Toronto - here's what I will miss most...

As many of you know, I am debarking on a new adventure off to Hong Kong in a matter of a few days.  I am filled with excitement as well as anxiety for I have never lived outside of Canada for a long period of time and culturally, I consider myself CAN-asian - Canadian first.  This will be one of the biggest challenges of my life for it will be a new way of living, communicating (I only speak cantonese and that's only OK) and definitely a new world order when it comes to the food I'll be eating.


Richmond Station

Another hot spot that I needed to check out before I left for Hong Kong was Top Chef Canada's season 2 winner Carl Heinrich and his partner (both ex-Marben) Ryan Donovan's newest project, Richmond Station.  The theme of a train station seems fitting by it's location, in the heart of the financial district and on Yonge street which is the main street where our city's transit system traverses and by it's decor, using white sterile subway tiles and high ceilings to create the ambience of a station.


Patria - simple and amazing!

Newly opened Patria is one of the best kept secrets along the bustling King West Strip.  It's completely hidden off King street, down the alley way next to Weslodge, and you discover this new open concept Spanish restaurant from the brains behind the aforementioned Weslodge -Hanif Harji and Charles Khabouth. 



David Chang, is the cult of cool in the food world! He's the chef and owner of the famous Momofuku restaurant brands, has brought his celebrity to Toronto and I, like many others, looked forward to experiencing the hype and excitement around the brand and trying the famed Momofuku since it landed in the gorgeous new Shangri-La Hotel over the summer time. 

I certainly know the buzz behind Chang who has many accolades to his name including a very famous food magazine "Lucky Peach"; he's a celebrity chef with regular appearances in the late night talk show circuit and on the Food Network and of course his famous eateries in NY, so what a perfect way to pop my Momofuku cherry then to have it in my home town.

David Chang actually opened up 4 new locations with the anchor being the Noodle bar on the first floor and then Nikai, the bar/lounge area, Daisho (large plate/group dining), and Shoto, a 22 seat tasting menu only.


Hawker Bar

 Hawker Bar pays homage to Singapore style street 'hawker' food with it's own rustic and Western twist to it.  A team of super friends including the owners of one of my very favourite establishments, Poutini's, are behind this intimate resto located on the trendy Ossington strip and have opened my eyes and taste buds to the versatile sweet, sour and spicy flavours of Singapore cuisine.


Sunday Night Football club

I have a thing for guys who know their way around the kitchen, and definitely swoon when a guy knows his food and can cook.  I refer to these men as my food porn stars!  I recently was lucky enough to get an invited to a coveted Sunday Night Football dinner club where not only one man was cooking but there is a rotating roaster of at least 3 men and this particular evening, it was a collaborated effort of two men who had worked tirelessly crafting their gourmet delights for us to enjoy.


The Grove - my little secret (for now!)

 Grove feels like a good little secret (for now). Opened now for about 5 months on the Dundas strip near Ossington, it's too good to be a secret for long.  There's buzz about the food from social media and my friends are already talking about it; but the unmarked restaurant may be a bit hard to find, it's at the verge of it's tipping point.


Diner en Blanc 2012

We braved the wet rainy weather, a potential thunderstorm with umbrellas open, dragged our own chairs and tables to a meeting point thru rush hour traffic, brought either our own picnic or pre-bought food and vino to be apart of something.  This was the official Diner en Blanc where a lucky few hundred people had the opportunity to participate in a pop-up flash mob picnic.


Alimento Mozza Bar

So I have been waiting, wishing and anticipating the opening of Alimento Fine Food emporium and alas it does not disappoint! It mimics one of my very favourite spots in the world, the Mario Batali Italian food emporium - Eataly in NY where you can shop, browse and enjoy all things about Italian cuisine.


Tacos + Art = La Carnita

La Carnita has been the talk of the town for the last year with it's pop up taqueria and it's chaotic taco + art party at the Brickworks which 1400 people showed up for!  It has finally landed on College Street and has been stirring up a rivalry between other taquerias in the city.  Namely Queen West's Grand Electric vs.  College West and it's La Carnita. 


Lamesa - my first Filipino experience

lumpia asado
was very excited when a new restaurant, Lamesa, popped up in my neighbourhood of Queen and Bathurst. What's more exciting is that it offers a cuisine that I am fairly unfamiliar with and would like to learn more about: Filipino food. It's interesting to learn that while there are about 200,000 Filipinos in the GTA, there isn't a restaurant in the city that serves traditional Filipino cuisine while taking its own spin on modernizing the classic dishes.


Milos - my VERY favourite new fish resto

OPA!  This is the one of  the most memorable show stopping dining experience I have had in a long while.  It's not everyday that I am extremely impressed with a dining experience at a restaurant from the service, decor and the food.  This is what I would classified world class seafood and fish restaurant.  I am pleased to hear that there are locations in Montreal (la belle province), New York and of course Athens.  But my first experience was in sin city and Milos is located on the 3rd floor at The beautiful new Cosmopolitan hotel. 


The Depanneur

The Depanneur, a very fitting name for a former convenience store come communal dining spot which by day serves as a little coffee and sandwich place and by evening, a casual and unique supper club.  Having lived in la belle province (Montreal), I loved my local Dep around the corner and so I was very intrigued about trying this new dig. 


Let Patio season begin with the Bier Markt

The Bier Markt on the esplanade has been a staple in Toronto for many years with it's extensive variety of beers they have to offer, live entertainment, jovial atmosphere and best of all, a great patio to enjoy the great summer weather. 


Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu

I have been reading review after review about this place so I took the opportunity while I was in North York to take my dad and my step mom to try this Toronto Life restaurant pick.  I wanted to know why it was considered so good and what the hype was all about. 


Miami recaps

Business first and then sunny weather, sandy beaches, latina fever, dancing under the moonlight and good eats summed up my recent Miami trip.


Fueling up at the Fuel House

After a long day of moving me in with my dear friends, I wanted to treat them to good eats that in a casual and comforting environment.  We headed to the Fuel House which was the ideal place for the mood and vibe we were looking for.  In the intimate space formerly known as Olivia's just tucked off College behind Cafe Diplomatic on Clinton, it's the perfect place for comfort as it's an old restored house with dim lights, and a gorgeous back patio. 



After venturing out to Parkdale with 2 very hungry friends and being turned away from a busy taco joint, we stumbled upon Chantecler, a new bistro style restaurant on the strip.  We were pleasantly surprised when we could walk in and get a table right away.  The rustiness of the space gave it a very intimate and homey feel and was the perfect setting for our dinner party.


A whole new world! Eating through textures

Losing my complete sense of tastes has led me to appreciate food in a very different way.  I find myself eating to experience the variety of textures in food as well as smelling the aromas leaving me with nostalgia of the taste engrained in my memory. 

I have always been a lover of rubbery and chewiness in foods but without being able to experience tastes, I look for things that I can roll around in my mouth or chew.  I was at a dinner and I really enjoyed eating a salad with slivers of carrots and cold noodles because the textures reminded me of rubber bands.  The little divits in grilled calamari cause me to continue to chew creates an interesting story for me and it made eating less mundane.  I enjoyed pushing potato gnocchi against the top of my mouth with the smooth velvety textures and rolling my tongue against it.  Little pops of caviar are like little bursts in my mouth.  Hot and sour soup was just a bowl of glutinous and syrupy soup with all kinds of mushrooms and bamboo chutes to create more unique textures.  I could also get a hint of the spice in the back of my throat but it was just emptiness in flavour. I smelled a piece of pineapple and in my mind, I could sense the juicy sweetness of it but instead I could only experience the sinewy stringy texture of it.  Bananas were interesting too as I can smell the scent triggering a nice but subtle banana flavour.  Instead it was like eating the consistency of mud.  An orange too triggers a refreshing, tangy, sweetness and I salivate at the thought of it but in my reality, it’s like eating water encased an orange slice. 



Songkran is the world famous Thai New Years WATER Festival celebrated between April 13-15.  Thai individuals roam the streets with buckets and water guns to drench any passersbys.  The throwing of water was originally a symbol of paying respect to people, and a cleansing of all the bad habits. It is celebrated in Thailand during their hottest month so the water also provides people with temporary relief from the scalding hot temperatures.


Living in a Bland World

I firstly want to apologize for any food commentaries I've made over the last week- I have been impaired. 
It was about 9 days ago when I noticed that food did not taste right. I was making home made red curry for a friend and I for dinner and I found it bland which is extremely unusual as I love packing a punch in my dishes. 


Ye Olde Hunters Feast II - GAME ON

I would follow anything my fellow food lover, Joel Solish (@foodie411) adoes so as soon as I had the opportunity to participate in one of his events, I jumped in with a hearty appetite.  Joel along with parter, Trish Gill (@gilltrish) started the concept of the Death Row Meal Supper Clubs and this is the second year of his Olde Hunters Feast.  It was initiated a year ago where they produced a wild boar proscuitto which was the common thread to our dining experience as it was integrated throughout the meal.  This experience featured 5 daring chefs, appropriate wine parings and their take on a 'hunters feast'.  To get us more in the mood, little plastic animals were left on the table to create conversation amongst our neighbours at the communal table we were at.  We definitely started making friends while putting our animals in suggestive poses. 



Top Chef finalist's Rob Rossi and co-owner Ryan Sarfred have opened Bestellen (which means 'to order' in German) on the College and Dovercourt strip.  The space, a former IGA grocery store, has been transformed completely with reclaimed wood and exposed brick to create an intimate, rustic feel and a glass encased meat locker for patrons to gawk at all the cuts of meat.  


Gusto 101

Gusto 101 is the newest and latest hotspot to take on the King West neighbourhood.  The space, an old mechanic's garage has been completely transformed into an open concept kitchen with exposed bricks, high ceilings and dim lighting.  The only problem is they don't take reservations and the restaurant was jammed packed full of hungry patrons.  


Who knew the number '4' could be good... Bloke and 4th resto lounge does

In the Asian culture, the number 'four' is not lucky but I took my chances to eat at Bloke and 4th and it was well worth the risk.  This resto lounge opened recently in the King and Spadina space that was formerly mBurger and is more of a club during the nights but with the guys from the Food Dudes catering services in the kitchen, the food was fresh, innovative and delicious.


Electrifying tacos at Grand Electric

Be prepared for a line up and a wait as this new taco joint in the Queen west hood is hot!
On a brisk Tuesday evening, we arrive around 7pm to find that the resto-bar is packed with rowdy diners.  We are told that the wait time would be more or less an hour which we expected and we put our names down/ cell phone given and we go across the street to the Rhino for a drink.


Playa cabana - New local Mexican gem

This cute beach shack tucked away in a quaint Dupont/ Davenport neighbourhood peaked my curiosity.  I have driven by it a few times and it always looked busy so it was definitely on my hit list to try.  Finally I had an opportunity when my dear friend Sam came into town and so here is our story.


Australia's GOT eats

How you going mate? This is a series of my favourite dining experiences and culinary adventures mainly in Sydney, and then Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays.  From decadent feasts to local favourites and even eating live ants - i loved every moment of it!  Check out my slide show of fun food adventures:


Memories from the Oz

Observations in Australia: 
"How you going mate?"  When I was approached with this question several times during my travels in Australia, my immediate reaction was to say - i'm going with my feet or i'm going by car... It's the Aussies way of saying How are you doing/ How's it going?

Flat Whites/ Long black- these are your coffee orders.  They won't understand lattes, americanos, espressos... flat white was my drink of choice - a latte; long black- americano; short black - espresso

Vegemite: I thought it looked like nutella BUT NO! It's a grainy, salty and slightly bitter spread that the Aussie's love to put on toast in the mornings! I just don't get!

Everything is abbreviated: 
Sunnies- sunglasses
boardies - boardshorts
mozziess - mosquitos

ute - small truck
avro- afternoon ????

Drop Bears- a few folks warned me about these bears that drop out of trees with sharp claws that would attack you while you are out bush walking.  I told my entire tour group to look out for them to only find out after the fact that they are entirely a myth!  Created from an ad campaign for rum, these fictional bears are to poke fun at dumb tourists like me!!!

Pies and Rolls -  I ate more pies and rolls here than I have ever eaten in my lifetime.  Their obsession for meat pies and sausage rolls are like mine for the hunt for poutine.  This is their comfort.  I do admit that I had the best pork and fennel sausage roll at Bourke Street Bakery.  This bakery is world famous and worth the trip if ever in Sydney.  Also we stopped at Harry's which is a landmark according to tour books for their pie - we had it topped with mushy peas and gravy .. not as gross as it sounds...

People just don't care to wear footwear in public places like train stations, sidewalks, the McDonalds (Mackkers).  I found it a bit unhygienic and gross to be walking in those spots without shoes... I guess i'm a conservative Canadian.

My personal favourite slang- BOGAN - (redneck).. it was dropped all over the place to reference a person's dress code, speech, places.... i love it

Regardless I had the time of my life while I was there!  I can't wait for another time when I can get out there again; an amazing place ....


The Vong Choice's top 2011 picks

Wishing you all the very best with holiday cheer!  Here are my top foodie experiences and culinary adventures for 2011.  Bon Appetit and Bon annee!!

1. Diner En Blanc - Tues Sept 28th - a flash mod dining experience that was out of this world DEB 2011 official video

2. Iron cupcake judging at For the Love of Cakes- secret ingredient was nuts- and the competition was fierce - Iron Cupcake competition blog

3. My favourite bit of this year was at Acadia - Anson Mills grits and shrimp was delicious - i dream of this! Acadia Blog

4. Discovering Culninaria - a place to eat in Mississauga - http://bit.ly/s46BN4

5. Blind Steak Tasting -dry aged vs. wet aged steak - hosted by Jamestown Butchers and the lovely Joel Solish Steak Challenge blog

6.  My favourite appetizers for the year are from Campagnolo - the burrata and roasted grapes and shaved prosciutto are insanely delicious Campagnolo birthday blog

7. New neighborhood gems - My Kensington find was Agave y Agucante and their Tostada Tingas mmmm! ; And the monster buns which is a secret menu item at 416snackbar

8. My thai fix - Khoa San Road for everything from their house made street style pad thai to their delicious soupy pad sew, curries and special dishes- KSR blog

9. Special Czheoski tasting menu with house made marshmallows that spelt out 'VONG' - very special! -  Czheoski's tasting

10 And of course, going back to my roots - new poutine discoveries -Stampede- bison and poutine in the west end http://bit.ly/m0EDIo ; Poutine layered birthday cake from Poutinis Birthday blog with poutine cake; and Bannock for their duck poutine pizza

Honorable mentions: Parts and Labour for their bone marrow appetizer; Royal Meats - one of the best burgers in town; Crepes a Go Go for their signature and house made drink - Limonana; Udupi Palace for their dosas; and L.A.B for their potato croquettes

Il faut manger pour vivre, non vivre pour manger... until next year!