Seared Tuna, Apple Cider & Gingerbread Men Wreaths – A Wintery Weekend Lunch at Bannock

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When I think of winter and the holiday season, I think of Christmas, yes, but I also think of the ultimate cozy, winter comfort scene: gingerbread and spices, snow, Christmas greenery, hot drinks, and a comforting plate of food, all in a warm and peaceful ski house.  A place where you can sit back and relax and watch the snow gently fall outside a window, all the while noshing on good eats.  Bannock, located at the corner of Queen and Bay Street on the ground floor of the city’s iconic Hudson’s Bay Company flagship store, may not be a ski house, but it does offer us foodies everything cozy and comforting in a wine bar, bistro type of atmosphere.  Think warm woods and browns, rustic accents, and a wine rack to boot!  I love the window seats that look out onto Queen West and I’m smitten with their seasonal holiday decorations: ice cream and candy cane trees, and gingerbread man wreaths!

Bannock is part of what I call the Oliver & Bonacini restaurant collection.  Partners Michael Bonacini and Peter Oliver have been putting their culinary, business, and restaurant management expertise to work for over 20 years, opening 8 different restaurants, each with a different look, feel, and menu.  Oliver & Bonacini restaurants have a little bit of French, some Italian, some Parisian, and some classic northern Canadian among a number of other cuisines.  One thing each and every O&B dining establishment has in common though is the intent of making every dining experience a fine dining one, even the most casual eateries!

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Bannock falls under O&B’s ‘Canadian comfort food’ umbrella.  Aside from the food and menu itself, its Canadian connection?  Bannock’s name.  Bannock, as a food, is a type of flat, biscuit-type quick bread common in Aboriginal and Inuit cuisine and this type of bread is incorporated into a number of Bannock’s dishes including their sandwiches, pizzas, and garlic and herb bannock appetizer.  The unique thing about Bannock is its dine-in and take-out components.  It fuses both the casual and fine dining experiences together under one roof.  On one side you can hop in during your busy lunch hour and grab a sweet treat, a sandwich on artisan bread, or a soup or salad (or some of everything!), or sit down for a quick drink with a book or newspaper.  On the other side, you can relax with a glass of wine and enjoy fresh fish, hearty meat dishes, grain salads and more with twinkling lights sparkling above you.

In order for an eatery to live up to its promise of Canadian comfort food, it obviously has to demonstrate this through its dishes and menu selection.  Bannock offers Monforte dairy and Canadian cheeses, Atlantic fish, Ontario venison, Alberta ground brisket, west coast tuna and more and goodness is their menu ever delightful!  My boyfriend and I counted at LEAST ten menu items that we wanted to try and come back for the next time around.  And that time after that.  And then the time after that.  I can tell we’ll be eating here a lot over the next year or two.  On my Bannock wishlist: mac and cheese with wilted spinach; crooked spinach salad with taro sticks, mixed pickles, and goat feta; salt cod donuts; Atlantic haddock and shrimp cake with chips and dill pickle tartar, vegetable cobb with avocado, barley, deviled egg, thunder oak gouda, and living sprouts; tofurkey scallopini with mozzarella, roasted garlic, squash mostarda (an Italian condiment that comes in the form of mustard married with syrup) and quinoa; and biff’s fried bologna and eggs with bannock, smoky tomato, and duck fat potatoes.  Prices come in at around $13-$22 for mains with most ringing in at $14-$16

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And this is just their lunch and dinner menu – they have a Sunday brunch service!  BRING IT ON.

Despite all the menu items I wanted to stuff my face in, I had to choose one so I chose Bannock’s seared BC albacore tuna ($19) with wax beans, smashed fingerling potatoes, root crudités (whole, small vegetables), and bagna cauda, a warm dip that is typically served with the vegetables and that is made with garlic, anchovies, olive oil and butter.  Oh!  And fresh apple cider ($5) with a cinnamon stick!  I am so, SO in love with their apple cider.  I love apple cider but it’s tricky to get that perfect balance of sweetness, warmth, and  fruitiness without the overpowering acidic tang and sourness from the apple.  Either that or that slightly rubbery taste you get when you drink apple or grape juice.  Their apple cider is perfect though.  It didn’t make me pucker and it was just really crisp and refreshing in a warm and cozy kind of way!

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And the tuna is delicious!  There were five thick pieces of tuna (like little tuna steaks) and they were so fresh and meaty.  What I really loved about it, aside from the smooth texture, was the tiny bit of fat on each piece.  It made it that much more savoury and soft and flavourful.  I was also a really big fan of the smashed fingerlings (they were really flattened which was really cute!) and the bagna cauda sauce that I used for the tuna, cauliflower crudités and potatoes.  I’m a huge fan of beans and I love it when I get both green and yellow ones, so I was a happy camper in that department; the only thing I wish was different was more beans!  That and maybe some more fingerlings.  But truly, I was full afterward and was really satisfied with my meal and how everything complemented each other.  The vegetables cut through the meatiness of the tuna while the tuna itself gave the whole dish its heartiness.

There’s so much to try here at Bannock and there’s so much to love!  It’s right across the street from the Eaton Centre, they serve Sunday brunch, and there’s about half a menu waiting for me every other day.  You know I’ll be back.

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*****

Bannock is located at 401 Bay Street at the corner of Bay and Queen Street West, on the ground floor of the Hudson’s Bay Company.  It is located across the street from Old City Hall and the Eaton Centre and is open for 7 days a week.  Their grab-and-go coffee shop hours are 7:30am-8pm Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm on Saturday, and 9am-4pm on Sundays.  Their dining room hours are as follows: 11:30am-10pm Monday to Friday, 11am-10pm on Saturdays, and 11am-4pm for Sunday brunch service.

Ate by Ate on Yummy Stuff’s *NEW* Website!

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Hot off the press: Yummy Stuff’s new website!

I’m so excited to finally share this happy news with you all: Yummy Stuff‘s brand spankin’ new website went live yesterday and yours truly, Deb of Ate by Ate, has FIVE of her photos featured on it!  I’m so happy and ecstatic!!!  This has been in the works for over a month now and I’ve been on pins and needles wondering which photos Morag and her team chose to use on the site and I got the happy news in my inbox yesterday to go check it out because it was up and live and running!  I feel so incredibly honoured to be on their site representing even just a fraction of all the delicious and yummy cupcakes, cakes, decorated sugar cookies and sweets that they offer in their shop and I am just on cloud nine right now knowing they liked my stuff enough to want to use it.

You’ll find the majority of the photos in Yummy Stuff’s “About Us” page as well as on their “Bakery” page – hurray to the max for the gorgeous red scalloped dish that I love so much!  I took some screen caps of the pages featuring some of the photos they decided to use and a screen cap of their “In the News” page where Ate by Ate proudly sits in their 4th square!  This is a really happy, smiley moment for me and I want to thank all of you for always supporting me and being my inspiration for Ate by Ate – it wouldn’t be fun or worth it otherwise.

*****

Yummy Stuff is located at 1660 Queen Street West in the west end Parkdale neighbourhood, east of Roncesvalles Ave.  They are open Tuesday-Sunday, from 10am-7pm from Tuesday-Friday, 9am-6pm on Saturdays, and 12pm noon-5pm on Sundays.  They are closed on Mondays.  Visit their official website here.

Checking In For Weekend Brunch – Banana Bread French Toast, Mango, & Pecan Cream at The Gladstone Hotel!

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It’s Thursday today and we all know what that means: one day closer to the weekend!  I don’t know about everyone else, but I utilize my weekends and free time doing one of the following things: taking photos, attacking blog projects, going through recipes I want to try, planning the next scrapbook layout, and researching fabulous weekend brunch places in the city!  Oh, and going through and organizing my cargo ship of a lip gloss collection among other housekeeping.  But that’s a whole other story for another day! 

Today’s food delights take us to Parkdale on Queen Street West, specifically to the culturally and historically iconic Gladstone Hotel!  As the oldest operating hotel in Toronto, the Gladstone has gone through what any existing institution from the 1800s would go through: boom and bust, revival, reinvention, and resurgence.  Much like the Distillery District, the Gladstone was taken over and restored in the early 2000s, keeping its authentic, historial roots and essence intact, but modernizing the venue to appeal to a different demongraphic; namely, the artistically enriched Queen Street West district.  Much of Toronto’s history was rooted in the business of manufacturing and the Gladstone, being the oldest hotel in Toronto, catered to the working class during its historical heyday, housing railroad and manufacturing workers as well as those who came to Toronto to visit the CNE.           

Nowadays, the Gladstone is a hubbub of art and cultural activity, hosting galleries and events, great dining and music, and of course, hospitality.  The very first time I set foot in the Gladstone was over a year ago during Doors Open Toronto.  The museum and art lover in me was absolutely taken by the beautiful art and paintings as well as each uniquely designed, art and gallery inspired hotel room.  And don’t even get me started on how in awe I was over the manual operating elevator!  Beautiful art and history aside, I was totally smitten with the dining and the menus I pored over during that first visit.  Weekday breakfast, weekend brunch, daily lunch, dinner, and dessert, culinary tasting “tours”, a commitment to fair trade, and the love and support of a number of  local food producers – they do it all and weekend brunch was the first order of business on my list!  Gladstone loves food and it shows. 

Weekend brunch, held in the Gladstone Cafe, is served from 8am-4pm on Saturdays and Sundays with one of the best brunch menus I’ve seen yet.  Their menu, in my opinion, is so fresh and creative.  To me, it breathes new life into brunch as a meal.  We’re all accustomed to the eggs and bacon and pancakes, and while we love those mainstay options at times, I know there are so many people who think, “I want to be wowed”.  You want to feel excited, you want to feel inspired – the worst thing is looking at a menu feeling lackluster over what’s before you and half-heartedly thinking, “hmmm…I guess I’ll have this”.  I love looking at a brunch menu knowing there are multiple wonderful options to choose from, things that will force me to come back a second time, and a third, and a fourth. 

On the menu: breakfast poutine with chicken gravy, cheese curds, and an egg on top (for the hearty lovers!); fig cream yogurt parfait; huevos Carlito (sunny side eggs with tomatillo salad, avocado aioli, and – this is for the pork lovers – pork belly!; kimchi reuben (I can see this being veeeery popular); salmon scramble, mushroom quiche, and a variety of others.  They have a huuuge list of wines and beers written up on the wall as well as a generous selection of Tealish teas to choose from.  And in comparison, brunch prices are very much in line with other weekend brunch sit-down spots, hovering between the $9-$14 for most dishes

My pick?  The banana bread French toast!  I was hemming and hawing over the French toast, the tofu quesadilla (OH YES), the salmon scramble, and a few others, but ultimately, the homemade banana bread French toast ($11) won this time, with the tofu quesadilla begging me to come back for it the next time.  No need to twist my arm!

The banana bread French toast came in nice, thick, sweet triangular wedges with blueberries and mango, pecan cream and pecans, butterscotch, and – to my surprise – two links of pork sausage!  I wanted to put that out there because the sausage isn’t listed on the menu under the description of the dish, so vegetarians, steer clear; carnivores, rejoice!  Oh how I loved this dish.  Here’s the thing though: I was never a fan of banana bread.  I KNOW.  How could I not love banana bread?  It smells divine, it screams homemade baking goodness, and it’s more interesting than plain pound cake.  But it never struck my fancy.  It was always either a little too dry, a little too oily, a little too crumbly, or just SOMETHING.  But the French toast sounded so lovely on the menu I threw caution to the wind and gave the dish a shot.  And I am SO happy I did! 

I have never had banana bread so moist in my life.  The insides were soft and so flavourful while the outsides had that beautiful French toast crust to it that prevented the butterscotch, light at air pecan cream, and fruit from sogging the banana bread up.  The flavours and textures in this dish worked so well together, and this is coming from a girl who typically doesn’t eat savoury with sweet on the same plate!  But somehow, it worked and it was absolutely delicious.  The savoury pork sausage was juicy and not the least bit dry or fatty, the blueberries weren’t too tart or sour, the mango amped up the freshness and lightened up the dish, and pecans provided the dish with toastiness and crunch.  The butterscotch with banana bread was perfect and I honestly couldn’t have been happier – I cleaned off my plate!

The Gladstone Cafe is a lovely spot for weekend brunch with a bright and airy atmosphere that’s great for both socializing with friends and sipping a morning cuppa with the paper on your own.  I have plenty of art photos from the rest of the hotel that I’d love to show you guys sometime so I’ll save them for the next post.  The tofu quesadilla is still calling my name so you can bet I’ll be back for a follow-up and then some! 

*****

The Gladstone Hotel is located at 1214 Queen Street West, just east of Dufferin Street in the Parkdale neighbourhood.  In addition to their breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner menu, the Gladstone hosts culinary “tours” whereby chef Michael G. Smith creates a different ethnic inspired menu taking guests on whirlwind tour of tastes, flavours, and food.  Visit their dining website HERE to find out more!  Events will be added to upcoming August Food Calendar and future food calendars from here on out.

Art Imitating Food Imitating…More Food! Sweets & The Neapolitan Ice Cream Cone Sugar Cookie at Yummy Stuff

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Ice cream cupcakes, cake and pie cupcake flavours, cupcakes made to look like ice cream cones, candy sushi, and cakes made to look like sandwiches and candy bars (read Food Network magazine, you’ll totally get what I mean with those two last ones!); it’s art imitating food imitating…more food!  It is so darn cute and clever when dessert and food themes criss-cross all over the place to create culinary masterpieces and awe-inspiring works of sweet, edible art.  Now, before I unleash the 2nd installment of the Cupcake Connection featuring a very summer appropriate cupcake from Yummy Stuff among other specials, news, and updates from Toronto’s cupcake scene, let’s talk sugar cookies!  And more specifically, cute as a button decorated sugar cookies that look like food!

Everyone knows I love baking cookies.  However, when it comes to eating them, I am veeeery ambivalent towards certain varieties.  And one of them just happens to be sugar cookies.  I KNOW.  How could I possibly feel that way about one of the world’s most basic, simplest cookies?  They’re blank canvases that beg to be decorated, they don’t complicate things with a whole bunch of wacky, out-of-left-field flavours, and while everyone’s method might be a little different, ingredients are fairly similar across the board.  What’s not to love?  The answer: half the time, they’re just not executed well.

Check out the adorable hamburger!

My beloved Neapolitan ice cream cone cookie!

Pretty ribbon, a takeout box container, and creamy sandwich cookies? I’m sold.

I love the idea of enjoying a sugar cookie but I find sugar cookies to be one of the most difficult things to enjoy because there are so many things that can be wrong with them.  More often that not, they come out chalky, dry, crumbly, tasteless, and uncomfortably hard on your teeth.  And while the aesthetic is often beautiful (the artwork that many cookie decorators do is truly breathtaking), the total sum of the cookie’s yum almost never lives up to its beauty on the surface which is unfortunate because it should taste as good as it looks!

And this is where Yummy Stuff comes in!  I promised you all in my first Yummy Stuff post back in April I would report back on their sugar cookies and I got the chance to go back to their shop on Queen West in Parkdale earlier this month to grab myself one.  They always have an in-store selection ($3 to $4 each), as well as an option of having custom designed ones for special occasions like baby showers, wedding favours, birthdays, and more.  Remember how gaga I was over their cupcake and ice cream shaped and decorated cookies?!

Never a dull cookie or sweet on the Yummy Stuff shelves

This time around, they had some different designs on hand and I was absolutely in conniptions when I saw their new Neapolitan ice cream sugar cookies!  (Hint: this has a little something to do with the upcoming Cupcake Connection!).  They were so, so pretty and really, who can resist anything Neapolitan?  I don’t know about everyone else, but I’ve never separated the flavours or favoured one “section” for another (don’t innocently whistle and pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about; we all know what I mean) and I kind of liken it to spumoni ice cream.  Anyway, I eagerly snatched a Neapolitan decorated sugar cookie ($4) and vowed to save it for a moment when I could truly savour it and enjoy it’s prettiness.  Even though I was still a tiny bit wary of it delivering on yumminess (they certainly had the appearance down pat, so that wasn’t a concern), I felt confident that Yummy Stuff wouldn’t let me down with their sugar cookies.

And they didn’t.  I will never eat another sugar cookie from another place ever again.  Okay, so maybe that’s a little bit of an exaggeration, but OH.MY.GOD.  This sugar cookie was the BEST sugar cookie I have EVER had.  It was everything a sugar cookie should be and the exact opposite of all the negative traits I listed earlier.  Their sugar cookies weren’t difficult to bite into (I actually broke mine into small pieces to eat, but regardless, my teeth and mouth didn’t hurt from trying to eat them), they melted in your mouth, the icing was delicious, and the cookie!  Oh my lordy, the cookie whipped the hair-tie off my ponytail and sent me to cookie heaven.  Pure vanilla excellence.  Keep in mind, unless there’s a note that indicates the icing is of a particular flavour, the cookie is expected to be vanilla.  Their vanilla is top-notch and the flavour made their sugar cookie taste incredible.  I was actually sad when I finished it because it was so good.

Sneak peek at the upcoming Cupcake Connection, Vol. 002!

It’s a shame cookies can’t keep forever because these are lovely little works of art that would look so fab sitting on a display case in all their foodie glory.  Considering how delicious they are though, it’s not too bad of a trade-off at all.

*****

Yummy Stuff is located at 1660 Queen Street West in the west end Parkdale neighbourhood, east of Roncesvalles Ave.  They are open Tuesday-Sunday, from 10am-7pm from Tuesday-Friday, 9am-6pm on Saturdays, and 12pm noon-5pm on Sundays.  They are closed on Mondays.  Visit their official website here.

The Keys To My Heart: The Green Tea Cheesecake at Sushi Time and The Sushi Bar Dessert Mission!

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Introducing one of my favourite, FAVOURITE desserts in the city: the green tea cheesecake from Sushi Time on Queen St. West!  That’s right, folks.  This cheesecake is not from a bakery, patisserie, or cake boutique.  It’s from a sushi bar.  And it is one of the most delightful things that has ever done the sexy rumba with my tastebuds.  As I am writing this, I feel kind of giddy and silly because I feel like one of the Food Network stars on an episode of Best Thing I Ever Ate, divulging about one of my favourite foods and where everyone can get it! 

If you’re a Food Network lover like I am, you know how fantastical this show is and how it makes you so ridiculously hungry while you’re watching it.  I’ve had to walk out of the room on several occasions because I was watching the show before dinner and it made my stomach rumble and my mouth salivate.  It’s that bad.  I love the show so much because every episode is devoted to a fun theme: best thing I ever ate spicy, crunchy, fruity, sweet, chocolatey, grilled, meaty, and so on and so forth.  I guess if I had to inject this post into a specific themed episode, I’d call the episode, “best thing I ever ate – green tea desserts”!  Or maybe just desserts or food made from tea if green tea desserts is too specific a theme.  But there it is.  My little Food Network daydream.

I’ve mentioned this dessert on the blog before (in this post), but I haven’t done a photo spotlight or posted any photos of it because, well, the first and only photo I had at the time stunk.  I’m serious!  You can actually see a little bit of it in the scrapbook layout I posted in the link up top.  I know my photography over the last two years has improved, but I’m not about to boast about my earlier efforts because in the beginning, I couldn’t take a picture worth a penny.  Not everything I do now is the greatest either, but some of the photos I took when I first started out were just plain awful.  So here are photos of my beloved dessert that are actually worth posting!

At $3.99, this green tea cheesecake is one of the reasons why I will always come back to Sushi Time.  Sushi Time is by no means the least expensive sushi bar in town.  It’s not the most expensive either, but let’s just say there are other places in the city that offer more budget-friendly options.  Despite this, the green tea cheesecake has me coming back time and time again and it delivers its knockout, heavenly, delicious punch each and every time.

As opposed to some cheesecakes that are a little more on the crumbly side, this one is one of the softest, creamiest cheesecakes you’ll ever enjoy.  It has the fabulous graham cracker bottom that everyone loves so much and two different green tea layers that differ slightly in consistency and flavour.  The middle layer is darker green in colour, a little thicker in consistency, and a little more concentrated in green tea flavour.  The top layer is lighter in colour and also lighter in texture.  It’s so fluffy and soft and smooth. 

When you run your fork through the cheesecake, it doesn’t catch.  It glides straight through and it is truly one of the best light-yet-decadent desserts around.  The cheesecake is finished off with a dollop of green tea jelly on top and a dusting of green tea powder.  The great thing about it is that it simaltaneously gives you both the richness of tradtional cheesecake and the herbal, slightly bitter flavour of green tea without being overwhleming on either front.  It isn’t so rich that it gives you that tingle in your throat and it isn’t so herbal that it takes away from the dessert being an actual sweet ending to a meal.

To my knowledge, Sushi Time is the only sushi place that offers this kind of dessert and on top of its uniqueness and deliciousness, it compels you to shell out the extra several bucks for it.  I love mango, red bean, and green tea ice cream as much as the next person, but those are desserts that you can have at a number of places so I always want to find and try the ones that nobody else serves or the ones that are a little more unique.  Off the top of my head, I know Ginza has a variety of new desserts on their new menu that I’m dying to try and the rest I’ll just have to find out about as I go along!  I’m definitely on a mission to find the best desserts at sushi places around the city and I’m so glad I found out and had this cheesecake for the first time three and a half years ago.        

*****

Sushi Time is located at 325 Queen St. West near the corner of John St. and Queen West.  Situated between University and Spadina Ave., Sushi Time is on the south side of Queen and are open for business at 12pm, 7 days a week.  You can view their menu in PDF form at their temporary website HERE.

Reminiscing Memories of Newfound Love, and Quail Eggs on Salmon Tower Rolls at Sushi Xtra on Queen West!

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This might sound sentimental, but I have to ask: do you have a special food place that makes you smile every time you walk past it and/or every time you go into it because it reminds you of happy memories you shared with someone you love?  It doesn’t even have to be with a significant other; it can be with your family, with a sibling, or with your best friend.  I have many of these “happy” places strewn throughout the city and each one of them is attached to a very heartfelt experience and memory from my past.  I’ve said this time and time again and I’ll say it once more here: food is love and food is ingrained into some of our most vivid memories, both good and bad.

Case in point: I’ll never forget the first meal out that I shared with my boyfriend before he was actually my boyfriend (sushi pizza) and I’ll also never forget the awful experience I had with caramel corn at the age of 6 which involved one too many trips to my grandma’s bathroom to throw up.  But let’s not relive that.  I’d much rather relive happy moments eating sushi, particularly at Sushi Xtra on Queen Street West just east of Spadina Ave. in the heart of downtown Toronto.

Yours truly...3 years ago!

Awww ❤ I love you too!

Nearly 3 years ago today (April 29, 2009, to be exact), I basked in the glow of newfound love.  My boyfriend and I had just started dating about a month prior (our friends’ responses?  “What took so long?!”, and “Why don’t you two just be together already?  Wait, you are?  Oh, well…carry on then!”) and we were out and about enjoying a nice spring day in the Queen West neighbourhood when we decided to grab some sushi for lunch at Sushi Xtra.  We held hands, took photos, chomped on rolls and rice, and made memories that would last a lifetime.  At least for me.  I have no idea if he remembers these details.  Boys are tricky like that.  We’ve been out on countless sushi dates since but this one was special.  Everyone knows that love evolves and love grows.  If you’re lucky, you grow together and you handle that love with gentle care, giving it space and treating it with respect.  But everyone also knows that those idyllic first few months are irreplacable and in a league of their own.  The little details still resonate in me.  Like how he was so cute when he drew a heart in the condensation on my water glass when I wasn’t looking.  Sushi love, in more ways than one.

And I’ll keep coming back to this fab sushi spot not only for the happy memories, but also for the fantastically delicious sushi!  Sushi Xtra definitely ranks VERY high on my sushi list and that’s saying a lot considering how many places I’ve been to over the years!  It’s not an exceptionally large space, but this sushi spot packs a punch when it comes to their menu.  While they do have a number of appetizers, sushi and sashimi combos, sushi and rice dishes, and bento boxes among other dishes, it’s their rolls (and to an extent, their appetizers) that totally do it for me.

If I remember to, I almost always take sushi bar take-out menus home with me so I can daydream and circle the items that sound the most foodgasmic – kind of like how we used to circle things in toy catalogues as children (if you still do it as an adult, that’s okay.  I won’t tell.).  When it came to Sushi Xtra’s menu, I couldn’t stop circling things.  There were SO many items I wanted to try including their panfried scallops and panfried spinach appetizers (I’ve had their mussels and they are delicious); their salmon lover’s combo; and enough roll sets to fill me up like blimp.

Their prices are also very reasonable (I’ll update this shortly with some specifics) and they have a ridiculously amazing deal on the weekends (Saturday and Sunday) from 12pm-4pm: HALF PRICE SUSHI.  I am not joking.  These are their happy hours and let me tell you, just thinking about this makes me happy!  So, word to the wise: take advantage of it and eat yourself silly with some friends and/or your partner.  Or both.  Then everyone will be happy.

What makes me happy: their special Salmon Tower rolls.  With quail eggs.  Sitting beautifully on top of chopped up spicy tempura and salmon nests.  On top of sushi rolls.  IT IS SO BEAUTIFUL!  I can barely contain my excitement!  I’ve been wanting to try this menu item for AGES and I finally have and oh my goodness, it is divine.  Their Salmon Tower rolls (4 pcs. $7.99) are big maki rolls with avocado, cucumber, and crab meat, topped with an amazing spicy mixture of red fish roe, crunchy tempura bits, green onion, and finely chopped salmon sashimi, topped with a bright, beautiful, sunny yellow quail egg.  It is, by far, one of the prettiest, most food orgasmic things I have ever had.

Everything meshes so well together.  You have the rolls, which are great absorbers (it’s so much fun mixing everything up together and getting mouthfuls of it all) and the spicy mixture of crunchy tempura bits and salmon which is heaven enough on its own.  When you combine it with the quail eggs though, it makes everything super moist and melt-in-your-mouth amazing.  It’s exactly like poking an overeasy egg in the yolk and dipping bread or home fries in it.  Only this is even better.

And quail eggs!  Can you believe it?  I’ve only ever seen quail eggs on The Food Network, used by Iron Chefs.  To have something so incredibly unique is a gem because to my knowledge, no other sushi spot in the city uses quail eggs on or in their sushi.  But do let me know if there are other sushi places that do because I would like to know about them!  You learn a lot when you try new things.  Prior to this, I had no idea quail eggs in Japanese cuisine and sushi weren’t uncommon.  They’re very mild in taste and they remind me of sunnyside or overeasy egg yolks, only the consistency is less tacky and thick and each quail egg is about half the size of a chicken’s egg yolk.  You get so many different textures in this sushi dish (smoothness from the egg, crunchiness from the tempura and salmon mix, and a mix of grainy, creamy, savoury, and juicy from the rolls which deliver cucumber, avocado, and crab meat wrapped in sushi rice and seaweed).  Fabulous sushi dish on all fronts.

*****

Sushi Xtra is located at 423 Queen Street West, just east of Spadina Ave. in downtown Toronto.  They are open 7 days a week, from 12pm-11pm Sunday-Thursday, and from 12pm-midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.  12pm-4pm on Saturdays and Sundays are Sushi Xtra’s Happy Hours and ALL sushi is half price!

Inspired by a Red Scalloped Cake Stand – Scrapbooking Sweets From Yummy Stuff on Queen Street West in Parkdale

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Scrapbooking materials used: bubblegum pink, neon green, forest green, white, and cappuccino cardstock (Recollections); dessert themed cardstock (The Sweet Stack With Glitter by DCWV); patterned paper with giant rainbow coloured circles (Michaels); die cut pink “Sweet” cardboard embellishment (Winners/Homesense); “Spring” sticker embellishment (K&Company); pink metallic foil alphabet stickers (Recollections); flowers and tree foil stickers (atd momenta); red felt forest animals stickers (Friendly Forest by Colorbok); lime green wavy felt borders (Forever in Time Scrapbook Collection); medium scallop circle paper punch (ek success); corner rounder paper punch (ek success); scalloped edge decorative scissors (Provo Craft).