J-Town


3160 Steeles Avenue East, Toronto, Ontario
(Woodbine Ave & Steeles Ave E)
http://www.jtown.ca/NewStuff/index-e.htm

J-Town is the largest Japanese shopping mall in Toronto. They sell everything from sushi, groceries, fashionable accessories to cosmetics. They also have small restaurants inside the building that serve fresh food at great prices.

As you know, I don’t cook … but I still enjoy grocery shopping here at Sakana-ya and Heisei Mart. If you’re a sushi lover, I highly recommend you pick up a sushi platter. What I like to do is pick up a package of freshly imported seaweed (comes with sauce) from Japan, sushi/sashimi (i.e. uni, salmon roe) and grilled squid  for dinner (see photo). Not only is it delicious but an incredibly healthy choice. There are many other varieties of sushi/sashimi or cooked items available to choose from as well. For dessert, stop by the bakery. You’ll find a wide variety of cakes and pastries displayed. The challenge is to decide on which ones to try.

Recommendations
• Sushi/sashimi platter
• Uni in its shell (if you love sea urchin)
• Udon noodles

Good to Know
• Best seats: N/A
• Service: Friendly
• Atmosphere: Basic, market
• Ideal for: Casual, quick eat, take out,
• Attire: Casual
• Reservations recommended: No
• Patio recommended: No
• Parking: Free
• While you’re there: Check out Heisei (Japanese grocery store), Tora Sushi or Sakana-ya (for seafood/sushi/sashimi) and Bakery Nakamura.

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Fuzion Resto-lounge & Garden


580 Church Street, Toronto, ON M4Y 2E5
(Church St & Wellesley)
T: (416) 944-9888
www.fuzionexperience.com

What a fun night! I went on a Friday night and hung out at the Fuzion Lounge bar for their vocal night and Buddha Bar mixes. Boy, I was blown away with performances. One of the guest musicians, Nancy Silverman, played a chord on the piano and was able to substitute almost any song (requested by the audience) into that chord and it still sounded great!! Amazing!! Best of all … no cover and the food was delicious!!

Just so you know Fuzion is located near the “The Village” and as you may have guessed, most of the men in the room were tremendously good looking … too bad they’re not on my team!!

Recommendations
• Crispy Potato, Goat Cheese and Short Rib Croquette Kobe “Wrap
• Grilled Marquez Sausage, Smoked Eggplant Hummus, Za’atar
• Fusion Frites
• Cocktail – Raspberry Cipriani 

Good to Know
• Best seats: The nook for two on the 2nd floor in the lounge area (lots of privacy here)
• Service: Very friendly & nice
• Atmosphere: Modern, contemporary, artsy
• Ideal for: Drinks, date, GNO, music lovers
• Attire: Trendy, casual, smart casual,
• Reservations recommended: No
• Patio recommended: Yes; beautiful garden patio on the 2nd floor

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Fuzion on Urbanspoon

Barburrito


736 Bay St, Toronto, ON M5G 2M4
(Gerrard St W & Bay St)
647-352-4441

I find the service at most quick-eat-and-go places lacking friendliness and the “personable” factor. This is not the case at this Mexican fast food. From all the times I’ve been there, I have been greeted with big smiles and friendly faces.

Recommendations
• Burrito
• Quesadilla

Good to Know
• Best seats: No preference
• Service: Friendly
• Atmosphere: basic fast food
• Ideal for: Quick eats or take out
• Attire: Casual
• Reservations recommended: No
• Patio recommended: No

Barburrito on Urbanspoon

Pho Orchid


124 Chestnut St Toronto, ON M5G 1R3
(University Ave & Dundas St)
T: (416) 506-1725

I’m not sure if it’s just my luck, but lately I’ve been disappointed with many of the Vietnamese restaurants that I’ve tried.

Although conveniently located, I wasn’t impressed with the quality of the food and drinks. It was okay but I felt the pho broth was on the bland side (for my taste) and missing the strong, flavourful herb taste I usually enjoy in (smaller more authentic?) Vietnamese restaurants.

Recommendations
• No particular recommendations

Good to Know
• Best seats: No preference
• Service: Okay
• Atmosphere: Brightly lit, clean, white
• Ideal for: Lunch, casual, quick eat
• Attire: Casual
• Reservations recommended: No
• Patio recommended: No

Pho Orchid on Urbanspoon

Kenzo Japanese Ramen House


138 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON, M5G 1C3
(Bay & Dundas)
T: 416-205-1155
www.kenzoramen.ca

A nice, convenient location – located right in the heart of downtown (close by to the Eaton Centre, AMC, and Atrium on Bay) – for Kenzo to open another location. Kenzo is known for their Japanese Ramen Noodles. 

If you like noodles with soup, you can choose the miso or broth base soup. Alternatively, you can have it “dry”, which is pan fried and served in an iron plate. Side dishes include gyoza (fried dumpling) or tacoyaki (pan-fried octopus balls – a piece of octopus fried in a light puffy batter, shaped as a ball).

Recommendations
• Miso Ramen (try this if it is your first time and don’t know what to order)
• Tacoyako
• Don’t forget to add schichimi pepper.

Schichimi pepper is a spice mixture that generally consists of seven ingredients – typically a blend of ground red chili pepper, ground sansho pepper, roasted/dried citrus peel, sesame seed, poppy/hemp seed, ground ginger, and nori.

Good to Know
• Best seats: If you like a little more privacy, the tables with wall separators
• Service: Generally nice
• Atmosphere: Basic wooden tables
• Ideal for: Casual, quick eat
• Attire: Casual
• Reservations recommended: No
• Patio recommended: No

Kenzo Japanese Noodle House on Urbanspoon

Japango Sushi & Noodle Restaurant


122 Elizabeth Street, Toronto, ON M5G 1P5
(University Ave & Dundas St)
T: (416) 599-5557

This is one of Toronto’s best kept secret and one of my favourite Japanese restaurants in the city. Delicious food, fresh fish, hospitable service and conveniently located … what else can I ask for? Okay, maybe one suggestion … a bigger spot.

This place is very small and the tables are tightly packed (reminds me of the tiny noodle shops in Japan) and fits about 20 people. Even though this quaint restaurant has very little space, they are not short of servers with about 3 sushi chefs and at least two waitresses at a time.

Recommendations
• Sushi – they serve a very good selection of (quality) fish (if you’re there for lunch, I recommend the Sushi Bento Box over the combo because you also get a small side salad and a daily appetizer, which could be grilled minced meat eggplant or fried tofu)
• Japango maki rolls
• Plum wine
• They also do Omakase (Chef’s choice) as well but you have them give them at least 24 hours advance notice.

Good to Know
• Best seats: Window seat right next to the wall (less traffic)
• Service: Very nice, friendly, always topping up my green tea cup (and the tea is so calming with the burnt rice aroma)
• Atmosphere: Quaint; tiny; wooden tables, bench and stools;
• Ideal for: Quick eat, lunch, take out
• Attire: Casual (If you can, I suggest not wearing anything big e.g. a big fluffy parka since it will be challenging to take it on and off in the restaurant and to find a place to hang it.)
• Reservations recommended: Yes. Quite often they will turn people away even though the restaurant does not appear to be full but the tables are already reserved.
• Patio recommended: No

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Japango on Urbanspoon

Barchef


472 Queen St W Toronto, ON M5V 2B2
(Bathurst St & Queen St W)
416-868-4800
www.barcheftoronto.com

Barchef is voted one of the world’s top cocktail bars! And I agree … especially since they make the “hottest and coolest” drinks in town, literally.

Known for their concoctions, Barchef serves notoriously fun and delicious “molecular” drinks. Mesmerized by the theatrical presentation, “Fire and Ice” is one of my favourites. It is served with one glass in flames, the second with nitrogen ice (with white foggy smoke flowing over the glass), and the third for mixing the two. Hence, the name “Fire and Ice”.

If you’re looking for something less conspicuous, they have a variety of other selections using various intriguing ingredients. If you’re not into alcohol, they also serve innovative virgin cocktails as well. Speak to the chef/bartender.

Recommendations
• Fire & Ice
• Strawberry & Lavender

Good to Know
• Best seats: Couches at the front of the bar
• Service: Friendly, helpful and outgoing (I forgot my camera so the bartender was kind enough to take the photo on this blog for me. Thanks Aaron!!)
• Atmosphere: Dark, artsy, gothic
• Ideal for: Drinks, date
• Attire: Trendy, casual, smart casual,
• Reservations recommended: No
• Patio recommended: No

Barchef on Urbanspoon

Conviction


609 King St W, Toronto, ON M5V 1MB
(Bathurst St & King St W)
(416) 603-2777

*CLOSED*

Here’s a cool concept: ex-convicts gets second chances to work (serve, cook, etc) at a high-end, fine dining restaurant for owner Chef Marc Thuet.

The idea of an ex-prisoner serving dinner could be discerning to some at frist. But speaking from experience, I really enjoyed dining there. Although our server looked like Adam Lambert, he was very pleasant and professional. (From an interview with Biana Zorich, co-owner of Conviction, they only hire ex-cons of non-serious crimes (i.e. petty theft), not ones that would make us cringe.)

Recommendations
• Onion Soup

Good to Know
• Best seats: No preference
• Service: servers are ex-prisioners but are professional
• Atmosphere: comfortable;
• Ideal for: Business, date,
• Attire: Smart casual, business
• Reservations recommended: Yes
• Patio recommended: No

Conviction on Urbanspoon

Rodney’s by Bay


56 Temperance Street, Toronto, Ontario
(Queen St & Bay St)
Phone: 416-703-5111
www.rodneysbybay.com

If you’re an oyster fan and in the core downtown area, you’d be happy to hear (at least I was) that Rodney’s has opened up a location tucked off of Bay Street. This place is much smaller than the original location but is a cozy place to hang out for after-work drinks/dinner.

Recommendations
• Oysters – served super fresh (as always); try the variety of sauces but be warned that Danger Bay is suicidal hot). In the photo, you’ll see:
Kusshi (top)-creamy and melon-flavourish (hold off on the garnishes and sauces for this one; maybe just a squirt of lemon)
Kumamoto (bottom)-creamy and saltier
• Roasted Fig Salad (sorry, this was so temptingly delicious I forgot to take a photo)
• Grilled Calamari
• Chianti

Good to Know
• Best seats: Table #5 (the table at the corner with the sofa)
• Service: Good
• Atmosphere: one large room with a big bar right at the centre and a few tables along the side and back of the restaurant (because of the size there is only one washroom for each sex)
• Ideal for: After-work gatherings; date
• Attire: Business, smart casual
• Reservations recommended: Yes (especially on a Friday night which is extremely busy)
• Patio recommended: No

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Rodney's By Bay on Urbanspoon

Xe Lua Vietnamese Cuisine


625 Gerrard Street East
Toronto, ON M4M 1Y2
(416) 466-5887

There are a number of Vietnamese restaurants in this part of the city. (In fact, on the same block). Deciding on which one to try can be mind-boggling.

Xe Lua has a number of locations in the GTA, including Chinatown and Scarborough. This particular location, Broadview/Riverdale area has been around for years! Although I think their broth (they use for Pho) is tasty and flavourful, I’m concerned about how clean their kitchen is. I’ve had a few experiences where I’ve found “foreign objects” (i.e. a small piece of wire and cement) in my food on separate occasions. Maybe, it was just my luck?!

Recommendations
• Pho – rare beef noodle soup
• Tomato Beef Brisket Stew – served with chunks of beef and carrots that are soft and juicy from the stewing process. Another flavourful dish. This item can be served with noodles or bread.

Good to Know
• Best seats: No preference
• Service: Okay
• Atmosphere: Simple. Chairs and tables are closely packed back-to-back.
• Ideal for: Casual, quick eats, take out
• Attire: Casual
• Reservations recommended: No
• Patio recommended: No

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Xe Lua on Urbanspoon