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Feb 17, 2008 12:58 PM

It's my party and I'll try if I want to: Tuesday

Mr. Manybears has agreed to take me out for dinner for my birthday Tuesday. We are stuck in a little rut of our regulars lately, and I'm looking for some recommendations for something new to try!

Here are some ideas to get you started:

- somewhere in the GTA
- not too pricey, hoping for a price (minus wine) of around $100 for two
- something with at least moderately nice atmosphere. We're not too picky, Musa style would be ok, but more upscale than Swatow
- I've had a lot of Italian lately so I'd prefer something different this time
- I'm not suuuper adventurous yet, when it comes to things like hot spices or strange animal parts (though not a complete bore about it)
- Some of my favourite places include: Udupi Palace in Little India, El Sol, la Palette in Kensington, Wasabi in Markham, Lai Wah Heen (for a splurge)

I was thinking about O-Mei based on previous threads, but don't know if I can get 2-4 other people to come out on a Tuesday to make the lobster 4-ways worth it (how much does that cost, anyway? I'm dying to try it but may have to save up for awhile!), unless y'all want to crash the party.

I'd also thought about Batifole...

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  1. Batifole would be a great option and within your budget. You could also go to Zen Japanese for omakase sushi at $45.00 per person.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Full tummy

      Zen is gret, however they do not do omkase (which I found out when I went there for my bday in September). They do have a $45 sushi or sashimi platter, and it is really nice, with more refined, and expensive, fish, but it is NOT an omakase. We felt a little disappointed just because we expected so much from it, but we did have an amazing meal - and they had warned us that it was not exactly an omakase - we were just a bit naïve :)

      1. re: pâté chinois

        What made it "not exactly an omakase", if you don't mind my asking?

        1. re: pâté chinois

          It says sushi or sashimi omakase on the menu, what is your definition of omakase ?

          1. re: pâté chinois

            From what I understand an omakase is - and I may very well be wrong - the chef prepares a range of special dishes based on what is available that day.

            What we got at Zen was a set meal with higher range sushi (for me) and sashimi (for s.o.) than what we normally would have received in a sushi or sashimi platter.

            It was the first time we treated ourselves to an omakase and based on what I had read on chowhound and elsewhere, I did not get what I thought I would get. Don't get me wrong, the food was very very good and we enjoyed our meal and we plan to go back to Zen, but just for a regular meal.

            1. re: pâté chinois

              Omakase simply means that you are handing yourself over to the chef. Different restaurants have different methods for executing this. Some have multiple courses such as Kaji and John Lee's Omi. Others have a chef's selection plate such as you experienced at Zen and as they do at Kumai in Mississauga. Myself, I like both styles depending on my mood.

              If you're just starting out discovering sushi (not sure) then you may be more comfortable with a set regular meal. Once you know the chef and sushi well you'll find the right places to omakase.

              Personally I love the Zen plate as I always get the unexpected and trust the chef completely.

        2. The Universal Grill? Atmosphere is kinda Musa-ish. And menu isn't crazy-weird but the kitchen does a bit of experimenting and isn't afraid to spice it up.

          1. Batifole is a great choice (however, I find it noisy when full). I think you could do Zucca in that price range.

            But my current favourite is POP Bistro at Queen and Broadview. I've been twice recently with hubby and we've totally enjoyed the food and the service. Two owners and a chef are all the staff in this tiny reno'd diner. If you are going on the weekend, they usually have a whole grilled fish, which was divine last time I had it. They do a great prix fixe for $30. We went last week - mid week (no..not on V-day). We both opted for the prix fixe. Mine was french onion soup (excellent - not the cheesy kind) and my main was an unbelievable pacific salmon with puree of garlic and leek layered in the middle...incredible crusty grilled top and perfectly cooked flesh. Hubby had the warm spinach salad starter and pork tenderloin with cumin and apply chutney. They do a nice creme brule and flowerless chocolate cake for dessert. With martinis, a lovely bottle of chard and food, the total tab was $140 before tip.

            It seems there are lots of local regulars, and even though it's not that local to us, I definitely see becoming a regular.

            happy birthday!

            Pop Bistro
            686 Queen St E, Toronto, ON M4M1G9, CA

            3 Replies
            1. re: dinin and dishin

              Hm-- sounds delicious! I love apple and cumin together.

              These are great options so far, thank you!-- keep 'em coming!

              1. re: dinin and dishin

                I had wanted to try this place seeing as it is just around the corner from our home but the latest review in either eye or NOW (can't remember) the restaurant got totally spanked by the reviewer. It was one of the harshest reviews I have ever read. Glad to hear that others have had a nice experience. Does any body else have an opinion on Pop Bistro?

                1. re: professor plum

                  They had great promise when they opened, after having to fire their first chef almost immediately. The next chef had talent and the owners are nice guys (one of whom can be quite social and entertaining). The vibe is good. However, the menu is limited and doesn't change often. While this is a moderately priced restaurant by Toronto standards, it is much more expensive than I find is justified by the food quality, preparation, and presentation.

                  In short, we found POP a nice addition to the neighbourhood, but not worth a journey. We expected at first to become regulars there, but ultimately concluded that it just wasn't worth it.

                  We haven't eaten there in quite some time, but have heard stories that there is a new chef who isn't very good. I have not confirmed this. While I have no confidence in either Eye or Now reviews, I found POP's onion soup to be exactly as that Eye Weekly review describes. OTOH, we have both enjoyed the lamb meat loaf in the past, but this is $10 comfort food, even executed perfectly, at twice the price.

              2. Even though your birthday meal is past, Manybears, I thought I'd suggest Cowbell for your next outing.

                1. Thanks everyone-- obviously I'm going to have to arrange to have more than one birthday a year. I do like sushi (though have been a little spoiled by Vancouver fare) and have already added Cowbell to the to-try list.

                  [I have to shamefully admit I went back to El Sol this time (some friends who rarely come out felt like a fiesta!-- I didn't mind obliging). It was great, even if not new-- I can't get enough of their machaca. Nice mole too, but it's too hard to not order a taco platter when I'm there.]