Friday, November 15, 2019

Eating off the Hill: Mexican/Korean fusion at Barrio Coreano

After many campaign meals or biryani and chicken karahi, I was ready for a cuisine change when I met my sister for dinner after the election before heading back to Ottawa. At her recommendation, we went for Mexican/Korean Fusion at Barrio Coreano on Bloor, between Christie and Bathurst.

A quick perusal of the menu did leave the view that it skewed more to the Mexican side of the equation, which I was perfectly fine with. The Korean element seemed to largely be adding kimchi to some of the dishes. As I'm not much of a kimchi fan, I passed on those dishes.

They offer tacos priced individually or for three, and as a fiscal conservative I was initially attracted to the bulk discount. Trying to behave myself post-campaign though, and wanting to keep desert as an option, I decided to stick with two.

For an appy, we shared an order of guacamole and chips. I'm not one of those folks that go crazy for avocados; but it was tasty and I had to work to not just go all-in on the chips and spoil my dinner.


I choose two tacos, one crispy and one soft. The first to come was the crispy Braised Short Rib, which the menu described as braised beef in ancho-guajillo with mole rojo. It was tasty, though the beef was unevenly distributed. I thought at first that it was light on the beef but in a good way, but then found a lot of beef bunched up at the end, messing up the ratio. It was tasty and well-seasoned beef though, and the veggies fresh and crisp.


The beef was my favourite of the two. Next was the soft Fried Chihuahua Cheese, which the menu describes as battered chihuahua cheese and tofu salsita with habanero. I was excited for this one, but it underwhelmed. The cheese wasn't hot and gooey and lacked in flavour. It was just a taco of meh.


My sister and I shared desert -- churros poutine. (I did most of the heavy lifting). Several soft/crispy cinnamon churros in a caramel sauce. It was just ok -- I felt like it should have been something more flavourful given the doubtless substantial investment of calories I was making.

Anyway, worth visiting again to try other tacos. The beef I would repeat, but my other selections would be new.


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Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Eating up the Hill: Peri peri makeover for the 43rd Parliament

While the politicians and staffers were off since late June running for re/election, the Parliamentary cateteria staff were busy with lots of little changes here and there. In addition to easier to read menus and a new shelf to sell unhealthy chocolate bars, they've tweeked some menu items. And I came accross one of them today: Peri Peri Chicken 2.0.

I reviewed their OG Peri Pri chicken entree last fall: it was a not particularly authentic but tasty dish of  diced chicken in peri peri sauce with chips and a half corn of cob. It was decidedly not bad.


I've had it once or twice since, and it was on the menu when I came down for lunch today. But it was...different.


As you can see, it's a chicken breast instead of diced chicken, and a ladle of corn instead of the half  cob. The chips are unchanged. With a cup of sauce on the side.

My mind already set and the line for the grill long, I plowed ahead. Remarking on the change while checking out, the gentleman personing the cash remarked it was change for the better. I said I would withold judgement until after my meal.

And, it now being after my meal, I can say this was not a real(ly good) change. They did not choose forward with this peri peri revamp.

The chips are unchanged, they're fine -- some peri peri powder would still be a welcome upgrade.

Just a tiny quantity of corn was provided, and I miss the cob. Maybe it was a half cob's amount, but the cob makes it seem like more. Corn is cheap, people, don't be so parsamomious with the portions.

And the chicken breast -- meaty, but dry as could be. It appeared to be BBQ'd to within an inch of its life, and if there was any flavouring added, peri peri or otherwise, it was grilled off long ago. No flavour of note to the sauceless chicken. And the side sauce? Seemed much more Frank's Red Hot than Peri Peri to me.

The folks at Nandos have nothing to worry about, other than besmirching the good Peri Peri name with people that don't know better.

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Monday, September 16, 2019

Eating off the Hill: St. Andrews Fish and Chips

As I've mentioned before, Scarborough is an ethnic food oasis. One of the few remaining remanants of the Scarborough of yesteday though are assorted fish and chips spots. And the one that was my regular spot during my decade Scarborough residency is St. Andrews Fish & Chops.

There's now a Biryani Hut next door, but St. Andrews remains a Scarborough institution at Ellesmere and McCowan. With a simple retro feel inside and a dedicated take-out counter that does brisk business to the lunch crowd, St. Andrews has a scottish theme with specialties like meat pies, haggis, mealie pudding and mushie peas.

They do a very affordable lunch special at $8.95, but I tend to stick with the regular-sized Halibut and Chips at $14.95, often subbing in a ceasar salad for the fries. I could do cheaper fish like haddock, cod, Alaskan whitefish, sole or salmon, but I've always been partial to halibut.


On a recent lunch visit I decided to go all-out though and upgrade to the halibut platter, which adds breaded shrimp and scallops, and to sub out the fries for fritters. Was hoping they were veggie fritters, but they were potato. Still, a lot of deep-fried delicious, and enough left over for breakfast the next day.

I didn't have desert this time, but the deep fried Mars Bar with ice cream has always been a stand-out.

Definitely worth a stop on any Scarborough food tour, especially on a Friday -- Fridays are fish day.

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Thursday, September 05, 2019

Eating off the Hill: A German Imbiss in the heart of Scarborough

There's a lot of great food in Scarborough, and I'll be chronicling it through the election this Fall. Cuisine in Scarborough has evolved with the community. As the Greek and Italian communities have moved on to the suburbs, so has their cuisine. Today's Scarborough food scene reflects today's Scarborough: a lot of Filipino, Hakka, Indian and other South Asian options -- much of it Halal.

But last week, while down a YouTube rabbit hole of Bon Appetit cooking videos, a sudden craving for deli led me to Goggle and to happening upon one of the last remaining outposts of old European Scarborough (apart from several surviving Scottish Fish and Chips reasturants): Vienna Fine Foods.

I've actually gone by this unimpressive from the outside grocer on the bus many times and never noticed it, buried in an industrial area on Birchmount, just North of Eglinton. While they do offer a deli and a wide assortment of imported German foodstuffs that brought back many memories of my years there, what caught my eye was the Imbiss.

Literally translated as snack, Imbiss coloquialy refers to a snack bar or lunch counter, and in the back of this grocer is a small lunch bar serving up a variety of homestyle German specialties. There are a few small tables, but they do a booming takeout businss with nearby workers stopping in for a schnitzel on a bun or other popular offerings.



For my first meal last week I brought back a schnitzel dinner to the office. The traditional lemon wedge was on offer, but I went for the gravy and paired it with two sides: scalloped potatoes and mixed veggies. The schnitzel was large and nicely breaded and fried to order, and the potatoes were. The peas-heavy mixed veg tasted like they may have been there awhile (I did come mid-afternoon, after the lunch rush). Still, a very tasty meal.



This week I returned with a friend, and was pleased to see the special of the day was potato pancakes with sour cream or apple sauce. I went with the sour cream, and paired it with a bratwurst. The wurst could have used a little more flavour, but the pancakes were buttery delicious crispy goodness. I don't usually eat much potatoes anymore, but I could eat these every day.

It's unfortunate that I lived in Scarborough for a decade and never knew of this outpost of German cuisine, but it will be a regular stop when I'm in town from now on. And I'll be bringing some dry SpƤtzle from the grocery back with me to Ottawa for sure. Schmeckt gut!

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Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Eating off the Hill: Northern Smokes BBQ in Scarborough

I believed I've mentioned before my fondness for southern-style BBQ developed during several trips to the Austin, Texas area during my previous career. Obviously nothing can compare, but a lot of BBQ joints in this style have been popping up in Canada and I recently tried one of them -- Northern Smokes -- in Scarborough.

It being Scarborough, Northern Smokes is, of course, Halal, to broaden its potential market. So no pork ribs or bacon, but lots of beefy options and great sides. It's a bit of a schlep to get to on transit, but I'll consider it worth the trip. Located in a non-descript strip mall (it's Scarborough, everything is located in non-descript strip malls) there's limited indoor seating but I enjoyed my BBQ on the patio, beside a grill and several good-sized smokers.

The menu has the usual BBQ options minus the pork, such as beef ribs and brisket, as well as a few choices catering to local tastes such as Jerk chicken and lamb leg. There's also the expected BBQ sides, including corn bread, means and slaw.

I decide to balance off the meat with the sides and make what's a fairly standard BBQ order for me, minus the pork ribs. I build my meal around the tri tip plate, which is half a pound of tri tip steak. I add, as I often do, a sausage. For my sides, mac and cheese (my favourite southern side) and japapeno creamed corn -- cause I'm all healthy like that.


It was all pretty good, although I have to say the sides were the standout for me. Which is usually a negative as you want the mains to shine. But the mains were good, I just really enjoyed the sides.

The sausage was just ok, I would have liked more juicy flavour. The bun had a nice toast on it though The steak had a nice smoke and flavour. The mac and and cheese was hot and had real cheese and was realtively creamy, which I look for. And the corn was deliciously creamy though not reallty spicy at all, which I was fine with.

I took home some leftovers so I didn't leave in a complete meat coma. Very tasty; I'll be back but hopefully I can find a ride.

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