RAVI SOUPS: Much better than it sounds

647-435-8365    |    $7.99 -$10.99 Soups and Wraps

 

Been giving a lot of three-star ratings recently, which is a credit to a lot of the food in this city. Who knew an awesome soup and wrap place was literally beside Khao San Road? It doesn’t have a ton of curb appeal as you’re walking by, but you’re missing out if you’ve never walked in. Wasn’t going to review it at first, but then realized it was necessary.


Photo credit: MellyMadeIt.com

Food

The menu has essentially 10 things on it, which is all you’re going to want when deciding. They all sound quite good at first glance, and since you’ve got to order at the door, it’s a good size. The menu has two sections, six soups, four wraps and some specials too. 

After scanning the soup list and wrap list, it was clear I was getting a combo for $10.99 - such a deal. I went for the corn chowder with blue crab and basil coupled with the roasted pork shoulder wrap packed with baby spinach, slaw, edamame, and a nice tamarind ketchup (below).


Photo credit: Casey Cunningham, blogTO

The soup was very balanced, which is what I always look for in soup. Basil flavour compliments the starchy corn and the blue crab adds texture + a nice seafood flavour to the bowl. The grilled wrap was a surprise with flavourful pieces of spiced pork (not ultra-tender, but good) and a lot of vegetable content. This place is more than soups for sure.

Everyone else around the table also enjoyed their pairings. We sampled the porcini wild rice bisque and both the oven-roasted chicken and curried beef wraps. Those are also great choices if they tickle your fancy.

Service and Ambience

The whole process is in a fast-food style, and there isn’t a big space for ordering at the start, so at lunch it gets packed with folks trying to get their order to one person at the cash. That said, it goes pretty quickly and they’ll bring your order to you in the seating area, which is helpful to clear out traffic from the front.


Photo credit: Casey Cunningham, blogTO

In the winter - when soup is king - the patio is closed, but it looks great in pictures so I’m definitely coming back in the summer (and a few times more before in anticipation). On a completely unrelated note, everything that comes out of the kitchen sits on lazy susans, which is just plain cool. All weren’t exactly balanced so your food may move on it’s own. 

The Reco?

I usually don’t love ‘soup places’ but this one works. I’d eat everything on the menu, it’s elevated comfort food, and it’s really good value. I’ll be coming back frequently for lunch and would recommend you do the same. Enjoy.

Other reviews:
 blogTO |     Foodhogger   |  NOW Magazine

 Posted by: Jacob, Visited Dec 2, 2011

RaviSoups on Urbanspoon

KHAO SAN ROAD: New favourite Thai

647-352-5773    |    $12-16 entrees

 

I think this an argument (like best pizza in Toronto) that no one really agrees on. I quite enjoyed Salad King, but I’ve been told to come here on more than one occasion. Even the website header proclaims its “the best thai food” in the city. Let’s say I wouldn’t bet against it.

Food

The menu is surprisingly concise, offering a handful of choices in starters, curries, noodles, and specials. My one complaint about mediocre Thai food is I find too many dishes occupy the same flavour profile, which makes a small menu a little risky. Thankfully, this was far from mediocre.

I tasted a lot so I’ll try to be concise.

We started with the summer rolls with chicken sausage and the squash fritters in red curry paste, shrimp paste and lemongrass. First, the garlicky chicken elevated the usual raw vegetable blandness a bit, but I think the rolls could have used even more of that garlic flavour. I have no complaints about the fritters…because they are addictive. The squash is flavourful, perfectly fried. The breading adds a little depth to the squash and you end up wondering if you should get a second order when you’ve cleaned the plate of all the little crispy bits (the answer is yes by the way).

We sampled four mains. Here they are from OK to woah:

- Pad Thai: Should the most well-known be the measuring stick? I don’t think so. We found it to be a little one-note, a tangy-sweetness was the only thing we really got out of this. Good, but not best.

- Gaeng Kaew Wan or Green Curry w/chicken: We ordered this pretty spicy and it delivered. Much brighter flavour than the other orders and very pointed heat that doesn’t creep up on you at all. It was more soupy than others I’ve had, which was good for putting it over rice, got right in there.

- Gaeng Massaman w/chicken: This curry had such a wonderful combination of deep roasted peanut and stewed onion flavour. I haven’t had anything like that before in a curry. I wouldn’t say its like peanut sauce though, it’s heartier than that. In any case, rounded out with tender potatoes and tamarind sauce, this was a winner.

- Khao Soi (above, after a bunch of bites): This is one of those woah-inducing first bites. You feel a responsibility to let everyone know it’s delicious. Rich, spicey coconut enriched curry sauce, tasty egg noodles and melt in your mouth braised beef made this a favourite around the table. I think it could have used a lighter hand with the sauce though as the noodles swim in it once you get halfway through the dish and the richness gets to be a bit much.

Also had their chai nom yen, a traditional iced tea with condensed milk, crushed ice and Thai spices. If you’ve ever had horchata in Spain (a cold drink made with nuts, with a milky, slightly sweet taste), it’s reminiscent of it, but with chai flavour instead of the nuttiness. Liked it.

Service and Ambience

We were here on halloween so the place was decorated as such with servers in full costume. I’m not sure what our server was, but it didn’t matter. Checked back frequently, offered recommendations, easy going, and a nice guy. I liked the decor, was down to earth, little rustic, but tweaked with more modern touches. I thought the place would seat more people but it’s small. Explains the lines I’ve heard about.

Now if you want to avoid lines, you can always call for takeout which also seems popular; there was a pretty steady stream of pick-up orders running through the restaurant all night.

The Reco?

On the merit of great food I ate, I’d tell you to go here soon. I’m certain the rest of the menu holds more treasures, and it offers some serious value. Is it the best Thai in TO to me? So far.

Other reviews:
National Post|   Globe and Mail    |    dine.TO

 Posted by: Jacob, Visited Oct 31st, 2011

Khao San Road on Urbanspoon

YUZU: More than an upscale sushi spot

416-205-9808    |    $10-25 entrees

 

Walked by Yuzu a few times at Adelaide and Duncan (just beside Crocodile Rock). Was a little concerned it might be one of those pseudo-upscale sushi places with disappointing food, but luckily gave it a shot for lunch.

Food

Wasn’t entirely in the mood for sushi/maki and was freezing my ass off coming in from the rain. Also found the lunch specials a little pricey and opted for a bowl of Nabeyaki Udon. I didn’t know what Nabeyaki meant.

The dish is described as a noodle soup with ‘shrimp tempura, egg, and vegetables served in hot pot’. I’ll say now that it was woefully under-described. So now I’ll over-describe its contents to compensate.

Came with mussels, flavourful pieces of whitefish, a few scallops, Japanese mushrooms, tofu, nori, tender leeks and cucumber slides, a perfect over easy egg and a large piece of tasty tempura shrimp on top. All these elements created a captivating broth that smelled and tasted wonderful. Accompanied by thick, hearty square-cut udon, this soup hit the spot on so many levels.

My friend had the tempura udon with more battered shrimp and vegetables to accompany the soup and said that both the crunchy sides and broth were delicious.

We finished with sake cheesecake (how do you say no to this?). The sake taste is very subtle, but the impressive part of the cake is its lightness. It’s almost a panna cotta texture without the jell-o/rubbery mouth feel. Really clean and simple dessert with fresh berries.

Service and Ambience

Nothing of too much note with the service. Fast enough, no mistakes, good tea refills.


Photo Credit: Toronto Life

The room looked great with hundreds of backlit sake bottles around that add character to the place. A lot of exposed break and well-positioned lighting probably makes this a good looking spot when the sun goes down as well.

The Reco?

I can’t comment on the actual rolls (other reviews have and loved them), but if the chefs apply the same care as they did with my dishes, I’d absolutely recommend Yuzu as an excellent choice for Japanese downtown.

Other reviews:
Sushi Toronto    |   Toronto Life  |    dine.TO

 Posted by: Jacob, Visited Oct 26, 2011

Yuzu Sushi and Sake Bar on Urbanspoon

STARFISH: Occupy Starfish

416-366-7827     |     $19-35 entrees, $2.75-$3.95/oyster a la carte

Been following owner Patrick McMurray (@shuckerpaddy) on twitter for a few weeks and decided to drop in for dinner despite the renegade occupation across the street in St. James Park.

Food

Loved the look of the concise menu coupled with the array of oyster selections across the top. It’s gourmet, eclectic, and filled with food from the sea.

We started with a selection of oysters (how could we not) from New Zealand, UK, and Martha’s Vineyard. I’m an admitted oyster newbie, but I use the following rule: if it tastes like the sea, it’s a good one. The winner was the super fresh and meaty NZ option, followed closely by the sweeter oyster from MV. We both found the UK one a little too salty and didn’t enjoy the after taste as much as the others.

Next up was the smoked haddock fishcakes, a house specialty for good reason. Light, crispy, and satisfying for sure. Well portioned creme fraiche, pumpernickel crumbs, sweet and sour beets and radish sides balanced each bite between sweet/bitter, crunchy/fluffy, and warm/cold.

My friend ordered the Irish mussels dish without the creme and enjoyed it very much. The broth was simple but flavourful, almost reminiscent of an Asian seafood soup (could have been what looked like green onion or chive). She was also able to substitute fries for a side of greens for no charge.

My main was my favourite of the night. Beautifully done speckled trout over potatoes, chorizo, cherry tomatoes, black kale, and a saffron paprika sauce. Reminded me of food in Spain. Seasoning felt right and the sauce brought the dish together without upstaging the fish.

We ended the night on sour cream and ginger ice cream over an almond financier (a little sponge cake) alongside sweet cubed pear. The sour cream came through and helped bring out some of the pear’s tartness. Almond flavour was present and worked well in the dish. I was looking for more pronounced ginger to add some spice to round out the plate, but couldn’t find it. A good dessert all the same.

Service and Ambience

We were remarking that we didn’t feel downtown once inside, almost transported to a seaside town. Felt right at home and welcomed by the pub-like atmosphere. The big oyster bar is also a very cool addition to the room.

Our server was friendly, a bit of a joker (we liked that) and was quick to recommend something whenever we were debating between two or three dishes. We didn’t feel rushed and really enjoyed our time.

The Reco?

Simply put: go to Starfish for great upscale seafood in the heart of downtown. It’s unpretentious, comfortable, and really delicious.

Other reviews:
Toronto Life     |    Well Preserved

Posted by: Jacob, Visited Oct 19, 2011

Starfish on Urbanspoon