Scotch Tasting

    5 April 2012, terribly early in the morning

In the middle of the winter I ended up a MetaFilter meet up that took place in a bar at the edge of Scarborough called The Feathers. It was a strange spot for a meetup, neither central or transit accessible. The bar made up for these two short comings with its scotch selection. I’m not aware of another bar in the city with a bigger collection than The Feathers. (Though I suppose I haven’t been looking very hard.)

The Feathers is home to hundreds of Single Malt scotches. They probably have anything from Scotland you want to try. If you aren’t sure what you want —like myself—you can sample scotches in pre-selected flights. I wasn’t sure when I’d have a chance to drink 30 year old scotch again I opted for there flashiest flight, The Feathers Flight:

  • Aucentoshan 21 Years cask strength
  • Brora 18 Years Cask Strength Laing
  • Coleburn 1983 Signatory
  • Ardberg 27 years Cask Strength Laing
  • Port Ellen 1980 Signatory

The Port Ellen is as old as me. That’s some serious-ass scotch. It was so very good. The strangest of the bunch was the Coleburn, which was very fruity tasting. I don’t think i’d want a bottle of the stuff, but it was definitely one of the more interesting scotches I’ve tried in quite some time. The other scotches were all quite good, but I don’t remember any of them really standing out. They were all delicious old scotches, of varying smokiness.

This bar is worth well worth the trip to Scarborough—as if you needed another reason to go.

Comment [1] |  

Frank at the AGO

    6 March 2009, evening time

I was going to write about how we were seated at Frank, the restaurant at the AGO, and then totally ignored, but Shima has done as much. That was a serious what the fuck moment? Have you ever been to a restaurant where you can see the waitresses talking about you, but they aren’t talking to you? Fuck that place. I would have told someone off if we weren’t in such a rush.

Update: Here is my take on things which I also posted at Yelp.

I’ve been to Frank, the restaurant inside the AGO, twice. The first time was quite good. The food was tasty and well presented, and the service was excellent. The second, it was so horrid I can’t imagine ever going back. So this is the sort of review that’s based solely on a single bad experience, and you should take that as a word of warning. I am a member at the AGO, so I really wanted to like this place.

My wife, cousin, and I were seated upstairs in the restaurant by the hostess. The restaurant was reasonably busy, but not overly so. The hostess is the only person that spoke to us that night. We looked over the menus at waited. And we waited some more. And then the hostess seated a fellow by himself at the table next to us. And then we watched a waitress bring him some water. And another came by, but he informed her that he was already being served. And we waited a little bit more. And then we watched two waitresses quite obviously chat about us from across the room. And then we got up and left. And no one asked us what was up on the way out either.

Fuck Frank. I can’t recall the last time I’ve been treated like that in Toronto. And I can’t for the life of me imagine why. The whole experience has left a bad taste in my mouth.

comment [5] |  

Craft Burger

   10 February 2009, early morning

I met Shima at the Design Exchange, where the two of us went to a talk by Architecture for Humanity. The group is doing a four part trilogy (don’t ask) on Toronto’s past, present, and future. It was an interesting talk. (Honestly, anything in the design exchange is going to be enjoyable: that building is awesome.) I learnt how 16th century Spanish law influenced planning in Toronto, about all the things you can find in the Toronto archives, and how the TTC was punched in the crotch back in the 50s and hasn’t really recovered since. It was a good talk, but Shima and I were too hungry to stay for the Q&A.

On our way out we met a fellow from Blansdowne. I thought he knew Shima. Shima thought he knew me. It was only when we started to talk that the two of us realized he knew us through this blog. That’s the power of the Internet, people!

Shima wanted a burger. I had vague memories of a place called Craft Burger opening up in the city. I looked the place up on my iPhone, and yes, there was a place called Craft Burger and it had been successful enough to open up a second location in Toronto. Shima and I went to this new Yonge and Bloor location since it was on our way home. The place was small, clean, and it being late, not too busy. I ordered an organic burger (where the meat comes from the Healthy Butcher), and Shima bought something with avocado and other fancy-ass ingredients. We split some onion rings. We sat down next to a couple with a baby and a toddler. The mom had giant breasts. It was unreal. Our food arrived and so we ate. My God, it was good. Craft Burger is a bit expensive for a burger shop, but I don’t think I’ve had a better burger in the city. People, you need to go there now.

Comment [12] |  

Centro vs. Centro

   13 February 2008, early morning

Sometimes I wonder who actually benefits from Winterlicious and Summerlicious. I’ve been to several restaurants during the events and am usually pretty disappointed with either the meal or service. ByMark is probably a superlative restaurant, but I can’t imagine going back after the lackluster time I had during Winterlicious. Similarly I have mixed feelings about Monsoon. I can’t even recall the name of the fusion place on Wellington my friends and I went to, it was that lame. There are a few places I’ve been that actually did a wonderful job during these events: Canoe, Jump, and Tundra come to mind. Those are places I’d go to again.

I went to Centro again on Monday for Winterlicious. Shima’s friend got reservations. You may recall that the first time I was there, I thought the place was amazing. This time — during Winterlicious — it was OK: the service was alright, but you could tell the waiter was frazzled; food didn’t come out all in one go; steaks were over cooked; etc. I can’t imagine anyone else at the table would go back if there only experience of the restaurant was that night. I still think that first time I went to Centro was one of the better dining experiences I’ve had in the city. The difference between my evening on Monday and my evening a year or two ago is so stark.

What’s the point of Winterlicious? Who wins? Patrons are offered up sub-par food in over crowded restaurants by on edge waiters and waitresses, while being told they are participating in a fine dining experience. Restaurants are going to get two sets of patrons: for people like myself who are inclined to eat out at places they probably shouldn’t, this event rarely ever sells a place; people who are out because it’s a deal also won’t come back again. As a restaurant I suspect it is very rare this event earns any new business. (Presumably they make money on volume or something like that.)

Comment [4]  

Ethiopian House

   23 November 2007, terribly early in the morning

My friends and I were at Ethiopian House last night. It’s a nice little place between Welesley and Bloor on Yonge. It looks like a house they converted into a restaurant. I had never had Ethiopian food before; it reminded me very much of Tamil food. The dishes are all served on a large piece of bread called Injera, which is reminiscent of a fleshier dosa crossed with appam. (It’s basically a crepe like bread.) We asked them to pick a mix of stuff for us: half meat half vegetarian. The meat dishes were a bit spicy, though I imagine they could have made it crazy hot had we asked them. The vegetarian dishes were mild, and were straight out of Sri Lanka. It’s strange how similar the food was. Everything was very tasty; we all enjoyed it. (If you’re a vegetarian it is definitely worth checking out, because the vegetarian dishes aren’t an afterthought.) We had Ethiopian coffee after our meal, which was excellent. You need to order it before your meal because it takes them a good while to prepare it. There is a bit of ceremony involved in the whole process, with them bringing you the beans as they roast them for you to smell, and bringing everything out with some burning frankincense. Ethiopian House was quite nice. The staff are friendly, and the food is good.

Comment [2]  

Global Village Treats

   17 October 2007, early morning

I was at Global Village Treats late Monday night ordering some chicken kebabs. I had been meaning to stop in for a while once I realized they were selling Persian food; I am addicted to Persian food. Since Shima refused to eat at a Persian place that also sold Spanish and Filipino food — she was convinced it wouldn’t be authentic or good — I had to wait till I was wondering the streets alone. At 10:00 at night the place isn’t too busy. The store was being manned by one of the owners, a small Filipino lady. She runs the store with her husband, an Iranian fellow. They also have hired a cook that is apparently from somewhere in South America. Hence, the store sells Iranian, Filipino, and South American food. Apparently, depending on the day, they have different things available. (I also wanted to grab some of the South American food they had on the menu, but they were all sold out.)

I was chatting with the owner for a good while — it takes some time to cook up chicken. She’s a very friendly and outgoing lady. The store has been open a few weeks now. They get a lot of their lunch business from the kids in the neighbourhood. (The store is closer to Dufferin, there are several high schools near by.) Late at night Iranian taxi-cab drivers apparently stop off to grab a quick dinner before heading off again. We mostly discussed how stressful it is to operate a restaurant. (We also spent some time chatting about our Iranian significant others.) It was a nice little chat.

There are a few tables to sit on, but for the most part it’s a take-out place. The interior has been painted by the two owners: there are some nice murals over most of the walls. It’s nice clean and bright inside. I enjoyed the food: the chicken kebabs were quite good. (Even Shima agreed.) The only thing I felt they were missing was some sumac. I’m not sure if they have that available when you eat in. Next time I’m there I’ll need to try the other food, so expect a follow up review.

Global Village Treats is at 1226 Bloor St. West (between Brock & Margueretta); their number is 416-827-1417. They look to be open pretty late.

ed. edited and cross-posted to the DigIn blog.

Comment |  

Ruby on Rails at the Rhino Bar

   16 October 2007, early morning

I met Tyler at the Rhino Bar last night. Martini Boys informed me that, “When you walk into The Rhino you think, ‘I might get my ass kicked in this place’ — not a sentiment many Toronto bars inspire these days.” I love sketchy ass bars, so this sounded like it’d be my kind of place; sadly, when I arrived I wasn’t greeted by any lonely old men nursing pitchers by themselves. I guess Martini Boys hasn’t been back to the Rhino Bar recently. Parkdale just isn’t what it used to be. (Well, the drinks were still cheap, so that’s something.)

The monthly Ruby on Rails Pubnite was being held at the Rhino Bar. I’ve been meaning to go for ages, despite the fact I don’t actually do anything with Ruby on Rails. Tyler wanted to check it out: he knows a bunch of the people in that community, and, you know, actually works with Ruby on Rails. (Aside: an interesting Tyler comment from 2005.) It was far busier than I had thought it would be.

The Toronto Rails crowd are a friendly group of people. I ended up chatting with a couple people from Unspace, a couple people from Kaboose, a fellow from FreshBooks, and finally Rishi’s friend Constantine (it was strange seeing him there). If you are even remotely interested in Ruby on Rails is probably worth coming out to the Pubnite. It’s a very informal and relaxed environment. It’s easy to pop into conversations. When you stop to consider that the Ruby on Rails Pubnite caters to the geek crowd, this is a pretty amazing feat.

The whole experience makes me want to learn Rails.

Comment [4] |  

Friday at the Drake: Lining Up Is Fun to Do

   23 July 2007, terribly early in the morning

Gary and I went to the Drake hotel past Friday. Gary had never been before. We were more or less killing time till Krishna bought his Harry Potter book. We’re standing by the fire place, drinking some beer, when I spot Tiff’s friend Amy. (This is the second time I’ve seen her out and about downtown, the previous time was at the Rat Race event. It’s a small world.) Amy was sitting with a friend on one of the few remaining sofas in the lounge. They were waiting for some DJs to start spinning in the underground. They weren’t too impressed with the lounge; Amy mentioned how out of place she felt. I took a good look around.

The Drake is a very strange place on a Friday night. The crowd looks to be transplanted right from the clubbing district. I imagine it’s full of people who don’t want to pay the cover for This Is London. There were plenty of cocktail dresses and dress shirts to be seen. (For some context, I was wearing my blue Sri Lanka cricket jersey and had some seriously scraggly hair.) Everyone was snapping photos of themselves — to put on Facebook no doubt. The music was really good: it was all old school hip-hop and R&B for the most part. Not that the crowd was dancing mind you. They weren’t doing much of anything really: people were mostly checking each other out while lining up to get to the Sky Yard. The act of lining up to move between floors at a place is straight out of clubbing district. (“Dude, the 3rd floor of Inside is hype, lets go.”) So the Drake on the Friday takes everything bad about the clubbing district and moves it to West Queen West. Well, at least there is still no cover. The Drake is totally different on a Wednesday.

The Underground was a much different scene. They were playing that sort of hipster dance music thats popular with the kids nowadays, with all all that boom boom and scratching scratching. You know? People were actually dancing. It had a much more laid back vibe. I quite liked it. Gary and I didn’t stick around too long. Krishna called to say he had the book and so we were off.

Comment |  

Barberian's

   18 May 2007, terribly early in the morning

Inside Barberian's

Yesterday night a bunch of us surprised Patrick for his birthday at Barberian’s, a steak restaurant in Toronto. Jaclyn did a great job of rounding a lot of us up for the night. I met all the other people Patrick hangs out with — his Bizarro friends if you will — who I sort of remember from my days at Waterloo. We had a table for 15 or so people in the back room of Barberian’s, and I’d have to say they did a great job of accommodating us throughout the night.

The place is on Elm, just north of the Eaton’s Centre, in a fairly nondescript building/house. The place doesn’t look like your typical haute Steakhouse; one half of the place looks like an old pub, the other half is ever so slightly more fancy. I think the place has a nice feel to it. The room we were in was large enough to seat a fairly big party. There is also seating down in the restaurant’s wine cellar, which is supposed to be quite nice.

Barberian’s serves steaks — and a few other things. I don’t think there is much point going there if you aren’t going to buy a steak. The steak I had was amazing, and I am pretty sure everyone else enjoyed theirs. (Patrick has been described to me as both a “Steak Snob” and a “Steak Princess”, so maybe he can chime in with how the place stacks up in the grand scheme of steak restaurants.) The price of a meal ranged from about $30 – $50 dollars, depending on the entrĂ© you got. As Steak places go, I don’t think it’s particularly expensive, and I thought what I had was well worth the money. The wine list at the place is something to behold. The wine my friends and I split was quite tasty.

I think Barberian’s caters to a very diverse group of people. It didn’t have the sort of old banker feel other steak places sometimes have. I could certainly see it appealing to that crowd as well, but at the same time they had no issue with a group like ours. There were all sorts of people eating when we arrived. The staff were very helpful throughout the evening. The owner popped by briefly to wish Patrick a happy birthday. I found it to be a very friendly place. On the whole I think Barberian’s is well worth checking out.

Comment [1] |  

I Love Banu

   22 December 2006, early morning

Last night my friends and I made it out to Banu for some Persian food. The restaurant is situated in the not-so-newly gentrified Queen West strip. I have been trying to go for ages, and it seems every time I almost make it out for food there something comes up. Yesterday I finally got to try the place out.

Banu has a small selection of exotic vodkas you can try. I arrived first and ordered a Zubrowka Bison Grass vodka to drink while I waited. (It was recommended by the waiter, since I have no strong opinions on vodka.) It came with some sour cherry juice, which probably wasn’t as sour as Shima would have liked, but which tasted quite nice nevertheless. The vodka was quite good. I was reminded of my friend Martha as I sat sipping my vodka straight. Steph showed up next and ordered a WOKKA SAKi, which is a saki vodka blend. I took a sip, and would have to say it was quite good as well. My guess is that all the vodkas they’ve picked for their drink menu are tasty.

Everyone else slowly filtered in, and we decided we’d just split a whole bunch of kebabs: koobideh (ground beef), chenjeh (beef tenderloin), shish lik (lamb chop), joujeh (chicken wing), and murgh (chicken breast). We also ordered some kashk-e baadenjaan, which I feel obligated to buy anytime I go to a Persian restaurant. Everything was served at once. The kebabs were all served on a giant dish on top of some thin Persian bread, with tomatoes and mint leaves on the side. There was another plate with more bread, the kashk-e baadenjaan, and a few other Persian sides. This is the first place i’ve been to where kebabs aren’t served with rice. I started with the chicken breast kebab. It was so damn good. All the kebabs are quite good. It was an excellent meal.

Banu is hands down the best place I’ve been for Persian kebabs. I’d say Zaffron comes close, but I think they serve much better meat at Banu, and the chef there cooked them just right. Everything we had was really juicy and tasty. Banu only servers kebabs; you won’t be able to get any Persian stews here. The meal was about $42 dollars each when all was said and done. (We split 8 orders of kebabs and a starter between 6 people; 3 of us ordered hard drinks, the others soft drinks.) Compared to other places I’ve eaten at, this is a deal, but compared to other Persian places its a bit pricey. (Shima and I both ate at Darvish for less.) That said, Banu really is a superlative Persian restaurant; I think it’s worth splurging on. Banu a nice looking restaurant with great service and excellent food — what else do you really need?

Comment [19]  

Darvish/Tempus on Yonge

   19 December 2006, terribly early in the morning

I went to Darvish with Shima last night. I’ve been looking for a good Persian place downtown for quite some time. Darvish is just North of College on Yonge, in the spot another restaurant called Tempus used to be. (The shop actually goes by both names: Darvish or Tempus.) It’s a moderately sized restaurant, long and rectangular, with an exposed brick wall to your right and mirrors and bench seating on your left. There is a fair amount of seating, so you could accommodate a fairly large group. Shima and I sat at a table for two near the back. We ordered kashk-e baadenjaan to start; it’s an eggplant dish I like a lot. I ordered a chicken and beef kebab plate as my main. I always get kebabs whenever I go to a Persian place. It’s how I rate them against one another. (I also just like kebabs a lot.) Shima ordered the ghormeh sabzi, which is a Persian stew. We both agreed the chicken kebabs and the kashk-e baadenjaan were excellent, that the beef kebabs were quite good, and that the ghormeh sabzi was a bit watery. I think overall Darvish is a nice place to eat — the fact the food is so cheap is a nice plus. Most of the mains were around the $12 mark, appetizers were under $7. Darvish is definitely worth checking out.

Comment  

The Yellow Griffin Pub

   28 July 2006, early morning

I went to the Yellow Griffin last night with Dave. I’ve been several times now, and feel confident when I say it’s probably the best burger place in the city. (It’s also a nice pub.) You can get 6 different types of burgers (beef, lamb, chicken, veggie, turkey and pork), served with 35 different sets of toppings. For example, the burger I like the best, the “Bollywood Burger”, comes is rubbed with tandori paste, and served with mango chutney and yogurt. There are all sorts of strange and tasty burger choices. The sides are good too. (I usually get sweet potato fries, which are excellent.) One of Carvill’s friend was trying to convince us Apache Burger was the best burger joint in town. It’s good, but isn’t even in the same league as the Yellow Griffin. I really can’t think of any other burger places that compare.

Comment [3] |  

byMark

   20 July 2006, mid-morning

Summerlicious is usually very hit or miss. Yesterday’s trip to byMark, which I thought would be a hit, was definitely a miss. I went to the restaurant with Nina, Riadh and Shima. The restaurant was fairly busy when we arrived at 9:00, but emptied out slowly as the night moved on. Shima and Nina didn’t like our waiter, though I’m not entirely sure why. I thought the service at byMark was alright, but nothing exceptional. (The best service I’ve encountered at a restaurant has to be at Centro or George.) I think everyone was a little bit disappointed with the food. I had crab cakes, followed by halibut, followed by a small mouse cake, as did Riadh; Nina and Shima had a chicken dish instead for their mains. The halibut was over cooked; it was far too chewy. The sauce it was in was quite tasty, but overall it was a disappointing main. The crab cakes were alright, but again, nothing too special. Shima’s chicken dish was quite bland, though I am sure someone would argue the flavour was subtle and nuanced. Everything tasted like it had been sitting under a heat lamp for hours on end, which might have been the case. I am sure during the rest of the year, byMark produces great food, but during summerlicious I don’t think they do in the least. As with Monsoon, I was left with no real desire to go back. If you want some good food during Summerlicious, my guess is that Bloom would deliver.

Comment [10] |  

El Trompo

   19 June 2006, early morning

I went to El Trompo with Patrick and Dave this past weekend. It’s a Mexican place in Kengsington Market. It’s probably my favourite Mexican place in the city. (A close second is the far more swanky (and expensive) Dos Amigos. For boys trying to impress girls, I’d say it’s a very nice date place.) The three of us all had various tacos, as I think the best thing to get there. El Trompo makes a really good Guacamole that you would be remiss not to try if you do end up going. Dave and I ordered some while waiting for Patrick to show up. Everything was quite tasty. My friends all complain the portions are too small, which is probably true. Dave and Patrick seemed alright with their meals, and the amount of food is just right for myself. Anyway, dishes are quite cheap so you can just order a lot of stuff if you have a big appetite. There are lots of interesting dishes to try on the menu. This place is definitely worth checking out.

Comment [1]  

Medieval Times

   29 April 2006, mid-afternoon

Dave turns 26 today. To celebrate a few of us went to Medieval Times last night. Medieval Times is strange; it’s a dinner and show, the show being a medieval tournement of sorts. Everyone working there is in character—for the most part—as some sort of person you would find in the middle ages: squires, knights, wenches, and what have you. You cheer for your knight as he does the sorts of things knights used to do. It’s so ridiculous it’s hard not to enjoy yourself I suppose. The place was a lot more packed then I had imagined it would be. The food was alright, but I guess you aren’t really going for the food. It was an expensive night out, but one that will be hard to forget. Huzzah.

A knight at Medieval times

Comment [2] |  

George

    2 December 2005, early morning

My friends and I celebrated Carvill’s birthday last year at Starfish. That was quite the meal. The goal for this year was to eat at a place even more ridiculous—which we did. Friday Night, Mezan, Dave, Carvill and I went to George.

Read the rest of this post. (926 words)

Comment [4]  

Centro

   21 August 2005, early evening

Yesterday evening, I went to Centro with Carvill and Mezan. We went because we wanted something to eat. That’s usually why people go eat, but I would imagine most people have better reasons to go eat at a place like Centro than simple hunger. It was the sort of restaurant you would take a date to if you wanted to impress her; the sort of place you might go with a group for a friend’s birthday. It didn’t strike me as the sort of place you go just because. I suspect one of the biggest reasons I am so broke-ass is because I spend a lot of money eating out, way more than a normal person should. Mezan and I discussed our poor spending habits while paying the bill. I think the new plan henceforth is to eat Pho whenever we want to eat out.

All of that said, Centro was amazing. Everything about the place was excellent. The lobster spaghetti which I had was top-notch. Mezan really liked his venison. I think Carvill was fairly indifferent about her gnocchi, though she did enjoy her smoked salmon tartar appetizer quite a bit. The deserts came in sets of 3 for $12, and the three we picked were particularly yummy. The ambience of the place was great. We were seated downstairs in the lounge, which was a nice venue in its own right The upstairs looked great, but were told we would have had to make reservations earlier than we did—15 minutes before we showed up. Finally the service was amazing. I don’t recall going to a place where they pamper you as much as they do at Centro.

Centro is probably one of the nicest restaurants I’ve been to in the city.

Comment [3]  

The Longest Saturday

    7 August 2005, late morning

“Sorry we can’t let you in, it’s past two.”

“But our friends are in side.” I replied to the first bouncer.

“Sorry those are the rules,” he replied right back. The Drake is quite tight ass on the weekends.

“Dude, you’re skinny,” a second bouncer interjected. He had an afro. I’ve met him before. We both have the same zip-up FCUK top.

“What?”

“Want a cookie?” he asked.

“Uh—sure,” I replied. I like chocolate chip cookies as much as the next guy. “This is a pretty good cookie. So, can you let us in?”

“Hell no. It’s two o’clock.”

And so Yathavan and I sat outside of the Drake hotel for 10 minutes or so, waiting for Rishi, Constantine, and James to come out. I chatted with the bouncer who gave me the cookie for a few minutes. It turns out he is dating a friend of a friend. It was a long day for me; I had been to: the Danforth for the Taste of the Danforth festival, Little Italy for Drinks, Harbourfront in a vain attempt to see Born into Brothels at the South Asian Festival, Carvill’s house to eat, Laura’s house for some drinks and to see Heather off, Neutral to listen to some British music in a somewhat dank bar—all before finally end up at the Drake Hotel. The day was long but fun.

For the record: you can’t do much in Toronto after two, but trying to go out is still fun.

Comment [10] |  

The Sky Yard at The Drake Hotel

   27 June 2005, early morning

The Sky Yard is the name given to the Patio on top of the Drake Hotel. It’s a very nice patio, half covered, half open. There are plenty of large sofas and day beds for people to lounge around on while they eat and drink. I met Carvill, Dave and Martha there for drinks and lunch yesterday.

Carvill and I arrived early enough we could still order brunch — which we did. I had a club sandwich, Carvill had some French toast. The food arrived just as Dave and Martha did. I can safely say I was given the biggest club sandwich I have ever seen. The waiter told me he’d be impressed if I could finish it. I told him he wasn’t going to be impressed; I gave Dave half of the sandwich. Carvill’s French toast was quite yummy — the random fruit it was served with was excellent.

Our waiter was a gay man — least I assumed so from his name tag which said, “Fag”. He had an awesome beard/mustache thing going on. I wonder if he was disappointed he couldn’t go party it up at the Pride festival taking place yesterday. If he was upset, you wouldn’t know it; the service at the Drake was excellent.

Martha and Dave each had a beer. Carvill and I each had a coke, which was served in a giant glass, and was real coke. That, perhaps, was the best part of the patio experience.

Comment [9] |  

Seven Numbers

   15 June 2005, mid-morning

I’ve been to Seven Numbers twice now. The first time was last Wednesday, the second was yesterday night. That’s twice in less than a week. “The food must be great,” you might be thinking. It is, but that isn’t why I went back again so soon.

Last Wednesday, Carvill, Dave and I went there for dinner. We got there around 7:30 or so. We had our drink orders taken fairly quickly, but had to wait quite a while for our drinks. We ordered the rest of our meal, and had to wait ages for our appetizers. (My appetizer actually never even made it to my table.) The owner was nice enough about the service being slow, giving us some shots, and bigger helpings of food when we did end up getting our food. That said, the service was so slow it was embarrassing.

Still, the food was really good. And the place itself is awesome. It has a very casual vibe. The wait staff is constantly running around, yelling at the cooks and at each other. Everyone around you looks laid back, probably due to the laid back nature of the place. I wanted to go back and see if we just caught the guys on an off night, which I suspected we did.

Steph, Serena, Dave and I met for dinner late last night. Dave and I arrived first. The owner came and took our drink order, which was a pitcher of Sangria. Dave ordered a Smoked Salmon appetizer to munch on while we waited for the girls. It was all out a few minutes later—things were looking up. Dave and I drank some Sangria, ate some salmon, and chatted. When Steph and Serena arrived, we split the rest of the pitcher with them. Everyone save Dave seemed to enjoy the Sangria—Dave didn’t like the fact the drink doesn’t have much kick to it.

We ordered food shortly after, and as with are initial order, things were out quite promptly. Everyone liked their food; we ordered a variety of things. I had an Italian Sausage as my main, which was quite tasty, and a Grilled Shrimp with Spicy Salsa as my appetizer. The shrimps were really good, and I recommend you try them if you go to the restaurant. The calamari, which we didn’t order on this trip out, is also quite good. I don’t think anyone was disappointed with their meals, so you are pretty safe ordering whatever strikes your fancy. The portabello mushroom sides are excellent—I don’t even like Mushrooms but enjoyed eating them.

So, Seven Numbers is a good place to go. The meals are reasonably cheap to boot, an added bonus.

Carvill and Dave at Seven Numbers

Comment  

The Bicycles, Republic of Safety, and SS Cardiacs @ Sneaky Dee's

   27 May 2005, mid-morning

My friends and I headed to Sneaky Dee’s last night to have a few drinks and hear a few bands play. An old friend of mine, Kate, is in a band called Republic of Safety, and I had wanted to hear them play for quite some time. They were one of the opening acts for SS Cardiacs, the feature act of the night. It was SS Cardiacs CD release party.

There were actually two opening acts that night. The first act we heard was a band called the Bicycles. They make pop music. Since they aren’t on a major label, one might say they make indie-pop music. I think there were five people in the band, though it seemed like people would just wander on to the stage to take part in the show. Everyone in the band seemed to take a turn singing lead. They were really good. Of course, I like bubbly pop music. Also, the band earns bonus points in my books for being ethnically diverse.

Kate’s band was up next. They were really good. I think I like the way they sound live a lot more than the way they sound on the tracks they put on their web site. They had a much more punk sound to them live which I really enjoyed. I also thought the lead singers stage presence was quite cool.

By the time SS Cardiacs came on it was fairly late—this being a week night and all. Heather headed out first, followed shortly after by Laura and Shannon. Matt and I stayed to hear a little bit of SS Cardiacs before we also took off for the night. I thought SS Cardiacs were pretty good, though I didn’t really listen to them enough to get a good feel for the band. I’ll have to look for them next time they are playing I suppose.

Comment |  

Emm Gryner and Matt Barber @ Hugh's Room

   30 March 2005, early morning

In an email entitled Hotness, I sent my friends the following:

Emm Gryner is pure hotness, and apparently she is a good singer to boot. So, does anybody want to go to the following: Emm Gryner (fiercely independent alt-pop songster & former Bowie backup singer) & Matthew Barber (indie rock heartthrob) @ Hugh’s Room

Dave and I had saw Emm Gryner present an award at the Toronto Indie Music awards before the Esthero Concert we went to. Dave was surprised I had no idea who she was. She was quite hot, so I was disappointed I couldn’t place her. Apparently she put out some sort of popular single when we were in high school.

My friend Mezan complains that no one listens when he tries to turn them on to something new and cool—or at the very least, that I don’t. He told me about threadless, metafilter, and countless other things, years before I stumbled on them myself. I feel the same way when it comes to dragging my friends out. I try to get my friends to go to concerts with me, to shows I know they would like. Since they live in Scarborough (miles from downtown) I usually go alone. Well, I suppose it’s a weak analogy, since I’m just being lazy while they have a good reason for staying in. I guess I should have just said: I ended up going out alone to the concert.

When I arrived, Matt Barber had already taken the stage. Matt Barber sings folk music I suppose. I say that, because he was performing alone on stage with a guitar. The set really showed off his voice and his songs. Barber’s set was excellent. He has a great voice. I can’t say I’m a big fan of folk music, that is to say, I don’t go out of my way to listen to it, but I enjoy good music when I hear it.

Gryner took the stage next. Again, she played alone on stage with a guitar, and at times a piano. I enjoyed her set a lot. Like Barber, she has a great voice, and the lyrics to her songs are quite good. And, as I had expected, she was looking hot. A girl in the audience yelled as much out midway through the concert. She smiled, and simply replied to the crowd, “Ladies and Gentlemen, I should warn you that some of this banter has been scripted.” She has a good stage presence, and was a lot of fun to watch.

Hugh’s Room is a great venue for concerts. The layout of the building is just right. There is a raised stage in the back right corner of the building. It’s surrounded by tables and chairs, and those tables and chairs are surrounded by another set of tables and chairs, slightly elevated. From almost any spot in the venue you should have a clear view of the band you have come to see. The sound system was also excellent. Judging by the praise from the singers that night, it may have had as much to do with the sound engineer, Marty, as it did with the speakers and what have you.

Matt Barber singing in Hugh's Room

Comment [5] |  

Supermarket

   17 March 2005, early morning

“I’m not trying to be reasonable,” I told Tyler and his friends. My meagre attempts to elevate the status of Scarborough in their minds fell on deaf ears. (Actually, since I was doing a pretty bad job at defending my favourite suburb it’s not fair to say say my words were falling on deafs ears.)

It’s hard to defend Scarborough because it is a bit lame when compared to downtown Toronto. Nevertheless I tried. I told them that one of the reasons I like Scarborough is because it’s so ethnically diverse. Tyler’s friend Heather asked if I simply meant there are less white people there. I told her no, I mean it’s more ethnically diverse. She’s probably right though. I think when I say a place is ethnically diverse, I totally mean there are just less white people. I didn’t bring that up last night though. It wouldn’t have helped my cause. I tried to explain how Scarborough had character, but that’s something that’s hard to quantify. I guess at the end of the day my Scarborough zealotry is irrational. The whole topic came up because I was making fun of stank-ass-Mississauga.

I met Tyler at Supermarket, a bar in Kensington Market, a bit past 11:00. As you can imagine, I’m quite tired today. Supermarket has a mod night on Wednesdays, and apparently it can get quite busy. At 11:00 the seats and booths were all taken, but the place was far from full. By 1:00 the place was much busier. The dance floor was full of people. The music was great. They played lots of motown and old soul music.

A couple sitting across from us were playing a game together. The girl would pull the top of her blouse forward, and thy guy she was with would try to spit ice cubes into the opening.

Comment [13] |  

Hood @ The Drake

   16 March 2005, early morning

I had read many a good thing about Hood prior to seeing them last night. Now Magazine, in a very short review of Hood’s new CD, had compared their last album to something Zero 7 may offer up, high praise in my books. Other reviews of Hood compared them to Radiohead. They are apparently looked upon quite favourably by music critics.

I met Steph around 9:30, and the two of us headed off to the Drake, where we would meet up with Tyler and two of his friends. When we arrived there was already a band playing. The group played very experimental progressive rock music. The lead singer sounded like his microphone was being played through a flanger. I think the band would have been alright, had they hired a good drummer. Everyone else had lower opinions of the band. All of us hoped that the band playing wasn’t Hood.

Thankfully, they packed up a half hour later an announced Hood would be on shortly.

Hood are a quartet. For the most part everyone would take turns playing different instruments. Each song usually featured a keyboard, guitar, bass, and drums. Occasionally they would throw other instruments into the mix. They are in some ways similar to Radiohead, but I don’t think similar enough to warrant comparisons.

I liked them more honestly.

The band’s drummer was amazing. His performance was phenomenal. I remember being quite impressed when I read that Breakbeat Era had live drummers playing the beats when they toured. Now Hood don’t sound like Breakbeat Era, they have a more heavy, pounding, off-tempo sound to their drum line. My point is simply that I was impressed the drum line wasn’t programmed into a machine. The energy from the drummer was intense. The second last song of the night had a drum line that would make the most avid electronic music fan smile.

I bought their new CD and am listening to it now. It’s very mellow. It’s a shame you can package up the energy from a show into a small plastic disk.

Comment |  

The Night Begins at Butt'r

   20 February 2005, late afternoon

A shot of my shirt, and the Butt'r sign inside Butt'r

The plan was to meet up with Rishi, various law school students, and a few of Rishi’s friends for drinks last night. The problem with this plan was that no one actually said where or when to meet. When I left my house at 7:00 to meet some other friends for dinner I hadn’t the faintest idea how I would actually end up finding Rishi. (I wasn’t the only person in this predicament. Steph had a dinner of her own, and was supposed to meet up with us after. Carvill was watching a movie with her friend Jose, and was supposed to show up after the movie with Mezan and Jose. None of them had managed to get a hold of Rishi either.)

Of course, by the time we were all finished with our respective dinner plans, we still hadn’t heard from Rishi. We decided that we’d just meet at Butt’r and figure out what to do later. Butt’r is a nice lounge in Little Italy that is usually quiet and empty. The last time I was at Butt’r was a lot of fun.

Carvill, Mez, Jose and I arrived at Butt’r first, a little bit past 10:00. Steph needed to get ready before coming out, which usually means she’ll be late—very late. The place was quite busy when we arrived. Since new years I’ve been trying to drink more and more Champagne; so Jose, Mez and I split an Italian sparkling white wine between us.

Shortly after we arrived, a girl with a blue top walked in. I wrote down my initial thoughts about her in my Moleskine:

A note I wrote in Butt'r

And then out of the blue Rishi called. He had been at work all of Saturday—the poor son of a bitch. We explained where we were, and he said he’d meet up with us shortly.

I called my friend Philippe to see if he wanted to join me and my friends on our misadventure. I haven’t seen Philippe in years, but stumbled on his telephone number because my friend Yang has done a better job at keeping in touch with him. Philippe was ready as ever for a night out drinking, and showed up shortly after with two of his friends, Kevin and Ryan.

Steph arrived shortly after Philipe; not as late as I has initially expected her to be. Rishi arrived with Sheliza, Constantine, and James. The law school students had decided to sleep, so only Sheliza remained to represent the Queen’s law school massive.

So, there was a big posse of us out now. At this point Butt’r was busy and loud. We got bored of yelling at each other and decided to head out to a new bar. This was a foolish time to leave, as last call in Toronto is 2:00AM, and we left Butt’r at 1:30AM.

We managed to go to 2 more bars before calling it a night.

Comment [3] |  

← ← ←