Chino Locos

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chino locos

Chino Locos—”crazy chinese” in Spanish—is a puportedly Mexican/Chinese fusion restaurant, although it comes off more as a burrito place with Chinese elements. It’s got an interior filled with various interesting pop culture posters, a short, enticing menu with weird names that attempt to be cool or funny.

chino locos inside

This is a trend that I’ve noticed in many home-grown fast food restaurants, especially in burger places. Keep in mind that, at time of writing and of reviewing, I felt more like an overly-critical cynic than a happy young blogger, and this may colour my review against my best efforts. It may not help Chino Locos (a lucrative-enough business to have two establishments—is what I think of as an “acceptable target”), as one negative review won’t harm the company’s revenue or chance at success.

feeling cold

Another justification for my bad mood in the following paragraph: it’s never a good thing when a person walks into your restaurant wearing two thick hoodies and goes through their entire meal without even taking off their hat. It’s Canada, not the Arabian Peninsula, buy a heater.

nachos

We start the meal off with a bowl of nachos, after having come here directly from swimming practice, I’m ravenous and tired. Even that doesn’t keep me from noticing that the 5 dollar appetizer is made with dollar store ingredients and kept marginally above absolute zero with a microwave seemingly so weak I wouldn’t be surprised if it were damaged in a drunken experiment involving half a grape, plasma and an exploded egg.

cheese sauce

More of an “edible oil product” than cheese

Let me paint a dank picture: temperature feels like the bowl’s been sitting around for ten minutes (actually, more like five given the restaurant’s cold interior) bland tortilla chips probably imported from over the border, and that kind of fake Taco Bell “cheese” that wouldn’t taste much different if it regurgitated back up my throat before being re-swallowed. To be succinct, I was disappointed so far and was already thinking of the snarkiest new name for Chino Locos that I could think of in Spanish, something using the word barato (which means “cheap”).

pork burrito filling

My Mom’s pulled pork burrito

Then came the burritos, which were good enough to elevate Chino Locos off my hit list and even give it a mixed review. Sort of. My mom had gotten the pulled pork option, and mine was a fish burrito. Both came to our table hot, as if they’d actually been cooked instead of microwaved, and the tortilla was generously stuffed with meats and filling alike. In terms of generous portion and comfortable heating, they passed the test.

fish burrito filling

My fish burrito

Given the choice of mild, medium or hot, the former was mild, and mine was hot, both choices turned out to be mistakes. Maybe the spicy choice was meant to live up to its name, perhaps I just was not in the mood for heat despite my mom convincing me I’d like the hot sauce, but whatever the reason, I found my burrito too spicy to honestly enjoy. Franky, there wasn’t much else to taste, even the milder pork wrap had little to no seasoning.

burrito

At least they’re a good size

What I will say is the ingredients of both were pretty good quality: fresh, tender and plentiful. While huge and filling, the burritos lacked a lot in terms of spice, not the fiery kind, but rather marinade, garlic, chives, herbs, decent salsa, friggin store-bought taco seasoning, something. Due to the simplicity of their ingredients, the burritos were two-dimensional in flavour: having many things to bite into and taste, but not much depth. I wish they’d added more sauces and aromatics from both Mexican and especially Chinese cuisines, some guacamole and hosin sauce would’ve killed it, but unfortunately the nuances of both ends of the world were overlooked. Good thing is that I’ve found my snarky re-name, “Gringos Locos”.

pro con

Pros: if you’re in the Broadview area of town and for some reason are stubbornly avoiding anything Chinese in the area, than Chino Locos will, despite its name, offer a non-eastern meal. I’d recommend ordering medium-spiced burritos, they’re too bland by default, and too spicy otherwise. If you want to feel stuffed by a tortilla baby and are likewise in the neighborhood, this will handle the craving. Coming here is really weighing how close you are vs how much you crave something with meat and beans in it.

Cons: were to begin? It’s cold and uncomfortable, for starters, and the nachos were something I could picture my dog nibbling on for a couple seconds before walking away disappointed. I get not every dish can be amazing, some will be bad comparatively to others, but at least try with everything, or else take it off the menu. Laying that to rest, let’s just say a customer should ignore the side dishes. The burritos, ignoring the spice problem that was 100% our own fault, didn’t have much flavour and they really shouldn’t hinge on what degree of heat the customer orders them in. In terms of constructive criticism, experimenting with extra seasoning could really make Chino Loco’s shine. Lastly, in relation to one of the pros above, the streetcars and buses go right by the place, if you’re in the area, just hop on something with wheels and go elsewhere. I’d sooner wait 15 minutes going downtown so I could eat at Chipotle’s.

 

In short, I thoroughly do not recommend Chino Locos, the best thing about their establishment is average, filling but done better elsewhere and complaining about everything they got wrong is like beating a dead horse at this point. 3/10 (Yes, the nachos knocked off a star off my rating)

Chino Locos 368 Broadview Avenue

Chino Locos Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Dumpling House

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dumpling house

While I may be wrong, it seems like I’ve found out what the Chinese equivalent to a “family diner” is. In a given medium/large city, there are at least three mandatory dives that are always busy, crank out cheap and tasty american style meals and have the title “family diner”. You could argue that those vague “wok take-out” are “asian” dive counterparts, but those are more akin to hotdog stands than actual restaurants. And honestly, those places are empty and freaking terrifying. Dumpling restaurants fill the role of a neighbourhood diner much better: humble yet friendly locations with busy staff and food that keeps drawing in lots and lots happy customers.

dumpling house interior

Interior of Dumpling House @ Gerrard and Broadview

The reason for my little, more than slightly pompous rant was because, surprise surprise, this isn’t the only Toronto wonton restaurant called Dumpling House. There’s another one at Spadina, which is very popular and one of my family’s favourite eateries. Thus ensued an obligatory comparison between the two throughout this post. I wondered if the names of both places were different in Chinese, perhaps a way to differentiate the two names, so I examined pictures from both to see if I could notice any similarities or differences.

Dumpling House

This is the Spadina Dumpling House. Note the J-like character in the middle.

Dumpling House

This is the Gerrard Street Dumpling House. Note the same J-like character and how the left hand letter looks like a different version of the Spadina one.

Well, to my admittedly foreign and clue-less eyes, the words from both restaurants look similar, so my guess is that the Spadina title is in Traditional Chinese and the Gerrard one is in Simplified (because the characters are less intricate) or possibly one is in Cantonese. If anyone reading this knows more about Chinese than I do (which isn’t a lot), please feel free to correct my abysmal language skills in the comments.

So Dumpling House Gerrard Edition is a diner-like restaurant that serves wontons, has a generic name and smells delicious when you walk inside. Mom thought it’d be interesting to compare this restaurant to the other place, which I will now call the Mirror Dumpling in reference to people’s reflections in mirrors (what else?). I could call it “the Spadina place”, but Mirror Dumpling sounds cooler.

chinese menu

 Right off the bat Dumpling House offers a different menu: one with more selection for non-wonton items, and conversely less varieties of dumpling fillings. However, they have three different types of wonton as opposed to the Mirror Dumpling’s two: with the addition of boiled to the list of steamed and fried (although the boiled option was closer to Mirror’s actual steamed option).

steamed dumpling

Pork & chive Boiled Dumpling

First we had boiled pork and chive dumplings, a normal choice for us. Frankly it was a tie with the Mirror Dumpling, the meat was a delicious mix between umami and salty, with flecks of green onion to add some depth.

chicken dumpling

Inside the Pork & Chive Dumpling

I did notice these dumplings to be juicier, my plate was covered in warm meat grease coming from the tender pork ball wrapped inside soft, thin wonton.

Steamed dumpling

Their steamed Egg Dumpling

 

Our next option was more unusual and had no Mirror counterpart that we’re familiar with: steamed egg and herb dumplings. Interestingly, they came in a basket, and were more delicately put together. The wonton itself had more flavour, tasting more like rice dough than greasy wrapping; I believe this was due to it having less moisture. Without as much juice, I found the pastry to be a little bit too tough, although others may prefer a wonton that doesn’t fall apart so easily.

egg dumpling

Inside the Steamed Egg Dumpling

I do think it worked well with the filling, a wonderful blend of green herbs and mild, finely chopped egg. The softer flavours worked well with a steamed wonton, although the first dumpling tasted better than the last one of the batch. Make of that what you will, I liked it more than mom did.

beef dumpling

Fried Beef Dumpling

Third up were the pan fried beef, which came in a disappointingly smaller batch and made up for it with their individually larger size. Again, I liked those more than mom, who preferred the Mirror Dumpling for its crispy dough on top and less juicy meat. These dumplings squirted when you bit into them, while it proved how moist they were, it was actually kind of annoying on the first bite. I quite liked the beef, although it was pretty much flavoured by grease and a touch of garlic and basic seasoning. Oddly this was quite attractive in its own way and reminded me somewhat of beef in wonton soup, but swimming in its own juice instead of broth.

chinese dessert

Kind of like a dessert quesadilla

 

For dessert, we had red bean pancakes, something new that I wanted to try out. They were quite simple and mild, tasting familiar to me in a way I couldn’t put my finger on. The dough was thin and flat, cut into little triangles and wrapped around sweetened bean paste. I’d say it’s best for people who like desserts that aren’t sickeningly sweet or rich, although anyone who’s already full from their meal would like them.

Pros: has a diverse menu, lots of non-dumpling options, and even the wonton choices have variety: the steamed egg and fried beef dumplings were polar opposites. Also has a cozy decorative interior and very low prices. Less busy and crowded with customers than the Spadina place.

Cons: I can’t think of any true cons, other than what may only apply to some people (see below)

Toronto Dumpling House

Pro/Cons: some people may like Gerrard’s dumplings better, or Spadina’s, I can’t really accommodate for personal taste. Also in comparison with Spadina, some people may be closer to one than the other; I live on Gerrard and this place is inbetween my house and Spadina.

Verdict: Dumpling House is quite recommendable for anyone who wants large plates of tasty dumplings for a good price in a local wonton place. As I’ve said, preferences may vary and this isn’t exactly a high-end or fancy restaurant, but it is great for a good meal.

Dumpling House 619 Gerrard Street East

Dumpling House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Nakayoshi

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Ramen noodle restaurantBefore I say anything else, I’d like to get one thing out of the way: Nakayoshi is my first true ramen noodle restaurant. I was a bit worried that my review of this particular place would be unrefined, since I had no idea what “good ramen” tastes like other than something that doesn’t warrant a gastric bypass. Regardless, I think I’ve pinned down Nakayoshi’s quality pretty well.

Octopus balls

Our meal started with octopus balls—to clarify—these are balls of octopus meat, not cephalopod gonads. Writing that last sentence down, I wondered, where are an octopus’ genitals? Don’t say you aren’t curious too.

 octopus reproduction

Well, a quick trip to Wikipedia taught me that males have a special tentacle that holds and transports sperm, and gives the dna to the female during mating. Somehow this ends up with both parties dying shortly after the eggs are laid, and I don’t think continuing this train of thought would make my blog very appetizingI’m assuming they remove the male’s “special” tentacle so that it’s not served to customers, as the anatomy is different and people wouldn’t want to eat it anyways. I couldn’t find anything about this organ being served in restaurants, and there would’ve been something if it were. The octupus balls are made with just regular, non-reproductive tentacles.

 octopus ball

That weird, oddly creepy rant aside, I loved these things. The chewy, briny tentacle nougats are embedded in a soft, creamy dough ball, that impacts a sweet, complementary flavour. These balls are in turn covered with aioli and a little bit of seaweed to add some crunch. While I found the balls absolutely delicious, my mom had a hard time not spitting up hers. The texture (soft outside with a chewy thing in the middle) was repulsive to her, so I’d recommend a little caution in terms of choosing these. If you’re okay with a unique texture and flavour, absolutely get these tasty little things.

 ramen noodle

Now for the main course: the ramen noodles. I ordered the Shoyu ramen: soy sauce-flavoured broth with bbq pork. Mom had the Gyoza Ramen with deep fried dumplings in salted broth. Combine these with a generous amount of veggies and half a hard-boiled egg, and you’ve got a huge, deliciously crowded bowl of soup. In a general sense, I guess you could say there were some similarities to wonton soup, but the details are all different. My bowl’s broth was saltier and richer at the same time, and obviously there were huge amounts of noodles in place of dumplings. Overall the broth was quite tasty by itself; it was quite salty, but in this case that was a good thing.

 ramen and gyoza

Of course, I’m just talking about the backdrop right now, the main co-stars of ramen and pork. I found the noodles to be in-betweeners: they were not thick n’ chewy Udon noodles, nor were they teeny tiny glass noodles. What the ramen was could be described as generous in portion size, adept at soaking up the delicious broth, and gifted with just enough bite to be satisfactorily chewy. Pair this with the tender, juicy hunks of bbq pork and you’ve got a pretty good dish for ramen experts and amateurs. What I liked most was that the meat didn’t have large bits of impossible-to-chew fat in it, which I sometimes find in Chinese wonton soups.

 japanese soda

For a drink, I had a cool glass of Calpico, a Japanese imported soda. Since this beverage traveled over an entire ocean like a ship-bound Amelia Earhart, Nakayoshi is probably one of the only places in Toronto to find [{ insert }]. It had a similar sweetness to coke, but less sickly and softer. I quite enjoyed its rather creamy and milk-like qualities. Of course, the second ingredient was high-fructose corn syrup, followed by sugar, so it’s the kind of treat personal trainers have nightmares about. At least it’s great for a hot summer day!

 japanese ice cream

We finished our lovely meal with a type of ice cream ball dessert, essentially regular ice cream wrapped in a thick rice dough. The combo worked very well; green tea flavour is an especially good option for this mild dessert. I dare say the rice dough works better than a sugar cone.

To wrap things up, I highly recommend Nakayoshi as Japanese/Ramen cuisine restaurant, you won’t be disappointed. The only reason I wouldn’t say it’s a good place to eat is simply if you’re not craving japanese food, and even then it’s worth a go.

Nakayoshi 812 Danforth Ave
Nakayoshi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pizza Pide

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Pizza Pide

A Turkish pizza restaurant. Hmm, that’s interesting. That idea to me conjured up an image of a slice of pizza with Turkish food toppings… whatever those may be. The actual Pizza Pide has a better concept than that: a restaurant that serves both pizza and traditional flatbread topped by mediterranean meats, cheeses and herbs. 

Pizza Pide

It suddenly comes to mind that there must be a burden on all people from Turkey. Imagine being proud of your country, and having the only thing people say about it is some lame crack about poultry. Seriously, name a fact about Turkey that wasn’t pulled off of Wikipedia. Im not saying Turkey is a dull country—rather the opposite—us big dumb Westerners don’t know diddly squat about what is probably a very interesting place.

Turkey on a map

Turkey is obviously more complex a nation than a lot of North Americans are aware of, and I think that’s at least evidenced by their foods. It’s got a large mix of ingredients from Iran, Italy, and many other countries in that general area of the world. It would seem Pizza Pide is mediterranean fare—so far so good—but with a Turkish Twist on it. Did I just write an alliterative pun? Oh god, this is the end.

Toronto map

Pizza Pide is located across the street from Gerrard Square, only really standing out as it is not a Pizza Pizza, I’ve encountered two on the way there. Pide looks very basic on the inside, not appearing much different from its other fast food competitors, but there’s one key difference. I’d a thousand times rather eat here than anywhere that had Pizza x 2 in the title. That’d be the name for the new and improved Pizza Pizza if they cared enough to new and improve.

 

turkish pizza

All our orders and some condiments; presented family style

Anyways… as a family, we skipped the slices and turned straight to the wall-bound menu of flatbreads, which are admittedly not that dissimilar in concept from a regular pizza. Our orders were a 9 Tavukla Kasarli (chicken strips and mozzerella), 19 (pepperoni and mozzerella) and mine was a number 4 Mevlana (feta and mozzerella cheese with parsley over ground beef. Mixed with tomato, parsley, peppers onion and spices). That last one’s a mouthful. Orders 1 though 6 and a couple of the higher numbers are different than the rest of the menu.

pepperoni piza

My mom’s order: the Pepperoni

My order was a flatbread, while the others seemed to be inside a pastry, almost like a cross between a Calzone and a Croissant. Either one is just as amazing, it’s just a matter of nicer pastry or more surface area for toppings.

chicken pizza

Nana’s chicken pizza

The first thing to notice is how generous the cooks are, both in terms of portion size and their liberal usage of cheese. Numbers 9 and 19 had a buttery, soft crust encasing warm gooey cheese, the former with large hunks of tender chicken, and the latter with butcher shop quality pepperoni.

Turkish Pizza

My order – the more traditional Turkish style pizza

Mine had a thin, slightly crunchier crust absolutely covered with good stuff. While the mozzerella was just as gooey, it was a vehicle for all the other toppings. The feta cheese added a mildly beautiful amount of tang, accentuated by fresh herbs such as parsley, and completed by light crumbles of beef with just a little bit of that classic grease.

Pros: The food is certifiably delicious, and tactically located outside of Gerrard Square for hungry mall shoppers.

Cons: The interior is basic and fast foodish. While that isn’t a problem for me, it might be for others. If the main focus of you and your companions’ dinner is food, the decor won’t matter.

All in all, the only people I don’t recommend Pizza Pide is someone who either wouldn’t like the interior, or doesn’t like pizza.  While the lack of decor is really the only legitimate complaint I can make, it doesn’t detract from the experience of eating here in any way.  Yeah, it’s pretty damn good.   

Pizza Pide 949 Gerrard St E

Pizza Pide Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Jackson’s Burger

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Jackson's burger

Despite using similar naming conventions as some gum-and-cigarette convenience stores, Jackson’s Burger turns out to be quite an interesting place, at least when it comes to the menu. There are more special burgers than I can remember, but suffice to say there’s a lamb burger, a beef patty covered with peanut butter and jam, and the usual “weird” options such as burgers topped with onion rings or lots of bacon.

 

menu

Just a small sample of some of the menu options

Quirky burger stops are practically a sub-genre in Toronto—like I said—sandwiches with fried egg or secret sauce are the norm. Jackson’s interior is nothing special: a small, downtown location with enough room for four reasonably comfortable tables and a bathroom; at least it isn’t cramped.

jackson's burger

What I found interesting was how the patties are made out of 100% Halal meat, with the option for a gluten free bun. Even the vegan option sounded intriguing: a burger with a chickpea patty that celebrated vegetables instead of making them into imitation meat. Be ye Muslim, vegetarian or celiac (or some cruel combination of the last two) this is a really friendly place.

halal

Alright, alright, we’ve already established the menu’s options are great, aware of people’s different needs and offering a lot of specialties, but that isn’t worth a bowl of gluten-free kale chips if the actual burgers are sub par. While I’m no burger aficionado—as evidenced by how my sandwich looks halfway through a meal—I can tell a juicy homemade patty from a dystopian slop squeezed out of the nearest Burger King. And Jackson’s is definitely the former, delivering savoury, moist patties with the best kind of char I’ve seen from a flat top.

 

Cheeseburger

Burgetta: with bruschetta mix, provolone cheese, fried eggplant, lettuce & pesto

During a family trip here, we got to try three different burgers: a chicken burger (filled with Philadelphia cream cheese and spinach) a Burgetta (Italian cheese, meat and herbs) and the Burgeritto (Mexican toppings, including a so-called “Avocado Explosion”). I found the Burgetta to be fascinatingly pleasant, tasting almost like a wood-oven pizza. With the melted provolone cheese infused with bruschetta. It was delicious.

chicken burger

My Nana’s Chicken Burger

Likewise, grilled chicken mixed with a creamy spinach cheese combo adds a ton of flavour to an otherwise normal sandwich. My order, the Burgeritto, was chosen as it was one of the more unusual options that I was actually willing to eat. That’s me, I’d eat crickets, but not the peanut butter/jam burger. Let’s just say they weren’t lying when saying it was an avocado “explosion”.

 

avocado burger

In case you were wondering where the guacamole was…Inside the brown fritter atop the patty

Avocado and beef go pretty well together; both bring a savoury, slightly fatty taste to the table, and the explosion’s clever breadcrumb shell kept the topping neatly inside the burger. To complement this was were some diced tomatoes and sour cream, adding a bit of tartness, and dusted onions for a little finisher. Pair this with a massive box of delicious, homemade french fries and you’ve got a perfect fast foodish meal.

avocado burger

My burger before the avocado explosion

 

Since Zomato has added a rating system, each review of mine will be paired with a 1 to 5 star ranking. While I understand the reasons for this, I feel it undermines the complexity of certain recommendations for my readers; what one person might consider a 5 star restaurant would be a one 1 star to someone else. So I decided to experiment with a loose pros and cons list.

Zomato

Pros: Jackson’s Burger intriguing burger combos, inclusive menu and the overall quality of the food itself. I’d definitely recommend it to people craving a burger while near or in downtown.

Cons: Really the only problem is Jackson’s small seating. Although I wasn’t fond of the music on the radio, that’s advanced nit-picking for a great burger place. If you live far from downtown—like in North York or Scarborough—you might want a closer establishment, but Jackson’s Burger is definitely a good Toronto meat-on-bread diner.

Jackson’s Burgers 374 Yonge Street

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Eulalie’s Corner Store

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Gerrard_Street,_Toronto

The neighborhood I live in is very interesting, mostly because it’s an experiment of how many different walks of life can fit into four city blocks. For instance, my house is located in a slightly ghetto but still safe and clean part of town, next to an abandoned store, empty used car lot and a sketchy bar. Two minutes away is the vibrant and exotic Little India, mix-mashed with more closed stores and middle class hangouts.

yuppie

Okay, here’s a bit of a problem. My neighborhood is being infused with middle class, local establishments, and that colours my review of a Canadian restaurant right in the middle of Little India. But I really can’t write about this without coming off as racist towards rich white people. What do I call them? Soccer mom and yuppie are common terms, but are derogatory, and I know I’ll get comments for using a word like dink or cracker. I’ve done my best to present things as neutrally as possible, but if there’s a way to talk about middle class Caucasians in an ethnic neighborhood without sounding bigoted, please let me know.

I mention this because local cafes Lazy Daisy and Flying Pony give off a very different vibe than what the rest of Little India gives, and newer places are opening up all the time to appeal to that same demographic. Eulalie’s Corner Store—or Eulalie’s for short—is part of this new trend, and I’ll talk about that later.

My mom and I had decided to sit outside during dinner, to enjoy the summer pleasures of being harassed by wasps and napkin-stealing breezes. An outside patio is the main seating area; the indoor space being cramped. This emphasize on outdoor seating brings up Eulalie’s first problem, albeit it’s one with their business model and not customer satisfaction. Patio dining is great during summer or the milder parts of spring and fall, but when the city gets covered in snow and ice, the novelty wears a little thin.

Oh look at that, three paragraphs in and I haven’t talked about the food, but did mention optimal business approaches and racial tensions. The blog got off course again, d@mn it. Well, at least you know how long it takes waiting for dinner at this place. We arrived at Eulalie’s probably around 7:40 and didn’t get our plates until 8:20, and that’s a conservative estimate. The long wait time gives you plenty to do: get annoyed by the loud customers, wonder what the odds are of a horrific disaster occurring within the next five minutes, or pick a fight with an intrusive wasp (I hate wasps).

 

Weird people and stubborn wasps notwithstanding, the wait time is long for a sandwich and fried chicken on waffles. My personal thinking is that Eulalie’s is intended to be a social place for friends to chat and laugh over booze—like a classy, alcoholic water cooler—and that customers would be so engrossed in loud conversation to not notice how long the food is taking. By that logic, anyone who brings an awkward first-time date might feel something closer to a relativistic effect, but I digress.

If the food was good, I might say the meal is worth bearing through all the time dilation. Spoilers, it’s not. My fried chicken pieces atop potato waffles weren’t bad by any means, but won’t be winning any awards either. The breading was crispy and edible, covering boneless chicken that was neither dry nor succulent. It overplayed thin but soft potato waffles that offered some sweetness and not much else. On the side of this John Smith of a dish was a type of wine sauce, probably the best part of the meal in terms of originality, but still average. It’s a bad sign when the best word I used to describe my meal was edible.

It’s basically the same song and dance for Mom’s fried green tomato sandwich, tasty but one could find good sandwiches at the cafe Lazy Daisy two blocks away, so I won’t go into this too much. There are some good things to Eulalie’s, such as the homemade mayo and ketchup that came with the tomato sandwich, or the wine sauce with my dish. Although anything’s better than store bought condiments, homemade stuff still adds a lot of flavour. Mom found the prices to be good, I didn’t as much because I’m a complete cheapskate. And for those who’d rather an inside pub, there is a mini bar next to a TV screen and three seating tables—like I said, it’s small.

The fact of the matter is, this is not really a place focused in food.  If you’re into the whole beer patio friend hangout thing, that’s fine. Just be sure the conversation will last till dinner arrives. At the least, Eulalie’s is part of an interesting social experiment. The people who visited Little India pre-Lazy Daisy won’t be going here, nor will many of those at Eulalie’s be seen hitting up the local buffets. So there’s a middle class suburban culture of Canadians who go to organic food markets, have evening social events and spend twelve bucks on a sandwich, right next to an Indian bazaar. And I’m not criticizing that by any means—just because I don’t like Eulalie’s doesn’t mean I don’t love going to Flying Pony or Lazy Daisy’s. In regards to Eulalie’s, if it’s all the same, I’d rather eat butter chicken or chana masala.

Eulalie’s Corner Store 1438 Gerrard Street East
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Moti Mahal

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Moti Mahal

What is Moti Mahal? It appears to be one of the more successful restaurants of Toronto’s Little India, a culturally rich but ever changing neighborhood with exotic clothing and jewelry stores, fancy cafes and abandoned buildings. Moti Mahal would look like a simple fast food restaurant to any uninformed window shoppers, but after taking the red pill and eating here, I discovered a hidden gem and secret history. No, this isn’t a rant post, you’ll have to try again next time.

Angry rant

Although I can refer you to Google if that’s what you’re looking for.

What up until the time of writing I thought was a local Indian restaurant, it turned out to have a much more important history. The story of Moti Mahal begins in the 1900s in the Punjab region of Pakistan—which was still India—with a man named Kundan Lal Gujral. Losing his father at age ten, he worked at a restaurant which revolutionized the art of making tandoori chicken.

Tandoor Oven

A tandoor is a clay pot used as an oven, but Gujral was the first to dig a tandoor into the floor of his eatery, making the dish popular and Gujral’s services vey popular. In 1947, The British brought about partition; separating the great country into India and Pakistan. Gujral fled to India, and arrived in New Delhi poor but hopeful. He then re-started his business into what is today Moti Mahal.

Moti Mahal is now a chain with over 120 locations, including the one three blocks away from my house in Toronto, which among other things happens to be the inventor of modern Dal Makhani and Butter Chicken. Wait wait wait, what?! Yeah, that’s right, Moti Mahal invented one of the more popular Indian dishes back in the 50’s. Don’t believe me? Well then check the Wikipedia page, because apparently they have one.

MotiMahal seating
Since I hadn’t learned Moti Mahal’s history until after eating there, my opinion was formed as a regular diner’s experience. The decor isn’t much to talk about, since it appears to be AWOL, and the seating comprises of cafeteria style bolted-down benches and tables. Even though the interior is lacking, the prices are really low in comparison to the food’s quality.
Menu

Decisions, decisions

Upon looking at the wall-mounted menu behind the ordering counter, one notices the large number of dishes. Or in my case, one notices the thing that will keep you staring at the wall indecisively for minutes on end. I eventually settled on the number 7 option from the special menu, a huge plate with naan and a smorgasbord of other dishes in smaller portions.

Butter Chicken Thali

My lunch had butter chicken (rather fitting in hindsight), chana masala, bisrani (rice with flavouring) and an onion dumpling in yogurt sauce. Let’s start with the butter chicken. It had generous amount of tender, boneless chicken marinating in a creamy, fresh sauce. The sweet/savoury combination that characterizes butter chicken was spot on, and very warm. It might not be the best I’ve had, but pretty damn good. As for the chana masala, it was amazing. The well-cooked chickpeas were the ideal vessel for a perfect sauce. Unlike most chana dishes I’ve had, this one had very little acidity and a much richer flavour—a little bit was quite filling. The taste could be described as earthy, or as I like to say, umami, and there was just enough spice to bring it all together.

Kathi Roll

My mom’s paneer kathi roll

The biryani surprised me on the first bite. As opposed to just plain rice, it had been treated with a sweet and herbaceous flavouring, making it more suitable to be eaten alone than as a vessel for sauce—I guess that’s what the gigantic pieces of bread were for. Speaking of which, the naan was pretty decent, could’ve been fluffier in my opinion, but I’m a sucker for flatbread and it filled its purpose. As for the onion dumpling yogurt sauce thing—yeah I forget the Indian name okay?!—it matched the other dishes. The yellow stew gave off a mild sourness, brought down by its smoothness. This worked in tangent with the dumpling—a dense but soft, moist ball meant to be chewed with ease.

Pakora

Their pakora; big as a baseball

Overall, I very much recommand Moti Mahal, it has delicious food for a great price. I can also vouch for the pakora and samosas, two or three of which can make up a lunch for someone on a budget: I order it regularly and I’m a penny-pinching b@stard. If you come here, try it at least once, there’s a reason Moti Mahal is always crowded.

Moti Mahal 1422 Gerrard St E

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