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Everything posted by estufarian

  1. Susur's prices for tasting menus can change depending on what you request (e.g. insisting on a foie gras course puts the price up). I've had a 5 course at $85 and a 9 course at $150. I typically choose my price point and accept the # of dishes that arrive! I'm rarely disappointed.
  2. I didn't pay (it was my birthday) but I estimate total was around $300 for two all-in. But we did have 'extra wine' - a glass each of different sparklers to start, a bottle of white and 2 glasses of red, so I'd guess most people would have been in the $200 - $250 range for two. Appetizers are around $15 and mains $25 (some higher). He certainly 'landed at JK' - don't know if he's still there. Having said that I'm not sure the press release would pass the test of 'whole truth and nothing but the truth’. Totally agree with this. If we don't support innovation, we'll get the blandness that Toronto was once famous for. I was extremely pleased with the attitude of the staff - genuinely concerned about our experience. Nothing was said about future directions but, noting the crush in the bar, and the space in the restaurant, I have doubts that any rational businessperson will tolerate sub-par returns for long. We need a critical mass of innovative restaurants (e.g. Chicago) so I hope that eGulleters will try this place and definitely post ther experiences (good and bad). I admit I want new tastes and experiences, but that others will be more traditional. AmuseGirl was sceptical when I requested Czehoski - she'd heard 'mixed reports' and wanted to take me somewhere 'nicer'. Now she's going back with some girlfriends too!
  3. I was there earlier this month and was much more impressed. We couldn't decide on which dishes to try (many looked interesting) and on asking for more details were offered a 'chef's choice tasting menu'. We accepted and were very impressed. We started with a combo amuse which contained a small cup of Andalusian gazpacho (white bean and cucumber) and an endive leaf containing sweet/savoury/crunchy items (a creamy dressing, possibly with mustard, champagne grapes and a crispy cheese ‘vermicelli’ which was like a bow made from very thin strands of cheese and then dehydrated) great textures and explosive flavours as we tried each item. A great start. Then on to a more whimsical dish ‘Oyster and Beef’. The oyster was served in a pepper sauce. The beef was an organic beef tartare, with maybe a hint of Worcestershire sauce. The slightly chewy texture was what linked the two main ingredients. But the spiciness was on the oyster, rather than the tartare reversing the expected spicing. Next a spectacular love it or hate it dish. We loved it. You may not! Some osso bucco meat had been ‘pulled’ from the bone and was served with gnocchi ‘pillows’ which had been caramelized outside and were filled with espresso (I think), This was topped with a cardamom foam. The overall impression was of a single colour dish, but the airy gnocchi pillows burst in the mouth to give up their filling. The foam enhanced the richness of the meat. This was by far the richest dish of the evening and the only one that warranted red wine. Then came sockeye salmon with sautéed spinach, mixed mushrooms and black Arborio rice, served with a German smoked beer sauce. I found that the spinach dominated this dish and couldn’t identify any smokiness from the beer, but the salmon was good, the colours excellent and if the dish is rethought and simplified it could be a winner. Next an ‘almost perfect’ dish. Halibut cooked perfectly to flakiness (but unfortunately the flavour was subdued on this fish) served with a superb scallop and shrimp cake (think crab cake, but this was better than any crab cake I’ve had – and I prefer crab to both scallop and shrimp). This nestled in an ‘orange’ sauce (never did figure out exactly what it was) and was served with a shaved fennel and Thai basil salad. The fishcake was perfectly cooked and textured –crisp outside and pieces of scallop and shrimp inside which were clearly distinguishable by taste and texture. If the halibut had been more flavourful this would have joined the osso bucco as a must-have course. Next the least impressive course, Squab cooked sous-vide then crisped (note for the squeamish – the foot was left on as seems to be the current fashion in Toronto) and served with lentils, more sautéed spinach, a black rice sauce and stupendous heirloom carrots (can’t ever recall having had better carrots). The Chef (Nathan, who had popped out a few times before) arrived after this dish to ask what we thought, and incidentally apologized for the duplication of sides on this dish. It had been added as an ‘extra’ course (apparently they had been impressed by our comments on the food thus far and started adding extras) and the chef preparing this hadn’t realized we’d had some of these previously. We identified it as ‘boring’ compared to the other dishes we’d had. Nothing wrong ‘technically’ – just didn’t feel that it possessed the excitement of previous dishes – almost as if it had wandered in from another restaurant. This made his day! It apparently had been ‘borrowed’ from one of the chefs’ stints in another restaurant and had been added to provide a more familiar note – not everyone in Toronto is an adventurous eater! We would probably have been served even more dishes – except we were getting very full, so suggested they moved on to dessert. But first they served us a magnificent salad the menu describes it as something like ‘Crunchy, chewy, sweet, sour…salad’. And it was! Mixed greens and flowers, with salsify chips, heirloom beets, a 6-year old aged Gouda cheese, honey gelée and probably some other stuff too. Then a pre-dessert of a citrus soda with a sorrel sorbet. And two desserts an extremely light Valrhona chocolate mousse with a rosemary chantilly, and a brie-de-meaux cheesecake with strawberry gelée. And a comped cheese plate with a glass of 20-year old tawny (it was a birthday celebration which was mentioned part way through). Quite simply the most exciting meal we’ve had in Toronto this year. We started early when the dining room was almost empty and provided ample feedback on each course as the meal progressed, so I think the chef was also excited to get people who cared about his cooking. The front part of the venue is really a bar (which you pass through to get to the dining area) and around 10:30 the live music starts right at the back so Czehoski’s definitely becomes a ‘scene’. There were far more people in the bar area than the restaurant, so I’m not sure how economic the restaurant will be. But if you show interest I don’t doubt the chef will pull out his best for you. Service was very competent. Friendly, genuine concern for whether we liked each dish and good follow-up of our questions and criticisms. But it was mid-week in an uncrowded dining room. I didn’t see the ‘other’ chef (David Haman) in evidence, but that doesn’t matter – the food was excellent and we’ll be back (again early and midweek).
  4. OK! Calm down a little – there is an issue here but the way the article is presented highlights a symptom, not the issue. As background, I have designed the ‘decision-making’ portion of credit card systems (i.e what limit people get, whether purchases are authorized etc – not the payment and processing of the charges). The policies that issuers (e.g. banks) decide on then overlay the decisions to be made ‘automatically’. There has always been an issue with restaurants. The credit card is ‘run’ for the amount of the check, and then the cardholder typically adds a gratuity. So, for example, the check is for $200 and the total could be $240. The authorization would be for $200 but the actual charge (which will appear on the credit card bill) will be $240 – this applies for the majority of credit cards used in restaurants (and some other industries e.g. car rentals, hotels where the authorized amount differs from the final amount). The cardholder billing system ONLY BILLS THE $240 ACTUALLY SPENT. This balances to the amount deposited by the merchant (restaurant or whatever). The $240 has to be entered by the merchant (usually by terminal – most terminals have multi-functions these days). This system has all sorts of financial controls, as real money is involved. When a card is swiped (or equivalent) at the point-of-sale (e.g. in a restaurant) an entirely different system is activated. This is the authorization system, which, in simple terms, goes off to see if you have a valid card with sufficient available credit to pay for the attempted purchase. It relies on the merchant to input the amount (of course it has no way of knowing what the real amount is – the merchant enters the amount to be authorized). All being well, the system responds with an OK (I won’t get sidetracked here with an alternative response). That system then logs the pending transaction, which can be used in many ways. But it doesn’t pass it to the billing system. So you can’t get billed for this part. From the cardholder perspective, the main effect is that this pending transaction is deducted from your available credit (the system expects the transaction to be completed eventually so it assumes you will spend that amount). So for example, if your credit limit was $5000, your balance $4000 (i.e. available credit $1000) then after authorization, your available credit will be notated down to $800 because of the $200 transaction, but your balance will not change. If you indeed spend the $240, when this is processed by the billing system your balance will now be $4240 and your expected available credit will have dropped by $240 to $760. So far, so good (hopefully). BUT (and this is the core issue) there’s still the matter of the $200 authorization – how does the bank know that this is the base value for the $240 actually spent? And the answer is “It doesn’t know”. (If you think it should, consider what might happen if you returned to the restaurant/store the following day and spent $170, say, with a tip added to total $200). The actual process for matching authorizations and charges is parameter driven, which means each bank can enter its own rules (an example might be: If authorization and charge come from the same merchant and differ by less than 5% (or $5) then assume they are a matched pair). Once matched, the authorization (which recall has been notated against your available credit) will be filed away and the notation no longer applies. If they do not match, then both survive (one on each system) and the system thinks that, instead of $760 available credit, you only have $560 (the $200 notation still applies). This potentially will affect your ability to use the card, although after a few days (again set by the individual bank, but around 5 days in my experience) this notation will be automatically dropped. As long as you don’t go over your limit (including notations) during this period, you won’t be affected. But if you do, then all sorts of complications to you could ensue, and potential embarrassment too. This MAY be avoided if the authorization is processed for an estimated amount. If the restaurant processes the authorization for $240 this will match perfectly with the charge and your available credit will be correctly computed. If your issuer (bank) uses a 5% tolerance, then any gratuity between 15% and 25% will similarly be matched, so the restaurant will have enabled anybody who tips in that range to avoid some potential embarrassment. However, the person who tips in cash will now be caught by the notation (the system is still waiting for a $240 charge, but only finds a $200 charge). There’s no absolute right or wrong here, merely advantages/disadvantages to the participants. Incidentally, the system I designed included a capability to input ‘negative authorizations’ (e.g. a restaurant could input $200 then a negative $200 then a genuine $240). But I don’t know if any users actually activate that capability. The bank I was working with certainly hadn’t in the two following years. If the check is $200 and you tip separately, then if the restaurant enters any other amount, it is fraud (OK let’s be generous a clerical error)!
  5. Wouldn't that be literally tongue-in-cheek?
  6. Too bad we can't make a decent mustard with our own seed! As for Canadian Ice Wine, it is original and unique only because most bottles are from Vidal, a French hybrid grape shunned in France, but well suited to late harvest or deep freeze harvest as it is thick skinned. There is Canadian Riesling Ice Wine, as well, but this would have to be a copy of excellent, and sometimes very expensive Eiswein from Germany and Austria, made for many years. I haven't heard of a trockenbeerenauslese eiswein from Niagara. ← Couple of comments. First mustard - we do make decent mustard - it's called "Dijon" - I know that makes no sense 'logically' but check the fine print. Even 'French Dijon' is usually made from Canadian mustard. Icewine: Vidal is not only shunned - it's illegal! But as France doesn't produce Icewine, that's irrelevant anyway. And Canadian Icewine (strictly Niagara, as I've almost no experience with Icewine from other regions) tastes very different from German for one overriding reason - in Canada there's virtually no market for botrytis affected wines so any botrytised grapes are routinely comingled with the frozen grapes harvested for icewine. In Germany the various levels of botrytised content have a welcoming market, so a trockenbeerenauslese is sold as such and similarly for icewine. There is no category (currently) in Germany for 'TBA-Eiswein'. And given that totally botrytised grapes don't freeze, it wouldn't strictly be Eiswein anyway. Of course, there's no VQA categort "Trockenbeerenauslese' either, so even if it 'theoretically' existed in Canada, it wouldn't be labelled as such. I'm still waiting to try a 'botrytis-free' Canadian Icewine. The only ones I've tasted would now be illegal as they were made from healthy grapes that were subsequently 'freezered' then pressed. Other than residual sugar, I can detect virtually no difference in structure between 'Canadian Icewine' and the various Canadian late-harvest offerings (for about 1/3 the price). So guess which I buy! But German (and Austrian) Eiswein has a very different structure (assuming riesling, not necessarily all the thick-skinned hybrids) - in particular the acid balance (pH) is much more dominant.
  7. We loved Fleur du Sel for lunch. They have other food choices besides the prix fixe. And we opted for the wine matches - then for one course we even asked for a substitute wine and they accommodated us. Agreed only two choices for the prix fixe, but all round we had a great meal with hospitable service and definitely recommend it.
  8. The control of money issue can be resolved. The province would still get their 'markup' (apparently it's not legally a 'tax'). This is how Alberta does it - the Alberta govt just got out of the retail portion, and I'm told (don't know where to go to find the stats) that Alberta collects "net" about 60% more per capita than Ontario. Apparantly there, a listing is a "right" (you pay for it) and then you are entitled to sell the product anywhere legal. Consequently Alberta has over twice as many listings as Ontario (but good luck in finding them all!).
  9. We were at Tetsuya's a couple of months ago and it didn't make our best 10 meals. Wasn't even our best Australian! Tired, repetitive and expensive! Must get around to finishing my partially prepared review of the trip. Have had several better meals in Toronto and many better meals in NY. Stay tuned.
  10. Ban Lanipha seems more 'homely' than Vanipha Lanna. Lots of kids and babies (who are usually well behaved). The big problem at Ban Lanipha is that they seem to operate on Lao time. VERY slow service and dishes come out randomly. I find it expensive for what you get, and most dishes are Thai with the occasional Khmer style dish. Spicing is very mild.
  11. Both have gone seriously downhill - especially Young Thailand. Of the Young Thailand chain the only one that I still go to is the one on Yonge betwen Davisville and Eglinton. And that is rarely (but it has parking nearby). If you're downtown I strongly recommend Linda's (see my post above).
  12. Two issues. The easy one is that duties etc amount to around 70% of value (and the first 1.5 litres will be duty free - all assuming bearer is 19 yrs or older). So if the value of the 4 extra botles is $8 each (Cdn) she'll pay around $20. The bigger issue is that the airline may not allow them as carry-on! Most International airlines only allow 6Kg (13 lbs) of carry-on luggage (charter airlines even less) and the rules are commonly enforced (I know!). Bottles weigh about 3 lb each, so you're over the limit. If you have (or can obtain) a wine box with moulded styrofoam inserts I recommend playing it safe and using one of these (come in 6's and 12's) and checking the case. Better that than being forced to check them at the airport without special packing. When I travel, I take these boxes with me (empty) and now have a good supply. In theory (space and weight permitting) one can bring back up to 45 litres (60 bottles) into Toronto (and pay the duties). There are diferent limits for other provinces, but all have a minimum of 9 litres (12 bottles). And airlines are STRICTLY enforcing the weight limit on checked bags (2 pieces, each max 32Kgs or 70 lbs). On a recent trip (British Airways) I had a box packed with 20 bottles - total weight 34 Kgs. I had to open the box and remove 2 of the bottles, which I then brought as carry-on. A relative (on a separate BA trip) had to remove clothing and wear it as his luggage (only 1 piece) was also slightly overweight. And since 2004 there has been no provision to carry overweight luggage - you can no longer even pay extra. Neither will they allow one to ship personal baggage (also possible before 2004). You can, however, take extra pieces (subject to 32 Kg weight allowance for each). Each extra piece will cost between $150 and $200!!! Of course they don't refund you anything if you don't take your 2 'valid' pieces.
  13. How amusing that people are trying to apply common sense to liquor laws! ALL licensed restaurants are now part of THTR - it comes with the license. The only requirement is to ensure the cork is flush with the top of the neck. (BYOW is an endorsement to the license which must be applied for - no fee). But many (most?) restaurants just aren't aware of the license changes anyway. And it's not necessary to have a recorking machine (cheap models around for around $25) - just push the cork back in (did this recently with a corked wine I took to a BYOB - one of the hazards). And got a refund at the LCBO.
  14. If you're downtown, then really only one choice - Linda's (easily the best Thai in the city) or, for those on a budget, Salad King. Same ownership, same location (nominally 335 Yonge St, but the actual entrance is round the corner on Gould). You enter through Salad King (a student communal dining 'cheaper' version) then go upstairs to Linda's which resembles a bistro. Order from the 'special' dishes (the regular are also available downstairs), for example duck breast in red curry sauce, soft-shell crab, seafood in parchment - they even serve foie gras upstairs. Reservations essential upstairs (not taken downstairs - same phone #), but Linda's is only open from around 5:00 to 9 (or 9:30 depending on day).
  15. South Asia Malaysian Cuisine 416-291-3892 3380 Midland Avenue, Scarborough, ON M1V 5B5 It's Unit 19 on west side of Midland just north of Finch. Tried it a couple of weeks ago - had great laksa for lunch. Had to wait for a seat as the place was packed - always a good sign. Planning on returning very soon (possibly this week). You're unlikely to find anything cheaper and, although I haven't tried Restoran Malaysia, don't plan on venturing even further north because this place was so good.
  16. I'm not letting you get away that easily. And you didn't specify 'in the last year', so my wallet can confirm that I've eaten at 18 in 6 countries - but I have to go back 15 years to do that. And I'm surprised no-one commented on the huge 'fall from grace' by Daniel. Nowhere to be found this year! Maybe he should open in UK. [Edited for memory lapses]
  17. On the issue of bringing wine back via Alberta. While this may be possible it opens up a new set of problems. Technically (and 'legally') you cannot move wine between Provinces without going through the same 'importing' process in each Province. i.e. travelling from Alberta by road, you must 'import' into Saskatchewan, then Manitoba, then Ontario, in each case paying the appropriate 'markups'. Of course, this is totally unenforceable on a reglar basis but the Provinces get very testy about protecting their jurisdiction and may use a large importation as a test case. Although I'm not a lawyer, it seems to me that this is totally contrary to the Charter of Rights - but being a test case is not something I would volunteer for (unless someone else was paying the bills). Incidentally, this partly explains why the larger Alberta stores do not market wines to potential clients in Ontario (I know, I've tried). And on the friends who moved here from California. They fully intended to stay in California, but got laid off during the dot.com bust and eventually decided to come to Canada (where they found work) - so this was a genuine 'immigration' for him and over 10 years away for her. Faced with 100% markups they sold their cellar.
  18. Let that be a warning to you. If I've told you once, I've told you a million times. Don't exaggerate. Things have improved from the really bad old days (or at least they had for a while). I used to eagerly await the Vintages catalogue - now I hardly glance at it. And the percentage success rate with the catalogue is most frustrating. So I really value the work done by the Agents. Let's hope the review takes a common-sense approach.
  19. Hmm - your stats (in the article) are surprising to me. 75% of wines available in Ontario are imported through the consignment program. If you are including Vintages and Classics selections in that statistic, then it's misleading as these are available to the public 'by the bottle'. If you're not, then I understand that the LCBO offers between 5 and 10,000 'selections' of wine per year (18,000 including spirits). Even taking 5000, then that implies 15,000 additional selections are available through consignment (really?!). Only a handful of agents (maybe 10) offer tastings, that I'm aware of. And my 'success' rate with consignment orders is definitely patchy. My attempted orders have 'disappeared', been 'cancelled as the LCBO has bought the wine instead, so we can't sell it separately', and been unfulfilled as the wine is no longer available. And a couple of Lifford 'future' wines offered through the big tasting didn't arrive and my 50% deposit was refunded (without interest) over 12 months after it was taken. I'm not trying to target your agency - which I consider to be one of the best around. Just want to present a balancing opinion to show that consignment ordering has its own risks - and certainly greater rewards in some cases (literally), although my most recent order (not Lifford) had one wine that failed the lab test (another risk). And the wines already here in the consignment warehouse are mostly (my opinion) lower end wines for which there is a 'reasonable' substitute - their market is restaurant wine lists where, in some situations (carefully worded to avoid targeting any place in particular), the restaurant doesn't want the patron to know the cost of the wine, so she won't figure out the markup charged. Example - scan winelists for 'cheaper' Australian Shiraz selections, not available at LCBO. They dominate the shelves at my local LCBO and I can't believe there's many bargains available through consignment where there isn't a perfectly good substitute available already. And continuing the example - where are the wonderful Clare Valley Rieslings (here's your opportunity to respond with the Mitchell!) and especially the Geelong Pinot Noirs, that the LCBO DON'T have and I can't find at any Agent either. Both areas produce extremely food-friendly wines and are (hardly) ever seen here.
  20. estufarian


    I've been to Splendido 5 times since the beginning of December. That pretty much sums it up. Probably the best (certainly the most consistent) restaurant in Toronto right now. And the last time, the tasting menu included a dish I'd had the previous time - so they substituted a different dish WITHOUT MY ASKING OR SAYING ANYTHING - they just remembered (and the manager wasn't there for either of the two visits, so I'm not sure how they figured it out - possibly the Sommelier, as he was able to confirm that my main dish was different without talking to the kitchen). That's exceptional service!
  21. Some friends moved to Toronto last year. He an immigrant, she a Canadian who married him in California over 10 years ago. They were told they'd have to pay FULL duties and taxes on all wines (which amount to over 100% in total - I have the calculation in a spreadsheet they sent me). The AGCO (formerly LLBO) have REALLY clamped down in the past couple of years. Whatever you do get it in writing first. And a comment on 'values'. Last October they examined my personal wine importation and fed every wine into an internet search engine to determine a market price. They then charged taxes on the prices thay found on the net.
  22. I travel to Chicago once or twice a year and generally try to eat the best I can afford. Indeed Trotter DID stop serving foie gras about 3 years ago, with minimal fuss, so I believe him to be sincere. And since then, I haven't eaten there, because, for 'special meals' I find that foie gras is an ingredient that pleases me greatly. Obviously that didn't break the bank for him and I respect his stand on a personal basis. As for those who legislate what I can and can't eat - that's a different matter - especially if the same legislators won't tell me if I'm getting genetically modified more common foods.
  23. We ended up at Tasco for the Appliances - very happy too. We had a very small place for the kitchen so hired an architect to redesign the space (he taught at Stratford Chefs School). Not cheap but we're very happy with the results-he worked closely with our contractor. But we had made the decision to stay in the house for 20 years, so were prepared to do it right.
  24. I tried finding fresh wasabi last spring in Toronto and totally struck out - wasn't available anywhere. Best I could do was powdered wasabi (no horseradish) at Whole Foods.
  25. Just a quick addition as I don't have time to describe the entire meal, but last saturday at wd-50 was as good as it gets. Wylie seems to have finally got the message that foie gras and anchovy doesn't work, and his current tasting menu is sensational. We asked for (and received) mostly different tasting menus (only the slow poached egg was duplicated) and there wasn't a loser among them (although obviously some better than others). The current foie gras dish (example) is served with a grapefruit basil crumble - tiny toasted brioche crumbs with dehydrated grapefruit slivers and the foie gras, when cut open, exudes a nori caramel centre - both sweet and salty. There is also a sprinkling of sea salt. Stunning combination of textures and tastes. And that was only one of over 20 dishes we received in total (and included the corned duck; and the venison tartare dishes mentioned by melofunk - loved that Edamame ice cream).
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