• [Giveaway] Duff + Ted's Up In Smoke Extravaganza

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  • [Food Post] Trattoria Mercatto

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  • [App/Tech] Tab Payments

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  • [Travel] Satsuki and Mei's House from Totoro

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  • [Food Post] Canoe Restaurant + Bar

    Canoe is one of Toronto's critically acclaimed restaurants offering upscale Canadian cuisine. It is located on the 54th floor of Toronto Dominion Bank Towers in the financial district. As it is relatively high up; its beautifully designed dining room offers a spectacular view of the city's skyline.

  • [Food Post] Au Pied de Cochon

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  • [Travel] Day #15 in Japan [Koyasan]

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Fresh Burger

 Fresh Burger has built quite the following in Richmond Hill, ON, with their no frills burgers menu. They were the recipient of the 2014 Yelpie Award for "Favorite Burger Restaurant"; an annual award run by the people of Yelp. They have now expanded to their second location and it's located on Church St in downtown Toronto. A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to their launch party where guests were given the opportunity to try out their burgers and poutines. Additionally, they were also giving away FREE burgers that night to celebrate their grand opening, and it bought out a lot of people.

** Photography by Steve Blackburn from YYZ Events **

 The burgers at Fresh Burger are made with 100% fresh premium quality meat which they grind on-site daily. Although, the simplicity of their menu only offers a few choices, they do offer quality burgers - without the high prices that are all the rage these days. You can check out the rest of Fresh Burger's menu at http://www.fresh-burger.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/menu-web.jp.

I opted for their freshburger (4 oz) combo which came with fries and drink ($8.85). If you'd like to upgrade your fries to a poutine; it's an additional $2.99. All of their burgers are dressed with cheese, lettuce, tomato, and Freshburger sauce. You can also request them to add onions and pickles for no additional charge. Other toppings that you can add onto your burger for an extra $1 each is bacon, caramelized onions, sautéed jalapeño, mushrooms or cheese ($1.50). I liked the soft bun and how the burger patty was lightly seasoned. They lightly seasoned their beef patties with salt while it's on the grill. It was a tasty burger and I'd definitely come back to check out the other items on their menu.

I really liked their poutine ($2.99 to upgrade combo or $5.99 individual), and the portion was more than generous for its price point. Additionally, the fries are cut freshly cut judging by the large sacks of potatoes located in the kitchen. The poutine also contains real cheese curds with a generous helping of gravy to provide an authentic poutine experience. 

For those with big appetite, there's a double prime burger (12 oz) burger which is $10.95 on its own or $14.60 for a combo.

Fresh Burger is open Mon-Sat from 11 am to 10 pm and Sun from 12 pm to 7 pm. For those who take the TTC, the restaurant is only a few minutes walk away from Wellesley Station. Additionally, Fresh Burger is currently offering some coupons until the end of Jan 2015 for their Church location so check out their Facebook for them.

Address: 542 Church St Toronto, ON, M4Y 2C6
Website: http://www.fresh-burger.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Fresh-Burger/557111641000196
Twitter: https://twitter.com/freshburger2

Disclaimer: The food provided in this post was complimentary. However, all of the opinions expressed in this review are of my own.

Fresh Burger on Urbanspoon

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Holy Chuck

Over the past few years, there has been an abundance of gourmet burger joints opening up in Toronto. One of the burger joints that made an impact since they opened up in late 2011 was Holy Chuck. A couple of my friends and I decided to meet up for dinner one afternoon at their St. Clair location (there are two locations) a couple of months ago. Some of my friends ordered the same burger, so I didn't take photos of any duplicate orders. Anyway, we were greeted with a large wall-mounted menu with an extensive list of burgers with pretty novelty names at the front. The order system is pretty straightforward, you order at the cashier, and they'll call your name once your order is ready.

I opted for their signature burger called The Holy Chuck, and they do not allow any additional toppings on this particular one. I am not sure how stringent they are with this policy as I didn't bother to ask for any toppings. I also got to try out the You Fat Pig as well, so it was nice to taste test two different ones. All of their burger meats are ground in-house so it's fresh daily, which is great. There are no additional fillers in their burgers and they guaranteed that their meats are "the absolute highest quality". While eating the burgers, I could definitely taste that the meat was freshly made and it was juicy. However, I found the You Fat Pig to be slightly too salty for my taste buds. Salty enough that I needed to order a milkshake to go with my meal which I will get to later. Usually, I am not a fan of onions on my burgers, but the caramelized onions here enhanced the flavors a lot, and I really enjoyed it.

Holy Chuck's fries are hand cut in-house daily and they use only trans fat free oil. The fries are crispy without being overly oily and had a decent amount of salt on them. Now onto the milkshake that J and I got to share since it was a pretty good size for the both of us. Some of the flavors of the specialty shakes stood out to me, but I decided to play safe, and got their strawberry cheesecake. Imagine my surprise when actual chunks of strawberry cheesecake came through the straw. The milkshake was creamy and thick, and wasn't overly sweet. This particular shake is probably one of the best milkshakes that I have had in a while now, so I highly recommend it.

Their burger prices can be a little steep as I saw one for $29.99 but it was topped with seared Quebec foie gras. However, most individual burgers are priced between $9.99 to $14.99. If you add any fries and drink to your burger order, you'd save 85 cents. It may costs you about $15-$20 for a combo, but Holy Chuck has established themselves as a gourmet burger establishment from the beginning so the higher prices are expected.

Are you up for the Go Chuck Yourself Challenge? If you can finish the "Go Chuck Yourself Burger and any specialty shake" in 6 minutes, then you'll get your picture taken on the Wall of Fame, exclusive contest t-shirt and bragging rights. The burger is crazy as it's six patties, six cheese, triple bacon, caramelized onions and stacked between three grilled cheese sandwiches ($21.99).

Big Chuck Fries - special sauce, lettuce, onions, pickles and sesame seeds ($6.99).

 The Holy Chuck (signature burger) - double cheeseburger with bacon and caramelized onions ($9.99).

The Farmers Threesome - one lamb patty, one beef patty, one all bacon patty, triple cheese, bacon and caramelized onions ($12.99).

You Fat Pig - two 100% all bacon patties, triple cheese, crispy bacon and topped with our homemade creamy bacon dressing ($11.99).

Specialty Shake - strawberry cheesecake ($5.99).

Address: 1450 Yonge Street Toronto, ON, M4 T1Y7 

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The Happy Hooker

I have been to The Happy Hooker a few times now as it's literally a 5 minute walk from J's house. As I have mentioned before in a previous blog post; the place has an outdoorsy feel with its wooden panels, paintings, random items like a Pacman machine, and even a washroom marked "outhouse".

I was invited to a media tasting in late October at The Happy Hooker to preview some of their new menu items. Chef Bethany McBride now heads the kitchen of The Happy Hooker and is originally from the South. She has incorporated and brought a lot of southern influence from back home to the seafood-centric establishment.

To start off the menu tasting, we had the Southern comfort chowder. I am not a huge fan of chowder, but I absolutely enjoyed this bowl of hearty goodness. Normally, I find that chowders tend to be really chunky. However, I found this dish to be comforting and creamy without being overly thick. In addition to the veggies that are mixed into the chowder; there are also three types of clams (Maine, Nova Scotia and Edmonton). This dish is perfect for the extremely cold weather that we're experiencing on and off in Toronto these days.

The next dish was the seafood popcorn ($9) which consisted of breaded calamari, shrimp and mahi mahi. This appetizer comes with three different dipping sauces; Chipotle aioli, Chipotle adobo and lemon aioli. This is a great starter to get, especially if you're a fan of deep fried seafood like I am.

This is how the seafood popcorn looks like when you order it.

Another starter that we were introduced to was the lobster spring roll. Chef Bethany McBride wanted to create an appetizer that was slightly different from the traditional lobster roll that they already offered on their menu. The fresh Maine lobster meat was wrapped in traditional rice papers, and deep fried. Instead of  aioli, there is cream cheese in the filling which complements the taste of the lobster. The lemon honey sauce that was served with the spring roll was brought over from Ireland. I just think it's a matter of preferences, but I did think that the sauce was a little too strong in taste. 

The Happy Hooker offers a few sandwiches on the menu as well, and we got to taste both the Louisiana Black Cat and Creole Shrimp Po Boy. 

The chef's take on the Louisiana Black Cat ($9) offers a taste of the South as Chipotle aioli and lime were used to complement the blackened catfish. The catfish was lightly battered and tasted good with the Portuguese bread. The bread was a debated issue within the small group of bloggers who attended the event. Some thought that the doughiness of the bread overwhelms the texture of the catfish,while others liked it. The bread used is from a neighboring Portuguese bakery so they're not baked in-house. 

The Creole Shrimp Po Boy ($11) seems to be an updated version of their previous po boy sandwich, which was fried. Unfortunately, I have never tried the previous one, so I can't really offer a fair comparison. The one that I had that day contained a good helping of shrimp and it was topped off with a lot of spicy Creole sauce (mustard).

Lastly for dessert, we were served key lime pudding. While thinking of a dessert that could be perfectly paired with fish; the chef thought of key lime. I thought that the light citrus dessert was good to end the dinner with. The dessert was made fresh from scratch, and contains 6 lbs of key lime and topped off with whipped cream.

 Although their menu may be limited compared to other places; it's one of the better places in Toronto that does seafood right. They also have a full service bar with a good selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Additionally, their bartender also likes to create plenty of creative mixes that are often featured on the menu.

Address: 887 Dundas St West Toronto, ON, M6J 2P8
Website:  http://www.happyhookerfish.ca/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/happyhookertdot

Disclaimer: The food provided in this post was complimentary. However, all of the opinions expressed in this review are of my own.

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Sakura Japanese Cuisine

Sakura Japanese Cuisine is a Japanese restaurant located in the Annex; they offer both AYCE and a la carte options. This short review will be on my first visit to Sakura Japanese Cuisine where we opted for their a la carte menu for lunch. We were short on time as we had a meeting to attend, so we only had less than an hour that Saturday for lunch. However, we enjoyed our visit, and return soon after for their AYCE. That is going to be a separate review on its own.

I opted for the beef short ribs bento box ($10.99). Please note that the following bento box that I ordered was not part of their lunch specials and part of the dinner. They had a beef short ribs lunch special for a mere $6.99 but it didn't come with any sashimi or sushi. Normally, most places would give you tempura but in lieu of that, Sakura Japanese Cuisine gives you three pieces of salmon sashimi. It's a welcome alternative for those who like sashimi much more than tempura. Granted this was still an AYCE, so the sushi and sashimi aren't on par with high end places, but the quality was still pretty good. I'd say that Sakura Japanese Cuisine had a constant flow of customers during their lunch hour, so there was definitely a steady movement of fish. I also can appreciate the fact that there were more than 7 pieces of meaty ribs; the norm is usually four at other places.

J ended up getting the tempura udon ($8.95) which arrived out pretty quickly. He liked the fact that the tempura wasn't in the soup and on its own.

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Kenzo Ramen

Kenzo Ramen is another ramen chain that has several locations across the city. I went to the one located in the Annex a couple of days ago. I ordered their The King of Kings Ramen ($12.95) - spicy Netsu ramen with five toppings of roasted pork, sliced egg, fish cake, fresh seaweed and dried seaweed. Season topping: marianted bamboo shoot, which was topped with a generous amount of sliced roasted  pork and bean sprouts. It was priced well and the portion was more than generous. However, I couldn't help but noticed how much more sodium (salt) there were in the pork broth here than any other places that I have been to. It was kind of hard to drink the entire bowl cause I was pretty much consuming a handful of sodium with each gulp.

Unfortunately, my review on this particular bowl of ramen is a little mixed. While I enjoyed the tasty and tender pork; I thought that the noodles tasted slightly like instant ramen to me. However, they do offer vegetarian options at Kenzo Ramen so that's always a plus for those who can't eat meat.

 Address: 372 Bloor St W Toronto, ON M5S1X6 

Kenzo Ramen on Urbanspoon

Kenzo Japanese Noodle House on Urbanspoon

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All Star Wings and Ribs

All Star Wings and Ribs is a casual chain restaurant offering more than 100 flavors of chicken wings. In addition to the wings, they also serve a variety of other food items such as burgers, fries, sandwiches, salads, steaks, ribs, etc ... This was my third visit to this particular location up in Vaughan. I was here about less than a month ago for an old high school's friend's birthday dinner. We were a small group of seven people so reservation wasn't really needed since it was a weeknight.

We were seated at one of the larger tables, and were given menus to browse through. As mentioned earlier, they have a lot of different wing flavor, and some were pretty creative. We decided to order two different rounds of wings along with a pitcher of beer, and some pop drinks. To start off the night, we got two batches of their beer battered fries. I absolutely loved the fries here, as it's so crispy and delicious. Definitely up there along with the fries from St. Louis as my favorite. 

 As for the chicken, customers have a choice between non-breaded or breaded wings for each order.  All of their wings are served with celery and dip, and anything additional costs $1 each.

The prices are as followed:

Single ($10.95) - no splitting
Double ($20.95) - 1 flavor
30 wings ($29.95) - 1 flavor
50 wings ($48.95) - 3 flavors
100 wings ($89.95) - 4 flavors

The wings were rather delicious and the pieces weren't small at all. I would say that the sizes were relatively comparable to other wings joints that I have been to. The flavors were definitely there, and I did enjoy most of the ones that we selected. I liked that the wings weren't dripping in excess oil, so that's always a plus in my books. Overall, it's a good place to relax and enjoy some wings with friends, family etc ...

Address: 3130 Rutherford Rd Vaughan, ON, L4K 0B1

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Sukho Thai

Sukhothai recently opened up their third location on Dundas St. W, replacing the brunch spot, The Guild. They now have three locations to their name throughout the downtown area. A couple of months back, a friend and I decided to eat at the Wellington location around 6 pm. We chose a good time as we were immediately seated when we arrived, but they did get busier as the night went on. 

Walking on Wellington Street E, you will see a plethora of restaurants in the area. However, it's not that hard to miss the giant dark green sign with an elephant logo on the storefront. This location is much larger than their original location and can accommodate more diners.

The decor was a mix of rustic and modern with its exposed brick and comfortable seating. It differs from Khao San Road's communal styled seating. As for the menu, it was a simple two pager showcasing main dishes between $10-$15 and the appetizers are roughly $5-$10 per dish. The prices may be slightly higher than the average Thai establishments downtown but the quality of the food is definitely there. 

I ordered the shrimp sukhoThai pad thai ($15) - included peanuts, long leaf and lime, and it came out nicely presented and was good sized portion. The flavor profile was definitely there as I thought that that the Pad Thai had a good balance between tangy and spicy. Additionally, they use tamarind in the paste which is so much better than ketchup which a lot of places use as an alternative.

 In regards to the service, our server was brisk but he was friendly. We didn't wait long for our orders to be taken, and the food arrived in a timely manner.

My friend, Ray, got the curry ($13) - includes rice and choice of chicken, beef, tofu, fish or shrimp. However, it's an extra $1 if you opt for the fish or shrimp options.

Address: 52 Wellington Street E, Toronto, ON, M5E 1C9

Sukho Thai on Urbanspoon

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[App/Tech] Zomato

Zomato recently launched operations in Toronto earlier last week, and the app is now live. What is Zomato? It is an online restaurant discovery guide that has a great following in many cities in countries of India, Turkey, New Zealand, Portugal, United Kingdom, and many more. The Toronto section is their first venture into the North America market of food review apps. The service is available on both the web at https://www.zomato.com/ and mobile (iPhone, Windows Phone, Android, or Blackberry). More information on the mobile apps can be found here.

The team behind the Toronto section of Zomato has taken the time to curate detailed information for over 11,000 restaurants in the GTA. Not only does it offer information on restaurants; it also allows users to create and build a personal network with other fellow foodies. They have incorporated various social features that allow interactions between users (such as follow people, like their reviews, comment on the reviews, upload pictures of the food, etc ...).

Zomato also has a section on the main page where it will suggest nearby restaurants that are based on specific categories such as steakhouses, gourmet pizza, or even pocket friendly.

All users and business owners have access to all restaurant information on Zomato. The information is updated by the Zomato team monthly to make sure that all information are up to date.

I downloaded the app from the Apple Store earlier this week, and tested it out myself. I found the app interface to clean and easy to access around the information. All information on each restaurant are clearly displayed with the address, the Geo-location, menu, reviews and photos uploaded by various users. The app also allows users to bookmark, check in, rate the restaurant or even check it off if you have been there before.

I am on Zomato, so if you'd like a newsfeed of my reviews on the app, then you can follow me at https://www.zomato.com/foodaholic_to. See you online :) 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/zomato

Photo screenshots of the app are credited to Zomato.

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