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Chowthoughts on Nuttall-Smith's latest review

There are some obviously well known ones on there like Zen, but what do CH'ers think of the list in general? I'm not from Scarberia so many of the names are new to me


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  1. I've tried a few over the years (but no takeout - don't do that as everything is soggy by the time I get home).
    In general I've found them competent but unexciting. In particular the flavours tend to be 1-dimensional. Sort of place I frequented in my college days, or use for fuel now, rather than dining.
    But I think that was his intent anyway - I'm assuming so, as none of those I've tried have been worth a 15 minute drive.
    These are all (possibly) great neighbourhood places. The sort that belong in a neighbourhood newspaper (oh, isn't that where Joanne Kates is now?!).

    1. I've never generally been a CN-S fan and even though this latest review felt a lot like an attempt to be overtly different from Joanne Kates and the kinds of reviews/spots she did, I gotta say that I found it to be a decent read. I'm not familiar with most of the spots that he reviewed so I can't review his review - but I do like that he was highlighting lesser known, cheap spots outside the downtown core.

      1. What a 'ONE-DIMENSIONAL' biased list!!!
        He must have a palette only for hot/spicy food since 7 out of 10 on that list serve hot, spicy South Asian food!
        Scarborough and not a single Northern Chinese or Cantonese restaurant mentioned????!!
        Next, he'll most probably has a write-up on Vaughn and Woodbridge but leaving out Italian!!!

        19 Replies
        1. re: Charles Yu

          Agree with Charles. I live in Scarborough and except for Zen, I have/had little interest in the other 9 places mentioned, most of which I've never heard of. That he did not include a single Cantonese eatery is almost surreal. I guess I'm not part of the G&M's target audience..... It might be mildly interesting to observe this "bias" extended to other parts of the city....naw, I doubt I'll be following his columns.

          1. re: Charles Yu

            Hi Charles, this is Chris. Hit me: where's great in Scarborough that's totally unique, best-in-class or extremely close to it for Cantonese in the GTA, i.e. so good that you'd advise strangers to get in their cars and make a special trip from 30 minutes away. If there's something I missed, I'd love to know about it.

            1. re: pimentdespelette

              If you are CN-S, are you suggesting/revealing that you were not aware of any outstanding Cantonese restaurants in Scarborough and that's why you did not review any??

              1. re: T Long

                I've been to a few mediocre, 1980s-style Cantonese places in Scarborough. But no, I don't know of any outstanding Cantonese there. Do you? Like I said, I'd love to hear about them.

                1. re: pimentdespelette

                  What exactly is 1980's style Cantonese? If you've been to Maple Yip and don't consider it to be one of the best Cantonese restaurants in the GTA, I would be interested in your list of better Cantonese in the GTA.

                  1. re: T Long

                    That's all you've got? Maple Yip?
                    Let me know when you come up with somewhere outstanding.

                    1. re: pimentdespelette

                      So who's better??...in the GTA. Name one place at least. Need to establish a reference point.

                      1. re: T Long

                        Stay tuned. Meantime, the way your original post sounded—the one in which you called it "surreal" that my list doesn't include a single Cantonese place—I got the sense that you know hundreds of brilliant Cantonese places in Scarborough. Like I said, I'd love to hear what they are.

                        1. re: pimentdespelette

                          You need time to come up with a single name? This conversation is becoming surreal!

                          1. re: T Long

                            By "stay tuned," I mean I've got a few great ones for upcoming packages on great suburban eats. Of course I hope to find more. Which was the point of my original post here. So far I'm striking out, I guess.

                            1. re: pimentdespelette

                              If you don't consider Maple Yip any good, then I guess you are right. If you gave just one example of what you consider to be an outstanding Cantonese restaurant, then there would be a reference point for a two way conversation. Cheers.

                              1. re: T Long

                                I had a very good steamed green bass yesterday at Maple Yip, unfortunately spot prawns and scallops on the half shell were sold out by then. :(

                                I saw they had stir fried tripe in xo sauce, I'll have to order that next time.

                                A very consistent restaurant. It helps to have a Chinese person with you, one that can read the wall items.

                                Gourmet Garden is the truth.

                                The smelly tofu hotpot at wei's is awesome.

                                1. re: T Long

                                  Did anyone stay tuned long enough for C N-S's big reveal? Was there a big reveal? And if so, what were his recommendations?

                                  1. re: Full tummy

                                    IIRC, he relied on much more experienced palates to guide him through Scarborough, then wrote an article, claiming the reco's as his own - but eventually gave them the a tiny bit of credit... on twitter.

                                    How he came to be The G&M's food critic is beyond me.

                                    1. re: Full tummy

                                      As far as I can tell he has not yet followed up on the promise/threat to do more "packages of suburban recommendations"

                                      1. re: bytepusher

                                        Thanks! So the secret winners were, um, non-existent.

                  2. re: pimentdespelette

                    Maple Yip - One of the best Cantonese Restaurant in town. Specializes in steamed whole fish! If available, their wok-fried live BC spotted prawns with top soy are to die for!!

                    Dragon Dynasty - IMHO, the Best 'cart service' Dim Sum restaurant in town '

                    The Old Place ( Sheppard and Glen Watford ) - Szechuan cuisine that is as good if not better than BSRJ you mentioned ( hole in the wall though! )

                    BTW, all those 'hot and spicy South Asian curry places' but one of the most authentic and good ' Singapore/Malaysian' cuisine place - Gourmet Garden and its newly opened restaurant was left out?! Nothing like that down town! Much better than the newly opened Hawker Bar!!

                2. I enjoyed the review. It was a refreshing change for the Globe and I plan to try most of the restaurants.

                  1. I like the premise of the list and the fact that the writer dares to engage with streetsmart Chowhounder's who question his choices. Off to a good start CNS. Humble and positive is the way to go!

                    Agree with Charles Yu on Dragon Dynasty being the best cart service dim sum in TO

                    I would be very afraid if the best sushi experience in Toronto is called Zen Japanese Restaurant and is located in a Bowling Alley plaza !!! Maybe you had too much sake or maybe sushi should not be served in TO !?

                    17 Replies
                    1. re: dcArtisan

                      Zen has remarkable quality, so please don't knock it until you try it.

                      I thought the article was a great start and I look forward to the future installments. What a nice change to see a review focused on humble but delicious finds out of the downtown core. Given that the best Chinese spots seem to be in Richmond Hill and Markham, perhaps that's why CNS chose to leave those for another article.

                      1. re: TorontoJo

                        Being a downtown dweller with no car, I have never been to any of these places. I really enjoyed the review, and have to admit that one of the first things that I did on reading it was to forward it to a friend with a car whose bf lives in Scarborough, with a note that we should try some of these places! I am looking forward to reading more of the reviews.. I also liked the direction... telling readers about great, not necessarily new spots that they may not otherwise hear of.

                      2. re: dcArtisan

                        funny, i'm the exact opposite. my favourite sushi places are found in plazas and any place that looks like ki has me running for the hills. japanese culture has always lead me to understand they're strong believers in understatement. i guess the underground subway location would turn you away from one of the most highly respected sushi guys in tokyo, jiro.

                        1. re: pinstripeprincess

                          really? you mean you don't like cream cheese in your rolls? bacon? kimchi? :)

                          1. re: downtownfoodie

                            i don't have a refined enough palate to appreciate the salty, mildly sweet combination of north american dairy products with vinegared rice and sinewy smoked salmon.

                          2. re: pinstripeprincess

                            No. Jiro himself would turn me away from Jiro. He is an arrogant man and whilst his technique and fish quality are top drawer his attitude and cheaply furnished space are not worth the exorbitant price in my opinion (he is successful enough to have upgraded - if he cares about his customers!!). I have had better sushi experiences in Tokyo at or considerably below that price point - some in Ginza and others in less reputable locations.

                            As for Zen, maybe in Toronto good sushi is to be found in a suburban plaza. The G&M description mentioned "fluke sashimi with dark purple umeboshi plum and bonito paste" which to my palate would overpower the delicacy of the fluke. Umeboshi is more classically paired with hamo that has been lightly torched. Here the sour-saltiness of the plum enhances the hamo flavors. Fluke sashimi is so delicate a fresh lemon-salt with a light touch of shiso would be more appropriate in my mind (mouth :)

                            1. re: dcArtisan

                              i've had lovely sushi in spartan spaces in japan as well at much lower prices as well. it's not the furnishings i'm there for, it's the skill, quality and the training that i'm hoping they're passing on that i'm there to support.

                              if you're going to scoff at sushi in plazas, then you haven't bothered to seek out the best that's available in toronto. not that you have to if you're from somewhere else with better sources. we're a city full of bad sushi but the better stuff is still heads and tails beyond. LA also isn't very different re: plazas.

                              i'm personally a fan of fluke with unmeboshi paste. we don't get hamo here. when the umeboshi is used with restraint, the saltiness offers a really amazing side to fluke. shiso is great and usually i prefer that but if they can get that ume balance right, they've got my heart.

                                1. re: dcArtisan

                                  my experiences at hiro have been mediocre. i haven't been in years. i think you'll also find that it doesn't rank highly among the sushi lovers here. especially if you're looking for some sense of value.

                                  1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                    I never look for value sushi because to me it is a counter intuitive approach. Pristine fish costs extra unless you live in a fishing village :)

                                    I found a 2-tier experience to exist at Hiro which is what I am accustomed to in Japan. Regular customers without price caps will always have a better experience. Of course I sit at the counter so as to allow the chef to tightly synchronize his production with my consumption. (1 at a time !!) This unbridled approach has rewarded the best quality and theatre. As for Hiro, like yourself I have not been in a rather long while so maybe his passion has cooled.

                                    How would you classify the the Zen Restaurant experience? Value or quality?

                                    1. re: dcArtisan

                                      you're misunderstanding what i mean by value. i'm talking about value the way you talk about jiro and the other great (or better) places you can get sushi.

                                      zen's restaurant setting is in a plaza and the furniture is cheap. the sushi is significantly better than most (since you're likely going to compare this on an intl vs local level). take what you will from that re: your understanding of value and quality. the two terms intersect at certain places for me.

                                      1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                        Thankyou for clarifying Princess.
                                        I thoroughly enjoyed your food and travel blog postings. Charmed writing indeed :)

                              1. re: dcArtisan

                                Jiro is not actually that bad. If you play it cool and don't come off as an asshat you'll be fine there. I do agree however that there are alternatives to Jiro to be found elsewhere and that he is not the be all and end all of sushi in Tokyo, as everyone seems to think because of that documentary.

                                As for Zen, I believe we're lucky to have a place like that in the city. I would put Zen up against sushi places in NYC and LA at the $50 price point. Same with Le Cafe Michi's Chirashi Don. I have never had a better Chirashi Don in North America than their version. To touch on PSP's point about the best west coast spots being in non descript areas, Sawa, Go, and Mori, are all pretty below the radar as far as location goes.

                                So, Umeboshi/Bonito Paste would overpower the fluke but Shiso wouldn't? Sei San could put dogsh*t on his fluke sashimi and it wouldn't overpower the fish. The guy's been doing it for awhile you don't think he considers things like ratio?

                                Just FYI, common practice:

                                Fluke sushi = Japanese citrus (Yuzu for example) + Salt

                                Nama Tako Sushi = Lemon + Salt

                                But of course, the rules are always flexible Especially in North America.

                            2. re: dcArtisan

                              Don't go to Sushi Kaji, then, if location means that much to you.

                              1. re: Pincus

                                Agree. It must bother downtown snobs to no end that the top 3 Japanese restaurants in Toronto are NOT in the core. (in alphabetical order) Hashimoto in an industrial park, Kaji way out west, and Zen in a strip plaza in Scarborough.

                                You go to those places for the food and service, not for the neighborhood around it. If the neighborhood is more important, anybody can go to Bloor West and take their pick of dozens of Chinese McSushi featuring 100 different Monster Truck Rolls from Hell.

                                1. re: Pincus

                                  As for downtown snob I profess to be neither ...a difficult palate to please though :)

                                  Allow me to explain my previous comments. The choice of name combined with its unusual location are normally early indicators of a place to avoid for sushi. Perhaps intuition does not apply when searching for quality sushi in Toronto?
                                  Hashimoto, Sushi Kaji, Hiro Sushi ....all take the name of the chef which implies pride and passion are present in the chef. The choice of Zen for a restaurant name seems less prudent to me and perhaps also to Mahayana Buddhists. (Catholic Hot Dogs....Sunni Fried Chicken...)

                                  Fine food experiences usually come down to a restaurant's thoughtful management of the details. I look for those as early indicators of the experience that may follow. As you and others have pointed out there are exceptions. This is the reason you may find me lining up with my friend Shinji at cheaply designed and out of the way Sushi Dai, just outside Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market at 4:30 am. Here the quality of the fish is impeccable having been caught a short time before. Also, the chef is highly competent in a classical no frills way. Yet one can easily escape for under $40 which makes it perhaps the best cost/performance sushi in the world. It is also a delightful way to spend a Christmas morning as I have.

                              2. Oh this is a great thread. I've got my popcorn and peanuts and I'm just going to sit back and watch the show.

                                If pimentdespelette really is CN-S - kudos to him for dropping his gloves and standing his ground. Good stuff...

                                I actually enjoyed his Scarborough article last week. There's something refreshing about telling people who think Toronto is bordered by Ossington, Bloor and Broadview - that they're missing out on the rest of the GTA. Of course, these people tend to be the self-deprecating bunch who don't appreciate the growth of Toronto's culinary scene and are constantly lamenting about how we will never be ________ (insert city name here).

                                I say: Sucks to your asthmar Piggy.

                                Seriously, there are people out there who haven't tried Shawarma Empire or Patisserie Royale and are missing out. So kudos to CN-S for a different take on things.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: pakmode

                                  It is him. He referenced this thread on his twitter feed.

                                  I've only skimmed the article, but I think he's won me as a fan.

                                2. Loved it - just the kind of places I like to check out. The Nilgris website makes me want to drive over there immediately.

                                  1. In regards to the Scarborough list, it's but a small sampling of the many different restaurants that one could find him or herself at on any given night. These are all good places to visit on this list no doubt, but be aware that this is just the tip of the iceberg. The options are almost limitless.

                                    What would be a natural evolution of this list would be to compile a larger scale version divided by borough. Malvern, Agincourt, Wexford etc.

                                    Couple of my favourite Sri Lankan spots:

                                    Breadmaster Bakery and Deli (Malvern Town Center)

                                    - Unbelievable Mutton Khotu Roti, Short Eats, Dosas, Fritters etc. Get there at 10am and they'll be bringing everything out fresh.

                                    New Devi (Lawrence and Wexford Blvd)

                                    - Probably my favourite Mutton Khotu Roti/Vadai in the city. No Menu. Get here on a Saturday morning for their 12 curry after church special (with free tapioca dessert). It's also so cheap that you'll involuntarily mouth the words "are you sure?" when they ring you up at the cash.

                                    1. Has anyone else tried the tabbouleh at Shawarma Empire? Is it fluffy? Or is it fairly typical tabbouleh?

                                      8 Replies
                                      1. re: prima

                                        Non discript, soggy, utilitarian, dressed with juice from one of those plastic lemons. Yes I tried it. .The shawarmas are my favourite though

                                        1. re: haggisdragon

                                          i'm a falafel girl when i go there, few places do it up fresh the way they do so it's a treat!

                                          1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                            Good to know. I love falafel. WIll have to trek east one of these days.

                                            1. re: prima

                                              Although I'm partial, in my part of town, to the falafel at Tov-Li, on Bathurst St. between Lawrence and Wilson, whenever I find myself on the Lawrence Ave. E. strip, I invariably head to Nasib's. It's in the same dreary but engagingly colourful plaza as the much-lauded Shawarma Empire, one of the joints featured in the Globe's roundup of good Scarborough eats. Like Shawarma Empire, it's essentially a fast-food outlet. But, in my experience, mighty tasty, and more consistent than Shawarma Empire, probably because the ebulliant owner, Imad, is invariably on the premises, with his hand on everything. And everything seems freshly prepared, especially the dips and salads (the Turkish salad is first-rate), though I've never tried the tabbouleh. Lots of hard-core regulars, both in and out of the neighbourhood. They'll often pre-order special dishes - like foule, which you don't usually find on Middle East fast-food menus (it's too time-intensive for fast food). Clean, lively atmosphere. Garlic reigns - as it should at such places. Even the whole fish is pretty good (for fast food). In my view, a cut or two above most similar Middle East joints.

                                              1. re: juno

                                                Thank you Haggisdragon, Pinstripeprincess, and Juno for falafel recommendations. I'm always on the search for these... does anyone know of good ones in Mississauga/Peel area?

                                                1. re: juno

                                                  Thanks for your comments and recs, juno. I'm a big fan of Tov-li, too.

                                              2. re: haggisdragon

                                                Thanks, haggisdragon. I was wondering where to find tabboulleh dressed with juice fresh- squeezed from a plastic lemon! Ha ha!

                                                I'll try the shawarma and the falafel next time I'm in the vicinity.

                                            2. Wasn't there a discussion-forum website dedicated to talking about places like this, off the beaten track little restaurants undiscovered outside their ethnic group? What was the name, it's an the tip of my tongue.....

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: crawfish

                                                fooddogs... I am sure it was fooddogs.

                                              2. One more addition to the ' great food not found in downtown list '
                                                ' Oriental Gourmet ' 633 Silver Star Blvd. A ' Chiu Chow ' style Chinese restaurant that offers an 'Omakase - Trust the Chef multi-course tasting menu!! First of a kind! Great for parties! Just call and give them a $ per person instruction and the chef will do the rest! Very good food and presentation. $25 per person should get you some interesting and delicious food. The $35 pp menu actually tasted less delicious??!!

                                                1. I'd rather read Chowhound than CN-S. I learned long ago through this very site that some of the best cooking in Toronto is now located in non-descript strip malls in Scarborough and other burbs....the lists here are more comprehensive and up to date. I wonder about the relevance of newspaper food critics in this day and age....

                                                  8 Replies
                                                  1. re: Arcadiaseeker


                                                    Especially when we're talking about our city. We've got a bunch of second rate writers trying to ape Sam Sifton and Peter Meehan.

                                                    1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                                                      oh come on - at least this guy is giving it the old college try. i'm very appreciative of it, i've never been to any of those spots, and it's even better when that and this board combine and charles yu (or anyone else) drops knowledge. but when it's just a big dick contest (i dare you, name the best zimbabwean fusion restaurant in southwest richmond hill, come on) i wish everyone would just shut up

                                                      1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                                                        Caustic generalizattions risks muddying a talented writer like James Chatto. Please clarify.

                                                      2. re: Arcadiaseeker

                                                        I'd rather read Yelp first then go to CH and professional reviews in print media for backup. I prefer to do my own filtering rather than let the moderators decide what reviews should stay up.

                                                        And like I said in another thread, if you think you're better/smarter than CNS or JK or JC, show me your superior credentials. What print publication (or website associated with a print publication) do you write for? And for how long? Thick wallet and frequent flier miles don't count.

                                                        I was surprised CNS came here but I was not surprised of the outcome.

                                                        1. re: TexSquared

                                                          I wasn't surprised he came here, considering he was a fairly frequent poster from 2006-2010. I'm guessing he stopped posting here around the time he started writing more for Toronto Life.

                                                          Some of pimentdespelette's threads from 2010 are an interesting read. Surprisingly critical of Sam Sifton's writing style! Not that there's anything wrong with that. That's what the Food News and Media Board is for. Most Toronto Chowhounds write Chowhound posts as well as pimentespelette writes Chowhound posts, for what it's worth.

                                                            1. re: TexSquared

                                                              To be clear -- I'm not saying that print media food critics are bad -- I just think they do one review a week while boards like CH and yes, Yelp, have changed the game in many ways -- users review and comment on a huge range of restaurants and the opinions shared can be up to the minute -- you can issue specialized requests for information and respond to other users' opinions. Some of the communities have quite sophisticated users that one follows or trusts (ie, a Charles Yu or others on the board that over time I have found I agree with). By contrast, print reviews are one-offs and do not follow restaurants as they either decline or improve (which happens). I think this kind of format is more flexible and useful in my opinion -- others might disagree.

                                                          1. So what are we meant to make of this comment from his recent review of Glas: "Lynn Crawford's Ruby Watchco; she looks like a star, but only on camera."

                                                            A restaurant reviewer for a major newspaper is a responsible job, and this guy just does not deserve it.

                                                            10 Replies
                                                            1. re: antirealist

                                                              I haven't read the article, so I don't know the context of the comment. Is it a comment about her appearance or about her cooking? And if it isn't clear, what would be the most charitable interpretation?

                                                              1. re: dubchild

                                                                Here's the context; you tell me:

                                                                "...to eat out in Leslieville is to tumble back into the mid-2000s, to give into cheap little rooms, recidivist ideas and cramped expectations. Once-great chefs come to coast on celebrity and reputation here (to wit: Lynn Crawford’s Ruby Watchco; she looks like a star, but only on camera). "

                                                                1. re: antirealist

                                                                  I Think CN-S is being very generous - he implies that she was once a great chef.

                                                                  1. re: estufarian

                                                                    I would agree with estufarian. Since it is not a comment about her appearance but rather about her abilities, which is what the reviewer is suppose to criticize, well what can I say. There was a time when restaurant and wine reviews where written by bored socialites. It was mildly entertaining, but not much else. Now that more people are in on the game and a good review can generate money, it has kind of blown out of proportion. I am very glad to participate and benefit from the input on chowhounds, but like all reviews I take it all with a grain of salt. CN-S said that she is riding her reputation , I can live with that.

                                                                    1. re: estufarian

                                                                      I'm fully with you estufarian. Never great IMHO.

                                                                      1. re: JennaBean

                                                                        'By Toronto Standard', she was great when she was heading up Truffles at the Fourseasons. At least it was reflected by the tasting menu I had there, which was almost as good as some of David Lee's 'old Splendido' offering.

                                                                    2. re: antirealist

                                                                      I think he means she's no longer a star in the kitchen - from a diner's perspective....

                                                                        1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                                                                          Yup. Quoting hip hop lyrics, seems like he's got a case of Sam Sifton-itis.