Xola

Earlier this week I traveled to the east end (even east-er than me) to catch up with my friend Andrea. We grabbed a table at Xola (I’d never been; she had) and caught up and had a pretty goddamn fantastic meal.

  • cocktails: traditional margarita; El Mayor Extra Anejo Old Fashioned
  • traditional guacamole
  • pulpo asado: grilled octopus w/ reduction of balsamic vinegar, artisanal chorizo, sweet potato mash, refried beans, and roasted grasshoppers (!)
  • duck confit tacos: moulard duck leg confit w/ pear & guajillo pepper sauce, salsa, and corn tortillas
  • a special: duck breast in mole sauce
  • bottle of Crianza

Also, turns out there’d been a bit of media buzz around the place when Leafs star Auston Matthews and his mom visited a few days earlier.

Chotto Matte

Earlier this week, having been unceremoniously and inexplicably dumped from a reservation at Carisma, I ended up at Chotto Matte for a work dinner. I had not been before.

I entered with trepidation. The atmosphere was…suit-y.

The food, though, was pretty good. We had one of each of the Nikkei sharing menus, but they sequenced them thoughtfully (not quite in the order below).

  • Glasses of a Bouzy Champagne which someone had accidentally opened
  • Canchas (corn puffs)
  • Tostadita de hongos (eryngii mushroom, yuzu truffle, grated Parmesan)
  • Spicy tuna sushi roll (tuna, Peruvian chilli)
  • Sea bass ceviche (sea bass sashimi, sweet potato, Peruvian corn, coriander, chive oil, citrus sauce)
  • Nikkei gyoza (pork, prawn and cassava dumplings, aji amarillo, sweet potato puree)
  • Prawn spring roll (ebi harumaki, shiitake, shiso ponzu salsa)
  • Pollo den miso (chicken miso, carrot, daikon, yellow chilli salsa)
  • Tentaculos de pulpo (octopus, yuzu, purple potato puree)
  • Classic tostadita (tuna sashimi, corn crisp, jalapeño, coriander, wasabi)
  • Warm Wagyu beef fillet tataki (smoked aji panca, passion fruit salsa)
  • Nikkei sashimi (sea bass, cherry tomatoes, jalapeño, coriander, yuzu truffle soy)
  • Nikkei sepia chicharrónes (calamari tempura, aji amarillo)
  • Bacalao negro aji miso (black cod, yellow chilli miso)
  • Barriguita de chanchito (pork belly, nashi pear, yellow tomato salsa)
  • Dessert (mochi ice cream, something chocolate)
  • Bottle of La Bruja De Rozas 2017 Garnacha
  • Sooooooommmme kind of Saké?
Cover photo by Matt Botsford on Unsplash

The queen’s bridge

Last night was a bit of a dining misadventure. Not horrible, but not good either. Just…fine.

We started off intending to eat dinner at Reyna on King. I thought it looked nice from my seat on the streetcar whenever I rumbled by, with the plants hanging from the ceiling and whatnot. Very Montreal, I thought. Except — the plants are fake. Anyway. We didn’t fit the vibe from the second we walked in — pretty sure I was far and away the oldest person there. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but…I don’t know, the whole place had this undercurrent of wanting to seem authentically hipster and really just landing the hipster part.

We got some fried halloumi sticks to start, which were okay-not-great, and just slightly warmer than room temperature. The eggplant tostada had only a smattering of baba ghanouj that we could discern. The high-concept pogo stick (lamb merguez sausage, harissa mustard, date ketchup) was okay though.

We were hoping that at a cocktail bar the cocktails would impress, but Lindsay’s negronis were so-so, and my Manhattan tasted like rye + ice + nothing else. Even one of their house cocktails, the Bear Faced Truth, didn’t taste like much by the time you fought your way past all the ice.

We’d originally intended to stay for dinner, but bailed out after the snacks.

We walked to Gusto 501, wondering if it would be the place to salvage the evening. We could tell from looking in the front window that it was not. We jumped in an Uber and drove across the bridge to — naturally — Il Ponte. I figured, why not now? We’d lived down the street from it for three years but still hadn’t been. I’d heard enough about it to know it probably wouldn’t be spectacular, but I was hoping it’d be good.

And yeah, it was fine. Something unsettling about the atmosphere I couldn’t quite put my finger on — too brightly lit, maybe? — but they came through where it mattered: the food. Our caprese di buffala was perfect. My gnocchi All’Amatriciana was better than I expected given it was gluten-free. Lindsay’s paccheri cinghiale (paccheri with wild board sausage in a lite tomato white wine sauce with stracciatella cheese) also looked pretty good, even if she couldn’t finish it. And given that we were already a few drinks in I opted for a half-bottle; luckily they had the excellent Isole e Olena Chianti Classico by the half.

I don’t think we’ll rush back, but it’s a solid option if we’re just looking for a no-nonsense pasta dish. As for Reyna, I think the closest I’ll get is if I pick up dessert from Roselle next door.

.:.

Cover photo by Matt Botsford on Unsplash

Cover photo by Artem Maltsev on Unsplash

“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic.”

I can’t remember exactly what led us to start this, but over the past two weeks Lindsay and I watched all eight Harry Potter movies — me for the first time.

I didn’t read the books either, but I did know a bunch of the cultural references from the stories. For example, we’d just watched the Prison Mike scene in the office where he reveals that the worst thing about prison is the Dementors:

To the great surprise of no one I enjoyed the movies — they had all the good vs. evil elements and long character arcs that I love. I was a little surprised about just how many all-time great British actors were in the series — I knew about the main players, but didn’t realize that legends like Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh and John Hurt were in it too.

Anyway, the deal is that I watch these, and Lindsay watches Star Wars. We’ll see how that goes.

.:.

Cover photo by Artem Maltsev on Unsplash

Photo by Giammarco Boscaro on Unsplash

Oh, dip

The Good Place (imdb | rotten tomatoes) wrapped last week, thus ending one of the better bits of television — certainly network television — in some time. It had a lovely send-off, and I miss the characters already. Especially Michael.

At one point I’d tried keeping a list of all the philosophy books they referenced, but I gave up by episode, like, four. I might want to read them, but I still have back Atlantic articles from two years ago, so.

.:.

Photo by Giammarco Boscaro on Unsplash

Into the cellar

Earlier this week I got to eat dinner in the cellar at Barberian’s — truly, a special place for a wine nerd. (Not to mention a steak fan.)

I wasn’t ordering so I don’t remember everything we had. I remember there being jumbo shrimp, paté maison, escargots, Caesar salads, sirloins, prime rib, lamb racks, onions, mushrooms, and vegetables. There were bottles of Napa Cab, Caymus and O’Shaughnessy. A bunch of desserts came out; I tried not to touch them but might have failed. We all shared a small bottle of 2000 Dow’s Port. It was all quite something

.:.

Cover photo from barberians.com