4.11.16

Crow's Nest Barbershop

crowsnestbarbershop.com

I had no idea what was going on, apart from that Ma Cherie asking that I don’t shower and shave (an uncommon request) prior to. She had booked an appointment and decided to surprise me with this most interesting visit and unique experience.

APPEARANCE
We climbed their wooden deck front going around the few people using it as a seating public space, to reach the dark blue painted brick Victorian house, with white framed windows. Their art-nouveau inspired logo was a decal on the window, not reading too well as it go darker and the warm light behind it shined. The classic barber pole by the entrance, helped ensure those who didn’t find the logo.

NOSE
We entered the long narrow room and started gazing around at all the artifacts filling the space. The host at a tiny desk promptly brought our attention back to check us in. Being 20 minutes early, our booked hair stylist was not yet ready so we went for nice stroll in the neighbourhood. Ma Cherie did not really have much to go by when choosing the stylist – the website only offers photos and availability, in other words, the choice was a complete wildcard.
The salon was bright with a unique masculinity to it, and no, that was not only because Ma Cherie was the only lady in there. It was also a taxidermist dream with plenty of animals hanging off the milky green walls. At the same time, one wall was completely committed to Christianity - if taken in isolation, one might not think this space was meant to be a barbershop. However, near the back there was sudden change of mood, almost creating a sense of a second room. The walls there were adorned with white subway tiles and a dark blue wallpaper with flowers covering the ceiling. Old hardwood flooring all around and oak-like wooden details helped up-keep the atmosphere throughout the long space.

All stylists had old-school while uniforms and it was not a vest with a dress shirt, nor a hipster apron, but a barber smock. There was definitely something to that giving the business a traditional edge from back in the 60s perhaps.

SWIRL
I was taken to one of their retro chair, which surprisingly worked with all its bells and whistles. A tad choppy in its movement, it had a cushiony leather neck hold, fully lying extension, height adjustments, foot prompt and, of-course, a swagger of its own. My experience started off a bit negatively - we didn’t sign up for the proper experience. I was really meant to get a cut and shave, not just a cut and a beard trim. One takes 1.5hrs while the other only 1hr.

PALATE
To the actual experience, the cut was fast, quick and easy. When it came to the shave, I got steamy towels all around my face as the chair retracted to a fully relaxed position. Next, Mac shaved me with a straight razor blade, which felt a bit course mostly because we did not get a chance to fully warm up my face. Ma Cherie was enjoying the view throughout - it was a real man facial experience. The music got switched to a full Sinatra album in the meantime. Her favourite part was all the barbers in tattoos humming and singing Love and Marriage. Mind you, all the staff seemed close to one another as they all casually dissed the songs they don’t like, or styles they didn’t feel like listening to and were discussing the going out plans for the evening.
Ma Cherie was hoping I’d get a bit of consultation from Mac about the facial hair and what he recommends to use, but perhaps that is something that happens as I become a regular and have less of a time constraint.

FINISH
When we were living near Kensington Market, we didn’t pay enough attention to all the barber shops and generic hair salons dotting the area. There is a whole subculture of scissors-wielding pros ready to help you part with your cash and unwanted hair. Among the run-of-the-mill generic ones, there are a few gems worth exploring. This spot is definitely king in this world. Definitely worth the experience.

PS: Ma Cherie thought there was something special to that aftershave ginger scent - she called it Gentleman Smell.

16.10.16

Saturday Dinette

www.saturdaydinette.com

Mon Cheri surprised me on a lovely Sunday morning, as we went for a walk around the neighborhood. This hidden, unpretentious restaurant turned out to be a truly a one-of-a-kind find experience.

APPEARANCE 
From the outside, an aged yellow Lumberking sign fading off a brick wall was stealing all the attention directed at that building. The restaurant itself give off a somewhat rustic vibe. There was something special about the corner entrance with a circular podium and a subtle sign written in thin, simple black caps.

NOSE
With large windows all along the wall, the space was light up beautifully. There were some bright red walls near the back diner area, as well as bright yellow wallpaper further adding to the uplifting atmosphere. The colour intensity was concentrated at the back while the light front area had a classy feel with veiny marble countertops.
Cook books of all kind adorned the surfaces around, setting a mood as if we were invited to someone's house. We did like the idea and it made us think it would be fun to just pick up a random book daily and try a new recipe.

Perhaps the most memorable part was the beautiful long artwork of watercolour illustrations behind the bar. It was made of unfinished women's faces interrupted by geometric figures. There visuals played into the menu and branding very well.

SWIRL
We noticed quite a few single walk-ins sitting at the bar as we settled into the Motown vibe. There was a turntable at the front, as well as fun program to go with their vinyl collection - buy, swap and sell from their large selection plus the option to spin your favourite vinyl if you bring it in. Prince seemed to be king there accompanied by some light jazzy tunes and soul.
Tiny crystal water glasses were at our vainly marble table in no time. The service was friendly upbeat and we noticed that staff was fully female almost community-like. Mon Chéri googled that Saturday Dinette has a great employment program working with YWCA Toronto.

PALATE
Both our dishes were drawn around with a neon green oil dressing, a funky (not too appetizing) look.
Herbed Poached Eggs was one of our choices. Presented as a mountain of greens supported by eggs, guac, arepa and some more greens at the bottom - we called it a healthy tower of vitamins. Green tomato salsa hiding in there adding the zest, a tad of cilantro and a lovely sweeter puree all brought together with dense arepas.
We both loved their Streel-cut oat bowl, as they were no ordinary sweet fruit North American oats. This dish paid tribute to a real Scottish savoury oats meal - sautéed greens, cubed crispy peameal bacon, mushroom ragu, toast ends, tomatoes poached egg. There was a lot going on in that plate. In between all the chunky meat, smooth mushrooms and sautéed greens, the actual oats were not even that visible. Ma chérie adored it, but we both agreed it was a tad too salty for our buds.

FINISH
We got pressed coffee which was a way better option than a regular diners blend. As much as we like visiting brunch places, one thing consistently throwing us off is the darkened water they call coffee. Ma Chérie even had her green tea served in a tiny French press and she loved the smell of burned rice. In addition, don't let the name fool you - Saturday Dinette is open late (like a true diner) so cocktails and apps at 11pm are totally on. We will take advantage of that soon, with their Adult XXX shake, spiked up with liqueur or liquor of your choice. Saturday Dinette pleasantly surprised us with a warm vibe, quality dishes, and great service.

Saturday Dinette Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

14.9.16

Greta Solomon's

https://www.facebook.com/gretasolomonsdiningroom/

Mon Cheri and I decided to visit Greta Solomons for our 3 year anniversary, hearing about this neighbourhood gem from BlogTO.

APPEARANCE 
The facade was a pale, baby-like yellow with the name of the restaurant written in a grey simple font, with an art-nouveau charm. Our first impression was of subtle, child-like friendliness.

SWIRL
Walking in straight through the open doors serving as a storefront, we realized that the restaurant didn't appear to have a ramp or a defined entrance. Inside, we found ourselves in a private 20-odd seat dining room, with warm brick walls, beautiful honey-brown tables and details as well as a pop of a bright royal blue, which is hard to forget. Black and white portraits and diffused lighting enhanced the atmosphere. All of this got us transported back in time to our honeymoon in France - an intimate environment, lots of vintage details and a faint Edith Piaf playing in the background. An overriding neutral palette of rich materials accented by inserts of colour speak to a vibrant, contemporary elegance and create a generally upscale impression

NOSE
We had to make a reservation, as all the tables that night were booked. At the same time, we were the first ones to arrive at 6pm. We had our name on a tiny chalkboard next to us, written with a lime green colour (a not-too-appetizing detail). Their meal and cocktail menus were narrow and elegant, with just enough options not to be overwhelming. We noticed that the font use was not consistent across the printed materials. The wine cart was the largest list on the table - a wide single fold. Comparing to it, the meal menu was a smaller, narrower sheet.
Emma, our waitress, was helpful, but could be better in wine suggestions for our selections of Magret de Canard and Tartare A'agneau. We ended up going for their Burgandy région Pinot Noir, as well as the Malbec from South-Western France. We should note, we weren't impressed by the Pinot Noir, it lacked intrigue and a finish for a three year old wine at $17 a glass. It was low-mid weight, with just a light dusty nose. The Malbec, on the other hand was one of the more cost-effective selections of red wine by the glass - it had a solid expression of dense dark fruit nose and a dry finish which we both enjoyed.

PALATE
We decided to go with Sardines appetizer to share, which in retrospect should have been accompanied by something else due to its' tiny size. The dish came topped with a cloud of Parmesan and dill with the sardines over two thick baguette slices. The fish had plenty of olive oil, creating a smooth texture while the crispy baguettes balanced it with rough crumbles. There were hints of horseradish and pickled onions, to add subtlety - we really enjoyed this salty appetizer.
Our main dishes were both presented with a sense of finesse. The Tartare A'agneau came with elaborate thin cumin crostini pieces, while cuddled in the middle of the bowl was the tartar meat with hints of mint, Harissa, much needed cucumber and light coriander. The lamb was fresh and tender, no sharp smell for you nose-sensitive foodies. We both agreed that the Tartare A'agneau was a sensational dish.
Margret de Canard roasted duck breast was traditionally presented and organized with parsnip purée, roasted carrots, braised cabbage all around. Unfortunately, Ma Cherie had a hard time enjoying the duck, which was not to a texture of her liking, and was further put off by the strong tarragon flavour. To our surprise the owner, noticed our discontent and insisted that she made Ma Cherie choose a new dish. Darlene suggested Filet de Bœuf and even went out of her way to top up or glasses of wine. Her warm personal touch really made our experience unforgettable. The seared Ontario Striploin piece beautifully piled in a rectangular place surrounded by sauce béarnaise, and prompted up by confit potatoes and chanterelle mushrooms. This was a remarkable dish which we enjoyed medium rare. The meat was incredibly endear and some light paprika, tarragon and chives added that subtle beauty.
Lastly, our dessert consisted of an unforgettable lightly cooked pear, drizzled in walnut honey sauce and filled with vanilla custard in the very middle. We were sure glad not to be surprised by the usual fibrous stringy middle, the custard was truly a beautiful addition. This dish is a treat and made for a great combination with our sparkling wines. Mon Cheri also insisted that we taste their Crème Brûlée, which lived up to all our expectations.

FINISH
It can be sometimes hard to share your true feelings about a dish when a waiter comes and asks you in a rush. The hard work of the chef and staff this charming Lesliville bistro, made it next to impossible to complain and try to return a dish. However, we once again want to thank the attentive owner for rescuing our experience and boosting our experience without a question. Although Greta Solomons is a French inspired bistro, the service is nothing like Parisian rash temperament, the customer's experience is king here.

PS: note that their washroom is worth the trip too. As if we went south the French boarder, in the bathroom we found tasteful Moroccan style tiles and complementary toothbrushes.

11.9.16

Detroit Eatery


In general, the East End offers a plethora of breakfast and brunch options. Our search was for a diner on that Sunday morning and we found one where we did not expect, in Greektown.

APPEARANCE
White writing on a bright red, Detroit is written in a linear detailed font while eatery is written in an odd font trying to imitate folks - not the best choice. Staples of the diner are written all over the storefront, adding clutter, but at the same time quite right for this old-timer spot.

NOSE
A tiny storefront opened up to an elongated packed hall which greeted us with tons of Detroit Red Wings memorabilia. This was something we did not quite expect from a diner, especially not from a one in a middle of Greektown. We purposefully picked a seat next to the kitchen to watch the breakfast magic happen and take a more detailed look at the cabinet full of vintage cola bottles. 9am on a Sunday, the spot was buzzing with people and energy.
We were impressed with the enthusiasm and sincerity of the main server / host. We thought he is part of the owning family, but found out later that wasn't the case. Awesome to see such a level of commitment - his energy and social engagement did more for us than the expectantly bland diner coffee.

SWIRL & PALATE
There was something appealing in the idea of a morning Hamburger Steak, so we gave it a shot. Our second choice was a straightforward Greek Omelet with Feta paying a bit of homage to the restaurant location, we figured. It took our food a bit longer than we expected, but when it arrived, there was plenty to dig into. Juicy and generous in size, the chunk of meat was a bit on the greasy side, but with no foul smell of overburn. Two simple eggs on the side (pouched as Ma Cherie wanted them) and large-cut boiled potatoes then lightly fried with no skin, were balancing the meat well. As much as the dish sounded like a heart-attack on a plate, we did not find it to be that overwhelming - as the steak was more of a large minced party. Ma Chérie struggled to make it half way with the steak and the older gentlemen which we found out is the owner had to comment that she needs to eat up. As far as the Omelet went, it was also served king sized with a side of home potatoes. There was more than a fair share of cheese and spinach inside, but we found it to be a bit too salty for our taste. Overall though, halfway through our meal we concluded that the atmosphere rather than food was the more important part of our experience on that Sunday morning.

FINISH
It might be hard to find a table for more than two on a weekend morning, but it will be well worth to try. Detroit Eatery is one of those stalwart spots sticking to its roots and refusing to cave in to trends. Our experience was reminiscent of a visit to Avenue Diner sometime ago which we definitely enjoyed. We wish Detroit Eatery to stay true to itself and continue charging people up with traditional fare and beaming energy in the morning.

PS: as an additional bonus - there is a vivid sports fan base congregating in Detroit Eatery. Surrounded by plenty of memorabilia, the dedicated folks were deeply involved in conversations adding to the general vibe.

Detroit Eatery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato