Showing posts with label Travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Travel. 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

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Best Top 5 "Must Eat" in Toronto

Shuga Henry

 

My roaming adventures in Canada has been quite festive. Coming from New York I thought I knew what cold was. To my surprise, I did not really understand real cold weather until I visited Canada. Never the less, I quickly  learned the proper dress code and all was good. So, I have complied a list of the Best Top 5 things you must eat when traveling to Toronto. Enjoy!

 

5.  Fanzorelli's Restaurant & Wine Bar

Fanzorelli's is a wonderful Italian restaurant located in the downtown area of Brampton, Ontario. The interior is quaint and romantic with beautiful paintings of Italian scenery on the walls. The delicious smells of the Italian flavors envelops you as soon as you walk through the door. My cousin Keesha, a native of Canada told me she has been dining at Fanzorelli's for 12 years.  Her most favorite dish that she has been ordering for 12 years is Farfelle, which is fresh  roasted peppers pureed in a cream sauce with diced grilled chicken presented on a mountain of bow tie pasta.  Keesha also stated that in all the years she has been visiting there, the staff has always been very welcoming and friendly.  The owner, Mr Anthony is always there to greet the patrons with a warm smile. Fanzorelli's offers great food, large scrumptious portions, flavorful mixed drinks, delectable desserts and excellent customer for a reasonable price. http://www.fanzorellis.ca/index.html


4. Ketchup Chips 

Ketchup Chips is a must have in Canada. It is a staple well-loved snack that can only be found in Canada.   I first learned of Ketchup Chips in the early 90's from my Canadian cousins. At the time, Herr's was the distributor of the chip. When the flavour was introduced in the early-1980s by Herr’s, the recipe was changed three times before everyone was satisfied. The chip has been consistently sold and adored ever since. The chips are potato chips, that are treated with a ketchup-based powder that turns them red and adds the flavor of ketchup. Most recently, Lay's has started producing Ketchup Chips. However, I don't feel the company has captured the original taste of the beloved chip. This version tasted more like salt and vinegar chips. You can hardly taste the signature ketchup taste. So on your visit to Canada look for Herr's or Hostess Ketchup Chips and get the authentic flavour  of this tasty treat.  http://www.herrs.com/products/chips/ketchup.html







 3. Poutine

As I journeyed around town, I kept seeing ads for something called Poutine.  This dish was being offered at many establishments even McDonald's so I had to get the full scoop on this foreign dish. I learned from the locals that poutine is a common Canadian dish originated from Quebec in the late 1950's.  The word poutine is the meaning "fries with cheese and gravy."  Poutine is made with French fries and topped with a light brown gravy-like sauce and fresh cheese curds. The French fries are of medium thickness then fried so that the inside stays soft while the outside is deliciously crunchy.





This fast food dish can be found all across Canada and also in some places in northern United States. It was suggested that I visit a restaurant called Poutine ( http://www.poutinedaretobefresh.ca/) in downtown Brampton, Ontario for my first sample of this exotic dish. I must say that the poutine was delicious. The fries tasted crunchy and fresh. I learned from the owner that the fries are freshly cut and fried everyday. The gravy had a traditional gravy taste with a hit of other spices that the owner explained was their secret sauce. Well, whatever the secret it, it's delicious.  I had the classic poutine. The menu also showcased  loaded poutine, Philly Cheese Steak poutine, chili-cheese supreme, vegetarian and much more. 







I did a little research and learned that the great taste of poutine can be experienced and enjoyed in New York. Below are links to a few establishment that serve this mouth-watering dish.





2.   The Burger's Priest

I learned of The Burger's Priest  from another local referral. Amongst the many burger joints in Toronto, The Burger's Priest reigns supreme.  I was told that this establishment was featured on Toronto's Burger Wars as the best chow in town.  The Burger's Priest, which is a classic American cheeseburger joint is the brain child of owner/chef  Shant Mardirosian.  After graduating seminary school, Mardirosian realized being a priest wasn't the future for him. So he took his love of hamburgers and being a good Christian and created the Burger's Priest. (Read more of  Shant Mardirosian's Burger story http://www.yongestreetmedia.ca/features/burgerspriest040312.aspx )Since opening its first shop at Queen and Coxwell in June 2010, the classic American-style burger joint rapidly gained a devout following. 

Shant Mardirosian
photo credit: www.nowtoronto.com

I had the California Classic. I was told that is was one of the most popular. I really enjoyed this burger. The  meat was tender, seasoned well and very juicy.  The manger told me the beef is always fresh and I could taste the freshness in the burger. A custom blend of ultra premium beef is ground multiple times a day on premise. The meat was sandwiched between a lightly buttered and grilled fluffy bun. The meat was coated with priest sauce, a slice of melted cheese, caramelized onions with lettuce and tomato - amazing. I mean the burger literally melted in mouth.  My side of fries were divine. The crisp and awesome flavor was heavenly.  The manager told me the French fries are first blanched and then fried to lock in the flavor.  Overall, the Burger's Priest was a sinfully indulgent  time. The lines can get a little lengthy. However, it's well worth the wait.  http://www.theburgerspriest.com/menu/





1. Harlem Restaurant 

My most finger- licking discovery was Harlem Restaurant  located in downtown Toronto. Harlem Restaurant  serves a fusion of Southern Caribbean cuisine.  From the moment I walked into the establishment, I feel in-love.  There were so many lip-smacking choices,  I had a difficult time choosing. Thankfully, owner/ chef Carl Cassell suggested I try the signature dish of Chicken and Waffles. And oh was it extraordinary roller coaster ride for my taste buds.  Read full review  Harlem Restaurant Review


The Burger's Priest on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

FEATURE: New Euro - Soul Restaurant Opens in Rosedale, Queens


ROSEDALE, QUEENS, NY

As I roamed around this past weekend looking for new and interesting things to report, I stumbled upon a new eatery in Rosedale, Queens called Pa-Nash Restaurant & Lounge.  This rare jewel serves what the owners call Euro Soul food which is a fusion of Mediterranean, Moroccan and Caribbean Soul food. Sounds delicious I know. I strolled in and was blown away by the beautiful Moroccan inspired decor. Highlights of the luxurious interior included dazzling chandlers dripping with clear glass drops that sparkled in the light, tall soft cushioned silver seats, and a illuminating bar stocked with the finest top shelf drinks. The upscale furnishings provides a Manhattan chic with local comfort.


I was introduced to manger Mel Renci who gave me the grand tour. On our walk down to the lounge area he explained that Pa-Nash is a family owned business. The owners, who wish to remain anonymous are from Ocho Rios, Jamaica W.I. Renci said the owners wanted to provided the Queens community with a new food sensation. The restaurant opened Tuesday, November 18th. The restaurant is currently in its introductory stage. Renci stated the grand opening is scheduled to happen during the Christmas holiday. An official date has not yet been announced.




The lounge area, called the Euro Soul Lounge, located on the lower level is truly striking. Here I really saw the Mediterranean Moroccan style come together. The furniture included wall to wall leather seats coated in rich warm colors of yellow, red and chocolate, complemented with beautifully beaded pillows. There were mosaic textured walls that added visual depth. Overall, a really vibrant charming space. The Euro Soul Lounge also provides weekly live entertainment. The music varies from Classic R&B, Smooth Jazz and Reggae. The entertainment is presented by JT Mac Productions.







Now, on to the food which was quite delicious. The menu featured many interesting combinations of food.  Renci recommended I try the Three Cheese Penne Mac & Cheese Roll. He said if I tried nothing else on the menu I must have that dish. So I did. The Three Cheese Penne Mac & Cheese Roll is a signature appetizer. It is made with asiago, white cheddar and mozzarella cheeses. I found it very clever that someone thought of the idea to put mac and cheese in an egg roll. It had a delightful crunchy texture with a creamy cheese filling.
Three Cheese Penne Mac & Cheese Roll

Next I tried the Fig Glazed Chicken Wings served with Hot Chile Sauce presented on a bed of spinach. The meat on the tender wings practically melted off the bone filling my mouth with a bust of sweet spicy flavor.  The meal was complemented by the signature Pa-Nash Coconut Martini.

Fig Glazed Chicken Wings

Coconut Martini

Other delightful delectable include Grilled Pomegranate Glazed Jumbo Shrimp, Toasted Coconut & Almond Crusted Salmon over Buttered Cabbage, Pistachio Crumbled Lamb Chops with Rosemary Syrup and Israeli Cous-Cous plus many more. The specialty drinks include Fresh Pineapple Mojito, Lemon Drop Martini and Orange Mint Tea.

Pa - Nash is located at 144-14 243rd Street in Rosedale, Queens.  The restaurant is opened Tuesday to Thursday 5pm - 10pm, Friday -Sat 5pm - 12pm and Sunday 11am - 8pm. Live music can be enjoyed Thursday - Saturday 9pm -1pm and Sunday 4pm - 7pm.


So, if your looking for a restaurant with great food, elegant flair, friendly service, amazing live music and local comfort, Pa- Nash is for you. Pa-Nash Restaurant & Lounge where their motto is life with a bit of Pa-Nash!