The Drake Hotel

   10 February 2005, evening time

the wall behind Tyler at the drake hotel

I heard that Abacus, of Esthero fame, was going to be playing at the Drake Hotel. I had never been to the the Drake Hotel, but I did have vague memories of it being some sort of crack house. The neighbourhood it is situated in isn’t the nicest of places. Apparently this all changed last year, when investors came and dumped a truck load of money into the hotel. Now the Drake Hotel is probalby one of the nicer places to stay in the city, and features one bitching lounge. I met Tyler in said lounge last night to hear Abacus play.

Drinks at the Drake are about the same as drinks anywhere else in Toronto. I paid 15 bucks for a pint of Guinness and a pint of Keat’s, and I paid 14 bucks for a Gin and Tonic and a Rye and Ginger. So they aren’t cheap, but they aren’t crazy expensive; not bad. The interior is quite impressive; I’d say the money they put into the place was well spent. Tyler informed me that when the place just opened it was quite hard to get into. This may still be the case on weekends. The night we were there the place was moderately busy. Most of the seats were taken, but there was plenty of standing room still.

The crowd at the Drake is something else. The bar was filled with a good mix of both younge and old people. There were several couples on dates, and the occasional group of friends hanging out. The waitresses were all attractive, as were a few of the patrons in the lounge.

Tyler with his sharp eyes noticed that sitting no more than 10 feet away from us was none other then Laura Bertram—you know, Amanda from Ready or Not. Admittedly, this isn’t as cool as seeing Sarah Polley at a bar, but it’s something. She was looking pretty good, the guys she was with were not. I’m sure they might have been nice guys, but they really looked like they didn’t belong sitting next to her. I suppose that’s what people think when they see me standing next to Shima.

Seeing Amanda from Ready or Not was a bit strange, but there were stranger things to be seen at the Drake. These two women were taking turns dancing with this brown dude that looked vaguely like my friend Neel. Near the start of the night we saw this brown guy dancing with a reasonably attractive blonde woman. In some parts of the world she might be called a cougar (an older woman on the prowl for a younger man). I didn’t think she looked that old, but she was definitely older then the boy she was dancing with. When I say dancing, I don’t mean in any sort of classy sense of the word. The Drake doesn’t have a dance floor, and no one was dancing save the two of them. They looked very out of place molesting each other on the non-existent dance floor. I looked away for a moment, and when I looked back the blonde had been replaced by an Asian girl. I soon realized the two women were together when the Blonde came back and replaced the Asian chick. They alternated like this for quite some time. The brown dude seemed to be enjoying himself.

Eventually a black dude with a samurai hair cut came in. He was wearing white jeans and a sweat shirt. I thought he looked a bit ridiculous, as did Tyler. Nevertheless, the aforementioned women and the brown dude decided to come over and make friends. When Tyler and I left the four of them were chatting it up.

It was an interesting night out; I’ll have to make it a point to go back to the Drake.

view of the bar at the Drake Hotel

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Coco Lezzone Grill & Porto Bar

    7 February 2005, early evening

My second outing for Winterlicious was with Steph and Serena. We went to Coco Lezzone, an Itallian restaurant in Little Italy. I’m a fan of the area around College and Bathurst, it has plenty of cool little bars, bistros and restaurants.

I arrived a bit after Steph and Serena, who had both already ordered drinks. My original plan was to not get anything to drink, as it ruins the deal you’re getting on the meal. However, I couldn’t resist, and ordered a white wine with my meal. We were given bread, humus, olive oil and balsamic vinegar to munch on while deciding what to eat. I love bread.

I started with a butternut squash soup; this one was better then the one I got at Monsoon earlier in the week. The girls got goat cheese on greens, which just didn’t sound interesting enough to get. My main was pan seared arctic char. I thought it was a bit too cold; it tasted like it had been made well before I ordered it. It was nice enough dish, just nothing exceptional. The same can be said of the desert, which was a slice of chocolate cake. It was nice, but you could probably get a similar cake at Loblaws. Compared to the cake at Monsoon or Bloom it was rather boring. All the food was good, just not really good.

Coco Lezzone is a nice looking place, but again falls in this arean short when compared to some of the other restaurants in the area. Butt’r, which is down the road, has a much cooler interior. I thought the place was nice, but just somewhat lacking. The restaurant is quite huge, and dimly lit, so I would imagine it’d be a nice place to go get drinks. I don’t think I would go eat there again.

the bar at Coco Lezzone

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Monsoon

    4 February 2005, late evening

our table at Monsoon

Winterlicious is a good time to try out new restaurants in Toronto. For two weeks plenty of very fancy places offer up fixed menus at very good prices. This past Wednesday my friends and I decided to try out an Asian Fusion restaurant in the city called Monsoon.

We originally had a party of four, which included myself, Carvill, Rishi and Mezan. Dave’s return to Toronto from Ottawa bumped us up to five, and inadvertently bumped us up to a nicer table—well, I thought it was nicer. We were seated right in the centre of the restaurant. The tables around us were your normal dining tables capable of seating four comfortably. The table we were seated was a giant orange-brown slab of wood, metal, and plastic enclosed on three sides by booth-sofa-style seats. The table looked great, but was so big having a conversation proved difficult.

Monsoon is a nice looking place; both the bar and the restaurant have been designed well. The restaurant was quite busy while we were there, and was filled with a good number of attractive looking people—always a bonus.

The service was quite good. Everyone except for Rishi arrived on time, and while it was just the four of us we couldn’t go a few mintues without a waiter coming to check on us. That changed when Rishi arrived. It took a little while to be served, but once they got our order the service was back to being quite prompt. Everyone at the restaurant was quite friendly.

I was less then impressed with the food. None of my dishes were that good. They weren’t bad either, but I was expecting more. My appetizer was a butternut squash and apple soup, it was interesting to say the least. It looked and tasted like baby food. I enjoyed it, but didn’t think it was stellar. My main was a veal dish, which tasted like mutton, served on top of some mash potatoes. I can’t say I enjoyed it at all. I liked the desert a lot, but I think it’s hard to mess up a chocolate cake. Everyone got the cake except for Rishi. His green tea crème brulé was apparently quite amazing.

I don’t know if I’d go back to Monsoon to eat, however the place is nice enough that it’s probably a cool place to go get drinks.

a shot of the bar at Monsoon

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Starfish

   29 November 2004, evening time

Carvill’s Birthday passed last week, and to celebrate Mezan and I went out with her to Starfish, an oyster bar in Downtown Toronto. I had never had raw oysters before and was quite excited about the evening.

We arrived a bit past seven and were seated in a booth of sorts in the corner of the restaurant. This gave us a fairly good view of the rest of the restaurant and the bar. The inside of Starfish is quite nice, and was a welcome change from stank-ass Fred’s Not Here. The place is basically lit with candles, and has a warm feel to it.

To start we ordered a half bottle of Muscadet Sèvre et Maine (2001), which is a very light white wine. I will probably go looking for it at some point in time in the LCBO. Mezan bought a Lobster soup, but was served a mushroom soup by accident. The mushroom soup was quite good, and the waiter quite apologetic. They serve this really sweet whole-grain bread at Starfish was awesome. I ate so much of it. We also decided to share a small platter of oysters. Carvill is a fan of oysters from France, which is where the bulk of our selection came from. We also ordered a few more from Easter Canada I believe.

Raw oysters are strange to say the least. They’re served on a tray of ice, sitting on top of their shells. The shells basically feel like rocks—cold rocks. Oysters have a strange gooey texture, and the ones we ordered had a taste I really can’t describe. I can say I really didn’t enjoy them though. I had 3 or 4 different ones. Carvill likes very strong oysters, so perhaps I would have enjoyed mild ones more. I’ll have to try some next time Carvill wants oysters.

With all the oysters out of the way, we were brought our mains. We each ordered a different fish dish. I had a halibut, Carvill had a sturgeon, and Mezan had some cod. All the fish were quite good. I thought my halibut was excellent. The fish were all served on top of a bed of vegetables and sauce.

For dessert Mezan and Carvill had Crème Brules, while I had a flour-less chocolate cake. The cake was amazing. If you go to Starfish I strongly recommend you get this cake. The Crème Brule was good, though apparently the sugar at the top was too thick.

After dinner we went to Hy’s Steak House for drinks. That deserves its own post.

Starfish was really good, but quite expensive. The oysters and the wine is probably what pushed the bill quite so high. Appetizers were about 10 dollars each, as were desserts. Mains were around 30 dollars each. Oysters were about 3–4 dollars each. The bill came out to around $260 dollars after taxes and tips, which if you do that math is a lot of money for three people to eat. This is one of many reasons why my apartment is still unfurnished.

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Fred's Not Here

   19 November 2004, late evening

I met Mezan after work, and the two of us made our way to Pikto to drop off some slide film I wanted to get cross-processed. We met Carvill later at Union Station. The three of us made our way to Fred’s Not Here, which I had remembered being much better then it actually was.

Ugly décor and fairly slow service started our meal. The table cloths in the restaurant were covered with white paper, which I have usually seen at other restaurants accompanied with crayons to draw on. For the Fall, the restaurant is offering 2-courses for 25 dollars, which may sound like a deal, but trust me when I say it is not.

We all ordered Kobe Beef Burgers, which sounded quite good. I don’t think we’ll ever know if they actually were or not, since the waiter came out and told us while we were eating our appetizers that they had run out of the burgers. I ended up ordering Sole, Carvill got some Salmon, and Mezan some Beef Brisket. The appetizers were good I would say, the highlight of the meal. I had a Crab and Lobster Bisk that was quite enjoyable. Unfortunatly, the mains were all really disappointing. I don’t think the food was bad, it just wasn’t good—at all. Swiss Chalet would have been a better use of our money. Little things, like the fact the bread and butter they served us were all hard as a rock didn’t help matters.

The funny thing is, I enjoyed Fred’s Not Here the first time I was there. I’m not quite sure what was so different this time.

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Bloom

   14 November 2004, evening time

A picture of the tables in Bloom, camera facing the front of the store.

I’ve walked past Bloom, a restaurant in the Bloor West Village, several times. The place isn’t hard to notice as it stands out next to the sea of Ukrainian delis and bakeries. The place always looks like it’s closed. Friday I called them up and asked for reservations for two. The plan was to take Shima out for dinner.

We arrived at Bloom a bit past 7:30. The place was fairly empty, just a few other tables were full. The waiter was quite friendly, and showed us to our table. The interior of the restaurant is quite nice. A handful of tables line the wall along the left side of the restaurant and end at the bar. White brick walls contrast the smooth red ceiling nicely. On the right are a few larger tables and a booth of sorts. The place is dimly lit, which is what makes it look closed from the outside when you peer in through tinted glass. I wanted to steal the chair I was sitting on, but didn’t think I’d be able to sneak it out of the store.

Shima is actually not a big fan of food. She is a very picky eater. So, actually going to nice places to eat is a bit of a problem. Bloom had a very small and simple menu. If I recall correctly, there were 6 mains, 6 appetizers. There were no vegetarian dishes, which may be an issue for some. I ended up getting a Tuna dish; Shima, after some serious thought, ended up getting the Salmon. The appetizers looked good, but neither of us were that hungry.

We munched on some very good bread while waiting for our food to arrive. I drank a red wine from California that was quite enjoyable. Our food arived in a reasonable time, and looked amazing. My Tuna dish was served on a small rectangular plate. My dish was sushi-grade tuna, seared on the outside, raw on the inside, served on top of red cabbage of some sort, with these shoots-come-celery sort of thing lighted fried so they were like spring rolls almost. Shima’s salmon was served on a large circular dish, the salmon resting on top of some risoto.

Shima liked the food—a lot. I thought my food was amazing as well. Everything tasted great. The portions are probably small for your average person, but were good for Shima and I. I think getting an appetizer would be a good idea for your average person to feel more full. I imagine the meals are made to had with an appetizer and a dessert.

For dessert Shima and I split a chocolate almond torte on top of a blueberry comport. Basically, a sort of brownie on top of blueberries. I think it may well have been the greatest brownie I’ve ever had in my entire life.

I’d definitely go back to Bloom. I was very impressed with the place. The meal for Shima and I was 76 dollars after taxes. The mains were on average about 24-30 dollars each, appetizers were about 7-14 dollars each, and dessert were about 7-12 dollars each. Many times you go to nice restaurants and wonder what it is you are paying for. I didn’t feel this way with Bloom, it was definitely worth the money.

A picture of the back of Bloom.

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Panorama and Lula Lounge

   12 September 2004, late morning

Panorama

Carvill invited me out with some of her friends from work this past Saturday night. The plan was to go to Panorama for drinks, and then out dancing after. Apparently last weekend Panorama was closed for a wedding, so Carvill and her friends were determined to get in this time.

Panorama is a restaurant/lounge at the top of the Manulife Centre at Bay and Bloor. It boasts one of the nicest views of the city I have ever seen. I should have brought my camera.

Panorama charges a 3 dollar cover on Saturday nights. This Saturday it was quite busy. There were five of us out this evening; we were squeezed in to a ‘table’ that seats four. This was the best we could get on this particular night. We were seated out on the patio though, which was quite nice. Drinks are on the expensive side at Panorama. I bought a Lotus Martini (a pineapple martini) for 12 dollars. Beers were all about 6 or 7 dollars, mixed drinks were about 7 and up, cocktails were around 10 dollars. The place had a small selection of wines and champagnes priced at usual wine and champagne prices.

The place serves some food. There are assorted appetizers and pizzas available to eat, and a small selection of desserts. Carvill ordered a Medeterian dip appetizer, which consisted of pita bread and various dips. It was good, but not exceptional I suppose. At 10 dollars it was a bit pricey as well.

Basically at Panorama you are paying a premium for a very nice view. I think the place is worth the extra bucks you will end up dropping. Panorama would be a great place to take a date. I saw so many couples there last night, I am certain I’m not the only person that thinks so.

Lula Lounge

We followed up Panorama with a Latin club called Lula Lounge. Lula Lounge is at Dufferin and Dundas, in the Portuguese part of town. The place is big and pretty bright, with a large dance floor and stage. There are tables around the dance floor. The place has a dinner and dance lesson combo for 40 dollars. When we walked in at 11:00 there was a live band playing some kicking Salsa music.

Lula caters to what seems to be a big mix of people. Everywhere I looked I saw the oddest couples dancing with one another to the Salsa music. For the boys out there, go to Lula. You will need to learn how to dance, but I guarantee you will end up dancing with girls out of your league. I saw so many 50 year old men dancing with hot twenty somethings. I saw guys that looked like total tools, stepping on themselves and their dates, but giving it a good effort, dancing with some fine-ass women. Incredible I say!

This was my first time out to a salsa club. The people I was with commented that Lula’s dance floor was much larger, and much less crowded then some other popular salsa spots in the city. I don’t know if I’ll go back to Lula again, since I don’t salsa, but I think the place is worth checking out.

A Ram Story

At Lula lounge I met a friend of Carvill’s friend, this lady from Equador, who was really really hot.

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Kebabs

    2 September 2004, late at night

I love Persian food—well, kebabs at the very least. Tonight my dad, brother, and I checked out a new Persian restaurant out. The place was mentioned in the Toronto Star a few weeks back, and Martha passed a link to the article on to me. Now the article was hyping this place up big time, so I was expecting good things. The place is really just an Iranian grocery store and butcher shop, with a grill. We ordered two orders of chicken kebabs, and one order of a beef kebab, though it may have been ground lamb. Everything was excellent. I don’t know if I’ve had a bad kebab from a Persian place yet. So, this may mean that kebabs truly are the greatest food in the world, or it may mean that I’m just not picky when it comes to kebabs. Either way, Mr. Fresh Meat Chicken is worth checking out.

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Butt'r and Beba (Another Night at College and Bathurst)

    5 August 2004, lunch time

Simon in Butt'r

Drinks @ Butt’r

Simon, Steph and I parked a fair bit west of Bathurst on College and started wandering around. The first place we ended up checking out was a place I saw on Martini Boys earlier, a resturant called Butt’r. To say we were impressed with the place would be an understatement.

The resturant has a very clean look to it. There are basically only two colours used throughout the place, brown and cream, with the occasional hint of silver to switch things up. There are several small tables suitable for intimate dining with your significant other, as well as a few larger tables for bigger groups. The three of us grabbed one of the larger tables.

The music they were playing when we arrived was house. Originally they had some mix CD on, but by the time we left there was a DJ playing. The music was chilled out and quiet. We were able to carry on a conversation without resorting to yelling.

Wine Glasses in Butt'r

Our waiter, who was also the bar tender, was friendly and courteous. I ordered two Gin and Tonic’s to drink, which you can’t really mess up. Simon tried the Butt’r Martini, which was probably Vodka, Rum and Pineapple Juice or something like that. I had a sip and would say it was quite good. Steph tried the house white wine, which she also enjoyed. Drinks were a bit on the expensive side, but you are paying for the ambience I suppose.

We glanced at the dinner menu, which looked quite impressive. The food was reasonably priced for a restaurant that looked as nice as this one. Since we didn’t actually do any eating, I can only guess what it would have tasted like. Reviews of the place are quite favourable, and can be read at the restaurant’s web site.

The place was empty this Wednesday night. We wanted to check another place out before we headed back home, so we started walking again. We originally were thinking of going to Orbits, which looked a lot like Alleycats. Instead we decided on a European bar called Beba.

A Candle in Beba

Dancing @ Beba

Beba was a lot more lively a place then Butt’r. The bar was far from full when we arrived, but there was a much bigger crowd of people. If I had to guess the bar catered to your older Ginos and Ginas crowd, though there was a bit of a mix to the place.

Beba was dark, with bizarre paintings on the walls. I wanted to buy one of EZ-E that some dude had done, but I am broke. And I don’t think I can bring myself to spend any serious money on such art. I digress. The bar is basically split into three sections. At the front is a bar and some small tables, but mostly it is an area to get drinks and stand around chatting. The middle section is where there are sofas and tables for people to sit around and relax. Finally, the back of the bar features a dance floor. There was a set of sofa’s in the corner of this back section as well, which is where Simon, Steph and I sat for the first half of the night.

When the music picked up a bit we started dancing. The music was more or less bad. There were lots of old house and dance tunes you might remember from when you were a little kid, but nothing new. They played a tiny little hip hop and reggae set, featuring more played out or old songs.

Highlights of the night included: a drunk porn-star-looking-Gina who was dancing with the back of her tight black pants undone—charming, a group of girls with bizarre—thought I imagine stylish—haircuts, and a older lady who was trying to dance up on everyone.

Beba was fun, though I’m not sure if I would go back. Butt’r is definitely worth checking out again.

The front of Beba

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Zaffron

    1 August 2004, the wee hours

A small sample of the wall inside Zaffron.

I returned to Zaffron today with a small group of my friends. Gary and I were the only two people who had been to the restaurant before. Both of us had Persian food for the first time at this restaurant, and both of us have had an obscene amount of Persian food at Shandiz in Waterloo since. Well, I should qualify. I have had an obscene amount of kebobs since my first experience with Persian food. Gary has actually made an effort to try all the dishes at Shandiz, and as such probably has a great appreciation for Persian cuisine.

The first time we were at Zaffron, I think my friends and I were all very pleased with the amiable attitude of our waiter. He explained what the different dishes were, made recommendations, and was generally quite courteous and friendly. Compared to our first visit to Zaffron, the service this second time there was quite disappointing.

The food however was quite good, much as it was the last time we went. I had the Koobideh Kebob, which is a ground beef kebob served with rice. It was quite tasty, and the rice was excellent. I have become a big fan of Persian rice since meeting Shima. I also ordered kashkeh bademjan, an egg plant dish that I love. The dish was great, not too oily, and not too salty.

Zaffron is definitely worth checking out if you are in the mood for Persian food.

A bottle of water in Zaffron.

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Jump!

   14 July 2004, evening time

My pink shirt collar; shot inside Jump.

Today Steph, Simon and I went to Jump, a chic restaurant in downtown Toronto. During the Celebrate Toronto Street Festival a lot of fancy resturants offer up cheaper ‘summerlicious’ menus so that patrons like myself, broke and unemployed, can go and check them out. The same thing happens in the winter, and is called ‘winterlicious’.

Jump was excellent.

All the wait staff we dealt with at Jump were quite friendly. Our waitress was this friendly blonde girl who looked, talked and smiled exactly like Kirsten Dunst. I kid you not, the resemblance was uncanny. Simon eventually told her we thought she looked like Kirsten Dunst, and she replied her sister, who had just seen Spiderman, agreed with us. I think she was in fact Kirsten Dunst, training for a role.

The restaurant itself is quite nice. Half the restaurant is covered by a glass ceiling, so the whole restaurant is quite bright during the lunch hours. There was a small lounge and bar when you enter on your left, where you can drink while you wait for tables, and a private dining area in the back. The kitchen is more or less open, but tucked away in one corner of the restaurant. The general ambience of the restaurant is rather nice.

Yes, I did eat. I had a grilled Atlantic salmon for lunch, which was done quite well. Admittedly, it’s hard to mess up fish. Simon said he enjoyed his pasta as well. The chilled golden gazpacho with sweet chili and basil that Steph and I started with was really good as well. I’ve never had cold soup before, and I didn’t think I would like it, but I would have to say it was very interesting. For desert I had some home-made ice cream. The cookie they put in the ice cream was amazing.

I would definitely go back to Jump again. Well, as soon as I get myself a job.

An interesting side-note ( well interesting for friends anyway): Jump is actually owned by the company Oliver & Bonacini. Their most recent restaurant is the self-named Oliver & Bonacini Café and Grill in Bayview Village. Shima refuses to go there, but that’s a story for another day. They also own the very swanky and expensive Canoe.

Simon's blue shirt collar; shot inside Jump.

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