Charlie’s Chopsticks Grand Opening

Charlie's Chopsticks Logo

My little brother got the chance to be a part of the creation of a new fresh take out restaurant! How very exciting. I got the chance to go in and sample everything and share my experience with you.

If you have passed 970 Upper James (right near the Linc) recently, you may have noticed this little shop open up in the sex shop plaza. Leading up to their grand opening, they have been giving out samples of all their menu items for everyone who walked in.

Charlie’s Chopsticks is a custom asian open concept kitchen that caters to those who want to eat well, healthy, and quickly.

Sushi Cut

Charlie’s Chopsticks offers three main items: Rolls (Sushi & Summer), Rice Dishes, and Drinks. When you walk into the store, you’ll immediately see the counter with the main ingredients that you can choose to customize your meal.

Sushi roll charlie's chopsticks

The first thing I had was the sushi roll. I really like how you really just get to choose whatever you want to make your own custom sushi roll just the way you like it. I think you can have a maximum of 5 items, which is a ton to fit inside one roll. I chose to put my favourite items: salmon, crab stick, cucumber, sweet egg, and mango. It was pretty cool to watch them roll my sushi.

sushi cutter

This blew my mind the most. They put the sushi roll into this machine and it cuts it all up for you. WHAT?! So cool. Where do I get one for my house? My carrots would be such even sizes.

Charlie's Chopsticks Sauces

This is the part that gets really interesting. In addition to the soy sauce that you usually get with sushi, you have a range of other sauces you can try too. Their spicy mayo is particularly interesting. It’s not just the Kewpie Mayo (or baby mayo, as we call it in my house) & Sriracha combination that you basically get everywhere else, but this has a great hint of ginger to it as well. I loved it. One of the workers encouraged me to try the wafu sauce as well, which is a Japanese sesame dressing, and I’m glad I did because that tasted great with the fresh sushi. I don’t have anything else to compare the wafu sauce to though, but it was great.

There is also a few secret sauces. The two of my favourite being Honey Peach and my absolute favourite: Maple Ginger. I just could not get enough of that Maple Ginger. Just the right amount of sweetness and savouriness.

Custom Summer Roll Charlie's Chopsticks

The next thing I tried were the Summer rolls that they offered. Patrons of Vietnamese restaurants may know them as fresh rolls. They are basically any ingredient you like, wrapped up in a rice paper wrap. It’s light and yummy. Traditionally, in my home, we add vermicelli into it as well, but this way you get more fun stuff and less filler. I had mine with lettuce, mango, sweet egg, cucumber, avocado, ginger beef, and a little slice of clementine, which the employee strongly suggest. I never would have guessed to put the clementine it, but the sweet burst of flavour was a great enhancement.

Charlie’s Chopsticks even offers traditional Vietnamese nuoc mam, or fish sauce. Please don’t let the name scare you away because it tastes NOTHING like fish. It is a fish sauce mixed with garlic, lemon, and a few other things that I don’t know because I haven’t asked my mother how to make it yet. But seriously, this sauce is a staple in Vietnamese cuisine, and the salty lemony garlicky flavour compliments these rolls like nothing else. I think it’s the greatest compliment when I say these rolls taste just like we make them at home.

I won’t lie. I stood there and tried a few other rolls, a few with strawberries for colour, and of course, fresh bacon. The owners order many of the veggies local and the bacon come straight from Mennonite farmers in Hamilton’s Farmer’s Market.

I have never had bacon this good.

I don’t know what it was about it, but dang. It was just crispy enough with a bit of chew, my perfect texture. The taste was beyond anything else. Damn, I was just about ready to hop off the bacon train, but that piece of bacon in one of my many fresh rolls was just BEYOND.

meat dish

Lastly, I tried the rice dish. You get to choose your meat: chicken, beef, or pork, and then you have the piece of meat basted with whatever flavour you like (I got chicken with maple ginger, and beef with teriyaki). It goes through the oven (though I think they might be replacing that with a grill), and gets served with a bowl of rice and your choice of veggies. Again, I highly recommend trying the fish sauce with this dish.

Charlie’s Chopsticks will be serving bubble tea (with choices of grass jellies, fruit jellies, tapioca) and fresh fruit smoothies.

All in all, while the food is not gourmet or out of the box, it is good, wholesome, fresh food, which is definitely hard to find in today’s fast food industry. Their prices are awesome for a quick lunch, or a light, healthy dinner. The best bit is that they’re open late every night (past midnight on Fridays and Saturdays) and they do delivery as well. Who HASN’T sat there thinking, oh, I could totally do sushi right now, but balked at the time, drive, price of sushi restaurants? And who really wants to put pants on to go buy some crappy day old grocery store sushi?

Charlie’s Chopsticks officially opens TODAY (!) October 18, 2014, at 11 a.m. and the first 88 people in the doors will receive a voucher for 30 free items. Spread the word, #hamont, the new take out is here.

Facebook – Charlie’s Chopsticks

Instagram – @CharliesChopsticks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Beast Restaurant

Deep Fried Pickles

Beast Restaurant – 96 Tecumseth St, Toronto

I heard such great things about Beast’s brunch since Dave (@1goatroti) and Adrienne (@AdrienneDLR) went there a few weeks ago. So of course, I had to come and try since I found out they had a dish called the Beastwich.

Above is our appetizer. Boyfriend can never say no to deep fried pickles. I loved these ones because they were sliced, not quartered like other places usually do them. The breading was beautifully seasoned and retained their crunchiness. They served this with a homemade ranch sauce. So delicious, I actually wanted a second order and we hadn’t even started eating our real meals yet.

omelette

We ended up ordering one of their specials, which was the meat omelette, made with beef tongue and sauerkraut (boyfriend’s favourites). It was served with a nice fresh salad and a buttermilk biscuit. I didn’t like the omelette too much, but the salad had a yummy balsamic dressing. The biscuit was perfectly buttery and salty, and we kept eating it even after we were extra stuffed.

poboy

I don’t know what it is with the word po’boy, but I am a sucker for them. I had a softshell crab po’boy at Porchetta and Co about a month ago, and I swear I might have died right then and there. This was a deep fried oyster po’boy with cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and pickles, served with a side of homemade bbq chips. The chips were nice, light, and crispy. The po’boy was soft and cheesy, and while it was deep fried, the veggies kept it tasting fresh and light. The only thing wrong with it was that I realised I forgot that I don’t like cooked oysters. But I’m sure if you like them, then you would love this sandwich. The oysters themselves were huge and meaty, encased in a beautiful coating of fried dough.

beastwich

There’s a third?? How many were you?? It was just me and boyfriend, but of course I had to have a third meal. There were too many choices to just end up with two! And how could we not have the beauty that was called the “Beastwich.” Deep fried chicken atop a buttermilk biscuit, fried egg, cheese, and topped with sausage gravy, served with homefries.

I love sausage and biscuits so much. After the first time having them in Atlanta, I was hooked. The chicken was so moist and deliciously deep fried. Everything together was soft, and moist, and savoury, and heavy in the best way possible. This is exactly what I expect from a sandwich called Beastwich.

Altogether, our bill came up to about $60 — three meals, an appetizer, and a $5 caesar — which wasn’t too horrible, but at the end of my birthday month, our bank accounts are tapped out! I would love to come back and try their dinner though; they have some really yummy looking things on the menu.

Smoque & Bones

Smoque & Bones

869 Queen St. West, Toronto

Smoque ‘n’ Bones opened up last week on Queen West, just across the street from Trinity Bellwoods and the always delicious Nadège. I was invited by Dave (of the Goat Roti Chronicles), along with Chanry and Adrienne, to sample some of their wonderful barbecue (touted as Toronto’s answer to authentic Southern BBQ) and jumped at the chance. I am always down for some meat sweats. I parked on a side street and as I got out of the car, I could instantly smell the smoky barbecue luring me into the restaurant. I was already drooling. As I walked up to the restaurant at 7, I went to take a picture of the sign with my DSLR, only to be greeted with the wonderful message, “No Memory Card Inserted.” So please, enjoy the following post accompanied with photos taken with a drunk potato.

sides

Side Dishes – Coleslaw, Potato Salad, Collard Greens, Mac & Cheese, Baked Beans, Candied Yams – $3.90 each

We started out with their range of side dishes. The two stand-out ones for me were definitely the candied yams – soft and sweet – and the mac and cheese, topped with homemade parmesan breadcrumbs. It was creamy, the noodles had a nice bite to them, and the breadcrumbs were so perfectly seasoned. The baked beans were very ketchup-y but it grew on me as it I ate it. The coleslaw grew on me as well, but there was a very strong dillweed flavour to it. The collard greens were nice and bitter. The potato salad had some pulled pork mixed into it; it was good, but I found it to be a little too dense.

Smoque N Bones Fries

Shoestring Fries, Onion Rings, Sweet Potato Waffle Fries – $3.90 each

These three fry baskets were served with a side of chipotle mayo. I can’t tell you which of them I liked more because I honestly loved all of them. They were all so crispy and delicious. The shoestring fries were delightfully crispy, though still with a potatoey mouth-feel to them despite being so thin. The onion rings were crunchy, without scratching the roof of your mouth, and not over-salted. So delicious. And then the sweet potato waffles, which I’m sure would turn my sweet potato hating boyfriend into a lover. All three of these were done oh-so-right.

pickles

Pickle Jar – $3.90

The pickle jar is a mix of chow chow, watermelon rinds, okra spears, jalapeño, and green beans. I was most excited to try the watermelon rinds, but I found them unremarkable. The okra spears were great. Nice and crunchy with the right amount of sour. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to try any pickled green beans (my fave!).

pulled pork

Pulled Pork Sandwich – 1/2 pound – $11.90

I have always been of the school of thought that pulled pork sandwiches (and sloppy joes, and “gourmet” burgers) are meant to be messy affairs. Although I didn’t get to eat this, just the look of it promises to be a wrist-wetting adventure. I am told that it was “very good.”

Smoque N Bones Bread Basket

Bread Basket – $3.90

This creative bread basket came with all my favourite things. Cheese straws, corn bread, a biscuit, and hush puppies! The first three because I’d had them before and they’re delicious; the last because puppies. The cheese straws were light, cheesy, and flaky. Great bite without filling up. Because they’re so light, they’re probably like zero calories. The biscuit was crumbly, buttery, soft, warm, and delicious. The hush puppies tasted like they should, like deep-fried cornmeal batter. Unfortunately, the one I was looking forward to the most, the cornbread, did not live up to my imagination. Less like a savoury cornbread, I bit into it and could have sworn I was eating a pound cake. It could have been more savoury, maybe with some cheese and jalapeño inside. Oh man, now I’m drooling.

Smoque N Bones Ribs and Drinks

Pork Side Ribs – 1/2 rack – $16.90 // Lemonade & Sweet Tea

Judy, you went to a barbecue place and it took forever to get to the meat!!! Yes, it did. And it was so worth it. These pork ribs are served “naked” straight from the smoker, and you’re given a tin of the barbecue sauce with a brush to paint on yourself. The sauce was great, and you can make them super saucy if that’s the way you roll. I’m usually a saucy person, but hooooly. These ribs were so good that I couldn’t even bear to stop eating to paint more sauce on them. They are good both with and without! The meat is super tender and has such a nice bite to it, I’m starting to think that “fall off the bone” ribs are overhyped. There was so much lovely flavour in the meat and the barbecue sauce was on point too. Not too tart, not too sweet, but the perfect complimentary smoky flavour. I would have liked to try any of their other meats, but unfortunately this was all we had for their barbecued meats.

Now that I’m done hailing the ribs, let’s talk about the drinks. The lemonade had been all buzz, so we simply had to try their “famous” lemonade. Only open a few days, and their lemonade was already famous, so of course we had to try it. The waitress also recommended we try their sweet tea. The lemonade is made from a smoked lemon mixed in with muddle mint. It was nice and minty, and would go well with some gin. It is a nice, light summer drink. However, let’s get at the sweet tea. It’s made with black tea, (mild) black liquorice liqueur, muddled orange, and orange bitters, and it is beyond anything I’ve ever had before. It blows my mind how delicious this drink was, and I definitely see myself walking down Queen West in the summer, having this refreshing drink, and dying happy.

Smoque N Bones Crepe

Bourbon Cherry Crepe – $6.90

A vanilla crepe filled with marscapone cheese, topped with bourbon cherries and icing sugar. It might be the Montrealer in me, but the crepe was a bit rubbery, and didn’t have the delicious crispy edge. The cherries were great, but the marscapone inside was a little bit lacking. It could have had a bit more substance maybe if there was an orange or lemon or something citrusy to heighten the flavour inside. Maybe some ice cream on top, with the cherries and bourbon drizzled on. Unless something was changed, I wouldn’t order this again.

Smoque N Bones Upside Down Pineapple Spice Cake

Upside Down Pineapple Spice Cake – $6.90

Looking like a witch’s hat, this pumpkin spice cake has pineapples at the bottom, and is drizzled with syrup. The cake was nice, but it went beyond when you finally get a forkful of cake, pineapple, and syrup. The sticky sweet of the syrup makes for a moist cake, and the sweet pineapples gave a wonderfully fruity fresh flavour to it all. A perfect ending to a heavy barbecue meal.

I really would have liked to try the Bourbon Banana Foster ($6.90) as well. It sounded so delicious, with coconut custard and puff pastry.

All in all, Smoque N Bones is a wonderful addition to the vibrant Queen West neighbourhood, and already so busy (be prepared to wait if you’re visiting), they’re sure to have a successful opening summer and beyond. I will definitely be back.

NàRoma Pizza Bar

Do you remember that episode in the first season of Futurama (which I am currently marathoning on Netflix) where Fry finds out that he’s a billionaire due to interest accrued in his bank account over 1000 years and then he buys the last tin of anchovies for $50 million? Well, it inspired me because I’ve never eaten a pizza with anchovies on it before. I didn’t even know if pizza places still had them as an option because I’ve never ordered them before. Of course, this would happen at 1 o’clock in the morning so I had to stave off the inspiration until the next morning. Enter the new challenger: NàRoma Pizza Bar located in the hip Locke St. of Hamilton.

Image

 215 Locke St S, Hamilton, ON

NàRoma is one of those places in Hamilton that consistently gets rated as the one of the top places you’ve got to visit. It was a toss-up between NàRoma and Earth to Table Bread Bar, but Bread bar did not have any mention in their menu about anchovies except in their caesar salad. Both located on Locke Street but would have to be an adventure for another time.

Image

When eating here, you have two choices: order by the slice at the counter, or pick your own pizza. The premade slices are great if you want to grab a quick slice on the go. Their website boasts authentic Italian pizza, but I have never been to Italy so I can’t judge.

Image

They have some set pizzas with very fun flavour combinations and you can also add or take away ingredients to your liking, both meat and vegetarian options. I swear, the menu is extensive. The waitress was super friendly and helpful. I informed her of my anchovy pizza virginity and asked for suggestions. At first she suggested the Napolitana pizza which comes with tomato sauce, black olives, anchovies, and chilli flakes, but try as I might, I just am not a fan of olives. She said that anchovies pair well with red tomato sauces and with my affinity for spiciness, we settled for the Calabrese: Tomato sauce, mozzarella, cacciatore sausage, and hot pepper oil, adding anchovies on half of the pizza, just in case I didn’t like it.

Image

Calabrese, Coppia size ($17)

Being by myself, I don’t know why I didn’t order by the slice or something, because even though I saw that their smallest size, Coppia, came in 12 slices and served 2-3 people, I still ordered it. I thought I was a beast. I thought I was sooooo cool. It was huge. I did manage to eat a third of it though, which I am proud of.

Image

Latte ($3.90)

I also ordered a latte because I thought it was the thing to do. In my mind, coffee doesn’t go very well with pizza, but they’re both Italian (right? or is that espresso…). She also asked me if I wanted some dipping sauces. It’s like she knew I was a sucker for sauces. I ended up getting the creamy pesto and the spicy Caesar. They were both very nice. The pesto didn’t really taste like pesto to me, but the Caesar was very garlicky and right on. Unfortunately, I didn’t know they cost about a dollar each until I got the bill.

Get to the point, Judy. How were the anchovies? Was it horrible? Did you throw your pizza at the waitress and pee on the floor???

Because usual “hate it or love it” opinion on anchovies, I honestly thought I wasn’t going to like it. I’m usually pretty sensitive to salt, but wow oh wow! After comparing the anchovy slice and the non-anchovy slice, the anchovies definitely bring a whole new dimension to the pizza. I had the slice with anchovies first, and the second one just didn’t have as much POW to my mouth. It elevated the other flavours to a whole other level. I think it’s safe to say that I will now include anchovies in my pizza repertoire.

The rest of the pizza was great too. The cheese wasn’t a soggy mess.  The base was thick, but not dense and made for a nice solid base for the toppings. The sausage was great, nice and meaty, and the chilli oil was actually quite spicy! And I am not averse to spice! However, the crust was dense, but not crispy, which was a downer for me.

Image

Nutella Slice ($2.50)

I always have room for dessert. This was basically a pizza base, warmed up (the bottom was toasty and crispy!), with a generous spread of nutella, topped with some cannoli cream filling, and sprinkled with icing sugar. It was a great way to end the meal. You can also order these in bigger sizes to share with a group. Yummy yummy!

I wish I had gotten a pizza with fancy cheeses, or the margherita pizza which I’ve always wanted to try, or something with a lettuce (like arugula!) on it because those are on my pizza bucket list too. I guess that’ll just be another reason for me to come back to NàRoma.

I did not pee on the floor.

Memphis Fire BBQ

headerIt’s apparently season for BBQ restaurant eatins!

Oh Memphis Fire BBQ. I’d been hearing about this place from everyone. The must try place. The oasis in the wasteland of Steel Town. Located on Queenston Road, 15 minutes east of the Red Hill Valley Parkway was a wonderful wonderful place that I had to bring everyone to. They smoke their chicken, ribs, pork, everything for at least 6 hours. They serve chicken and waffles at the beginning of the week, and it’s amazing. Though, I am happily stuffed after munching on just a few appetizers. Completely worth it.

ribs

First up, entree. Ribs, served Thursday – Sunday. Soft, meaty, huge portions of ribs on ribs on ribs. The sauce was a little too tangy and sour for my liking, but it was good nonetheless. Boyfriend and I shared just one entree together, and we were completely stuffed by the end.

mac

Chili mac and cheese. Um… YUM?! Gooey, soft, ultra-cheesy mac and cheese below a generous helping lovely smokey chili topped with more cheddar and onions. Chili mac and cheese. Why didn’t I think about that? The combination of the two is just lovely. And of course, to up the ante, I went ahead and started mixing my ribs with my mac and cheese. It just pushed it over the top. So damn yommy.

ranch friesThis is what everyone has to has to has to try:

Ranch fries.

Crispy, thick cut french fries, topped with ranch dressing, cheddar, onions, bacon, and more cheddar. It’s like Jesus jizzed on a pile of fries in the best way possible. Honestly, the best pile of fries I’ve ever had. It’s tangy, bacony, cheesy, carby, best things in the world.

pieLastly, they have an impressive selection of pies. A list of at least 10 different ones. I really wanted to try the banana cream pie, but I had a little princess with me who “doesn’t like bananas” or some ridiculous excuse, so we settled on the pecan pie, a princess favourite. The staff here are really extraordinarily nice. I asked for a buttload of extra whipped cream. Really overemphasizing the amount I wanted (a whole can, please) and they gave us a huge pile with an extra plate of whipped cream!

Both times I went to eat here, I left very happy and very satisfied. The prices aren’t exorbitant, and the food is fabulous!

HillyBilly Heaven

banner

Smoky. Sweet. Salivating. Seductive. SCRUMPTIOUS SOUTHERN… sfood. This place is located at Upper James and Fennell in Hamilton, where I’ve recently moved. I’d been hearing a lot about Hillbilly Heaven BBQ joint for a while. They’ve been showcased on the Food Network, and the amount of word-of-mouth buzz has been insane. I hear it from everyone that it’s so amazing, so naturally, I had to go give it a shot. Oh lordy lord did I not know what I was getting myself into.

brisket

I ordered the BBQ beef brisket with a side of baked beans, because I am a sucker for baked beans. However, these beans aren’t like those sweet molasses beans you get with breakfast. No, no. These were smoky, filling, slightly spicy, and a hint of tart sweetness from the apples. And then there’s the sandwich. A bread that’s soft and yet doesn’t fall apart. It soaks up the meaty juices without getting soggy. That is a bread deserving of a place called Heaven. The meat is piled high on the bun. It’s soft, juicy, and peppery. Wonderful on it’s own, but they offer 3 kinds of BBQ sauce that to top your sandwich with: mild, medium, and hot. I don’t know how else to describe how amazing this plate was, except for the fact that the plate you see there cost me $8.95. Now do a double take. You saw that right. Under $10 for a sandwich the size of your head and a hog sized bowl of baked beans. Ooooooh mama.
chillay

 

You can expect the same with the pulled pork platter. The sandwich just as big and juicy and comes with a side of thick cut crinkle fries that are wonderfully seasoned and crisp. My cousin upped the ante by turning his side of fries into chili cheese fries for an extra $3.50 and making it into a monster meal.

Hillbilly Heaven is amazing and everyone should eat there. The staff are really friendly, the decor homely, and the food is just to die for.

Banh Mi Boys

Banh Mi Boys, the place I’ve oft heard about but never been to. On par with Burrito Boyz and Smoke’s Poutinerie for after-clubbing eats. BMB is situated on Queen West, just west of Spadina and I finally convinced boyfriend to go there for dinner. This proved to be the best decision I could ever make. Having known myself for 22 years now, I should have known walking in, that we would pretty much “accidentally” order everything on the menu.

We started off with two Banh Mi, the restaurant’s namesake. For those who don’t know, an original Banh Mi (which means bread or sandwich in Vietnamese) is a kind of Vietnamese sandwich served on a crusty baguette, has various unidentifiable meats and pâtés in it, topped with pickled radish, pickled carrots, cilantro, and chili peppers if you’re feeling feisty. We got duck confit, and pork belly, and just having one each would have filled us up enough without all the other things we bought. These were really good. Warm and meaty, it’s a nice mix of western and eastern cuisines. I liked them alright, but I think I prefer my original banh mi to these (which you can buy for $2.50 up the street) but that’s okay because they offer some other great things on the menu.

This is the beef cheek steamed bao. I love beef cheek because it is always so soft and moist, and this one had a great smokey flavour to it. Topped with cucumber, cilantro, and pickled radish and carrots, it’s stuffed in a steamed bao pocket. In Chinese, it’s called a “siopao” and in Vietnamese, a “banh bao”. It’s a white steamed bun that’s like a bread, but spongy, airy, and slightly sweet.

We move onto the tacos and I am a sucker for coleslaw. We ordered a squid taco and a kalbi beef taco and it came with all the fixings of a banh mi with the addition of the coleslaw and kimchi. Kalbi beef is a korean style short rib beef. It’s got a sweet flavour which contrasts well with the tanginess of the coleslaw and pickled carrots. Very yummy, very messy to eat. The three types of sandwiches are pretty much the same in fillings, but you can change up how you want it served: as a banh mi, a taco, or a steamed bao.

I saved you the best for last though, because this is what the people really come for:

Kimchi fries.

The perfect french fries topped with perfect pulled pork and perfect kimchi, as well as mayo and a bunch of green onions makes this dish, well, perfect. It’s like a poutine on steroids. The crispy fries compliment the soft, sweet pulled pork compliment the crunchy tangy spicy kimchi that makes this something you must try when you visit Toronto. You won’t find it anywhere else in Toronto, and any imitations  are just that. Imitations. Cause nothing comes close to the perfection of this dish.