Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sweet, Succulent Lobster at The Lobster Trap

I have always loved lobster, although since the discovery of curry crab at Saigon Star, my allegiance had slowly been diverting. We randomly treat ourselves to lobster, whether it's a full lobster served at Pier 4 down by the water, or lobster with e-fu noodles (yi mein) at Congee Wong. Not long ago, I came across an article about the long standing restaurant, The Lobster Trap, famous for the fresh shipments of lobsters from the East coast. With no dinner plan for Friday night, there was no better time to try out this Toronto favourite for the first time!

The Lobster Trap is a casual, friendly restaurant, complete with blue and white checkered table cloths, lobster nets adorning the walls and friendly live keyboard player for Friday night dinner (perhaps other nights as well?). We dined to the Entertainer, something from Phantom, Fur Elise and other "classics." It all added to the lovely, neighbourhood charm of The Lobster Trap. Despite the obviousness of what I would order, a moment of indecision came on deciding how BIG of a lobster I should have: The Lobster Trap serves by weight, starting at 1 lb. Our server recommended 1.5 lb dinner, which comes with soup, a side and a non-alcoholic drink. There was no doubt I was going to start with the lobster bisque (it's almost my life ambition to find the best in the world....Cannery I miss you!!), but I decided 1.5 lbs would be too ambitious and settled for 1 and a quarter :) Decision two was how the lobster would be prepared, steamed or broiled. Steamed was recommended by our server, broiled included bread crumbs in butter spread on the lobster halves and broiled. Naturally, we each chose one preparation so we could give the broiled a try.

I started with the lobster bisque, which was incredibly sweet and tasty.
Tony's clam chowder was stocked full of clams, every spoonful had plenty! Both were great but good clam chowder is easier had than good lobster bisque, so that I highly recommend. We had hot drawn butter with our lobster, which came whole but served in half. This was seriously some of the BEST lobster I have ever had - there was plenty of succulent meat (even in the legs and fin of the tail) and it was more flavourful than we expected, truly the definition of fresh, sweet lobster! And whether you like it or not, even the tamale had a deliciously sweet flavour. My steamed lobster (picture at top) was definitely preferred to Tony's broiled (pictured to the right), the bread crumbs were a bit greasy and took away from the delicious lobster meat on its own. We liked the fresh drawn butter, but really, the meat was sweet and flavourful on its own. We were in heaven!

The Lobster Trap is definitely an old neighbourhood gem, and a must-visit for family friendly service behind the delicious food. We were surrounded by other couples and families happily picking away at the lobster before them. Would anyone really order the 4 lb lobster available on the menu?? That just sounded insane!

The Lobster Trap
416-787-3211 (no reservations)
1962 Avenue Road

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Great Casual Fare at O&B Canteen

I've posted about Oliver & Bonacini's Canteen in the TIFF Bell Lightbox before, we made a visit when they first opened. We were happy with our meal but only found it average - a good place to go but not some place I was actively recommending. For TIFF this year, we planned ahead for food (eating popcorn for dinner last year wasn't ideal!) and made a pit stop reservation at Canteen between movies. We were pleasantly surprised with a great meal, served quick and excellent service (thanks for taking care of us Joseph!).

Canteen has a wide variety of choices, We were still left with a great
selection of starters, standard mains like pasta, and quickie ones like sandwiches. To start, remembering how great the chicken liver pate was we had to have it, and it was WAY better than we both remembered. There wasn't enough crostini for us to lap it all up! Next, we had the seared scallops served on a bed of curried cauliflower and raisins, a delicious and unique mix of flavours. Yum! For mains, we decided to give the sandwiches a try, which are also available simply for the grab+go counter. I had the beef brisket croissant with havarti and sauerkraut. The croissant was buttery and the brisket was actually pretty lean...the sandwich was heavenly and every bite was a 10! Tony had the pulled pork sandwich with bbq chipotle. It was pretty good but I still think mine was tops!

I highly recommend a stop at Canteen, whether you're in the area because you're checking out TIFF over the next week or if you happen to be downtown and need a quick, inexpensive and delicious meal. This is a worthy place to stop in for something casual or for some simple, unique flavours!

O&B Canteen
330 King Street West (Bell TIFF Lightbox)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

High-end Italian at Mistura

The Toronto International Film Festival is upon us again, one of my favourite times of the year here - the city is just buzzing with energy and celebrities! The funny thing when you eat out during TIFF is there is the notorious head swivel - everyone double takes to see if the next guest to walk in is someone famous. This really doesn't happen normally! I wonder if all the restaurants in Yorkville get a bump simply from people hoping to spot a celebrity?

We randomly went to Mistura for dinner tonight - if we're going to eat out, why not take our chances right?? The last time we were here was with our friend Merrill, and we had a fabulous meal. One very memorable dish was the beef carpaccio, so we just had to have that again. I truthfully can't tell you anything else we ate last time, but this is what we ended up with tonight:

Beef carpaccio - although this was very very delicious, it was not exactly what I remembered and we could not figure out if we just confused the dish with another restaurant. What I recalled was a wonderful dish of beef carpaccio with truffle and lemon juice, but I don't remember it coming as a wrap around arugula. It was still very good but I aways vote more beef than veggies :P

Summer Fish Soup - something on the seasonal menu, this light yet flavourful soup was a great starter. I find fish soup often doesn't actually have much flavour, but this tasted like a nice slow boiled fish soup that had plenty of taste. Love that the chef isn't afraid of being a little fishy (in a great, fresh way of course!).


I went for one of the "untouchables" on the menu, an appetizer size wild boar agnolotti. It was one of the first things that caught my eye and was just DIVINE! I savoured every bite and flavour of the stuffed pasta pockets, lapping up as much of the sour cherry and brown butter sauce as possible. I really didn't want to share with Tony...

Tony went with the pot roasted rabbit, which I was very glad for since it also looked enticing. It was a hearty, saucy dish served generously with two legs and a melange of vegetables. We were even given a spoon to lap up the sauce! It looked so incredibly delicious I couldn't wait to get a taste - every bit as delicious as expected, and although flavourful not overly heavy! That's the thing, good Italian food should not be heavy...


We managed to save a bit of room for dessert, deciding on the semifreddo (a kind of frozen dessert), served with hazelnuts. I'm not actually a huge dessert fan in general but found it a nice way to finish off dinner.

Mistura is a delicious, quality restaurant. It's a bit of a splurge but nothing outrageous and certainly worth it. It looked like the table behind us may have had a custom menu (Chef Massimo stopped by) but I can't be absolutely sure looked and smelled good! All the well heeled patrons looked like they had delicious meals on their plates and lovely wine accompaniments. I should mention we also had a glass of cab, which often is sub-par to selecting a nice bottle but this was really great!

265 Davenport Road
416-515-0009 (available on OpenTable)

Monday, September 5, 2011

VANCOUVER: Mouthwatering Fresh Sushi at Ajisai

Priority for every visit to Vancouver is to eat as much sushi/sashimi as possible...but having not lived in the city since 2004, I feel like I'm no longer "in-the-know" on the best places to indulge. There's always the famous Tojo but one of the main reasons Vancouver is one of my fave places to eat is because you don't have to pay an arm and a leg for great fish. An old favourite in Vancouver is Ajisai Sushi Bar in Kerrisdale, so we decided to stop in for lunch last Saturday, a timely visit to the area for a sunny walk during Kerrisdale Days. Arriving just before 11:30, we were fortunate to arrive before most of the crowds and chose to sit at the sushi bar. We always love sitting at the bar, it allows us to to be close to the food action and see everything going on. There is mostly just raw food at Ajisai, with some selected cooked/grilled items but largely, the menu is raw and made quickly by the 3 chefs standing behind the sushi bar. It was amazing just to watch them make and serve beautiful assorted sushi plates, colourful chirashi special, create unique rolls, and even torch pressed salmon sushi. Sitting at the bar was definitely part of the great experience, it was fast and impressive! Watching them reminded me of the article I read in David Chang's Lucky Peach about Japanese chefs, how they pride themselves on doing one thing well and refining their expertise and skill over time instead of branching out to new forms or cuisines.

Our taste buds were treated to the following at Ajisai:
miso soup: you may wonder why waste precious stomach space with "ordinary" miso soup, but this was served with large chucks of fresh tofu!
special assorted sashimi: this included tuna, salmon, amaebi (sweet shrimp), scallop, octopus and others. Every bite was satisfying...this was finally the fresh fish we desired!
hokkigai (surf shell clam) and sea kelp salad, marinated in miso, a crunchy, light appetizer dish.
Ajisai special roll: this was truly a GIANT roll, and was amazing. The fresh crab meat alone is worth ordering and definitely the highlight and best part!
half orders of wild sockeye salmon sashimi (really, there is no other!) and toro sashimi (falling apart like it should be and simply heavenly!).
special unagi roll: although we were mostly full from our
initial order, we asked the chef if there was anything he recommended (I'm sure he could see us salivating over every creation coming over the bar). Truthfully, I don't remember anything he said but we thought if he can recommend it, we'll eat it! What we received was a delicious and healthy tasting roll made with unagi, asparagus, chopped scallop and avocado topped with wasabi tobiko. Although the many flavours masked the unique tobiko, I tasted it on its own and it had a nice tempered spike to it. No regrets on this roll!

There's no doubt why Ajisai has continued to be one of the most popular and favoured sushi spots in Vancouver. We'l be sure to stop in again next time we're in town...but willing to take any and all other recommendations! We can never have enough sushi on the West coast :)

Ajisai Sushi Bar
2081 West 42 Ave.