When Chef Nuit Regular and her husband Jeff, left less than two-year old Khao San Road to partner with first-time restaurateurs, Jason Jiang and Seng Luong, and open the Northern Thai tapas joint, Sabai Sabai, I was overjoyed. For one thing, Sabai Sabai takes reservations, the menu hosts a broad selection of alcoholic beverages, and dinner is served tapas-style, allowing patrons to sample several menu items at once.  

Dinner on a Wednesday evening begins with a pitcher of Thai mojitos [$32] (it is hump day after all). The green papaya salad ($5) is vibrant and gives us a boost from the chili peppers, but the heat is reduced by the sweet palm sugar, oily fish sauce, and tart papaya. The spiced chicken noodle salad ($7) is more-or-less pad Thai; it has all the essential elements: peanuts, rice noodles, bean sprouts and tamarind - it tastes just as good as the acclaimed dish Chef Nuit used to make at her previous outpost.

The khao soi ($9) was the star of our meal. Egg noodles bathe in rich coconut curry broth that is enhanced with turmeric, giving it the animated yellow hue. The steaming bowl is topped with crunchy noodles and cilantro. Our only complaint was that there were a lack of shrimp, but the silky curry made up for the lack of crustaceans.

The peel-and-eat holy Thai basil shrimp ($8) were simple and delicious, accompanied by a side of brown rice ($3) to soak up extra sauce our fork and spoon left behind. The sweet and tangy tamarind joined effortlessly with the light and smooth white fish, the flash-frying only enabled the flavours on our taste buds ($8).

Sabai Sabai is best for groups who enjoying sharing and don’t mind relaxed and slightly disorganized service. There is no schmoozing, no busboy to refill water glasses every five minutes, and no tablecloths – you get amazing food, at an excellent price, with a comfortable atmosphere.

225 Church Street.  647-748-4225

Washrooms not accessible 

 


Ashley Jacot De Boinod’s Glory Hole Doughnuts are everything you want a pastry to be:  they look like the junk you ate as a kid (cue Tim Hortons or the corner doughnut joint) but are made with quality ingredients, a lot of love, and heaps of creativity. The nostalgia is what hooks you, but the bite of the dough, creaminess of the icing, and sweet and savoury combinations are what keep customers coming back.

De Boinod’s Facebook page is the best kind of food porn imaginable, and that’s partly because the images are attainable. Located in Parkdale, on Queen St. West, De Boinod outshines as she transforms comfort foods into sophisticated treats – Butter Toast, PB & J, and Chocolate Dipped w/ Bacon, are just a few of her tasty concoctions. Her hourly updates of daily specials and inventory keep her loyal fans in the know, and her innovative ideas (lemon riccota cream holes with olive oil glaze, raspberry cream puffs and her assortment of gluten-free treats) make this shop unique in the largely untapped Toronto doughnut-scene. 

Price: Doughnuts range from $3.50-$4.50; holes are 3/$4

Accessible, 1596 Queen St. West, between Sorauren and Roncesvalles, 647-352-4848

Limited seating (approximately 5 people) 

Hours: Closed Mondays, T-Sat 10-6pm, Sun 10-5

 


You can have a healthy or not-so-healthy brunch at The Drake Hotel, where bacon and avocado junkies both get their fix. There are few menus that offer a healthy breakfast beyond a bowl of fruit and some granola and yogurt (you already know my thoughts on that) but The Drake provides options, like the ALT: avocado, lettuce, tomato, eggs poached or yoke-free with some marble rye ($10.95)
But when its a morning-after brunch and your sweet tooth is gnawing, they’ve got you covered too, with a maple cinnamon apple short stack topped with whipped thyme ricotta ($10.50).
'Eat' also: southern fried chicken and waffles ($14.75) and the lumberjack - with two kinds of locally made meat (12.95).
1150 Queen Street West. 416 531 5042
No brunch resos. Limited accessibility: washroom downstairs. 

You can have a healthy or not-so-healthy brunch at The Drake Hotel, where bacon and avocado junkies both get their fix. There are few menus that offer a healthy breakfast beyond a bowl of fruit and some granola and yogurt (you already know my thoughts on that) but The Drake provides options, like the ALT: avocado, lettuce, tomato, eggs poached or yoke-free with some marble rye ($10.95)

But when its a morning-after brunch and your sweet tooth is gnawing, they’ve got you covered too, with a maple cinnamon apple short stack topped with whipped thyme ricotta ($10.50).

'Eat' also: southern fried chicken and waffles ($14.75) and the lumberjack - with two kinds of locally made meat (12.95).

1150 Queen Street West. 416 531 5042

No brunch resos. Limited accessibility: washroom downstairs. 


Brunch at the beloved Aunties & Uncles: a stack of three moist banana oatmeal pancakes ($7.50), fluffy challah cinnamon French toast ($7.50), savory grilled Brie with sweet pear chutney and walnuts on challah bread ($8.25), and a breakfast pocket - egg, cheese and caramelized onions stuffed into crisp foccacia bread sans dijon aioli and peameal ($8.75). 
A 14-year Annex landmark and rated ‘best brunch’ by blogTO, A&U gets away with making customers wait an extra hour in the cold without so much as a ‘sorry’, but the food is consistently delicious and the atmosphere homey. Flip through their collection of nostalgic magazines and books while you wait for your meal. The daily specials and ‘omelette of the day’ ensure there’s always something new for you to try on the menu. Poached pears are a menu staple, poached eggs are not. 
74 Lippincott Street, 1 block east of college and bathurst
(416) 324-1375
No credit cards. No reservations. Limited access: washroom downstairs. 

Brunch at the beloved Aunties & Uncles: a stack of three moist banana oatmeal pancakes ($7.50), fluffy challah cinnamon French toast ($7.50), savory grilled Brie with sweet pear chutney and walnuts on challah bread ($8.25), and a breakfast pocket - egg, cheese and caramelized onions stuffed into crisp foccacia bread sans dijon aioli and peameal ($8.75). 

A 14-year Annex landmark and rated ‘best brunch’ by blogTO, A&U gets away with making customers wait an extra hour in the cold without so much as a ‘sorry’, but the food is consistently delicious and the atmosphere homey. Flip through their collection of nostalgic magazines and books while you wait for your meal. The daily specials and ‘omelette of the day’ ensure there’s always something new for you to try on the menu. Poached pears are a menu staple, poached eggs are not. 

74 Lippincott Street, 1 block east of college and bathurst

(416) 324-1375

No credit cards. No reservations. Limited access: washroom downstairs. 


Popcorn creme brûlée: popcorn is made in oil with chillies, garlic and thyme thrown into the mix and then placed atop an perfectly caramelized mason jar of thick custard. The creme brûlée wasn’t too sweet and the crispy torched top stuck to the popcorn to make a wonderful caramel corn. Czehoski - 678 queen west, 416 366 6111

Popcorn creme brûlée: popcorn is made in oil with chillies, garlic and thyme thrown into the mix and then placed atop an perfectly caramelized mason jar of thick custard. The creme brûlée wasn’t too sweet and the crispy torched top stuck to the popcorn to make a wonderful caramel corn. Czehoski - 678 queen west, 416 366 6111


Look no further to find the best Thai food in Toronto. Chef Nuit Regular’s dedication to traditional ingredients, such as holy basil, Kaffir-lime leaf and wild ginger, results in street-style pad thai that is sweet, sour and spicy with a dry, rather than gooey, texture. Curries are plentiful and guests are able to choose their protein and how much heat they can endure. Peanut-lovers rejoice over the gaeng massaman, a creamy curry with soft chunks of potato, slow-cooked onions and salty peanuts (They have nut-free woks for those with allergies but are not a nut-free facility). The specialty pad gra prao, minced meat with an oozing fried egg atop fluffy rice, is worth the one-hour wait and block-long line-up. A laid-back atmosphere, efficient service, and homestyle Thai cooking makes Khao San Road a gem among rocks. 

326 Adelaide West, 647 352 5773

Open M-Sa 11:30-2:30, 5:00-10:00

Vegan menu; Accommodates gluten and shellfish allergies

No Reservations

Liquor license (not on patio in the summer)

Not wheelchair accessible

Parking Nearby; Near St. Andrew Station

Dress code: Casual

$20-25/person (without alcohol) 


My favourite dish:
I was recently asked what my favourite dish was, though it is a difficult question to answer, this is what came to mind instantly. What’s your favourite dish? 
Banh vac (white rose) is a delicate dumpling made of rice paper and filled with minced shrimp and spices; it is a specialty only made in Hoi An, Vietnam.  Steamed in shrimp broth and topped with crispy fried onions, the resultant dumplings are a combination of sweet and salty flavours with a simultaneously crunchy and smooth texture. Banh vac is served with a tangy sauce made of shrimp broth, hot chilies, lemon and sugar that packs the right amount of heat to accompany the graceful rose-shaped dumpling. 
(Photo courtesy of the talented Jessica Firestone) 

My favourite dish:

I was recently asked what my favourite dish was, though it is a difficult question to answer, this is what came to mind instantly. What’s your favourite dish? 

Banh vac (white rose) is a delicate dumpling made of rice paper and filled with minced shrimp and spices; it is a specialty only made in Hoi An, Vietnam.  Steamed in shrimp broth and topped with crispy fried onions, the resultant dumplings are a combination of sweet and salty flavours with a simultaneously crunchy and smooth texture. Banh vac is served with a tangy sauce made of shrimp broth, hot chilies, lemon and sugar that packs the right amount of heat to accompany the graceful rose-shaped dumpling. 

(Photo courtesy of the talented Jessica Firestone) 

Lunch Under $10
Banh Mi Boys is a sandwich shop nestled on the corner of Queen and Spadina that has put a modern twist on traditional Vietnamese cuisine. Brothers David and Phil Chau, who are the offspring to the owners of the beloved Nguyen Huong, have established a loyal following of their own. The duo is said to have a new location in the works at Yonge and Gerrard (according to Toronto Life). 
The small storefront is mostly a take-out joint, with seating available for around 14 patrons; the rest of the guests stand in quick-moving line and order their banh mi (baguette sandwiches), steamed bao (pork buns) and Asian style tacos. 
Banh mi submarines made of (crispy on the outside, doughy on the inside) bread range from $5-8. Personal favourites include the refreshing and somewhat citrus lemongrass braised tofu and the grilled chicken marinated in a sweet garlic soy and Asian bbq sauce ($5.49 +tax).
An order of kimchi fries to share with a friend with tofu or pulled pork ($5.99 +tax) is the Vietnamese version of Canadian-style poutine, with mayo, green onion, spicy sauce and kimchi replacing the usual gravy and cheese curds. 
Make sure your dining partner snags a seat while you wait in line, or else you might have to brave the winter chill and dig into your grub on the curb - it’s far too good to wait until you’re home. 
392 Queen Street West, Mon-Fri 11am-10pm; Sat 11am-9pm; Sun 12pm-7pm
416-393-0588

Lunch Under $10

Banh Mi Boys is a sandwich shop nestled on the corner of Queen and Spadina that has put a modern twist on traditional Vietnamese cuisine. Brothers David and Phil Chau, who are the offspring to the owners of the beloved Nguyen Huong, have established a loyal following of their own. The duo is said to have a new location in the works at Yonge and Gerrard (according to Toronto Life). 

The small storefront is mostly a take-out joint, with seating available for around 14 patrons; the rest of the guests stand in quick-moving line and order their banh mi (baguette sandwiches), steamed bao (pork buns) and Asian style tacos. 

Banh mi submarines made of (crispy on the outside, doughy on the inside) bread range from $5-8. Personal favourites include the refreshing and somewhat citrus lemongrass braised tofu and the grilled chicken marinated in a sweet garlic soy and Asian bbq sauce ($5.49 +tax).

An order of kimchi fries to share with a friend with tofu or pulled pork ($5.99 +tax) is the Vietnamese version of Canadian-style poutine, with mayo, green onion, spicy sauce and kimchi replacing the usual gravy and cheese curds. 

Make sure your dining partner snags a seat while you wait in line, or else you might have to brave the winter chill and dig into your grub on the curb - it’s far too good to wait until you’re home. 

392 Queen Street West, Mon-Fri 11am-10pm; Sat 11am-9pm; Sun 12pm-7pm

416-393-0588


Fanny Chadwicks 
I cannot speak to the popular ‘build your own bennys,’ nor to the colonial sticky bun. I did not sample any of the naturally raised meats and poultry, or any of the sustainable seafood options. I brunched once. I didn’t even order off of the regular menu; I had the special huevos rancheros (sans black beans), a traditional breakfast dish said to be served on Mexican farms. 
I can, however, comment on the house-made ketchup, which was tangy and sweeter than the Heinz variety and takes getting used to, though I have a feeling it would grow on me and I appreciate the effort. I can also attest that the guacamole on my huevos rancheros had a nice kick that helped me start my not-so-lazy Sunday, and that my fluffy, moist bread did an excellent job at sopping up my perfectly runny eggs. My potatoes were cooked the way I like them, soft on the inside, crispy on the outside and intertwined with a fair amount of onions. I also appreciated the fact that when I asked for no meat with my meal, I could opt for fruit for no additional charge (The same goes for salad instead of potato hash).
My service was good, not excellent, but not bad either. I waited between 20-30 minutes for a four-top (harder to come by then the plethora of deuces to be found). The hostess was frazzled but not unfriendly, my server attentive but not chatty. The food arrived quickly and all dishes arrived at the same time. 
I hope to go back to Fanny Chadwicks to sample more of their brunch/lunch/dinner menus. 
Cost: $18 with tax and tip, no beverage.
fannychadwicks.com
268 Howland Avenue (Corner of Howland and Dupont) Parking on side streets, close to Dupont station. 416 944 1606.
Closed Monday. Brunch on weekends. Tues-Thurs 11am-10pm, Friday 11am-11pm, Saturday 10am-4pm; 6pm-11pm and Sunday 10am-4pm; 6pm-10pm.
Not wheelchair accessible. 

Fanny Chadwicks 

I cannot speak to the popular ‘build your own bennys,’ nor to the colonial sticky bun. I did not sample any of the naturally raised meats and poultry, or any of the sustainable seafood options. I brunched once. I didn’t even order off of the regular menu; I had the special huevos rancheros (sans black beans), a traditional breakfast dish said to be served on Mexican farms.

I can, however, comment on the house-made ketchup, which was tangy and sweeter than the Heinz variety and takes getting used to, though I have a feeling it would grow on me and I appreciate the effort. I can also attest that the guacamole on my huevos rancheros had a nice kick that helped me start my not-so-lazy Sunday, and that my fluffy, moist bread did an excellent job at sopping up my perfectly runny eggs. My potatoes were cooked the way I like them, soft on the inside, crispy on the outside and intertwined with a fair amount of onions. I also appreciated the fact that when I asked for no meat with my meal, I could opt for fruit for no additional charge (The same goes for salad instead of potato hash).

My service was good, not excellent, but not bad either. I waited between 20-30 minutes for a four-top (harder to come by then the plethora of deuces to be found). The hostess was frazzled but not unfriendly, my server attentive but not chatty. The food arrived quickly and all dishes arrived at the same time.

I hope to go back to Fanny Chadwicks to sample more of their brunch/lunch/dinner menus.

Cost: $18 with tax and tip, no beverage.

fannychadwicks.com

268 Howland Avenue (Corner of Howland and Dupont) Parking on side streets, close to Dupont station. 416 944 1606.

Closed Monday. Brunch on weekends. Tues-Thurs 11am-10pm, Friday 11am-11pm, Saturday 10am-4pm; 6pm-11pm and Sunday 10am-4pm; 6pm-10pm.

Not wheelchair accessible. 


Eat to the Beat Recap

The annual charity event, which features the exquisite culinary offerings of 60 distinguished female chefs, has also raised an astonishing  $3.2 million for Willow Breast Cancer Support Canada to date. This year was my first time in attendance and the food, drink and atmosphere lived up to all of the hype. For those who have never heard of ETTB here’s a quick recap of the night’s festivities.

Guests enter Roy Thompson Hall in a swarm, rushing to food stalls to see the culinary offerings that are being displayed. Some strategize by doing a walk-around before committing to their first bite; others (like myself) dive headfirst into whatever mini-masterpiece they can get their paws on. I happened upon Loic Gourmet’s lavender sheep’s milk mousse with candied cauliflower, Niagara chestnuts and Perth County honeycomb. The amuse-bouche, prepared by Chef Anjuli Arora, was a savoury cheesecake but maintained subtle sweetness from the honeycomb. I respected the appetizer’s commitment to local ingredients as it teased my taste buds and set the stage for all the mouth-watering dishes I went on to sample.

Nella Cuccina’s Elyse Glaser made the most magnificent wild mushroom soup with truffle oil, which won her the GE Monogram People’s Choice Award, and rightly so. The soup was heavenly, it was creamy and rich, and was enhanced in both aroma and flavour by the truffle oil. I’m not ashamed to say I came back for seconds, and thirds, and maybe fourths. Runner-up, in my books, was Chef Nuit Regular’s mar hor, from Khao San Road, the acclaimed Thai restaurant in Toronto. I am a Khao San fanatic and when I heard Nuit would be at ETTB, my stomach yearned for her pad thai, the only pad thai I eat outside of Thailand. But Nuit didn’t serve her beloved dish; instead she prepared an authentic Thai appetizer of ground pork atop a pineapple slice, garnished with cilantro and peanuts. The acidity of the fruit combined with the saltiness of the meat and nuts was refreshing and delicious.

I have a gnawing sweet tooth, one that inhibits me from going one day without a sugary treat. In a room full of female pastry chefs, I was determined to find my new favourite dessert. Madelaine Sperry’s sugar cookies with jam from Flaky Tart completed my quest. The cookies are simple: there is nothing fancy about them, yet they evoke the most wonderful childhood memories of eating Peek Frean’s fruit crème cookies at my kitchen counter as an after-school snack. Sperry’s versions are homemade and with quality ingredients and the cookies melt on your tongue. My mother and I tracked down Flaky Tart the following day to stock up on some more of our new favourite treats.

After thoroughly stuffing my face for two hours, I began to lag and for the first time in the evening, surveyed the room around me. Sixty successful, talented and philanthropic female chefs joined together to present their inspired and delicious creations for an amazing cause. It was truly a wonderful event to be apart of. 


Sunday Brunch

Saving Grace, the wildly popular and quirky restaurant in Little Italy serves arguably the best brunch in the city. Saving Grace’s large queue stems equally from the small size of their seating space as it does their delicious and creative food offerings. The atmosphere is casual and somewhat eclectic, catering mostly to young people looking for affordable and delicious weekend brunch. Their brunch/lunch menu has all of the classics with many more options, including their sourdough french toast with caramelized bananas. Only needing a touch of real maple syrup, you are guaranteed to be in sugar heaven. In addition to the daily menu, an old-school chalkboard is home to neatly scrawled specials that are often Mexican inspired. The inconsistency of the specials makes every trip to Saving Grace distinctive, and also ensures that customers leave in food comas after sampling too many dishes. With the window of opportunity small on weekends, Saving Grace is only open from 10am-3pm, so it’s best to arrive earlier in the day (wait-time tends to be at least an hour).

 Saving Grace is located at 907 Dundas Street West, (416) 703-7368


Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of the Toronto Underground Market (TUM), a unique social food market that provides a space for home cooks and budding entrepreneurs to sell their delicious and homemade food. In honour of the milestone, TUM added an all day portion to their monthly, all night food event at the Evergreen Brickworks. To date, an astonishing 20,000+ guests have been served and 400 unique dishes have been sampled by TUM-enthusiasts.

As a practiced TUM-goer, here are my highlights from the evening portion of the event: The first line I always make a beeline for upon entry is Rock Lobster Food Co. because their queue is always enormously (yet understandably) lengthy.  Rock Lobster Food Co’s owner and chef Matt Dean Pettit serves deliciously creamy lobster salad on a bun that is toasted and glazed with butter. In hopes of bringing the coveted lobster roll to the everyday citizen, he sells them for $4 a pop, though their size tantalizes the taste buds and always leaves you wanting more.

*TUM Tip: Divide and conquer – split up into groups of two and wait in line at vendors in order to maximize your time and eating experience.

Next on my food-quest were the delicious offerings from Hot Bunzz, new to the TUM scene. Hot Bunzz did not disappoint, offering creative takes on the classic Chinese bun, like tiger shrimp and diver scallops (my personal favourite), Thai basil beef, and St. Lucia Jerk wild boar ($3/each). Warm, fresh dough filled with flavourful seafood or meat, these bunzz are going to revolutionize finger-food as we know it! 

I also sampled FeasT.O.’s crab and miso mazemen, which is brothless ramen. The noodles were topped with seaweed, and combined with the saltiness from the miso and coupled with the crab; it was the perfect combination. At $7/each, the dish was a tad too pricey, but I was happy to support a vendor that serves consistently great food.

Other wonderful dishes I tasted include a hearty and gluten-free chicken, squid, shrimp and mussel paella from Pimenton ($6), the wonderfully tender braised pork belly on a Chinese bun with sambal mayo from Babi&Co. ($5), and the salty and sweet peanut butter pulled pork and bacon jam sandwich from Fidel Gastros ($5).

Leaving room for dessert was a challenge, but I managed to split a peanut butter cheesecake ice cream sandwich ($4) from SmashCake, and bring home an apple fritter donut from Dough by Rachelle along with a s’mores cake-in-a-jar from Sullivan & Bleeker.

For news about TUM events visit yumtum.ca 


La Carnita is the Mexican taco restaurant that opened in June in the popular Bathurst and College area. In a few short months, La Carnita has managed to impress Torontonians with their flavourful, inexpensive and creative tacos and trimmings. La Carnita comes from humble beginnings and started as a pop-up travelling restaurant, developed by Andrew Richmond and Amin Todai, not restauranteurs but ad-execs with an interest in social media. 

The Mexican Street Corn ($8/for 2) is a must have - charred with husks in tact, and topped with Mexican creama, cheese, and a touch of chilli powder and lime. Their well-known and delicious In Cod We Trust Tacos ($5/each) move beyond deep-fried fish with vivid red pickled cabbage, and balanced with tart slices of green apple. No meal is complete without a sweet, and the paletas, also known as homemade Mexican ice-pops, are fairly guilt-free. My favourite is the key lime pie popsicle ($4) - the lime base is tangy and fresh and rolled in graham cracker crumbs. 

If you want a fun outing surrounded by the city’s urban professionals with hip-hop beats blaring in the background head to La Carnita and get your taco fix. 

501 College Street lacarnita.com


If you have frequented my blog before, you will know that I am a big fan of dumplings. As an enthusiast, I tend to be selective in my dumpling recommendations, so you can trust me when I say Mother’s Dumplings are the cream of the crop. 

A hole-in-the-wall joint, much like the surrounding restaurants in Chinatown, Mother’s Dumplings should not be overlooked based on its unappealing exterior and decor. The food is delicious, authentic, and delightfully cheap. A gargantuan dinner for three with plenty of leftovers, set us each back less than $20/person. Be prepared for a wait and leisurely service, the waiters and cooks are not in a rush to bring you your food or turn-over their customers. 

421 Spadina Ave mothersdumplings.com


It is hard for me to put into words the love I feel for Clinton Street Baking Company. This may appear to you as a strong statement to make about a restaurant, but Clinton Street has all the ingredients necessary for the perfect Sunday brunch [They serve lunch too, but I have never had the heart to abandon my pancakes and test the waters]. What is it about Clinton Street that makes it so incomparable that I don’t believe a friend will truly understand me until they eat there?

First and foremost, its the food - but it is much more than that (this I won’t even attempt to explain). Breakfast at Clinton Street is consistently flawless. The pancakes are golden and fluffy, topped with gooey blueberry pie filling, and drizzled with maple butter that is simultaneously sugary, yet never too sweet. They manage to make scrambled eggs light and airy, but not insubstantial - they are satisfying but never dense. The jam is heaven; raspberry flavoured, it is a vivid ruby colour and tastes like it was made by the Southern grandmother you don’t even have. I can wholeheartedly assure you that nothing you order at Clinton Street will be disappointing (unless of course you order Fruit, Yogurt and Granola like a friend of mine and never live it down). I will be upfront and say that I will never forgive you (even if I don’t know you!) if you don’t try the pancakes at least once, because they are life changing. 

That is my attempt to describe the epicness that is Clinton Street. I have included a photo of myself at the restaurant after a gruelling 2 year hiatus. I am normally a happy person, but a smile this big I reserve for rare occasions (most often food related). 

I don’t think you will truly understand it’s greatness until you go there. So go - NOW! 

4 Clinton Street, NYC clintonstreetbaking.com

Be prepared to wait in line from 1-3 hours for a table. I promise you, it is worth the wait.