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Jaipur Grille: One in Ten Thousand

Toronto is a city of around 5 million people and according to this website, 10,000 restaurants.

Yes. Ten thousand. I’ll be lucky if I get around to trying just the ones in my own neighbourhood.

Although I have discovered many new favourite restaurants in Toronto, this is why I try my best to eat at a new spot any time I go out. I’d like to leave here knowing I tried my best to make a dent in that 10,000.

When my Aunt Heather asked me about trying out Jaipur Grille in the Yonge/Eglinton area, I jumped on the chance.


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I’ve been hearing about this restaurant for a while now (some say the best Indian food outside of Little India!). I couldn’t pass up the chance to cross another restaurant off my list.


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Jaipur Grille opened 8 years ago by head chef Pawan Mahendro. After years of working in other kitchens in India and Canada, he decided to finally open his own place in Midtown Toronto.

I was immediately struck by how classy this restaurant seemed. Indian restaurants have a tendency to be a little rundown or kitschy. But here I felt like I was part of a fine dining experience.

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I wasn’t planning on getting a drink, but the waiter asked if I wanted an Indian beer. The thought of a fresh beer to wash down the spicy food suddenly piqued my tastebuds!

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He also brought us some crispy spicy bread. It was a lot like a chip or cracker and fun to munch on while we waited.

The occasion of this particular visit was to experience Jaiper Grille’s Tasting Menu. A great chance to try out tons of menu items at only $25 a head.

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We started with a taste of two appetizers. Heather and I each chose the Royal Spinach Kabab: spinach patty filled with cottage cheese, dates and cashews.

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It reminded my a lot of these spinach nuggets my mom buys from Costco. Just okay. You couldn’t taste the cashews and the dates only slightly.

My second choice was the Chicken Malai Kabab: chicken breast marinated in fresh cream with cardamom and saffron, finished in the tandoor.

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Now this was really good. The chicken was cooked perfectly and separated well from my fork. Even though it was cooked in a cream sauce, there was just a hint of it and not overpowering.

For her second appetizer, Heather tried the Fish Hyderabadi: grouper filet in a light batter, spiced with roasted coriander and carom.

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They looked like fish sticks!

Heather and I then both chose the same mains. Must be inherited tastes ;) 

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Chana Amritsari.

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Chickpeas in a dark sauce. This was probably my least favourite of the main meal options. I wasn’t a fan of the darker sauce.

Pudina aloo.

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Simple potatoes, I ate these with some of the other sauces.

Rice. Naan.

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The naan was hot upon arrival. A sign that it’s fresh and as pillowy as possible! The rice was actually one of my favourites. Seasoned with saffron, it really stood out and did not taste boring at all.

Yogurt raita.

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A nice cool dipper for the naan to cut the spices of the other dishes. I want to try making this at home!

Xacculi Shrimp: black tiger shrimp cooked in a popular aromatic Goan sauce made with roasted poppy seeds, coconut and red chilli paste.

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This was Heather’s favourite because of the rich red sauce. It had jumbo pieces of shrimp without being too spicy.

Shahi Laziz Paneer: home made cottage cheese simmered in a spiced tomato gravy with honey and cream.

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This was my favourite. The hard chunks of homemade cottage cheese were amazing. I polished off the rich tomato gravy, which again was more aromatic than spicy. I would order a whole dish of this if I were to go back!

Jalebi & Kheer: Indian funnel cake and rice pudding, garnished with roasted pistachios and almonds.

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Dessert was definitely lack lustre after such an amazing meal. We both agreed that East Indian food isn’t really known for its great desserts and we could both do without. The rice pudding was a little soupy and over-spiced. The funnel cake was more like a crunchy candy. Edible, but would not be my first choice for dessert.

Thank you to Heather for taking me out for what I am now deeming the best Indian food I’ve ever had.

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We never once broke out into a sweat because of ludicrous spicing. Nothing was too greasy or creamy. The service was fantastic (including a chat with the head chef and his wife!). As a newbie in the tastes of East Indian, it was the perfect example of just how good and flavourful it can be with fresh ingredients, proper cooking methods and inventive flavouring.

Now I just have 9,970 restaurants left to go ;)

 

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Susan’s Day Off

Not only has another weekend come and gone, but it seems another month is close to passing us as well! How the heck is it already October 24th?? Ahh… I try so hard to make the best of my days, which seems to make me forget that time is passing at all.

Even though I had many days off work last week, they were all jam-packed with activities with my visiting family. This past Saturday was my first day off all to myself in a while. So I made sure to make the best of it!

My weekend really started with a Friday night in bed watching Mad Men. Just what the doctor ordered. A very long slumber ensued leaving me refreshed and ready for my Saturday off!

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It began as any day off should – with French toast. Nothing fancy here folks. Dipping mix included two eggs with almond milk, vanilla extract, cinnamon and flaked coconut.

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The only bread I had on hand was a very light and thin flax bread. If only I had some challah! In my humble opinion, challah bread makes the best french toast.

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Dipped in E.D. Smith brand sugar-free syrup. Love those extra eggy bits ;)

The French toast sufficiently fuelled me for a mat pilates class at Chang’e Studio!

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Chang’e is a Leslieville studio that I bought one of those “deal of the day” coupons for. I haven’t done pilates in foreveerrr, so I thought it would be a fun new activity!

I used to love doing pilates back when I first starting getting into healthy living. For some reason my brain only remembered the easy parts of it, so I’m pleasantly surprised by how sore I am today! Pilates is great for the abs, but also works muscles in a way I don’t get when heavy lifting. My body was definitely confused as to what I was putting it through ;)

Saturday is traditionally also my “long” run day (ie, anything that takes me longer than 45 minutes). I had my heart set on running 6 miles. The Weather Network told me it was 15C so I threw on shorts and a t-shirt and hit the trail.

Whoooaaa. Did not factor in wind chill to that temperature. Rookie mistake. I’m most likely to overheat while running, and this time I was freezing! I lost feeling in my left arm. I shaved a solid three minutes off my time running back because I was trying to get home as soon as possible. Lesson learned. Even when it’s “warm” this time of year, the wind still has a harsh, cold bite to it.

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My apartment wasn’t only warm when I returned, but smelled of baked goods! My roommie whipped up a batch of chocolate chocolate chip cream cheese muffins.

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I inhaled it, melty chocolate chips and all. YUM. I love having foodies for roommies :)

I tried not to spoil my appetite though. I was off on a special date!

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A food blogger date ;)

For some reason Toronto’s Little Italy has been on my mind. I blame my sister Sara, who was raving about it last week. Then a client told me our Little Italy has the best Italian food outside of Italy!

To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of Italian food. I actually find it a little too plain for my tastebuds. And I like meat more than carbs (gasp!). However, I’ve been dreaming of a traditional Naples-style pizza ever since reading about it in the book Eat Pray Love.

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I’ve read of a few places in Toronto that serve Neapolitan pizza, but Pizzeria Libretto on Dundas/Ossington consistently gets the best reviews. Thus, the location of our next blogger date suddenly became obvious ;)

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Because we were two, we only had to wait 30 minutes to get a table. Larger parties had to wait at least an hour! We were immediately brought bread and oil.

Kristin and I decided to split an appetizer and pizza rather than try to conquer a whole pizza ourselves. We were feeling a little adventurous with our first pick. The appetizer featured three things:

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Octopus in an orange dressing. I’ve never had octopus before and really enjoyed it!! I get the feeling it was cooked really well, as the texture was just like that of any other seafood.

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Grilled polenta. Which I’ve also never had (we don’t each much cornmeal in Atlantic Canada, I think it’s a U.S. thing). It was divine. Mostly because of the cheese that was also baked in there.

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Finally, sardine! Topped with pickled onions + pine nuts. This was a new one for Kristin, I’m a long time lover of sardines. The pickled onions were the perfect match and the quality was much better than the canned variety I’m used to.

Now, the star of the show…

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The pizza! Based on the recommendations of the waiter, we went for the Ontario Prosciutto with tomato sauce, basil and mozzarella. Apparently, they use a 900F oven and cook the pizza for only 90 seconds. Creates a crust that is crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside.

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Loved the impossibly thin-sliced prosciutto, mozzarella and basil on the pizza. The crust was just right. However, I didn’t care for the tomato sauce. Too plain. I like a little extra kick!

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Kristin actually lived in Italy and has eaten pizza in Naples!

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I on the other hand grew up eating the corner pieces of Greco party pizzas dipped in donair sauce. Maritimers, you know what I’m sayin.

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It may be a while before I get the opportunity to eat the real thing in the real place. But I think I can say it has sufficiently curbed the craving until I get there ;)

I ended my Saturday off honing my bass skills on Rock Band and being reminded why I quit drinking vodka coolers when I was 17. In all, a Saturday off spent in the best ways possible.

 

Question of the Day: Favourite pizza? Go! Mine is the Greek pizza from Pizza Delight. Regular crust, creamy feta cheese with chunky vegetables and spinach. Ohmy.

All By Myself

I am not an only child, but I can most certainly relate.

As the youngest of three girls, I spent a lot of time playing alone. My older sisters only had two years between them, whereas I was 4 and 6 years behind. I learned how to make my own fun and spend time with just myself. I became my own best friend in some sense and as an adult I still revel in that time to myself.

Over the weekend, I stumbled across this video called How To Be Alone. It’s a video to accompany a poem written by a Canadian spoken word artist. It’s fantastic and I highly suggest you watch it!

 

It got me thinking about how I never mind doing things on my own. While I do thrive off the energy of others, I also crave that time in my own thoughts. I like shopping alone, going to the movies alone, working out and exploring this city alone. Lately, I’ve also been dining out alone.

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I’ve come to learn that the Pickle Barrel is a bit of a Toronto institution. I’d never heard of it until moving here, but it’s a place people like to go to whenever they’re in town!

I came here after work one late Friday afternoon. I was actually on my way to Subway, but I had time to spare and a relaxing dining experience sounded enticing. They seated me in a small booth and I spent a loooong time going over the extensive menu filled with all-day breakfast options, deli sandwiches and big salads. In the end I opted for the Grilled Chicken Hummus Wrap: Grilled chicken breast strips, black olives, mixed bell peppers, red onions, sundried tomatoes, spinach, feta cheese and hummus tightly wrapped in a warm flour tortilla. Served with mixed greens, balsamic vinaigrette and fresh fruit.

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A+ Pickle Barrel! I’m a sucker for soft flour tortillas, the chicken was plentiful and well cooked with lots of hummus and sundried tomatoes (the best part). I didn’t get any fresh fruit, but the salad was fairly big and consisted of more than just greens.

After a busy and hectic couple weeks of work and pleasure, I decided to take myself out on another date this past Sunday morning. It started with a free yoga class at Lululemon. It was a Vinyasa class which I’ve come to love and even did crow pose for the first time!!

Feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, I walked down the street for a perfect Sunday brunch treat.

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Cafe Crepe on Queen Street in downtown Toronto has been on my extensive and ever-growing list of “restaurants to try” since I got here. I had high hopes for this place seeing as one of my favourite restaurants back home, Cafe Archbald, is a crepe place too!

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Cafe Crepe has a to-order window on the street, then a take-out counter at the front with a small eat-in counter. At first I was going to eat here since I was only a “party of one.” But then I thought “what the hell” and got seated in the dining room in the back.

I was surprised to see that while the menu was large, it didn’t necessarily have a lot of crepe fillings to offer. I opted to make up my own filling combo of ham, swiss, mushroom.

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What they lacked for in options, they made up for by stuffing the crepe full. Definitely did not hold back on any of the fillings! The crepe itself was a little on the sweeter side for me, but it was perfectly crispy and didn’t go soggy.

One thing I will say about dining alone is that servers get more nervous when you start taking pictures of your food :P

On my way back to the subway station I stumbled across this:

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A restaurant specializing in baked potatoes. Something else to add to my “to try” list. Although I think I may need reinforcements in the form of dining companions for this one ;)

 

Question of the Day: Do you spend much time alone or do you prefer being with others? What’s your favourite thing to do when it’s just you? I could easily seclude myself away from others without noticing, that’s why I try to make an extra effort to be social! And I like grocery shopping alone best :)

 

!! Voting is now officially open!!

You can read and check out my entry for Project Food Blog here if you want to help me become “the next food blog star!”

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