of Shrimps, Chicken and Mixed Vegetables (of the frozen variety), topped with a Fried Egg. Served with Shrimp Chips for scooping, this is a great dish for sharing; perfect for adding a little starch to your plate.

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My wife is in the mood for noodles. The house recommends the Penang Char Kuay Teow which is a wok-fried mélange of Flat Rice Noodles with Egg, Shrimp, Bean Sprouts and Chives, tossed in Soy Sauce.

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And then, finally, there’s the Rendang Beef. This dish is far too complicated to try at home (imo). It can perhaps best be described as stewing beef cured with ginger, chili, galangal, lemon grass, turmeric, garlic and shallots. Restoran Malaysia’s take on it is far less saucy than other variations I’ve tried in North America. More like a dry rub. Certainly the closest yet to Sari Citra’s rendition… with the added pleasure of a roti accompaniment.

rmRestoran Malaysia’s dining room is quite expansive and is packed full of families during our Sunday lunch visit. Check it out the next time you’re north of the city and maybe you’ll spot the Toronto Food Blog in action. As you can see above (my birthday was in Movember), I’m quite a happy camper. Lunch with my two favourite ladies and a large serving of Rendang Beef. Happy Birthday to me!

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Old Bleu Café ~ 73 Queen St E ~ (416) 861-0819

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Located just east of the Eaton Centre, the Old Bleu Café is part coffee shop, part French fusion hot plate, part salad bar. Lunch combos offer-up a variety of  everything. Choose any 2 hot dishes, a starch and any 3 salads. All meals are served in either small ($6), medium ($7.50) or large ($9) take away containers (taxes included). There are 3 seats in the front window, providing an entertaining view of all the goings-on in the park across the street. This is people watching at its best (IMO).

Chef Gong Zan Shen is a man of many talents, including the ability to speak 5 different languages… a skill which has obviously transferred into the kitchen. There are usually 4 daily specials written on the chalkboard outside the entrance. You can actually read it from the streetcar, and I often head back at lunchtime if I see something I like on the board on my way to work. The daily hot plate ranges anywhere from Jerk Chicken to Five-spice Beef to Southern Fried Chicken Thighs. Salads include Coleslaw, Fattoush, Pasta Salad and Steamed Veggies. The Old Bleu Café is a win in both the quantity and quality departments. It has quickly become a once-a-week habit for me.

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Aragvi ~ 832 Sheppard W ~ (416) 792-2613

Aragvi SignWhen I read that Aragvi was “the only authentic Georgian restaurant in Ontario,” I knew I had to give it a try. Now, I’ll admit that there was some minor concern about how adventurous some of the food might be for a group of my friends and family with different tastes. Let me tell you, this place delivers on a number of levels. Family owned & operated since 2010, they made us feel right at home with some delicious home cooking and Eastern European hospitality… which my wife later told me was very reminiscent of times she spent in Bulgaria. In fact, they were so friendly and accommodating with my 9-month-old daughter Molly, we’re already planning a return visit.

aragvi pkhali

Not knowing exactly what to expect, we let the house make a couple of suggestions. Pkhali ($9) is an extremely flavourful, spreadable blend of Beets, Walnuts, Garlic and Wine Vinegar. Served cold, it comes garnished with fresh Cilantro and Pomegranate. The next time we visit we’re going to try the Izpanahi ($9). It’s prepared & served the same way as above; however, they substitute the Beets for Spinach. Mmmmmmmmm!

Aragvi Imeretinskoe HachapuriHachapuri are a house specialty: homemade pastries that are served hot. They recommend trying the Imeretinskoe version, which comes in 2 sizes ($10 and $20). Think of fresh pizza-like dough stuffed with salty cheese and topped with a melty, milder cheese. We’re left wishing we ordered the larger size. This is a great way to mop-up all the Pkhali.

We had been smelling the BBQ since we walked through the door, so we had to try the Chicken Shish Kebob ($13). Grilled over charcoal, we opt for the dark meat variety which is served alongside a Georgian take on the Shopska Salad and Armenian-style Dill Potatoes. This is a great plate for sharing. We wash everything down with a pitcher of Tarhun ($7) which is a homemade, non-alcoholic Taragon Soda that’s not too sweet. It’s flourescent green which makes for a crazy contrast to the Pkhali. It’s another must try.

Aragvi Checken Shishkebab

Named after a river that runs through the heart of the Caucasus, Aragvi is a little slice of Georgian life right here in the city. It’s one of our favourite dining experiences of the past year and has certainly set the bar very high for 2014. Next time you are heading to Yorkdale, I deplore you: skip the food court and drive the extra 5 minutes to check this place out. You will not be disappointed… or the next pint of Tarhun is on me.

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Tenoch ~ 933 St Clair Ave W ~ (647) 345-0165

TENOCH SIGN

Tenoch is an unpretentious tacqueria on the St. Clair West strip @ Oakwood. Void from the frills of the uber popular places downtown, the crowds will surely follow once word gets out. Until it does, enjoy over a dozen varieties tacos, accompanied by fresh accoutrements, well-priced at $8 for 3 or $11.50 for 5. We opt for Tacos 2 different ways (pictured below)… Chicken/Onion/Tomato and an order of Beef/Chorizo/Cheese.

TENOCH TACOS

There are a number of other Mexican classics on the menu including Tamales and Pozole. There’s also a full bar stocked with a variety of Mexican Beer and an assortment of Jarritos (Tamarind is my favourite flavour). Truth be told, most of the regulars are ordering the absolutely enormous Mexican Sandwiches. The 2 most popular seem to be the Tenoch Torta ($13) and the “lighter” Pambazo ($8). These things appear as mighty in stature as King Tenoch himself. Well, not really… but those are some seriously big 11-layer sandwiches. Anyways, check this place out if you love hot sauces more than you love hot spots.

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Rose’s Vietnamese Sandwiches ~ 601 Gerrard St E ~ (416) 406-9906

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I have had heard a lot of great things about Rose’s Vietnamese Sandwiches, so I decided to check it out for myself. Close to my office, I left wondering why it took me so long to visit. Drawn by the lore of an extremely cheap lunch, I also leave with a full stomach, a full wallet and new go-to.  

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I am welcomed by the owner, Rose Psam, who takes me into the back to show me how they prepare their Shredded Chicken. I’m told it’s a 5-hour process. Returning to the front, their sandwich bar is stocked with a number of Banh Mi options, ranging in price from $2 to a whopping $2.50. I opt for the aforementioned Shredded Chicken, and Rose fills a buttered crusty roll with Cilantro, Pickled Veggies and a lovely hot sauce that adds an extra complexity.  Since I have this review in mind, I order a second Shredded Pork Banh Mi. It’s basically the same but is  lathered in Pate rather than butter. I can’t believe how much I have to eat for $5 tax-in.

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It was so cold out today that I ate inside. This really is a take-out joint, though, as there is no seating whatsoever. When I returned to the office, my colleagues asked me how it was. I must say that it’s a truly unique dining experience and really can’t be compared to the more popular Banh Mi places downtown for a number of reasons. I will be back; that’s for sure. Thanks, Rose. It was truly a pleasure.

Posted in Chinatown East | Leave a comment

Joe’s Wings + Burgers ~ 2825 Danforth Ave ~ (647) 340-5500

JOE'S SIGNJoe’s Wings + Burgers has recently opened in a gutsy/progressive spot on Danforth between Dawes and Victoria Park. This family-run joint is equipped for dining in, taking out or for delivery, and is just what this neighbourhood needed. I am pleased to say Joe’s is within walking distance of our place. It’s really nice to be able to get a decent burger in our hood, and if they keep doing what they’re doing, we’ll be frequenting this place for years to come.

JOE'S WINGS

As the name suggests, Wings and Burgers are the name of the game here. I love the fact that the wings are not breaded. Rather, flash fried and tossed in one of the many interesting flavours available. At $5 for a half dozen, they’re a great deal. Be sure to try them with a sidecar of Coconut Rice for a truly Filipino taste. It’s what Joe himself eats.

JOE'S BURGER COMBO

Joe’s Hamburgers are made fresh daily and are quite sizable for $4.50. The Fries are fried twice and are served with the most memorable of gravies. Wash everything down with some Filipino Sweet Tea and you’ve got yourself one heck of a combo.

JOE'S PICKLES

Bring the kids… Joe’s Wings + Burgers is kid friendly in both food & atmosphere. Welcome to the neighbourhood, Joe + family. Thanks for the recco, Ryan Harris.

Posted in Danforth, Scarborough, Upper Beaches | 2 Comments