Monthly Archives: May 2012

Big Smoke Burger

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To avoid any confusion over exactly which restaurant this is, I’ll start by saying that this place was formerly known as Craft Burger.  But Top Chef Judge Tom Colicchio who owns restaurants (what Food Network star doesn’t own a few fancy restaurants) had already trademarked the same name. This led to a minor legal squabble which resulted with this chain adopting the name Big Smoke Burger.

the Big Smoke Burger at the Eaton Centre

One thing that shows that this is a great burger place, is the long line-ups everytime we go here, even though there are other hamburger joints in the Urban Eatery – Eaton Centre.

Notice the quality smoked cheese in the bottom left corner of this picture

If you couldn’t tell from what we said earlier, this is one of our favorite restaurants.


We always order the same burger when we go here (chipotle mayo, grilled mushrooms and smoked cheese) and it’s always incredibly delicious.  The chipotle is spicy to the right degree and the smoked cheese adds depth.  Another good thing about these sandwiches is that the patties are extremely juicy, unlike a certain place that claims to be a Priest of Burgers.  That’s right, once again I’ve brought up my arch-nemesis The Burgers Priest.  Its surprising they aren’t bombarding me with angry comments.


If you look at the bottom of the picture, you can see drops of meat juice NOT fat. Sorry for the less than pretty photo but I was just trying to make a point.


The gravy for this poutine has actual flavour instead of just being a salty roux slathered over fries. Just like everything else here, the fries are hand-made (fresh cut, not frozen) and extremely tasty.  I think the only way to describe the exact level of how good this place is… we use Big Smoke Burger as a baseline to which we compare all other burgers.

Big Smoke Burger 220 Yonge Street
Big Smoke Burger on Urbanspoon

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Guess What I Ate Today? (Kinda like horseradish)

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Have you ever been to a Japanese restaurant and wondered what was that green Play-doh  like substance next to your food?  Well today I decided to try it.

I thought it would be appropriate to have a list of foods I don’t like:
1. Olives
2. Oranges
3. Cucumbers
and the new addition
4. Wasabi
I’d rather eat an olive or even a cucumber.

Italian Cuisine

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The next cuisine I shall test is Italian.


Italian cuisine is surprisingly more complex than you would imagine.  I knew it was more than simply pizza and spaghetti but it is still incredibly diverse, probably because of all its regions.  Let’s begin with the history, like I did with Jamaica.

I’ll start with how the people got to the country of Italy, or whatever it was called in Prehistoric Italy;  that is how far back human history in Italy goes.  Back then, the landscape was different due to the Ice Age’s glaciers.

The Italian “Ice Age”

Human remains (not Neanderthals) found in Italy date back to 43,000 years ago; and are among the oldest human remains found.  That’s how long modern humans have been living there, which is pretty darn impressive.  I’ll skip the rest of the prehistory and get into the ancient history, Roman history, that is.

I think this picture is from an old movie from the looks of it

They had dominance over Western Italy and came up with  Western civilization’s science, art and philosophy that lasted all the way to the Medieval Times and even the Renaissance.  When the Romans fell in 476 AD, the country scattered into several city states and stayed that way until they evolved into their own regions which diversified the culture, specifically the cuisine.  Since the history is so long, given how old and influential the country is, I’ll summarize the basics of its history from then on.  Italy faced many hardships like parts of it getting conquered by the Spanish, Austrian or Napolean empires and later WWI.

Napoleon was actually 5’6″ which was a respectable height for his time

But Italy came out on top and is now a very strong country.  As a little fun-fact,  I took the liberty of counting all the regions of Italy, which adds up to twenty-three, that’s right, twenty-three,  so I’ll just talk about the main ones.  Just for the record, the climate does play a part in making each region more unique.  Veneto (the province/region that Venice is in) has three: The Coastal climates, The Plains and The Mountains.  Venice uses a lot of seafood, so it could be considered coastal.  I should mention that the capital of Veneto is Vicenza, I just assumed it was Venice, but what do I know?

All right, I think that’s enough, considering its 50,000 year span, so I’ll talk about the big event, the food!  Starting with Veneto, which is known as the best wine makers of all Italy.   Its plain regions specialize in grilled meat, often a blend of chicken, beef and pork, as well as bar-b-que, grilled polenta and even grilled veggies.

Grilled Chicken

Mountain food is a little different, even though it uses pork, it also uses game meat (I picture large amounts of mountain goats and maybe game birds, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I was wrong).  Also common to this region is the use of mushrooms, cow milk cheese, and the staple of Italy – Polenta.

Polenta is made with ground cornmeal

A lot of Veneto dishes sound simply wonderful and they have so many variations.  I think its a shame there aren’t any (or at least not any I’ve tried or even heard of) Veneto restaurants in Toronto.  Italian cuisine, like several other cultures and cuisines has been stereotyped into a simple and sometimes plain wrong picture.  Like I said, more than just pizza and spaghetti.

Speaking of pizza and spaghetti, another fun fact; there’s a historical myth that Marco Pole introduced spaghetti  to Italy in the form of Chinese noodles.  Actually, according to my research, I believe that it comes from Southern Italy (pretty sure, actually) and spaghetti is only one of many Italian pastas.  There are tomato sauces, white sauces, meat sauces, seafood sauces… and the pasta? Its virtually endless!  Spaghetti, macaroni, linguine, rigatoni, faralle just to name a few.  Plus other starches like polenta, rice, risotto and gnocchi, again, just to name a few.  In case you were wondering what gnocchi and risotto are, I know I was, here are the basics.

Risotto is made from Arborio rice which is starchier and therefore more creamy

Gnocchi – a type of light potato dumpling

And now for the finale, will this cuisine reign supreme? I’m asking. Seriously. I don’t know. We will all have to wait for the final showdown, but here’s a sneak peak for the next one… its a little closer to home…

Easy Restaurant

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We went to this place for my mom’s birthday celebration, who was perfectly content to go to a restaurant for brunch that we’d blog about later.  When we got there it was completely full and with a long wait but fortunately there’s a little secret.  That is: two different locations joined to the same kitchen, around the corner from each other.

1645 Queen St W

This is the place we originally planned to go to.

1598 King St

And this is the place we ended up going to.

Should we mention that this side was busy too but didn’t have a 30 min+ wait but closer to 10-15 minutes, tops.  The decor was very nice with a 70’s feel complete with a shelf of scale model cars and movie posters for action flicks.  The only problem was the seating was very cramped; reminding me of when you go to a place like Second Cup or Starbucks, where you’re desperately searching for seating.  And when you do find a spot you’re awfully close to your neighbours.  That being said we arrived there at a bad time and got swamped  in the brunch rush.

inside the King St location

Much like when we went to Frankly Eatery and found an Indian influence, at Easy Restaurant we found a Mexican influence.  Maybe it is because Toronto is so multicultural its spawned its own Fusion Culture.

Pink Smoothie (the Classic -strawberries, banana & OJ) Brown Smoothie (the Peanut Power – peanut butter, dutch cocoa, espresso, cinnamon and soy milk)

I made my mother take a comparative size photo so you could see the behemoth volume of these dinosaur sized smoothies.  The only thing missing is the tiny man, waving.  I think that these smoothies are more meant to be drank by themselves; both because they are ridiculously large and (especially the Peanut Butter one) are really rich and filling.  The peanut power’s consistency was much more comfortable to drink than Dangerous Dan’s Elvis Shake but unlike the Elvis shake the predominant flavour in Easy Restaurant’s smoothie was peanut butter.  I really couldn’t taste any chocolate at all. The same could said for mom’s Classic Smoothie saying the OJ was the predominant flavour, lacking any strawberry and not enough banana.  Which seems a little too “easy”.  Pun intended.

the Breakfast Quesadilla

The ingredient list is long so I’ll put it here: whole-wheat tortilla with grilled chorizo with carmelized onions, eggs, Monterey jack and spicy red salsa.  Comes with sour cream and salad or home fries.  As you can see here, the filling was very generous and not all cheap or easy.  The chorizo was very tasty and again surprisingly in abundance.  But unlike the smoothies, the flavour profile was well-balanced between the meat and other ingredients and not blown out of all proportion.

the Breakfast Burrito

My mom’s breakfast:   re-fried black beans, scrambled eggs, chipotle salsa, Monterey jack, coriander and caramelized onions, baked in a whole-wheat tortilla with side guacamole – with salad or home fries.  My mom says there was nothing re-fried about the black beans, in fact they were barely cooked.  I think the fact that you could cut the beans with a knife is proof of that.  The eggs were all right but lacked proper seasoning.  Because the burrito was devoid of proper amounts of flavour enhancers like the salsa, it left a void which could only be filled in with the black beans.

the French Toast Croissant

Nana’s breakfast:  Grill-Pressed buttery battered croissant, served with fruit coulis, berries, real maple syrup and real whipped cream.  On the upside,  the berry compote is pleasant, the overall dish is not too sweet and the syrup is real maple syrup.  But Nana doesn’t like Maple syrup, she finds it cloy. On the downside, the croissant while good in concept is bland and suspiciously dependent on the compote, syrup and cream.  The rest of the sentiments you’ll find the same as with the Breakfast Burrito.

Now for a summary of my overall opinion of Easy Restaurant.  The decor is very well though out and if I was to go again, I would choose the King St side as it has a lovely view of Lake Ontario.  The service was prompt and attentive as well as friendly.  The only kicker here is that the food ranges from tasty to tasteless.  Of the foods we tried, I would suggest the Quesadilla for brunch and the Peanut Power Smoothie for a snack.  Is Easy Restaurant recommenable? If you’re in the neighbourhood, looking for a bite to eat – definately yes.  If you’re looking for a destination restaurant anywhere in the city – definately no.

Easy Restaurant 1645 Queen St W

Easy Restaurant on Urbanspoon