Lesson learned: Don’t order chicken waffles for brunch at French bistro

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What: Chicken Waffles and Frittata
Where: Tableau Bistro
Cuisine: French/Brunch
Affordability: $15-20 per dish

Pointers:

– We’ve been to Tableau for lunch before and their proper French food is really quite good. But when it comes to brunch…its another story unfortunately. Maybe its my fault for ordering the least French dish on the menu  but I mean, with so few items to choose from, they should all be equally good right?

– We ordered the Chicken Waffles, probably the most bland brunch dish I’ve had in a really long time. The waffles so thin and way too crispy that they were pretty much flattened waffle cookies and oh so dry. The deep fried chicken breast batter wasn’t too thick, giving us hope that the inside would be potentially good. But sadly, we were disappointed to get dry and bland fried chicken, the worst combination possible. The only thing that saved this dish was maple syrup and some bland gravy.

– Remember when I first tried frittatas for the first time? So I ordered Tableau’s Egg white Frittata of the day, I figured I would have something to compare to this time. Well… this one was alright, better than the Chicken Waffles, but not as good as the one at The Flying Pig. There was a combination of steak, cheddar cheese, peppers and onions inside, but after eating half the frittata, it wasn’t that good anymore. Compared to the frittata from Flying Pig, Tableau’s frittata was lacking a crispy bottom, probably the key reason why I had liked it so much before.

– All in all, not the best place for brunch, though I would still recommend the place for it’s proper French food and good service :)

Tableau Bar Bistro on Urbanspoon

Ask for Luigi

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What: Waffles with apples, hazelnuts and tiramisu crema
Where: Ask for Luigi
Cuisine: Italian/Brunch
Affordability: $15-20 per dish

Ask for Luigi is a super tiny restaurant, situated on the outskirts of Gastown, in a bit of a sketchy area (at least to me) called Railtown. When I first attempted to come here for dinner without reservations, the wait was 2 hours. So instead, I decided to come for brunch and arrived at 9:00am sharp. There was no line :) When you open the door and step inside, it feels almost as if you’re entering someone’s house, and there are only enough tables and seats to accommodate 25-30 people probably…no wonder the wait was so long for dinner!

We ordered the waffles which were crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, paired well with the hazelnuts and poached apples that brought different textures to the dish. The tiramisu crema tasted like a light and airy whipped cream and was so good I had to put a bit on every bite of my waffle. We also ordered the two poached eggs with ricotta stuffed eggplant and tomato sauce. Though I personally think it’s a bit heavy as a brunch dish, it served as a sneak peek towards the Italian flavours of the restaurant, and dang that tomato sauce was good! Who wants to try out the pasta with me next time?!  To complete the full brunch experience, we decided to get mimosas, yes day drinking is the best, especially at 9am. Though it was freshly squeezed OJ, it was quiet pricey ($8) and served in a really small glass! Oh well, the waffles were worth it!

This Piggy Went to Kinton Ramen

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What: Pork Ramen
Where: Kinton Ramen on Queen Street West
Cuisine: Japanese
Affordability: $12-$15 per bowl

We decided to check out Kinton Ramen’s (sort of) new location on Queen Street (and Spadina). The location on Queen Street is particularly busy for dinner and by the time we got our orders, a line has formed all the way outside. Set up like a community dining room often found in tragically hipster grubs with long tables, be prepared to sit and dine with strangers on the same table. But what’s the harm? We are all here for the love of Ramen so at least there’s that, that can spark a conversation if you choose to. Fortunately, there’s enough of us in our group where we can keep the conversation to ourselves.

The menu is pretty simple and straight forward. It’s actually written in steps from selecting what broth you want to the toppings you want. Interestingly, as pork eaters, we all picked the pork broth with pork belly (I had extra pork belly on mine), egg noodles (recommended for the pork broth), a few toppings including sheets of sea weed and a hard boiled egg. The other option was chicken meat and chicken broth, but we’re here for the pork.

It came fairly fast that it actually arrived before our app. We also ordered Karage (deep fried chicken), which we enjoyed well. It was crispy on the outside and moist on the inside. We just love Karage, so no complaints there. However, I found the ramen a little bland while the others found it salty and the noodles a little too “al dente” for this kind of soup. We think of it sat in the broth a little longer, it would have been better. Perhaps we should have waited for our soups to cool down, but then what’s the point of having hot soup on a winter’s night? The pork belly was cooked well and we really enjoyed that.

Overall, a good treat during the cold winter months but I fear Kinton Ramen has become a little more commercial that the once flavourful ramen I remember is long gone. I get it. The turn over of tables are fast, but let’s not skimp on flavours. Will I visit Kimton again? Sure. But it’ll have to be on rotation with the other ramen houses in T.O.

Where are the Stars?

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What: Deep Fried Squid Tentacles, Deep Fried Spicy Tofu, Supreme Congee
Where: Congee Star (Don Mills & Eglinton)
Cuisine: Asian
Affordability: $10+ per dish

These often freezing dark winter days can only be soothed by a filling hot soup. Craving for congee and tempted to try Congee Star at Don Mills and Eglinton, there was no time like a typical cold evening in the middle January to try it out.

We ordered the deep fried squid tentacles and the deep fried spicy tofu to start. The squid arrived first. We were hoping it will not be as breaded like a battered fish filet but that was the least of our worries. Lacking adjectives to describe it, the only thing that comes to mind was “meh”. It had absolutely no flavour. Other than the flavour of the oil it was cooked in and everything that was cooked in the oil before it, it has absolutely no flavour. To wake it up, we created a salt and pepper mix to coat it with while consuming. Equally disappointing was the deep fried tofu. If you actually don’t bite into the pepper that was sprinkled with, this dish was quite bland also. This one required a soy sauce intervention to wake up. If you want a tasty deep fried tofu, go next door to Phó 88. Theirs is 100 times better.

As for the congee, if you’ve had authentic Congee in Asia, you may find this close…in that it too is bland. But congee is meant to be bland. It is just boiled rice after all with whatever you want to add to it to kick up the flavour. When I was traveling in China, I remember having it for breakfast every day. I would add salted egg or century egg, mushroom, boiled chicken and so on. It’s generally bland until you add the salted egg or century egg, or if you are not into that, soy sauce. So Congee Star’s congee, I have to say, met that criteria. I find sometimes that other congee places in Toronto offer a saltier version caused by overuse of MSG (Congee Queen I’m looking at you!). So we couldn’t really complain about the congee itself at Congee Star. And for $5.99 or so for the regular bowl, it can actually serve 2 people just fine.

Will we go back to Congee Star? Probably not. There are other congee restaurants in Toronto that offers a wider, tastier selection of congee and alternate menus. Chances are, if we are in the area and craving soup, Phó 88 is next door to cater to our cravings.

Greasy Hipster

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What: Brunch Special
Where: Le Gros Jambon (Downtown Montreal)
Cuisine: American
Affordability: $10+

It feels like you are in a time warp upon entering the small diner with almost only ice cream bar sitting type seating with music posters from time gone by decorate the walls.

The food isn’t that special or any different from your average greasy spoon and nothing really stand out as wow or awesome. I can’t actually remember why we decided to go here other than its the closest one we can find in the area. Actually, if you notice in the picture above, there are two round burnt things. One of them was sausage, and the other potato. So you decide if you want to try this place out. Maybe for the nostalgia, but there are other greasy spoons in the area that I’m sure serves a better breakfast for a fraction of the price. Just saying.

Will we go back? Probably not.