Where: Average Joe’s (Kensington Market)
Foodie, EH contributors’ little Toronto reunion took us to one of Kensington Market’s popular dim sum destinations – Rol San. Right along the main Chinatown artery of Spadina Avenue, it looks like a small restaurant at the front. But like many Chinese restaurants stereotyped in movies where you walk to the back and find a secret mafia hide out that is more decorated and far larger, Rol San has exactly that. Except it is more dining space than a Chinese mafia hideout with a restaurant front.
They could certainly use the space too! We got there at about 11:00am and the front and back of the restaurant are already full, and a queue has formed by the double doors. Rol San known to have long wait times at all hours of the day, but not because they have slow service…don’t get me wrong, they are actually very fast, but because it is a popular spot for the local Chinese community and fans of good, reasonably-priced dim sum in downtown Toronto. We were lucky and waited only about half an hour to get a table.
We started ordering as soon as we sat down after a quick glance at the menu. We were here to satisfy our dim sum craving so we picked the usuals first (shiu mai, pork buns, etc.) then moved on to more fun ones (squid tentacles, deep fried taro, pan fried turnip cake, etc.) as the brunch progressed. We liked every single one and by our 18th or 20th dish (yes we can pack on dim sum like there is no tomorrow), we are ready for some sweets.
Overall, a good dim sum place. They offer it all day so you can sure check it out at any time. There had been reviews of them adding a few bucks to your oder to “round up” the amount and often written in Chinese. Our Cantonese-versed company didn’t alarm us of anything so I think we did okay; and I don’t think we did that bad. Between us, we spent only about $20 per person including tip and we ordered lots. But there is no harm in checking your bill always. I say, check out the place. The food is good and the service is fast. Just be prepared to wait to get a table. Patrons tends to stay longer. We sure did.
What: Mixed Beef Shawarma Dinner
Where: Shawarma Palace
I never realized that there is a huge Lebanese and Middle Eastern community in Windsor; possibly the largest I’ve seen in my travels across Canada. You want to know how large? If the shawarma establishments strategically placed like a Starbucks on every corner, and sometimes next to each other, is any indication…well, I don’t know what will. In fact, there are three shawarma restaurants not even within a block on Oullette Ave. and two even next to each other – literally! Which is also how we ended up on Shawarma Palace. We were under the impression that we were going to Shawarma King, which is on the same street but on the other side. When we realized and made mention of it within earshot of the owner, he asked us to stay and claimed his shawarma is the best in all of Windsor. He loaded our plates to the max to show his appreciation for staying and it was much appreciated. I can only compare it to another shawarma we had a few days before from a store I now can’t remember both name and taste, and I got to say, Shawarma Palace’s mix beef shawarma dinner satisfied both flavour and craving. The beef was really tender and moist. It wasn’t dry at all, which often is a result of it continuously getting grilled. It was well seasoned and was a perfect pairing to spoonfuls of rice that accompanied the dish. I didn’t even get to the salad as there was no room to be made for that with such a plentiful meal. Overall a good shawarma and would definitely go back again. I don’t know about the best in Windsor since I’ve only had two thus far, but they certainly delivered. And I guess if I had forgotten the other shawarma place, then it might as well be.
So when in Windsor, try a shawarma. They are all over the place!
What: House Special (P1)
Where: Phó Maxim
After a few weeks of Asian food cravings, finding Maxim Phó couldn’t have come at a better time. This unforgiving bitterly cold winter is starting to take its toll and what better way to thaw out than a good bowl of Phó. Located downtown on Pelissier Street, Phó Maxim has an extensive Vietnamese soup and full dinner menus for everyone. They even had bubble tea! (But we were here for the Phó and to warm up so we skipped the bubble tea.)
I had the House Special which is the basic beef broth and noodles with rare beef, flank, tendons, beef balls and tripe. I can’t really complain as it sure hit the spot. The noodles and soup was very filling and exactly what you’d expect in the dish. Overall a good Phó.
The service was quite fast too and they have a free pop special on Foursquare if you check-in so that’s a bonus.
I’d recommend Phó Maxim if you find yourself in downtown Windsor. You’d get an awesome meal for a small amount and you can trust the quality. Phó Maxim has an updated decor having just opened in November (2013) and a definite upgrade to the restaurants you’d get into on Oulette Avenue. One restaurant I ended up in had tables and chairs from the 70s and it looked like it hadn’t been cleaned since. So do check out Maxim Phó. You won’t be disappointed.
What: Shrimp Tempura, Salmon Skin Roll and Assorted Sashimi.
Affordability: $25+ per person
- Hikari came highly recommended by colleagues from Toronto who has travelled to Windsor on a regular basis with a disclaimer of “but it’s not the same as we’re used to”. I hate sounding like a typical Torontonian, but I can’t blame them for it. However, it did satisfy my craving and would recommend it for what it is more than the alternative in the area.
- The selection of fish is typical for a smaller city where consumption of something like raw fish does not rank up there in the local scene. You have your salmon, tuna, and shrimp, which will likely have a longer shelf life than more exotic ones. I’m not expecting blow fish, but there are others that can make any sushi dining experience an interesting one. I ordered the shrimp tempura since that’s staple and quite surprised to see it cooked I the proper rice flour batter and flash fried (I’ve seen my share of tempura sacrilege this past week that would put Captain Highliner on a pedestal). No complaints here as, again, it was properly executed. I also ordered the Salmon Skin roll as it is a favourite. Each restaurant makes it differently and I like the variations. This one was good too. A little too much on the flakes that wrapped the roll, but I didn’t mind. It was lightly rolled however so it got a little loose as you pick it up. But not too big of a complaint there. For the feast a resistance, I ordered the assorted sashimi, which if I recall, had 12 pieces of fish (3 or 4 of each). They were thickly sliced that the usual serving and clearly been frozen and thawed. The fish had an icy-gain texture and very limp. Fresh fish is often plump and your teeth cuts thru it like butter. The fish here did not. Given that tho, I didn’t suffer from any stomach upsets returning to my place that evening or the next day. So I’ll give Hikari half a thumb up for that.
- Overall, it’s okay. Like my colleagues said “it’s not what we are used to” and “take it for what it is”. I’ll go back to my comment earlier that in light of the alternatives in the area, you’d likely find me at Hikari again. FYI, Hakari closes between lunch and dinner hours. Call first before making your way there.
What: Double Primetime
Where: Simon’s Prime Hamburgers (Windsor location)
Cuisine: American/Fast Food
- Be prepared to walk off this burger from Simon’s Prime Burger in Windsor. Located downtown on Oulette between Park and University, the joint is known for their heart clogging burger concoction.
- I had the the Double Primetime hamburger, which consists of two beef patty, fried egg, lettuce, tomato, cheese, onion, classical sauce and fries. Yes. Fries. It became very challenging to eat, but not so much for its shear size, but because it just started falling apart. Eventually, I had to eat it with a fork coz there was no way to pick it up again with both hands. The bun was seriously soaked from the combination of meat juice, melted cheese, and the moisture within the buns themselves from the temperature. It had no chance of surviving any of that. Perhaps if they had used a superior bun than a grocery store bought kind, it may just survive.
- Overall, still a good eat, considering, and will likely go back to it again. The flavours work together and no other complaints but the one mentioned above. The fries were also delicious but I couldn’t eat most of it. I was too full from the burger. Next time, I’ll make sure I can use up the calories I rack up so I can also enjoy the fries!
What: Small Poutine with Italian Sausage
Where: Frenchy’s Poutinery
- Listened to the locals and checked out Frenchie’s Poutinerie. They’ve dubbed it as the best poutinerie in town. I don’t know about being the best poutinerie since I haven’t been to any other since arriving in Windsor but they serve a pretty mean Poutine.
- I had the small poutine with their gravy, cheese-curds and sausage for extra topping. They have a few choices including . They also have a vegetarian option, but I don’t know what cheese would be used. But I’ll give Frenchie’s Poutine a thumb up. A bit on the salty side but that could be due to the sausage. I still liked it tho and would recommend it.
- Try Frenchie’s if you happen to be downtown Windsor. It is slim pickings, food-wise on this strip so take it for what it is. It’s not gourmet, but it’ll do.