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Dining at Senses this weekend...suggestions on best dishes?

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  1. Hlrazr,

    I would recommend against Sen5es based on my last visit there, but if you already planning to head there I would suggest the truffle foam spaghettini. It was better at Truffles back in the day, but Chef Lin's newest reinvention is quite robust - he doesn't skimp on the earthy treats. The aromas are actually quite overpowering, but sometimes, I just like it that way. The pasta was nice and al-dente, though I would have probably preferred a few seconds less to create even more bite. The foam really aromatized the truffles and made it less dense.
    truffle-foam spaghettini: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
    I was underwhelmed with the duck and the other mains as well.
    Dessert was not bad, not great. A treat for the eyes though: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
    Macarons were the only pleasant surprise (IMO). Best in the city that I have tried: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

    In conclusion, Chef Lin's 'freebies' were the highlights - the amuse was a great starter, but unfortunately, it was downhill from that point onward. Macarons were a revelation. Great guy though - very humble and was excited to try and please.

    Cheers and do report back! Hopefully they have gotten better. For those prices though, I doubt I'll give them another chance.

    41 Replies
    1. re: BokChoi

      so you know, Chef Lin won this year's Toronto gold medal plate. Splendido came in second, I think Lai Wah Heen came in third.

      1. re: aser

        Good to know. I am sure the man has talent: he is where he is for good reason. I just don't think he prepared my meal 'tis all. It's a shame I could not give him a positive, glowing review. Trust me, I would have wanted to.

        1. re: BokChoi

          Bok Choi,

          when was the dessert taster offered? When I went there (about 2.5 weeks ago) they didn't have it on the menu, I would also agree with your overall assessment of their desserts, they are a feast for their eyes, but none of them brought that 'wow' factor in terms of taste. My buddy and I polished off 6 of their desserts (!) without realizing it.. guess the small portion sizes did a number on us. (and this was after we had dinner at Amaya)
          I wish we took pictures :(

          Here's what we had:
          1 Chocolate blackout (bittersweet dark chocolate, caramel, melted chocolate)
          - a round cakelet, soft and moist, layered with caramel in between
          2 White chocolate cheesecake (white chocolate cheesecake, vanilla sable crust)
          - right on the money in terms of texture, but the white chocolate was almost too subtle to be detected)
          3 Warm chocolate and marshmallow tart, kumquat compote, espresso ice cream,
          fresh mint
          - more reminiscent of a tart with molten centre, and they gave us marmalade instead of kumquat. but the marshmallow was so good (wish there had been more)!
          4 “Revolutionary” western approach of 3 chinese sweets (crispy vanilla custard puff, chocolate xo cognac sauce chilled guava pudding, lychee water, dragon fruit & mint salad anjou pear poached in sweet chinese wine, sesame seed crisp)
          - many elements but didn't really translate well onto the plate. winner here was the custard puff aka egg tart. the fritter was night and crispy and gave way to a creamy custard interior.. other two fell flat and didn't really taste good
          5 Caramelized banana cream pie w. chocolate sorbet
          - huge disappointment, was a cop- out from a tradition banana cream tart (think scaramouche or panagea's versions) their rendition used a phyllo crust and bruleed bananas.. AND there was no cream to be had :(
          6 Catalan chocolate bunyols (earl grey ice cream, passion fruit coulis, balsamic reduction)
          - earl grey ice cream was divine. the bunyois were fried round patties (and rolled in cinnamon sugar). Reminded me of churros-- only different was the shape and interior being filled with creamy chocolate.

          1. re: sugarcube

            Sugarcube,

            Please tell me this is not all straight from memory! That is very impressive.
            I had the dessert tasting a while back, perhaps in the spring? It was not on the menu, but the chef came out to talk with us and prepared something special. It was $40 if I recall correctly. A good deal $$ wise, but it just fell flat for us. I don't remember what anything tasted like. If you ask me to recall how much I loved the macarons from Dalloyou, I could go on and on, but these desserts completely slipped from my mind.

            What disappointed me most was the duck because I had read about the preparation/process about hand pouring the oil over the skin and allowing it to hang dry for several hours, etc (traditional Chinese preparation). When it was presented, the meat was sliced so thin that the skin was torn and pressed into the moist meat, rendering it soggy and eliminating all the effort from that laborious process. And to top it all off, a sauce was added to it. A strange end to such a 'masterful' dish IMO. But that's just how I see it.

            How did your friend enjoy Toronto's dining scene? I think I remember him saying he did not enjoy Nota Bene.

            Cheers!

            1. re: BokChoi

              Hi BokChoi,

              My recollection of the desserts (taste wise) was partially due to memory as well as looking at their menu again.

              Ah, well the time difference explains it then. It was nice of the Chef to come and speak with you, as well as offer something different than what was listed on the menu.
              The desserts at Senses need a taste overhaul. I remember when I was younger how excited I was to be in the now defunct Bloor St. location.

              All that hard work only to immerse its crispiness in sauce? How silly! Do you think the sogginess was due to maybe it sitting on the hotline and not being served soon enough? It is quite a laborious method too (saw it on Iron Chef America when Morimoto did it for duck or pig I believe)

              My friend just though Nota Bene was 'all right' http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/557962 for more info.

              1. re: sugarcube

                Sugarcube,

                Senses (both the bakery near Eaton Centre) and this restaurant have always failed to impress me. They look incredible, but the taste is just not there (and they're expensive to boot). You're right, I think he needs to do a reinvention of his menu/recipes.

                I would agree with Googs on her post though on that thread. I too had a similar feeling when you listed the restaurants your friend name-dropped. Glad you enjoyed NB though, even though your friend did not. To tell you the truth, SO was not too impressed with NotaBene either *gasp*. They thought it was "OK" as well, but I disagree. (nothing some harsh words and arm twisting can't fix!)

                1. re: BokChoi

                  Hi BokChoi,

                  We're so geographically close to NYC and yet so behind in development with pastry and desserts in fine dining establishments in general... I wonder why? I haven't traveled to NYC yet, but just reading some of their online menus makes me salivate (i.e. room4dessert, wd-50, Le Bernardin, Per Se, Jean George,etc)

                  Haha, well the experience has not deterred me from trying Splendido :) Call me protective, but even though we have room for improvement, I'm a die-hard supporter of Toronto's food scene.

                  1. re: sugarcube

                    sugarcube,
                    I could go on and on... actually, I did write a really long response, but figured I'd just send it to you and keep it off the board.

                    I'll sum it up here though:
                    1) population density: Toronto cannot compare
                    2) spending power: our median/mean income is nothing compared to the big apple
                    3) how much disposable income we put towards eating out: my guess from seeing a restaurant on a regular weekday evening shows that most people treat dining out as a weekly/weekend event

                    JG was amazing. Let's see if Toronto can step up to the plate with a $28 lunch (from a 3 star michelin restaurant no less). I propose that Nota Bene devise a tasting menu at a solid price point (3 course + premium for amuses, intermezzo plates,etc). Problem is with their astounding popularity, it would be hard for the kitchen and front of house to manage (timing, etc)!! Amazing that a new restaurant can turn over 300 seats a day. See what great food, service and price points can get you? Overwhelming success!! Let's hope other restaurateurs see this opportunity in the Toronto dining scene. I can only hope that NB is just a sign of things to come. Next, we need Au Pied de Cochon coming around from Montreal to stir up a bit of trouble.

                    To keep it on topic, I think that Senses has potential. Chef Lin is obviously quite talented. I just feel like his meal fell flat for me, both texturally and on the flavour front. The sauces appeared overpowering, and it not compliment the dishes well. With the duck I had, the sauce felt like an 'afterthought' placed on the plate for decoration, rather than enhancing the experience. But to each their own! I am sure he knows better than I.

                    Cheers!

                    1. re: BokChoi

                      Nota Bene does have a "theatre" prix fixe that I noticed on the menu outside while going there for dinner last night. I think it was a choice of two courses for a little more than $25 and three for around $35?

                      1. re: tjr

                        Great to know - thanks tjr. Would you know more about the hours/days it is being offered? Or what is on the menu itself? The website does not appear to have this update.

                        TIA

                        1. re: BokChoi

                          I'm not sure, it would probably be best to call them. I just briefly noted it as I was walking inside, but didn't ask any questions.

                      2. re: BokChoi

                        The best restaurant I have visited during Winter/Summerlicious has been Bymark, who have what appears to be the exact same burger on the menu as they regularly do, plus the appetizer and dessert for the same price as the burger on the normal menu. It's an excellent burger too!

                        1. re: BokChoi

                          Hi BokChoi,

                          You make good points, I guess I'll have to go to NY and do dessert justice there.
                          As a student, I can especially relate to your 3rd point. If I wasn't such an avid foodie who uses spending money 90% of the time on food, I certainly wouldn't be able to dine out as frequently as I like. Also, call me crazy, but I kind of like it when restos are not congested. I find Thursday or Wednesday to be a good time to dine out. It's busy but not overwhelmingly so.
                          Anyway, I digress...
                          Oh, I've been dying to try Au Pied De Cochon's fois gras poutine. This establishment and others like it in Montreal are ones I would want to lure to Toronto.
                          I'm not certain I agree with your first point though (sorry I'm kind of jumping all over the map here)-- Vancouver and Montreal have a much smaller population density, but they are receiving higher accolades for food and dining than Toronto is. What gives? Are they embracing cuisine and dining more than us?
                          I'll have to head back to Senses for dinner. There are two locations I believe; I went to the one at the Metropolitan Hotel. Do you think the other location delivers fare with the same consistency? Or is one better than the other?

                          Thanks!

                          1. re: sugarcube

                            I also enjoy it when it is not as congested! I can just imagine how the owners must be feeling though.

                            I would agree that Vancouver and Montreal are ahead of us in Toronto. But I think it all comes down to my third point, and the 1st one was not as strong. I was in Montreal on a regular weekday evening and the restaurants were very full. I believe it's the joie de vivre that many Montrealers (and I suspect, Vancouverans) subscribe to that Torontonians as a whole have not quite embraced yet. But we are getting there! I guess it is a case of what comes first - the chicken (people dining out every night) or the egg (great restaurants that warrant our patronage)?

                            I have only been to the Metropolitan for dinner. I did not know they had another spot for dinner - are you perhaps talking about the lunch / sandwich stop at Queen and Yonge? I have not tried their food, but their cakes are the same as the Metropolitan's. In other words, quite forgettable. I do not think they do baking on that site as it is in an office tower. But I could be wrong. I would not recommend it either way.

                            What would you suggest for desserts in the city, sugarcube?

                            1. re: BokChoi

                              The same occurred with me when I was in Vancouver. Unlike Toronto, where I must sift through endless websites and reviews before trying a restaurant, we randomly chose a places to dine at in Vancouver (sushi, dim sum place, and HK style cafe) and the food at each establishment was stellar, with the service being warm and attentive. If only places here were as consistent! We dined at these places during the weekday and like Montrealers, they were bustling with life.

                              Ah, yes, I was referring to the Queen and Yonge location. I wanted a glimpse of their creations, so I stepped inside one time. The bakery seemed a bit out of place, as if it were plunked then crammed into a small corner of a very large foyer. The display cases looked barren and the desserts that were presented didn't look exactly fresh, so I decided not to purchase anything. Pity too. I recall my first taste of Senses was at Lai Wah Heen a number of years ago. It was a spectacular dim sum feast and ended with Senses pastries alongside traditional Chinese sweets.

                              Depends on whether I feel a glutton or not haha: (also included places I don't really recommend based on my experience)

                              Fine dining:
                              Panagea- (especially Joanne Yolle's Banana Cream Pie)
                              Canoe - their made to order donuts! and their sticky toffee pudding (I blame Nigella Lawson for my obsession with this British delight).
                              Silver Spoon- I really used to like their desserts (esp. citrus-vanilla goat's cheese stuffed french toast with a baileys dolce de leche), but recently they've been quite skimpy with their portions.
                              Mistura- pine nut tart, filled with this divine buttery goopy filing!!! soo addictive.. it's like an Italian rendition of our classic butter tart
                              Perigee- dessert tasting menu (not sure if they offer it now that Chef Riley has made his departure) but if they do you can let them know your preferences and they can create a menu based on it :)

                              Mid-range-
                              Kalendar- believe it or not, I quite enjoy their desserts.. the quality is all right but it's the quantity here that pleases.

                              Feeling Peckish (aka bakeries and chocolate places)-
                              La Bambouche (Mont Blanc)
                              Celestin (anything.lol)
                              Patachou (yummy orange zest brioche)
                              Le Gourmand- this chocolate bomb, I forget the exact name but it's a lava of chocolate waiting to ooze out
                              Soma- olive oil truffle and balsamic vinegar truffle,
                              Johnny Banana Bistro- a large Mexican wedding cookie of sorts but filled with Dulce de leche.. sooo good!

                              E for Effort-
                              Ultra Supper Club- pretty as a picture, but taste needs work a little, only go if you happen to be in the area
                              Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar- desserts here are hit and miss so choose wisely
                              Globe Bistro and Rebel House- they need improvements, so I wouldn't recommend,lacking good taste and/or innovation
                              Karuchie- I didn't like anything here.. my tummy was sad that day

                              For kicks-
                              Brownie Sundae on the fly- go to whole foods/ pusateri's and grab a brownie, then make a beeline for Greg's Ice Cream- order the Roasted Marshmllow Ice Cream (get fudge sauce), and viola! your own decadent sundae

                              Dessert Masquerading as me saying I'm eating 'Healthier' -
                              Vegetarian Haven?? it's on baldwin, sorry I forgot the name, anyway they offer tofu cheesecake, vegan pies, soya ice creams etc. (not phenominal but try it if you want something different)
                              Fresh- (see above reason), although I haven't been there in years, they used to have this amazing tofu cheesecake, but they took it off the menu. Their other desserts still look delicious when I passed by recently)

                              Let me know if you want more suggestions or places to try out of the city
                              Cheers
                              SC

                              1. re: sugarcube

                                Wow. Incredible. Thanks so much for the detailed response sugarcube. I have copied your list onto my hard-drive so that I will always have it handy. You seem to definitely know your desserts! Thanks for the suggestions on which dishes are their best as well. I never know what to choose. I would agree that Canoe is fantastic and quite consistent. I have not tried many of the other 'couture' dessert places you mentioned, but I must add them to my list! JKWB had possibly the worst dessert I have had (about equivalent to my Langdon Hall experience actually) - the bread and butter pudding. I was tricked because I was looking to satisfy my craving (between visits to Nota Bene) and this one was absolutely terrible! Did you try NB's version while you were dining there? I found that dessert to be top notch. I would like to get your thoughts.

                                Would agree with the marshmallow ice cream from greg's - great texture and 'burnt' flavour. I remember my first bite of that ice cream even though it must have been 5 years ago. Celestin? I love their flourless chocolate cake. It is the best I have had.

                                And I would have never thought to try vegetarian desserts. Learn something new each day - thank you.

                                And out of the city? I have always loved Clio's desserts (in Boston) - but alas, that is too far away. Besides, I just heard that the dessert chef moved to Jean Georges in NYC. I'm depressed now since my meals at Clio have always been fantastic from start to end, with desserts being the perfect punctuation to the perfect meal. I will keep an eye out for great desserts and report back.

                                Clio Signature 'liquid nitrogen chilled' dessert capsules: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

                                Thanks SC.

                                1. re: BokChoi

                                  No problem BokChoi :) I enjoy sharing the places I think offer great desserts in this city.
                                  To add to the list, I recommend Zen's black sesame ice cream (though I know you're a fan of the resto, so you've probabaly already tried it)

                                  I read your review of Langdon Hall, and you've made me think twice about trying that resto... so unfortunate to hear you had a bad experience.

                                  Oh yes, my buddy and I tried the chocolate tart, the bread pudding and the fruit crumble dessert at NB. I also asked them to sneak in some salted hazelnut brittle (which was supposed accompany their panna cotta). The tart had an interesting texture, more silky than dense. I really liked their use of intense bitter(sweet) chocolate-- tasted like it was teetering between the 75-85% cacao range. The raspberry sobet that it was paired with was light and refreshing (it kind of fizzled on the tongue too).
                                  The bread pudding was amazing (my eyes lit up when I tasted it) :D The carmelized top blanketing its creamy custard like filling... we couldn't get enough of it and we were definitely fighting over that plate.haha
                                  The salted hazelnut brittle was very addictive too. It was the perfect combination of sweet, salty, and crunchy.

                                  Mmmm, the flourless chocolate cake is divine at Celestin. Have you tried the flourless baby chocolate cake at Soma? It is studded with walnuts and I hear it is sinfully delicious.

                                  Thanks for the 'out of the city' suggestions...I'll have to make sure I visit Boston sometime to try Clio's food. (have you tried the desserts from the new pastry chef at Clio?) As well, I know Flour Bakery is located there and I've been hankering to try one of their sticky buns.

                                  If you're ever in Stratford again, try The Old Prune's desserts. I tried them all.lol. a bit pricey (and small) at $15 a pop, but the craft and creativity involved definitely played strong starring roles.
                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/105798

                                  Also if you're in Waterloo, try Bhima Warung http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/344331 (their bread pudding was oh so lush, esp. with the addition of macadamia nuts
                                  )I plan to head back to the 'loo and try Verses' desserts as well.

                                  Re: liquid nitrogen dessert-- I'm not sure if it stacks up or not to Clio's dessert (because I haven't been able to try the restaurant yet) but I know Colborne Lane offers ice cream made with liquid nitrogen.

                                  Cheers!
                                  SC

                                  1. re: sugarcube

                                    Thanks for the additional suggestions. I will add this to the document I've created with your dessert suggestions!

                                    I tried the ice cream so far back, I do not even recall it anymore. I have a terrible memory. Do they still carry that black sesame ice cream? I stopped ordering black sesame ice cream anywhere (except Grand when I head there because I love how it is paired with the red sesame pancakes) when I discovered JTown's version. But the person responsible for creating that treat has since left and my supply has depleted. Boo.

                                    If you do end up trying LH, let me know what you think. I really did not enjoy it, but maybe it was just an 'off day'. Doubt I will drive another 2 hrs to find out if it really was though.

                                    I too enjoyed the chocolate tart at NB - it was a bit rich for me though in flavour. I would definitely enjoy it as perhaps a small bite-size alongside another dessert. A full-sized portion was a bit much for me. I must ask them for a taste of the brittle next time too. I have finished my home stash of brittle and have a craving. I have not tried Soma's cakes, nor their truffles. I usually get their cocoa nibs (I am addicted to them) and their gelato when I go. I was less than impressed with their hazelnut cookies (in the bags) on my last visit and did not put much value on their baked goods. I will put that on my list to try on my next nib-refill expedition. I tend to stay away from Truffles in Canada, as I tend to only source them directly from Spain or Italy now. The prices for shipping are not that high, and since I don't eat chocolates often, the premium is well worth it for those times I do have a craving. I will try to dig up the link for the chocolate truffle store I order most of my stuff from. Not to mention the packaging is very pleasing to the eye.

                                    I have not tried the new pastry chef, or perhaps I have and they have merely mimicked the creations of the first chef. I did notice that the desserts did not evolve much between my last two visits. I just thought it may have had to do with having the 'winning formula', but perhaps it was because he had already left. It was still great on my last visit (Spring), Old Prune sounds good, but your comment "immensely small portions and the $15 charge per dessert" did make me worry. Thanks for the recs.

                                    CL was on my list to try, but a regular dining companion tried it and was less than impressed. I will ask them their thoughts on the dessert. I have had liquid nitrogen ice cream about 10 years ago (and a few times since - hence why it doesn't hold much novelty for me), and thought it had great texture. The desserts of Clio are great because they employ that technique, but take it a notch up by using the created sphere, or tube, as a vessel for another liquid - thus creating a burst of flavour when one bites into it. The liquid inside is oftentimes a different temperature (warm), which creates such a delightful contrast. Amazing.

                                    Another one I forgot to mention - Spain's Cacao Sampaka. SO developed a love for chocolate after trying this place. They had a cold liquid chocolate with orange and saffron. As well, a hot liquid dark chocolate drink. Rich. Another highlight was their fantastic Ice Cream Sundae. The best one I have ever had in my life.
                                    Here are some photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
                                    http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-... (you drizzle the hot chocolate sauce on top of the sundae to your liking).

                                    Thanks SC

                                    Cheers!

                                    1. re: BokChoi

                                      Yes, I went to Zen in the summer and they still offered it. I read your post on Grand, and I have been wanting to try that restaurant ever since! What a winning combo: ice cream and pancakes with an Asian twist..haha. I adore it.

                                      I haven’t been to J-town in quite some time… I always did enjoy their baked goods. (it’s the one in the steeles and vic park area?)

                                      I guess I overlooked the cocoa nibs when I was at Soma. I’ll have to remember to pick some up when I’m in the distillery district.
                                      You recommend truffles from Spain and Italy? (Thanks in advance for the link!)
                                      Are they superior to French, Swiss, or Belgian varieties?
                                      However, that does remind me of the time when I purchased an Italian chocolate bar from Soma called Amedei Chauo. It was excellent quality chocolate and had some lovely floral notes in it.

                                      CL interests me but I had no idea liquid nitrogen ice cream had been around since the late nineties! Did you try it here or in America?
                                      The Clio dessert sounds pretty amazing and I find a lot of whimsy with their ‘science-y test tube’ presentation.

                                      How did you hear about Spain's Cacao Sampaka? Do they sell any products here? The ice cream sundae looks like a treat. What flavour was the ice cream? How was it the best in comparison to other sundaes you’ve had?

                                      Thanks for sharing these tasty places BokChoi

                                      SC

                                      1. re: sugarcube

                                        cacao nibs can also be had from the choco-sol group though i don't know how the quality and origin might vary between the two.

                                        amedei is and excellent product. unfortunately my main source for it has shut down its food operations and now i'm looking for another cost effective source.

                                        1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                          Are you saying you cannot find Amedei in Toronto? Not even at Pusateri's?
                                          If you are craving for some good chocolates I can recommend a great online marketplace, so feel free to let me know.

                                          1. re: moxion

                                            not at all, i said "cost effective". my previous locale could get me toscano black 70% 100g bar for $7.99. can your marketplace offer that? it was bittersweet when they shut down though as i got it at 30% off of even that price. perhaps i should have cleared them out but i already racked up a hefty bill before i saw them.... to live and learn. thankfully the yummies drawer is filled with other things.

                                            1. re: moxion

                                              moxion,

                                              I seem to have misplaced my usual online marketplace - can you provide your link?

                                              TIA

                                          2. re: sugarcube

                                            Do let me know what you think of that dessert at the Grand once you try it SC.

                                            J-Town is the one at Steeles and Vic Park. I just like looking at the interesting fish displays they have from time to time. Their selection is better on weekends (Saturdays). They had this fantastic looking octagon fish and ribbon fish on my last visit.
                                            Ribbon fish: (fresh) http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
                                            Dried: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
                                            Octagon Fish: (fresh) http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
                                            Dried: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

                                            I am still looking for that link. I had it saved at my SO's computer, but they are having problems locating it at the moment. I will email you once I figure it out. I really enjoyed the flavours that they utlized in the chocolates - they were very non-traditional, which I really appreciated. You would probably know much more about chocolates and sweets than I would, but I did enjoy them a lot.

                                            I had the liquid nitrogen ice cream in Canada actually (Toronto even) - long story. I was afraid the first time because I saw them create it before my eyes with the giant vat of liquid nitrogen. I was worried that my tongue would crystallize after consumption (silly me). It was quite eye-opening.

                                            Cacao Sampaka came about after much research I conducted before my trip (internet, chowhound even). They unfortunately do not sell products here. Much of their strength lay in their cafe products, more so than their chocolate packaged goods. The ice cream was a plain vanilla. But it was a very good one. The temperature, and the texture (velvety) really stood out. There was a crumble/nougatat the bottom that was crunchy and added great texture to the sundae. The chocolate sauce was also very good. It was a dark chocolate, though I would say it was <85%, probably closer to 65%. So it wasn't so bitter that it tasted too strong against the sweet ice cream, but still provided a nice contrast. They really have nailed liquid chocolate consistency/taste over there in Spain. So their chocolate sauce is unlike anything you can find over here. The chocolate piece on top was also a nice touch.

                                            No problem SC. I'll keep you posted once I try any of your other Toronto/Ontario area suggestions. And will let you know if I make any new discoveries. Did you by chance try Ruelo yet? I would say it is definitely not bad, especially for the area. I was not blown away or anything, but I would have it again. Just be sure to keep your expectations in check and you should be fine.

                                            Cheers!

                                            1. re: BokChoi

                                              Will do. I’ll have to convince my friends that it’ll be worth the drive to Mississauga. By the way, (this is probably wishful thinking) does Grand offer dim sum in the evenings too (I know Perfect Chinese restaurant on Sheppard and Brimley does. Not the best quality I realize, but does the trick in satisfying a craving)?

                                              The fish look so interesting—like a variation of swordfish… wonder how they taste!

                                              Oh, no rush for the link :) I also enjoy non-traditional truffles, it beats the hum-drum versions at places like Godiva any day. That reminds me, I had this South Asian spiced truffle at Amaya that was oh so delectable! Wish they had given us a few more pieces.

                                              Your first liquid nitrogen ice cream was in Toronto? Really?! Where? My only interaction with liquid nitrogen was at Susur. He used it with his palate cleanser dish. It was like a little boat of fresh fruit floating along a foggy creek.

                                              Thanks for your explanation… I guess the ice cream best depicts the ‘Simple is Best’ mantra. I hope I can travel to Spain in the near future! I’d head to El Bulli and then to Cacao Sampaka.haha

                                              I hope you enjoy the places I’ve suggested! I’ll be happy to hear how it goes for you.

                                              I haven’t had the opportunity yet to travel to that area for Ruelo, but perhaps I can find time this weekend.

                                              SC

                                              1. re: sugarcube

                                                SC, unfortunately Grand does not offer dim sum during the evenings. They have their regular dinner menu on after 3PM or so. It's unique and the presentation is fanciful, which is a pleasant change from the mass-produced stuff that often comes out of Markham/Scarborough restos. The dim sum at the Grand is prepared daily (fresh) and with only the best ingredients. They have one of the egg tarts in the city IMO.

                                                Actually, the texture of the fish was much like a fish jerky - if that makes sense. I sampled it when they served it teriyaki-ed: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

                                                I too cannot stand places like Godiva. Their chocolates are so average, yet their prices are so incredibly steep. For those prices, I would prefer to order my chocolates online and get them saffron and pepper spiced. But to each their own!

                                                The Toronto experience was not 'gourmet' at all - but it was quite an experience. All the freshest ingredients. Prepared by no less than a PhD student at the University of Toronto. Ahh all the best food techniques are straight from the labs. What a great experience. Your Susur experience must have been much better. I wish I had tried him while he was in Toronto. I tried to drag my SO there last Christmas, but they were so ho-hum on the idea. Darn.

                                                El Bulli is also on my list. I just purchased the book on Ferran Adria. I just missed a book signing he had in Harrods last year by a day.

                                                Ruelo is good, not incredible IMO. But definitely worth a try to figure out if it's your cup of tea. It's a great melding of French technique with Asian-influenced ingredients. The young girl does have talent.
                                                http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

                                                I will keep you posted and I hope you will keep me posted as well.

                                                Cheers!

                                                1. re: BokChoi

                                                  sounds like a plan BokChoi :)
                                                  I'll keep you posted on any other delectable treats I find.

                                                  What a neat experience to try something from a U of T lab. What it a seminar of sorts?

                                                  What a shame to have missed Adria by a day. Have you tried any of his recipes yet? I hear that some of the ingredients are difficult to find and/or methods are quite complex.

                                                  I presume that The Grand offer's the egg tart in a flaky crust ? Or is the shortcrust pastry available as well for the egg tart? I know the latter deviates from what many claim to be the traditional egg tart but I just adore that almost firm and crisper texture the shell lends. It a nice contrast to the soft custard.

                                                  1. re: sugarcube

                                                    Hi sugarcube,
                                                    Sorry I've been out of touch. Incredibly busy lately. It was indeed a seminar that they were holding - though the exact nature of it, I don't recall. It really got me thinking about how science could compliment cooking and food so well (makes me think maybe my engineering degree would not go to waste!).

                                                    I have not yet tried the recipes. I have mostly been browsing the photos - the photos in the book are not that well done, but the food that is captured looks amazing. I was surprised at the low-quality of the photography used. I would have thought his food-magic would warrant a great photographer that can really accentuate the food! If I do get around to following a recipe, I will post the photos on my flickr site and notify you (if they turn out!).

                                                    The Grand does only offer the flaky tart version. It is quite good! To be honest, before the grand, I too used to enjoy the shortbread-like crust better. But this one is quite nice. Do give it a try sometime. Of course, I hope they remove the birds nest from it one day and just give another egg-tart or two. The bird's nest is not doing anything for me right now and those egg tarts are just too small...

                                                    Thanks for the tip on Flour Bakery, I don't think I've tried that one. I will send SO there to try it ASAP. They have a thing for sticky buns right now.

                                                    Cheers!

                                                    1. re: BokChoi

                                                      Hi BokChoi,

                                                      no worries about the delay...
                                                      An Engineering degree go to waste? Never! haha. I have many friends with Eng backgrounds and they've all ended up doing something extremely productive.. ironically, just not in their field!-- at least we can be certain that Eng skills are definitely transferable!

                                                      Oh how odd that the photos are so low-quality! The cookbook isn't exactly inexpensive either. Sounds good, I'll look for your pics when try a recipe and post them.
                                                      btw, what kind of camera are you using when you go on all of your culinary adventures? I am looking for a camera that can take a good quality photo in one go, rather than having to take 5-10 additional shots!

                                                      I agree with your assessment, I find the birds nest just adds a small textural component but nothing more. It would be nice if they offered Portuguese style or egg white egg tarts.

                                                      Do let me know how the Flour tasting goes.

                                                      Happy Eating!

                                                      1. re: sugarcube

                                                        sugarcube,

                                                        Thanks for the vote of confidence - engineering degree could come in handy with respect to molecular gastronomy one day!

                                                        The photos in the book are 'nice', but not exciting at all. Much worse than what you would find in a Bon Appetit or Gourmet magazine. But it's still nice to see how he plans his day/scheduling and all the intricate details necessary to run the restaurant.

                                                        The exact model of my camera is on my flickr site - to be honest, it's a starter level camera. Nikon. About 3 years old. It's definitely paid for itself (just from pure enjoyment that I have gotten from it). I'll email you to talk about it more if you'd like. I just sent you a msg if you check your inbox (hope I got it right).

                                                        A great custard can be found at Lai Wah Heen - their milk custard in the best tart of that type I have sampled in the city so far. (it even tops Grand's version *gasp*). I had it a month ago, and it was oh-so satisfying. Fresh out of the oven.
                                                        Milk Custard: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

                                                        Unfortunately went back to Ruelo and had a mango cake. It was quite a disappointment. The cake was dry and barely present. The mango gelee was just okay IMO. So avoid that one if you can.

                                                        Cheers!

                                                        1. re: BokChoi

                                                          Folks, please keep the discussion focused on the local chow only. If you want to discuss cookbooks or molecular gastronomy, please start a new thread on Home Cooking or General Chowhounding Topics. Thank you!

                                  2. re: BokChoi

                                    i don't disagree with your points as to why toronto is the way it is and why other cities have evolved onto better palates, but i think that it is also missing some important points or you haven't really delved far enough deep into them. i will try to make this as non-rambly as possible.

                                    - toronto is a workhorse city and at the epicenter of canada's economic machine (though perhaps calgary should be stepping up to the plate a bit more), therefore jobs and income are more readily available in toronto
                                    - immigration, providing the majority of population growth, tends to gravitate towards cities where they will find income and/or a community where they are comfortable (not uncommonly associated with their cultural background)
                                    - immigration provides us with diversity, but our diversity makes us divisive. as a group of people we have different expectations, different wants, different needs and we haven't been able to form a cohesive mentality in the city that allows us direction (i am not against unique minds rising up, just that without some kind of lead there's an air of wandering aimlessly and usually a lack of understanding improvement )
                                    - the "joie de vivre" cities... they're tourist based cities, which we are not
                                    - and lastly, because we are an income generating city that is poor on variety and quality of local sustinence... we are unfortunately gouged up the ass with expensive prices and awful service that we allow to happen to us

                                    i believe that those points can apply to cities nationwide on varying levels and i feel aptly explains why we are different. with a very large emphasis on your previous point with regards to mean income levels and no disclusion of anything you had said before.

                                    if we want to speak about it internationally... immaturity is the best way i can sum up how i feel. there is a long history in so many other cities that we do not have the benefit of having and we are stunted in our growth. toronto is a city that feels entitled yet it doesn't exactly know what it is that it deserves or is asking for. we don't know how to stand up for ourselves and many people, even on this board, allow themselves to be bullied into bad service and high prices.

                                    i know we're trying to make the best of it, but it is also what we make it to be. you have the power when you know better. now before i get too gospel-y here, i do want to say this... we are one of the best cities to be a chowhound in. diversity keeps it more interesting than any other city i've been to and because every single corner isn't peppered with perfect dining experiences, i relish and enjoy the amazing ones i find that much more.

                                    1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                      There are many things separating Toronto from cities like NYC, Paris or Tokyo, etc. Toronto will never be like those cities (for reasons stated above, and many more). We have to make due with what we have, which may mean no Robuchon, but we still have a lot to be proud of, and a lot of great options.

                                      Perhaps there's a good solution to the problems we are having though:

                                      If we build an even bigger tower (you know, for tourism), Pierre Gagnaire could be persuaded to open up shop here. Then we can get that whole incredible food/incredible dessert thing in one stone, plus Ted Rogers can have something else to stick his name on.

                                      1. re: tjr

                                        Where will the new tower be ? Can it be in the 905 area ? Or else I will have to drive 30 mins to get to downtown again ! How about the -20 degree winter days ? Will the hours of operation changed as I will have to take another 2 hours to drive through the snow to come down since public transit does not help much ? Maybe I can drag my friends out to try Pierre Gagnaire when they do not have the pot luck Saturday, and hopefully will be able to find a designated driver !

                                        BTW, I think I really like the dessert at Senses, one of the best in Toronto ! I once have a dessert at the bar area and it is lovely, I forgot the name though.

                  2. re: aser

                    Hi aser, I have seen the tasting menu which Patrick Lin prepared for the banquet when McGuinty visited Shanghai this past October, and it features the winning dish using the King Cole duck.

                    The menu looks very interesting which features drunken squab breast, chinese hairy crab roe, foie gras creme brulee ...etc. Wonder if he will put this into the Senses menu ?? I will definitely give it a try if so !

                  3. re: BokChoi

                    when did this macaron revelation happen? i was there probably a year or so ago just to drop into the pastry take-away area and found them rather mediocre. i can't recall why exactly right now as i just put them out of my mind and out of the running.

                    they did have a nice variety of selection though.

                    1. re: pinstripeprincess

                      PSP,

                      I had them in the Spring of this year. I don't recall exactly when. I have not tried them before that time, nor since. The ones I sampled were light, crisp, and without too much filling - just the way I like it. The texture was what set them apart. Not chewy in the least. They came complimentary with the meal.

                      1. re: BokChoi

                        interesting... "not chewy in the least" wouldn't exactly describe my ideal macaron. mind you it is likely that you're talking about the exterior cookie shell, which should be crisp though not so crispy enough to shatter into many pieces. but the interior of the macaron cookie should at least be a bit chewy in a sense, the magic of a meringue. there is usually even an ideal sitting time for a filled macaron to achieve this softened slightly chewy texture.

                        1. re: pinstripeprincess

                          When I mention the term chewy, I do not envision a well-prepared meringue to have any 'chewiness' to it. That is a sign that the egg whites have been over beaten, or the temperature not set low enough to allow them to dry out during baking (one complaint of my own version when I tried to recreate the macaron - http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-... ). But I guess everyone has their own interpretation of chewy. I prefer my macarons to be exceptionally light and only a touch moist in the centre. There is a slight texture or substance, but nothing that would resemble 'chewy' in my mind. The denseness of the versions I have sampled in Toronto is precisely why I do not order macarons here anymore. And the filling is much to overpowering here. Jean George's in NYC ( http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-... ) is the closest I have come to Paris' Dalloyau, my favourite incarnation of the sweet treat, even more so than the famed Laduree version. Clio also had a great one in Boston come to think of it.
                          But to each their own!

                          1. re: BokChoi

                            dense wouldn't be right, i agree with that. perhaps i'm taking this non-chewy crispy description to a bit of an extreme. i'm imagining something dry crisp and utterly crumbly which i have encountered far too many times.

                            1. re: pinstripeprincess

                              I think we are both searching for the impossible. Do not worry, I also do not desire to have dry and crumbly macarons. I only buy enough macarons when in Paris and London (though I was quite disappointed with Laduree's in London compared to Paris') for the day. I do not even keep them overnight because I find they do not keep well at all. And I am always sad when I cannot bring some over on the plane back home.