Showing posts with label Entertainment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Entertainment. Show all posts

Friday, January 3, 2014

Toronto Feature - REVIEW: Harlem Restaurant

Harlem Restaurant

My trip to Canada concluded with dinner at  Harlem Restaurant in downtown Toronto. I tell you, this was the best food I tasted during my trip. I dinned at the 67 Richmond St. E location of the restaurant. As soon as I walked through the door I feel in love with this eatery.  +Harlem Restaurant serves Southern Caribbean cuisine.  Now, being a gal of the south and Jamaica W.I., I had to authenticate this concoction of flavor.

 

 

 

I entered the establishment as was mesmerized by the charming hanging red curtain and phonograph that lead to the main dining area. I parted the curtains and was instantly drawn in by the welcoming embrace of the eclectic environment. The  warm red covered walls, the intimate space, the beautiful assortment of color infused original paintings, created a soulful inviting atmosphere. I loved the artsy feel of the interior. The owner did an excellent job capturing the art inspired Harlem Renaissance aspect of Harlem, NY.




Harlem Restaurant





I had the delightful impromptu opportunity to sit down and chat with owner and chef Carl Cassell.

Carl Cassell
Owner/Chef  Carl Cassell


Shuga: What is the inspiration behind Harlem Restaurant?
Cassell: Harlem is the evolution of another restaurant I owned named Irie. Harlem is more inclusive of the entire diaspora. At Harlem we can provide an inclusive menu of Southern and Caribbean style of cooking. The people from the south cook food similar to the way we [Caribbean people] do. Like collard greens which would be our [Jamaicans] version of callaloo.

Shuga: How long has Harlem been in existence?
Cassell: We have been opened for 7 years. 

Shuga: Why did you choose Harlem as the name of restaurant?
Cassell: Harlem is instantly recognizable. I wanted to evoke a response in people that they'll never forget it. Positive or negative, I wanted it to leave "you" with an impression. That's what I wanted to do, "kick the door open."

Shuga: What is the inspiration behind the decor?
Cassell:  The decor is inspired by the 1920's. The original name was Harlem 1920. As you come through the door you will see the phonograph. It's kind of a 1920's art deco feel. The deep red....gives it a bold feel.

Shuga: I understand you have weekly live entertainment.
Cassell:  Yes. That was kind of our mantra. That's what created Harlem in a sense. When I had Irie, which has been converted into a Harlem as well, it kind of became the place to meet people. I've been in the city [Toronto] for a while and half of my friends are artists, actors, musicians and Irie became  like an impromptu music venue. So when this place [Harlem] opened the idea was to create an artistic space which we provide with a stage upstairs.

Harlem Restaurant has two floors, both of which feature dining rooms with candlelit tables. The top floor has a stage where weekly entertainment is presented.

Top floor stage

After my Q&A, it was time to taste the delicious food. The menu was mounted on a vinyl record which a found to be quite clever. It really tied into the rustic chic theme. There were so many lip-smacking choices.  I had a difficult time choosing. Thankfully Carl Cassell provided some excellent suggestions, and oh was it extraordinary roller coaster ride for my taste buds.

Menu
I went with a group of friends so I was able to sample a few dishes. I started with a Miles Davis cocktail which was a mix of  Jamaican Overproof Rum, Peach Schnapps, mango, passion fruit juice and lemon. Cassell said that was a signature drink for Harlem.  It tasted smooth and was mixed just right. Next I sampled the Harlem Kool-Aide. This drink was made with Triple Sec, Melon Liquor and cranberry juice. It tasted tangy and sweet with just the right amount of alcohol. It was simply superb.

Harlem Restaurant
Miles Davis

Harlem Restaurant
Harlem Kool -Aide


We started by sharing a plate of Catfish Lafayette , which was breaded deep fried morsels of catfish served with a sweet chilli mayonnaise sauce for dipping. The breading was seasoned well and the catfish was light and flaky. The dipping sauce added an extra kick. However, I also found the catfish quite scrumptious on its own.  

Harlem Restaurant
Catfish Lafayette



Harlem Restaurant
Mac- n - Cheese
The baked Mac-n-Cheese sprinkled with Parmesan cheese was hearty, creamy and satisfying .  


Blackened Salmon 
Blackened Salmon is a creole inspired dish-- salmon topped with a seafood ├ętoufee sauce, served with mixed greens and coconut rice and peas. The interesting part of this dish was the mixed greens which was collard greens infused with carrots and celery. I have never had collard greens prepared in such a manner. I found it quite pleasing.


BBQ Jerk Chicken
The BBQ Jerk sauce really made the dish. The sauce was sweet with a hint of spice. I loved it so much I asked for a small container to carry home.

Coconut rice and peas
Rice is a very important componet to the Caribbean dish. This rice was fluffy and light with a pleasant hint of coconut flavor. It came very close to the sweetness of my mother's cooking.

Harlem Restaurant
Chicken and Waffles

The signature dish of Harlem is Chicken and Waffles. First, the presentation of the dish was the best I have ever seen. I have been to many restaurants that serve this dish and Harlem's presentation is the most attractive. I love that the chicken came with three dipping sauces - sweet and sour, maple syrup, and scotch-bonet-corriander-lime gravy. The chicken was exquisitely prepared --juicy, tender meat, covered in a thick, crispy batter. One bite and I feel under it's sinfully delicious spell. The waffles were fluffy with a tasty buttermilk flavor.



Mango Chiffon Cheese cake

My meal concluded with a signature slice of  Mango chiffon cheese cake. The delectable dessert was velvety light and heavenly extraordinary.

The dinner was accompanied by a comedy show presented by one of Toronto's top comedians +Quinn Martin. He was very entertaining and a great complement to a satisfying evening.

Quinn C Martin
Quinn C Martin - Comedian

Overall, my experience at Harlem Restaurant  was filled with appetizing foods, gracious portion sizes, friendly service and excellent entertainment. The restaurant provided a great taste of the traditional South with new twists of flavors. I truly had a marvelous time and look forward to returning in the future. So, next time your in Toronto, stop on by Harlem Restaurant  for a roller coaster ride your taste-buds will never forget.  Harlem Restaurant -East





Harlem on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 30, 2013

Toronto FEATURE: Joe Mama's Southern Restaurant: Review

Joe Mama's
Enjoying a Gladys Knight cocktail at Joe Mama's

My roaming adventures have taken me to the province Ontario, Canada. I always enjoy coming to Canada. I love the wide open spaces, clean air, clean wide streets and the charming friendly people.  A wonderful refreshing change of pace from the crazy rat race of New York. 

 

Upon my arrival to Canada I was greeted by the aftermaths of a winter ice storm. The entire city was covered in layers of ice, from the trees to the road ways. I learned that ice rain and snow had been falling for three days. So, although a little frightening on the roadways, the ice frozen trees added a beautiful artistic touch to the holidays. The neighborhood street sparkled as the bright sunlight bounced off the snow and reflected unto the uniquely shaped trees. It was exquisite.




After a few days of being shut- in due to the icey conditions, I was finally freed to venture out and explore. I received a recommendation from the locals to visit Joe Mama's a Southern Styled restaurant with nightly entertainment. Now, having lived in the south for more than seven years I had to sample this cuisine to authenticate the flavor.




Originally I wanted to visit the restaurant on Saturday because I heard great reviews about a cover band named Shugga. However, for Saturday the reservation was a little difficult to attain so I had to visit on a Friday.  If you are planning to visit Joe Mama's on a Saturday, reservations are recommended.

Joe Mama's is located in the heart of Toronto's entertainment district on the King Street strip . The interior of the restaurant is intimate and quaint. The walls are painted red and decorated with large photos of Motown greats like Marvin Gaye, The Supremes and Stevie Wonder.  There are round marble glass retro light fixtures hanging from the ceiling and attractively placed on the walls.  The entire room was dimmed in a warm red and orange light. The entire space screamed sultry, jazz and soul.




Performance stage at Joe Mama's



Now on to the food. I was eager to read the menu to discover what tasty southern delights awaited me. However, I was a little perplexed as I read through the choices. The menu reflected more of a Cajun style than a southern style.  Some of the menu items included Etouffe, Cajun Cob Salad, Cornmeal Crushed Catfish Sticks, Seafood Soul Pasta and Grilled Cajun Chicken n' Shrimp. I was looking for more southern classic dishes such as mac & cheese, fried chicken or items that were smothered, in gravy or fried.

Cornbread basket


Strawberry butter

 Since I traveled with friends, I was able to try a few dishes. I sampled the Seafood Soul Pasta, Cornmeal Battered Fried Shrimp, Surf n' Turf Fettucini, and Shredded BBq Chicken served with angel hair pasta. For dessert I had Red Velvet cake and  Bailey's coffee. Overall the food was unexciting.  The presentation was nice but the dishes were a little bland and most certainly lacking Southern spices and flavor.

Surf n' Turf

Seafood Soul Pasta

Surf n' Turf Fettuccine
Cornmeal Batter Fried Shrimp


Shredded BBQ Chicken 

Red Velvet Cake  & Bailey's Coffee

However, I did enjoy the drinks. The cocktails are named after musical artists. I found that to be quite cleaver. The drinks tied right into the decor of the eatery. I loved that. The choices included, Barry Gordy which is 2 part Absolut and dash dry Vermouth, Gloria Gaynor which is 1 part Absolut kurant, 1 part Southern Comfort, orange juice and dash of Grenadine, Marvin Gaye which is 1 part Absolute and Blue Curacao, and Gladys Knight, which was recommended as the most popular, is made with 1 part Absolut mandarin, Cointreau, Malibu rum, Grenadine and a dash of pineapple. ( Full cocktail list http://www.joemamas.ca/frames/menu.html)

Gladys Knight Cocktail

My favorite part of the evening was the live music. The entertainment for the night was a cover band named The Grind. The band featured R&B and Funk music. The lead singer was high energy and engaging.


The Grind

The Grind

Altogether, Joe Mama's is a nice place to visit. The menu is a bit pricey, however the atmosphere is enjoyable. So next time you're in downtown Toronto stop by  Joe Mama's (http://www.joemamas.ca/),  if not for the food, definitely for the entertainment.




Joe Mamas on Urbanspoon Joe Mamas on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 9, 2013

Bourbon Street Bayside




 BAYSIDE VILLAGE, QUEENS 

 

 My roaming adventures this week lead me to  Bourbon Street restaurant in Bayside, Queens.  

As I drove down Bell Blvd I happened to notice Mardi Gras masks and a large sign that read "Bourbon Street." I said, this looks interesting I better investigate. Now, having resided and fallen in love with Louisiana, I had to authenticate this Cajun cuisine. When I walked through the door I was greeted with a warm smile from the hostess who lead me to my seat. The interior was charming and the ambiance was casual and relaxed.  There is a full bar and large televisions excellent for watching sports.  Away from the bar were quiet dinning areas. The walls held colorful vibrant paintings of jazz musicians, Mardi Gras masks and swanky scenes of New Orleans.  Each table setting included colorful  Mardi Gras beads. The archway has an enchanting French style gate that provided a nice French Quarter “N’Awlins touch.







Now on to the food.  The bread basket came with an array of breads including honey wheat, white roll, corn bread and everything flat bread. The basket was accompanied with a sweet homemade pecan butter. It was a wonderful complement to the breads.  I also had the opportunity to taste a fresh batch of apple cinnamon butter, a holiday specialty for the season. My waitress Kim, who was quite delightful provided some marvelous suggestions to acquaint me with the menu.



The water came in the charming bottle



Everything Flat Bread


My meal commenced with BBQ Shrimp. Now this was no average bbq shrimp I have ever tasted. This dish was comprised of plump jumbo shrimp seasoned with Cajun spices in a secret cream sauce served with garlic bread.  The cream sauce was buttery, rich and creamy. It had the right balance of spice with a hint of barbeque. The shrimp was seasoned to perfection and the garlic bread was fluffy with a light crunch. I tell you this reporter had a superb time sopping up each drop of the delicious cream sauce.

BBQ Shrimp with French Bread


Next Kim recommended Buffalo Chicken Mac & Cheese. This hearty dish was prepared with spicy, crispy buffalo breaded chicken cutlets served on top of a mountain of penne pasta swimming in homemade buffalo butter cheese sauce topped off with large crumbles of blue cheese. D-Lish is all I could say as the flavor fusions exploded in my mouth.


Buffalo Chicken Mac & Cheese

My meal concluded with a grand slice of homemade apple crumbled pie served with a drizzle of raspberry sauce and a heavenly scoop of vanilla ice- cream.

Homemade Apple Crumbled Pie


Other scrumptious menu items include Pulled Pork Nachos, Almond Crusted Coconut Catfish, Seafood Gumbo,  Chicken and Shrimp Jambalaya and so much more. Bourbon Street offers daily dinner specials and live music. Other specials include Thursday night $1 sliders,  Monday - Friday 2 for 1 appetizers and $3.50 Apple Martinis and Cosmos. Upcoming holiday events include Brunch with Santa on Sunday, December 15 at 11:30am and Ugly Sweater Party, Wednesday, December 19th at 8:30pm. I'm looking forward to the Ugly sweater affair. Bourbon Street also serves gluten free and vegetarian dishes.




Overall, I had a delightful time. I would have enjoyed hearing some jazz and dixieland music splashed in between the sports report on television. Nevertheless, a girl can't have it all. I miss the southern comforts of Louisiana daily, however, Bourbon Street brought this reporter a little taste of home. The price was moderate, the service was great and the was food fantastic. So if you're roaming through the Bayside, Queens area and you're looking for a new food adventure, check out  Bourbon Street, where their motto is  Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez....Let the Good Time Roll!

Bourbon Street is located 4012 Bell Blvd, Bayside, NY.  http://bourbonstreetny.com/index.html





Bourbon Street on Urbanspoon