Tag Archives: Kensington

Patois: Caribbean-Asian Soul Food

14 Jul OG Fried Chicken

My childhood pal Ren recently moved back to Toronto after a stint in Vancouver.  With all the traveling I’ve had to do for work the past 5 months, we simply haven’t had a proper catch-up yet.  The worst, right?!  So a good ol’ fashioned friend date was top priority last week.

With Ren’s and my respective Caribbean and Chinese backgrounds, we couldn’t have picked a better place to have our hangout than at Chinese-Jamaican chef Craig Wong’s newly opened Patois on Dundas West.  I’m so glad we ended up there because guys, the food was SO good.

Being the gentleman that he is, Ren made us reservations.  A personal place card held our table and encouraged us to tweet & ‘gram.  Miss Manners is probably weeping inconsolably into her hanky knowing our cell phones are active at a dinner table but hey, #hashtags and drool-inducing photos are the lifeblood of a restaurant’s PR (and without which, YYZ Gourmand posts would just be filled with the words, “Trust me, it looked good!”).  It certainly made me less self-conscious about (quickly) snapping some food pics!

Place card

When we were in Brooklyn last summer, MCyyz created a drink by mixing a house made hot sauce with tamarind juice.  It was divine and we affectionately called it a ‘tamarind Caesar’.  Well, Patois offers a cocktail called the Island Iced Tea ($10) and it was reminiscent of that drink and, dare I say MCyyz, it was better than yours.  (GASP!)

Island Ice Tea

Island Iced Tea

It’s not a fancy cocktail with rim and twisted lemon peels but it is so well balanced and hit the spot.  You should all know by now that I love when a consumable is simultaneously sweet, savoury, and spicy and this drink was just that.  Made with jerk spice, rum, vodka, gin, tequila and Cointreau…it had 6 of my favourite things in life.

We started off with an order of Ackee ‘n Saltfish ($14).  We were too greedy (I blame the super strong cocktail) and we totaled two of the saltfish fritters before I remembered to take a picture.  The crispy not-overly-salty dried salted cod croquettes contrasted nicely against the sweetness of the red peppers and the soft buttery ackee.  A simple Caribbean staple that was well executed.

Remaining third of Ackee 'n Saltfish

Remaining third of Ackee ‘n Saltfish

Ren and I decided to split their Yardbird Special ($32) which came with 1/2 order of O.G. Fried Chicken, 1/2 order of Juicy Jerk, slaw and dirty rice.

OG Fried Chicken

OG Fried Chicken

The OG Fried Chicken came out first and was accompanied by sriracha sauce, refreshing basil watermelon and (what we think are) pickled asian pear.  The chicken was amazing.  Not greasy, fried perfectly, and juicy inside. I normally can’t stomach too much fried chicken skin but yeah, I totally ate all of it.  Oh let me give you stomach-growl-inducing closeup.

OG Fried Chicken closeup

OG Fried Chicken closeup

The slaw side wasn’t particularly memorable but the dirty fried rice was such a treat.  They’ve emulated a ‘wok heat’ flavour and the sweet Chinese sausage used gave me childhood flashbacks while the cajun spices made me wish I had beads to throw.

Dirty Fried Rice

Dirty Fried Rice

Last but not least, we were presented with churrasco rotisserie roasted jerk chicken.  This is the first time I’ve had jerk chicken that wasn’t barbequed.  And it certainly lived up to its menu name of Juicy Jerk.  So incredibly tender and juicy.  I do wish the jerk seasoning was a bit more prevalent but they used a good quality chicken and I agree one shouldn’t distract from quality natural flavour.  But to satiate my crazy addiction to spice, we were given a house made habanero sauce.  Oh it made my lips burn which meant I was happy.

Juicy Jerk

Juicy Jerk

Patois is a true fusion restaurant with creative ideas but it still manages to satisfy my craving for familiar comfort food.  The menu is well thought out, well executed, and definitely an homage to soul food.

Patois on Urbanspoon

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Our Spot: perfectly named breakfast joint in Kensington

16 Dec

There are a number of inventive brunch places in my neighbourhood – they are all a treat. And yet… sometimes I don’t want to make reservations, stand in line for 20 minutes before I eat or drop 30 dollars before noon on eggs on a Sunday – it can trigger almost as much regret as smelling booze when you are hungover. My first ever YYZ Gourmand post pondered if indulgent and expensive brunches were worth it.

Sometimes, all I want is a standard breakfast that will force me to get out of bed – and get my day started! – without eating up half of my week’s grocery money. When I lived in Ottawa, there was a perfect place that I would go to almost every weekend with my friend J – Atomic Rooster on Bank Street. It was perfect because the food was good, the staff was friendly and I would rarely spent more than 8 dollars or more than 5 minutes waiting for a table. It was the best hangover cure I’ve ever had, and I could be there in 10 minutes of my apartment. How’s that for motivation?

I saw Our Spot when I moved close to Kensington in September. Wondering how I had missed it before, I asked one of the owners, Demetra, how long they had been around. Turns out she and her husband took over the place in October. It so closely reminds me of Atomic Rooster in Ottawa, that I’m convinced I willed it into existence.

A view of Our Spot on a snowy Sunday

A view of Our Spot on a snowy Sunday

I went in again this Sunday – with the snow I knew that I would have to get out of my place if I didn’t want to hibernate all day. As I had the last time, I went alone and sat at the bar at the front that faces the street. As you can see in the photo, the window was steamed up, but it made going to brunch alone seem acceptable.

I knew what I wanted before I sat down: the “standard” breakfast (4.50$!!!!) with 3 eggs scrambled, brown bread and potatoes (instead of lentils), and iceberg lettuce salad with feta cheese. I added on bacon and tea (about 1.50$ each extra).

This is what motivated me to get out of bed on Sunday - and actually have a productive day!

What more do you really need? The service is fast and friendly – and the food hit the spot!

There are other things on their menu, but when I’m looking for a boost on a weekend morning, this is all I crave.

Looks like I’ve finally found the spirit of Atomic Rooster in YYZ: breakfast without a fuss that’s perfect to go with a closer friend or even alone.. and only a 10 min walk from my apartment!

I will be back to “Our Spot” soon. Who’s coming with?

#HaikuThursday: El Trompo, Kensington taco staple

12 Sep

El Trompo’s tacos:

If they don’t cure what ails ya,

Margarita will.

Inside El Trompo

Inside El Trompo

So, have you noticed how tacos are a pretty big deal in Toronto?  I’m kidding, of course you have. Unless you were living under a no-fun-allowed rock (I’m so sorry) for the past three years, then you must have witnessed the birth of our reigning taqueria monarchy which includes Grand Electric, La Carnita, and Playa Cabana.  On top of that, let’s not forget the food truck players (shout-out to Gourmet Gringos!) and how almost every restaurant now has some sort of taco homage on their menu at least once every other season (even Red Lobster did over the summer, I kid you not).   Oh, and remember the long-standing choice wedding venue and every grandmother’s top brunch spot, The Boiler House?  It has become El Catrin.

Years and years ago, if you were to say to me “Lets grab some tacos Alice because you are pretty cool and so are tacos!”  I would have suggested to you two possible places worthy of my time: Tacos El Asador in Koreatown or El Trompo in Kensington Market.

Oh, sweet El Trompo.  They are like this awesome loyal friend who knows you have paid upwards of $7 for one small taco behind their back but they’re still going to let you get 5 (FIVE!) of theirs for only $9.75.  My go-to is the Al Pastor, tender marinated pork with bursts of sweet pineapple tucked between onion and cilantro.  Or maybe I’m feeling a little sassy and will get the spicier house-made chorizo filling?  Or maybe I’ve been overwhelmed at work and want to be grounded with something comforting and familiar like the home-away-from-home grilled chicken?

Tacos

If you’re with friends, the guacamole is a must.  If you’re not with friends, but you’re me and have completely no shame in consuming on your own an entire bowl of a dip which is the very taste-bud definition of the phrase ‘fresh avocado’, then get it.  With no regrets. It is one of the few places that knows just the right amount of lime to put into one’s guacamole.  It is so simply but beautifully made.   Respect.

Lime Margarita

Lime Margarita

I will leave you with one last gush – their margarita.  I am normally not a slushy drink fan but this…this is perfectly salted and I love it.  It’s like smelling ocean air, not drowning in the water.  The ratio of ice granules to liquid?  Just the right amount – textured liquid but still drinkable through a straw.  Not over-sweetened, not over-tart, not over-salted.  And at $6.75 a drink, not over-priced either.

This place make simple good food and simple good drinks.  It doesn’t over-complicate.  Nothing’s broken so they don’t try to fix it.

Guys, just go.  Go.  And bring me with you.

 

El Trompo on Urbanspoon

Hype, tacos and Kensington

16 Jun

Important questions:

Did hype ruin my experience at Seven Lives? Or was that pork in the carnita taco really just dry?

Answers: 

I don’t know. And Yes.

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