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Sep 12, 2013 11:22 AM

Using TTC from Don Mills & Sheppard - HELP.

I have a recurring commitment that will leave me at Don Mills & Sheppard around 6:00 in the evening (without a car) and hope to hit some chow-worthy places for solo dining (not take-out).
Not interested in Burgers or Sushi - what's interesting that I can reach relatively easily by TTC from that starting point and that isn't readily available downtown (my usual haunts)?
Searching that location on Chowhound suggests it's a wasteland!
Thanks for any suggestions.

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  1. origin north?

    i happen to be in the area right now, with car. but unfortunatwly wont be at 6pm. (ive opted for a la carte at taros)

    - khao san road

    5 Replies
    1. re: KhaoSanRoad

      Actually had an exceptional meal at the original Origin last week (best since they first opened) - so a definite possibility to compare - Thanks.

      1. re: estufarian

        Indeed did make it there tonight.

        This is obviously the logical place to respond, but if a separate thread pops up I’ll copy this over.

        First it was a pretty good start to my 3 months of scouring the area. However, because I was at the original Origin last week, the comparison is ‘interesting’.

        Totally different feel.

        Downtown is noisy, bustling with an excitement, and the food was very good with a competent wine list. Service is professional (for the most part). Bare brick walls seem to enhance the noise.

        Origin North is sedate, modern, much quieter (dare I say ‘suburban’) and the clientele skews much older. Service is enthusiastic, but unpolished. Servers/workers here are much younger than downtown. Ceiling baffles muffle the noise.

        Open kitchens at both places, although downtown is at the centre of the action so one can interact with the food preparers. North has the kitchen off to the side, with the Mozzarella bar also to the side. Interaction with the kitchen is difficult.

        Wine list is fairly different. Downtown I narrowed my choice down to 3 bottles, which I discussed with the server. North didn’t have a single wine that I thought matched the food (not totally fair, a bubbly would work, but the one I liked wasn’t available by-the-glass). So major difference there.
        Food up North is very similar to downtown but a few dishes were missing (although most, perhaps all, North dishes were available downtown).

        So, if I was equidistant from both I’d choose downtown – although North is certainly competent; just lacks a bit of WOW! Factor.

        I was asked how I’d enjoyed my dishes and pointed out some minor issues (I only had one dish in common, so not a totally fair comparison, except that one dish in common had a tortilla (at North) that was dried out at the edge – although no problem with flavour). I also commented on the less-than-exciting wine list and it was confirmed that the list was compiled differently for North as they served different demographics (my shorthand, not their words). That seems fair enough – the purpose must be to make a profit, and it makes sense to offer stuff that turns over.

        HOWEVER (and the capitals are now going to be underlined) it’s apparent that the menu is substantially identical (missing a few items), so I’m now wondering why a menu can be transferred relatively unscathed, but a wine list can’t. (I didn’t compare the cocktails – don’t know if they changed). Is this some social behaviour which I was totally unaware of? Of course it’s Claudio Aprile’s money, so my thoughts are purely academic – I’m not risking anything.

        And one other strange ‘thought’. I wasn’t sure how long it would take me to get there so I checked available reservation times on Open Table. I could get either 6:15pm or 7:00pm (but no other interim or earlier times). It turned out that 6:15 was about right, and the place was maybe 5-10% occupied when I arrived and marginally busier at 6:30 and 6:45 – certainly below 25% occupancy. So why no other reservations available before 7:00 (incidentally about 70% occupied at 7:00)? If I had been a bit later I might well have skipped Origin North altogether, as I rarely have the inclination to wait for a seat (ironically one of the few is Khao San Road who made this suggestion). Exactly what is the point of ‘suggesting’ that there is limited/no availability?

        And, despite the above, I’ll be happy if future places are as good as Origin North.

        1. re: estufarian

          About the wine, I think restaurateurs are still getting used to the shifting demographics out this way. I'm often forced to order flavourless pinot grigio because at least I can't taste the factory. If I owned a place, I'd think people out here sure must love pinot grigio. I have hope it'll change with enough demand. Please, for the sake of all of us, keep bugging Origin North.

          Pataki's comparison:

          1. re: Googs

            Hadn't seen that!
            “People who understand modern cuisine and what’s happening in the world of progressive cooking are excited by it. Those who don’t think it’s smoke and mirrors and a gimmick.”
            It's a gimmick!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
            So I guess I don't understand modern cuisine! Or exactly where the mirrors fit in.

            But I do understand that wine is an important component of a meal (strangely no mention of that by Pataki). But then Claudio wouldn't allow corkage for wines at Colborne Lane (to non-preferential customers) - and that was my main reason for avoiding that too.

            I actually think Claudio does a much better job at Origin than he ever did with modernist cuisine.
            FOR FULL DISCLOSURE: I did try a pinot grigio once.

      2. re: KhaoSanRoad

        Definite NO to Origin North. Been there 2x, once for lunch and once for dinner. For lunch I had the Rigatoni pasta with chorizo. It was soaked with sauce that was overly salty. I could do better at home. For dinner, I had the Chinois Duck in crispy tortilla. It was OK at best, more sauce than duck, almost fast-food like. The only good dish was the Spicy Spanish Fries that we ordered on the side, but at $17, it's very pricey.

        Overall: Expensive sub-par food. Reviews on Urbanspoon and Yelp are negative and I agree. I won't be going back again anytime soon.

      3. Without burgers and sushi and assuming you wanna stay on the subway line, you're kinda beat.

        If you don't mind the bus, the closest thing to a chow-ish experience you'll get around there is take the Don Mills bus to Lawrence, go to the Shops at Don Mills, don't eat there, keep walking until you hit Congee Queen. However, there are those who like some of the Shops at Don Mills restaurants, so don't take my word for it.

        15 Replies
        1. re: Googs

          Congee Queen behind shopsatdonmills IS excellent, but perhaps not so different from what you can get elsewhere. My preferred shopsatdonmills bite is Mark McEwan's Fabbrica, but again, your favorite artisanal pizzeria/informal Italian downtown is just as good. But hey, if 6:00 pm is dinnertime, ya gotta eat!

          There are a zillion Korean places north of Yonge and Sheppard, hence easy by subway and likely where you'll be changing to come downtown, and perhaps one of the North Yorkers can suggest a favourite? I've been meaning to eat my way through that strip myself.....

          1. re: KAYLO

            Don't like Fabbrica (although meets my criteria). Find it overpriced and I have a vicious reaction to the overpowering perfumes worn by the host(es)s!
            But agree that it could be time to give this one more try - a long time since I've been.

            I've exhausted the Korean strip too. The same commitment used to leave me at Yonge/Finch, but with the traffic tie-ups North of Sheppard we've switched to Don Mills this season. (Not trying to be mysterious here - I drive the car up and hand it over there for AmuseGirls trip to Markham - but it's not chow related).

            1. re: estufarian

              Have you dined at Linda lately? The prix fixe is a good option when dining solo.
              Island Foods is also on the Don Mills bus route.
              Peking Man is on Sheppard near Leslie. I've never been, but it had been on my wishlist for Peking Duck iirc several years ago. Might be a decent option for the area, on the subway line (although it's probably still a bit of a walk from Bessarion).

              1. re: prima

                Linda is definitely on my list for one future night. I'll look up Island Foods - for some reason I'd assumed it was take-out.

                1. re: estufarian

                  Island Foods on Don Mills has a fast food- style atmosphere, with several tables.

                  I prefer the roti at the Mr.Jerk in the Peanut Plaza north of Sheppard, but Mr. Jerk is a take-out only. Mr Jerk's goat roti is the best goat roti I've tried in TO.

                  1. re: prima

                    Island Foods now added to the list.
                    There's a Mr. Jerk on Wellesley (? same ownership) which I can walk to from home, so probably won't try the Peanut one.

          2. re: Googs

            I'd already considered Congee Queen - problem is that as a single diner I can only try 1 or 2 dishes - prefer to go with a group. But certainly a fall-back.

            1. re: estufarian

              congee queen has dropped significantly in quality over the past 2 years

              - khao san road

              1. re: KhaoSanRoad

                I hadn't noticed a quality drop, but maybe I've been lucky. It's been good for me.

                estufarian, I've been able to get CQ to downsize a dish to make room for more. Specifically, the House Superbowl Congee which, in it's original size, is enough for an entire family or Mormons. If you ask nicely, they can be pretty accommodating.

                1. re: Googs

                  Still think I'll hedge my bets there, and go with a larger group. IMO the hot and sour soup no longer stands out - and that was the original dish that drew me there.

            2. re: Googs

              I hang my head in shame for once again, on my hungry way back from work, buying exorbitantly priced BAD food from Mcewan. I very much doubt that he ever tastes the rubbish that is being churned out in his take away food section. $12.99 for shrimp dumplings - zero flavour except for the very obvious "off" taste - we threw them away and had to gargle the bad taste away! Even the cat fled, the odour was so vile!
              In a previous post I ranted about Mcewan's so called lamb curry - no spices whatsoever, and gross mouthful after mouthful of gelatinous fat and tough goat meat. ($15)
              As for P.F. Changs - don't get me started - if you like everything saturated with sugar, go there, and drop a LOT of money for something you could whip up at home. (Crispy beef & steamed rice $30). Ambulance ride for diabetes emergency $40!
              Same with Linda's - appalling sugary ketchup loaded Pad Thai.
              Perhaps the uber wealthy Bridle Path folks like sweetness in everything they eat. How else to explain why these dreadful places keep operating?

              1. re: KitchenVoodoo

                Crispy beef and pad thai are almost always sweet, greasy dishes. That's why a lot of people order them, and that's why what you ordered was saturated with sugar. If you ordered other dishes at Linda or PF Changs, they wouldn't have been so sweet.

                I like the soups, curries and Thai Islamic noodles at Linda.

                1. re: prima

                  Agree 100% with KitchenVoodoo!

                  PF Chang is to Chinese food what Olive Garden is to Italian food. Over-priced and over-processed and some dishes aren't even Chinese food. I'm surprised there's no Chop Suey on the menu. Enough said.

                  I disagree that pad thai is almost always sweet and greasy, or as KitchenVoodoo put it, "appalling sugary ketchup." This concoction is not real pad thai.

                  Also, Linda is not 100% true Thai food anymore. Their ingredients are more like Thai-Chinese fusion, which I guess makes some sense since the owner is Chinese. If you want good real Thai food, go downtown to Mengrai Thai.

                  1. re: syoung

                    Most Pad Thais I have ordered in North America have been sweet and greasy. I haven't had Pad Thai in Thailand, and I don't plan to visit Thailand any time soon, but I've tried around 3 dozen different Pad Thais over the last 20 years, and most have been a good source of oil, sodium and sugar. Fried noodles are bound to be on the greasy side.

                    Linda has always had a Chinese chef, and I like the food he creates, whether it's Thai, Thai-by-a-Chinese-chef or fusion. Linda and its free parking are way more convenient for me than Mengrai, so I'm much more likely to dine at Linda than Mengrai.

                    When I want Thai food downtown, I head to Sabai Sabai or KSR.

                    I don't expect to find 100% true Thai food anywhere in Toronto, and I wouldn't recognize 100% true Thai food anyways, since I've only eaten Thai food made for people living in North America. I'm happy with what I order at Linda, Sabai Sabai and KSR.

                2. re: KitchenVoodoo

                  You should have returned the item back to McEwan's. They take this pretty seriously and are pretty good about their customer service.

              2. You could take the Don Mills bus south and get off south of Eglinton and go to Caribbean Palms in the Flemingdon Park plaza and get some decent roti and/or jerk chicken...or continue on and get off after the bus turns onto Overlea at Thorncliffe Park Dr and go to Bamiyan for some Afghan food...quite yummy...

                17 Replies
                1. re: tochowchick

                  My, but that's one helluva shlep from Don Mills and Sheppard by bus down to Flemingdon Park. In my view, a decent roti just ain't worth it. More efficiently, your best bet is the aforementioned Origin North, a stand-alone in the parking lot of Bayview Village, at Bayview and Sheppard. Then you could hop the subway home. As I've never been to the place - the prices scare me off - I'm waiting for some kamikaze pilot to test-drive it for me to see if it's actually worth it. Care to test-drive?

                  Less efficiently, there's the new Peruvian resto, Pisco, on Yonge St., where I've also never been but which several friends insist is pretty good, even very good. A Peruvian resto with tablecloths yet! They're clearly going for the fine dining crowd, though the prices don't seem too, too fierce. There's a menu online. I'd get off at the Lawrence subway stop and stroll up Yonge St. for a few blocks. It's close to the barbecue joint Stack.

                  If Congee Queen's quality has dropped in the past couple of years, I haven't noticed it in the dishes I usually order. But like you, I agree that Chinese joints are not places to go alone. You need a crowd (or at least a hungry AmuseGirl). Still a pretty damn good hot and sour soup.

                  1. re: juno

                    I looked at the menu at Pisco when I was early meeting AmuseGirl for dinner at Stack recently.
                    Looked interesting BUT the prices scared me away. Am waiting for someone else to fire the golden bullet on that one!
                    (and note my comment above on the soup).

                    1. re: estufarian

                      It turns out that you were wise to shy away from Pisco. I, however, wasn't so wise, because I was lured there tonight by a friend who'd already been there several times, and praised it heavily. This night, though, we were mightily underwhelmed. It's a handsome resto, but the menu, as my surprised friend noted, had been heavily edited since the joint opened a few months ago. Just five starters and five mains. Gone were some of the classic Peruvian dishes, like lomo saltado. A stiff jolt for the starters - a couple of them were up there in main-price territory. And the mains? Stewy-type things. Mine was lamb, my friend's was fish, neither particularly distinctive (considering the price). Only one other table occupied. Maybe the locals know something I don't. Kinda depressing. I'll give it a pass till someone tells me the menu offers more choice. The pisco sour cocktail was tasty, though. It was just about the only thing that told me I was in a Peruvian restaurant.

                      1. re: juno

                        Thank you for taking the bullet.
                        The whole 'feel' didn't seem right, so maybe there is a sixth sense (and I don't mean umami).

                        1. re: juno

                          thanks for taking the bullet Juno....whoa...Peruvian with no lomo saltado is almost blasphemous .....

                          1. re: warlock

                            Agreed. And when they did have lomo saltado on the menu, they were charging $25 for it, which is exactly why I never went myself. If you're looking for a decent lomo saltado, the Peruvian vendor at the food court at Plaza Latina (9 Milvan) has a tasty version for around $12 (I think).

                    2. re: tochowchick

                      Last time at Bamiyan wasn't that great - it's closer to my home anyway. I now go to Faley's in the same plaza.

                      1. re: estufarian

                        Maybe I didn't order the best things at Faley but I found it all to be heavy, deep-fried stuff in super-salty gloopy sauces with all the subtlety of flavour of KFC. After eating it I asked myself if perhaps I just don't like Hakka cuisine.

                        1. re: hal2010

                          Oh I feel sorry for you, I too ordered from Faley, seriously lovely people but they must have dumped a kilo of sugar into my crispy beef! Inedible! And deep fried in thick coating.

                          1. re: KitchenVoodoo

                            I agree about that dish. Soaked in sugar.
                            My favourite dish right now (last week) was the Spicy Indian Fish appetizer.
                            Because many of the dishes have that chili-red colour (and spicing) we tend to stray (culinarily) a bit so had an excellent Singapore Rice Noodles (with Chicken & shrimp).
                            And (as I mentioned on the main Faley thread) if you pay $1 extra you get wok-fried (as opposed to deep fried) on any dish.

                          2. re: hal2010

                            See, to me that's just Hakka food. Heavy, salty, spicy, goopy, greasy, and cheap. I don't get the appeal.

                          3. re: estufarian

                            i hit faley a couple days ago for lunch. had the chili chicken dry, the ginger chicken and the crispy beef.

                            chili chicken was good but salt, the ginger chicken wasnt to my taste but maybe very well "hakka". the ginger beef was ok.

                            - khao san road

                            1. re: KhaoSanRoad

                              edit: i meant crispy beef not ginger beef.

                              - khao san road

                            2. re: estufarian

                              Yeah faley was going to be my recommendation for that area even tho it's not really that close. Faley is awesome don mills sucks

                              Surprised to hear that you guys found the food sugary - the chili chicken and the crispy beef were both great while I found the ginger beef lacking, but nothing overtly sugary really. Either way it's not quite as good as Lin garden but if I'm in that area I'd definitely continue to fuck with it

                              1. re: disgusti

                                I prefer it to Lin Garden.
                                At Lin Garden I only seem to get 'hot' or 'not' - nothing in-between.
                                However both use better quality ingredients than most low-end competitors (in particular, the shrimp at Faley have excellent texture).

                              2. re: estufarian

                                I actually prefer the new Afghani restaurant that has opened up beside Bamiyan, in the old Raby's and Country Style Donuts location.

                                I think it's called Afghan Express.

                                1. re: pakmode

                                  Haven't tried that.
                                  When I went to Faley's last week I looked in and it was empty. Bamiyan Kabob was pretty busy. That message didn't encourage me to give it a try.

                            3. On my drive up to Fairview to drop off the car, I noticed Casa Manila, on York Mills, just west of Don Mills.
                              Has anyone tried this - a Chowhound search doesn't help - except to confirm it's been there for 5 years, without anyone giving a detailed review (2 comments: One says 'fatty'; the other says best Filipino in Toronto).

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: estufarian

                                ive been to casa manilla many times. its ok for the price point. but ive had much better (full disclosure: we have a few top notch filipino cooks on our team). i prefer a small takeout shop on overlea.

                                - khao san road

                              2. not sure if it still exists, but there was an excellent szechuan place in the plaza at midland and sheppard. is that within your ttc range?

                                the pinoy place i mentioned earlier is in a plaza with a subway. its only a buffet counter so dont expect dine in. but the stews are quite good there. not sure their operating hours either.

                                - khao san road

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: KhaoSanRoad

                                  Bus straight along Sheppard (and back) makes it easy. The downtown Szechuan have been disappointing (R.I.P. Peter and the various incarnations of his mentor, Paul).
                                  Last good Szechuan meal I had was at Szechuan Gourmet at Steeles & Bathurst.
                                  Can you (or anyone else) recall a name of the place at Midland?

                                  I might even try that next - if I strike out, I can still continue along to Brimley for Malaysia Gourmet - a long-time favourite.

                                  And I'm not averse to eating at a counter (as opposed to 'dine-in') but I tend to avoid food that is served from steam tables. Occasionally it's OK, but more commonly the steam wilts everything to the same texture - a turn-off for me. And I NEVER order chicken from a steam table - the CDC in Atlanta don't need me as a repeat customer.