REVIEW: Off The Hook

One of the things my daughter misses most about gluten-free dining is going out for battered fish & chips. We’re lucky enough to live close to Duckworths on the Danforth, where we’ve had many a delious hailbut or haddock meal together en famille.

So when I told her that I’d found a restaurant not too far away that offered her Holy Grail of fish, let’s just say she was wicked excited to check it out!

Off the Hook is a funky casual joint on Broadway, just south of Danforth, with purple & chalkboard walls, plus one side is fully mirrored to help widen the narrow space.

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Off the Hook
749 Broadview Ave, Toronto
(416) 465-4356

http://www.offthehookfishandchips.com

REVIEW: No Bull Burgers

No Bull Burgers on Kingston Rd & Bingham Ave, close to Victoria Park Ave.When craving a good burger recently, I opted to take the family out to try a local joint called No Bull Burgers out for a few reasons.

First, when looking up their menu ahead of time I noticed they offer gluten-free buns (for a $1.25 surcharge) — this meant our GF daughter could enjoy a burger along with the rest of us. Two, they use locally-sourced organic extra lean ground beef with no additives, preservatives or fillers, and I’m happy to pay a small premium for that as well. Third, they looked to be only a 5 minute drive away on Kingston Rd close to Victoria Park ave, an area we never seem to venture out to for some reason! Let’s give it a shot :)

The restaurant is a small but cheerful little space that seemed to do a brisk business of both the eat-in & pick up variety on a Monday evening. My son and I chose the standard quarter pound burgers and added bacon (your choice of peameal or strip) plus toppings of our choice.

Gluten-free buns available Oh yes, let’s talk toppings for a second before I forget. How nice to find such a bit of variety that move beyond the standard lettuce/tomato/ketchup/onion you usually see. Chiptotle mayo, tzatziki, cucumbers, salsa, pineapple (I won’t judge you), sautéed mushrooms or onions and more — the only additional costs were for either guacamole or an egg ($1) or grilled cheese buns (2.95).

Serena ordered the GF bun, and the counter staff was conscientious enough to check if it was okay to run the bun through the toaster. For those who are celiac and can’t risk cross-contamination with gluten, this can be a very big deal — I appreciated her asking!

Specialty burger, the Redneck

Brent always needs to go for something a little different, so he went for the Redneck signature burger: quarter pounder, Swiss and cheddar cheeses, beer battered peameal bacon rolled in chips topped with lettuce, tomato and whiskey BBQ sauce. Okay then!

Add a couple of soft drink, one side order of yukon gold fresh cut fries and a pulled pork poutine and we were in business. We were served about 5 minutes later and no one had the single complain about their food… unless it was to say they were too full to finish everything. The french fries were lightly salted, perfectly crisp and generously sized (could easily feed two).

The poutine was ridiculously delicious but honestly was almost too big for us, even when split 3 ways! The cheese curds were fresh and perfectly squeaky, gravy was rich and flavourful and the pulled pork topping was nicely tender without being overpowering.

Pulled Pork poutine A few additional remarks off the top of my head: they also offer a quinoa & veggie burger and vegetarian gravy for the fries/poutine, there’s free Wi-fi, Kawartha Dairy ice cream milk shakes, and they participate in the Vicinity rewards program. the counter staff were friendly and automatically adjusted my order to combine items into combos to help save me some money without my noticing it. Oh yes, and if you’re in downtown Toronto, they also have a location on Parliament St!

Next time (oh yes, there WILL be a next time) I’m excited to try the smoked beef brisket and their homemade potato chips available in cajun, parmesan and sea salt. Yum!  Until then….

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No Bull Burgers
1019 Kingston Road, Toronto, ON M4E 3T9
416-698-8131
www.nobullburgers.ca

REVIEW: Joy Bistro

photo 11Earlier this week we took advantage of another great Summerlicious deal, this time at Joy Bistro in the Leslieville neighbourhood (Queen St E. at Booth Ave).

With perfect balmy evening weather, we opted to enjoy one of their two outdoor patios – one of which overlooks Jimmie Simpson Park.

I’ll open up with that which was great about this restaurant: the food. Being the couple that shares everything, contemplating what choices to choose from a menu is always a treat – double the fun!

I found myself extra happy to be able to share my husband’s meal because he lucked out on some spectacular choices this time around.

He has some positively outstanding pork tacos, with that perfect crunch to the shell that tells you how fresh it is. Gouda cheese, grilled onion and tomato salsa, tequila & lime sour cream translated into “Oooh la la!” and much moaning as we gobbled them down.

WINNER: Crisp Lake Huron Perch Fillets zucchini, leek, maple bacon, lemon thyme vinaigrette

I ordered the asparagus, pink grapefruit and corn salad, which was mostly a base of baby kale and romaine lettuce layered over white bean and lemon hummus. It had a perfectly balanced dill dressing with some feta crumbles on top, and I found it have a very refreshing combination of tastes and textures.

Again, he chose a real winner with his entrée of crisp Lake Huron perch fillets served with green & yellow zucchini, potatoes, leeks, maple bacon and a lemon thyme vinaigrette.

You know how often with cooked zucchini, you usually end up with it either way undercooked and raw, or else so slimy you can barely eat it? Not here…this was zucchini perfection (but I digress).

Smoked Leg of Ontario Lamb merguez sausage, sweet potato, summer peas, mint, cilantro, basil, green onion, yogurtI fared almost as well as he did when it came to my main course of leg of lamb with merguez sausage, mashed sweet potato, summer peas, mint, cilantro, basil, green onion and yogurt. I’ve never been able to perfect the art of cooking lamb at home, so I’m always interested in choosing it at restaurants when it’s an offering. This one was excellent with succulent meat and a generous helping.

Our desserts were also very good: a summer fruit & berry crumble with candied ginger and vanilla custard (his) and a flourless chocolate torte with Friuli whipped cream and chocolate caramel crunch (mine).

It’s unfortunate to have to knock a place down due to less than exemplary service, but the reality of dining out is that one comes to expect a certain level of care… and not unreasonably so. Our waitress rarely checked in on us, not once provided water refills, and while she wasn’t unpleasant, she simply wasn’t the least bit engaged. Service for all three courses ordered was very slow and we were often left sitting with empty plates lingering in front of us. “Perfunctory” is the best word to describe it, and it brought the entire tone of our celebratory dinner down a few notches.

I found this to be a true shame because while we greatly enjoyed the quality of the food and the location this restaurant offered, the lackluster service means we’re far less likely to return.

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Joy Bistro
884 Queen St E
416-465-8855 website
map

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REVIEW: Bier Markt Don Mills

photo 5As I type up today’s notes about my Summerlicious lunch at Bier Markt Don Mills, I am happily slurping up what little was left of my dessert. Having been too stuffed to finish it off in situ, I just knew it would make the perfect mid-afternoon pick-me-up and of course, I was right!

We’ll just ignore the marshmallow-encrusted keyboard for now, okay? Okay.

If you’ve never been to one of the four Bier Markt restaurants in the GTA, I’d urge you to at least give the one at The Shops At Don Mills a try. The service was attentive and detail oriented, the food nicely seasoned and the ambience upscale pub chic. If you happen to be a beer aficionado, you’re likely to be impressed by their extensive selection from around the world which even offers some exclusive brews. If you’re a patio lover, they have a nice big one just for you!

They are currently offering a 3 course lunch for $20 (plus taxes and gratuity) as part of the 2013 Summerlicious program (see BM ‘Licious menu here) which was a fabulous steal as far as we were concerned.  If you aren’t familiar with this program which runs both in the summer and winter, you can enjoy delicious three-course menus from July 5 – 21, 2013 at almost 200 of the city’s top restaurants. Lunches are generally $15, $20 or $25, and dinners range from $25, $35 or $45.

For appetizers, Brent & I started with the M.A.R.K.T salad as well as the pork & fennel wurst, reserving the mushroom soup option for a different day.

Chicken Schnitzel

I’m always grateful to find a salad that isn’t swimming in dressing, so the light and crisp apple cider & thyme vinaigrette was dead on and a perfect compliment to the Mâche lettuce, artichoke, roquette, kale, and tomato backdrop.

Both Brent and I were quite enamoured of the Backerhaus bretzel which came with his sausage. Lucky for me he didn’t have the camera handy when I greedily stuffed the last bits of it in my mouth…all at once (oops). It was accompanied by a nice spicy grainy mustard, some Gouda cheese and mouth-puckering pickle.

I rather wisely chose the chicken schnitzel which turned out that perfect level of crispness that paired especially well with creamy Yukon mashed and tender sautéed beans. It was a generous portion, and I was quite happy adding lemon spritzs to my chicken before dredging it in the braised leeks and demi-glace.

If no one mentioned to me that I walked around with some of the Lingonberry jam stuck to my face the rest of the day, well, I’ll have to forgive them out of sheer happiness of my memories of eating every smidge!

Brent chose the Croque-monsieur sandwich, which was a combination of silky Gruyère & Emmental cheeses with ham and béchamel on toasted bread. He’s not typically a fan of the open-faced sandwich concept but if he had any complaints, no one heard it over the sounds of his single-minded dedication to polishing off his plate.

photo 8For dessert, I indulged (and continued to do so) in a milk chocolate ganache s’mores waffle, complete with marshmallow meringue and toasted graham crumbs. Please excuse me while I moan with bliss!

I made sure that the hubby ordered the strawberry shortcake, a near perfect combination on vanilla sponge cake, custard, strawberries and whipped cream topped by the perfect dark chocolate covered berry. Summer on a plate.

Half-way through our meal, the day manager Sal made a point of coming by to see how everything was.  In fact, every one of our hostess and server interactions left us feeling well-cared for — something that rarely happens at a mid-level restaurant these days.

People, good service is NEVER unwarranted! It’s always reassuring to come across a place that’s well-run in this manner, for sure.

All is all, we were extremely pleased with this new-to-us find, and actually plan on returning this coming Friday with our team for a staff anniversary celebration. Good food for all!
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Bier Markt Don Mills
7 O’Neill Road
Toronto, ON M3C 0H2
(416) 862-7075

WEBSITE
MAP

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