Monday, August 26, 2013

Dining Choices at Yonge & St. Clair

 The area around Yonge St. and St. Clair Ave. has accumulated some good eating locations over the past few years.  We have a couple of high-end "destination" restaurants, with Didier serving classic French cuisine and Cava specializing in tapas from the Iberian peninsula.  There are also a slew of mid-range eateries that are a cut above the typical fast food chains.

Nove Trattoria has been bustling with business since it first opened, and it is not surprising.   The restaurant is owned and run by members of the Bianco family, who have decades of experience cooking in Italy.  It serves authentic Italian cuisine at reasonable prices, using the freshest ingredients that are reminiscent of dining in Tuscany.

The caprese salad ($14) is made with the moistest, most flavourful buffalo mozzarella that I've ever tasted.  There are nine pizzas ($12.50-15) on the menu, each one named after one of the nine Bianco siblings, as is the restaurant itself, since "nove" means nine in Italian.  The homemade pasta ($12.50-16.50) is cooked perfectly al dante, accompanied with a variety of cream, tomato or olive oil-based sources.  My favorite is the "fettucine della nonna" which comes with grilled chicken, porcini mushrooms and spinach in a cream sauce.   The "secondi" courses range from $19-24.50 for salmon, chicken, seafood, ribs and steak dishes.

Bushi Udon Kappo specializes in chewy udon noodles that are freshly made on the premises.  The udon is served either hot or cold in a "soy-sauce-based Bonito broth soup" and comes with ingredients such as pork, mushroom, tofu, seaweed, shrimp or veggie tempura.  The best option that we've tried is the curry udon with beef and veggies ($10.50), which has a thick spicy broth.   I would stick to the udon though.  When we strayed and tried the tempura, we found it to have limp and soggy batter.

 The Urban Bistro at St. Clair just west of Yonge St. is home to a series of separate food kiosks including a breakfast place and an Asian noodle place.  The most interesting stall belongs to the makers of Hot Bunzz, taking the concept of  the baked Chinese pork bun and putting a spin on it.  Instead of the traditional filling, the buns are stuffed with choices like bison short rib, pork belly, elk, pulled pork, sausage, Thai basil beef and coconut curry chicken.  Vegetarian options include mushroom and spinach or Quebec 3-cheesed.  The buns are served with homemade potato chips that are spiced with black pepper and rosemary.  The choices for sides, which consist of variations of green salads, potato salads and coleslaw, change on a daily basis.  These exotic buns are surprisingly cheap (abet a bit on the small size) at only $3 each, with volume deals such as buy 5 buns and get the 6th free.

Holy Chuck has been voted one of the top burger joints in Toronto, coming second only to Burger's Priest.  Apparently, it's all about the beef.  Holy Chuck uses local, Ontario beef which they grind into hamburger meat several times a day.  The freshly made patties are pan grilled to produce thick juicy burgers.  The signature Holy Chuck Burger ($9.99) is a double cheeseburger with bacon and caramelized onions and the menu implores you not to add anything else to it.

More unusual options include the Animal Feed (panko crusted portabello mushroom, feta, cream cheese, lettuce, tomato, lemon aioli), the Croissant du Pay San (beef patty, fried egg, pancetta, french fries in a croissant),  and the Holy Duck ($27.99 for beef patty, double smoked bacon, fois gras, truffle oil, maple syrup, black truffles).  The ultimate eating challenge is called "Go Chuck Yourself"– 6 patties, 6 cheeses, triple bacon and caramelized onions stacked between THREE grilled cheese sandwiches.  Why anyone would want to eat this volume of food is beyond me, but there is photographic evidence of the people who have  succeeded. 

It's really nice to have so many good dining options just steps away from our home.  Wonder what we should eat today? ...

Nove Trattoria - 1406 Yonge St.
Bushi Udon Kappi - 1404 Yonge St.
Hot Bunzz / Urban Bistro - 21 St. Clair West
Holy Chuck - 1450 Yonge St.

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