Sunday, April 25, 2010

A fine meal at The Queen and Beaver

There are a number of gems on Elm Street, including Adega for a wonderful seafood Cataplana , and Matagali for some amazing butter chicken. We were thrilled to stop in The Queen and Beaver last weekend for a quick dinner before heading out for the night. On the outside, The Queen and Beaver looks like a fine dining establishment, and on entering, you get almost an old Victorian feel. Since we had not made reservations, we ended up sitting at the bar on the first floor - we are not picky and it was no less of an experience! The restaurant has an old style charm, but not pretentious or overly homey. This was reflected by the staff as well - mild mannered, well dressed, and genuinely pleasant. I was also pleased by the old style china used to serve our food, a touch of class not found in your average pub - an average pub this is not!

We had previewed the menu online, and was enticed by several items offered, but alas settled on a pretty minimal dinner: we started with pressed quail and foie gras with prune chutney - a surprisingly light choice (not as fatty as you'd think), and the chutney was delicious, adding a unique flavour to the foie gras main.
We shared the rabbit & potato pie for the main - I had imagined some kind of pot pie but this was NOT an ordinary pie. It was served as a slice of pie (like a slice of apple pie) with thick layers of delicious potatoes and savoury rabbit. Other than the crust being a bit burnt (but who cares about the crust?), it was absolutely amazing - the perfect comfort meal! I can still taste the great flavours of the rabbit and potato mix...and generally, I dislike potatoes. And as it was served with a large portion of salad on the side, it felt like a reasonably healthy meal too! It's one of those meals you just crave some days.

I loved The Queen and Beaver, and since there are many more items yet for me to try, I know I'll be back. A great spot to dine casually or for a food adventure. Next time, I want to try the potted duck, the calf's liver with blueberry glaze, and mushroom pithivier. Be sure to stop in for some delicious food with old English charm! Oh, and check out the review on Toronto Life's best new restaurant list.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Origin - A New Tapas Adventure. Delicious!!

There are many many delicious restaurants in Toronto, and I can't say we have been to them all, but Colborne Lane is one of our favourites - see my experience with the best dessert in the world, no joke, it's worth every penny! Imagine my excitement when I heard gastronomy genius Claudio Aprile was opening a new, more affordable restaurant. It didn't open in time to celebrate my birthday, but Tony still managed to score us a reservation. We were happy to experience Origin with our fellow foodie friends, Jon and Stella.

Origin's menu is divided into 5 sections: Snacks & Sides, Raw Bar, Mozzarella Bar (surprisingly, my favourite), Chilled, Hot, and Sweet. The beauty of eating with more people is you can eat more items! Instead of picking what we wanted, we did the reverse - between the raw bar and hot menu, we eliminated the items we didn't like and went from there :)

Our extensive tasting experience included:

Smoked cod croquettes - one bite snacks
Shrimp seviche
Tuna salad with pear, avocado in ponzu - this was one of my favourites, it was sweet and fresh
Wild striped bass crudo
Spicy beef hand roll - was good but difficult to share. Reminds me of the ebi shooter at Blowfish, everyone needs their own!
Fior di latte with mushrooms and truffle oil - honestly, how can anything with mushrooms and truffle oil taste bad? This was a selection from the mozzarella bar, which was surprisingly delicious and very unique.
Bufala mozzarella with pear, pine nuts and honey was also delicious, a unique sweet taste.
Cured wild salmon
Chinois duck wrap - Stella and I both zoned in on this item right away!
Grilled rock hen - also one of the favourites. The rock hen was juicy and tender, the accompanying dates and olives added a unique flavour.
Calamari - this was probably the biggest dish, plenty to share!
Miso glazed black cod - which sounds really typical, but this was really quite delicious, served in a mushroom broth and crispy soba (the waiter insisted we eat it).
Shrimp in black garlic butter - yes, as good as it sounds! Even the chickpeas, which I am normally not a fan of, were crispy and delicious.
Chorizo - to be honest, was pretty boring, I don't remember what it tasted like.

Wow...that was a lot of food, right? Don't worry, small bites for us all,
we were able to try everything! There was still room for dessert, so we indulged in the unique dulce de leche (milk candy) with hot chocolate cake and soft serve. A funny story about the cake, actually, ours came with a "happy birthday," so I thought it was because Tony told them it was my birthday (albeit late), but it was actually meant for the couple next to us...and we just happened to order the same dessert! Cake's cake, right? :) I also want to mention there are FLOATS on the sweets menu, something to try next time.

We had a great time at Origin - great food and great company with really chic yet casual decor. However, we did have some food envy - tables around us had whole lobster entrees, apparently a special that we were not told about. In the end, I guess it just looked like Chinese style ginger and onion lobster, but still - we never would have turned down lobster! Ultimately, if you like trying lots of different things, you have to check out Origin, an affordable tasting experience. Don't forget the mozza bar, a unique offering and better than you think, I guarantee!