Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Toronto Summerlicious: Luma

Luma is one of the more casual restaurants owned by the Oliver and Bonacini group. The restaurant is on the 2nd floor of the TIFF Bell Lightbox building in the heart of Toronto's Entertainment District. My husband and I came for lunch and at 11:30 am, we were their first summerlicious customers.

The restaurant decor was modern and sleek. The tables were well-spaced which provided a little more privacy than usual at downtown Toronto restaurants. As a bonus, the chairs were comfortably soft too.

Our server patiently described the Summerlicious menu and told us that we were the first ones to try it! She patiently answered our questions and provided her recommendations when asked. For the first course, we tried the Tossed Octopus Salad with chickpeas, tomato and eggplant puree. The dish was very good and provided a perfect play of textures on the mouth, i.e. a bit chew from the Octopus, crispness from the toasted chickpeas, and creaminess from the eggplant puree. It was spiked just enough with a drizzle of harissa oil.  

The other appetizer dish we tried was the Chilled Soba Noodle Salad with Miso Dressing. We were not fans of this dish. It wasn't interesting enough for us.

For the main course, my husband tried the Slow-Cooked Beef Short Ribs with Salsa Verde. The beef short rib portion was very generous. It was fork-tender but could use more flavor. The sauce that came with it was a saving grace although for me, it didn't taste anything like "salsa verde" as described on the menu. The corn kernels, part of the succotash salad, were not noticeably charred as I had hoped.

The next main dish was the Buttermilk-Brined Fried Chicken with a Warm Cheddar Biscuit and Three-Cabbage Slaw. The fried chicken was tender on the inside with a perfectly seasoned crispy coating. However, there were traces of blood nearing the bone. Although biscuits are one of my guilty pleasures and I never pass on them, this cheddar biscuit was a tad dense than a perfectly baked biscuit so I only finished half. Instead of a very straightforward rendition of the classic chicken and biscuits, I secretly wished they did a twist on it and came up with a more creative and fun version of the classic. On the bright side, the side of three cabbage slaw was enjoyable. 

For dessert, we had the Chocolate Parfait Sundae with passion fruit cream and mulled berries. The ice cream texture was more icy than creamy. Maybe it was scooped out too early and left in the freezer too long prior to serving. 

To cap our meal, we had the Ontario Stilton with plum compote and spiced oat crumble. It was the perfect combination, with the acidity of the compote toning down the strong and pungent stilton.  

The 3-course meal was a steal for $20. The service was great, and the ambience was delightful. However, in my opinion, some dishes from the summerlicious 2014 menu can be improved with a little bit more thought and creativity put into it.   

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Toronto Summerlicious: Bent

I was excited to try one of Master Chef Susur Lee's restaurants in Toronto for this year's Summerlicious. I had high hopes on the meal to come.

The interior of the restaurant was well-lit. It had huge windows on one side which brought all the natural light in. The restaurant had a patio seating, which was packed with sun-loving Torontonians. I loved the simplicity yet quirkiness of the decor. White ceramic brick-shaped tiles adorned the walls, beautifully contrasted by the rustic wooden floor and wooden tables.

A few minutes after settling in, our server showed up. He had great knowledge about the menu and suggested additional house specialties, should we find the Summerlicious meal insufficient. We started off with Fried Jerk Chicken with a side of jicama salad. This was clearly a twist to the classic fried chicken and coleslaw pairing. It was delicious! The chicken was crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. It was enveloped in a wonderfully spiced chili lime glaze. I am guessing the chicken was twice cooked as there were no traces of blood near the bone and the meat was close to falling apart.

The next appetizer was the Cajun Shrimp and Vegetable Fritter. The fritter was perfectly cooked, no oily aftertaste whatsoever. The delicate batter lightly enrobed the succulent shrimp and vegetables. The tomatillo salsa with avocado provided the perfect amount of heat. The corn salsa was made up of smoky charred corn kernels which enhanced the dish further. 

The first main course we tried was a duo of beef, Asian Marinated Striploin Steak and Braised Beef Agnolotti. The striploin was delicious and the pan sauce as light and tasty with the mustard emulsion providing the perfect touch of heat. The braised beef inside the agnolotti was very tasty. I just wished the agnolotti was a little crispier to provide more of a play of textures. But the dish was a hands-down favorite and my husband and I literally fought for the last piece of meat and secretly hoped another slice would miraculously pop up.

The other main course we tried was the Caribbean Pan-Roasted Salmon with a mango ginger sauce. I loved how the salmon was delicately cooked! The sauce wasn't one of my favorites and wished it had a tad less curry flavor. The spiced plantain would've been better crispy as well, instead of being incorporated into the sauce as unrecognizable chunks.

Finally, they served a trio of desserts(which was awesome instead of having to choose just one!). The first of the trio was a Banana and Jackfruit Spring Roll with a caramel rum sauce. It reminded me of a favorite Filipino dessert called turon except that this one had the sauce on the side while turon is dusted with brown sugar and fried until the melted sugar melds perfectly with the crispy wrapper. The next dessert was the Mango Panna Cotta. The texture was creamy with the right amount of sweetness but the pineapple chunks on top was more of a distraction than a complement for me. The last dessert was the Coconut Chocolate Mousse with French Golden Licorice Meringue. It was a one-bite dessert and was divine. 

As a bonus, we were able to get a glimpse of the Master Chef himself, Susur Lee!

Overall, my husband and I both enjoyed this meal very much! It was a great summerlicious deal!

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Kitchen Experiment #12: BLT sliders

Bacon...what I can do with a pack of bacon to satisfy 4 hungry boys? BLT sliders it is! First, I fried half of the pack for the sandwiches. I didn't have lettuce on hand but had some arugula.

Then I diced the rest and fried them to a crisp to make a complementary bacon onion dip which the kids love. Using my favorite cream cheese brand and half a cup of sour cream, i mixed some chopped onions and seasoned it with salt and pepper.

Time to assemble the sammies...

A no fuss snack that takes little effort! Time to eat, boys!


Sunday, 23 December 2012

Kitchen Experiment #11: Cheese waffles, two ways

Cheese in waffles...sounds ridiculous ? Trust me, it works! The saltiness of the cheese marries well with the sweetness of the maple syrup and makes for a great breakfast. I tried 2 versions, one using cheese cubes and another using grated parmesan cheese.

Cut the cheddar cheese block into small cubes. Set aside.


Use your favorite store bought grated parmesan cheese.


For a no fuss breakfast, use your favorite waffle mix. Our favorite is PC Extra Fluffy.


Sprinkle the cheese onto the waffle batter.



This is how it turns out.


I have to say that both versions were actually good. The one with the cubes had pockets of melted cheese inside when you bite into the waffle. The other version with the grated cheese smelled so good with shreds of toasted cheese. As to which is better is a personal preference. Breakfast is served!



Saturday, 22 December 2012

Kitchen Experiment #10 Roast Pork Tenderloin in Orange Terriyaki Sauce

I am not a fan of pork tenderloin because it is prone to being dry if not cooked correctly. I'd rather use a more fatty cut such as pork shoulder or pork belly since they are more forgiving and always turn out oh so tender. For health reasons though, I force myself to cook using leaner cuts of meat such as pork tenderloin. This is a no fuss dish that takes minutes to prepare and yet turns out delicious.

Rub the pork tenderloin with olive oil. Combine salt, pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, paprika, and onion powder. I tried this rub on ribs and they turned out great! As to the proportions, just eyeball it!


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Sear the tenderloin over medium high heat on all sides until it is nice and brown.


Roast the meat until internal temperature reaches 150 degrees, around 15-20 minutes.

Brush the meat with orange terriyaki glaze every so often. For the glaze, I used a recipe I found online which uses orange juice, soy sauce, honey and ginger juice. Combine everything, bring it up to a boil and turn down the heat to simmer until the sauce thickens.

To serve, cut the tenderloin into pieces but don't forget to let it rest before slicing! As you can see below, I had to slice the meat before adequate resting since the kids were too hungry to wait. Thus, some of the juices escaped :(

Serve with some sauteed greens such as spinach in garlic.



Friday, 17 August 2012

Kitchen Experiment #9: Quinoa Salad

One no-fail dish that all my kids and my husband like is my baked salmon. It is a rich dish that you pretty much have to serve with something with a little acidity to balance out its richness. Since white wine is not an option (at least not in front of the kids during dinner time), I decided to serve it with a simple quinoa salad.


I chopped some fresh veggies and herbs -- yellow peppers, grape tomatoes, cucumber, parsley leaves.

Mixed some lime juice with olive oil, salt, and pepper to make the dressing...

Tossed everything together with the cooked quinoa...

It was a great accompaniment to my rich baked salmon...


Kitchen Experiment #8: Shrimp Scampi

What can you cook on a Thursday night when the fridge is almost empty ? With a few ingredients left in the fridge, an almost empty cupboard, and an ounce of energy left after a long day at work, I had to dig deep to come up with a quick dish for my hungry boys. Without much thinking, Shrimp Scampi it is !


I sautéed lots of chopped garlic in olive oil then added the canned diced tomatoes.

I poured in some white wine then tossed the frozen shrimps in...not to forget is a generous sprinkling of freshly cracked tri-colored pepper, salt and a dab of butter. If I had uncooked shrimps, I would've seared them to perfection but it is what it is.

Finished off the sauce with some spinach ...

Finally, I tossed the sauce into the cooked spaghettini to conclude this humble undertaking.

Dinner for 4 hungry boys is served...