Tag Archives: Queen St E

The Tulip Steakhouse

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tulip exterior

When you think of a steak dinner, the first thing that comes to mind would probably either be the word “fancy” or “expensive”, depending on your outlook on things and your social standing.  It makes sense: meat is valuable, and steaks are made up of the best, most choice cuts of meat.  To go along with the price of the meal, expensive restaurants usually lavish up everything: chandeliers light up the whole place, a small fortune of candle wax is used to illuminate each table, an expensive band is hired to play Beethoven’s Symphonies on their orchestra, the guests wear ornate ballroom masks [the kind that cover up your face], and all the waiters look like Batman’s butler Alfred.  Because of the fancy decor, the restaurant can then ram the prices through the roof, allowing in only the city’s most elite and rich clientele, which I’m sure the Freemasons and Illuminati of our society enjoy during all of their social dinners, because it perfectly encapsulates the classism in their ways.

Okay…. I may have let my imagine run a little bit there.  Truth is, I’ve never been inside a five-star restaurant–of any cuisine–and I don’t really know what they’re actually like [although I’m sure candle wax is quite expensive].  I’ve also never been in a steak restaurant before, indeed, I’ve never eaten steak before.  The closest I’ve experienced would be either ribs, different types of grilled meats or maybe gourmet hamburgers.  Meals that are certainly not, by any means, close to the level of a proper, certified steak.

tulip interior

The Tulip is an interesting place for steak-newbies to try out, then.  The place certainly doesn’t look like its high-end enough to serve proper steak: there’s no fanciness to the aura, the location itself is far away from Toronto’s financial district, and it doesn’t even remotely resemble a half-backed dystopian novel with heavy-handed themes about class divide.  In fact, The Tulip is rather plain-looking: like a diner which has a laissez-faire way of living up to its name by having a few floral paintings and the odd plastic flower lying about.  The seating area looks well-used and unassuming–but clean–and is accompanied by a nice little bar for those wishing for a pub-like atmosphere.  It’s very similar to a diner, in fact, The Tulip kinda is a diner, except when it’s not.  This place is kind of hybrid restaurant, and like those cars that run on both gasoline and electricity, it can go either way.  If you want to enjoy a coffee and all-day breakfast, you can come here.  If you want a nice, deluxe steak and house wine, you can come here as well.

tulip tenderloin

Mom’s tenderloin with broccoli

As one could tell, we can here to eat the steaks, and I was looking forward to the first one of my 19 years of living.  I ordered a Medium Top Sirloin [not medium-rare: medium] and I took the option of replacing the usual veggies and potatoes with spaghetti and tomato sauce, because it was strangely offered on the menu, and I figured they wouldn’t offer a combination that odd if it didn’t work out somehow.  My mom had the medium rare tenderloin with a side of mushrooms.

 

Before the big entrees, we were treated to a complimentary plate of buttered bread, much in the same way they do in the restaurants that [I imagine], those elitist, creepy ballroom mask-wearing people go to.  It was a pretty good appetizer: warm, very fresh and an all around bread-lover’s delight.  The crust had just enough resistance to be nice and firm, but didn’t hurt when you bit into it.  The inside was generously lathered in butter, and the bread itself was light with a full-bodied taste.  Pretty good way to start a meal, before the actual meal-part came to our table.

tulip bread

To start, the potions served here are quite generous.  Steak is very rich, and also can only be safely chewed in smaller mouthfuls, so the amount on our plates was quite enough.  And believe me, I’m the kind of person who usually feels mildly disappointed by a restaurant’s portion sizes.  The sirloin was visibly quite juicy, and surrounded by its own pleasant little bath of beefy water.  It had a very light char on top, just enough to give a gentle crunch to the overall texture, and did not in the slightest way taste burnt.

tulip spagetti

My sirloin and spaghetti

The meat itself had extraordinary flavour, one that was aromatic, multi-layered and plentiful in its dimensions.  Unlike a lot of meals, it kept giving off flavour as one keeps chewing, inviting you to take long, slow bites.  And that’s a good thing, because the texture itself was quite easy, with enough resistance to be toothy, but enough give to be comfortably edible.  It had the taste of fatty steak, but the texture of a lean steak: the best of both worlds.  All of this was accented by a light seasoning of salt and freshly grated pepper.

tulip medium rare

As for the medium rare tenderloin, I very much enjoyed the way that The Tulip treats their rawer meat.  There was just a mild bit of salt, and every bit as much taste as the sirloin, except contained in itself more with less juice overflowing.  The raw parts were soft and buttery, almost melting in your mouth.  It was a very relaxing dish to eat.

Both steaks were cut to avoid any of those unpleasant veins of fat, which I greatly appreciate because I find fat clumps impossible to fully chew.  They were also drained of all blood, also cleaning up any possible messes that those can make.  The steaks themselves were clearly select cuts, based on the quality and flavour of them.  Now that I’m 19 [Ontario’s drinking age], I recommend the steak with a beer of your personal choice.

tulip mushrooms

The mushrooms were pretty well-cooked, although there isn’t much one can really do to mess up mushrooms.  They might need to be salted or peppered to your own taste.  As for the broccoli, I quite liked how it was cooked: just enough to give it more flavour, but still allowed to keep its crunch.

tulip getti

Okay, now the part that you were waiting for: the spaghetti, how was it?  Surprisingly unique.  The pasta itself was nice and just the right amount of al dente, giving the kind of firm texture that you wish for when eating spaghetti.  As for the sauce, it was creamy and a little bit peppery.  It was seasoned with a tingling blend of assorted, Italian herbs.  The overall dish could be described as bright and cheery.

tulip chocolate cake

For dessert, I chose The Tulips’ “famous chocolate cake”.  As a genuine chocolate hound, and amateur connoisseur, I have some high standards for anything chocolate based.  While I like sweetness, I prefer if the dominant taste is actually chocolate, not sugar: I prefer a bitter dark chocolate over anything too sugary.  I also like cakes that have layers, and very rich and moist, with the icing designed to give another layer of chocolate flavour, instead of over-saturating with sweetness.  Above all, I want the cake to be heavy, but light to chew, packed with flavour and overall filling.  Fortunately, The Tulip managed to hit all of those marks.  Their cake was truly quite delicious.

tulip bleach

As for the service, I found it quick and unobtrusive, as well as mildly polite.  My mom found it cold because of the lack of small talk.  I say it’s up to you to decide which sounds more like your style: professional or engaging.  While I felt comfortable in the atmosphere, I’m also used to old, neighbour diners.  If you don’t like that kind of setting, let me just say the food far outperforms the decor.  The only complaint I would have is they cleaned something up with bleach during our meal, although I’m not sure quite what that was or how urgent it was.  The smell passed away rather quickly, but not before making its presence known.

When it comes to the pricing of a restaurant, I have kind of funny way of reviewing it.  Given that I’m a cheap skate, I always consider if something is too expensive or just not worth what you’re paying.  But, and I feel like this is different from how many professionals do reviews, I don’t consider anything to be too cheap, or the decor too tacky, as long as the food is good.  If you’re looking for a high-end steak restaurant so you can feel super fancy and spend as much money as possible–say, if you managed score a date with a Hollywood actor by convincing him/her that you’re rich, and want to see if you can fake it till you make it–this is not the place for you.  If you want a cheap or moderately priced meal, then… then you’re not going to be having steak.  But if you want to treat yourself to a nice, quality steak dinner–one that’s satisfying and won’t set you back more than is necessary–The Tulip is a good location to have that occasional, carnivorous treat.

The Tulip Steakhouse 1606 Queen St E

The Tulip Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Nando’s Chicken

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nandos beaches

Once upon a time, the world was huge and seemingly never ending in its scope.  There was always some foreign, unknown land waiting just on the other side of the horizon.  Cultures were spread out, isolated, and only truly knew their closest neighbours.  Now, in our age of jet planes and the internet, the world seems smaller, more networked and multicultural than ever.  Maybe that’s how we got such interesting things as Nando’s Chicken: a Portuguese chicken restaurant that started in South Africa and soon became a global sensation.

peri peppers

When visiting a Nando’s restaurant, one word you’ll probably notice a lot it “peri peri”.  Peri peri is a type of small, red chili pepper–a variation of the African Bird’s Eye, to be exact–that is grown in South Africa, Mozambique, Malawi and other African countries.  It may seem somewhat off-putting to some restaurant goers, to see a place put so much emphasis on a hot pepper, but rest assured, Nando’s is not trying to assassinate your taste buds.  Nando’s definitely caters better to people who like spice because it enhances the flavour of the meal, and might disappoint those who get some kind of masochistic pleasure out of bathing their mouths in pure, concentrated hellfire.

spicy food meme

Indeed, spice is a difficult thing to please people with.  Many foodies have a low tolerance for spice, and rightly find it hard to enjoy something that has them reaching for the glass of water after every bite.  Other people, like myself, eat spicy food regularly, and find too little seasoning makes things bland and cool.  And then there’s the masochists, who carry hip flasks of Sriracha everywhere they go, took the Ghost Pepper challenge on a dare, and will complain if their meal doesn’t give them hallucinations of Satan laughing at their face.  It’s a tricky balance.  How do you make sure to add just the right amount of spice for your guest?

Simple.  Make the customer do it themselves.  Nando’s does this in two ways, and the first is admittedly an old trick taken from pretty much any Mexican or BBQ place.  When you order your chicken, you get a choice of how hot, on a scale of: mild [the classic Peri Peri seasoning without heat], Lemon and Herb [replaces heat with tang], medium [normal heat], hot [try it if you like fire], and extra hot [try it only if you’re the kind of person who would willingly let a Tarantula Hawk Wasp sting you, just to see what it feels like*].  After you choose the spiciness of your chicken, Nando’s has a table full of each of their hot sauces, for you to take and compare for yourself.  I recommend taking one of each and trying them all!  That’s what I did, and I’ll write the results down below.

*Yes, someone actually did that.  It’s on YouTube.

nandos sauces

Nando’s has four hot sauces for customers to try: medium, hot, extra hot and garlic.  They also have different types of salad dressings, which I didn’t try because of an excuse I have yet to come up with.  The hotter a sauce is, the darker it is in colour, helping to distinguish them if you’re too lazy to read the label.  All of the sauces have distinctive undertones of both smokiness and acidity, and noticeably lack either overwhelming heat or sweetness.  This complements the Peri Peri chicken, which brings its own smokiness in the form of light char from the grill.

Medium: has the most acidity of all the sauces, and also the mildest heat.

Hot: a good balance between Medium’s sauciness and Extra Hot’s pepperyness.  I personally found this the best sauce, because to me it had the most “classic” Peri Peri flavour.  Slightly hotter than medium.

Extra Hot: you can definitely taste more of the pepper flesh in this sauce, giving it a light bitter taste to it that I liked.  Not nearly as spicy as the name implies, it merely tasted different from the other sauces, not hotter.

Garlic: very, very garlicy, but with just enough pepper to balance it, creating a tantalizing blend aroma and spice.  The heat is on level with Extra Hot.  If your dining partner doesn’t like this sauce, they have a 43.7% chance of being a vampire.  Just so you know.

Okay, so that’s that for the sauces, the condiments of the food.  What about the actual food itself?  Hang on, hang on, we’re getting to that.

The Food

nando quarter chicken

I had two quarter chickens–both with the leg and thigh–with a side of Peri Peri wedges and side of veggies.  I had the two quarters because of a coupon deal; I recommend just getting the half chicken, it’s cheaper just to pay for another side.  My mom had the chicken skewers.  My chicken was medium-hot, hers was given the lemon and herb treatment.

When it comes, the chicken is hot off the grill, but cool enough to eat.  It has been cooked to the perfect amount, with its outer skin bearing a light, delicate grid of char, and the inner meat is nearly bursting for how juicy it is.  The skin is tender and rubbed in the spice rub of your choosing, infusing the whole piece  with multiple layers of spice and heat.  The skewers get a similar treatment, but the meat is noticeably dryer.  Still tender and quite delicious, but if you prefer your chicken wetter, get it on the bone.

nandos veggie side

As for the sides, Peri Peri wedges come in the biggest proportion, which is great because Nando’s can be a little bit stingy when it comes to filling your plate.  The potatoes are fresh, hand cut, plump and mildly seasoned with salt and Peri Peri pepper.  They are useful for trying out the hot sauces, although the chicken allows you to explore more of the heat and overall flavour.  This is a good side to get: similar to french fries, but meatier and more interesting.

The veggies are mostly large pieces of bell pepper, with some smaller bits of zucchini and onion.  The whole blend sits in a wet sauce that douses the veggies in a backnote of the Peri Peri sauce, so you can experience the Nando’s signature throughout your meal.  The veggies are stewed just to the point that they are no longer crunchy, allowing them to retain most of their toothiness and freshness.  The onions have been treated so that they no longer taste raw, making them a comforting addition to the blend instead of something jarring and painful.

There are two more things I want to mention.  First, be it the chicken or the side dishes, stay warm for a really long time, almost unnaturally so.  One thing you should know about me, is that I am a notoriously slow eater.  I usually end a meal eating something that went cold, so I greatly enjoy when my food retains at least some of its original temperature.

nando chicken skewer

Secondly, I have something kind of negative to say.  Well I can say many great things about Nando’s, one thing you will not hear anyone say is that they are generous with their food.  Don’t get me wrong, the food is rich, flavourful and plentiful enough so that you don’t feel ripped off, but the portions are a little on the small side.  If you’re someone like me, and have a high metabolism, Nando’s might not fill you as much as other places.  If you eat really quickly, forget it.  The chicken is pretty well-portioned, but side dishes are noticeable smaller.  In that regard, Nando’s is pretty similar to Popeye’s, as far as portion control goes.

Decor

nandos interior

Given that Nando’s is a chain, the decor differs from place to place.  They don’t have the uniform consistency of most chain restaurants, like–for instance–McDonald’s [which is good because I hate McDonald’s].  One place may be bright, spacious and social, another could be smaller, dimmer and more intimate.  Regardless, colourful artwork is displayed, depicting various aspects of Portuguese and South African culture, and African classic rock plays over the radio.  The decor is just radiant enough to give the restaurant character, but not to the point of being distracting.  The walls do not confuse the eye, the music does not deafen the ears, but it is enough to remind you that you are sitting in a Nando’s, instead of–say–a McDonald’s.  Which is good.  Because you should hate McDonald’s.

hate mcdonalds meme

Other considerations

Both of the times I have been to a Nando’s restaurant, the service has been polite and fairly quick to deliver your food.  One thing that is a little odd with Nando’s is how you order.  Even though they have wait staff and all that, customers read the menu and place their order at the counter, like you would at a fast food place.

Free refills!  Any drink or frozen yogurt you get has infinite free refills, so you can pig out to your heart’s content, or at least until the manager arrives to inform you that you emptied all the reserves.  Also, Nando’s uses those do-it-yourself beverage machines like the kind at Subway and Mc-Awful’s, so you can create whatever fanciful, strange, horrible concoction you desire.  I like adding small shots of various flavours until I get a combination I really like, and forget because there are over a twenty different ingredients.

nandos condiment station

The prices are alright, a little expensive for a cheapskate like me, but definitely affordable.  If the portions were bigger, I would even say they’re downright reasonable.  As long as you go into Nando’s expecting to be satisfied with a variety of flavour, and not by stuffing your face, you’ll be happy.

Final Review

Nando’s is a unique chain restaurant of spicy, radiant grilled chicken that focuses on its patented style of cooking with the Peri Peri hot pepper.  Its music and colourful decor add vibrancy to the place, but are not powerful enough to distract or overwhelm the diner.  Food here is leaning towards the expensive side–especially when considering portion size–but they are still reasonable.  The emphasis here is on flavour over pure heat or large portions.  One should evaluate their expectations before coming to Nando’s.  If you’re looking to have your head blown off with heat, or eat to the point of being full and taking the leftovers home with you, then you’ll be disappointed.  If you’re looking for a meal with an original, diverse palate of wonderful spices, and warm, juicy chicken, then Nando’s is the place for you.

Nandos Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Nando’s Chicken 617 Danforth Avenue  or  1968 Queen Street East

 

The 100th Post

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Well, the title kind of says it all, doesn’t it? After 4 years, something like this was actually kind of inevitable, in spite of the six-month hiatus. At the least, we had better odds of a one hundredth post than the Leafs do at winning a game. Jeez, even if 99 posts isn’timpressive, the stats certainly are. It kind of goes without saying that a lot has changed, both personally and globally, but this blog has been through some of Toronto’s dark days. So why did I start it, or continue to make new posts?

Gta toronto

That’s what 2012 felt like anyways.

I’m an aspiring writer, and blogging was my family’s idea to get me started on practice. I like food enough to write at length about it—sometimes too long—and as the process got easier, it became more fun. As time went on, my writing, hopefully, got better. It has evolved somewhat since I first started. One major change is that my asides are shorter—like this—instead of long bracketed monsters (much more like this(and sometimes like this)). That’s largely because of family who helped me with the blog, I couldn’t have written it without them. I’ve done two things: first was to visit Dangerous Dan’s, my second post, to re-review it, and to list some basic stats about Callumeatstoronto. Stat #1, that was the first time I’ve ever written my blogs name in a post—that was easy.

Funny demotivational poster

Redundant caption on captioned picture

Here’s the hard numbers, which are thankfully not as boring/life ruining as stock prices. Of the 99 posts, 71 are restaurant reviews, the rest are cuisine/other posts. Some will surely be missed, such as the fantastic Dukem, and others were sadly not that much of a loss, like Pauline’s Chicken and Donuts. In all, 11 have gone the way of Stephen Harper’s approval rating. My most popular posts are: 1, Fast Food, 2, Japanese Cuisine and 3, Fancy Frank’s. Apparently I should do more cuisine posts. The number of yearly hits was 4,000 in 2011, rising up to 19,000 in 2014, going up in tangent with the U.S. debt.

US debt graph

Oops.

So, how did Dangerous Dan’s do? I first wrote a post on it in 2011, after my very first post about New Haandi 2000, which isn’t any “newer” now than it was then. Now Dan’s is facing the possibility of closing, if they get sold to a new owner, and we wanted to eat there before it’s gone. And the verdict for me was pretty good.

Dangerous Dan's

 

It still retained its characteristic theme, family friendly yet purposefully crash, complete with car seat chairs next to a Simpsons billboard. And as for the food, just look at this d@mn thing.

Burger

The Big Kevorkian : Fried onion, fried mushrooms, 2 slices fried bacon, deep fried pickle, garlic dressing & mayo

 

Yeah, Double D’s hadn’t changed much in four years, that’s a good thing. For old times’ sake, I ordered the Elvis Shake once again

Milkshake

Circa 2011

That was then.

Milkshakes

Circa 2015

This is now.

I just wanted to thank everyone who has read my posts, especially my subscribers. This blog would’ve been nothing without a readership. It’s gotten all the way to hovering around 85 on UrbanSpoon’s ranking, and while I wrote the blog, it was you who got it there. Thanks so much for all your support!

Burrito Bandidos

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Burrito Bandidos, their Beaches location

Burrito Bandidos, their Beaches location

Burrito Bandidos is a place down at Queen and Coxwell right across from The Beaches movie theatre.   It’s another one of the places that aims to sell quality food for cheapsie prices and seating.
Coca-Cola & lizards  Fun decor

Coca-Cola & lizards Fun decor

The decor was nice [I liked the Central American lizards] but the establishment was small enough that a bathroom wasn’t mandatory [Canadian law requires all eateries to have a restroom, but smaller places like The Burger’s Priest don’t seem to have one], so no relief for you!

Burrito Bandidos was popular; people kept coming in, mostly to order take-out, and their portions were huge.  The size of the burrito was mind-blowing, more so than discovering that Jeff Goldblum said the same dialogue in the Independence Day space ship chase that he did in the Jurassic Park T-rex/ jeep chase.

my iPhone 4 as comparison for size

my iPhone 4 as comparison for size

The Burrito reminded me of Chipotle’s burrito in several ways: size of your head and the mass of a newborn baby, high-quality ingredients, generous amounts of delicious, tender meat, and an array of vegetables, toppings, and sauces [that’s what happens when you order it with EVERYTHING on].
My Steak & Chicken Burrito with the works

My Steak & Chicken Burrito with the works

 One noticeable difference is that the Burritos Bandidos variety of burritos were saltier, which isn’t a bad thing, but otherwise they are similar, with the Mayan/Incan/Aztec inspired decor, the huge cheaply priced food, the-music-that-is-good-but-so-loud-that-it-deafens-people-so-that-they-have-the-blessing-to-be-able-to-turn-off-their-hearing-aid [I am sick of restaurants that are actually great places to eat at that feel the need to destroy people’s eardrums using non-explosive means, it’s like the inside of a teenager’s headphones!]
For people who do feel full when they are–I literally lack the ability [if I eat a really large amount I feel sluggish and a big weight in my stomach later]–then quesadillas are for you, they are really big but lighter and thus not as massive.  They are also just as good.
Shrimp Quesadilla, full of plump juicy shrimp throughout

Shrimp Quesadilla, full of plump juicy shrimp throughout

Simply because it is a little smaller than Chipotle, with less comfortable seating, I wouldn’t recommend traveling here over Chipotle, but I would dare say it’s pretty even.  Which means that I don’t have to travel to the ISS [like Chris Hadfield, the first Canadian ISS Commander] , the Middle East [like Rob Ford’s infamy, he literally was on Al Jeera News] , and then Mount Everest [like Yuichira Muira: the 80-year-old who climbed Everest] and back to find good Mexican food.  Actually, it’s hard to know where to go first.
The Good, The Bad, The Amazing

The Good, The Bad, The Amazing

Final line, if you’re in the neighborhood of a Burrito Bandidos, they are a chain by the way, and you feel hungry, I recommend this place.
Burrito Bandidos 1614 Queen Street East

Burrito Bandidos on Urbanspoon