Tag Archives: food court

Cricket Hot Dog CNE

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bug bistro

A new eatery opened at The Ex this year, the aptly named Bug Bistro, showcasing various types of arthropod-based dishes. Don’t bother using Google Maps to locate it, which will just point you towards the center of the CNE, instead scour the food building for a smaller stand with a white cricket-adorned sign. Most menu items consist of typical American-style concession foods, with either crickets or mealworms mixed in with more western protein sources.

cricket dog

I personally enjoy trying out various types of “bug food” whenever I can, as it is different and the concept doesn’t bother me in the slightest. Insect-based food is also an extremely efficient and cheap protein source for a growing human population, and also helps bypass the global warming and animal cruelty-related problems of the agriculture industry. So why don’t we eat more crickets? “Because they’re gross, ew!”, as some people may say, despite the fact that insects are a traditional food source in parts of East Asia, certain fast food hamburgers are more disgusting than anything given to us by nature, and there’s a small portion of beetle parts in your peanut butter (look it up). And that is why I chose to eat the Bug Dog (hot dog with mustard-roasted crickets) and a smoothie (forget the name, its the only one they have) made out of mango, beetle larva and with spices sprinkled on top.

smoothie

So, how’s it taste? Crickets, I find, often taste very dry and earthy, with a powerful aftertaste. It made sense to use them as garnish on a milder and more familiar hot dog, as the flavours balanced out. The smoothie had a strong secondary taste of mango, and a huge blast of that earthiness I mentioned earlier, along with a second taste intrinsic to meal worms and larva that I can’t easily describe. I could best describe it as an alien sweetness that tastes nice, but is rather exotic and can fill my stomach up very quickly. While the cinnamon/nutmeg helps cut this, I’d recommend getting the smoothie by itself due to its richness. One major complaint I have about Bug Bistro is a rather strange one: they have no lids for their drinks.

mealworm smoothie

When I was first told by the clerk that there were no lids for my full and bendy plastic cup, I wondered how I was supposed to navigate a crowded building to my seat without bumping into someone and spilling all over. While I made it to my seat without having to explain to an angry person that their shirt is now covered in mango pulp and grounded beetle larva, I only had a few bites of my food before the LIDLESS drink spilled into my hot dog. The bun turned an ill, pale orange colour only seen in Donald Trump’s bathroom during a sick day, and the resulting unholy combination of sweet, salty and buggy was something that should probably be copyrighted by McDonald’s. Fortunately, the bun took the bullet and my wiener and crickets were saved, as well as some of the b@st@rd drink that I threw in the garbage out of spite and consoled myself with Korean Tacos from Far East Grill. Seriously, try that place, it’s delicious and better than the deep-fried gym membership-enders that are sold every year.

far east taco

image courtesy on urbancraze.com

To recap, definitely try Bug Bistro if you like feel adventurous or like eating bugs, get the Beetle Juice drink by itself and beware of the sinful lack of coverage, or get one of the savouries for a lunch. Bug Bistro does a good job making insects both tasty and friendly towards those unfamiliar, and I would have had a better experience had the manager not thought they could save a few bucks skimping out on lids. Also, the world would be a better place if I were its leader.

 

Post apocalypse

No new taxes!

Lids and Crickets everywhere!

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Amaya Express

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Amaya Express Eaton Centre

What’s Indian and very popular globally? No, it’s not a Bollywood film, it’s food! Another one of the cleaner, greener, healthier and more exotic members of the Eaton Centre’s food court, Amaya Express  is an Indian chain that I have been to before, and enjoyed each time. If it weren’t in The Eaton Centre, I would say that this place belongs in little India, because… in a blantant Jeff Dunham reference, it’s good, it’s good, it’s goooooooood!

This place features classic dishes like Butter Chicken, and more exotic ones like Beef Vindaloo, which the man behind the counter described, somewhat ominously to me since I was going to try it, their spiciest dish.

the menu at Amaya Express

the menu at Amaya Express

Which is why I paired it with my favourite Indian drink, the cooling spice killing mango lassi, which I think works better than soda-pop with a spicy meal because the carbon hurts the tongue when it’s already weakened with hot food.

Butter Chicken

Butter Chicken

I’ve aready had the Butter Chicken, so I can say that, first off, the sauce is delicious, and the chicken plentiful and tender. The sauce was done perfectly, I’ve had other butter chicken before, as anyone who’s read another of my posts would know, so I can compare. It pasts the test.

The Beef Vindaloo, duh duh duh! Since I eat lots of spicy foods, I was walking into this maybe a little too cocky than one should be when playing with fire [maybe I’m the Boy who Played with Fire, random book reference], but I can say for other food masochists out there, it actually had a kick.

my random book reference

my random book reference

Anyone who thinks it’ll be a wimpy KFC [colonel Sanders still rolls in his grave] type of junk will be unpleasantly surprised.

Every giant bowl [you’d think this was family size, I’m not joking when I say a person just might be able to stick their head in it] comes with chana, an Indian [like you thought this was Somalian] chickpea dish.

Beef Vindaloo

Beef Vindaloo

It went well as a side, offering more variety than just meat in sauce on rice, not that it would be bad that way. For anyone who’s worried about the two sauces mixing, they stayed apart like oil and water, the one person who is the ultimate critic that stirs them around waiting until the two sauces churn into one, notwithstanding. There are two complaints I have overall. One, some of the beef, while all of Amaya’s meat is entirely boneless, had huge pieces of disgusting blobby [I don’t care if that’s a word or not it fits] fat, but fortunately it was separate enough from the actual meat I could just rip it off.

editor's note: Sorry the picture is kinda out of focus.  Ooops

editor’s note: Sorry the picture is kinda out of focus. Ooops

Secondly, the lassis are in plastic glasses, why? It’s a green food court! Why aren’t they in glass glasses [say that three times fast] instead of plastic ones? Maybe it’s because they’re not fountain beverages, but, unless the plastic is recycled, if it is I’ll just shut up, it’s a pretty poor excuse.

Selection at Amaya Express

Selection at Amaya Express

There isn’t too much to say about decor, considering it’s basically a counter with huge pots on it, except I’m happy that this chain’s logo uses a real Indian elephant instead on an African Bush elephant. Service was friendly too, although there’s not quite as much to judge since you only see them when ordering the entire meal.

Amaya is recommendable, and while it’s not usually my first choice out of the competition at the food court [which is a big thing for me, I literally busted a burger joint because a better one was across the street], it is good enough for me to go there in spite of the other options right next counter, which is quite a life-or-death thing in any business. It gets 3.8 out of five and a 7.8 out of ten. I don’t usually add ratings to my reviews, maybe I felt a little formal. I still won’t wear a tie though. Ay mighta see you next time [seehow ay mighta sounds
compared to Amaya]!

Amaya Express 220 Yonge Street
Amaya Express on Urbanspoon

Villa Madina

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Villa Madina Toronto Eaton Centre

Considering that I’ve tried this place out so long ago, and have eaten at it since then, it is rather surprising that I’ve never written about this place before.  Maybe it was because it’s easier to get hits [internet slang for views not actual hits] when a new and hot place is blogged on but today I’m going to review a place that’s been around a while: Villa Madina.  The Eaton Centre is a pretty big place, one where things can be both spectacular [like the crowd at Apple store tee-hee], amazing [like seeing a seven-foot man dressed as Spock

pic my mom took this past summer outside the Eaton Centre

pic my mom took this past summer outside the Eaton Centre

and a guy playing the largest wind instrument I’ve ever seen –  hey, that’s a call-out!, to the hellish [like eating at Szechuan, which was comparable to a nightmarish bathroom experience I had once].  So where does Villa Madina rank?  The really, really tasty.

While to some,  shawarma looks like the cook is giving a shredded off burnt crust, the slow cooking that the meat goes through makes it surprisingly better than first appearances would have it.  If you don’t believe me, ask Iron Man.

Anyone who watched movies last year would probably get that reference [consult the blatantly obvious photo or video for those who don’t know what I’m talking about].

My mom's Shish Taouk (chicken)

My mom’s Shish Taouk (chicken)

I’ve gone here so often that I’m recognized by someone every time I order, and I’m pretty sure I get just a little bit extra because of that, but regardless the serving sizes are incredibly generous, and of good quality food too.  It’s amazing that a place with prices easily less than twenty dollars and plates well past the size of two human heads piled with food and workers that actually seem to enjoy their work could possibly stay alive in the cut-throat world of fast food, but maybe it’s how many customers they get.  Enough.  Now it’s time for the food.

Combo Shawarma of chicken and beef

Combo Shawarma of chicken and beef

The combo meal I always get is the chicken and beef shawarma, which comes with potatoes, one of two rices, humus and/or creamed garlic, two of any salad [one of them is always chickpeas for me], as well as the optional hot sauce and tzeseaki [if that’s spelled right than someone fixed it](editor’s note: tzatziki).  That’s more than what I get at Taste of the Danforth! Heck, there’s probably more food types on this plate than there are conspiracy theories about who killed JFK [at least they aren’t any theories about aliens, we get enough of that from The History Channel].  The shawarma is always tender, and I’m pretty sure that they’re marinated too, because the meat is too flavourful to possibly not have some kind of spice in it.  Every thing else works brilliantly as well.

Their coleslaw, one of many side salad choices

Their coleslaw, one of many side salad choices

The potatoes are delicious, and the best with the humus and garlic, which are also delicious, and the salads are mostly good. I said mostly because the coleslaw, while delightfully original with the oregano, had too much vinegar that made it too sour.

Villa Madina is a popular chain for a reason, but sadly it’s not as popular as a particular one from the fifties.  That one is started by a now controversial business partnership known as the McDonald brothers, and their now-mostly global chain called McDonald’s.  Greenland gave them the boot you see, and the scientists in the Antarctic are happy enough to eat rations.

Always busy

Always busy

McDonald’s always has a line-up, I can’t say why because the only reason I like them is for their soft-serve ice cream and their hot apple pie, but surely that can’t be it!  It’s because of the burgers, and Big Smoke’s or even Five Guys have more taste than this old man’s farm!  Seeing them take away competition from Villa Madina is more annoying than watching a movie that’s said to be the best film ever only to find out it’s horse dung [cough Inception cough don’t kill me for saying that cough cough hoark]!

Just some of their healthy side choices

Just some of their healthy side choices

Aside from my typically no-mercy ranting, what I’m trying to say is that Villa Madina is not only tastier, and healthier, but it is just as fast.  It’s actually faster than Mickey-d’s, because they get you your food as you order it.  No lie! If you’re scared to try Villa Madina than I’ll tell you that it’s not only delicious, but has lots of meat and potato type of flavour most fast food restaurants hook people with anyway.  All I’m trying to say is please try this place and you’ll probably like it, and maybe you can post your experiences as positive criticism or just as your own opinion.  Please no heckling or saying anything offensive or hurtful to anyone because it’s not clever and you just look like a jerk.  This is probably the only positive restaurant review I’ve done that still turned angry.  Huh.

Villa Madina 222 Yonge Street
Villa Madina (Eaton Centre) on Urbanspoon

Tropical Joe’s

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Tropical Joe’s  is not a sit-down restaurant, it is a mall cafeteria outlet, and it’s not an Eaton Centre mall, or even from a downtown joint, it’s from Gerrard Square, alongside KFC, El Greeko, [don’t get me started on the Spanish accent], Subway, and some others, but why does it stand out?  Surely this isn’t a “Sliders”  episode where in this universe I look for the most forgettable dives ever, could it?

Well I can assure you it’s not, as Tropical Joe’s has more to offer than bolted seating and a clichéd name.  The food is restaurant quality, frankly begging the question why isn’t this at the Eaton Centre [maybe it’ll be in the second cafeteria]?  The weird part is that it isn’t just one good thing and lots of bad dishes they have going on, it seems more like the exact opposite [the wolf in the fold are the flavorless vegetables, don’t bother with them].  That’s the summary, here’s the detail.

What most people would order is the Jerk Chicken, which is one of their best options.  For a large meal, order the small jerk chicken on top of rice with a beef patty side, it is enough for lunch and take-out [thinking of the large chicken brings an image of a guy crying out ‘Godzilla!’].  The chicken is tender and delicious thigh meat in a generous amount of wonderful jerk rub.

They’re not messing around when they use this cleaver

Look out for bones though, they tend to get chopped up with the meat.  It may sound an implausible task to actually cut bones, but that’s before you see their giant hacking cleavers, I even found knife slashes on a large bone once and it looked like the animal fought a dinosaur!

Spicy Beef Patty

As for the rice and beef patty, they make great sides too, the rice has some spice and flavour, and the patty is tasty with some very good meat inside.

Stewed Chicken Roti

Now for the rotis.  Rotis are anything wrapped up in a thick flatbread, even though in this case they had to be in round takeout boxes otherwise they’d fall apart.  The stewed chicken with potatoes on the inside is fantastic, as is the curry chicken roti.

Curry Chicken Roti

Both have the usual delectable sauces and fine ingredients, probably adding to a theory that most people in the food world, at all, would agree with, something is good, or it is bad, or it is great, or it is abysmal.   This works for most things for that matter, building designs, scientific theories, books, cars, schools, movies [don’t give me any of that ‘good effects makes good movies’ nonsense Hollywood] and restaurants.  Tropical Joe’s is no exception, and are just as recommendable as many places at the Eaton Centre.

The only other food item I can talk about are the drinks.  At Joe’s, there are more than just Pepsi or another places Coca-Cola, there are Jamaican sodas.  The ones we’ve had are pineapple flavour and champagne coke, and no, that’s not alcohol.  It actually is a lot more like cream soda, I hate it.  As for the pineapple, it is quite good, sweeter than the Mexican version of pineapple coke.

So, all in all, if you want to visit Gerrard Square, go to Tropical Joe’s, it is certainly better than most mall food, it’s also certainly better than most Jamaican restaurants there are too, so give it a shot!

Tropical Joe’s 1000 Gerrard Street East
Tropical Joe's on Urbanspoon

Szechuan Express

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Szechuan Express was the first restaurant we tried at the new food court in the Eaton Centre.  If we were to judge the entire food court off of this restaurant, we would have been very disappointed with the Urban Eatery.  But we have since eaten at a lot of other venues here and we are everything but disappointed.

My order

In case you’re wondering why we did not fill the table to the brim with food (as usual),  is because we had plans for dinner later.  I did not include my mother’s meal because she had the exact same thing as I did, except she had sticky buns instead of sticky balls.  I dislike sticky buns and evidently sticky balls as well.  They were just too sweet, even with soya sauce added.

And now for the reasons why I said this restaurant was disappointing.  #1: It turned out not all the menu options were even available.  #2: The food we did get was cold.  #3: My mother is positive that their product is  frozen/pre-packaged.

What do you see when you look at this (not literally)?

I’ll give you a few hints before I show you.  #1: It’s from a movie  #2: It’s really gross (that’s a warning)  #3: I’m aware this is a random thought.  Without further ado…. here it is!

The Facehugger from Alien

I think the only reason I enjoyed this food at all is because I was hungry, which I almost always am.  We will never eat at the Szechuan Express again.  And after this blog, they probably won’t even let us.

Szechuan Express 220 Yonge St (Eaton Centre)

Szechuan Express on Urbanspoon

Toronto Food Scene

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I think we should address the Poutine first.  My father,  who lives in California (where I was born), has asked several times what Poutine is.

Traditional Poutine

An ingenious creation from Quebec, this food is not for calorie counters.  Made with french fries covered in gravy and cheese curds, too much of this could clog arteries (landing you in the hospital with shooting pains up your left arm).  Enjoy!!  I do at any chance I get, because, what the heck, I’m young.

But not all Canadian food is as destructive (in a yummy way) as Poutine.  The Eaton Centre has recently renovated the Dundas Food Court to make it Greener, Healthier and all around better.


Instead of the usual plastic and foam dishes and utensils, the Urban Eatery, as it’s now called, uses real plates, cups and silverware.  And even the food to go is put into re-usable plastic containers.

photo credit: Caroline Aksich

With its better decor, plentiful seating, and restaurant quality food I personally hope that this is the new standard for all food courts.  Every time we go to the Eaton Centre we have tried a different eatery with each visit.  Blog posts on these in the near future.

You may have not have known this, but three weeks ago there was a Food Show on the Exhibition Grounds

This show was sponsered by the Food Network. 

Me with Bal Arneson - host of the show "Spice Goddess"

I never watch this show, but my mom is a big fan so she made me take this picture.  In my hand is an autographed copy of her latest cookbook.  And again, I’m hardly going to read this cookbook but my mother is very happy

Tea leaves in a tube

I thought this tea was “instant”,  before I realized all tea is instant (as in just add hot water, duh).   I thought this was special because obviously I’m not a tea drinker, and I couldn’t figure out what else was special about this “tea in a tube”.  This is actually un-environmental; teabags are bio-degradable and foil is not.
This is one of  the things we see on the Food Network (Street Eats) but hardly ever in real life.  I think its surprising since Toronto is so multicultural and full of good taste.

FREE SAMPLES!!!!!!

I hope this showed you how great the food scene is in Toronto!!