Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Lamb and Belly Dancing for Dinner at Sultan's Tent

Sometimes I have strange, indiscernible food cravings...and when I'm hungry, deciding where and what to eat becomes increasingly difficult as I get more hungry and agitated. Last week, I was craving something homey and simple, but didn't want Asian and didn't want to spend a ton. I'm not sure what inspired me to look up Sultan's Tent, but it's been at least 3 years since I've been. Lamb was suddenly calling my name! I took a quick look at the menu online and decided it was enticing enough...$39.99 for a 4 course meal.

We raced to the restaurant, as they don't seat once the belly dancing starts at 7pm. Yes, belly dancing! The main dining area is lined with intimate couch seating along the perimeter with a wooden dance area in the middle. We, unfortunately, were seated at a table in the "dancing" area. It made me fear just for a second I'd be forced to "participate." I had already decided what I wanted....but upon careful reading, I realized that certain items on the 4 course menu cost additional, and OF COURSE everything I wanted to eat cost more. sigh. So much for that $40 four course meal!

Course 1:
Duck Breast Salad and Beef Burgone - although both sounded great on the menu, they were only average. The beef burgone didn't look very exciting but it was very tasty. The duck was generally disappointing.

Course 2:
Trio of Hummus and Maftoul (hand rolled pastry stuffed with beef and topped with spicy aioli) - these were part of the 'base' men, since nothing really stood out to us, and in fact were great! The hummus was actually quite tasty (and filly) and the spring-roll-like pastry rolls were satisfying.

Course 3:
Braised Lamb - part of the base menu, and I'm sure is what I had the last time I was there. It is falling-off-the-bone good, served on a bed of couscous. It was exactly the kind of comfort meal I was looking for.
Seafood Royale - I can never turn down a seafood platter, particularly when served with rice in a saffron and fennel broth. In truth, it was pretty plain...tasty, but uninspired. It also cost an additional $10 to my meal and I wouldn't do it again.

Course 4:
Assorted Moroccan Treats and Brulee Royale - the Moroccan treats were surprisingly good, and the brulee was just average, a little too thick for my liking, but it was topped with pistachio, which was a nice touch. We also finished off with a delicious tea, which was really nice and enjoyable.

Our dinner at Sultan's Tent was decent for a relatively quick bite and something a little different. The belly dancer (yes, she did come out during our dinner!) was beautiful, and had some audience participation which I happily avoided (whew!). I recommend sticking to the "base" menu items - we found those were actually the best tasting, and the best value, particularly the lamb. Those items, I guess, are what they are best at!

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Savoury Seafood Feast at Casa da Ramboia

It seems like a long while since we stopped in a new restaurant - having visitors the past month meant we've made lots of visits to our favourite places, but not a lot of time to try new ones! After spending Friday lunch hearing about my friend's recent Portugal travels, it was the only food I could think of that night!

But where oh where?

When I first moved to Toronto, my friend Julie brought over AMAZING leftovers from some Portuguese restaurant "around Bloor and Dufferin," I STILL remember it fondly, an amazing platter of seafood that I think about now 3+ years later. Unfortunately, I've never found it and don't know the name, and so I am continually on a hunt for a great Portuguese restaurant. We often rely on Toronto Life, and this week, I decided to take my recommendation from Yelp. Searching "Portuguese Restaurant" didn't yield as many results as I had hoped, but luck would have it, the top one was not too far away on Dundas West, and that is how we ended up at Casa da Ramboia.

You can't miss the restaurant, with a brightly lit Orange sign (and actually, is next to Enoteca Sociale). The restaurant is like a small neighbourhood pub, complete with the L-shaped bar and semi-circle benches along the side, where Tony and I were happily seated at a table that could have easily seated 6. We're always happy to have extra room for extra food :) You know what kind of restaurant you're in when the person who greeted us had conveniently popped up from his party of 10+ right by the door to ensure we were seated. The big party sure looked like they were comfortable and having a good time!

Took us no time to decide on food, not after our server (and probably owner?) gave us the daily fish specials, includ
ing bass and grouper. While both were enticing, I couldn't go for Portuguese and pass up trying the Cataplana, a delicious and soupy melange of pork, chorizo and assorted seafood served in a brass pot. To start, we stuck with seafood and had jumbo grilled prawns flavoured with delicious piri piri sauce (African bird's eye chili). Despite its very plain demeanor, it was savoury and satisfying, I never realized how much I like the taste of piri piri! We initially asked for rabbit as our second entree (I was craving some good meat!), but unfortunately it was not available, so we took it as fate that we order the "cornucopia of lobster, clams, mussels and rice" served in a traditional clay pot. The rice was saucy, homey and delicious. We couldn't have asked for two more flavourful dishes! The only downside was that our mains were hard to share on plates - we wish they would have given us bowls. But we didn't find it hard to adjust, Tony and I simply took turns diving into the brass pot of soupy goodness or the clay pot of hot and satisfying rice dish. DEFINITELY best eaten out of the original containers :)

We were happy to have discovered this little gem (thanks Yelp!) and will certainly be back. Who can complain about a restaurant's authenticity when it boasts little granny cooking away in the kitchen!? And if anyone has some good Portuguese recommendations for me...please send!