Yum, Yum: Rock Lobster Co.

What  began as a food truck has now blossomed into one of our new fave seafood spots. We first met owner Matt Pettit at Lobstahpalooza (read: lobster, booze and sun), serving up whole lobsters and joking around with Food Network host Kevin Brauch. Now Pettit has transformed the former Watusi space at Ossington and Argyle into Rock Lobstera 75-seat wood and Canadiana-themed hot spot playing everything from Biggie to Blink 182. The resto also includes a 1950s-type mural painted by Pettit’s dad, Donald and a semi-private dining area called the Anchor Room, perfect for an intimate birthday dinner. 

Your friends will love you forever if you have your birthday in the Anchor Room at Rock Lobster.

Before we get into the awesomeness that is the food, let’s talk booze. Rock Lobster has brought in Josh Lindey, responsible for the cocktails at Campagnolo, to help create their tasty and interesting drink menu. We opted for the Ribbons and Swallows, a combination of Sailor Jerry rum, Aperol, coconut syrup and passion fruit juice ($10) and the White Rabbit with Tromba Tequila, lemon juice, horseradish shrub, Angostura orange bitters and Bowmore Scotch rinse ($10). If wine is your thing, it’s priced at $1 per ounce so drink up, but if Caesars are more your bag, the Rock Lobster Caesar ($12) combines Ketel One vodka, Tobasco, Worcestershire sauce, Clamato juice and steak spice, and is topped with (get this) half a lobster tail.

You’ll probably finish this caesar in two shakes of a tail. 
Image source.

The food here is the real deal, and almost made us wish we lived on the east or west coast so we could have access to seafood this awesome all the time. We started with a delicious beet salad with heirloom carrots, goat cheese, radishes and orange segments ($7). In our minds, it’s pretty hard to go wrong with beets and goat cheese but the orange segments give it that little extra something. Next up was the Surf and Turf ($12). Now this is no ordinary lobster and steak, no, this is unreal steak tartare topped with buttery lobster and served with Pettit’s homemade version of Ms.Vicky’s chips. Ah-mazing.

Beets or bust. 
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We ended our meal with the fancy man’s version of KD, Lobster Mac and Cheese ($14). This baby comes in a mini skillet (and mini pot holder sleeve!) with fresh lobster, aged Canadian cheddar and topped off with a golden brown Panko crust. It’s going to be hard to go back to the boxed stuff after this one. 

If you like cheese and lobster, this is the dish for you (and if you don’t like either of those things we probably shouldn’t be friends). 

What makes this place even better is that they offer more than straight up lobster; choose from pork belly and creamed spinach or flank steak with fried duck egg, house-made hickory sticks and Crown Royal whiskey sauce. If you still have room, try the Whale Tail ($6): fried pastry with crème anglaise, cinnamon sugar and Canadian maple sugar. Bottom line: go to Rock Lobster if  you know what’s good for you. 

Follow them on Twitter: @RockLobsterFood


Yum Yum: Lamesa

With such a diverse and international population,  it follows that Toronto’s restaurant scene is equally as varied. Expanding our palate through discovering a new type of ethnic cuisine is one of our favourite flavour pursuits. We’d never tried Filipino food before and, perhaps more embarrassingly, knew even less about what it entailed. When we’d spied Lamesa taking over the old Rosebud space, just down the street from our office (at 669 Queen St. W.), we figured it was a sign to explore new culinary territory!

Exterior on Queen St. W.

Lamesa’s menu changes daily, reflecting food available locally and seasonally, and combines traditional Filipino dishes with French cooking techniques for a dynamic and unusual dining experience. The menu is available a la carte, but our server explained the 5-course prix fixe was the best bang for your buck. At only $35, the prix fixe was a done deal; particularly as we wanted to try as many things as possible. 

We’re obsessed with Lamesa’s custom mural. 

Filipino cuisine is a mash-up of many culinary techniques, including Chinese, Malaysian and Spanish. We started with an amuse bouche of a risotto-like one bite hit of delicious. First course was the Halo Halo Sisig, a blend of beef, pork and chicken mixed with ginger and chiles, topped with a fried egg and Filipino pico de gallo. Our server suggested cutting up the egg and mixing it all together, so we did. We also tried their soup of the day, a creamy mung bean soup topped with pulled duck confit and apples. Would be hard pressed deciding between the two starters, so were glad our dining buddy was willing to share.

Halo Halo Sisig makes an excellent case for eggs for dinner. 
For our mains we had the Pritong Manok, crispy, battered chicken drizzled with an Adobo gastrique/reduction, and the Short Rib Nilaga, braised beef served over cabbage and a bone marrow, potato puree. While we tend to love anything fried, we were partial to the tenderness of the braised beef. The French braising technique, combined with the South Asian flavouring, was an unexpected delight.

So much fried chicken-y goodness.

The pre-dessert (oh, you read that right) was delicate house-made dark and white chocolate bites, with caramel drizzled on the plate. We completed our dinner with two desserts, including a Ginataan with sweet taro chips which is a sweet, coconut milk traditional dessert. The desserts were not the highlight of the meal, but were the most unfamiliar dishes of the night. 

We were impressed by the staff’s attentiveness and knowledge. They were happy to explain any questions about our meal and were able to provide knowledgeable answers in regards to anything cuisine-specific. We loved the prix fixe, both for its value and the range of food items it allows you to try. If you’re curious about Filipino food, this place is a must-try.

Yum Yum: Playa Cabana

We all love a little Mexican food on the fourth floor. Be it authentic or dirty nachos from Sneaky Dees; the combo of avocado, beans, cheese and corn chips make for innumerable dishes of deliciousness. 
We never tire of a new Mexican restaurant debut in Toronto and when we heard about Playa Cabana (111 Dupont St., east of Davenport) it became our next culinary destination to experience.

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A total of nine showed up ready to be wined and dined. By wined we mean Mojito’ed in pitcher form. A bit of Cuban influence, but why not?

To start, we ordered guacamole and house-made tortilla chips. The guac was heavenly, and the chips were crispy and not too greasy. Sidenote: be careful when passing the chips. One of the people in our party managed to light the wax paper the chips are served in on fire. The funny part was that this happened at another table too. Sometimes candle light is dangerous.

The place was jam packed, so getting our orders in took a bit of time. Same goes for getting the food. We were at the restaurant for a total of two and a half hours. A nice leisurely meal, yes, but by the end, ADD had kicked in and we wanted out. It was Friday night, after all.

Plates included Tacos de Pescado (the fish of the day was halibut), Yellow Fin Ahu Tuna Ceviche, Pollo Milanesa Chipotle Burrito (a.k.a. chicken burrito) and Burrito de Mariscos. 

There is a huge selection of tequilla – over 30 varieties. Would be a fun spot for a birthday with friends. The decor is warm with lots of wood and exposed brick. It’s noisy, but not too loud. It’s small, but cozy. We likey.
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Flavours were great, plates were massive, spices were spot on and prices are reasonable – the average main ranged from $12 to $15.  

Our rating: B+. We’ll be back for margaritas and tacos.

Hours of Operation:
Tuesday & Wednesday 5 p.m. – 12 a.m.
Thursday 12 p.m. – 12 a.m.
Friday & Saturday 12 p.m. – 2 a.m.
Sunday 12 p.m. – 10 p.m.

Yum, Yum: Drift Bar and Kitchen

The Bloordale area just scored with a new easy-going joint that hits the spot. Drift Bar and Kitchen is both restaurant and casual bar. It blends a sweet beverage list with an eclectic, little dining menu featuring homemade fare. This is the type of one-two hit that we love. Good homemade food, dive-bar comfort.

This is a wonderful place to have a drink with friends at the end of a long work day. Add a few apps or a gourmet sandwich from the ever-changing menu and you have the makings of a fab Friday night.

We checked out the poutine, starring what co-owner Damian Gaughan calls “18-hour gravy.” It has depth of flavour that goes on forever and when combined with double-fried potatoes and authentic cheese curds, the outcome is perfect comfort food.

Thick, tasty peameal bacon burger, complete with homemade bun.

We also tried the smoky, satisfying peameal bacon burger, and then gave the bean and cucumber salad a whirl. Both were fresh and simple. The made in-house bun on the burger takes it from good to awesome, and the salad was nicely seasoned.

The decor is relaxed and rustic-vintage. Lots of wood, reclaimed materials and a nice sized beer list on a chalk board. 

Delicious bean and cucumber salad with lime and cilantro. 

As for service, the staff members seem truly happy to be there, and the consideration that owners Gaughan and Matt Michowski put into every detail make it an all-around much needed shining star in the Bloor-Dufferin strip. They also serve soups, salads, sandwiches and sides, as well as brunch on the weekend.
Drift Bar and Kitchen (1063 Bloor St. W.).

Yum, Yum: New Eats in our ‘Hood

We all know that feeling: the clock is hitting noon and your stomach is rumbling, reminding you that it’s lunchtime. Lucky for us on the fourth floor, a handful of new eateries have sprouted up just a hop, skip and a jump from us.

For our morning jolt of joe, we go no further than a quick ride down the elevator to the first floor of the Burroughes Building. Here on the corner at Queen and Bathurst, competing with java giants Timmy’s and Starbucks, is the newly opened Red Star Café. Baked goods and brews are a tasty bargain – an iced Americano and flaky croissant will only set you back $3.

The yummy spread at the new German beer hall WVRST.
 Image courtesy of BlogTO.

When we first started hearing all the hype about WVRST (pronounced ‘verst’), we knew this new hotspot would become our guilty pleasure. The gourmet beer hall is home to delicious gluten-free sausages and more than 30 types of beer. After placing your order, take a seat at the giant plank tables, adorned with plastic squeeze bottles filled with our fave condiments. For adventurous foodies, dig into the kangaroo sausage, and top with authentic sauerkraut and zippy sautéed jalapenos. If you are indulging, you might as well go whole hog and opt for a side of duck fat frites.

Even cooler than the movie. 
Image courtesy of BlogTO.

Cool Hand Luc is the new cool kid on the block. Literally. Don’t let the cutesy images of cartoon cones fool you, this place is serious about their scoops. Serving up ice cream and all-natural sorbet for about $3.50 each, this is our haven after a long day of sweltering summer heat. Plus, we like the sound of death by chocolate…

Don’t you wish you could smell the salt and vinegary goodness of fish and chips?
Image courtesy of BlogTO.
Located at King and Portland, The One That Got Away is the place to go for greasy (yet tasty) fish and chips. For the waistline-conscious, they also offer up delicious wraps, sandwiches and salads, preparing our fishy friends grilled. We love that this place uses only sustainable fish, from haddock to barramundi. As food is prepared fresh to order, expect at least a five-minute wait. Caution: the wafting smell of battered fish and chips is as addicting and hunger-inducing as sinful Cinnabon.

Bohemian Gastropub 

Mark your calendars ladies and gents; the Bohemian Gastropub is anticipated to open late July. Paul Boehmer’s latest Toronto venture, since opening Böhmer in February 2010, has had our mouths watering in anticipation. Expect a rustic European-inspired menu under the direction of chef de cuisine Christopher Scott. The Bohemian Gastropub will be occupying the old Oh Boy Burger space at 571 Queen St. W. Save us a seat!