Tag Archives: restaurant

Torafuku & AnnaLenna

Happy September! During our hiatus, I went back to Vancouver and tried two new hot spots in the city.

Torafuku
After seeing all the drool-worthy photos on Instagram, my foodie friend and I ventured to the new Asian fusion restaurant, Torafuku (Japanese for “Lucky Tiger”) on Main Street near Vancouver’s Chinatown. It’s been one of the latest hot spots to go to and we had been waiting for weeks to try their food. Their packed establishment, while new, may be attributed to the fandom of Le Tigre, the popular food truck company run by Torafuku’s co-owner.IMG_2685Since they don’t take reservations, which is becoming more common in downtown hotspots, we arrived at the restaurant closer to 6:30 pm and took our chances. Luckily, we were greeted immediately upon entering and escorted to the last table for two in the back corner. Seating is rather limited with larger, sharing-type tables, a few tables for two and four. I would suggest going there even before 6:30 pm to secure a spot for you and your dining guests.

Once you enter the restaurant, you’ll notice the simple, yet tidy decor speaks to the more relaxed dining environment. The open-kitchen attached to the bar made the environment lively, where patrons could easily interact with the chefs busy at work. I also noticed a popular Vancouver food blogger was also seated close by 🙂

The service was very attentive and one of the better ones that I’ve received in Vancouver. Our waitress came to check on us at least three times during our meal. She gave us some good recommendations, even though we sort of had an idea about which dishes we would order already from previous patrons. Most importantly, we didn’t feel rushed at all, despite there being a line-up on our way out.

My favourite dishes among the four that we ordered were the Kickass Rice 2.0 and the Rye So Messy – partly because of their awesome names but they were two solid dishes. The portions of both dishes were adequate as sharing plates for two.IMG_2686My friend and I were very excited to try the popular Kickass Rice 2.0 dish and to say the least, it did not disappoint! Each bite of the pork belly aburi had a burst of spicy, savoury, and sour flavours, but was not too overpowering.

I’m a huge fan of Southern-style Fried Chicken…it really is my ULTIMATE comfort food! Unfortunately the fried chicken skin served here wasn’t crispy enough, which would have made the dish a 9 out of 10. The sesame seeds and ramen crumbs however gave it some crunch and was a nice twist on the classic fried chicken dish.IMG_2690I love the name of this dish too, “This is not Tortellini”, which consists of pork dumplings with shiso, ginger, garlic and scallion. I would have to say this tasted like the typical potsticker, but I really enjoyed the sweetened beet puree and steamed vegetables.IMG_2692The last dish we ordered was the calamari salad. The calamari was deep-fried well – chewy on the inside and a little bit crispy on the outside. Topped with a sweet chilli dressing, the calamari was also balanced well with onions, tomatoes, and fresh arugula. Though I enjoyed the calamari texture, I thought it was underseasoned and the sweetness of the lychee did not match well with the savoury and tangy flavours of the calamari and squid. Perhaps this one was my least favourite dish; I would have liked it more if the lychees were replaced with another fruit that was mildly sweet, such as sliced apples.IMG_2699On average, the prices were roughly $10-12 per dish. For the portion size of these sharing plates, those with bigger appetites may leave craving for more. We actually headed to Rain or Shine Ice Cream afterwards! Though it wasn’t exactly bang for your buck, the friendly service and creatively executed dishes might entice you to come back. I’m excited to see what they will be adding to their menu in the near future!

AnnaLennaIMG_2712My family and I went to the upscale AnnaLenna Restaurant in Kitsilano for a special occasion. We were very excited to try this restaurant since it’s been voted #1 in Vancouver! The decor was a little bit mismatched yet quirky, with pieces of lego and vintage gameboys on the shelf as you enter the doorway. The black booths where we were seated provided a more classic and contemporary feel and were very comfortable. I loved the natural lighting from the open patio and the nice summer breeze.IMG_2708Serving primarily Canadian West Coast cuisine, AnnaLenna offers a very limited selection of 15 dishes on their menu. The waitress explained to us that all of the menu items were intended to be sharing-type dishes, recommending 2 dishes per person; however, we thought 8 dishes in total would be a little much for the four of us.  One of my favourite dishes was the heirloom tomato salad. I’m not a big fan of cheese, however, the soft burrata cheese complemented the texture of the tomato and the crispiness of the house cured bacon. This is the perfect summer dish that I will be definitely ordering again in the future! IMG_2720There were not many vegetable options, so we ordered the kale salad. After discussing with my guests, we felt that the ginger tahini dressing was a bit too creamy and the salad was overseasoned with salt, making it a heartier appetizer. I really enjoyed the fried cauliflower because it provided a sweet caramelized flavour to balance off the saltiness. I appreciated the different elements that were involved in creating this dish, for example, the potato chips topping the salad were a nice surprise providing desirable crunch and texture.IMG_2721Since I’m allergic to a lot of different types of shellfish, fish is one of the staples I can eat safely without getting a bad reaction. One of my favourite types of seafood is salmon, which the wild trout that we ordered tasted very similar to. The crust on the trout was perfectly seared (not one bit burnt) for that extra crunch. We also ordered another seafood dish which was the scallops. The puffed rice cereal was an interesting accompaniment on the dish and provided some nice texture overall. However, the seared scallops, though cooked well, missed its mark with its seasoning and was underwhelming in flavour. While both dishes were beautifully presented, our expectations were not met with the smaller portion sizes and value of the dishes.IMG_2724 IMG_2727Two other honourable mentions belong to the tamari-marinated grilled pork belly and the wagyu beef short ribs – the highlights of the night! Pork belly is usually a fattier and heavier Chinese dish but the pairing of oat porridge and cooked beets made the dish less decadent and rich. The caramelized flavours of the pork belly provided a sweet flavour that matched well with the umami flavours of the meat. Similarly, the wagyu short rib was another stand-out dish which was extremely tender and cooked perfectly medium rare. The peppercorn jus also didn’t overwhelm the natural flavour of the beef and its melt-in-your-mouth texture will leave you wanting more!IMG_2730IMG_2736Unfortunately, we passed on the dessert of either grapefruit semifreddo or chocolate custard because we already bought a cake to eat at home. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this special dining experience at AnnaLenna, especially the choice of dishes offered. Despite having a more limited menu, most of the dishes were high-quality and signature dishes. I really look forward to trying their brunch menu and desserts one day.

-Matchachoco

Mandalay Restaurant: An Intimate Dining Experience

In January, we were graciously invited by our good friend to dine at Mandalay Restaurant, which is located in East Scarborough, Toronto. We actually wanted to visit last year, however, due to school and my trip back home to Vancouver, we were unable to find a suitable time until the new year.

IMG_3929

Mandalay Restaurant is a fine dining establishment serving a fusion of Western and South Asian cuisine, in the Toronto suburbs of East Scarborough. The restaurant is tucked away like a hidden gem in a small shopping strip. I’m not aware of too many fine dining restaurants in the outskirts of Downtown Toronto, so I was pleasantly surprised to learn about this restaurant! Overall, the entree dishes on the menu are something you would expect to see more in downtown.

The intimate setting is probably the greatest appeal to the restaurant and is a very convenient place to eat for suburbians who are seeking that quality dining experience near home. Though it is more suitable for special occasions, I wouldn’t think twice about going for lunch or dinner on non-occasion nights either. The entrees are moderately priced and are more affordable than other fine dining restaurants in the downtown core. The ambiance was very relaxed with a rather romantic feel, (a great place to have a date!).

IMG_3901

The variety of food offered is quite amazing for a smaller, independent restaurant. While perusing the menu, I was very impressed to see that they offer bison and kangaroo on a regular basis. Overall, they have a lot of variation for both those who prefer a lighter meal and those who want to indulge a little bit more!

IMG_3896

I’m not sure whether it was because we kept taking pictures, but the calamari was a bit cold and soggy by the time we ate it. Alternatively, we really enjoyed the Warm Spinach Salad, with honey dijon dressing, mushrooms and bacon bits, one of the more popular appetizers we learned. I love the idea of warm salad, especially on a cold winter day!

IMG_3964

The appetizer-sized naan pizza with sautéed mushrooms, tomato and goat cheese was also another excellent recommendation. I really enjoyed this fusion dish and all the savoury caramelized flavours of the vegetables balanced well with each other. The amount of goat cheese was not overpowering and gave the dish that extra satisfying richness.

IMG_3957IMG_3971

We were spoiled by the assortment of appetizers, so by the time the entrées came, I was nearly full! But you know what they say, when in Rome…

Ricelessasian ordered the Stuffed Chicken, a generous piece of chicken breast filled with an assortment of mushrooms, spinach and goat cheese. The dish was also accompanied with grilled vegetables and pineapple. The chicken was drier than we would have preferred, but the roasted vegetables were cooked perfectly, nicely tender and packed with a pleasant caramelized flavour.

IMG_3988

I had a craving for some steak so I ordered the 10 oz. New York Striploin (AAA quality) with mushroom gravy, roasted potatoes and grilled mixed vegetables. The steak was cooked perfectly medium rare and was juicy and tender. I really enjoyed the mushroom glaze, which I felt complemented the meaty flavour of the striploin very well. The portions were very large in general and we thought it was amazing value for the price.

IMG_3989

Needless to say, by the time dessert came, we were very full. If you know me or Ricelessasian, we have major sweet tooths! We don’t necessarily like very sweet pastries, but we both appreciate a good dessert to end a meal.

IMG_3999

Coincidentally (or not), we both picked the same dessert to order – which was the Raspberry Mousse Cake. I noticed that their desserts are not currently featured on their website menu, possibly because the dessert menu changes from time to time. The mousse cake was very pretty and the slice was a very generous portion compared to other places I have eaten at. I really enjoyed the mousse part – maybe more so than the chocolate cake layer. We also had a sample of the Grand Marnier Cheesecake which had a refreshing orangey flavour to it. The liquer was quite subtle and the graham cracker crust wasn’t too sweet. Overall, we both enjoyed this cheesecake, and we regretted not ordering this initially! Haha.

IMG_4011IMG_4014

The service was very attentive and we didn’t feel rushed throughout our entire meal. The restaurant also has an impressive wine collection, which we hope to try on our next visit.

The food quality and attractive plating speaks for itself and I would highly recommend it to any friends or family who are in the area!

Rating:

Food: 4/5
Service: 4.5/5
Value: 4.5/5
Ambiance: 3.5/5

Mandalay Restaurant
3478 Lawrence Ave E C3
Toronto, ON M1H 3E5
(416) 438-7949

*Disclaimer: Our meal at Mandalay Restaurant was comped. However, all of our opinions regarding the food and dining experience are our own.