Sunday, 26 February 2012

Ruby WatchCo.

730 Queen Street East

Toronto, ON


Menu for Saturday, February 25, 2012


Spinach, Caramelized Goat Cheese, Spiced Walnuts, Roasted Grapes, Pickled Carrots,
Honey-Jalapeno Dressing, Maple-Root Vegetable Hummus

Fennel Sauerkraut
Black Kale, Potatoes and Sausage
Chickpea, Tomato and Onion Stew

Roasted Eggplant with Crispy Olives

Cinnamon Cream

In her opinion:
To say I was excited about this dinner is an understatement!  I was as giddy as a virgin bride on her wedding day!  I had to wait a month for this reservation and the events leading up to this dinner made it even sweeter.  Having finished Winterlicious at the beginning of February this dinner at Ruby WatchCo was an oasis after a desert of take out meals.  I love good food. Obviously, I never shut up about it. And the idea of having one of my favourite Food Network chefs cook it for me only made me more in love.  

For those who don't know, Chef Lynn Crawford of Pitchin' In and Restaurant Makeover fame is whom I'm referring to.  This is her place. Well hers, along with Cherie Stinson and Joey Skeir's place. Ruby Watch Co is not your typical restaurant.  It doesn't have a menu in which you pick what you want to offers a daily 4 course set menu for $49 per person.  At the beginning of each week, on Tuesday to be exact, the restaurant publishes the  week's menus on their website. Basically, everyone in the restaurant is having the same meal served family style. I've read that it's similar to going to your favourite aunt's house for dinner and I would agree. Think of it as having dinner at Aunt Lynn's house.

I should mention that Aunt Lynn usually gets a little help from Chef Lora Kirk in the kitchen but not on this night.  Which is the perfect segue to the meal.

We started with a "Candy Cane Beet Salad". I can honestly say that this was the most delicious salad I have ever eaten in my entire life. So delectable. Everything worked well together and complimented each other perfectly from the roasted grapes to the the beets to the goat cheese.  Just perfection.

The main course was unbelievable, "Ontario Veal Chop in Pepperonta Jus".  The veal chops were cooked to a perfect medium. The pepperonta jus was unbelievably flavourful.  The sides were great accompaniments to the veal.  The black kale, fingerling potatoes and veal sausage was a perfect balance of flavour.  The fennel sauerkraut was nice with the licorice flavour shining through.  But the piece de resistance was the chickpea, tomato and onion stew topped with herb creme.  This was homey and comforting with just the right amount of Indian spice. Absolutely unforgettable!

The cheese course was outstanding, St. Maure from Fromagerie Chaput".  The St. Maure unpasteurized goat cheese was orgasmic when combined with the roasted eggplant topped with honey and crispy olives with country grilled bread.  I normally don't do cheese courses but I'm glad that Ruby Watch Co. has a cheese course because it made the meal for me!

Finally, dessert was "Apple Walnut Cake". This delicious, moist cake was served with a cinnamon cream and a caramel sauce.  The perfect ending to a perfect meal. The cake was not over sweet but absolutely well balanced.

The staff are a friendly, welcoming bunch. We had the fabulous Leslie serve us along with the help of Joey Skier and a few of the gentleman on staff. They made the night even better. We also had the chance to meet Chef Lynn.  She was very nice and took the time to have a little chat with us.  I also purchased her new cookbook, "Pitchin' In" and she was gracious enough to sign it.

I will definitely be going back to Ruby WatchCo. for dinner. The food, service and overall experience was out of this world. Thanks Aunt Lynn!

In his opinion:
I've been fortunate enough to have some great food experiences in my life. Sometimes the meal is amazing (Peller Estates, Niagara), sometimes the service is amazing (Le Grand Vefour in Paris, France), sometimes the setting/atmosphere is amazing (The Cliff, Barbados) and sometimes, only sometimes they all come together to create a more than memorable experience Canoe (TO), Blue by Eric Ripert (Grand Cayman), Auberge Du Pommiers (TO), Garde Manger (Montreal), Langdon Hall (Cambridge) and Les Ombres (Paris, France) to name a few.

I can honestly say that now I can add Ruby WatchCo to that distinct list. I had high expectations when I made my reservation a full month and a half in advance and, to top it off I had no idea what I was going to eat (menu changes weekly). Surely for a foodie that's not actually a problem, as we usually love everything but the loss of control in ordering what I like was still alien to me.

Sure, I have been a huge fan of Chef Lynn Crawford through her TV shows (Restaurant Makeover, Pitchin' in and Iron Chef) but had never actually tasted her food (thanks to a Four Seasons "Truffles" reservation  fiasco, I won't even go there). So the day had came for me to change that.

We arrived at Ruby WatchCo and were taken to our seats, placed right under the big Ruby WatchCo sign along the wall to the kitchen. The d├ęcor is dark but welcoming with a lot of dark wood and dim lighting mixture, making for an inviting room. There is a massive bar in the left side of the room when you walk in and the elbow room is limited but adequate for downtown Toronto, in this case Leslieville.

The wait staff were friendly and knowledgeable right off the top of the night.

Our main waitress Leslie was well informed, friendly and attentive. Even when someone else was bringing us the dishes, she made sure to stop and asks us if everything was good or if we needed something else. My first impression of the place is exactly what I expected and had read about. I look around and feel like "I'm eating at my cousin Lynn's house with my 50 closest relatives".

Ok on with the food now...I know... I know...I ramble sometimes :)

The menu was a four course menu, original for only this day but we had a chance to preview it online when it was revealed on Tuesday. We are served  chive studded buttermilk biscuits to start......warm and toasty on the outside...yum.

We started off with some Sparkling Water (well priced at $3 /person, and all you could drink), and 2010 Niagara Meritage, extremely strong on the aroma, medium bodied and with very little finish, $12/glass.

For the First Course: First course served was a salad, but not just any salad..."THE" salad....called Candy Cane Beet Salad. It tasted like someone had just combined the 3 best salads of my entire life and somehow found a dressing to perfectly tie them all together. I describe it as an explosion of flavours and textures that you don't want to end. The portion was huge as well, enough to feed 4 people easily and I reluctantly will say that it may have been the best salad I have ever had. 

For the Entree: Our second course was "Ontario Veal Chop in Pepperonta Jus". Brought to our table by none other than Co-Owner Joey Skeir that explained every part of the dish in detail. Working on a Saturday night and enhancing everyone's meal with his fun wit and charm, I felt honoured by his attention to our table.
I know some of you are gasping and even outraged by the thought of eating veal but I dont discriminate. Good meat is good meat and veal chops are very good meat :)

It was cooked medium to perfection and the Pepperonta Jus complemented it very well. It was also served with black kale, fingerling potatoes and sausage which were great side dishes. Then there was the chickpea tomato and onion stew with a serving of herb cream...this side dish would convert anyone that is not a big fan of these ingredients standalone or together, simply unforgettable.

For the Cheese Course: The unpasteurized goat cheese was soft in the centre and getting firmer to the outer rings. It was great to have alone or spread onto the toasted country bread, and reminded me of my childhood when my mother would warm the slice of house bread in the pan before serving it to us. Again that family house dinner feeling. If the great cheese wasn't already a good topping, there is also the eggplant, olive mix topped with honey for spreading as well. I was trying hard not to make it look like I was finishing every single crumb off the plate but I think the perfectly clean plate, as if there was never any food on it gave me away.

For Dessert: we were served "Apple Walnut Cake'. Very moist, light, topped with cinnamon cream and caramel sauce. Perfectly balanced finisher for the meal.

I opted for an espresso as well and that was the usual disappointment. Has the art of making a good espresso die down with the Kruger's and Tassimo's of this world? I surely hope not, but I'm having my doubts.

The Good: All of it really. Without being one of the top restaurants I have ever dined in, it stands as one of the best dining experiences I have had.
Chef Lynn taking the time to chat with us, and sign her cookbook for us were the cake toppers to this memorable dining experience.
The Bad: Not much! Bad espresso, and too small tables for the portions and cute "Le Creuset" pots I guess.
The Verdict: The differences you find when dining at Ruby WatchCo (family style self serving, same menu for everyone and no choices) is a refreshing take on the same old dining scene. It's as refreshing as Le Bremner (Montreal) only having 2 seatings per night or Next restaurant (Chicago) ticket buying reservation method. It changes the Status Quo and gives you something new that is refreshing in a sometimes bland restaurant/food scene. Not everyone will agree (mainly the same certain famous food critic that I sometimes disagree with) but I think that overall diners gain more than lose when the standard is changed or defied. 
How hard it is to get a reservation in this resto and the constant raves by critics and bloggers alike, I think serve to support my theory, and favourable review!

I give Ruby WatchCo 4 out of 5 olives as rating.

Ruby Watchco Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, 24 February 2012

Mi Casa Es Tu Casa - El Rinconcito Mexicano

Mi Casa Es Tu Casa
El Rinconcito Mexicano
49 Main Street
Cambridge, ON  


Inside Mi Casa Es Tu Casa.

Inside Mi Casa Es Tu Casa.

Chicken Burrito with beans and salad.

Cheese and Beans and Cheese Pupusa.
In her opinion:

We have been going to El Rinconcito Mexicano since it first opened on Ainslie Street and owner Patricia Solis was so humble and embarrassed by the fact that they didn't have a website that she suggested I might not want to order from them. That was a long time ago.  We ordered many many times and loved her food very much.  The popularity of the authentic tasting Mexican food allowed Patricia to expand to include the space next door and eventually move the little store and restaurant to the site once occupied by Lily Ruth and added Mi Casa Es Tu Casa to their name. 

We attended the grand opening on Main Street and noticed that things were slowly changing.  New menu items (guacamole and huaraches con carne asada) were added to the small but well loved menu and the prices had increased as well. What started out as a little place that sold Mexican groceries and very good Mexican food has grown up and become a Mexican restaurant offering a full menu and entertainment. However, Patricia's restaurant is no longer the only authentic Mexican restaurant in Cambridge.

What I will say is her "Chicken Burritos" are excellent.  Still my favourite in town. And I love a good burrito. Tonight I order one for dinner (take out of course). They are a little expensive at $8.50 + tax (this includes a small salad and refried beans) but the taste makes up for that.  Everything is extremely fresh and delicious.

Tonight I ordered a "Bean and Cheese Pupusa" as well.  Pupusas are a traditional Salvadoran dish made with fresh corn flour filled with different fillings and served with a vinegared coleslaw and tomato salsa. A bean and cheese variation costs $3.50 each + tax as do most of the other variations.  Beans is the cheapest at $2.50 each + tax. These are very good but I have had better.

Overall, I do like this place very much. The food is always fresh and delicious. But, dollar for dollar I prefer to order from Latino America Unida.  

In his opinion:

Still recall the early days when El Rinconcito Mexicano was part grocery store, part restaurant and the menu was only a collage of pictures on the front counter. The owner Patricia was always extremely welcoming and friendly and always seemed surprised that a Portuguese kid like myself spoke fluent Spanish to her.

The food was very good and authentic and still is in the new location. That part of the restaurant has not changed and many new items have been added to the standard ones from the old location.

Now located on Main Street in the old "Lily Ruth" location, it has transformed itself into a real restaurant and is decorated with every single Mexican accessory that anyone can think of, when Mexico comes to mind. The size of the restaurant has grown substantially and along with it, so has the staff, the menu and but, unfortunately the prices as well.

I am a big fan of their chicken burritos $8.25, tacos de carnita (seared pork) $15 and huaraches $10.99-14.99. The pupusas (a Salvadorian dish, Patricia's husband is from El Salvador) are also very good and popular in this restaurant. 

Other items available are quesadilas $7.50-$9.50, gorditas (a Mexican thicker version of pupusas) at $10.99-$13.99 and pozole (pork soup) at $10.99.

The Burritos that we just had today, tasted amazing and exactly the same as always. They are filled with Mexican flavoured rice (not traditional) but that adds to the flavour. We were not offered a choice of sauces as before but the one supplied was actually the one we like (salsa verde), although a  little thicker than I remembered.

The pupusas were also very tasty, served with the traditional curtido (lightly fermented cabbage slaw, this included carrots again not traditional) and a watery tomato salsa, for dipping. Papusas are now available all over the Waterloo Region in every Latino corner you can find and are a super popular dish within the El Salvadorian community and now, with everyone else it seems.

The food remains top notch in this establishment as well as the very Mexican atmosphere if you are eating in. Live Hispanic music is also present on special nights and, if needed there are private rooms available for parties or meetings. 

Overall I love this restaurant and it's food, but now there is more competition and choices for Mexican food in Cambridge and especially in Kitchener.

Far from being an expensive restaurant, it is now an above average priced restaurant for typical, home made Mexican food. Tacos de carnita are almost double the price of the competitors and charging an extra $1 for sour cream or extra salsa on a $14.99 huarache seems a bit excessive. The same chicken burritos were also $6.25 in the old location.

It has grown into a nice big restaurant, serving good food and delivering the same good feel as it always has and hopefully it will stay just what it is. 
The little Mexican corner (El Rinconcito Mexicano) is now "my house is your house" (Mi Casa es Tu Casa).

Mi Casa es tu Casa on Urbanspoon

Monday, 20 February 2012

Wings Up! Gourmet Chicken Wings and Ribs

Wings Up!
800 Franklin Boulevard
Cambridge, ON


A pound and a half of medium wings.

Smiley Sandwich.

In her opinion:

This Family Day weekend has really sucked! Why? Well, because my little man came home from school with the flu on Thursday morning and has been able to pass it along to his mom and dad quite nicely. So all those plans that I had for the weekend about trying all these new fabulous places were destroyed with that first cough and the first reading of 103.8 degrees Fahrenheit on his ear thermometer. If you haven't noticed the posts from this weekend involve take-out...a lot of take-out.  We had Thai, we had Italian, we even had burgers and poutine from Dairy Queen...which I was not blogging about. So I feel worse for wear, we decided on luck.  El Rinconsito Mexicano (Mi Casa es tu Casa) was closed for Family Day.  So what is the next best thing...why, wings of course.  

Our go to wing place is Wild Wings.  However, Wild Wings was not answering their Wings Up it is!  Really, why one over the other...location for one...closer to us...and personal preference. I really like Wild Wings medium wings...they remind me of when I was a kid and my parents would go to Niagara Falls, NY for buffalo wings.  But having said that, Wings Up is no wallflower. 

Personally, I just wanted something with flavour...I haven't been able to breathe right in a few days...I really wanted my sinuses cleared out and I was hoping that Wings Up would be able to do that.

We ordered two "Smiley Sandwiches", medium sauced and one and half pounds of medium wings. What is a "Smiley Sandwich"? It's a battered, boneless, skinless chicken breast deep fried and dunked in wing sauce.  It's served on a garlic baguette with cheese. I personally like dipping it in blue cheese dressing.  

The medium sauce from Wings Up is not like the medium from Wild Wings. Wings Up's medium is a sweet heat rather than a Louisiana style hot sauce heat like Wild Wings.  I prefer the medium from Wild Wings but don't get me wrong, these wings are still good. No, actually great! The "Smiley Sandwiches" are unbelievable. The combo of garlic bread and medium sauced chicken is so good.

Since this illness is affecting my ability to eat too much (it's too hard to breathe and eat, thanks little man) I was full after the "Smiley". But, I still managed 3 wings.  They were good.  I think the Wild Wings medium wings would have cleared the sinus better but these guys hit the spot just nicely.

In his opinion:

I recall that not that long ago there was not a decent wing place in this town, with the exception of a couple places and they only had a wing night, so we had to wait for a certain day. I found myself driving to Honey's in Buffalo, NY just to have a decent serving of good wings. I know I wasn't alone in this Friday or Saturday night venture because the border guards already knew where we were going before we told them.

All of a sudden, wing places were everywhere and even wing franchises, to boot. Wings Up is one of those franchises that make some pretty good wings.
tell you, their "Smiley Sandwich" is seriously amazing, beyond words, so good it should be illegal. I mean, if you are into, messy, saucy sandwiches, look no further than Wings Up.

I was first introduced to the Smiley through a co-worker and fell in love right away. It's a garlic baguette with a generous piece of boneless chicken, made in the same sauce as the wings. You also have the option of having the sauce anyway you want, as hot as you want. Always ensure you have a generous amount of napkins, bibs and that you are not wearing your good shirt because it is messy. I don't mean like it might drip. I mean that part of the sauce never makes it to your mouth, dripping good!

Their wings are pretty good as well. If you like a bite, stick to the hot wings as their medium is a little on the sweet side, but good wings nevertheless.

They have their own personalized wing boxes and blue cheese dipping containers so you know they mean business. So next time you are in the mood for some wings (or wing sandwich) and Wild Wings is closed, like today, give Wings Up a try and you won't be disappointed! I wasn't :)

Wings Up! on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Flashback Review - An Afternoon with Jason - Peller Estate Winery Restaurant

In light of our upcoming Fabulicious reservation at Peller Estate Winery Restaurant on March 3, 2012 (post is here), we decided to do a flashback review on our last awesome experience at Peller.  As an anniversary gift, Edgar booked "An Afternoon with Jason". This was described on the Peller website as an easy-going lunch experience. A four-course tasting menu created and prepared by winery chef and CityLine personality Jason Parsons himself.

Our meal - 
1st Course:

Our first course was a "Wild Boar Prosciutto with baby heirloom carrots and pea tenders with a Sparking Wine Vinaigrette".  This was served with a Peller Reisling "Private Reserve 2009".

2nd Course:

Our second course was a "Chilled Watermelon and Red Pepper Soup with Icewine compressed Watermelon and Pickled Peppers".

Palate Cleanser:

As a palate cleanser, Chef Jason served "Peach, Lavender and Chardonnay Ice"

3rd Course:

Our third and main course was a "Pan Seared Beef Tenderloin with Pearl Potatoes, Broccoli, Goat Feta and Estate Cherry Fricassee".
This was served with a 2009 Meritage "Private Reserve".

4th Course:

The fourth and dessert course was a "Currant Mousse with Apricot Gelee and Pistachio Tuile".

Our Take Home Gift:

Chef Jason made "Almond Raspberry Bars" for us to take home as a gift.

In her opinion:

What this actually was, was wonderful!  One of the best dining experiences that I have ever had.  Peller Estate Winery Restaurant is one of my favourite restaurants and I am a huge fan of Chef Jason Parsons long before I even considered myself a foodie.  We booked our "afternoon" for July 30, 2011.  It was a glorious day in Niagara-on-the-Lake.  Getting there was a bit treacherous due to a traffic accident on the QEW but we made it and it was incredible.

Chef Parsons showcases seasonal ingredients found right in the Niagara Escarpment. The first course was delicious.  The wild boar prosciutto was delectable.  The baby heirloom carrots and pea tenders were a refreshing touch to the flavour of the prosciutto. The sparkling wine vinaigrette provided the right amount of acidity.  

For our second course, we were served a chilled watermelon and red pepper soup. I have to admit this...I hate watermelon and unfortunately I get it served to me a lot.  I know...I've been called weird because of it but it's a textural thing.  This soup was nice. I would not have ordered it off the menu but it was very nice. I really enjoyed the icewine compressed was so good.

The palate cleanser was amazing. Peach and lavender with chardonnay worked very nicely together.

The main course was my favourite. I love beef tenderloin and the combination of the sweetness of the cherry and the saltiness of the goat feta was an unbelievable combination.  The whole thing was perfect. Jason Parsons is a master at his trade.

Dessert was lovely and light. The currant mousse provided the right amount of sourness to an otherwise sweet dessert.  A very nice refreshing end to a perfect meal.

I loved this dining experience. It was the best possible way to spend a summer afternoon. Who wouldn't love being served one delicious dish after another by a fabulous chef like Jason Parsons. Chef Jason was very personable. He invited everyone into his kitchen. He introduced each course himself and was nice enough to sign my copy of the "Three Chefs" cookbook.

In his opinion:

Since Peller Estates is my wife's favourite restaurant, we have been there numerous times and enjoyed every single one of our meals there.
For those unfamiliar with this restaurant, it is located inside the Peller Estates Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake. It's the mansion looking building that appears out of nowhere as you drive into any of their entrances, down one of their beautiful long driveways.

For our anniversary I decided to book a special lunch reservation for an event called "An afternoon with Jason Parsons". We were to have lunch in the private dining room, talk to and be served dishes at Chef Jason's discretion with wine pairings courtesy of the resident sommelier.

The element of surprise to what the dishes might be and what wine pairings would accompany them was definitely exciting. Being a foodie, nothing gives me more pleasure than trying new foods or discovering new palate tastes. The excitement started before the first dish was ever served when Chef Parsons lead us to his kitchen, where we were given a tour and explanation to what it takes to make that kitchen work so flawlessly. 

Chef was even candid in telling us that usually when you are served a complimentary amuse bouche, it is because the kitchen is slightly behind in your dish (great trick by the way but it makes us feel special).

I'm not going to go into great details of the dishes served or the amazing wines served, as it has been done above but, I will go as far as saying that this experience was well worth it. We had amazing food, paired with local Peller Estates Winery Wines and it was a great time.

Besides being able to chat with Chef Parsons about food, Cambridge and our love for a great meal, the highlight of the experience was given to me by the sommelier, Luanne. The sommelier asked me to present the last wine pairing, which happened to be Ice Wine, one of my favourites. I was glad that I paid attention to the many wine tours we have taken throughout the years, and I almost sounded like I knew what I was talking about.

Many thanks to Chef Parsons for an amazing afternoon of great food, wine and food talk. He took time to speak to us after the event, sign Julie's cookbook and was so gracious throughout.

We are going back to Peller Estates for dinner on March 3rd, I'm sure for another amazing meal to remember! Can't wait!

  Peller Estates on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Capri Pizza

Capri Pizza
100 Dundas Street South
Cambridge, ON


Image Courtesy:  Capri Pizza

In her opinion:

This is authentic authentic as you are going to get outside of Italy or without an Italian nonna. The Ognibenes have owned this little piece of Italy in Cambridge since 1972 before Cambridge was even Cambridge.  The first time I had Capri, I knew we were going to have a long relationship.  It's never disappointed me.  The food is always consistently fresh and good!

Their pizzas have quite a following in Cambridge. This is not a gourmet pizza place, this is good non-commerialized pizza done in my hometown.  Spicy pepperoni, tangy sauce (made only by papa Ognibene), mozzarella cheese and the freshest toppings all on a made from scratch pizza pie dough. There's free delivery for the Galt area of Cambridge.

We don't normally order their pizza however...we order the best bruschetta in the whole world as far as I'm concerned.  This is not bruschetta bread...this is Rosario Bruschetta (named after Mr. Ognibene).  This is like a pizza with garlic sauce, tomatoes and parmigiano cheese.  My son's absolutely favourite thing on this planet.  This is so good.  The garlic sauce, tomatoes and right amount of parmigiano cheese make this an unforgettable combination of flavours when you bite into it.

I normally order their lasagna.  A huge portion of lasagna with homemade noodles, delicious meat sauce, parmigiano cheese and lots of mozzarella. This tastes so homemade Italian.  But today I didn't feel like I ordered the best meatball sub sandwich that you will ever eat in your entire life. 

Meatball Sub Sandwich
This meatball sub is oven baked. This is homemade delicious meatballs, homemade sauce, lots and lots of mozzarella cheese in a nice sub roll.  The cheese is gooey and the meatballs are well seasoned and absolutely delicious.

This is my idea of comfort food.  We love Capri pizza.  My son loves their bruschetta.  I love their lasagna and I really love their meatball sub sandwiches.  Give them a try and you'll see why we eat here. Afterall, Italian-Canadian eat here...which means that this is authentic! It's like nonna Ognibene is making it just for you.

In his opinion:

Capri is a beautiful Italian island in the gulf of Naples, but as I found out the hard way during my vacation to Italy, it is not pronounced Capri with highlight on the i, but kah-pr-ee. Same applies to the pants by the way...

Capri Pizza is a world away form the Sorrentine Peninsula but offers that cosy, familiar atmosphere that you normally find in Western European countries, especially the Latin ones. Originally on Elgin Street, it moved to its current location in 1984 as most people remember it nowadays. As you step inside, you feel like you are visiting a close relative and you are immediately made to feel at home. From the espresso bar, to the open view kitchen and even down to the big screen where Calcio (Italian soccer league) games are presented for the predominately Italian crowd.

Espresso bar - a cool hangout for the espresso aficionados.
The owners, the Ognibenes are very friendly, welcoming and talkative every time I visit this restaurant, which makes waiting for the food a fun experience.

On this occasion, I ordered the meat cannelloni which is one of my favourites. It is served as 4 cylinder cannelloni noodles, stuffed with meat and topped with lots of tomato sauce and melted mozzarella cheese. The flavour is very nice and the tomato sauce is not overpowering as some other Italian home made sauces I have tried. 

I also love their subs. The selection is as limited as you would expect in an Italian restaurant but the main ones are here, pizza and meatball. I must admit that these two are some of the best subs available out there. I recall taking my American cousins to Capri for subs. They had never had a pizza sub in their lifes (supposedly they don't exist in the States), or at least where they live. They were amazed at how good the pizza subs were and called them the best they had ever had, and all this from restaurateurs themselves.

They were doing the toasted sub bread way before any fast food sub places thought of doing it and the results are a perfectly baked sub, done in the same oven as the pizza. My favourite pizza and meatball sub anywhere.
You can also find the Italian staple dishes such as ravioli, lasagna, spaghetti, tortelini and penne.

Their pizza is legendary and a welcome disassociation from the "patented" pizza franchises that put out pizza in a assembly line fashion. It is a much closer Italian version that feels home made with the freshest of ingredients. Delivery is free within the city and their regular clients are a solid base of their business. You will often find a good part of the Ognibene family working there at any given time. The family atmosphere extends to the full staff as it is traditional in a good majority of Italian businesses.

So drop in to have a great espresso, order a pizza or some Italian food, eat in or have it to go. Don't forget to say CIAO to the Ognibenes (Rosario, Rosaria, Angelo and Liz) and Rob, and any other of the "family" that might be there at the time!

Buon Apetitto a tutti voi. Verdevi tutti li. Ciao

Capri Pizza on Urbanspoon

Friday, 17 February 2012

Mostly Thai Restaurant

Mostly Thai Restaurant
61 Ainslie Street North
Cambridge, ON


Image Courtesy of Mostly Thai Website

In her opinion:

This Friday has been rough...our little man is really sick and the last thing I wanted to tackle was "what's for dinner"? So when the food gods somehow suggested Thai food...I was really glad they did!

Thai food is a blend of several Southeast Asian traditions according to Wikipedia. I personally don't know a lot about Thai food aside from Pad Thai or Phat Thai and that it can be hot.

I am actually not a huge fan of Pad Thai. So, when we order from Mostly Thai, I always order the same thing, Seafood Udon. Udon is not's Japanese. Udon is a thick wheat-flour noodle. It's done very well by Mostly Thai. Mostly Thai serves other Asian specialties besides Thai food.

Their Seafood Udon is absolutely delicious.  Mostly Thai stir fries Udon noodles with seafood (calamari, shrimp and scallops) with celery, bean sprouts, carrots, sweet peppers and onions in a sate sauce.  There is a little heat in the sauce which is very nice not overpowering.

I really enjoy the flavours of the sate sauce and seafood which is succulent and delicious .  The udon noodles are always cooked perfectly.  This is an excellent dish.  Mostly Thai is a great option for take-out but they also offer the option to eat in!

In his opinion:

In the everlasting quest for good take out food in Cambridge, sometimes the restaurant selection can be limited outside of the usual standard pizza and Chinese. Although, the restaurant option around us is decent for a lack of a better word, it's unfortunate that the "to go" option does not apply to most of them.

Tonight after much deliberation (as usual), we cemented our Friday night stay at home evening with a take-out call to our local Thai spot, Mostly Thai!
The name implies that they serve other non-Thai dishes and indeed they do. They serve a mix of Asian dishes as well as vegetarian, curry and vermicelli dishes.

At the risk of being predictable and may I even dare "boring", I usually opt for their seafood Pad Thai. It is definitely the best Pad Thai I have ever had.
The seafood is plentiful and diverse with shrimp, scallops and squid in every bite. The stir fry noodles come with bean sprouts, green onions, egg and it is sprinkled with peanut throughout. At first glance it does look like any other Pad Thai you may have seen but this one is seasoned perfectly, the seafood is tender and fresh and the squeeze of the supplied lime makes it just perfect!

The owners are extremely friendly and very welcoming to their guests. The extensive menu goes on forever, 86 items last time I checked. There is certainly something for everyone and every taste. Many people I know come from the neighbouring cities to Cambridge to eat at Mostly Thai.  This is  probably because they love the selection and the very "Thai Tacky" decoration, giving you the feeling that you are somewhere in Thailand, well "mostly" in Thailand!

Image Courtesy of Mostly Thai Website

Mostly Thai on Urbanspoon

Monday, 13 February 2012

Shawarma face-off! Mozy vs. Highland vs. Sadaf

Sadaf Shawarma
373 Bridge Street
Waterloo, ON



Mozy Shawarma
247 King Street 
Waterloo, ON



Highland Halal Shawarma
200 Highland Road West
Kitchener, ON


Okay, we decided that a Shawarma face-off needed to be done.  
This Shawarma-off was to determine which shawarma was the best in the K-W region.  We picked two of our favourites Highland Halal Shawarma and Mozy Shawarma and the new boy on the block, Sadaf Shawarma, having opened only a month or so ago. We did this as scientifically and objectively as we could.  We ordered a chicken shawarma from each establishment. Some were "full flavour", some just chicken with the works.  This is strictly our opinions.  (Let me apologize for the pictures of the half eaten Shawarmas now but we forgot to bring a knife with us.)

Sadaf Shawarma:

Mozy Shawarma:

Highland Halal Shawarma:

In her opinion:

My husband introduced me to shawarma. When he first mentioned that I needed to try shawarma, I thought why?  Isn't this just another pita and what's so special about a pita?  But after trying my first shawarma, I was hooked.  No, this is not another pita. Shawarma refers to the meat that is put into these delicious sandwiches (for lack of a better word).  I won't go into the details since Edgar has already done that, I'll just give you my opinion about which shawarma was the best.

I ultimately picked, "Mozy Shawarma" as the winner.  But really all three were winners in my book. 

Why Mozy's shawarma?  Well, Mozy Shawarma's meat is delicious. You can taste the mace, lemon, yogurt that is used to marinate their chicken and that is why it is so good.  The meat is very flavourful.  We ordered the "full flavour" which comes with chicken shawarma, french fries (I believed they pour drippings from the meat on top of these babies so there's an extra kick of flavour),  garlic sauce, pickle and we get hot sauce as well.  So delicious. So good!

At Highland Halal Shawarma the meat is also very flavourful and you can easily taste the lemon and mace again. But I think not as flavourful as Mozy's.  They put lettuce, tomato, pickled turnip (I never knew what the purple beet like veg was until yesterday...and now I am in love with Middle Eastern pickled turnip), pickles, garlic sauce and hot sauce (at our request) in their shawarmas.  They heat the bread against the spit of chicken meat for added flavour.  There is no doubt that this is a delicous shawarma.

Sadaf Shawarma is the new kid on the block.  I would describe their shawarmas as fresh.  The sauce was garlicky and delicious.  Not too overpowering.  Their toppings included tomato, pickle, picked turnip, lettuce and top sauce.  Their chicken shawarma meat is not as flavourful as the other two but was still very fresh tasting.  You really tasted the toppings and sauce in this shawarma.

All three have their merits but overall, I love the flavour of Mozy's shawarma.  I love the flavour of the meat and how it all works together very well with the toppings.

In his opinion:

I don't proclaim to be a Shawarma expert at all, nor I'm of Turkish, Greek, Armenian or Middle Eastern descent. But I have had my fair share of Shawarma every chance I can (including in Dutch Saint Martin), don't ask!

Shawarma for those that don't know, (comes form Turkish word for "turning"), and is Levantine Arab meat preparation where lamb, goat, chicken or beef is placed on a Spit (vertical meat roaster) and the meat from it is used to make various dishes including the Shawarma wraps. Very similar to Donair (Doner) popular in the 80's in Canada.

For this Shawarma-off we will focus on the Chicken wrap type. In our area there are a few places that do Schawarma well and we thought, let's put it to the test and give our opinion on the best.

Usual ingredients found in Shawarma are, chicken, taboon bread (pita bread) tomato, cucumber and usually a salad (Tabbouleh or Fattoush). Other toppings include tahini, humus, pickled turnip and Amba (a tangy mangle pickle condiment). 

First, we tried a new Shawarma place on Bridge Street, Waterloo called Sadaf. This place has only been opened about a month or so and the owner Latif remained humble but optimistic of his success in this area when I spoke to him.

Their Shawarma was very good for starters. It had a great combination of flavours, garlicky and well balanced with softer spicy sauce throughout. It's ingredients included pickled turnip, pickles, lettuce, tomato and onion.
The meat was not as flavourful as some of the other places we had tried, but it tasted very fresh and definitely very balanced overall.

Our next stop was Mozy's, the new place on University Street, Waterloo where we decided to go for the so called "full flavour" Shawarma wrap. This full flavour also includes pickles, garlic sauce and spicy french fries, which add a lot to the taste. This was a slightly different one than the others but full of flavour and I could feel the hot sauce more than on the others. The meat had a hint of lemon flavour and it was the least messy of all of them.

Lastly, we went to Highland Halal Shawarma, on Highland Road, Kitchener. For most of us this is the original Shawarma in Kitchener and regarded as the best in town by many (including the owners that put those words on their business cards). It has changed a bit since the new owners took over. It now serves a lot more than just Schawarma and Falafel like before. This chicken Shawarma is also great. The pita bread was the thickest, and the most flavourful as well because they warm it on the spit before stuffing the ingredients. This one contained lettuce, tomato, pickles, pickled turnip, hot sauce and onions. It also felt the least garlicky of the 3 but messy when eating due to the sauces. 

Overall, all three were pretty good and the difference in tastes is going to be very subjective to everyone. We tried 3 different Shawarmas and all 3 were very good and I would return to all of them at some point.

The winner, if there has to be one would be Halal. It had the most flavour, best balance and was the least messy. The fact that they now also have fries bring another dimension to it, and may be the factor that gives it some advantage but I still feel that overall it just tasted better.

A close second is Mozy's. They both have different takes on the chicken Shawarma wrap full flavour but in my opinion Halal is just better.  One is softer and more balanced with softer flavour (Halal) and the other (Mozy's), an explosion of potent flavours that somehow all complement each other without overpowering one another.

And this if my opinion on the Shawarma scene in K/W. 

Mozy's Shawarma on Urbanspoon Highland Halal Shawarma on Urbanspoon