Places I’ve Eaten: Toronto

I just got back from a sibling/cousin reunion with my boyfriend Rajan’s family and my birthday (I won’t disclose what year I’m on) trip to Canada. We visited Toronto and Montreal on this trip, and I ate very well (and I’ve got the extra pounds to prove it). I wanted to share the highlights of where I ate. At first, I was just going to write one blog post, but decided to break it up by city because of the sheer number of places and cuisines I ate. Both cities proved to be excellent culinary destinations.

Lisa Marie

The whole party at Lisa Marie in Toronto
The whole party at Lisa Marie in Toronto

My boyfriend’s sister and brother-in-law, Karla and Saugar, live in Toronto, and Karla absolutely adores brunch. She wanted to make sure our seven-person party could enjoy brunch on a Saturday morning, which I am told is no easy feat. Lisa Marie by hip restauranteurs Fidel Gastro was one of the only choices that allowed reservations for brunch.

Bacon Explosion Benedict. I opted to pull it off the brioche bun because it was just a little too bread-y.
Bacon Explosion Benedict. I opted to pull it off the brioche bun because it was just a little too bread-y.
Last Call - cold brewed coffee and Kalua
Last Call – cold brewed coffee and Kahlua

Lisa Marie features an Elvis theme, and the name derives from his daughter, Lisa Marie Presley. The portions were huge. I ate the Bacon Explosion Benedict with a side of Pad Thai Fries (absolutely delicious), and my boyfriend had the Naptime Special with duck fat fries. Because we were all celebrating, I also ordered the Last Call – cold brewed coffee with Kahlua.

Tibet Cafe

Chicken Momos
Chicken Momos

My boyfriend’s family is Nepali, and, as such, Nepal will likely make a frequent appearance on this blog. After brunch and a visit to the Distillery District, we were off to Kensington Market for some shopping and people-watching. Kensington Market is also home to several Tibetan restaurants. Momos, a type of dumpling filled with veggies, meat, or a mixture, are a beloved dish in both Tibet and Nepal (don’t worry… that recipe is for sure coming up!). Karla and Saugar took us to their favorite momo place on Kensington Street, Tibet Cafe, for an afternoon snack.

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Beef momos

We enjoyed chicken momos and beef momos. Both were absolutely delicious. Just looking at the photos is making me hungry again and wishing we had someplace in Northern Nevada for quick momos.

Lamesa

Getting ready to eat the glorious feast. Our tummies were rumbling at this point just smelling the food.

Lamesa was far and away our favorite restaurant of our Canada trip. Karla and Saugar treated us to a kamayan dinner at a Filipino restaurant the last night of the reunion in Toronto. Kamayan means hand-to-mouth, and the entire meal was served on a bed of banana leaves, family style, with no utensils. Because of the number of items in the table, rather than listing, I’ll just have to put up a photo of the menu.

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It was a lot of glorious food. My boyfriend and his siblings are half-Filipino, and they grew up with their mom cooking a lot of the dishes on the table (don’t worry — those are coming too). We have not encountered a lot of gourmet Filipino restaurants (I would hazard a guess that I have never encountered one), but this one was truly amazing. I find Filipino food to be pretty accessible to even picky eaters, so if you are in Toronto, you should stop in Lamesa.

Before
Before
After
After

The true beauty of the presentation of the food was the plating itself. Two servers expertly placed each dish on the table. The whole thing took several minutes, but I have included a sped-up video for you, which compresses the entire event into about 30 seconds.

Kamayan Dinner Plating

The dinner is by far on my top five dining experiences in my lifetime.

Waterfront Night Market

Longanisa
Longanisa
Stinky tofu; I was the only one who liked this.
Stinky tofu; I was the only one who liked this.
Lobster roll
Lobster roll

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where to even begin with our night of gluttony? After a mid-week trip to Montreal, Rajan and I returned to Toronto for a day before heading back home. Karla suggested we visit the Waterfront Night Market, an annual event that celebrates all foods Asian. We bought several items for sharing. We had grilled squid; grilled conch; lobster roll; tornado potato; longanisa on a stick (Filipino sausage); lumpia (Filipino egg rolls); octopus balls (ground up octopus… not what you’re thinking!); fried squid; karage chicken (Japanese fried chicken); cannoli (I know, it’s Italian); fried ramen with shrimp (on a stick…); lychee jelly and melon tea; shaved ice with yams and taro; and everyone’s favorite scent of the night…. stinky tofu!

 

 

Potato Tornado
Potato Tornado
Grilled Conch
Grilled Conch
Gushi chicken (karage)
Karage Chicken

As soon as we walked into the fair, we were immediately hit with a rancid, fermented smell. As one man yelling in front of the booth put it, “It smells like my ex-girlfriend!” That putrid smell was stinky tofu, a fermented and fried tofu dish with a heavy odor that completely permeated the fair. I mustered up the courage to buy it and take a bite. Saugar and Karla would good sports and took a bite, but after Rajan saw the disgusted look on his sister’s face, he didn’t dare touch it. I liked it, but I will add that it’s not something I would order as a main dish. The best description I can give is that it tasted fermented. My coworker from China tells me it’s a dish you can only love if you’ve grown up with it.

All four of us agreed that the highlight of the night was the lobster roll. It may not have been the most authentically Asian dish we had at the fair, but it was the most delicious.

Guys grillin' up some conch.
Guys grillin’ up some conch.

This was a really awesome event, and, despite the crowd, we did not have to wait very long for any of the MANY dishes we sampled. I really had a lot of fun for this event. (Yes, Karla, you can again tell Saugar that you were totally right… this was totally worth braving the crowds!!!).

Duff’s Famous Wings in Buffalo

This one is just a little bit of a cheat. Because of how awesome Southwest Airline’s frequent flyer program is, Rajan and I flew in and out of Buffalo, NY for our flight. We drove back to Buffalo and had just enough time to sample the awesome chicken wings Buffalo is known for inventing (I’ve been told by a Buffaloite that they should not be called buffalo wings).

Delicious chicken wings
Delicious chicken wings

We waited about ten minutes for a table, smelling the delicious goodness as waiters walked by carrying plates of hot wings. Even though I love spice and can handle my hot sauce pretty spicy for a mostly white girl, I opted for medium after heeding the warning of “Medium means hot, hot means very hot…” plastered around the restaurant. In hindsight, I would have opted to at least go up to hot. I definitely could have handled it. However, I understand the warnings for those who don’t have the tolerance that I do.

Another warning I received was by no means to ask for ranch dressing. Being from the West Coast, this was a little difficult. But, I managed to only eat it with blue cheese.

Beef on weck
Beef on weck

Rajan, who has spent some time in northern New York state, told me that true Buffaloites will appreciate a good beef on weck. I ordered it not really knowing what “weck” was. It turns out, this is a roast beef sandwich on weck bread– that is, salty bread topped with caraway seeds. The weck on this sandwich was particularly delicious. I’m glad I got to sample this as well.

Overall, I had a great time sampling the food in Toronto. The meals are definitely not something I will forget for quite some time.

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