Memphis Soul Stew

668: Number of the Feast

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"Holy Cow!" I thought to myself, as I opened a packet of MSG-free vegetarian instant hot & sour soup a few minutes ago.
I never posted about Cafe 668 in Toronto!

To redress this criminal oversight, I now present to you photos of a most marvellous vegan restaurant in Toronto.

Blended ice & mango smoothie:

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There are a few notable things about Toronto, and 668 exemplifies them:
1) It is an amazing city to be a vegetarian. (From rasta food, to Asian fusion, to salad & rice bowl bars)
2) The best 'ethnic' food is often – maybe even usually - not found in 'authentic' (i.e. small and grimy) shops. It's more often found in places that in any other city, judging by the slick exterior, I would give a wide berth. This applies to Italian food (the best we had was at Terroni, which is a suspiciously clean and mid-priced place always packed with middle class people) and very often to Asian food (unless you are after some late night drunken candied-chilli-fried General Tso chicken, and then its all the cluttered humanity of Swatow on Spadina for you my friend).
3) The prices at slightly more upscale 'ethnic' eateries like these are very competitive with their more humble-looking counterparts.

668 is very stylishly got out with clean incense scented bathrooms with ornate carved doors, huge floor to ceiling windows on Dundas
, and a palette of browns, natural stones, nice white china and a couple of cute little 'mod acrylic' chandeliers (I like to think of it as the 'Celia Stephenson' look).

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Interestingly, as indicated by their unprepossessing website
, 668 used to be housed at a more humble, 'authentic' address. It's very good to see an eatery become more upscale without losing any of its edge. And also very nice that the servers have not changed, and are still family members of the restaurant's owners, very down to earth as they serve up organic wine.

Bravo to Ngoc Lam, first-time restaurateur and a self-educated chef, who has so successfully combined the flavours of Thailand, Vietnam and China with little innovations like shreds of a papery thin dried tofu mimicking bonito flakes in the delicious Vietnamese hot & sour soup, which is a very generous serving and comes packed with fresh-tasting vegetables (it's about four times as big as it looks in this photo).

Now magazine describes the version with noodles: "Like its terrific first courses, 668's mains are meant to be shared. Large steaming bowls of hot 'n' sour vermicelli soup ($8.50) brim with a clear, sweet tomato broth thick with large chunks of freshly stewed tomato, crisp celery stalk, crumbly bean curd sheet, chunked pineapple and fresh mint."

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The mushroom & tofu Tom Kha soup with coconut and ginger was delicious too though served as a much smaller portion.
How does Ngoc Lam achieve such depth of flavour without Nuoc Mam or other fish essences? In the case of the hot & sour soup it was clearly via spices & flavourings like chilli and tamarind, but also a goodly amount of tomato infused into the broth. She seriously should make a cook book, to school those people who think that noodle shops shouldn't see their doorsteps darkened by any veges other than cabbage, spring onions and the odd piece of pineapple.

Superb 'Singapore-style' fried-but-not-oily vermicelli with a tasty curry spice blend, crushed peanuts and little pieces of vegetable protein or flavoured seitan (which make moist & tasty morsels in a bird's nest of noodles), 9 dollars:

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It's better to go for noodles, tofu, soups and salads here: stubborn meat-lovers will be disappointed by the mains which offer 'veggie chicken' or 'veggie beef'.

The most memorable dish of all was this water chestnut salad ($8.99)

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- crunchy water chestnut
- slivered carrot
- celery
- green mango
- red bell pepper
- shredded coconut
- gingery candied almonds
- mint
- crushed peanuts
- thin strips of cold fried tofu

And as for the dressing, it's very hard to say. It seems not to contain (much) oil, maybe a hint of sesame oil. Definitely chilli. Citrus? We asked the waitress, and she couldn't (or wouldn't) tell us - then in a moment of generosity she hinted that "she always soaks the vegetables overnight". I wouldn't have been surprised if there were no dressing at all, but the "jubilant juliennes" (as Now magazine called them) including the tofu were soaked in a sugar-mirin-citrus-chilli brine. Worth trying to replicate!!

CAFE 668 (885 Dundas West, at Claremont, 416-703-0668)
Here's the deal: like with plant varieties, globalization of taste is leading to the reduction in the genetic variability of yoghurt cultures. Ever wondered why different kinds of laban and labneh taste differently? and why yoghurt in Europe (yaourt in France) tastes differently from the laban from Lebanon? and why suddenly the taste of factory-made laban has changed and is now less acidic? and why the yoghurt (laban) from the village tastes differently, and is more acidic than the shop-bought laban? It's all in the culture. In villages and in some homes in beirut (although much less now) people make laban at home using a starter culture called "rawbeh" from the previous laban batch, or from the neighbour's laban. Over time, this culture becomes specific to people and to environments, and produces a typical taste that varies from home to home and from village to village. This is the essence of food biodiversity. Enter corporations and industries: They identified strains with "desirable qualities" and commercialized them. The danger: Most yoghurt is made from the same culture, with similar taste: bye bye diversity of tastes, now we all eat the same thing. And it is so much easier for corporations to make only one "taste" while varying other ingredients like colors and sugar content, and to drop the "special" yoghurts (which were the run of the mill originally). But the corporations and the industry are not solely responsible for that: consumers who accept without questioning or demanding something else, share part of this blame, although it is understandable that they should prefer the cheapest, mass-produced product that is dumped on them instead of looking for that "special taste". People are too busy making a living and trying to make ends meet to go "discern" from shop to shop. Policies are needed for that, strong food policies promoting food biodiversity.


Truffles For Humanity

3-Pound Truffle Found in Italy
A white truffle weighing more than three pounds, dug up in Tuscany by a truffle-sniffing dog, will be auctioned this week in Florence for charity.

Truffle hunter Cristiano Savini said Tuesday he was searching for truffles with his father last week in Palaia, about 25 miles from Pisa, when his dog, Rocco, started sniffing "like crazy."

With Rocco leashed to a tree to prevent him from digging too furiously, the Savinis carefully extracted a truffle they said weighed about 3.3 pounds, which they contended was a record.

The Guinness Book of World Records lists a 2.86-pound white truffle found in Croatia in 1999 as the biggest. Cristiano's father, Luciano, said the truffle had been weighed at the traffic police station in the nearby town of San Miniato, which issued a certificate attesting to its weight. The station said the officer involved in the weighing was not immediately available for comment. On Tuesday, Cristiano Savini brought the truffle to Rome to publicize the planned auction, to be held Saturday in a palace in Florence. Truffles can fetch $5,500 a pound in Rome, although they usually weigh from 1 to 2.8 ounces. Slivers of truffles, with their strong aroma, are prized in Italy to flavor pasta sauces and rice dishes. Proceeds from the auction will go to an Italian organization that helps sufferers of genetic diseases, a group that helps street children in London and Catholic charities in Macau.
Another family ritual whilst in Sydney goes a bit like this: wake up on a Saturday or Sunday morning and brave the crowds at the Sydney fish markets. Withdraw a hundy (that's australian for 100 dollars) and go on a seafood buy up binge.

Once inside turn right and queue for sweet little Sydney rock oysters


Freshly murdered by this man

Take two steps to your right and queue for sliced to order sashimi of salmon, hiramasa and tuna or some smoked trout for something different, get a seaweed salad too

Walk towards Christies and buy mussels and clams. Then head up the arcade for some crab. We bought freshly cooked spanner crab. Head further still and buy some seafood accoutrements like lemon, herbs, garlic aioli, sourdough bread and white wine

Drive out to the northern beaches and have a little feast at your sisters house

gorge on oysters with hot sauce and lemon juice

and crab dipped in garlic aioli

Admire the view and feed the cockatoos that land on her balcony

Go to the beach and fall asleep on the beach and be awoken by sisters throwing sand at you

Yoshii's Oishii Deska?

I just got back from my annual sister gathering.

There are four girls in my family and we try to get together whenever possible.

Being four half Chinese girls there is usually lots of shopping, great food, too much alcohol and often some fights and tears

The last get together was on my birthday and wedding in New Zealand - it didn't run that smoothly

The year before was skipped on account of 2004's gathering that included far too much wine, bickering at Neil Perry's now failed XO restaurant and me standing up in the middle of dinner to announce "fuck you both, I'm leaving" (the youngest one was not present at that gathering). At which point my older sister snatched my bag and scowled "no you're not". My announcement reduced my other little sister to tears who, in between mouthfuls of Neil's excellent braised pork hock, quivered "I hate it when everyone argues". We then all argued over the bill. Such is the nature of family.

This year's annual feast however, went exceedingly well. I chose Yoshii's figuring that wine is not ideal for those prone to fighting and tears.

Being all a bit older Japanese also seemed ideal given that we are now all on continual diets

Plus the Sydney Morning Herald had just released their good food guide and gave Yoshii's the thumbs up.

We went on the night of the election....I rudely enquired as to who the Maitre D voted for, he said Howard.....we changed the subject and left a miserly tip

The food........well.....the sake was excellent, definitely a highlight and we all drank so much of it and we talked so much that the food seemed rather secondary

Although we were interrupted and explained what each dish was by excceedingly polite Japanese waitresses, I can hardly remember what we ate. I did take photos though.

At dinner there are two set menus to choose from: The Yoshii Course ($130 AUD) and the Sakura Course ($120 AUD)

Below are some photos of both

I had the Yoshii Course

Sea Urchin Egg Cup. I was still very much sober at this point. The egg is half cooked by hot dashi inside. The sea urchin was Australian sea urchin, thus not that lovely golden colour and not exactly bursting with flavour. Plus it was used so sparingly I could hardly taste it.

? This was on the Sakura course that my sister had. I can't remember what it was

Quadruplet of Appetisers: Ocean trout wrapped with nashi pear and served with kimizu; blue swimmer crab and goats curd avocado roll; grilled pacific oyster; deep fried kanpyou; cumquat and frois gras mousse.


Despite the whimsical descriptions it was all a bit bland

Salt Baked Abalone. I've never been a big fan of abalone. I don't see what the fuss is about. Nice texture, no flavour.

Miso Blue Cheese Black Cod. This was very very good. Memorable and delicious indeed.

Duck (on the Sakura course, I wasn't even tempted to try this)

Veal Capriccio...from what I recall at this point it was tasty and meaty and full of lovely unami mushroom flavours

Fish Baked in Paper, unspectacular (on the Sakura Course)

Rose gum smoked wagyu with horseraddish and turnip puree in Tamari reduction. I wish I could say I tasted the rose gum, but then I would be lying.

All I know is that the green stuff is green tea soba noodles in the middle (Sakura course)

Something rather bland in an edamame broth that was an odd slightly grainy texture (just checked the menu and it said spanner crab mousse wrapped in long net mushroom and edamame bonito)

Sushi Course (nothing amazing here, no premium toro or uni here)

Best Miso I Have Ever Had - No Photo


Sweet potato crepe with orange reduction and goji berries (the fresh orange flavour definitely balanced the potential heaviness of the sweet potato filling

Pannacotta with black sesame crust and bits

Apple Spring Roll with Apple and Wasabi Sorbet (sounds unappetizing but was probably the best dessert)

Yoshiis is billed as kaiseki styled dining which is supposed to be a type of Japanese banquet whereby the diner is delighted by a series of small seasonal dishes and left to admire not only the artful food presentation but also ponder the beautiful bounties of the season and lastly appreciate the handcrafted ceramics on which the food is presented.

It is supposed to be an exercise in aesthetic appreciation and although it was definitely an exercise in sake appreciation, I felt that the food did not really reach quite the same pinnacles as the sake enjoyment. The presentation and plateware didn't knock my socks off either.

We spent a whooping $720 AUD for four people (including lashings of sake). It's not the first time I've been disappointed by an acclaimed and expensive restaurant, and it probably won't be the last. I guess there is a lot to be said for over planning and expectations. Next time I'll leave more to chance.

We ended the night at Ding Dong Dang on Sussex St belting out kareoke hits and torturing each other with our worst high pitched renditions of Minnie Riperton's "Loving You Is Easy Cause Your Beautiful", I wish I could have sung the same fever pitched praise about the meal

Hervé This - Officially cool.

"You will avoid the awful people" - Hervé This

Crime fighting comic book recipes


Swiss roll

Oh and if you are ever in need of a recipe for railway pudding, fladgeon of veal or fish stewed with beer drop by here

Cooking up Heaviness for Coco Solid

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Jizmatron-produced track 'Crime Fighters' (by Gut Feelings contributor Coco Solid, & Erik Ultimate) won Best Hip Hop Single last week in NZ's bNet music awards.
Jizmatron sent me this pic yesterday which shows exactly how he gets that award winning flava into those beats.
As they say in Switzerland, "What eez 'eep 'op anyway??"

German Street Meat Gets The Ultimate Endorsement

MySpace Codes

(Photo taken by Mina von Sneakerberg in Berlin)
MySpace Codes

MySpace Codes

(photos by Mina von Sneakerberg)

The night before last we cooked a vegan dinner for my dear friend Mina von Sneakerberg who manages Strange Life Records
, and her boyfriend Danny who was also playing a gig here last night. We had roasted fennel, celeriac, squash and tomato; plus grilled polenta with a raw chilli-parsley-garlic salsa, rocket/rucola and smashed cannelini beans heated with garlic crushed into salt.

Mina told us about some famous vegans/vegetarians like Kimora Lee Simmons (we also discussed Kimora's bad decorating skills) and Prince (apparently he is also now a Jehovas Witness and goes around knocking on doors with his bodyguards). I was surprised to hear that Andre 3000 is vegan (Skew It On the Bar-B, well, that's probably about hydroponic weed anyhow). Did some web searching today and found a few more vegan musicians, like the drummer from Trans Am, and Yoko Ono (that one comes as less of a surprise). I'm actually surprised there weren't more vegan musicians listed. After taking cooking lessons from Peter Chaplin, who was a personal macrobiotic chef for Madonna and Chrissie Hynde, I was under the impression that it was de rigeur for decades now.

I was vegetarian for six years; followed by a bloody phase in my early 20s when I vaguely subscribed to the notion that because my blood type was O-negative I was genetically predisposed to be suited to a high animal protein diet. Nowadays I'm a confused mixture of both: some days I delight in mixed game pie, other days meat just seems unnecessary. And you don't have to be vegetarian to get excited about eating tofu. I enjoy six-minute eggs but prefer the taste of soy milk to regular milk. At the end of the day I'm a bundle of contradictions, but basically I will eat all things in moderation except stomach or raw horsemeat.

I definitely enjoyed the vegan meal on Thursday more than last night's dinner, which we cooked for Ina, Harry & Denis: chicken roasted with waxy potatoes, porcini mushrooms, rosemary and Vermentino. But maybe Erik's right and it just would have benefitted from another 15 minutes in the oven!

Anyway, today he sent me a link to the sound engineer forum which he frequents ( apparently they too have passionate views to do with veganism VS meat-in-moderation.

Some quotes from the forum thread "Happy Turkey Free Thanksgiving":

"No meat, no wheat, no milk (“milk is for babies” Arnold Schwarzenegger)"

"You would not survive on a Rhino diet!"

"Gorillas eat insects"

"I'm not a celebrity, but I play high energy drums (talk about needing stamina/endurance and strength!) in a band with a 21 and 22 year old. I'm 40." (a meat eater)

"I'm 45 and was on the national cycling team with the future Olympic road champion and a future Giro winner. I've left these guys sitting by the roadside when I was driving the pace. People at the Olympic level of competition are vegetarian at about the same rate as the general population and it does not have a substantial effect on performance one way or the other."

"Defiant of 30 cigarettes a day: I have no deficiency signs (annual check-up), got the last cold/flu several years ago, high blood cholesterol & high blood pressure= unknown symptoms, have a body shape like Adonis without sports, can bang six hours without a break"
(a vegan)

"My hearing goes to 23KHZ and I don't think it has anything to do with my diet. Statistical averages rarely represent an actual person. For the most part we are individuals with freakish deviations from the statistical average."

"I'm veggy only for 15 years, but I do kill baby bunnies for my boa snake."

Corn Be Gone

MySpace Codes

Image: A protest in August against genetically modified crops in France. The modified corn that would be banned has been grown in America for years.

PARIS, Nov. 22 — European Union environmental officials have determined that two kinds of genetically modified corn could harm butterflies, affect food chains and disturb life in rivers and streams, and they have proposed a ban on the sale of the seeds, which are made by DuPont Pioneer, Dow Agrosciences and Syngenta.

MySpace Codes

The Democratic contenders include Gov. Bill Richardson, a veteran of the Atkins and liquid diets who wears a double chin despite daily workouts. Senator Barack Obama, who was chubby as a child, refers to himself as skinny in speeches and barely touches fatty foods — except at events like the Iowa State Fair, where he ate caramel corn, pork and a corn dog for the cameras. At one campaign event, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton said she prayed to God to help her lose weight.

On the Republican side, there is Mike Huckabee, a self-described “recovering food addict” who lost 110 pounds a few years ago. Rudolph W. Giuliani and Fred D. Thompson are on diets imposed by their wives. Mitt Romney is so vigilant about nutrition that he eats the same thing every day: his wife’s granola for breakfast, a chicken or turkey sandwich for lunch, and pasta, fish or chicken for dinner.

And John McCain probably spoke for all the candidates when he arrived at a New Hampshire college for a speech on Sunday night and surveyed the snack foods set out backstage. “I’d love some spaghetti,” he said wistfully, as if a warm, comforting meal could somehow be conjured out of the air.

Those wanting to be president must never, ever refuse or fumble the local specialties, lest they repeat the sins of John Kerry (dismissed as effete when he ordered a Philly cheese steak with Swiss in 2004) or Gerald R. Ford (on a 1976 swing through Texas, he bit into a tamale with the corn husk still on).

So this fall, Mr. Giuliani has visited what seems like every diner in New Hampshire. Mr. Romney, whose idea of a late-night fridge raid is a bowl of cereal, has been ordering milkshakes. Mrs. Clinton introduced calorie and fat counts on White House menus when she was first lady, but a few weeks ago in Tama, Iowa, she had a loose meat sandwich — a kind of Sloppy Joe, but without sauce — and fries.

But while the tradition of campaign consumption endures, physical standards have changed drastically, the portly presidents that Americans elected in the late 19th century giving way to thinner, fitter leaders.

Mr. Huckabee also eats lightly, sticking largely to salads, protein bars and steamed vegetables. But if a campaign trip he took this month is any guide, his mind tends to wander into more dangerous nutritional territory. At a metal factory in Cedar Falls, Iowa, he stared as a worker punched out a flat disc. “Put a little pepperoni and cheese on that, and you’re made,” he observed. One machine, he said, looked like a grill for rib-eye steaks.

Mr. Huckabee, once so overweight as governor of Arkansas that a chair collapsed under him at a meeting, said in an interview that obesity could put politicians at a disadvantage.

Amusing article in the NY Times.

Pre- Fab Sprout

I thought this photo was pretty cute.

It's Village Voice writer Nina Lalli's dad, who has contributed this nice looking thanksgiving recipe
for brussel sprout petals with pine nuts and walnut oil.

Nina says "He really, really wanted to be on the internet."

Michelin Attempt to be Taste Arbiters in the East

From an article by Isabel Reynolds, Reuters Press:

TOKYO - Forget Paris, New York and Rome. The real home of gourmet dining is Tokyo, according to the new Michelin restaurant guide unveiled on Monday.
In its first ever Asian edition, the result of more than a year's research by five undercover inspectors, Michelin awarded more stars in Tokyo than in any other city in the world.
Eight restaurants, five serving Japanese cuisine and three French, were given the coveted three-star rating, which Michelin defines as "exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey."

Twenty-five Tokyo eateries got two stars and 117 were given one star, compared for example with Britain, where only three restaurants in the whole country have three stars and 12 have two.

Some critics and chefs had expressed doubts about whether Europeans were capable of appreciating the finer points of Japanese food, even though two members of the five-strong inspection team were Japanese.

The New York edition of the Michelin guide, first published in 2005, was criticized for favoring French restaurants.
"I think the selection proves the opposite," Naret said. Sixty percent of the starred establishments serve Japanese food, with most of the rest French, plus a handful of Chinese and Italian and one Spanish.


Others had said the fact that some of Japan's gourmet food is served at counters in out-of-the way basements might be a hard sell to Europeans expecting more luxurious surroundings.
But Michelin says the star ratings are based purely on what inspectors find on their plates.
Chef Hiroyuki Kanda was shown on television in his modest counter-style establishment, Kanda, throwing his arms in the air and shouting "Banzai!" after hearing he had been awarded three stars.
Tokyo's three-star Japanese restaurants are Hamadaya, Kanda, Koju, Sukiyabashi Jiro and Sushi Mizutani. The three-star French restaurants are listed as Joel Robuchon, L'Osier and Quintessence.

The first Michelin restaurant guide, aimed at chauffeurs in the early days of motoring, was published by the tire company in 1900 and the star rating system was introduced in the 1920s. The organization only took its first steps outside Europe in 2005, with its New York guide.
Michelin remains tight-lipped about which cities will be targeted in future guides -- Naret said only that a second Asian city would be announced in a few months.

Would be nice to know the names and addresses of the Chinese restaurants that they chose to receive a star...fine Japanese-Chinese cuisine is worth walking to the end of the earth for. But with no qualified Chinese food authority in the panel of judges, to what level can we assume Michelin's authority on such matters? Their expertise in all thing French is assumed; is having two Japanese judges enough for them to ordain the best Chinese, Spanish and Italian restaurants in Tokyo? It's all a bit confusing, innit.

Apparently their track record in reviewing Japanese restaurants is not perfect either: one commentator wrote that a Michelin-starred Japanese restaurant in London served food that resembled that at cheap Japanese chain restaurant Yoshinoya. Some chefs and writers have also grumbled about how, in making the Tokyo selection, Michelin have focused on restaurants that serve a range of wines, and of not discerning between the various rarified traditions (such as distinguising between o-sushi and kaiseki) but instead lumping everything together as "Japanese."

A final piece of black humour from 82-year-old Jiro Ono of Sukiyabashi Jiro sushi restaurant in central Tokyo, now the world's oldest three-star chef:

"I never dreamed this would happen. I've just always tried to make good sushi using the freshest fish," Ono said. "But with global warming, our catch is going down. From now on, I will make the best of what resources we have left."

Egg tart, work of art.

After being inspired by Kinakojams post on the yet to be tasted but much drooled over Pastel de Belém, I decided to negotiate Bangkok's traffic to pick up an egg tart for myself. Usually obtaining a tart requires eating your way through a medicinal Sunday morning yum cha session, where the hopes of multiple dim sum might cure that hangover. None of that is required here, the most difficult task was to find a park for my scooter. That accomplished I headed upstairs to the Saladaeng BTS station where The Ceylon is located and made my purchase of their fantastic works of art which have the added bonus of being kept dangerously warm for your eating pleasure.

What I like most about these tarts is that the curd is scorched much like a Pastel de Belém, instead of the often pale egg tarts that you usually find elsewhere.

Yummy! Worth the 30 baht and near death experience.

The Ceylon.JPG

Warm tarts.JPG

Tarts & bread.JPG

Work of art.JPG

So there.JPG

At One With Oneself.

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In general, I am against the cult of personality, unless the person is dead, in which case a bit of mythology is sort of permissable. I might admire certain chefs and food writers, but I tend to eye celebrity chefs and their expensive restaurants with suspicion. It's all about how much muscle your mastercard can flex and how much the bankers want to throw away on the expense account and going to THAT restaurant becomes a lifestyle accoutrement just as much as the Italian catskin boatshoes are.

To put it more simply, I'm a bit stingy. Also, unless I am getting takeout jerk oxtail or baking a meat pie at home, I prefer clean, light, simple flavours and a multiplicity of dishes. I prefer food that is soaked in dashi and enhanced with handfuls of fresh chilli or herbs to something that is braised for three hours in butter to taste good. So I am very wary of expensive food, which in general seems to be very rich, and the monotonous focus on animal proteins and stodgy celeriac purees in a typical secondi is just too overblown: much like the rich people who typically love that kind of thing. OK, the dishes might be good, just not THAT good that I would spend the cost of four other equally delicious meals on it. In my boringly picky opinion, the only place where cost seems to have equalled value when it comes to fine dining is in Japan, and maybe at Hakkasan in London, but more on that another time.

In fact, (although having me review a fancy restaurant is like sending someone who's allergic to seafood to review a seafood restaurant), the only area where cost seems to more consistently reflect deliciousness is in the arena of cocktails, and Mark McEwan's 'One' restaurant in Toronto's upscale Yorkville area confirmed this, along with my other deep-seated prejudices.

The bar area was dimly lit and steeped in sepia brown chic hotel ambience. The cocktails which we had were excellent – a caipirinha made from crushed black cherries and raw sugar and cachaca; a mojito made with Grey Goose and cloudy apple juice; and an embarressingly pink concoction of grapefruit juice, an old-fashioned brand of Canadian creaming soda, key lime and an alcohol that I can't remember, served with a 'sour key' (classic Canadian candy).

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When it came to the service and the food, our post-meal discussions on the drive home with Jim & Many, who are much more qualified to judge such an establishment, were echoed in this review by Amy Pataki. The service was awkward and at odds with the chic surroundings; so too, was the concept of shared plates when served on silverware. The forced casual-ness of the food and service clashed with Yabu Pushelberg's modernist design of the restaurant interior (the others in our party found the design too nouveaux riche though I actually liked it). The Kobe beef was cold by the time it reached our table; the braised beef shoulder was quite delicious but although slightly larger than a typical main, it hardly seemed designed for a fun shared eating experience. One would prefer large messy platters, gigantic salads, deep bowls and plenty of dipping things and ideally food that could be grilled or stewed at table.

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The polenta with mascarpone & thyme and the spaghetti squash with ginger and the tuna sashimi with lemon & lime peel were very good, but again, didn't seem especially to match the whole shared eating concept. It was like a normal fancy restaurant experience, except that everybody was awkwardly picking off each other's plates. The fennel soup with roasted black cod as a starter was really yummy, even though I don't usually like these cream-based soups that are also very popular in Germany.

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Polenta as communal fine dining:

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Anyway, after we left Toronto, I finally got around to reading Jeffrey Steingarten's column in American Vogue, which had been sitting beside my bed all those weeks, and who did he praise extensively in it but Susur Lee, another of Toronto's hyped restaurateurs, who's been on Iron Chef and who I had been sure would serve up the kind of over-rich, overhyped boring pan-Asian food typical of places like Long Grain in Melbourne. (BTW Mark McEwan of One has a TV show too). But after reading Steingarten's review I was really kicking myself for not going to one of Susur's restaurants for a modest lunch. Oh well, that's what you get for being prejudiced against celebrity chefs. Bigots always get what they deserve.

Address: 116 Yorkville Ave.,
Apparently dinner for two costs $250, owch!! Don't do it!

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