- Address: 3 Gerrard Street E, Toronto
- Visited: 04/13/2013, Lunch, 2 people
- Rating: B [$]
- Website: https://twitter.com/ramenRAIJIN
One more stop on my Toronto ramen tour. Ramen Raijin is located near Ryerson university and the Eaton Centre and is one of the newer additions to the ramen clique in Toronto.
Atmosphere: We arrived at the restaurant just after lunch around 2pm. There wasn’t a line and only a few tables were filled. I opted to sit at the bar over a table to take in the happenings in the kitchen. The front room of the restaurant is great for small groups and I liked the communal table around the giant Raijin statue. There is also a lot more tables in the back of the restaurant including a private dining area. This was very different than other ramen restaurants as Raijin could easily fit large parties.
Service: Since we visited during off peak hours, the servers were feeding themselves as well as tending to tables, this didn’t hurt the speed or quality of service at all. Our food came quickly, the broth was still steaming hot and our server was very friendly.
Food: To be consistent with comparing ramen joints, I ordered the Spicy Miso Ramen. I really wanted to try the Tsukemen (cooked ramen noodles served separate from the broth, where you dip the noodles into the broth to eat, similar to how soba noodles are served), which I had tried at the Ramen museum in Yokohama and really enjoyed. Raijin is the only place I’ve seen this style of ramen on the menu in Toronto, so next time that will be a must-try.
The broth of my Spicy Miso ramen was good, flavourful but not overly salty. The tonkotsu wasn’t rolled though and while still tender, it wasn’t melt in your mouth soft. I liked the rest of the toppings (spring onions, corn, seaweed) but would’ve appreciated half an egg as well. The texture of the noodles were also still chewy. The BF ordered the Kakuni Ramen (topped with cubed braised pork belly and canola greens), which came with half a soft boiled egg (!!) that he was kind enough to let me eat. The pork belly on this bowl was amazing, fell apart, flavourful and the fat was wonderfully caramelized. We could have easily eaten a whole order of just the pork belly, two pieces disappeared too quickly. The broth however, was not as rich as other ramen places. Distinctly missing from both bowls was the yummy layer of oil.
- Address: 1132 Dundas St W, Toronto
- Visited: 04/04/2013, Dinner, 2 people
- Rating: A [$$]
- Website: http://thelakeviewrestaurant.ca/
Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives is a show on The Food Network that has been on the air since 2006, highlighting the best fast, comfort foods (usually also greasy, rich and delicious) around the United States. Neighbourhood gems, and family run restaurants are often featured on the show. When I heard they were filming in Toronto, I knew wherever Guy Fieri went, I would follow.
The Lakeview is open 24 hours and serves breakfast/brunch fare around the clock. The menu also offers a selection of burgers/sandwiches and chili along with classic drinks and daily drink specials ($4 daily pints, caesars and $3 glass of mimosa).
Atmosphere: The place was already starting to fill up as we walked in at around 6pm. Luckily there was a tiny booth at the front of the restaurant which the couple in front of us passed on. My friend and I was there for the food so had no issues being a little cramped. The decor inside is very diner, there’s a bar to sit at and more booths than tables and the walls were covered with different styles of art. As for the patrons, I saw a lot of suspenders, mustaches and crochet, take that as you will,
Service: Our server was really friendly and knowledgeable about the menu. Even though we were seated at the very front of the restaurant, it wasn’t hard to flag someone down when needed. Our food arrived quickly and hot.
Food: For an appetizer, my friend and I split an order of disco fries. Each fry covered in the two cheese (cheddar and havarti), bacon bits and gravy was amazing. We polished off this dish pretty quickly, and it was also a good size to split. I ordered the classic “Eggs Benedict”, two eggs with hollandaise sauce and choice of side, while my friend was more adventurous with her order of the “Freedom Toast”, baguette dipped in egg and stuffed with bacon, brie and havarti served with syrup.
Both dishes came with healthy side of hand cut chips, fruit and mixed green salad. The chips were my favourite part of the dish, crispy and not too thinly sliced. I finished most of my fries before even getting to the eggs. The hollandaise sauce was creamy and the eggs were poached nicely, fully cooked whites and runny yolk. My friend really enjoyed her dish as well. We both struggled a bit with just how much food. I also ordered a side of mashed potatoes, which I ended up taking away.
For the good portion sizes and quality comfort food, The Lakeview is a great spot any time of day.
- Address: 5182 Yonge St., Toronto
- Visited: 03/28/2012, Dinner, 2 people
- Rating: B* [$$]
- Website: http://www.tsuki.ca/
Having more than one izakaya option within walking distance for dinner is one of the perks of my neighbourhood. I was craving something light and since it wasn’t a Tues/Wed (those nights, I head to Nome Izakaya for their $1 oysters) we decided to give Tsuki a try. One of my favourite parts about izakaya style restaurants are the small portions and matching prices, which let me try a lot more dishes than a single entree and appetizer.
Atmosphere: We arrived early in the night, around 6pm, so the restaurant was still empty and just beginning to fill up as we left at 8pm. Like most Japanese restaurants, the decor is heavy with dark woods and empty sake bottles. There were tables available for large groups and smaller parties but no booths.
Service: Every aspect of the service at Tsuki was fine. Our server was friendly and sat us at a larger table for four since the restaurant was still fairly empty at the time. We didn’t wait long on any dish and tea was quickly refilled throughout the night.
Food: The menu at Tsuki is extensive offering a large variety of sushi and cooked specialties. I like how the menu accompanies each item name with a picture, which helps visualizing dishes that are listed only in Japanese.
Going with the theme of lighter fare, we didn’t order anything from the fried section. Starting with a tako wasabi (raw octopus, chopped and mixed with wasabi and green onions), which I order at every izakaya, we centered the meal around a bowl of oden accompanied by teriyaki fries, grilled mackerel and an asparagus and tofu salad.
The broth of the oden was rich and sweet, filled with flavourful napa, fish cake, eggs, daikon and enoki mushrooms. It was a very comforting dish with a good balance of salty ingredients in the sweet soup. The tak wasabi was pretty standard, good texture and not slimy, could’ve had more wasabi and pickles. I really liked the teriyaki fries, this was the surprise hit of the night. Each fry was crispy and soaked up the sauce, again a good balance of salty and sweet. Our last two dishes were just ok; the mackerel was a little hard to eat and didn’t come apart easily while the asparagus was creatively presented but needed more of the miso sauce and a less viscous version.
I will be back to visit Tsuki again, the menu offers more variety than Nome (the other Izakaya in the neighbourhood) and it’s a larger space. The meal was good but not on par with Guu or even Fin.
- Address: 72 Ossington Ave, Toronto
- Visited: 03/30/2013, Dinner, 2 people
- Rating: C* [$$$]
- Website: http://www.union72.ca/
Union 72 first popped up on my radar when I was looking for a restaurant to celebrate a birthday last year. I love French cuisine and I liked that the menu at Union uses only produce from locally grown, Ontario farms.
Atmosphere: The feeling inside the restaurant is cozy. It feels a touch rustic with linens, an exposed brick wall, a full painted wall mural, lots of natural textures and heavy plates. The seating area was tight, we were very close to tables on both sides and it was a squeeze to leave without disrupting our neighbours. Lighting within the restaurant was intimate but they’ve tried to let in lots of natural light with the glass storefront and keeping a glass back door in place.
Service: I really liked our server, she was very helpful with suggesting wine pairings and could make a personal menu recommendation (which I always look for). She swayed us on ordering the crab tartinette over steak tartare, which isn’t always on the menu. I love finding out pieces of additional information like that and it really does sway how I order. We didn’t have to wait long between courses, and plates were cleared promptly. The only hiccup was trying to see a dessert menu at the end of the night. It took more than ten minutes to get someone’s attention. We weren’t in a rush so we weren’t trying too hard and it was more comedic at how difficult it was to get noticed.
Food: For dinner, the BF and I split a Crab Tartinette as an appetizer; he ordered the Cassoulet with duck confit, pork belly and blood sausage while I had the Seared Pickerel. We both really enjoyed the tartinette. The bread was toasted dry, buttered and really held up to the crab’s saltier dressing. I audibly “mmmm’ed” after the first bite. The was dish was heavy handed on the salt, I don’t think I could have finished both pieces on my own.
As for entrees, the pickerel was amazing, seared to a soft, buttery texture and lightly seasoned. The beets, potatoes and swiss chard served alongside with the mustard sauce were also flavourful and still held their own textures. I could have easily eaten spoonfuls of the sauce. We were both disappointed with the cassoulet. The pork belly was too fatty, not all of the fat had glazed yet and the skin was too tough to cut. The duck confit was fine, as was the sausage but the meat was a bit tough and the beans were really greasy. I wouldn’t order this dish again.
All in all, Union was a little hit and miss. I’d like to go back to try the Elk Sliders and their Steak, but for the dishes I had this night I would put them in the list of “nice to try but underwhelming”.