Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Thai Basil (Toronto - Richmond Hill)

My whole family loves Thai food, and we've been to the Richmond Hill location of Thai Basil twice on my last two visits to Toronto, once for lunch and once for dinner. On our dinner outing there in particular, we had a fairly large group and ordered family-style, which gave me the opportunity sample a wide variety of items, and so I can say with confidence that the food is all quite fabulous there.  I will just let the photos speak for themselves, but let me just say that there was not a single dish I didn't like!  I can see why my parents like this restaurant so much!

At Thai Basil (Toronto)
Thai Basil's entrance. The interior is decorated in
a pleasant Buddha motif.

Tom Yum Lemongrass Soup and Vegetarian Spring Roll at Thai Basil (Toronto)
 Vegetarian"Tom Yum" Lemongrass Soup and Vegetarian Spring Roll, served as
part of the lunch combo.

“Mussamun” Curry Beef Brisket at Thai Basil (Toronto)
“Mussamun” Curry Beef Brisket: Beef brisket simmered in Thai curry paste with potatoes,
peanuts, and onions, served with steamed rice (lunch combo, $8.95)

Green Papaya Salad at Thai Basil (Toronto)
Green Papaya Salad: Green papaya mixed with tomatoes, coriander, lime juice,
onions, and peanuts ($7.95)

Thai Fish Cakes at Thai Basil (Toronto)
Thai Fish Cake: Deep fried patties of fish mixed with Thai spices and herbs, served
with pickled vegetables and peanut cucumber house sauce ($7.95)

Thai Prawn Cakes at Thai Basil (Toronto)
Thai Prawn Cake: Deep fried patties of Thai prawns with Thai hers, served with
pickled vegetables and house sauce ($8.95)

Vegetarian Thai Spring Rolls at Thai Basil (Toronto)
Vegetarian Thai Spring Rolls: Golden fried wrapped cabbages, carrots, taro, and
vermicelli, served with house plum sauce ($7.95).

Thai Red Curry at Thai Basil (Toronto)
Thai Red Curry with Mixed Vegetables: Red curry cooked with stripped bamboo
shoots, Thai eggplants, red peppers, basil, and coconut milk ($9.95)

Thai Green Curry at Thai Basil (Toronto)
Thai Green Curry with Tiger Prawns: Green curry cooked with Thai eggplants,
peppers, lime leaves, bail, coconut milk ($13.95)

Garlic Prawns at Thai Basil (Toronto)
Garlic Prawns: Stir-fried tiger prawns with pepper, fresh garlic,  andserved with
broccoli ($13.95)

Baked Seafood in Pumpkin at Thai Basil (Toronto)
Baked Seafood in Pumpkin: Mixed seafood baked in red curry with red pepper,
sweet basils, lime leaves, and galangal ($16.95)

Pad Thai at Thai Basil (Toronto)
Pad Thai with Tiger Prawns: Rice noodle stir-fried with eggs, tofu, green onions,
and bean sprouts in authentic Pad Thai sauce, served with peanuts and fresh
lime ($11.95)

Mango Sticky Rice at Thai Basil (Toronto)
Mango Sticky Rice: Black and white sticky rice served with fresh mango, topped
with coconut milk ($6.50)

Cocktail at Thai Basil (Toronto)

Cocktail at Thai Basil (Toronto) 2

Restaurant info:
Thai Basil
1070 Major Mackenzie Drive East, Unit F103, Richmond Hill, ON
On the web:

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Thai Basil on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Fish House (Toronto - Markham)

R. and I spent a little over a week in Toronto right before Christmas.  It was an eventful trip during which we attended my parents' anniversary party and a friend's wedding, but we managed to squeeze in some really good food as well.

On our first night back, we went out to dinner with my parents.  We ended up at The Fish House, a restaurant that none of us had ever been to, because R. wanted "cooked fish."  The Fish House has a huge space but was rather quiet on this Saturday evening.  Which is surprising, because the food was excellent, so much so that my parents had plotted a return trip even before we paid the check.

The selection on The Fish House's menu is substantial which made a decision not easy to make. Unlike many of the popular chef-driven restaurants with carefully designed dishes that often do not allow substitutions, one can have fish prepared in a number of ways - lemon peppered, broiled, blackened, jerked, name it.  In addition to the large variety of fish available, one can also find lobsters, crab, oysters, mussels...even tacos, burgers, and steaks.  This is the type of restaurant that will please even the most picky eaters.  (Unless said "picky" eater is vegetarian.)

To make matters even more difficult, in addition to the regular dinner menu, there was also a "crusted fresh fish" menu, with a number of mouthwatering options.  It is from this menu that I chose the Chili Coconut Crusted Tilapia served with steamed spinach & roast beets and finished with honey-lime drizzle. R. and my mom both picked the Sweet Potato Crusted Tilapia, drizzled with sweet basil aioli and served on Greek salad. I think my dad was contemplating ordering steak, but I managed to convince him of the obvious fact that The Fish House's specialty is most likely fish, not steak.  He ended up going with a crusted fish platter, with macadamia crusted tilapia, crab crusted rainbow, and chili-coconut crusted cod.

Chili Coconut Crusted Tilapia at The Fish House (Toronto - Markham)
Chili Coconut Crusted Tilapia ($17.99)

Sweet Potato Crusted Tilapia (Toronto - Markham)
Sweet Potato Crusted Tilapia (17.99)

We also shared a crunchy Cajun Alligator appetizer served with a chili dill sauce, and a Pina Colada Cheesecake for dessert.

Cajun Alligator at The Fish House (Toronto - Markham)
Cajun Alligator ($9.99)

Cheesecake at The Fish House (Toronto - Markham)
Pina Colada Cheesecake ($6.99)

As I noted, we thoroughly enjoyed our meal.  Everything was perfectly cooked and flavorful, and the service was good.  Despite my tendency to plan every moment of every day, this wasn't a restaurant I had intended to visit on this trip, but I'm glad R.'s pickiness got us here.

Restaurant info:
The Fish House
7501 Woodbine Ave, Markham, ON L3R 2W1
On the web:

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Fish House on Urbanspoon

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Kaleidoscope Cafe (Lawrenceville)

My younger brother was visiting from Toronto the weekend after Thanksgiving and we decided to check out Kaleidoscope Cafe. Though located in Lawrenceville, you won't find Kaleidoscope Cafe along the main drag; rather, it is tucked away on a quiet side street. Driving down 43rd Street past rows of townhouses, we began to wonder if we were headed in the right direction. But just then, the two story building with the colorful mural pops into view - and there it was, the Kaleidoscape Cafe.

Our visit to Kaleidoscope Cafe had been a bit of a last minute decision, as Lil' Bro is not the type to make advanced plans, and so we showed up without a reservation. On a Saturday night.

Oops. Bad idea.

The restaurant was full, and we were initially told that there wouldn't be a table for us that evening. Luckily, after some consultation among the staff, they managed to squeeze us in. Phew! Crisis averted. (I had really been looking forward to trying out this place!)

After being seated, we immediately noted the cute and eclectic decor of the restaurant. Although it was dark and busy, I did notice that each tabletop had a different, colorful pattern. Each table was also outfitted with a kaleidoscope. It was a fun atmosphere.

But it was the quality of the food at Kaleidoscope Cafe that made the lasting impression. I decided to try two light courses so I would have room for dessert later.  My first course was the Farmhouse Salad, with mixed greens, honey roasted beets, pears, toasted walnuts, and gorgonzola cheese, dressed in balsamic vinaigrette.  It proved to be a lovely combination of flavors.

Farmhouse Salad at Kaleidoscope Cafe
Farmhouse Salad

My second course was a "small plate" item - Duck Cannoli - because who can resist that?? Pulled roasted duck is stuffed into a homemade cannoli shell and served with a white chocolate cardamom burre-blanc and pistachio dust. The duck was moist and tender and the cannoli shell was perfectly crunchy and just slightly sweet.  The saltiness of the meat and the sweetness of the remaining ingredients made for not just a unique but also delicious combination.

Duck Cannoli at Kaleidoscope Cafe
Duck Cannoli ($10)

Duck Cannoli at Kaleidoscope Cafe
Duck Cannoli, another view

I also got try some of R.'s Keleidoscope Pasta (which he couldn't stop raving about) and Lil' Bro's Kaleidoscope Crab Dip. Both were superb!

Kaleidoscope Pasta at Kaleidoscope Cafe
Kaleidoscope Pasta
Penne in tomato sauce, with bacon, onion, mushrooms, tomatoes, roasted corn,
and sweet peas ($13)

Kaleidoscope Crab Dip at Kaleidoscope Cafe
Kaleidoscope Crab Dip
Hot creamy dip of lump crab, bacon, corn, onion, and red pepper served with warm
pita ($9)

For my dessert, I tried the Poached Pear, which was an absolute delight thanks to the contrasting texture and flavor. Very well done.

Poached Pear at Kaleidoscope Cafe
Poached Pear
Pear poached in red wine and mulling spices served with fig and spiced rum
mascarpone quenelle and candied walnuts ($7)

(Incidentally, I have also since had the opportunity to try a sample of Kaleidoscope Cafe's Chicken Apple Sausage Saute at the Winter 2013 Pittsburgh Restaurant Week Kickoff Party and thought they were delicious. Now I know what I'll be getting next time!)

All in all, it was a fabulous meal. Everything - from the friendly and accommodating service, to the atmosphere, to the food - was perfect. I am so glad to have found this little hidden gem in the city and hope to be back soon!

Restaurant info:
Kaleidoscope Cafe
108 43rd St, Pittsburgh, PA 15201
(412) 683-4004
On the web:
On Facebook:
Bonus: BYOB

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Kaleidoscope Cafe on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 11, 2013

Winter 2013 Pittsburgh Restaurant Week Kickoff Party

I interrupt my long list of backlogged blog posts to write a quick recap on the Pittsburgh Restaurant Week Kickoff Party which I attended earlier tonight.  As Councilman Bill Peduto proclaims (first ever to have been read off his iPad!), the City of Pittsburgh Restaurant Week will take place January 14-20.

Councilman Bill Peduto at Pittsburgh Restaurant Week Kickoff Party
Pittsburgh Councilman Bill Peduto

We had samplings of food from several of the participating restaurants, and I thought I'd make several particularly noteworthy mentions:

The very interesting and tasty takoyaki (octopus fritters with beni shoga, Japanese mayo, housemade Takoyaki sauce, scallion, and Katsuboshi) by Fukuda definitely topped my favorites of the evening.  I had the opportunity to finally visit Fukuda for dinner last week (blog post to come, I promise!) and it was truly amazing - it is definitely one of my favorite restaurants in Pittsburgh!  Highly recommended.

Takoyaki by Fukuda at Pittsburgh Restaurant Week Kickoff Party
Takoyaki by Fukuda

Another one of my favorites was the little bites of Chicken Apple Sausage Saute offered by Kaleidoscope Cafe, which is a regular "small plate" menu item.  I also recently visited Kaleidoscope Cafe and loved it! Blog post to come reeeeally soon, so stay tuned.

Chicken Apple Sausage Saute Bites by Kaleidoscope Cafe at Pittsburgh Restaurant Week Kickoff Party
Chicken Apple Sausage Saute Bites by Kaleidoscope Cafe

We also enjoyed some samples from The Epicure's Palate.  As a catering company, The Epicure's Palate isn't a participating restaurant, but their samples both looked and tasted so good I had to snapped some pictures!

Salmon Tartare Cones by The Epicure's Palate at Pittsburgh Restaurant Week Kickoff Party
Salmon Tartare Cones by The Epicure's Palate

Polenta by The Epicure's Palate at Pittsburgh Restaurant Week Kickoff Party
Polenta by The Epicure's Palate

Among other samples were Meatballs and Freshly Homemade Focaccia Bread by Pino's, and Empanadas by Alma Pan-Latin Kitchen.

Meatballs and ocaccia Bread by Pino at Pittsburgh Restaurant Week Kickoff Party
Meatballs and Focaccia Bread by Pino

Empanada by Alma at Pittsburgh Restaurant Week Kickoff Party
Empanadas by Alma

Of course, not all participating restaurants were able to host a preview at the Kickoff Party, but some of my own personal favorites not mentioned above are Abay Ethiopian Cuisine, Braddock's American Brasserie, Burgh'ers, Habitat, Marty's Market, Meat and Potatoes, Root 174, Tamari, The Porch at Schenley, and Verde.  Check out the Pittsburgh Restaurant Week website for more information, including a list of all participating restaurants and their menus.

I hope you will take this opportunity to celebrate the wonderful food we have in the Pittsburgh area!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

North Country Brewing (Slippery Rock)

A couple of out of town friends spent a recent weekend shopping at the Grove City Outlets, so I suggested meeting up for dinner at the nearby North Country Brewing.  I had heard great things from my beer geek friends about North Country, and my one and only previous exposure to their food - at the Farm to Table Conference Food Tasting last March - had only made me want more.

The drive there was long.  The wait on this Saturday night was even longer.  But it was all oh so worth it. Since we were at a brewery, and my friend's boyfriend is into craft beers, we shared a small sampler consisting of six 5 oz. glasses of beer.  This means I was able to try six different varieties of beer - Amber Waves of Grain, Station 33 Firehouse Red, McCleod's Ewe, Mother's Milk Stout, Keystone Swankey, and Paleo IPA - presented in a rather interesting tray.  For this beer newbie, I quite enjoyed several of these beers, but was most pleasantly surprised by the Mother's Milk Stout.

Beer Sampler at North Country Brewing
Small Beer Sampler ($6)

My friend convinced us to share the deep fried Frog Legs with Cajun seasoning as an appetizer. Actually, I didn't need much convincing. :) I believe this may have been my first time trying frog legs, and I thought they were quite tasty.

Frog Legs at North Country Brewing
Frog Legs ($7.99)

Our entrees came with a choice of soup or salad.  The two soups of the day were a Cheeseburger Soup and Cabbage and Brat Soup. Since we seemed hesitant to choose, our waitress offered to bring us samples.  I had originally thought I would go for the Cabbage and Brat Soup, which my sample proved delicious, but as soon as I had a sip of my friend's sample of Cheeseburger Soup, I knew I had to get it!  The bacon, in particular, makes the soup especially rich and flavorful.

Cheeseburger Soup at North Country Brewing
Cheeseburger Soup

My entree was a special of the evening: Sweet Potato Gnudi.  I had read that "gnudi" means "nude" in Italian, which I think is an apt description of these "nude" ravioli dumplings (i.e., sans pasta jacket), made with sweet potato and ricotta cheese and tossed in sage butter. These soft, pillowy bites, my friends, were absolutely to die for!

Sweet Potato Gnudi at North Country Brewing
Sweet Potato Gnudi

More importantly, my out-of-town friends seemed happy with their meals and the beer.  It's always a good thing to be able to showcase some of the best of Western Pennsylvania to our visitors.  As for me, I am sure there will be many more future visits to North Country Brewing!

Restaurant info:
North Country Brewing
141 S Main St, Slippery Rock, PA 16057
On the web:
On Facebook:

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North Country Brewing on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 7, 2013

Burgh'ers: Take Two (Harmony)

I have always been a fan of Burgh'ers up in Harmony.  Even though I have only written about them once on my blog, I have actually visited on several occasions.  Recently, I finally made it to their "new" location - actually not that new, as I think it is now close to a year since the move - and it is not that far from the "old" location because it is the space directly next door that used to house an Indian restaurant.

I like the new location.  The atmosphere is completely different - more elegant with its dark orange walls and dim lighting, and less fluorescent-light-and-fast-foody.  Along with being a larger space, there is a bar in the back. The restaurant was packed on this Friday evening, but since I was flying solo I just grabbed a seat at the bar.

Which prompted me to order a drink.  Well, the special of the evening, Apple-Berry Sangria, sounded just about perfect for a fall night, and it was delicious.

Apple Berry Sangria at Burgh'ers
Apple-Berry Sangria

I also decided to go with the evening's special burger: the Beet Burger, with cream cheese and beet slaw topping the local grass-fed beef patty.  I love beets, and I like burgers and cream cheese quite a bit as well, so that was a winning combination for me!  It tasted great!

Beet Burger at Burgh'ers
Beet Burger

Aside from being so far north, I love this little neighborhood joint.  Hope to be back again before too long!

Restaurant info:
100 Perry Highway, Harmony, PA 16037
(724) 473-0710
On the web:
On Facebook:
On Twitter:

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Burgh'ers on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast with Butternut Squash Chutney from Cinco de Mayo Salsas

I roasted my first turkey a couple months ago!  And no, it wasn't even for Thanksgiving!  But, I had gotten hold of some phenomenal Butternut Squash Chutney from our "Salsa Man" - a fall special - and he had recommended serving it with turkey.

And so I roasted a turkey.  (OK, technically just the breast, but still.)

After some research, I decided to use this Ina Garten recipe, which turned out to be absolutely amazing.  The herbs added so much flavor to the turkey, and the butternut squash chutney was perfect with it.  The only problem was that this was far too much turkey for two people!  A good problem to have, though, I suppose. :)

Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast
Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast

Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast with Butternut Squash Chutney from Cinco de Mayo Salsas
Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast with Butternut Squash Chutney from Cinco de Mayo Salsas

The butternut squash chutney was so good we brought a couple tubs to our family Thanksgiving dinner.  I have a feeling it will become part of our Thanksgiving tradition in the coming years. :)

Recipe courtesy of:
Ina Garten on the Food Network (get the recipe here)

Click here for more recipes using Cinco de Mayo Salsas, available at the Pittsburgh Public Market during the winter and all around town during the farmers market season.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Verde Mexican Kitchen & Cantina: Take Two (Bloomfield/Garfield)

A friend decided to celebrate her birthday at Verde a couple months ago.  Truth be told, she had originally picked a different restaurant, but when said other restaurant refused to accept a reservation for our large group on a Saturday night, my friend turned to the much more accommodating Verde instead.  My first visit to Verde during the Summer 2012 edition of Pittsburgh Restaurant Week had been a positive experience, and I was really looking forward to a return trip.

Although I really liked what I had last time, I wanted to try something different this time.  I chose the Carne Asada, which are slices of tender and juicy grilled tequila-marinated steak, served with chimichurri sauce, crispy onion, and chile-roasted sweet potatoes (hidden underneath).

Carne Asada at Verde
Carne Asada ($20)

Verde's cocktail selections also continue to delight.  I imbibed in some Scarecrow (dark rum, pumpkin, cream, fall spices) and Forbidden Root (reposado, ginger, apple cider, lime), and both were excellent.

The Scarecrow at Verde
The Scarecrow ($9)

Forbidden Root at Verde
Forbidden Root ($9)

This second visit to Verde all but solidified my positive opinion of the restaurant!

Restaurant info:
Verde Mexican Kitchen & Cantina
5491 Penn Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15206
On the web:
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