Between Winterlicious, goodbye dinners, and the new Izaykaya on the corner, this has been a big week in food and I’m scared to say, there’s only more to come. While I’ve got 24 whole hours off eating out, I thought I’d take an opportunity to recap this week’s culinary delights.
First stop: Harbord Room on Monday to say thank you and goodbye to two lovely friends who are leaving us for the Big Apple. Despite living in the neighbourhood and frequenting the Harbord House, I had somehow never made it across the street. Our dinner dates had long proclaimed Harbord Room to be the best restaurant in the city and without hesitating, requested that we make it the destination for our last supper. And am I ever glad we did. The Harbord Room is the perfect balance of classy and casual, the kind of place that simultaneously makes you feel at home and out for a special meal. We started with a round of Manhattans garnished with the most incredible house soaked cherries that tipped the balance and made this my new favourite Manhattan in the city. Our team of four then shared a variety of largely seafood based starters, from the squid ink linguine to the octopus salad, each of which was beautifully presented, and more importantly, delicious. At one of my date’s suggestions, I had the burger and there is no doubt in my mind that my friend was right: this is hands down the best burger in the city. Or anywhere, ever. Topped only with aged cheddar and carmelized onions, you know a burger is good when something this simple blows your mind. I’m not generally a big meat eater, but this naturally raised and insanely tender beef was so good I can’t imagine not ordering it every visit. Despite our extremely full bellies, we contemplated dessert because it too sounded amazing, but ultimately settled on one more Manhattan to top off the night. Don’t make the mistake I did – go now and go often, you’ll be glad you did.
Next stop: Ryoji, the new ramen and izaykaya joint ON MY STREET CORNER. It’s opening was pretty much the best news ever and I’m surprised it took me two whole weeks to make it there. Although Ryoji has about a dozen locations, the Little Italy outpost is the first outside of Japan, and didn’t disappoint in maintaining a traditional izakaya atmosphere (or at least my understanding of such). Having been inside the old school pizza joint that previously tenanted 690 College, I was immediately struck by the impressive renovations and design efforts that went into the dramatic transformation. The restaurant is large, with ample seating and a variety of unique dining nooks. In the mood for a beer and a quick post-work bite, we pulled up two seats at the bar, where we could watch the food prep in action. Service was somewhat scattered, but friendly, and our waitresses’ broken english and extreme enthusiasm fit perfectly with the frenetic vibe. Despite the cold, neither my date nor I were feeling ramen, but rumour has it Ryoji is a strong contender for best in the city. Instead, we sampled the ryoji rainbow roll (a unique, lighter take on the traditional rainbow roll), the zucchini tempura (omg kind of goodness), the poki salad (hawaiian style sashimi salad), and the carpacio. Everything was fresh, beautifully presented, and, with the exception of the daily special (some kind of fried shrimp which looked stunning but tasted like nothing), delicious. I can’t wait to go back for the ramen and look forward to eating my way through the rest of the menu.
Third and final stop (at least for the sake of this post): Bloke & 4th for Winterlicious. As you may have seen in our previous post, this Licious menu was a stand out and one of our first reservations. I had some misgivings about the King West location which were not helped by the facebook photos of the restaurant turned club in the evenings, but the food didn’t disappoint and at 8:00 on a Thursday the vibe was still more supper club than dance club. We started with the spicy tartare and the firecracker shrimp. Robyn and I each had our favourite, but both were beautifully presented with fantastic flavour combinations. The tartare was both tart and spicy, with diced apple giving the fish an unusually summery flavour. The chili honey and the diced guacamole complemented perfectly cooked shrimp, each individually plated for three perfect bites. Mains were another tie, with the mac & cheese taking the lead in the goey goodness category and the tuna slaw providing a delectable lighter option (though only theoretically, given the fried calamari topping). The desserts didn’t wow despite being pretty, but our server made up for them with a round of shot sized cocktails on the house. I’m not sure I’ll ever be a regular at Bloke – primarily because I’m more of a rustic casual kind of girl – but if you’re a fan of the supper club atmosphere or need a restaurant in the King West hood, I would absolutely recommend checking this place out. Special thanks to @MayaNathwani for letting me steal some of her photos!