VIP Vietnamese Cuisine

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What: House Special and Deep Fried Tofu
Where: VIP Vietnamese Cuisine
Cuisine: Vietnamese
Affordability; $7+

Pointers:
- I admit there are lots of Phó choices in Markham, but VIP is kind of a regular spot for us. I used to work in the area and we’ve always called this place J6…J6 being one of our picks on the menu. It looks like, however that they changed it, so J6 is no more.

- I decided on the House Special since it’s 20 minutes before closing and I can’t make up mind. It’s the perfect Phó if you can’t decide. It has all your meat basics including tripe and tendon, noodles and beef broth. You can’t really go wrong with that. And VIP doesn’t disappoint either. Our Oder came really quick as usual, and flavourful. I didn’t even add hoisin sauce in mine. Quickly dug into it and gobbled up the Deep Fried Tofu, which is also a favourite.

- Overall, a good meal. Check it out when you’re in the area. They have lots of different soups and the old J6 is the curry. If it is back on the menu, get that!

- Thank you to the staff for not kicking us out even tho it was way past their open hours. Much appreciated.

Waterloo’s fine dining

Where: Bhima Warung
Cuisine: Indonesian
Affordability: $20 – $50

Pointers:
-  Although the outer exterior of the restaurant looks a bit like a run down shack, the interior is beautifully decorated and whisks your mind to somewhere exotic in Asia.

- The daily specials were oyster shooters which came with a shot of vodka infused with chilies. The oysters were small but fresh and paired nicely with the spicy vodka.

- We ordered the guay toew – fresh wide rice noodles pan fried with vegetables. The noodles were the perfect consistency and the dish was packed with so many different flavors that I didn’t even notice it was vegetarian. It was getting a bit too saucy at the bottom of the bowl was sitting in a pool of sauce, but the cherry tomatoes and pineapple chunks helped reduce the saltiness. We also ordered the khao soi – thin egg noodles fried in a chaingmai yellow curry. It was also very flavourful but was unexpected because other thai restaurants serve this as a soupy curry noodle dish.

- For drinks, we ordered Thai Iced Tea and mango lassi. Both were beautifully presented with slices of pineapple, orange and lemon, but the drink itself lacked specialty so it felt a bit overpriced.

- Definitely worth checking this place out, if you have the money to splurge, their main courses are pricey but each dish consists of at least 10 to 20 ingredients that all somehow work together. Overall, a great dining experience if you’re sick of the fast foods in the area!  They even wrap up your leftovers into a cute little swan :)

Burger Redemption

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What: Motor Burger Classic with Bacon
Where: Motor Burger (Windsor)
Cuisine: American/Burgers
Affordability: $7+ per item

After complaining about the disappointing food that make up the Windsor gastronomy, a colleague recommended I try Motor Burger. Let me start if by saying that was truly a redemption!

I had the Motor Burger with Bacon and fries. It was indeed tasty and perfectly grilled. The patty was juicy and flavourful. The bacon added the nice crisp balance to the burger. The fries is a must but be prepared to pay for it separately. Every item in this industrial-garage themed restaurant is sold separately. But it’s worth it! I would definitely recommend checking out Motor Burger.

Disappointing Throwback Thursday

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What: Bacon Cheddar Single
Where: Johnny Rockets at Caesars Casino Windsor
Cuisine: American
Affordability: $7+ per item

I decided to do a proper Throwback Thursday which included checking out the week-old Johnny Rockets that opened recently in Caesars Windsor Casino and Hotel. I’m not really sure it transported me back in time with it’s limited attempt to mimic a 50s diner complete with true rock and roll music from the era, but it sure transported me somewhere else; like to the nearest drug store for antacids.

I ordered the Bacon Cheddar Single, which consisted of a beef patty, lettuce, tomato, bacon and cheese for $7.00. For the side, I ordered the Half and Half, which was half fries and half onion rings for another $5, and a drink for another $2. So far I have spent $14 for less than mediocre meal. The burger patty I got in my burger was half the size of the bun, hence you can’t really see any meat exposed in the photo above. The burger fell apart upon getting picked up as the bun, probably sitting a while waiting to be picked up from the “serving window” was soaked in moisture both from the hot burger, toppings and condiments. As for taste, I’ve had better from the frozen aisle section at my local grocery store. It was a rather disappointing burger for $7, I must say.

The side I ordered was awful too. I asked the server if they had a soft opening before the grand opening to guess how old the oil used in frying the fries and onion rings. She said they’ve only been opened not even a week. I was shocked since my palate distinctly noted burnt cooking oil taste in the dish. And by the looks of the fries and onion rings, the oil they were cooked in must be brown by now. I can often finish up a good serving of fries and onion rings even after a full burger, but I couldn’t take one more piece of fry or ring.

Overall, it was a disappointing Throwback Thursday. It’s busy, but I think that’ll soon wear out. It’s just not worth the $15 for the meal. Legends inside the casino is a much better choice. It’s not what I remember from past Johnny Rockets down south.

Lorelei’s Bistro

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What: NY Striploin
Where: Lorelei’s Bistro (Windsor)
Cuisine: American/Canadian/Regional
Affordability: $20+

My bad food streak here in Windsor may be dying down after being introduced to Loralei’s Bistro in Walkerville. The freshly re-opened restaurant with a brand new chef, Chef Duncan Haslam, offers your typical extended American or Canadian regional menus including sandwiches, pastas, seafood and meats.

We had the calamari to start with the sweet wasabi and lemon dill remoulade. It was lightly breaded that added the crunch but it wasn’t gummy so it was enjoyable. We preferred the sweet wasabi over the lemon one. It had a hint of wasabi without getting hot with a tinge of sweetness that tied the flavours together.

Our mains came with a choice of side salad or soup. We went with the soup as it was clam chowder. Nothing exciting here. It tasted like it was straight from a can but with the salt toned down so it was runny instead of creamy as one would expect clam chowder to be.

For my main, I had the NY Striploin rare over mashed and some vegetables. The meat was nice and juicy as one would hope on a rare meat. My cut was also slightly marbled so it was tender and enjoyable. Not much complaint on this dish. It is actually filling even for someone with a big appetite myself. I partnered my meal with a nice red wine. I can’t remember the name of it now, but Lorelei’s had a small collection of whites and reds, which include local ones.

Would I recommend Lorelie’s? Sure. Like I said, they have an extended menu so there is bound to be something for everybody. And with the slim choices of decent restaurants and fine dining in Windsor, Lorelei’s Bistro is a safe bet.

The Sushi California

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What: Sashimi Dinner and Salmon Skin Roll
Where: The Sushi California (Windsor)
Cuisine: Japanese
Affordability: $20+

I was reluctant to try another Japanese restaurant in Windsor after the numerous disappointing ones in the last few weeks. But I am also determined to find good food in this city. Enter The Sushi California on University…and just in time.

It was a packed house on a Wednesday night and that’s a good sign for this city as most restaurants I’ve been to had been empty even on a Friday night. They had a fairly large menu of both authentic sounding Japanese dishes as well as fusion ones. They certainly have a large collection of fusion rolls that can satisfy anyone’s appetite. I ordered the Sashimi Dinner, which had 16 pieces of sashimi (with my choice of fish) with a rice bowl and miso soup. I also ordered the salmon skin roll for kicks. The other rolls just look too filling and by these two dishes I’ve already rang up close to $30 for dinner for one. But it was all worth it. The hot green tea was divine and had asked for more throughout my meal. The order took longer to come since there was only one server attending to a fair-sized sushi restaurant that was packed. But all is forgiven. The fish were fresh and the cuts were fairly thick. All the fish were firm, and both butter fish and octopus were sublime! The salmon skin roll was just the right and crispy to my liking. I would highly recommend it if you are easily overwhelmed by the others in the menu. I would recommend, however, that they at least offer a scoop of ice cream with the meal as a compliment. I would rank it high up there in the “likeness” factor if they did that. But if you have room for dessert and can spend a few more dollars, they offer frozen Mochi balls and ice cream including a tempura cream cheese. I’m just too stuffed at this point to have any more food.

Would I go back to California Sushi? Of course. It’s a little pricey but it’s definitely worth it. The others in the area are just bad, bad sushi!

Filipino Food in Windsor

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What: Crispy Pata (Deep Fried Pork Hock)
Where: Tropical Hut Philippine Cuisine
Cuisine: Filipino
Affordability: $15 per meal

A new Filipino restaurant opened in Windsor this month located downtown across from tunnel entrance to the US (the old Beer Store location). Armed with the hopes of surpassing the limited success of previous Filipino restaurants in the city, which has since closed, Tropical Hut offers a 5 table dining room and a small kitchen masked by trellis walls. The family run and owned restaurant is still finding it’s groove; they have just been opened a week, so definitely pack the patience as service tends to be slow. They offer a small menu of typical homemade inspired dishes you’d find at a Filipino home and in dishes that can be found in typical Filipino canteens in bustling cities and towns in the Philippines. They offer multiple Filipino breakfast favourite combos like “Tapsilog”, “Losilog”, “Tosilog”, which includes a protein choice (for example, “Lo” for ‘longanisa’ or sausage in English) with rice (“Si” for ‘sinangag’ or fried rice) and fried egg (“log”). They are offered all day and a common favourite among Filipinos.

I had the deep fried pork hock – a personal favourite next to deep fried pork belly. It is just pork hock deep fried to a crisp served with a vinegerette on the side for dipping; best enjoyed with a cold light beer. But I was here for lunch and I don’t think they had a beer license yet, so I had plain rice with mine. I enjoyed it immensely as the outside is fried to a crisp yet the inside is soft and juicy – perfection by my standards of pork hocks. The pieces were chopped well except the bone had been removed. It’s often served with the bone so you can tell how “fall off the bone” it truly is, but they chose not to serve it with it. It didn’t alter the taste, just the presentation.

Overall, a good meal and no complaints other than the slow pace of the service. Filipino food takes longer to make and you often have no opportunity to prep the ingredients. The goodness of the food is often from its freshness so it is hard to gauge how early you can prep the ingredients. I hope they do get their groove soon as it seems to a be an okay spot for the locals. There are some parking spaces available but it is shared with the other establishments in that corner. They need to improve on receiving the customers, hosting them to the table and taking the orders fast. The wait to put in the order adds to the wait of getting the food, which may be seen as bad service. But do check it out. There’s not that many food choices in Windsor that offers good food – taste or otherwise. Tropical Hut can be your food adventure when you tire of fast food joints.