Tastebuds

A food blog from everywhere!

Toronto: Summerlicious at Pan on the Danforth

516 Danforth Ave
416-466-8158

I’m back in Toronto for the summer! Just a week after getting off the plane I met up with a few friends and got things rolling by heading to Pan on the Danforth for a taste of their Summerlicious menu.

Pan is a medium-sized restaurant on the Danforth, between Pape and Chester. The storefront isn’t too prominent and coupled with the dark design, it can be easy to miss. The ambience inside the restaurant was pretty dim and relaxed, sort of bar-like. We arrived at noon on a weekday, so there weren’t a lot of people.

Summerlicious menus across the city consist of an appetizer, an entree, and dessert, all for $15. Compared to other participating restaurants, Pan’s Summerlicious menu actually had quite a lot more choices. There were four different apps, five (or six, I forget) entrees, and two desserts to choose from.

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Fresh pita!

After ordering, they brought out a plate of freshly-made pita breads brushed with olive oil for us. Depending on the thickness of the flatbread, their texture ranged from either crispy and crunchy to soft and pillowy. Apart from the olive oil, they didn’t have much in terms of flavour, but the freshness and interesting textures make up for that.

Our appetizers promptly arrived. There was the “Trilogy of Spreads,” which included taramosalata, Humus, and tirokafteri. One of them, the white dip, was yogurt-based and thus rather sour. My favourite was the pinkish, which contained salmon and had a delicate salmony flavour. All three dips went great with the hot pita.

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Dolmades

The dolmades (“Stuffed grape vine leaves with chopped beef and scented rice”) served with tzatiki were pretty good. The rice was nicely flavoured with herbs and the sour tzatiki complemented it quite well. My only complaint was that the rice was rather dry, but perhaps that was what the sauce was for.

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Kolokithokeftedes

ALthough I don’t usually like fried foods, I did make an exception for Pan’s kolokithokeftedes(“Zucchini croquettes with feta, kefalograviera cheese and fresh herbs, served with tzatziki”). These were served freshly fried, with a crunchy exterior and soft interior. The vegetables were well-seasoned as well. Definitely a winner.

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Mussels

My mussels marinara, however, didn’t turn out too well. The broth was rather weak in flavour and the mussels were small and didn’t taste too fresh either.

Following a reasonable wait after clearing our appetizers, the entrees arrived.

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Exohiko, chicken in phyllo

Exohiko (“Cured chicken with onions, sweet peppers, mushrooms, and cream cheese, slowly cooked to develop meltingly tender flavour, wrapped in phyllo pastry, served with mixed greens”): I only had a bite of the chicken, and the only thing I can say is that it certainly wasn’t free-range chicken. My friend who ordered this dish, however, did enjoy it, complimenting it for its rich flavour (the meat was slathered in a white sauce) and texture contrast between the crispy phyllo at the top and the spongy sauce-saturated phyllo at the bottom of the dish.

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Pork Chop

Syracusae Smoked Pork Chop (“Finished with an orange glaze sauce, topped with Sweet zucchini relish, served over feta scalloped Potatoes”): I don’t like pork much, but this specimen did have pretty good porky-flavour. It wasn’t covered with herbs/spices, allowing the “porkiness” of the meat to shine through. The side veggies were good too.

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Red Snapper Fillet

Red Snapper(“Pan seared in a white wine, and lemon dill sauce, served with vegetables and new mini potatoes”): The white wine sauce was very strong, and the fish didn’t taste all that fresh (in fact, when the table next to us tried to order the same dish, they were informed that the restaurant had ran out of red snapper. No wonder). Maybe it’s just my Asian mineset at work here, but I think white fishes should always be served supper fresh and just cooked so that the flesh is still springy, not soft and floury like factory chicken.

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Moussaka (not super photogenic, unfortunately)

Vegetable Moussaka (“Casserole of zucchini, eggplant, spinach, sweet peppers and potato, topped with b├ęchamel served with baby green”): This vegetable pie had great flavour but not much in terms of contrast. It was rich from the cheesy topping and creamy from the eggplants, but all its components were soft and pliable, making this otherwise exciting dish texturally dull. The salad at the side, however, did have crispy greens tossed in a nice, simple vinagrette.

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Cake!

After our mains we were already super full, as the servings were quite big, but somehow we found room for dessert. I LOVED the ravani (“A traditional Greek cake with honey syrup and sprinkle almonds”), which was rich and somewhat dense but still crumbly. The only part that I didn’t like was that it was drizzled with honey, making it a bit too sweet for my tastes.

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Loukoumades

The loukamades, unfortunately, I found WAAYY too sweet (I actually nearly choked on the honey on my first bite). The texture was slightly chewey and sticky from the honey drizzled atop. I guess if you can take the sweetness, this dessert can be pretty satisfying, but after a year living with mildly-sweet desserts in China it was too much for me. I must thank my awesome friend for trading her almond cake with the loukamades that I’d ordered.

So, $15 for three courses; was it worth it? Definitely. The portions were pretty big and the food was very decent, although there were a few misses (but perhaps some were due to personal preference than anything else). And plus the service was very good as well, so if you’re ever in the area, check this place out.

July 23, 2010 Posted by | Greek, Restaurants, Toronto | Leave a comment

Paris: Dinner at Arpege, The Most Expensive Meal of My Life

84,rue de Varenne, 75007 Paris, France.
Tel: 01 45 51 47 33

On February 16th, 2010, I had the most expensive meal that I have ever, and probably will ever, consume. We had made our reservation for three at Arpege weeks in advance, although we really had no difficulty obtaining it. I like that Arpege, unlike many of its 3-starred siblings, has a book-by-email obtion on its website, sparing me from costly international phone calls and time difference calculation headaches. In fact, even though it’s pretty un-foodie, Arpege’s long-distance accessibility was one of the main reasons that we chose it for our splurge.

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Weird-shaped squash displayed on each table of the restaurant

Compared to other three-starred Michelin restaurants in Paris, Arpege is one of the pricier ones. Its evening tasting menu equals a 350 euro wallet-drain, while at Astrance it’s only 150 euros. Also nothing the fact that Arpege specializes in vegetables (which it ferries daily from some organic homestead 100+ km away), this is definitely not a place to exercise typical Asian stingy-ness. Too bad I didn’t warn my parents beforehand…opps.

Well, but since we were there, may as well enjoy it. My parents ordered a la carte in the vain hopes of minimizing wallet damage while I squarely dashed their efforts by getting the 10 course tasting menu.

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Amuses Bouches (sorry for the blurry photo)

Oh, right, but before we ordered, the very nice bilingual waiters served us amuses bouches, although now I can’t recall at all what they were…

But while on the subject of waiters, I must say that the service at Arpege was impeccable. My dad noted that there must have been at least 0.5 waiters to each table, and not every table was filled. Although of course, this is what one would expect forking over so much.

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Awesome bread

There was very good Poilane bread as well, served one slice at a time on a little bread plate next to each diner. The butter was also great, as is often the case in France.

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Celery/Celeriac Spaghetti with Truffle Shavings

I’ll go through the a la carte dishes first. The appetizers include the celery (or was it celeriac?) spaghetti, which was definitely one of the most interesting foods that I’ve ever tasted. The spaghetti looked just like normal pasta except for its crunchy texture; apparently, it was made from celery or some other similar vegetable. The dish was served in a creamy sauce with shaved truffles on top (oh, and btw, I think I ate more truffles in this one meal than I’ve ever had in my lifetime).

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Ravioli

The other a la carte appetizer was the ravioli. It was served in soup, and there were several different fillings. Hmm other than that, I can’t remember much else…

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Grilled Scallops
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Grilled Lobster with (more) Truffle Shavings

Next up, a la carte entrees. My mom had the seared scallops (it was the cheapest entree), which were fresh and plump, and my dad had the grilled lobster, again with the truffles on top. The vegetables served at the side of each main were of note because, well, they were really really good. You know how veggie sides often seem to get thrown in only as a side note, as a buffer to lessen the guilt of consuming whatever less healthy option was on the plate? Well, the vegetables served at Arpege reside on a completely different echelon from their common kindred. These buttery, shining baby potatoes, asparagus, and whatever other model denizens of the plant kingdom that had the fortune to be beautified on Alain Passard’s chopping board stood loud and proud on our dinner plates that night. Indeed chef Passard does have a way with vegetables…

Right, now my 10 course tasting menu. Since it’s been soo long since the actual event, the details are foggy. I didn’t save the menu from that night, so I can’t even correctly recall the precise order of the dishes. So I’ll just give it my best shot:

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Gratin aux Oignons

Course 1: Gratin aux Oignons (Onion Gratin)
Nice and cheesy. It was a pretty thin layer.

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Veggies

Course 2: Vegetables? I think…

Arpege_Egg

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Very Cool Egg and its insides

Course 3: Very Cool Egg
Of course the actual name of the dish was something more sophisticated, but this was one very cool egg. Basically it was very creamy & smooth egg custard with expensive stuff served inside an egg shell. One of the highlights of the meal.

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Raw scallops

Course 4: Scallop Carpaccio
The scallops were sliced really thinly and served with some crunchy vegetable, creating a very nice texture contrast.

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Frilled Crayfish

Course 5: Crayfish (I think…)
Like my dad’s lobster.

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Foie Gras w/ a Mejool Date

Course 6: Foie Gras w/ something underneath it and a date

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Quail and stuff

Course 7: Poultry
There was quail and other previously-feathered creatures on the plate.

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Cheese with (evermore) Truffle Shavings

Course 8: Cheese w/ Truffle Shavings
They brought out a huge wheel of some cheese and shaved some onto a small plate before throwing some more truffles on top. The cheese was sweet with a slight nutty flavour. I don’t usually like hard cheeses but this one was pretty good.

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Chocolate Macaron

Course 9: Macaron
It was a pretty big macaron.

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Life-changing Millefeuille…

Course 10: Millefeuille
The BEST millefeuille that I’ve ever had; it was awesomely buttery and the fork had no trouble AT ALL slicing through the layers intact. AMAZING; no millefeuille that I have had or will ever have will be as good, I think.

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Petit fours!

Lastly, at the culmination of the meal, they brought out a plate of interesting petit-fours. Nothing too memorable here, although those macarons did have strange vegetable flavours (broccoli macaron, anyone?). The flavours worked, though.

And that ends our meal, which lasted a total of three hours. The bill came to 799 euros, much to the chagrin of my mother (although, funnily enough, the next day at the Galeries Lafayettes she had no reservations on forking over 800 euros for a LV bag). But well, despite the cost, which I know is pretty atrocious, three-star dinning is just one of those things that you can’t expect to walk out of feeling financially unscathed. All in all, the food was amazing, the service was great, and if nothing else, at least I’ve crossed out one more item on my list of to-dos-before-I-die.

July 20, 2010 Posted by | French, Paris, Restaurants, Travels | Leave a comment