TUTTI MATTI: Elevated, not entirely successful

416-597-8839    |    $21-23 primi, $24-30 secondi

 

Guess I’m on a bit of Italian streak recently, but seeing as there’s so many in this city can you really blame me. Was looking for somewhere in the entertainment district, that wasn’t sitting on King across from Lightbox, and wasn’t doing Winterlicious. Tutti’s just one block up on Adelaide near Spadina, so that fit the bill for me and a couple friends on a Friday night.


Photo Credit: blogTO

Food

I wouldn’t call the menu here classic Italian, as there are some less traditional additions to some of the menu, but the Tuscan theme is still apparent. There’s a healthy selection of apps, salads and mains, so there should be something for everyone on the menu. And if you want black truffles, you’ll find them all over the menu in various dishes.

We started with the porchetta on crostini with caramelized onions, tuna sauce, and arugula (above). Coming in three large crostini, this is great for sharing between three people. I liked the dish, the pork was the major flavour – as you’d hope – but the tuna sauce I found too subtle. I ordered it for the seafood-pork combo, but I couldn’t have picked it out without knowing it was there. In any case, a delicious starter all the same.

For the mains, we ordered two pastas and a stuffed rabbit leg dish. One was a pappardelle (above), the other maltagliata. The pappardelle with braised beef brisket, cherry tomatoes and fresh basil was great. Found the beef to be tender and generously portioned (think a really beefy ragu) and the noodles to be a nice al dente.

The maltagliata (above) included stewed veal shank with porcini, a gremolata, and bone marrow. Perfect pasta and great protein were again present here, although bone marrow was difficult to pick out and overall the dish may have been a bit salty (this is admittedly a very subjective point).

The stuffed rabbit leg disappointed me a bit. I was expecting the leg meat to be more tender, but found it to be a little dense and rubbery. It wasn’t chewy per se, but my butter knife had difficulty performing with the protein resting on the bed of well-prepared cannollini beans, cipollini onions and parsnips. The leg was also wrapped in prosciutto and stuffed with a half sweet, half savoury mix that I couldn’t quite pick out. 

For dessert, I went simple and ordered the tiramisu.  I liked the crispy lady finger on top that added some texture, but generally I was disappointed here too. Flavour-wise I liked it, although I prefer my tiramisu with bolder coffee taste. I also thought it was quite heavy for a dish that I consider best when it achieves both lightness and moist. Couldn’t finish it after the larger portions (not complaining) from previous courses.

Service and Ambience

Inside, the place is actually quite a bit larger than it looks on first approach. The space is pretty cozy despite the size due to the rounded tavern-like ceiling. There’s a nice bar on the left when you walk in as well.


Photo Credit: Food Network Canada

From a service perspective, everything came out quickly on a reasonably busy night, so thumbs up there. Our main server was polite and attentive, but I don’t think I’d say friendly or inviting. 

The Reco?

Hard to say. I was only slightly underwhelmed by 2/3 of my dishes, so I can’t say it’s awesome, but I also don’t want to be too critical. The rest of the menu looks promising, the portion sizes justify the price, and my friends enjoyed their food for the most part. I’d probably stop in again if I were in the neighbourhood. 

Other reviews:
Toronto Life   

 Posted by: Jacob, Visited Jan 27, 2012

Tutti Matti 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

HUSH: Three strikes and you’re out

416-979-9799    |    $13-27 entrees

  

We know, don’t eat across from Lightbox. Kind of an unwritten foodie rule. But just in case you wanted to test the theory, here’s some proof in a mini review.

This place looked serviceable at first glance with a Moxies-ish atmosphere and menu. We were initially intrigued by the prime rib only to find that they had run out: strike 1.

As a result we settled on some chicken parms and a focaccia club. The dishes looked like they’d have a little promise and the fries even came in a mini deep fryer basket - nice touch. All in all though the food looked better than it tasted. The portion sizes were a little too small so we came and left hungry, and the consensus around the table was that everything was bland. Can’t have super high hopes for chicken parm and a club sandwich, but no flavour is no flavour : strike 2.

And to top it all off, the toilet paper in the washrooms had run out (much like the prime rib) as 2 of the 3 stalls had none at all: strike 3.

Other reviews:
Couldn’t find any others. 

 Posted by: Kimba, Visited Oct 22, 2011

HUSH Restaurant, Bar & Patio on Urbanspoon

LUMA: Really wanted to like it more





647-288-4715    |    $9-26 lunch entrees,  $15-36 dinner entrees

Dropped by for a Friday lunch on the patio with high expectations. 

Food

The menu was promising for lunch, with items I’d expect to only see on a dinner menu: burrata, roast pork belly, veal flank steak, etc. Unfortunately, I’d categorize the menu as hit and miss based on our group’s experience.

Hits:

Mixed Drinks - ‘Fruit of the luma’ and ‘blackberry charger’ are both cleverly named, not too sweet, and perfect on the patio.

Coconut Poached Red Snapper - Friend of mine enjoyed the lightness of the perfectly cooked fish with the mix of root veg, ginger, lime and tofu. There’s a bit of heat here as well.

Ricotta Gnudi - Light and fluffy, tasty mushroom foam (there’s a ton of it, actually covered the gnudi entirely), and chunks of Parmesan made this affordable lunch portion ($13) a good value.

Misses:

Grilled Octopus - Always a good test for a kitchen. Good flavours (not great) when you got everything in one bite: pickled eggplant, candied olives, romesco, arugala. Problem was there was barely any eggplant or olive on the large portion and the romesco was bland. In addition, the octopus, while not rubbery, wasn’t tender and had a very dense quality reminiscent of steak, making it difficult to chew. Not sure if it was intentionally prepared this way, but it wasn’t pleasant to eat. We saw another table near us send theirs back to the kitchen.

Lobster burger - This was my main, paid $21 for the burger (no side) and was let down. The lobster wasn’t chewy but the delicate flavour got lost in the togarashi mayo, cucumber, and bun. I appreciated the texture of the crispy shallots, and I think it tasted good as a unit, but I needed to be wowed by either the lobster flavour or some great use of spice/acidity. Just wasn’t there. 

We tried the endive salad and shrimp salad as well. Both were neither hit nor miss. Wish I’d ordered the burrata; heard it was delicious.

Service and Ambience

High marks for both. Restaurant is beautiful and located in a convenient location as I’ve come to expect from O&B. The elevated patio, while loud from mid-day traffic, is a cool spot on a nice day and is great for people watching. Food presentation was also impressive for lunch dishes.

Service was friendly, attentive, and didn’t rush us through our long lunch. Our server recommended my friend’s snapper (good call) and was around frequently to check up on us. I’m definitely a fan of the style of service at O&B restaurants.

The Reco?

I’d like to tell people to come here, but my bottom line is food and both of the dishes I ordered didn’t pan out. It’s a great-looking spot, and you could very well pick a satisfying dish - the fact is that I didn’t. For that reason I can’t give Luma more than two stars.

I’ll admit a second visit for dinner might enlighten me, but I think I’m going to lay off the O&B for a while and give the little guys around the city a try.

Other reviews:
National Post    |     Globe and Mail    | Toronto Life

Posted by: Jacob, Visited Oct 7, 2011

Luma on Urbanspoon