pixelbunny's picks

A foodie and beauty blog

Archive for February, 2013

House on Parliament

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Mr. Pixelbunny and I went out for a good friend’s birthday to House on Parliament. She goes there pretty often, and likes it so much that she managed to book the second floor for her birthday gig. So off we went for a night of fun!

 

The Atmosphere

The first thing I noticed is that House on Parliament really is a house on Parliament street! Located across the street from No Frills, this house is situated between a store on the left and another house under construction on the right. When you walk in the door, you’re greeted with a large bar along the side wall with lots of tables and chairs situated around. This place has a pub feel to it, and is decorated with British paraphernalia.  The ones I took notice to were the very large, framed maps of the London Underground, as well as a large portrait of a young Queen Elizabeth II.

A small staircase just left of the door took us upstairs, down a short hallway to a room at the front of the house. Having underestimated the number of people who came for dinner, the owners quickly pulled out more tables and chairs and had them lined up along the hallway to seat more people. I think the party had a total of around 40-50 people, so while the majority were able to sit upstairs, there were some small groups of people who had to sit downstairs instead.

I have to say we had an amazing waitress. Considering it was her and only her who took care of such a large party, she took care of all of our orders, brought us our drinks, and made sure to check in on us in case we needed anything.

 

The Food

The first thing we ordered was a minestrone soup ($7 – no picture, sorry!) to share. This was extremely hearty, as big chunks of potato, beans, corn, and shell pasta were in every spoonful. There was a little kick to it spice wise, which was great. It was served with two thick slices of baguette and two liberal squares of butter.

 

House on Parliament - bangers and mash
Fancy bangers and mash – $17

Mr. Pixelbunny opted for fancy bangers and mash, which is described as locally produced sausage (the contents of which vary every time it’s made), marinated charred onions, baby red skin mashed potatoes, roasted root vegetables, gravy, and grainy mustard. Sausage contents of this one are Guinea hen, pork, old cheddar and asparagus. As Mr. Pixelbunny described it, “it’s the every meat sausage”. I had a few bites and there was such a myriad of flavours to the sausage that I don’t even know how to describe it. I don’t think I could pick out individual flavours, but the mix of it all was certainly tasty. It is a very heavy dish as the sausage is densely packed, and the mashed potatoes were thick. I loved the flavour of the marinated charred onions and root veggies. The grainy mustard goes well with the sausage too.

 

House on Parliament - Chilean sea bass
Seared Chilean sea bass – $22

I ordered the Chilean sea bass, which was served with an oyster mushroom and leek risotto, sautéed broccolini, roasted heirloom tomato and basil salsa, and a slice of lemon. This was something that wasn’t on the main menu, but was one of the specials. For the birthday party, House on Parliament had a small card printed on each place setting with a special menu just for my friend. The sea bass was really fresh, but mine was a little undercooked. I squeezed the lemon on my fish, and savoured each bite with some of the salsa. Mmm was it ever good! The slight sourness of the salsa paired with the light flavours of the sea bass was a great combination. The broccolini was good, and the oyster mushroom and leek risotto was excellent – there were large pieces of oyster mushroom and leek mixed in with the risotto. Cooked just right, no hard grains, and not over salted. YES!

After our mains, we had no room for dessert! We were pretty much in food coma mode. These portions are big!

 

The Verdict

House on Parliament is a great place to get a large group of people together. They were super accommodating, the service was good, and the food was good. I can see why my friend comes back here time and time again. Definitely a good place to come back and eat again, especially now that I’ve discovered they do brunch!

 

The Place

House on Parliament
454 Parliament St, Toronto, ON
416-925-4074

Written by Jessica

February 26th, 2013 at 6:35 pm

Posted in Food,Restaurant

Lancôme’s Vernis in Love – 301M Sugar Rose

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When I first saw Lancôme’s Vernis in Love for their Spring 2013 collection, I fell in love with the colours – specifically 301M, Sugar Rose. It is a gorgeous pale, pastel pink, which is a perfect shade for spring. I had to get my hands on it.

 

Lancôme's Vernis in Love - Sugar Rose
This picture doesn’t do the colour justice!

When it arrived in my mail, I obsessed over it. The beautiful glass bottle with its sleek black cap, the cute little Lancôme rose detail on the glass bottle and top of cap, the gorgeous shade of colour. I opened the bottle and squealed some more. The brush is amazing. It’s significantly wider than Essie’s nail polish brushes, which makes for easier application. The formula is thicker too, so I figured application would be quick and easy. And that’s when my smile started to falter.

As gorgeous as this shade is, it applies extremely sheer. It took 3 coats in order to give off an opaque look, and even then, some nails required a fourth. This likely wouldn’t have been a problem with Essie polishes since their formula is lighter, but with Lancôme’s, the thick formula is your enemy. Three to four coats makes for a ghastly appearance around the edges (especially if you’re a beginner with nail polish like me). I’m not very good at applying exactly overtop of the same edge as the previous coat, so there are notable ridges along the side of the nail.

I think that if you were to go for any of Lancôme’s darker or more pigmented colours, you would love it. However, for such light pastels such as Sugar Rose, I think you’re better off with Essie since the lighter formula will be more forgiving when more than 2 coats are applied.

If you’re thinking of picking up any of the spring colours, I’d suggest going for the other colours, but to skip over this one. Sorry Lancôme, but this shade was disappointing to me.

Written by Jessica

February 24th, 2013 at 5:19 pm

Posted in Beauty,nails

Pho Mi Asia

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Being one of our favourite pho places in Toronto, I had to write up this review and spread the word! Good pho is hard to come by!

 

The Atmosphere

Situated between The Beer Store and Coffee Time in a plaza strip, this place has many tables, both long for larger parties, and small. Every time we come here, there are always several families sitting at the large tables, sharing a meal together. Don’t expect a super clean high-end place, but don’t expect a dump either. It’s in the middle. It’s like all other pho places out there.

 

The Food

Pho - rare beef, tendon and tripe
#208 – Rare beef with soft tendon and beef tripe – $6 (medium)

This is my default dish – the rare beef with soft tendon and beef tripe. The beef is thinly sliced so that it’s able to cook quickly in the piping hot broth. Large chunks of soft tendon and strips of tripe sit underneath the beef. At the bottom of the bowl, a generous helping of medium sized rice noodles. Like I said, the broth is piping hot, which is essential for cooking the rare beef. You could drink the broth, but it is a little on the salty side. On the side, each bowl of pho comes with a large plate of raw bean sprouts, some sprigs of basil, and some strands of lemon grass. I like to add all of this to my bowl, separate my beef, then overturn the noodles so that everything is underneath and the noodles on top. By the time I’ve had a couple bites of noodles, the beef has already cooked and the bean sprouts are still a bit crunchy.

 

Bun - vermicelli
#407 – Grilled pork and spring roll with vermicelli – $7.00

This is my summer default dish – the grilled pork and spring roll with vermicelli. This dish is served cold but the spring roll and grilled pork are served hot. Lots of crisp veggies in this bowl including iceberg lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, daikon radish, mint, chopped peanuts and green onions. Served with a small bowl of fish sauce, you pour all of it into your bowl, mix it up, and enjoy! I find that the crispness of all the veggies makes it a really refreshing dish, especially on a hot summer day. The grilled pork is very tender and flavourful (the grilled beef version is really good too) and the spring roll has taro in it! This is the only place where I’ve had spring roll that had taro as part of the filling.

 

The Verdict

Ever since moving into our current place, Mr. Pixelbunny and I were constantly on the hunt for food in the vicinity that didn’t consist of fast food or Yorkdale mall. Once we found this place, we fell in love with the simplicity of it, the cheap prices, and the quality of food that was served for the price point. We frequent here a lot and don’t plan on stopping any time soon.

 

The Place

Pho Mi Asia
1008 Wilson Ave, Toronto, ON
416-630-7567

 

Written by Jessica

February 21st, 2013 at 5:27 pm

Posted in Food,Restaurant

Ebates and Lancôme

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I recently made a purchase from Lancôme using the Ebates website and the deal was so good, I had to share. For those that don’t know, Ebates (if you want, click here for my referral link) is a website that allows you to earn cash back on your online purchases. All you have to do is go to Ebates, find a store that is offering cash back, click on the link, and it opens up a window to that store’s website. After you’ve clicked around and made your purchase, Ebates credits your account with a certain percentage of your purchase. It can be anywhere from 2% to 10%!

Now Lancôme was offering several deals. From Feb 10-17, they’re offering a free deluxe sample of Bright Expert.

 

Lancome Chinese New Year 2013
Ad for free sample of Bright Expert from Lancôme

The other freebie they’re offering is a 7-piece deluxe gift set if your purchase total is $50 or more.

 

Lancôme 7-piece gift

Lancome 7-piece gift contents
Ads for Lancôme’s 7-piece gift set

I had my eye on the larger size Crème Douceur that recently came out. I had used a small sample before and liked how it removed most of my makeup (I say most only because I use Bi-Facil to take off my eye makeup) and left my skin feeling really moisturized and soft. The larger sizes are definitely something to look at. Regular size is 125ml for $35. The new larger size format is 200ml for $36.50! I picked up two bottles which put me over the $50 minimum for the gift set. I also picked up Vernis in Love in the colour Sugar Rose, which put me over the $85 minimum for free shipping!

Now why is this a big deal? Because at the time I placed the order, Ebates had a Valentine’s promotion going on, and the cash back was double the amount of what it regularly is. So I was earning through Ebates 10% back instead of the regular 5%!

The hardest part is that you have to keep an eye out for these deals in order to cluster them together. If you have something you want to get, resist the temptation to buy it right away! Not only does this give you a “cooling” period, you’ll have the time to price shop in order to find the best deals, and also to find opportunities like mine to save a lot! For me, I spent $89 before taxes, so my cash back was $8.90! Awesome!

So whether you’re an avid online shopper or even occasional, Ebates is definitely something worth to look at.

*I am NOT affiliated with Ebates or Lancôme in any way. This is only a post of my own personal experiences that expresses my own personal opinion. I was not contacted by either company to write about this.*

Written by Jessica

February 15th, 2013 at 7:26 pm

Posted in Beauty

AMEX Topbox

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Woo hoo! I received a package in the mail today and it was cylindrical! That could only mean one thing – my AMEX Topbox has arrived! The AMEX Topbox was a promotion only available to American Express card holders. This was a one time only deal where you would receive 8 deluxe sized beauty samples instead of the regular 4. And for $12.50 + tax, why not?

AMEX Topbox
Isn’t the box design so pretty?

 

AMEX Topbox - brow brush
Expression brow/lash brush

This is full size! Unfortunately, I can’t find a price for it anywhere online. Let’s assume it’s $8.

 

AMEX Topbox - Stila lip glaze
Stila lip glaze in raspberry

Full Size: 0.08oz for $29
Sample: It doesn’t state on the packaging how much product there is but I think this is full size!

 

AMEX Topbox - cuccio Naturale butter
Cuccio Naturalé butter in milk and honey

Full size: 8 oz for $20 (Topbox.ca) or approx $14 (from various online retailers)
Sample: 0.33 oz worth $0.83 (compared to Topbox.ca) or $0.58 (compared to various online retailers)

 

AMEX Topbox - Chloe eau de parfum
Chloé eau de parfum

Full size: 1.7 oz for $90
Sample: 0.17 oz worth $9

 

AMEX Topbox - Benefit they're real mascara
Benefit they’re Real! mascara

Full size: 0.3 oz for $29
Sample: 0.1 oz worth $9.67

 

AMEX Topbox - Goldwell style sign
Goldwell Stylesign Jelly Boost

Full size: 160ml for $16.99 (Ulta.com)
Sample: 30ml worth $3.19

 

AMEX Topbox - Nu Me hydrating shampoo
Nu Me Hydro Punch

Full size: 250ml for $24.99
Sample: 20ml worth $1.99

 

AMEX Topbox - Clinique clarifying lotion 2
Clinique’s Clarifying Lotion 2

Full size: 400ml for $27
Sample: 60ml worth $4.05

 

So by the numbers…

  • 8 products (2 full size, 6 deluxe sample size)
  • I paid $14.13 for this box
  • Box was worth $65.73!!

For a first time customer, Topbox has impressed me. Reading some other beauty blogs, these are comprised of samples from the January and February Topboxes. I think this was a great box! The Nu Me hydro punch and Goldwell jelly boost don’t really interest me, but everything else I’m definitely going to try. Keep in mind that this was an AMEX promotion, so regular Topboxes will not contain 8 samples, but 4. If you think you’d want to subscribe to them, here’s the link to their site (I’m not affiliated with them in any way).

Did you get an AMEX Topbox? What was in yours?

Written by Jessica

February 13th, 2013 at 12:25 pm

Posted in Beauty

Don Don Izakaya

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It had been well over several years since Mr. Pixelbunny and I set foot in an izakaya (last time before this was Guu back in 2008!). Don Don had been open for quite some time now and we decided that we should give it a try, given that more and more izakayas were popping up around downtown Toronto.

 

The Atmosphere

Located on the second floor, I was pleased to see that there was an elevator so that those that require wheelchair assistance are able to get to this restaurant. We arrived pretty late, around 9:30pm after a super long day’s work. The lighting was pretty dim, so it did take a little while to adjust to the lack of light. A waitress greeted us and, while walking us to our table, banged a large drum and announced our arrival, to which all the cooks and wait staff called out to us. We were seated at the end of a long table, with several seats between us and the party of 3 at the other end of the table. For 9:30pm, there wasn’t too many people there, but once the 10pm classes had finished at nearby schools, the place became quite packed with students. We were also able to catch a glimpse of the back room, where tatami matted rooms are available for guests to sit at. We were amused by the number of inebriated business men who were in these rooms, as we could hear their laughter and watch their occasional stumble as they got out to put their shoes on.

The kitchen is open air, so that you can see what they were doing, particularly the sushi chefs, and those working the grill. There’s also a bar seating right up against the kitchen for those who prefer the front seat view.

 

The Food

Tuna carpaccio
Tuna carpaccio – $??

We started with the Tuna carpaccio. This was on their specials menu, which are usually hand written on a piece of paper. These specials look like they’re changed monthly. I want to say it was $6 but I can’t remember. The tuna was very finely sliced and topped with deep fried garlic, chopped chives and a lemony-lime concoction. Very tasty.

 

Pork kimchi udon
Pork kimchi udon – $7.90

Having had a Korean roommate before who introduced me to kimchi, I had to try this out. The udon noodles were slippery and the amount of kimchi was fantastic. The thin pork slices were a little on the dry side but the kimchi oil helped to soften it up a bit. Also, it had a little kick of spice to it and not too much, which was great for me as I cannot eat very spicy foods. Thin strips of dry roasted seaweed topped off this dish.

 

Deep fried skewers - pork and green onion
Deep fried pork and green onion skewers – $3

We had considered getting the deep fried skewers combo, which would have given us one of every deep fried skewer on the menu, but we decided not to indulge in so much deep fried goodness. The pork and green onion combination were lightly battered with panko, and the pork was pretty juicy inside. Don’t let the picture fool you, there’s three pieces of pork and three pieces of green onion on each skewer. Although I liked this, I want to try the grilled skewers next.

 

Smokey hay sashimi - salmon
Smokey hay salmon – $11.90

One of the recommended items on the menu, the smokey hay sashimi is basically sashimi that is seared on the outside with the flames from a hay fire. This imparts not only a smokey aroma to it, but also a smokey flavour. Mr. Pixelbunny and I LOVED this one. The salmon came with some thinly sliced garlic and salt to dip it in. We slowly ate these thick morsels of salmon and savoured every bite. When we finished the dish, we were actually quite sad!

 

Steamed shabu shabu
Steamed shabu shabu – $7.20

Another recommended menu item, this was ordered out of sheer curiosity. We’d had regular shabu shabu before (which is basically chinese hot pot), and wondered what the steamed version would be like. It came presented in a large steam basket, with thin slices of pork on top, a couple slices of zucchini underneath, some bean sprouts, a couple enoki and oyster mushroom slices, followed by a thick layer of napa cabbage on the bottom. The novelty was neat, but the flavour was pretty bland. It came with two dipping sauces: ponzu vinegar and sesame sauce. It helped with flavour, but I wasn’t a big fan of this dish. It was unfortunate this came after the smokey hay salmon since the prior was so tasty!

 

Caramel pudding
Caramel pudding – $4.20

For dessert, Mr. Pixelbunny opted for the caramel pudding. Light, silky and not too sweet, this was a great redeeming dish from the steamed shabu shabu. Our dinner ended on a good note.

 

Green tea mousse
Green tea mousse – $4.20

I ordered the green tea mousse, which came topped with a dollap of whipped cream and some red bean paste. Each individual component tasted fresh, but when eaten together in one bite, the bitterness of the green tea mousse is well balanced with the red bean paste and a touch of whipped cream. Another great redeeming dish for me to end my dinner with.

 

The Verdict

There are a lot of dishes to choose from and the best way to try them out is to go in larger groups in order to share them. Though Mr. Pixelbunny and I did manage to eat quite a bit (we were starving that night!), it would have been better to get a few more friends out. It’s definitely a place to return to to try some of their other menu items, especially the grilled skewers. Overall, we really liked it!

 

The Place

Don Don Izakaya
130 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON
416-492-5292

Written by Jessica

February 12th, 2013 at 12:38 pm

Posted in Food,Restaurant

Bourjois’ Mini Nail Enamel

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Bourjois Soiree a Versailles
Bourjois’ #63 – Soirée à Versailles

This cute mini bottle of polish was a freebie given to me by a friend. She had received it as part of a free goodie bag that was being handed out at Yonge and Dundas Square a couple months ago and she was carrying it around in her purse until we met up. She’s not a makeup kind of a person, so she offered me the goodie bag.

Bourjois’ is a french brand that I recently saw pop up in Shoppers Drug Mart within the past year. I don’t really know anything about the brand but was open to trying this out. After all, a girl can never have too much nail polish, can she?

 

Bourjois Soiree a Versailles
Under my trusty Ikea desktop lamp. 🙂

As you can see, the colour is a dark ruby red with very fine golden red shimmer to it. It is an absolutely gorgeous colour and this was what I ended up wearing on my nails for New Year’s Eve. I haven’t seen the mini ones for sale anywhere, but the regular size nail enamels sell for $10 at Shoppers Drug Mart.

The formula is pretty good, just 2 coats and I’m good to go. Maybe it’s the shimmer, but it almost seems like a thicker formula than Essie’s.

Have you ever tried Bourjois’ nail enamels before?

Written by Jessica

February 8th, 2013 at 12:30 pm

Posted in Beauty,nails

Starfish Oyster Bed & Grill (closed)

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For our final Winterlicious destination, Mr. Pixelbunny and I headed out to Starfish Oyster Bed & Grill, to get our fill of seafoody-goodness, particularly oysters. We have a great fondness for oysters and are always on the lookout for the chance to have some. So when we found this on the Winterlicious list, we had to try it out.

 

The Atmosphere

We were seated fairly quickly when we first arrived. We managed to survive downtown rush hour traffic and was a little late for our 6:30pm reservation (we got there 10 min late). When you first walk in, there’s a large buffet cabinet to your right that houses a selection of books, some oyster shucking tools, and some t-shirts. A large bar encompasses the main event, a massive back counter full of oysters sitting on a bed of ice, and prime viewing space of the shucker at work. Mr. Pixelbunny and I were seated near the front window corner, right next to the couple who were seated just ahead of us in line. Now keep this in mind because it will be important later.

 

The Food

What can I say about the food except that it was exceptional! I loved every dish and its quality and freshness is definitely high in standard. Now let’s move onto some obligatory pictures.

Starfish Oyster Bed & Grill - bread
Bread on the house

After we were seated, we were quickly served the bread plate. I could taste a bit of a jalapeno kick to it so I wondered if it was some kind of veggie bread? There were three large slices in all, served with a little cup of butter.

As we munched on the bread, the couple next to us received their appetizers. I figured ours would be coming pretty soon too.

 

Starfish Oyster Bed & Grill - Shucker's Best NA Mix
Shucker’s Best NA Mix $15 for 6 | $30 for 12

We started our meal with something off the menu. Being at a restaurant known for their oysters, we had to get it separately from the Winterlicious menu. The Shucker’s Best NA Mix was a great mix for us. There were Kumamoto’s in the bottom right corner (the smallest ones on the plate), Blue Point (the bottom left corner), and mystery oysters that we absolutely cannot remember its name (top right) which is an absolute shame because those were our favourite out of all of them! All of the oysters tasted exceptionally fresh, almost as good as the one time we ate them straight out of the ocean. This was served with a heap of freshly shaved horseradish (much much better tasting than what you get from a jar), seafood sauce, a garlic/vinegar(?) sauce, and lemon wedges. We both prefer squeezing just a few drops of lemon onto it and down the hatch it goes.

The couple next to us were already chowing down on their main entrées when our waitress came to us and apologized for the wait. She explained that our ticket order was missed and that was why we had not received anything yet. She apologized and assured us that our meal would be coming soon. When our oysters came, we were pretty famished.

 

Starfish Oyster Bed & Grill - Smoked haddock fishcakes
House smoked haddock fishcakes, with roasted chioggia beets, pickled haricot beans, and sweet onion jam

My appetizer pick was the house smoked haddock fishcakes. These were so yummy. You could definitely taste the smokiness of the haddock. I loved the beets and the fresh pea shoots throughout the plate. The pickled beans were a little too sour for me. The only unfortunate thing about this dish was that it was served warm. It makes me wonder if it was sitting in the kitchen for some time before it came out.

When our appetizers came, the couple next to us were already eating their desserts.

 

Starfish Oyster Bed & Grill - Hearty winter vegetable and fish chowder
Hearty winter vegetable and fish chowder

Mr. Pixelbunny chose the chowder for this appetizer. The best way to describe it was that it was “chowder-y”. It tasted exactly as I would have expected a chowder to taste. Small chunks of salmon and some kind of white fish were found, along with small chunks of carrot and potato. Fresh parsley garnished the top of this dish. The seasoning was spot on for my taste – not too salty.

 

Starfish Oyster Bed & Grill - Seabream
Fillet of Nova Scotia Seabream, served with a winter squash and brown butter puree, roasted brussels sprouts, house smoked bacon, and toasted pumpkinseeds

My entrée was the seabream, which was absolutely delicious. Lightly pan fried perfectly, it was crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. I don’t know why but I was expecting just one small fillet so imagine my surprise when I found a second piece underneath the first one! YUMMY! The brussel sprouts were really good too (they’re Mr. Pixelbunny’s favourite vegetable apparently) and when paired in the same bite as the house smoked bacon – even better. If my mother knew that she could get all of us kids to eat brussel sprouts by serving it with some bacon, I think we would have eaten them more willingly, haha.

When our entrees finally arrived, the couple next to us just finished paying their bill. I took a quick look at my watch and was astonished at what time it was – 8:15pm. We’ve been here for an hour and a half and we’re only getting to our entree now whereas the couple next to us has already finished everything and was leaving.

 

Starfish Oyster Bed & Grill - PEI mussels
PEI Mussels, served Provencal style with a tomato, fennel and herb broth

Starfish Oyster Bed & Grill - fries
House cut frites

Mr. Pixelbunny opted for mussels as his entrée. The plate was plentiful, as was the house cut frites. The mussels were fresh, and every single one of them was open and ready for eating. The house cut frites were served with a small cup of mayonnaise, something I don’t see very often. The frites were so-so, more on the softer, limp, side rather than crispy. We were getting full at this point and only managed to eat half the frites.

 

Starfish Oyster Bed & Grill - pear and ginger tartlette
Roasted pear and ginger tartlette, with creme fraiche ice cream and candied ginger

I loved this dessert. The candied ginger really did it for me. It gave that extra boost in flavour to this dish. The pear was roasted perfectly with just the right amount of sweetness to it (mmm I tasted cinnamon too). The ice cream was creamy, and the tart shell held everything together. A ring of caramel circled the tartlette, but really, the candied ginger was the star.

It was now 8:35pm. We are now praying that we won’t get slammed with a parking ticket (we paid for up to 8:30pm). Remember that we arrived at 6:40pm for dinner.

 

Starfish Oyster Bed & Grill - sticky toffee pudding
Sticky toffee pudding

Mr. Pixelbunny ordered the sticky toffee pudding. A personal favourite of his, if it’s on the menu, he feels this obligatory pull to order it. It’s moist. It’s sweet, but not sickeningly sweet. It’s served warm, and almost melts in my mouth. I wanted another bite, but I was too engrossed with my candied ginger.

After dessert, we immediately asked for the bill and left as soon as possible. It was 8:48pm. To our dismay, a yellow parking ticket was on our windshield. What was a good meal was now ruined with this bright yellow ticket. ARGH.

 

The Verdict

To be honest, if this review was purely about the food, I’d rate it a 5/5. The food was excellent, fresh, and of high quality. Unfortunately, I was really disappointed with service. We noticed that there was only one waitress for the entire restaurant. I don’t know if this is the norm or if perhaps other wait staff were ill, but service for us was extremely slow and sloppy. After we were initially apologized to for having our ticket misplaced, we had expected service to step up a bit. Instead, it continued to be slow, and we were very aware of how quickly our dining neighbours were served and how prompt their meals were served while ours were repeatedly being forgotten.

Diners should also be aware that they automatically calculate an 18% gratuity into your bill. Now I have no problem tipping extra when it’s merited, but this meal certainly did not deserve an 18% tip. At the very minimum, they should have removed the automatic gratuity or at least discounted our oyster appetizer. And to rub salt into the wound, we got a parking ticket. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect that from being seated to the end of the meal, it should not have taken 2 hours. This has left a very sour taste in our mouth and leaves us hesitant to return, despite how good the food was.

I did tweet out of frustration about the whole experience, and Starfish did tweet me back, saying that they would trade the parking ticket for oysters. I would love it if they followed through on this.

 

The Place

Starfish Oyster Bed & Grill
100 Adelaide St E, Toronto, ON
416-366-8827

Written by Jessica

February 7th, 2013 at 5:03 pm

Posted in Food,Restaurant

Archeo

without comments

Yesterday, Mr. Pixelbunny, my best friend and I decided to try out Archeo‘s Winterlicious lunch menu. Located in Toronto’s historic Distillery District, this restaurant was often overlooked when we walked into the Distillery District because it’s located RIGHT next to the gates! So when we finally found a map and looked it up, we laughed as we walked back towards the gate.

Archeo was a restaurant that piqued my interest about a month ago. I had originally tweeted that I was going out to Richmond Station with my best friends when Archeo tweeted me:

Archeo - tweet

 

I was intrigued. I thought this was a rather clever use of social media. Winterlicious came about and we had to try it out.

 

The Atmosphere

This was one of the most interesting environment setting for a restaurant that I have been to so far! Located in what used to be an old carpentry shop, the old brick walls with it’s old windows gives it a rustic-looking feel to it. Although completely sealed and no longer functioning, you can still see little wooden panels that would have swung open to allow access to the outside. Big, tall wooden beams hold up the high ceiling while pairs of industrial lights that resemble giant Q-tips hang from the ceiling to provide additional lighting from the windows.

Each individual table top is made from 150 year old wood and is sanded and polished down to a beautiful, gleaming surface. An impressive bar with rows upon rows of liquor and wine lines the entire back wall of the restaurant. Throughout the restaurant, you can find giant black and white photographs of the Distillery District from olden times. They give off a silvery sheen, as if they were printed on some sort of aluminum. Most of these giant photographs hang between rows of tables, acting as wall dividers.

When you step in, the host at the host stand greets you and, after checking you in, offers to take your jacket. You are given a ticket to hang onto, and your jacket joins everyone else’s on one of two communal coat racks. Your jacket is identified with your matching ticket number that is found on the coat hanger. I like having this kind of service at restaurants, especially during the cooler and colder months. The reason is you don’t have to worry about hanging your jacket over the back of your seat, risking longer jackets being stepped on or being dragged over the floor.

 

The Food

Archeo - menu
The lunch menu

A simple, single card menu was presented to us when we sat at our table. Another trifold menu at the centre of the table outlined alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks.

 

Archeo - mussels
Tarento style mussels, garlic, chili flakes, tomato

My best friend’s and my appetizer of choice was the Tarento style mussels. The combination of garlic and chili flakes gave it a little spicy kick, and the tomato chunks gave me something to eat the mussels with. There was just enough broth at the bottom of my bowl to soak up my baguette slices with. Only one of my mussels didn’t open all the way, so I pushed it to the side of my plate. The rest were open, revealing a tasty morsel inside. I almost asked for more baguette to soak up the rest of the sauce.

 

Archeo - potato and leek soup
Potato and leek soup with fennel

Mr. Pixelbunny ordered the soup of the day for his appetizer, which was the potato and leek soup with fennel. I had a couple spoonfuls, and it was very potato-y and leek-y, but not much fennel could be detected by my tastebuds. It was a fully creamed soup that had no chunks in it. It was also served hot, which is a must in my book.

 

Archeo - woodland mushroom papardelle
Woodland mushroom papardelle in a wild mushroom cream sauce

My best friend and I again ordered the same dish for entrée: the woodland mushroom papardelle in a wild mushroom cream sauce. The ribbon-like pasta was so fresh tasting that it made me wonder if it’s made in-house. Slices of wild mushroom were mixed in the cream sauce that lightly coated the pasta. Slivers of parmegiano reggiano and sprinkles of fresh parsley garnished the top of this dish. I loved how this dish tasted so simple yet so delicious. I had a very satisfied belly after finishing this.

 

Archeo - spaghetti
Spaghetti and meatballs

Mr. Pixelbunny wanted to order something different from us and settled with the spaghetti and meatballs. The meatballs are made with a combination of pork, veal and beef. Unfortunately, the very first meatball he tried was dry and overcooked. Maybe it was from an older batch? The rest of the meatballs were great: moist, full of flavour and plentiful! There were 6 meatballs on his plate! The pasta was so-so – definitely not made in-house and a little on the soft side. The garnish was also slivers of parmagiano reggiano and a sprinkle of fresh parsley. The meatballs were definitely the star of this dish and the rest were more of a supporting cast.

 

Archeo - lemoncello brule
Lemoncello brûlée with macerated berries

My dessert was the lemoncello brûlée with macerated berries, but as you can see from my picture, there was no maceration involved with my singular berry! I love crème brûlée and could not pass up the opportunity to try this one. The lemon flavour was excellent and not so strong that it would taste tart. And the crunchy caramelled top? Perfectly toasted and not too sweet. I just wish I had more berries.

 

Archeo - almond pana cotta
Amaretti panna cotta

My best friend ordered the amaretti panna cotta for her dessert. Could those possibly be the macerated berries that should have been on my crème brûlée?? Hahaha… The panna cotta was so incredibly smooth and full of almond flavour that I was instantly reminded of almond dessert tofu, but not as silky. This one was my favourite of all the desserts because it tasted so good! I almost asked for a second dessert just so I could have one all to myself.

 

Archeo - tiramisu
Classic tiramisu

Mr. Pixelbunny ordered the classic tiramisu, which came served in a chocolate cup! There was a small, soaked (espresso and rum?) lady finger lining the bottom of the cup and the rest of it was filled with custard. It was good, but I was hoping for a more even ratio of lady finger to custard. I found this one to be a 1:3 ratio of lady finger to custard. Be wary of the cocoa powder dusting on top. I happily chomped down on the spoon and accidentally inhaled a bit of the powder, throwing myself into a coughing fit.

 

The Verdict

The historical environment gives this restaurant a really unique feel to it. The food was great tasting and menu options have something that will satisfy everyone. If you still have a chance to do Winterlicious this year, go over to Archeo and try them out!

 

The Place

Archeo
31 Trinity St, Toronto, ON
416-815-9898

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Written by Jessica

February 3rd, 2013 at 10:30 pm

Posted in Food,Restaurant