When I look back at our Toronto trip, it seemed like all we did was eat! So though I’ve already recapped some of the best meals during our visit, I wanted to capture all of the other great restaurants and food-related experiences we had that week.
For whatever reason, I was really intent on having dim sum in Toronto. Though Chinatown or Markham might have been the ideal neighbourhoods to locate a suitable restaurant, because of our activities to follow brunch that day, Amanda and I tried to stick to the downtown area. After some digging on Chowhound, we decided on Crown Princess.
Is this just the lobby?
While we didn’t expect it to be busy on a random Tuesday morning, we didn’t anticipate having the restaurant to ourselves either. It was all the more odd because Crown Princess is perhaps the most sumptuous Asian restaurant I’ve ever dined in – from the plush velvet chairs, chandeliers and marble wall coverings to the embroidered tablecloths and patterned china, it felt like we were in store for a very lavish private tasting.
Not your typical Chinese teapot
Prices were on the high side ($3-6), but not outrageous. Between the two of us, we decided to share four plates. My favourite was the har gao, easily some of the best dumplings I’ve had in some time – the shrimp was plump, and the wrapper was nice and thick. The rice noodle roll was also quite good – the greens added some dimension to the dish, while the pork inside had been diced with uniform consistency – it was clear that these dishes had been made with care.
Rice noodle roll
The barbecue pork buns were great as well, with springy, fresh dough. The final dish was interesting, though the English translation of “fried shrimp” probably needed more detail – we expected battered shrimp, but instead, were presented with shrimp and fruit in a cream sauce wrapped and fried.
BBQ pork buns
Service was attentive (difficult not to be for the only table in the restaurant), and it was enjoyable for a light lunch. I’m sure the experience as a whole would have been much different had we been amongst other diners though.
Ontario still hasn’t moved to a private liquor retailing system, and I’m sure there are pros and cons about this. Walking through an LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) store, however, there seemed to be one big advantage to having a provincially-controlled chain: better marketing of homegrown products.
It was great to see shelves of Ontario product proudly displayed under a “go local” banner. While many liquor stores in Edmonton do make it easy to locate Canadian wines, this seemed to be one step further.
Nathan Phillips Square Farmers’ Market
Farmers’ markets in Edmonton are confined to late afternoon, evening and weekend hours. However, the trend in other large Canadian municipalities seems to be opening up markets during the day, especially in high density areas. Calgary has experimented with their Downtown Green Market on Stephen Avenue, and in Toronto, we encountered a vibrant, well-stocked farmers’ market in front of their City Hall in Nathan Phillips Square.
Nathan Phillips Square
In the shadow of City Hall
It wasn’t ideal conditions for a farmers’ market – although tents sheltered the vegetables from the sun, nothing could stop them from wilting in the +40 degree humidity. The heat just radiated from the pavement, and on a day like that, the shade from trees would have been a welcome respite.
Still, it was great to see so many people out picking up fresh produce on their lunch break, all while enjoying live entertainment.
Amanda and I had a lunch reservation that afternoon, but I couldn’t resist buying a basket of raspberries in an effort to cool off. It was definitely handy to have the water truck on-site so we could wash the berries!
Rosedale Diner and Nadege
While in Toronto, I was able to meet up with Maria for lunch one day. Originally from Sarnia, she had been living in Edmonton for the past few years, but returned to Toronto for a work contract. She steered us to Rosedale Diner, a charming restaurant in Summer Hill.
The menu was made up of comforting dishes, and as soon as I saw the duck confit poutine ($17) on the menu, I knew I would pass up their prix fixe Summerlicious courses. I was disappointed that the Quebec cheese curds didn’t squeak, and that the fries were over-dressed, given they were saturated by the time I started to dig in, but I enjoyed the duck. Maria had ordered the lamb burger and surprisingly, was asked how she wanted it cooked!
Duck confit poutine
The service was slow (and probably seemed even more so to us because we made the mistake of choosing to sit by the window on the hottest day of the year), but I was glad Maria had chosen Rosedale in part for its location.
After lunch, we wandered over to a quaint row of specialty shops – a high-end grocer, a butcher, a bakery, and a dessert shop. Nadege specializes in the venerable macaron, and though I was beyond full, I had to try one.
Beautiful works of art (love the mini macarons on the Marie Antoinette!)
I bought a salted caramel macaron ($2.10), and while the salty-sweet flavour was spot on, the meringue shell was not – it crumbled almost immediately when I bit into it.
My sampling of poutine in Toronto wasn’t confined only to Summer Hill. After taking in Wishful Drinking at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, Mack and I wandered over, hungry, to Smoke’s Poutinerie.
I ordered the Montreal poutine (shaved Montreal smoked meat, dill pickle, mustard, $6.99), to see how it would stack up against my favourite dish at La Poutine. I think Edmonton wins this round – I again encountered cheese curds that didn’t squeak in the least – it had to be more than coincidence at this point, right? I also preferred the meat diced – easier to ensure a bit of the smoky meat in every bite.
Mack’s Hogtown poutine ($6.99), with double-smoked bacon, Italian sausage, sautéed mushrooms and caramalized onions was much better, consistency-wise.
Le Petit Dejeuner
When travelling, Mack and I always try to seek out a local diner for brunch. On this occasion, it was a little more difficult – because of time constraints, we had to find one within walking distance of our hotel, as we had to depart for the airport in the early afternoon hours.
Le Petit Dejeuner was our destination, and it seemed to be the right choice as a line-up formed outside the restaurant soon after we were seated. The interior was a bit of a mash-up, with warm wall colours that clashed with the aquamarine vinyl booths, but for brunch, the disharmony worked.
I ordered Gal, two eggs, toast, potato rosti, apple coleslaw and bacon ($9.75). The scrambled eggs were particularly creamy, and I loved the crunchy rosti, which would have been perfect with just a little more salt. Mack also enjoyed his eggs benedict with peameal bacon ($12.95) well enough.
The Hungry Gal
Eggs benedict with peameal bacon
Because we saw it on the menu, we had to try their liege waffle as well, made with red fife wheat. It was served cold, which we weren’t used to (Eva Sweet had made sure of that), but it was dense and crunchy with pearl sugar throughout.
In all, I had a great time in Toronto. And I’m happy to say, I’ll be back there very soon – next week, in fact, for a work conference. I’m already looking forward to the food!