Monday, 5 May 2014

Case No. 6- Relish et. al. v Smith

Smith- 553 Church Street, Church-Wellesley Village

Let me tell you a secret… and that secret is not that I love brunch. I mean, who doesn’t? You’d have to be somewhat dead inside not to enjoy the company of friends, family and lovers, casually sharing plates of eggs benny, runny with creamy hollandaise, crisp bacon or house-made sausage, and pancakes light as air, topped with more fruits than an evening at Buddies. In Toronto, brunch is an institution, one we (may) even wait in line for in Arctic weather. The question I’m asked most is about my favourite brunch spot. There are so many, too many, and it would be a Sophie’s Choice to pick one. But I’ll do it anyway. This is my favourite, most perfect spot. I almost dare not to tell it, lest you all run out and force me to be turned away for a table. No, I am resolved, it is a secret no longer…

Tucked into a row of Victorian brownstones just north of Church and Wellesley, the heart of the Gay Village, is a spot known simply as Smith. The name is ordinary on the face of it, but somehow modern and simple, like a chic new club. Little about this place is ordinary, so don’t let the name fool you. I believe before it was Smith it used to be a club called Straight. The only thing I can remember about Straight is that nothing straight ever went on at Straight. Upon entering, you are faced with your choice of dining rooms- the top two floors, more dimly lit with private bars, perfect for those nursing hangovers but in need of a Caesar or three to take the edge off, or downstairs which, as you peer through the doorway, is brighter and more interestingly decorated. Opt for the ground floor if you can. Here you are greeted by a charming hostess in hipster-chic clothes (what hostesses aren’t wearing hipster-chic these days?) or occasionally a more frazzled but friendly older woman, and they’ll ask you if you have a reservation.

That’s right- a reservation.

(Good) brunch spots that take reservations are harder to find than words Kim Kardashian can spell. They are to be encouraged, loudly, because, frankly, the line-up is okay once in a while at certain small, gems of spots, but when I’m forced to begin lining up constantly, persistently, for an hour and a half with every other stroller mom in the Annex (cough Fanny Chadwick’s cough), I object.  So when a brunch spot comes along that not only offers incredible food, good service, and they let you call ahead, you hold onto that spot and don’t let go. It can quickly become your old standby.

Like any reliable standby, you feel comfortable inside him, I mean, inside the restaurant. Smith has all the elements, and I’ve been here many times with many dear friends, but this time, our episode will feature the returning Vera Meringue (in town for a breezy weekend) and the new to the blog Biff Bourgogne.

It’s also worth noting that Smith is the hipster sib of Wish, which is very nearby. I do love Wish, with its all-white Hamptons beach house aesthetic, but its vibe isn’t casual enough to be a regular haunt, for me at least. The food is divine, though, and that carries over to Smith’s kitchen. Also in the family, operated by restaurateur Renda Abdo, is 7 West Café, also in the neighbourhood, which offers delicious comfort food 24 hours a day. Anywhere I can get a pulled pork sandwich at 4 in the morning is okay by me.

Now back to Smith: the space is filled with an array of objets, and the vibe is a mix of the modern and the twee. It’s as if your grandmother decided to start filling her cozy country cottage with industrial sculptures. I love the clash, and it works so well. Old wooden tables set with mismatched cutlery and linen napkins. Something resembling winding steel girders on the north wall, painted white and bedecked in bird’s nests. A kilim rug lining the centre aisle. Clean white banquettes and high, aged mirrors. This place could easily take on a cozy bistro feel, but it bucks the trend and opts instead for a mix of France and England. The British countryside, the Parisian café, the Pompidou Centre and the Tate Modern.

And there’s a magnet board where you can spell out dirty words!

Worth noting, perhaps, is the bathroom upstairs. As is the trend these days, it’s unisex, and it’s a reclamation of what appears to be quite an old Victorian style bathroom, with that classic small white tiled floor, wooden doors to the stalls, and a communal sink with odd bits and bobs. A word about this sink- it has taken me a few tries before I’ve figured it out. There are pedals on the floor that operate it. I have spent many a time trying to use the faucets, and instead tend to wash slowly as water drip drip drips from one of the faucets not totally turned off. I finally observed someone using the foot pedal, and I was an idiot no more.

As I wash my hands in the communal watering trough and look around the room… ah yes, now I remember Straight. I can’t believe I eat here now…

Fitting into their eccentric-eclectic dining room is an eccentric-eclectic crowd. The older clientele are certainly cool, men and women alike in pastel sweaters, white pants and elegant grey hair. The young, skinny twinks in last night’s t-shirt (too early in the day for tank tops), well-coiffed, laughing with reckless abandon and sipping from mismatched coffee cups. Girls in paisley scarves and nose rings, high heeled leather boots and expensively ripped jeans. A crowd of older gay friends hashing out last night’s exploits- “oh you did not take him home, you bad man.” Bookish girls drinking tea discussing readings for Lit 101. Lesbian mothers and their friends. Well-dressed boyfriends canoodling with their girlfriends. The “bro” quotient is decidedly low, and the stroller moms haven’t discovered it yet. The perfect atmosphere for me to let it all out and break out the ever so perfect brunch outfit, a hot pink cable-knit cricket sweater, white collared shirt and my Soviet fur hat.

You sit down and are greeted by what looks like a somewhat aged copy of a newspaper one would hand you on the street, but it is in fact your menu. They have it conveniently folded to display the menu for whatever meal you’re having, so there’s no need to unfurl it. The options only vaguely resemble their normal cousins, which you could go and have at any chain anywhere. The Smith Benedict discards the hollandaise for a leek fondue, rich, with that oniony tang. The crepes are made fresh with mascarpone, and a generous helping of grapefruit and pistachios. The devil is in the details here. Rye croutons on the salad. Lobster with the egg on toast. Avocado with the shrimp croissant. Are we drooling yet?

Bucking my benedict habit, I opt for the croque monsieur, Biff the Benedict and Vera, the Huevos Rancheros. But we begin with the scones, and you must begin with the scones. These scones are to die for. Queen Liz herself would be proud. Every week a different kind. This week was a cherry and chocolate with a lemon curd and a whipped butter. “Ughhhguhhhguhhh” is the only word for how divine that scone is, and I normally loathe the cherry-chocolate combo. I once had a pumpkin spice scone there with earl grey crème fraiche that would make me sing Verdi from the rooftops. However, the menu has changed since I had been there previously, and now the plate comes with a mix of scones and coffee cake. The coffee cake, while delicious, is not as good as the scone, and those scones that remain are smaller now. Feel free to ask your server for an extra scone if your party is more than two, as we did. She happily obliged. It might help to whine about how good the scones are, like we did.

The food arrived in due course, and we were not disappointed. This croque monsieur was, hands down, the best I’ve ever had, counting the one I ate at Angelina’s in Versailles in total and complete bliss. The ham and swiss nestled between two thick slices of fried toast and a generous helping of mustard are supplemented by a cheese mixture that you might find on garlic bread at a restaurant of much lower calibre- and I mean that in a delicious way. Remember when one would go to a restaurant and order garlic bread at a place like that, and they’d ask if you wanted cheese, and generally you said no because you were being healthy or polite or trying not to overdo it, but really, secretly, you wanted that garlic bread smothered in that orange and white cheese mixture? Oh yes, that’s what this is, and I lurvvvve it. A nice helping of that leek fondue on top enrichens the entire dish, and as if you needed anything else, the fried egg is on top as well. Break the yolk, let that golden liquid spill over the entire dish, and oh man, you have the best croque monsieur this man has tasted.
I have had a number of dishes here, and never been disappointed. The benny, the huevos, the brisket (yes, brisket at brunch- judge away, skinny bitches), all are excellent, top notch dishes. I have very little to complain about. I have never eaten dinner here, though they do it, and perusing the menu, it looks quite fabulous. Vera, Biff and I are very satisfied.

I will nitpick the service at bit. I have been there on one occasion where my reservation had been ignored. When you call them at an off hour, they ask you to leave your name, number and booking information, and tell you that they will not call you back- they will only call you should your requested booking not be available. I got no call back, and arrived to find they hadn’t written down my booking. This is annoying. They accommodated me immediately, but I would prefer that they institute a policy to call to confirm bookings, as most places do. On a more recent visit, our server forgot our order of scones. It was a large group, and our ordering process was slightly confused, but a server worth their salt will remember everything that is ordered (and will hopefully write it down- you don’t get extra points for memorization). Service can at times be slow, but it’s brunch, so not only is it busy, but I never feel like being rushed out the door, so I don’t mind.

With the scones (which you must have- did I say that already?) a main, and a tea or coffee, your bill will come to about $25 with tax and tip. It’s not dirt cheap, and this is no greasy spoon, but the quality and atmosphere are worth it.

So, what’s the verdict?

I find Smith GUILTY of offering incredibly flavourful twists on old classic dishes, well thought out down to the details.

I also find Smith GUILTY of having imperfect service and an imperfect booking system (but at least they have one!)

I declare Smith NOT GUILTY of lacking quirky of-the-moment décor that has appeal for all types.

I also find Smith NOT GUILTY of pandering to the stroller mom quotient. This place is cool. Screaming babies = not cool. Can we keep it that way?

I declare this meal an 8.5/10.

Smith is located at 553 Church Street in the Church-Wellesley Village. Dinner is served from Tuesday to Saturday, brunch on the weekend. Closed on Monday. I’m going to invent a brunch spot that’s only open on Mondays. Pander to stay-at-home parents and retirees. I’d call it Blue Monday to appeal to a cool crowd that listened to British new wave in the 80s, but people probably won’t get it, and it will close in two weeks… oh right, and reservations are accepted and recommended.   
Smith on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Case No. 5- Relish et. al. v Drake One Fifty

Drake One Fifty- 150 York Street, Financial District

There may not be a more depressing spot in the city than after dark in the Financial District. Felt-overcoated men, scurrying to catch their GO train that will haul them back to their suburban bliss. The walking juxtaposition that is a woman in a suit under an elegant Burberry trench walking briskly in her beat-up New Balance sneakers.  After 6PM, everyone is trying to escape the Downtown Core. It is the oddest feeling to walk along that stretch of King between Yonge and University late at night. You’re surrounded by well-lit towering skyscrapers of steel and glass that feel like they’re closing in on you, and yet you’ve never felt more alone. So who can blame you for wanting to get the fuck out of there?
But living patterns are changing. Where once people fled the downtown core to their homes in The Annex, Lawrence Park, the Beaches or, gasp!, suburbia, now people have begun to live there. Young people. You and I. This is a city where it feels like a condo is born every minute, and a smattering of them are plonked along the waterfront, within steps of those towers we toil in. I used to question why anyone would want to live there. Now that I leave the office in the evening hours and face another 40 minutes until I’m on the sofa in my underwear watching The Daily Show, the pleasure of a five minute commute doesn’t seem too shabby. What keeps me from committing to such a move is one simple condundrum- where do you go to eat?
Seriously? Where does one pop after work for a meal? On the weekends when you feel like walking to brunch? What are your options? Shitty. Your options are pretty shitty.

Sure, there are restaurants. But sadly, Canoe isn’t open on the weekends. And who wants to go there anyway? We’re young and hip, and the era of the white tablecloth is dying a slow death. Canoe, Bymark and the litany of other yawn-inducing so-called “fine dining” establishments that litter the downtown core are too dull and too expensive to be regular haunts. We could brave the crowds at Ki to nibble edamame while some corporate douchebag five people down yells over the noise about banging his secretary. We could shiver on the patio at Earl’s while the waitress in her tight black top bends over to distract us from how mediocre the food is. Or we could end up in a shame spiral scarfing fries and McNuggets in a dark corner on the upper level of the McDonald’s on Yonge next to the Goodlife. Seriously?
So it seemed a beacon of sunlight arrived in the dark when The Drake decided to bring its Queen West cool to the downtown area. It was no shock to me that Drake One Fifty was on everyone’s lips. People in our demographic are crying out for somewhere fun to eat, especially those who now live down there. It had been open a week when I was asked by my legal mentor where I’d like to have our mentor-mentee lunch. Drake One Fifty, I said. His assistant sent me the reservation ten minutes later. I had the pleasure of an impromptu friend dinner with the dazzlingly sexy Peaches Geldof last week, and therefore, dear reader, I can report to you with a well-studied eye.

Restaurants these days seem to tend towards the discreet. Back-alley spots, places recognizable only by the camel on the flag or the pig etched onto the window. Drake One Fifty is not located ostentatiously, but it’s hardly hiding out. Set on the ground floor of an office building at York and Adelaide, it seems as though it will be difficult to find. The noise from the place, especially at night, is the first indication that you’ve stumbled upon somewhere. You enter from the desolate, empty streets, and suddenly realize where everyone has gone. They’re here, having a Manhattan. A smiling waitress leads you to your reserved table, and you better have a reservation, or you’ll be persona non grata standing and apologizing to your friends at the round bar. You sit down and take it all in.
The discretion trend has not stopped at the front door. Restaurants now tend towards the sparse décor, the bare and minimal. For more modernist establishments, it is simple, clean lines, with fine appointments, furniture and table settings, but spare. For anything west of Spadina, it feels as though the owners feel anything remotely pleasant or comfortable in the way of décor will detract from their gourmet tacos. Wooden benches, rough hewn tables, mis-matched dishes. Drinking out of mason jars makes me feel like I want to run through the streets lashing out at anyone bearded and decked out in plaid. Drake One Fifty bucks that trend, too. The décor here is over the top. Explosive. The eye wanders over the green leather chairs, plush, as though robbed from an Edwardian billiard room, to the wallpaper, dotted in the Liechtenstein-style, to the dizzying, Escher inspired floor tiles, to the perhaps most noticeable piece, several elongated words with extra letters inserted cursively written around the top of the large, ostentatious bar. I haven’t a clue what it actually says. For all it’s over-the-top excess, nods to Canadiana (a sculpture made of reclaimed Tim Hortons cups near the front?) I absolutely adore it. It’s brash, it’s loud, it’s exciting. The artist nods are clear to the trained-eye, but subtle to others. Guy Maddin short films are playing on a loop in the bathroom. At most other places, it would be odd and surreal for me to watch black and white clips of Winnipeg winters while I whip out my dick. Here, it just feels right.

The clientele look like they were born here. They could be extras cast for a commercial about this space. Everyone here just looks so perfect. The odd person in a sweatshirt or something will crop up, and I almost feel like leering at how out of place they seem, but the rest inhabit this place like a comfortable sweater. And believe me, this is not a space that most people could blend into. The crowd are decidedly mid twenties to mid thirties. Off-duty lawyers and bankers, but the cool ones, not the ones who wear their white shirts half untucked and their suits three sizes too big. They mingle easily with arty types in dreadlocks and tats. More Sandro and Tom Ford than Ralph Lauren and Brooks Brothers. The green theme carries over to the aprons the denim-shirted wait staff wear. All of them are beautiful, but not in the sex-on-a-plate style of Earl’s down the street. A more hipster beautiful, which is much more my speed. I would have been happy to lick the house-made ketchup off my waiter’s (insert body part here) should he have offered that as an alternative post-dinner treat. Put that on your secret menu, and watch the money pile up.
You are presented with an extensive cocktail list, and you must have a cocktail. The names of the cocktails alone are enough to keep you entertained. Someone at the bar must be a film buff: La Dolce Vita, The Departed and Deliverance all make appearances in cocktail form. And each are apropos. Could you name a drink Deliverance and not have it be bourbon-based? I opt for the No Country For Old Men, if for no other reason than I’m a Coen Brothers fan. I’m not disappointed. A vermouth base, with lemon juice for acidity, and a hearty dose of herb flavour from the Pernod and fernet branca. It tastes something like spruce, evocative of the Rocky Mountains. The alcohol is barely detected, but the bitterness is enough to keep this a sipping cocktail. It’s garnished with rosemary, and served in an old fashioned champagne coupe, like you’re Gatsby himself. Peaches, being the saucy gal she is, opts for The Safe Word, a Mezcal-based sour cocktail that is good, but not quite boozy enough for me to imagine myself bound and gagged in a Berlin dungeon ready to cry “uncle!”

The lunch and dinner menus are somewhat varied, but include many of the same staples. It’s a mixture of salads, heavier dishes, pizzas and sandwiches. At lunch, we begin with the Drake and Bake, a selection of breads and dips. The house made bread is good, and there’s plenty of it to go with the fresh hummus and olive oil. I find sometimes the balance just isn’t there on such a dish at other places, and the server rolls their eyes when you ask for more bread to finish off the tapenade. A dose of rustic salt is provided for that extra flavour. But the winning appetizer is the roasted cauliflower, coming as it does with black truffle, garlic, grapes and a champagne foam. It sounds and looks exceedingly decadent, but isn’t heavy as you might imagine. It does appear a bit out of place on such a menu, as if the chef read Ferran Adria’s cookbook and wanted to experiment in between wood-firing pizzas and grilling burgers. Nevertheless, the dish is a good one, and does blow the bread and dip out of the water.
For main, I opt for the One Fifty Burger, a twist on The Drake’s classic burger. I’m a sucker for a great burger, and despite other, more intriguing options on the menu, I’m happy to go with this classic. The medium-well cooked aged shortrib is from Cumbrae’s, giving it a local flavour. Locally sourced bacon, cheddar, red onion, lettuce, all slathered in Russian dressing means it’s heavy and rich, and delicious. I can’t say it’s a burger to write home about, but definitely better than most. The hand cut fries are also delicious, small and salty as they are, but don’t come with enough of that house-made ketchup. My colleague chooses the rotisserie chicken dip, breathing some new life into an old diner staple. With its caramelized onions and pickled peppers, it reminds one a bit of a cheese steak without the cheese. He is entirely satisfied.

Dinner, however, was disappointing. This time around, I choose the rabbit confit torchetti, a dish I noticed on the lunch menu previously, but thought might be too extravagant for a lunch. The menu at dinner is somewhat sparse. I feel like something with meat, something substantial, but I’m not quite feeling baller enough to order the $36 steak frites. My other options are lamb, liver or that burger again. Your other meat options are large, sharing platters, and Peaches wants to try the burger, so in the face of choices I’m just not that interested in, I opt for the rabbit. The torchetti is delicious, tasting house-made. They are the high point of the dish. The rabbit tasted boiled, ripped into careless hunks, as though after Glenn Close decided to boil the pet bunny in Fatal Attraction, she decided to tear it up and serve it for dinner. The pairing with olives is careless, and terribly unappetizing. I begrudgingly eat the rabbit, but savour the few bites which include only the chanterelles or spinach with the pasta. I am entirely underwhelmed. Peaches is satisfied with her burger, and though the small portion of it she’s left is crying out to me, I content myself to finish of her fries, the more polite option. Another friend who happened to dine there the same evening was similarly unimpressed with her rabbit dish, but I’m told the pizzas her dining companions ordered were even worse…
Not being fulfilled completely by boiled rabbit, I crave something sweet and rich to take the taste of Thumper out of my mouth. We opt to share the pot de crème with some fresh cocktails, two amaretto sours. The drink is perfection, exactly what I needed at the end of the meal. The dessert was good, and inventive, with rich dark chocolate cream paired with grape jelly and crunchy hazelnut brittle. It’s hard to thrill with a chocolate dessert, but this one is very good, and certainly satisfied my needs.

(Sidenote- I take comfort in the fact that, despite my photography skills not being Ansel Adams-level, I can take a damn better shot than Martha Stewart:

The service here is good. Extremely attentive, very friendly, did I mention how hot the waiters are? I think I did… the week after opening, the service wasn’t perfect, which it usually isn’t so early on. Mains came about fifteen minutes after appetizers were served. We’d barely tucked into our cauliflower when the burger was plonked in front of me on the tiny table. Kindly, the waitress apologized at the end of the meal, enough to rescue her tip, but did nothing in the way of offer to cover drinks or something of the like. This annoyed my companion, who had his Diet Coke refilled to see that he was charged for two Diet Cokes when the bill came. Service was better at dinner, and the pace was good considering we wished to linger over our cocktails and talk cock at length.  Both times, however, the service was very friendly. I emphasize this because this is definitely a hip and buzzy place, but there’s no snobbery, no “you’re not on the list” attitude. It could easily happen, and perhaps it remains to be seen, but for now, the service remains friendly, attentive, and they’re all so cute, did I mention that?
Good service and wacky décor does come at a price. Lunch was $80 for two, dinner $110 for two. My mentor got the cheque at lunch, and Peaches covered this one for dinner, so I haven’t actually paid to eat there yet, but that is decidedly pricey. I suppose if you didn’t have dessert or an appetizer, cut down on the cocktails and ordered something more economical like a salad or pizza, it might not be too bad. It’s still too pricey to become a regular haunt, but it’s way too much, too buzzy, too loud and dizzying to become a good local spot anyway. It’s a little bit like doing bottle service. Once in a while is fun. Once a week is indulgent and douchey. I might be back to Drake One Fifty, but probably not for a while.

So, what’s the verdict?
Drake One Fifty is found GUILTY of letting its food suffer while other aspects soar. They should extend the menu, offer more options and please, don’t boil my rabbit.

They are also GUILTY of mixing a mighty fine cocktail, having an adventurous drink list, and having a cute blue-eyed boy serve them up.

Drake One Fifty is NOT GUILTY of lacking taste. The bold choices in décor may seem dizzying at first, but embrace the wild. This is what our homes will look like in a few years. At least mine will.

We also find Drake One Fifty NOT GUILTY of being economical. We realize you have an expense account clientele, but lower your prices, let those fuckers go to Bymark to have a $35 veal sandwich, and bring on the cool kids.

All considered, I declare this meal a 6.8/10.

Drake One Fifty is located at 150 York Street in the Financial District. Dinner is served from Monday to Saturday, lunch from Monday to Friday. Closed on Sunday. So sorry if you’re downtown on a Sunday photocopying documents and you’re looking for somewhere to eat- that guy on the corner of King and Bay might be out there selling mystery Caribbean food if you’re hungry? Reservations are a must.   

Drake One Fifty on Urbanspoon

Friday, 15 November 2013

Case No. 4- Relish v Roti Cuisine of India

Roti Cuisine of India- 308 Dupont Street, The Annex

Oh well, Relish J., aren’t you just so fancy? Brunching at Origin, corporate lunching at hip Korean spots. You’ll just a regular swanky fella. Not so, dear reader. Haighton is un homme du peuple. A regular plebeian. Your average Joseph. He puts his J Brand jeans on one leg at a time, just like you do.
I love a dive. I really do. Some of the best food comes out of the sketchiest, back alley joints in town. I freely admit this. Just don’t compare me to that meatball-scarfing, frosted tipped, bowling-shirt wearing, dipping-chicken-in-pretzel-dust-and-calling-it-food Guy Fieri. The day I say “I’m on the bus to Flavourtown” is the day you have permission to run me over with your red Camaro until I resemble the chili cheese fries at his restaurant.
In that spirit, I write to you this week about one of my recent favourite dive discoveries, and inaugurate my new series: Let me risk salmonella poisoning, so you don’t have to.
My walk home every evening from Dupont station is strangely aromatic. The air is always filled with the pungent smell of Indian food, and not even the AXE body spray emanating from the passing George Brown undergrads can eradicate it. But where did it come from? North of Dupont are train tracks, a parking lot, a small design store, and a Tim Hortons. Unless TimHos had decided to really diversify its menu, I suspected that wasn’t it. When one day, Isabella Broccolini brought that smell into our house, my questions were answered. She was feasting upon this wonderful smelling, but strange looking food. It smelled like Indian, but it was a cube of bread-like material. There were no samosas, no curries, no naan to be seen. “I say,” I questioned, “I say, what is that deliciously smelling cube of food you’re eating?” “What, are you serious? It’s a roti, dumbass.”  
Laugh if you will, but I’d really never seen or eaten a roti before. I’d heard of them in a Caribbean context, but, let’s remember folks, I’m a white kid from the country. I come from a town where people think the Eye-talian restaurant is exotic cuisine. I may be a man of the world in many respects, but the odd thing will slip past me once in a while. Once I tasted it, I knew, I knew, this would be something I’d eat a lot of. And it turns out, she’d bought it around the corner.
Steps away from Dupont station is Roti Cuisine of India. You can be forgiven for not noticing it, though its aroma must be detected for blocks. Once you exit the station, and walk past the money-laundering dry cleaner-front operation, the scary alley smelling of urine, the Shoppers Drug Mart where I buy my cheap Ben and Jerry’s to accompany an evening of watching House Hunters and crying alone, there it is, on one side of a plain looking duplex, a few large concrete steps up from the street. The door opens inwards, which I always notice for some reason, and there’s a sign on the door warning you that you about something, maybe that have to wear clothes when you eat there, I can’t remember. Through another door and there you are, inside the fluorescent-lit, tiled restaurant.
Now, I have come in here on several occasions, and there are always one or two of the maybe seven tables in the place occupied. But this is not a place to eat in. Never. Just don’t do it. For one thing, it’s really very sad. Drab and saddy sad sad. The dining room, and I use that term in the broadest way possible, is reminiscent of food courts in run down malls we’d hang out in during high school, without the acne-speckled teens cutting class and fat old people in red scooters. Formica tables, plastic cups and paper napkins. There will be some young hipsters eating there, the uncool kind, with shabbier sweaters and lamer tattoos. A student eating alone with his history textbook skimming chapters on Robespierre and the Reign of Terror. Maybe an elderly couple by the windows, eating silently. There is no ambiance to speak of, no décor of note. A plant might live atop the cooler stocked with Indian beer, and there might be a laminated poster of some Indian country scene, the kind the girl in the falafel shop fell in love to in a Vampire Weekend song. But this is not a place to soak up the atmosphere. This is a place to line up, pick up your food, smile kindly at the twenty-something Indian man in a black polo accepting your debit card (because it’s so ghetto, they don’t take credit) and book it back to your house.
Which means you’ve called ahead. At this point, the number is saved in my phone. I call, and a kindly man mutters something which I imagine to be a greeting, and I inform him, “one butter chicken roti please, for pick-up.” He then asks, “how spicy, sir?” and you respond in kind, “spicy, please,” and none of that ‘white people spicy’ either, son. “Thank you sir, fifteen to twenty minutes, sir.” They have never taken my name, my number or quoted me a price. They trust you’ll come get your food, and that you’ll be able to afford it. And because it’s after work and you’re standing at the corner of King and University about to step onto the subway, that’s exactly enough time for you to ride the subway north, walk the few steps from the station and pick up your delicious prize.
They have a menu, this is true. I may have looked at it once before on their one-step-above Geocities website, with orange graphics, inoffensive guitar music and fat Buddha pictures. It is pretty extensive, and they offer a few biryanis, pakoras and desserts to round things out. But there’s no point- you’re here for the roti. There are many to choose from, and the majority are, somewhat surprisingly, vegetarian. All your usual Indian food choices are represented. Aloo gobi, saag paneer, lamb Vindaloo, chicken Tikka Masala… all in roti form. I have frequently frequently opted for the butter chicken roti, but for your benefit, oh readers of mine, I deviated last week and picked up a korma for variety. You choose your roti, choose your spice, and that’s that.
~~~***~~~Teachable Moment!!!!~~~***~~~-
A roti is in fact the bread that the dish is wrapped in! The bread is a thin, unleavened one, in contrast to its yeast-levened fat cousin Naan. (Don’t lie, everyone has a fat cousin Naan. I was fat cousin Naan from approximately 1995-2006. Back then we called it ‘husky’) With an influx of immigration from India to the Caribbean, this bread was adopted into local cuisine, and it became popular in street food to stuff it with chicken, goat or shrimp. Now, it has been reclaimed back into North American Indian cuisine, and is stuffed with all your favourite Indian foods. THE MORE YOU KNOW.
So, you’ve arrived back at your home, shed the suit that keeps your prisoner all day, put on your sweatpants and plonked yourself down for a Homeland marathon. Time to dig into your dish. It comes in an aluminum container, which I usually eat out of because I’m lazy, but I’m sure it would be healthier and more pleasant for you to move the roti to a plate. They all look the same, a brown bubbly thin bread wrapped dish, steaming and ready for you to eat. You cut open the corner, and the delicious contents ooze forth- big pieces of chicken, a rich buttery sauce, hearty potato, some vegetables, if you’re feeling healthy. You eat, and all the wonderful things in the world are consumed at once. And all is well in the universe.

I swear, it’s the simplest thing in the world, and I have no idea why it’s so delicious. But it is, and I suspect it is particularly delicious at this particular restaurant. The sauce is extremely rich and flavourful. The korma tasting of cashew, the madras of sweet coconut and spice, the butter chicken tasting of… butter, what else? When you ask for it to be spicy, it is really quite spicy. This white boy can handle his share of spice, but eating this spicy roti makes my scalp sweat. Now there’s a pleasant image. But will I ever get it medium, or even mild? Probably not. The spiciness is an essential part of the dish- it enhances the flavour rather than masks it. Isabella unashamedly gets hers “extra mild.” There’s a touch of blasphemy to me about eating Indian food with no heat, but if you, like her, have been raised on a diet of cabbage and pork and cabbage, then feel free to order it however you desire. If the men in the kitchen snigger, let them snigger.

It’s a hearty dish, this roti, and a normal individual might eat half and keep the rest for tomorrow’s lunch. I’m unable to control my impulse to devour the entire thing, so I’ve never gotten that far before. I’m told by those with more self-control that it’s good the next day, if not better if that’s possible.
What’s better than all of this is the price. I dare you to spend over $20 here. One roti is enough for two servings for two normal people, one serving for pig men like me. It would be absurd to add appetizers or anything else to that. Even with a lassi thrown in alongside the most decadent of rotis (the Shahi Shrimp for $12.99), you’re still not even close. The average roti will cost you $10. Now how often can you find something delicious and filling for $10? About as often as Kim Kardashian reads.

So, what’s the verdict?
Roti Cuisine of India is found GUILTY of clogging up their menu with roti alternatives that really, does anyone ever order?
They are also GUILTY of making a flavourful, accessible and delicious dish, with a variety broad enough for everyone to find something to enjoy.
Roti Cuisine is NOT GUILTY of being expensive. When was the last time you ate for $10 and were satisfied that you got a meal worth $10?
We also find them NOT GUILTY of having anything in the way of pleasant atmosphere or décor. Unless you’re into that whole depressing school cafeteria vibe.
All considered, I declare this meal a 7.0/10. I’m pleased to have written this- I was going to buy groceries for the week, but now I think I’ve made my dinner plans for the next three nights.
Roti Cuisine of India is located at 308 Dupont Street in The Annex. Dinner and lunch are served seven days a week. A dose of local Annex thrifty hipsters comes free with every meal. Reservations? Are you kidding me? I don’t even know if this place has a bathroom or not.
Editor’s Note- the author may or may not be eating a lamb madras roti at the moment. There’s a coconut milk stain on his laptop. At least, I think it’s coconut milk…
Roti Cuisine of India on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Case No. 3- Relish & Prawn v Swish by Han

Swish by Han- 38 Wellington Street East, St. Lawrence Market District

For me, the decision to eat Korean food is rarely one made sober or before midnight. The consumption of bulgogi and soon dubu is something oddly relegated to that period between the bar and going home, and I have no idea why. Why so many people choose it as their go-to drunk food is one of the great mysteries of life, like who shot JFK, or why replacing Taylor Swift’s nauseating, bubble-gum voice with shrieking goats is the most amazing thing on the interwebs.

(For those of you living under a rock or something, do yourself a favour:

The misty, gin-hazy memories I have of Korean mostly involve consuming large amounts of meat and leafy greens that I’ve cooked myself in big bubbling pots in rice-papered rooms, precisely a time I ought not to be cooking my own pork. This is followed by someone’s brilliant idea to stumble into a nearby karaoke bar to belt out “Material Girl” while smiling, neon anime characters leap and frolic on the television screen. This in turn is followed by more alcohol, and then I’m left patting a friend’s back as he vomits profusely into a potted bonsai outside.

Those DIY spots that dot the stretch of Bloor between Bathurst and Christie are rarely mealtime haunts; more often than not, simply spots to soak up the booze. This is how most people I know experience “Korean.” The evening is a mish-mash of Asian cultures, with Japanese beer, sushi and decorative ikebana arrangements mixed with kimchi, galbi beef and dim sum. This is all set to the soundtrack of J-Pop, BoA, and "Gangnam Style," and it’s all very confusing to a novice. It’s also difficult to get a taste for Korean cuisine when your drunk-ass friend Neil insists on being “grill master” for the night and burns the skewered squid to a rubbery, charred crisp. It was with pleasure, then, that Don Prawn and I decided to slip away from work for a midday trip to Swish by Han.

I first read about Swish in an article in Toronto Life, which provided the recipe for what looked like the most amazing pork buns I’d ever seen. I decided then and there that (a) I would tackle the recipe,(b) I would never be able to keep Kosher even if I tried and (c) I needed to hit up this restaurant. Expecting it to be located along that same strip of Bloor where every Korean joint in the city seemed to be crammed, I was surprised to find it located near St. Lawrence Market. I was equally surprised, because I must have walked past it three dozen times, and could not claim to have ever laid eyes upon it.
It's very discreet. I’m not even sure if the name appears on the two windows that front the small joint. All a passerby will see is “Korean Shabu and Ssam Bar,” and the unsuspecting will merely assume this to be the name of a nouveau Asian cocktail lounge, or might question the merits of naming a restaurant after that friendly killer whale at SeaWorld. Nevertheless, a quick scan of the Green DineSafe certificate in the window reveals that this is, indeed, Swish by Han.

We arrived slightly before opening time at noon, and were immediately asked if we had a reservation. We did not, but were seated quickly at a two person table near the kitchen. Immediately, we looked around at the dozen or so tables in the place, and all of them, large and small, were reserved. The Don and I were grateful to have snagged a table, and took the fully booked room as a sign that the meal would be good.

Swish is the brainchild of Leemo and Leeto Han, Korean-American expats now living and working in Toronto. They’re also the proprietors of one of this year’s most talked about new spots, Oddseoul, a hipster dive serving up funky Korean small plates on Ossington. It’s incredible what kind of sense you get of these brothers just by perusing the menu and looking around the restaurant. There’s a mash-up of influences at play, and not your usual pan-Asian ones. A large, round window circled by rattan panels echoes the traditional world of dining rooms filled with families seated on tatami slurping noodles. A giant mural of an outdoor scene with vases and pots that covers one wall is both serene and traditional in its subject matter, yet modern in its scale and brash in its impact. Perched atop the wall is a relic of the early 90s- a boom box, the kind Will Smith might be rapping along with as he spray paints graffiti in an alley. Two large chandeliers, grandiose and European in feeling, are set against classic King Street exposed brick and hanging lanterns, like those a miner might hold aloft to reveal discovered ore. It all feels very brash, bold and fresh, with nods to 1990s rap and hip-hop culture. The name, Swish, seems to echo something bold and flashy; that, and white Nike basketball sneakers. I immediately imagine that these brothers grew up being fed traditional Korean food at home, and going out for burgers with their friends while listening to Run DMC and the Beastie Boys.

The crowd is mostly business folk, driven out into the cold from their nearby glass and steel towers, as we were. But their commitment (they all made reservations for lunch on a weekday, for one thing) is obvious. They’re young, some professionals, and about half the dining room is Asian. Two lawyers nearby switch their focus from the menu to their Blackberries, in five second increments. A large table of friends talk loudly over the hip-hop with heaps of food generating enough steam to obscure their faces. These people all look comfortable, and at home. Works for me.

The lunch menu covers all the bases, from lighter fare to heavy-duty simmering potted food, with some appetizing sides as well. Don Prawn is disappointed to see that the kimchi tuna melt has apparently been discarded from the menu. There’s no sense in trying to search the menu prior to coming; it appears the most recent menu online dates from 2010. You’ll just have to go with your gut this time, diner. However, like those Koreatown dive joints, this is not your Halmoni’s banchan. This is untraditional Korean with American influences. Straight up with a hip-hop twist. But I imagine it gets closer to what Korean food should actually look and taste like. For one thing, there’s no chicken fried rice on the menu.

And the food is sick, yo. Everything sounds incredible. We opt to share three dishes: the ssam bap, a lettuce wrap platter with bulkogi beef; that famous pork bun with red cabbage slaw; and a trio of kimchi. Their extensive beer list is just as cool as everything else about this place, and we both opt for a local brew, Boneshaker IPA, something dark and rich for a cold day such as this one.

Within minutes, a small white tray appears filled with three types of kimchi. The server describes each one- the first, traditional cabbage kimchi, the second, kimchi made with napa cabbage and the third, a kimchi of small haricots verts. Though all are delicious, the latter is definitely my favourite, and I greedily gobble it up straight from the bowl without being polite and moving it to my plate first. I can go either way about kimchi. At times, I find it limp and too cold, with a strong vinegary flavour that overpowers any other taste. These versions don't suffer from those problems, although it might say something about my taste for kimchi that the most untraditional of the bunch was my favourite.

Not so long after does the famed pork bun arrive, kindly sliced in half for our convenience, with a small ramekin of coleslaw on the side. I have eyes and a nose, so I know I’m going to like this bun. My God, am I right. The flavourful, red meat, generously sauced, is cooked to perfection. It’s spicy, but in a pleasing, warming way, not in a drown-a-small-town-in-California-with-sriracha-fumes sense. There are some fried onions and peppers on top that melt in your mouth, and a generous helping of American cheese. This is like eating a Korean philly cheese steak. It’s to die for. To top it off, the bun is grilled on the bottom, giving the sandwich a satisfying crunch, and it holds its own against the heavy ingredients which could easily make it soggy. Don loves it too. He suggests it’s good that we only had one, and that it was split, because it is very rich. I voice my agreement because I don’t want to sound like a pig, but I’m thinking I could eat twelve more of these. This is undoubtedly the star of the meal. Even the coleslaw, such a throwaway dish, serves a gentle, cooling purpose, and the bright flavours of the red cabbage, carrot and scallions play well with black sesame and a buttermilky rich sauce. I finished the slaw, and I never finish my slaw.

                                                         Ooh heaven is a place on earth

The final dish arrives- the main event- and the presentation is wicked from the outset. A metal pail filled with crisp, bright green leaf lettuce and a small ramekin of a ketchup-like sauce, a small bowl of rice, along with a large lidded metal pot filled with steaming bulkogi, mushrooms, cucumbers and carrots. This is proper DIY Korean. I heap on the vegetables and beef, scoop on the rice and hit it with the sauce. I add a bit of the kimchi for even more flavour. The lettuce doesn’t hold up so well under the weight of my ingredients, but I blame my greedy, gluttonous self for piling it on, not the poor, innocent lettuce. Though my attempts at wrapping more often than not result in a heaped mess on my red sauce-streaked plate, I’m a happy camper. This dish is a winner.

The downside of this spot is the service. The two servers working the room are hipster-cool, with long brown locks and slouchy casual clothes. One wears an oversized sweater with a Bart Simpson head print all over. We ask her where she got it, and she kindly informs us that she purchased it in Koreatown. But that was about the friendliest spot in the service. The other server tends to our table with a too-cool attitude that suggests we’re an imposition rather than a welcome guest. I voice my approval to her of the pork bun, and she half-smirks in a way suggesting, “I’ve heard that a hundred times before, and from better people than you.” Her constant scanning of the room while tending to our table reminded me of the way one does this at a party, constantly checking for who's coming in to see if there's someone more interesting to meet.  A restaurant that’s cool is one thing. A restaurant that knows it’s cool and acts accordingly is just obnoxious.

The entire meal, three dishes and drinks came to just under $50 in total. Three dishes, drinks and tip will set you back around $20-$30, with lower priced dishes available. Though not as cheap as the usual cook your own meat joints on Bloor, it’s cheap enough to be a once-in-a-while corporate lunch spot, a place to drop in when you feel like eating something more than $11 worth of quinoa from one of those dime-a-dozen spots in the PATH.

So, what’s the verdict?

Swish by Han is found GUILTY of having pretty mediocre service and a too-cool-for-school attitude, yo.

They are also GUILTY of serving up hip, brash plates of flavourful Korean (if untraditional) that will both comfort you and fill you up, at a pretty decent price.

Swish is NOT GUILTY of sticking to that old model of Korean restaurants, with their faux-traditional décor and charging you to grill your own meat.

We also find Swish NOT GUILTY of being easy to find- in person or online. Seriously, just put the name on the window. You’re not a 1920s speakeasy. And update your menu. It can’t be that difficult.

All considered, I declare this meal an 8.0/10. Yeahhhh, boiiii.

Swish by Han is located at 38 Wellington Street East in the St. Lawrence Market district. Dinner is served from Monday to Saturday, lunch from Monday to Friday. Closed on Sunday. No, they don’t do brunch. Not everyone has to, okay? Check out their new spot Oddseoul on Ossington. I haven’t been, so don’t ask me how it is, but if you want to invite me, that’s cool. Reservations are definitely recommended.

Swish by Han on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Case No. 2: Relish et. al. v Origin

This King East mainstay is the jewel in the crown of Chef Claudio Aprile’s Origin empire. While the food blogs were buzzing about the opening of his new spot, Origin North, I wasn’t willing to truck up to Bayview Village for a meal. When I’m in that neck of the woods, I only eat the finest that the North York IKEA has to offer: meatballs, that red sauce with the meatballs, a side of geflurben-dürben-whatever the fuck etc… So I decided instead to hit up the original location for Sunday brunch with my gals Cocoa Chanel and Vera Meringue. These fashionable women appreciate the finer things, so Origin seemed like a good fit. Plus it was close to work, in case I received that lucky phone call dragging me back to the office to tab 574 documents.

Origin ain’t your local greasy spoon. You won’t find chocolate chip pancakes or eggs over easy with a mound of bacon on the menu. Aprile is one of the city’s most well-known and revered chefs, and the cuisine and prices at this spot are a reflection of that. Nevertheless, as we sat down, I was a touch surprised at the atmosphere. It wasn’t quite the white-tablecloth vibe I’d expected. Chatty twenty-something girlfriends in leather jackets and scarves sat nearby; a Ralph Lauren-bedecked man in his 50s with his youngish wife and son trying out the spicy Spanish fries; two young male professionals, strolling in at 1 looking slightly weary from the night before, but still pulling off casual, chic weekend-wear. The crowd was decidedly young and fashionable. So the three of us fit right in *snap* *snap* *snap*

Cocoa and I had arrived before Vera, but we were able to be seated immediately due to a reservation made in advance. It wasn’t full, but I’d recommend making one just in case. This can be done online through OpenTable if you’re weird like me and don’t like talking to people on the phone. And yes, you heard me. We didn’t wait in line. When was the last time you went to brunch in this city and didn’t stand outside in the bitter cold for an hour to have someone overcharge you for eggs? We were seated near the front window at a decidedly modern glass table and presented with menus. I faced away from the window and looked directly upon the open kitchen. Sometimes an open kitchen can be obnoxious and gimmicky, but these chefs were well-behaved and low-key. No one needs to hear someone shouting about burning the fucking brioche at 11AM. This is brunch.

The décor was modern, with masculine and feminine influences colliding. Exposed brick juts up against a fuschia-painted accent wall, with some questionable art hung on both. The lighting is bright, but unnecessary in the day, as the bright front windows let in plenty of light. This is not a place to hide from the sun if you’re too hungover to bear exposure to UV rays.

We perused the menu, which was short, but diverse. Very few classic brunch dishes, but enough range for everyone to find something they’ll enjoy. However, the diversity is maybe a little too strange. Asian and Mexican inspired dishes seem odd when placed contrast to banana French toast or an egg white frittata, especially on a menu of its’ size.

Vera arrived and we ordered coffees and drinks. I opted for the blood orange juice as my only drink, being not a devotee of the holy coffee bean, and Vera was inspired to add one to her coffee order. The waitress delivered Vera her coffee and juice, leaving me without a beverage for 10 minutes while another was freshly squeezed. A minor service faux pas, but worth the wait when it came. It was extremely flavourful, the bright tang of the blood orange in all its glory, and the colour a rich, satisfying purple-red. It came in a tall glass that might at some dodgier place be reserved for Long Island Iced Tea, so I wasn’t spending $5 for something the size of a thimble (Like I have before. Many many times.)

Our dishes came after a wait. It was a bit longer than I would have liked, even for a leisurely brunch. Nevertheless, yet again, the wait was worth it.

I had opted for the Duck Confit French Toast. I told you this isn’t your usual joint. Sounds bizarre, doesn’t it? I don’t normally take duck before noon. Like drunken raving with underage suburban kids at Underground, it somehow seems more appropriate for the evening. But I had to try it, just like I had to try a drunk suburban kid at Under… ahem, never mind.

It was, first and foremost, a feast for the eyes. Easily the most attractive brunch plate I’ve seen in ages. Sandwiched in between two golden brown slices of rich, buttery French toast was a hearty portion of duck confit, falling apart with the touch of a fork tine, just like confit should. It was topped with a healthy dose of reddish-green leaves of some sort, with scallions tossed about, and drizzled with a blueberry sauce that was chock full of whole berries. That’s not all. A hearty dose of sour cream and hoisin sauce rounded out the flavours, and a crispy sprinkling of a sesame seed brittle completed the dish. Some divine and hellish creature created this dish. It was divine like a Botticelli angel or a Hugo Boss sample sale. Hellish, because it was going to make me drag my fat ass to Equinox at 6AM for the next week.
Oooh! Ahhhh!

But Mr. Aprile, my kudos to you. The dish was phenomenal. Rich and delicate, the flavours played on one another very well. It was at once dainty in presentation, yet was hearty and filling. I had the nerve to add some Sriracha sauce to the dish, on the recommendation of the waitress, which I must admit it benefitted from. The sweet, savoury and spicy combination drove me mad. It is here that the Asian-fusion inspiration of the restaurant truly came through, in the hoisin and sesame seed brittle, playing well with classically French flavours like brioche and duck confit. A triumph. I ate the whole thing.
Arty close-up for textural purposes

Cocoa ordered the same dish and was similarly lulled into a sweet, sweet confit coma. Vera opted for the Tostada Ranchero, one of the Mexican-inspired dishes, that offered avocado, black beans, salsa and bacon in its’ tostada, topped with a fried egg. She enjoyed it as well, but it was no match for the confit.
Brunch for one, with coffee, a main, juice and tip will come to between $25-$30. Not bad for a splurge brunch, but too pricey to become a weekly mainstay.

So, what’s the verdict?
Origin is found GUILTY of providing imperfect service and perhaps a disjointed, too varied menu.

We also find them GUILTY of providing excellent food, both in taste and presentation, a bright, airy dining room and well-behaved chefs. And we didn’t wait in line!

We find them NOT GUILTY of falling into the usual trap of other brunch establishments, with their teeny tiny juice glasses and “quantity over quality” style. That’s right, Denny’s, I’m talkin’ to you.

We also find them NOT GUILTY of having any taste in art. In my (sophisticated, well informed and lah-di-dah cultured) opinion.

These minor infractions aside, I declare this brunch, an 8.5/10.

Origin is located at 107 King Street East in the St. Lawrence Market district. Dinner is served from Monday to Sunday, lunch from Monday to Friday (for all you lucky expense account bastards) and brunch on Saturday and Sunday. They have two other locations, Origin Liberty in Liberty Village and Origin North in Bayview Village, so make sure you make a reservation at the right one, dumbass. Reservations are recommended.
Origin Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Case No. 1: Relish v Toronto

Good day to you all, and welcome to Food Court.

All rise for... me! (another "bitch I'm fabulous" moment) My name is Haighton Relish, C.J., your guide for this trip. Who am I? Where have I come from? Are you really the pretentious twat your name makes you sound like? Irrelevant. All you need to know is that I love food, I love wine, I love seeking out both things and I love you, dear reader. I don't want you to eat badly. Life is too short. We all enjoy a 3AM trip to Mickey D's once in a while (even you, juice cleanse enthusiasts, admit it), but such meals should be confined to drunken mistakes, like that night with the guy in your Torts class, imbued with well-deserved shame and regret.

So you want to eat well. That's good. You live in the right city. Toronto is a magnificent place to score a good meal. But it's big. Very big. There's a lot of options. Often called the most multicultural city in the world, it's no shock that the range of food options, from Afghan to Zimbabwean (the latter at least, I imagine. I've yet to try it) can be dizzying, frightening and intimidating. That's why I'm here.

But Haighton, eating well is expensive! Why shouldn't I just subsist on cup a soup and day old bread? True, some of the best restaurants in the city can be a bit hard on the wallet. But many of the best meals to be had in this city can be bought for less than what you spend on four Pumpkin Spice Lattes a week. (#psl #pumpkinspice #psl10 #whogivesafuck) I aim to present you with a range of options- the fancy and the divey, the high and the low. Food doesn't have to cost a lot to taste pretty damn amazing.

I will aim to present to you reviews on a regular basis, with an overall score out of 10, like a Pitchfork review without the musician-name dropping crap. Feedback will be provided about the decor, the vibe, the price, the service and the quality of the product. Then I will render my final verdict.

Oh God, Haighton, another food blog? How original. Slow clap. Hmm, a fair point perhaps. The chorus of voices out there singing the praises of the lobster roll are large and loud. Nevertheless, I feel as though I offer a distinctive voice on the scene. This is certainly a unique framework. And you don't have to read it, mmkay? But otherwise, hopefully reading this will be informative, fun, and will give you something to scroll on your iPhone while hiding out in the bathroom to dodge work.

I plan to provide you with some regular features; how to eat within your law firm's dinner budget, and corporate lunching are two I'm toying with. Maybe something Perez Hilton-y, like "Sushitastic" or "Taco Time"... I'm going to have to work on those names, those are pretty horrendous. I'm also open to the idea of guest contributors, and guest diners as well, because no one likes to eat alone. Your feedback along the way will be much appreciated. I aim to give the people what they want.

The city's wining and dining establishments are on trial, and the docket is full. Food Court is in session, and it ain't over til' the fat lady keels over from too much bacon.