Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Quaint Indian Experience at Matagali

We live in the core of downtown Toronto, in an area considered old Chinatown - this can be told from the relic Chinese restaurants in the area. When we first moved to the area, we were keen to find some gems in the neighbourhood - if they have survived years of competition, there must be good food to be found! We were disheartened early when we tried a small Chinese restaurant that appeared popular and was recommended by a friend, which turned out to be unauthentic and probably the worst meal we've had in Toronto. Since our painstaking experience, we have been hesitant to try new "hole-the-walls" that populate the area, whatever the cuisine.

Last night, we were on our way out for a casual dinner, our usual Friday night routine, when I suddenly thought of Matagali on Elm Street - a restaurant our friend Stella had recently tried and recommended. It is a quaint little restaurant in a run down row of brick buildings - next to a sketchy looking salon and what appears to be a frat house. We head down the stairs to the restaurant and discovered its rustic charm - it is small and cozy, with no more than 10 tables and dimly lit. The 2 member staff was friendly, although service is not speedy as they scurried away into the kitchen, not to be seen for more than 10min at a time. That can only be expected of a small restaurant, and who's in a rush on Friday night anyways? The menu appeared to feature both Indian and Thai cuisine, but I stuck to the Indian items, and can barely recall what Thai food was on the menu.

We started with seafood tikka, which included prawns, fish, and a slightly spicy mango chutney. The butter chicken was rich and very satisfying! I was ready to polish off the whole dish, along with the saffron rice and garlic naan. We also had lamb marsala - the meat was good, but I was distracted by the delicious butter chicken. In the end, I shared very little of "my dish" and Tony polished off the lamb. Overall, our food was comforting and delicious - exactly what I was craving! I can't wait to satisfy my butter chicken craving at Matagali again.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Fun Food Experience at Madeline's

Our friend Stephen is visiting for the weekend, and we wanted to take him for a good Toronto foodie experience. While Lee has always been a favourite of our's (delicious food, great value), we decided to try Madeline's, where Susur used to be located, and also features tapa style dining. We were pleasantly surprised that Susur was visiting and brought a sample of his Shang tasting menu to Toronto....bonus! Service was great - our waiter recommended a lovely bottle of sauvignon blanc and managed the order of our dishes for the optimal dining experience.

Madeline's menu: This was the highlight of our night. After a light start with the Asian and seafood dishes, we finished our meal with the true features - the meat: duck breast, pork belly, and steak skirt...leaving everyone happy, full, and satisfied!
- carpacio of bison served with garlic chips
- scallop provencal with chorizo
- roasted duck breast with honey chili honey glaze - the sauce was unique and delicious!
- pork belly with currant jam - the pork belly strips were tender and the flavours uniquely complimented by the slightly tarte current jam. hmm!
- steak skirt with peppercorn sauce - we miss our Alberta beef and this reminded us how great beef can be....very tender and of course the sauce makes all the difference!

Shang tasting menu: While we were happy to taste some of Susur's NYC menu (and even happier he was in town cooking!), this was not exceptionally unique or memorable compared with the flavour of the other items we had.
- tuna sashimi served on an oriental spoon
- prawns with ratatouille
- tofu with mushrooms

Dessert: Susur's dessert is among my favourite! I couldn't pass up the molten chocolate cake (to die for!) and the black rice puding and custard. We also tried the expresso chocolate cake - I didn't think it could compare to the molten cake, but it was surprisingly moist and also delicious. NEVER pass up dessert at a Susur restaurant!

We would definitely go again - the menu is diverse, delicious (as expected), service exceptional, and the prices fairly reasonable for the dining experience. A great place for a small party or just a fun night out with good food!