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Montreal Foodie reporting back: Thanks TO!

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  • moh Mar 25, 2008 02:51 PM

Hey TO gang, many thanks to those of you who responded to my previous thread asking for advice on my TO itinerary. I have started this thread to report back on our trip. For those of you who recall the original post, you may remember that the list was huge. Needless to say, I didn't make it to a lot of it, as we were visiting many friends, and we didn't want to blow off our friends for eating opportunities. All the more reason to visit again soon! We really enjoyed the food scene, and look forward to future trips.

I shall have to post in segments, as it will be a big report. I'll do it in the body of replies...

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  1. Tuesday: Arrival in T-zero...

    Went straight to the Pacific Mall as we got to TO right around rush hour, and it was easier to go off on the Kennedy exit than to try to head into downtown TO via Yonge… The first thing I see upon entering the South entrance is an Asian candy store! What a great selection! All sorts of Pocky and gummies and biscuits and dried fruit. Also, an excellent selection of Japanese flavoured Kit Kats, a bit pricy at $2.79 each, but how could I resist? I got Green Tea Kit Kat, Chestnut flavour, some Japanese flower flavour and Cookies and Milk Kit Kat. I had read about these special Kit Kats on another post, and was pleased to find them. I found my beloved marshmallows filled with grape jelly, and some Japanese rock chocolates, candy coated chocolate that resembles little pebbles. Cappucino Maltesers, which I’ve never seen. There was a hard candy embedded with a dried Japanese plum. Some of the more unusual offerings included a large selection of dried fish, squid and seafood products. I could not resist buying the dry crispy crabs, which are actual crabs the size of a quarter that have been fried or baked and seasoned with sesame. They are savory and crisp, and have a fishy sesame taste that remind me of some of the dried squid snacks they serve in Korea instead of chips and popcorn. I found them a bit hard-core, as they smell and taste quite fishy. Other interesting products include a line of preserved olives that have been candied. I bought the spicy candied olives, they are real olives that have been candied like candied fruit, with some chile pepper added. They were surprisingly delicious! I also couldn’t resist some pickled spicy mango. Both of these last two items had a sweet-sour combination that was irresistible (well at least to me). This store was a lot of fun, and one of the store keepers was very helpful, letting me try some of the products and also providing translation for some of the flavors. There are many other candy stalls as well, and the merchandise was reasonably similar in all of them.

    We then tried the beef curry balls at Chun Gi Mei Snack house, which was just down the aisle from the candy store. I can’t recommend them, the beef was very processed and rubbery, and the curry sauce was generic. Still, it was only $1.50.

    We then wandered upstairs and tried the Handmade noodles at Sun’s Kitchen. It was really fun to watch them make the noodles, lots of slapping and flying flour. We ordered the #10 pork and preserved vegetables with noodles and broth. As noted by another poster, the broth was nothing special, but fortunately, the pork and the preserved vegetables added a nice dose of flavour and tang to the broth. And the noodles were wonderful, excellent texture, with a nice firm give when you bite into them. For $6.22 for a large bowl of soup and noodles, it was well worth the cost.

    We then hit Shanghai Bund for soup dumplings. The dumpling skins were very thin, yet durable enough to hold the soup in the dumpling. I would say that the skins were about as nice as you could get! We had the pork soup dumplings, nice broth and excellent filling. The broth on the pork dumplings was less fatty than other soup dumplings I have tried, but still very flavourful. We also had the larger Crab and pork soup dumplings, which were filled with a sumptuous, fatty broth brimming with flavour of the sea. Both dumplings came with a simple ginger and black vinegar sauce that complemented the dumplings well. We increased our fibre content by ordering a simple dish of Chinese greens, stir-fried fresh baby bok choy. The soup dumplings were excellent, and we plan to try to go back to get a few more of them little gems before we return to the soup-dumpling-less wasteland that is the Montreal Chinese food scene (although I am still hoping we can finally score some on the South Shore!). The owner came around to each table to check that everything was all right. He is very friendly, and we got into a fun discussion about Hong Kong films. He has served Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, and also the star of Shaolin Soccer. We didn’t recognize the name of the actor, but my hubbie said “Oh, Stephen Chow?” (the owner had used his Chinese name). The owner confirmed this, and as he went back into the kitchen,, we could hear him talking in Chinese and throwing in the name “Stephen Chow”. Although I don’t speak or understand Chinese, I guessed that he was telling someone that the white guy was a fan of Stephen Chow! That, or he was laughing at the fact that we only knew his western name. All in all, it was a very nice experience.

    I have a friend who makes weekend runs from Montreal to Richmond Hill/Markham just to feast on Chinese food. Now I understand why. I might have to start this habit for the soup dumplings alone...

    1. Wednesday:

      We decided to go to High Street for lunch. This is a very cute little restaurant which specializes in fish and chips. We chose the Haddock. The fish was perfectly battered and fried, light and crispy with nary a hint of grease. I gobbled down the entire piece (a very generous portion) and could have easily had another, it was so light. The fries were very good, but not memorable. Good thing too. A combination of amazing fish and amazing chips might just kill me. Our table shared an order of Steak and Ale pie (no chips). The pastry is perfect, crispy and light, and the steak filling was rich, savoury and wonderful. These people do one mean pie! You cannot get a meat pie as fabulous as this one in Montreal, that is for sure. However, I was disappointed by the battered and deep-fried black pudding. Although the spices were nice, the pudding was overly salty. I couldn’t eat more than a bite of it. Too bad, I usually love black pudding. We also purchased a Melton Mowbray pie, an uncured pork pie with a thick dense crust encircling the pork and a thin layer of gelatin surrounding the meat. I ate it for breakfast the next morning. On the first bite, I was transported back to my year in Northern England. This is a great pie. The pies were so great, we had to make a trip back to High Street later on in the week to buy some pies to take home to Montreal. I’d have gotten some of the fish too, but I was concerned they wouldn’t travel well. (High Street Fish and Chips, 55 Underhill Drive, North York (416) 510-8905)

      Because we had held back on the consumption of chips, hubbie and I and our friend had room to stop off at Hollywood Gelato for the toasted marshmallow gelato. I am a huge fan of toasted marshmallows, and I felt the gelato captured the texture and taste of melted marshmallow nicely. However, it failed to capture what for me is the best part of a toasted marshmallow, which is the lightly browned sleeve of toasted marshmallow that slides off in one piece and has that toasty, caramel crunch. Still, it was a nice flavour. Hubbie and friend enjoyed their chocolate and vanilla gelatos, but they weren’t anything special. But my favorite flavour was the tiramisu gelato. OMG. I have been searching for a tiramisu gelato to match one that I had eaten in Palo Alto 10 years ago, and today, I had finally found it. This gelato is not too sweet. It has a rich coffee taste, the creaminess of good marscapone, and the added textural delight of lady fingers soaked in booze and expresso. Perfection. If I thought I could get it safely down the 401, I would have bought gallons of this stuff. (never mind that there is no room in the freezer) Hollywood Gelato, 1640 Bayview Ave. (416) 544-9829

      We were then invited out for dinner with some other friends, who suggested we go to House of Chan. We were told it was a steak house, so we were surprised to see a large reddragon above the entrance way. Our friends were in the mood for steak, and they had heard that this was a great place for steak. This place is a time capsule! Red leather banquettes, dark atmospheric lighting, Chinese waiters in matching black suits, I felt I was back in the 1970’s. The menu offers various cuts of steak, lobster, stone crab (as in Joe’s) and an assortment of Chinese dishes such as chow mein, chop suey, sweet and sour dishes, egg foo young – again, very 1970’s. I decided to go with the New York sirloin cut, rare. If steak is their strength, then might as well go with it. I was served a platter of fresh sliced onions, tomatoes, green peppers and celery to start. My other option was a house salad, which consisted of iceberg lettuce (I haven’t seen that in a long time!!) and chopped tomatoes. My friends got the salad with dressing on the side, and I have reason to believe the dressing was bottled Kraft Italian dressing. All the vegetables were fresh and tasty, so although the prep was simple, they certainly did not skimp on quality. My steak was perfectly grilled and the meat was delicious. Sliced roasted potatoes and fried slivers of onions (battered and deep-fried) were served family style on the side, and were competently prepared. Hubbie ordered the New York steak Oriental, which was cut into slices and served on a bed of vegetables, including some bok choy. The steak also had some oriental spices on it (perhaps 5 spice?). This steak was also delicious. Two of our friends ordered steaks as well, and one friend ordered salmon, which was moist and tasty. I regret not ordering one of the Chinese dishes, but there is only so much one can eat. We had a fun meal, and the food was simple but well-prepared. I was very pleasantly surprised, as I was somewhat dubious when we first entered the restaurant. The prices are typical steakhouse prices (ie. High), so I can’t say this is a Chowfind, but I would go again if I felt like steak for dinner. And can we say blast from the past? House of Chan, 876 Eglington Ave. West, (416) 781-5575

      1. Thursday:

        I had a piece of Melton Mowbray pie early in the morning, but then we went out for breakfast at Mars Uptown. Breakfast was a good honest affair, good quality ingredients that were competently prepared. I had a poached egg with whole wheat toast, peameal bacon and sliced tomatoes. Good casual atmosphere and excellent service made for a nice start to the day. Mars Uptown, 2363 Yonge Street (416) 322-7111.

        We were meeting friends in Hamilton in the evening, so we decided to stop in Mississauga on the way to have Hakka Indian food for lunch. Ming Room is a brightly lit, clean restaurant with lots of wood. It was quite busy even though we only arrived late in the afternoon, always a good sign. An East Indian friend of ours joined us for lunch. We started with deep-fried spring rolls which were a bit greasy. The filling consisted of lots of cabbage, and wasn’t particularly flavourful. We ordered chili paneer, Hakka chow mein and fish in black bean sauce. The chili paneer consisted of cubes of fresh squeaky paneer covered in a brown sauce and chilis. The paneer had excellent texture, but lacked a lot of flavour. The chili sauce was much less spicy than I expected, but after a few bites the spice level began to build. The hakka chow mein was also less spicy than I expected, but had a haunting savoury flavour (umami I guess) that was addictive. I couldn’t stop eating it. The fish was battered and deep fried, then covered with black bean sauce, tasty, but the flavour profile was somewhat simple. But everything was fresh, cheap and most notably not overly greasy. My friend was disappointed by the level of spice, and put hot chili oil on everything. She prefers Lucky’s in Scarborough, but she noted that you have to get past a layer of oil to get to the food. But she says Lucky’s food is smoky hot, which she prefers. But I quite enjoyed the food, and would make my way out to eat there again. I have heard some people complain that Hakka Indian is an overrated cuisine, but I like the fusion of flavours. Ming Room, 6461 Mississauga Road, Mississauga, (905)812-1550.

        Dinner was at a friend’s house, so no review there!

        1. Friday:

          We had a slow start to the day as we were trying to meet a large group of friends for food and general hanging out. When we finally got our act together, it was lunch. We tried to do a comparison of roti at Ali’s and Bacchus, but Bacchus was closed, so we ate at Ali’s. I can never resist oxtail stew, so I got oxtail with beans and rice and salad. The oxtail was tender and delicious, but I must admit I am addicted to an oxtail stew done at El Corridor in Montreal, and although the stew was delicious, it wasn’t as good as the one I love. Still, I really enjoyed it, and the hot sauce is appropriately hot, I got a really good sweat going. Scotch bonnet peppers are my favorite spicy pepper, there is something fruity and floral about the taste that transcends the burning spicy sensation. I also had a double and wow. Thank you for posting about it, I was in heaven! Deep-fried doughy goodness surrounding tender, mildly spiced chickpeas, what a great find! I could eat a double every day for the rest of my life. I will have to try to hunt them down in Montreal. Hubbie got the goat roti. I loved the roti shell, it was soft and fresh, and the goat filling was perfectly spiced and tender. We finished with a selection of desserts including sugar cake (shredded coconut covered with a praline sugary coat), cassava cake and guava jellies. The gang seemed very happy with the food, and we all left stuffed and content. Ali’s Roti 1446 Queen Street West (416)532-7701

          For dinner, we decided to go for Korean food with the whole gang. We had a bit of trouble finding a place that would seat 12 people and an infant quickly, so while we were waiting for dinner, I popped into Hodo Kwanja for Korean walnut cakes filled with red bean. They were yummy as always. I also lucked out, and bought some still warm hoe ddok (Korean flat dessert pancake filled with brown sugar and nuts and pan fried until browned and the sugar melts into a syrupy mess – so good). We munched until we were seated for dinner. We went to a favorite of mine, Korean House Cuisine. I ordered the soon dubu soup, a tofu and seafood soup that bubbled for 5 minutes after they brought it to me! Such a great winter soup! The soups at this restaurant are always delicious, the broths are fantastic (good broth is always a sign that the restaurant cares about the food). The array of banchan was impressive and tasty, and included beans in soy sauce, seaweed salad, seasoned fish cake, water chestnut jelly, seasoned soy bean sprouts, and two types of kimchi (regular napa cabbage and stuffed cucumber kimchi, a real rarity! The kimchi was excellent, another sign that the restaurant cares about the food). Dolsot bibimbap (rice and various toppings served in a stone bowl) was also excellent. We ordered the pa jon (seafood pancake) for the table, which was good, but not as delicious as some I’ve had. The Tangsyeyook (battered deep-fried pork in a sweet and sour sauce) was wonderful, the sauce was tangy and the pork was tender. The tangsyeyook was a big hit with the table. I tend to always end up at Korean house, and I often tell myself I should really branch out and try other places. But every time I go there, I leave so very satisfied, it is hard to motivate myself to try another place. Next time… I’ll try next time….
          Hodo Kwanja 656 Bloor St. (416) 538-1208
          Korean House Cuisine 666 Bloor St. (416) 536-8666

          1. ..thanks for a nice account of your trip moh, glad you enjoyed yourself...I'll have to get up to try those pies...

            Cheers!

            7 Replies
            1. re: Recyclor

              Recyclor, I had some more of their pies when we returned home. We bought the steak and ale pie again, a minced beef pie, and many more Melton Mowbray pies. If you like British meat pies, then yes, you must get up their and try their pies. A good meat pie is a work of art. I am this close to driving back out tomorrow to pickup more pie.... Such very comforting food. The Melton Mowbray pie, at room temp, with a nice Boston lettuce and tomato salad with good vinaigrette, and a few pickled beets...heaven.

              1. re: moh

                Sounds so good, thanks for the details...I love your post, it has reminded me to get out and chow around more, I tend to only go all out when traveling, but clearly I'm missing out here at home!...did you notice if do they do a tortiere? I miss them from when I was a kid and living outside of Chicoutimi, next time I'm in Montreal I'll be hitting you up for advice on where to find the best!...

                1. re: Recyclor

                  I'm afraid no tourtiere...

                  I'm sure we'll be able to hook you up when you come to Montreal! one of my favorite ones is from Porkmeilleur in Jean-Talon market. And of course if you get a tourtiere, it is always worth the effort to also purchase some lovely "ketchup aux fruits"... It's a nice change from regular ketchup.

                  1. re: moh

                    ..well when I do finally get it, it'll be all the sweeter then!

                    Cheers

                    1. re: Recyclor

                      ketchup aux fruits is a relish-like condiment made with tomatoes and vegetables. It is often canned or jarred to keep it over the winter. Here is a blogsite (not mine, no relation to me whatsoever) that has a nice recipe for tourtiere and Ketchup aux fruits.

                      http://www.endlessbanquet.blogspot.com/

                      1. re: moh

                        ..again, thanks moh, I edited my post cuz I googled k-a-f and got my answer...as a child I went for plain old ketchup but it's time to do it right, it souds great!

                        1. re: Recyclor

                          I usually serve mine with mango chutney but this sounds wonderful too. It seems similar to the Tomato Relish from Les Fougere which is also wonderful.

            2. Saturday:

              The gang decided to meet at St. Lawrence Market. I didn’t eat breakfast, so I stopped off at Carousel Bakery for Breakfast on a Bun (peameal bacon, egg, Kraft cheese slice on a bun). The peameal bacon made the sandwich, it was very tender and had just the right level of saltiness, and the wonderful taste of pork. We then headed over to the North Market and wandered amongst the stalls. I started at Jeanne’s Baked Goods and stocked up on sausage rolls and meat pies. We also picked up some elk sausage, samosa, some sheep’s milk cheese from Monforte dairy, fresh vegetables, peach pie and raspberry pie, organic olive oil from Crete, sweet potato and cream cheese dip (I was surprised how tasty this was!) cold cuts, and my favorite: outstanding apple streudel, blueberry and cream cheese streudel, and pecan butter tarts from Oodles of Strudels. The blueberry cream cheese one is out of this world. We then picked up a few more cheeses from Alex Farms in the south market, and two loaves of bread from one of the bakeries downstairs. The baguettes didn’t look like they would compare to baguettes in Montreal, the crusts didn’t look right, so we passed. We bought the muesli bread and the california walnut bread, and they were both excellent! We also bought some organic grapes that were very nice. We spent the rest of the day grazing on our market bounty. I was very impressed by the large range of products, the freshness of the produce, meats and cheeses, and the amazing seafood selection. The seafood selection was much better than most of my Montreal haunts. I was very jealous.
              I LOVE THIS MARKET!

              I have to comment on the bagel. I tried a sample of a St. Urbain bagel. The dough looked wrong, the texture was dry and unpalatable, the flavour was bland and overly sweet (likely not enough salt). Sorry, that was not a Montreal style bagel. I can’t even say it was really good bread. Ick. And I’ve already commented on the baguette. Toronto has really great food, but for French, I’d still have to say Montreal has a big edge in this department.

              1 Reply
              1. re: moh

                Toronto Bagels are not Montreal bagels.

                Next time try Gryfe's (not sure of the spelling).

                These, imho, are Toronto style bagels. They are the opposite of Montreal. That is they are light. I get them at Gryfe's on Bathurst north of Lawrence.

              2. Easter Sunday: Day of Rest. Well not really, but we spent the day eating at various friends' homes. Such a nice day!

                (only one day left, sorry for the length of the report.)

                1. WOW...you are complete foodie...next time I go to Montreal I hope you'll help me...what a great trip and great feedback...Miranda

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: miranda

                    Miranda, the Quebec/Montreal board is my home site, shall definitely be willing to help out. How could I not, after all the great help I've received here?

                  2. Monday:

                    Our goal was to fit in one more meal, then leave TO before rush hour. We headed back up to Ding Tai Fung for more soup dumplings. This restaurant specializes in Shanghai style dimsum. You can watch the chefs make the dumplings by hand, and they also make fresh noodles by hand. We had the pork soup dumplings (menu item #13), steamed chive and pork dumplings (#15), steamed shrimp and meat dumplings (#19) and pan-fried minced pork dumplings (#20). We also had Shanghai style sauté noodles (#57). The dumpling wrapper here is not as thin and resilient as the ones at Shanghai Bund (which I have previously described as perfect dumpling wrappers). But the broth inside the dumplings is much richer in flavour, and fattier. The shrimp and meat dumplings were absolutely divine. The pan-fried dumplings (I refer to them as pot-stickers or gyoza-like) were also outstanding. Because the fillings are so sumptuous, I don’t mind the slightly thicker skin. The noodles were also wonderful, and came with some napa cabbage and well-seasoned pork strips. It was a perfect end to a very delicious week. Ding Tai Fung, First Markham Place, 3235 Highway 7 East, Unit 18B, Markham (905) 943-9880.

                    We then briefly stopped at T and T Supermarket on Steeles, picked up a few items (love the meat and seafood counter! How I wish we could have taken back a few of those huge Dungeness crabs!), and then rolled onto the 401.

                    So consider me converted! We’ll be back to eat again soon. And the nice thing is that I only made it partway through my list. So the anticipation is already building… Many thanks again for your kind advice!

                    15 Replies
                    1. re: moh

                      ..oops, thought you were already done...must've caught you during a snack break!...

                      1. re: moh

                        yeah but.... you didn't find any ludlab? This makes me sad.

                        1. re: JamieK

                          The ludlab quest had to be aborted, as did the fried chicken quest, the visit to the Jamie Kennedy restos, the Malaysian, and a few other fun stops. I didn't even have time to do Thai. I ran out of stomach space, and we had a lot of invites to friends' homes. Also, some of our friends have young children, and that limits going out in the evening. We can't justify not seeing friends just to make it through the entire food list.... But I forgot to add that I did make it to the Summerhill LCBO, and it was great!

                          But it looks like we will have reason to be in TO again soon, and the list will be slowly worked through. I am fairly obsessive, so the ludlab quest will be continued! And I'll be certain to report if I find any... No need to be sad, food quests make life fun and unpredictable! Imagine our excitement if we ever find it!

                          1. re: moh

                            «I am fairly obsessive»

                            And a master of understatement... ;)

                            Great report, btw. You of course brought soup dumplings back for us uninitiated, didn't you?

                        2. re: moh

                          I've been dying to try one of those crabs at T&T, but have never tackled one. Is there really a toxic section that can't be eaten?

                          1. re: Wiley

                            I must admit, I have never heard about a toxic section on a crab. Anyone else know? I've always just eaten whatever seemed edible... But I can't confirm about this particular type of crab.

                            1. re: moh

                              I've had them a bunch of times...maybe i'm being careless, but hadn't even thought about a toxic section. Maybe the innards...but I don't eat those.

                              Just buy one Wiley. They're fun to eat and tasty. T&T has them on sale all the time. You can get a good-sized one for $10. I forget the peak season..google it.

                              1. re: moh

                                According to this link, you just wash the greenish-brown goo out of the body after splitting it open..http://www.instructables.com/id/EPE1R...

                                1. re: Wiley

                                  I'm pretty sure I've eaten some of the greenish goo in other crab species, and as far as I know, it wasn't toxic. It might not be something you want to eat, but I don't think it's actually toxic. At least, I hope not!

                                  1. re: moh

                                    When cleaning a crab, you should remove the spongy gills or "dead mans fingers," on the underside of the body.
                                    Some crab species have been known to be toxic to humans, but as long as you are purchasing your crabs at a reputable fishmonger, and not an aquarium, you won't have to worry about that.

                                  2. re: Wiley

                                    No it is not toxic ! This is good stuffs, a strong intense taste like the crab brain, eat it together with the crab meat !

                                    1. re: skylineR33

                                      When it's good, the green stuff is great! But occasionally I've noticed a bitter taste, and sometimes, I don't enjoy it. But it is a lot like the lobster tomalley.

                                      1. re: moh

                                        Not really, one of the most expensive and famous crab is "yellow oil crab", 黄油蟹. Actually the crab is sick, its high temperature makes all the yellow crab butter all over its body, claws .... so delicious !!!

                                        I would say occasionally, it is a little bitter taste, either the green or yellow crab brain/butter.

                                        1. re: skylineR33

                                          SkylineR33, can you purchase the yellow oil crab in Toronto? If so, please let us know where!

                                          1. re: moh

                                            No, I have not seen it in Toronto's food markets. It is not always available even in HK/China.

                            2. All I can say is - wow!! One of the most thorough and well-written posts I've seen in a long time. You tackled Toronto like I tackle New York, hauling my butt all over town to seek out the best bites. Thank you for uncovering so many gems in our own city and for taking the time to write back. Come back (and eat and then write) soon!!

                              1. Thanks for the great review moh!
                                I will definitely be referring to this post in future

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: chocabot

                                  Fantastic write-up moh! We're Torontonians and we'll have to give these places a try too.

                                  1. re: tekkamaki

                                    You are all very lucky! There are some real fabulous food finds in your city... Tried to give you an idea of what appealed to me in each place, hope it helps you to find things that match your preferences. Can't wait to go back!