Straight to the point this time:
Location: 499 King St. W.
Price: $$-$$$; entrees $15-30, quite reasonable for fanciness of this calibre.
So This is the third time I’ve been here, and although a big/fancy/known restaurant of the King West block, it may be hard to find for first-timers; The entry way is sort of a nook, with these giant doors. It is more inconspicuous during the day because at night, there’s a bouncer standing outside to mark it’s existence, oh and there are real fire torches mounted on the walls of the nook; neither are present during daylight.
When you enter the doors, there’s another nook, a foyer area? there’s buddha on one side also a chair exhibited on another wall. To be honest I think they are just pushing it with the asian decor… It’s nice I suppose, but to me it feels like a “kitchen-sink” asian theme. When you enter the second set of doors, there’s the hostess podium and she will lead you to your tables. Inside, there is a centre bar area with waterfountain/waterfall backdrop, very cool. also, many buddha statues spread out in the interior decor as well.
This place is swanky. (Quote: “this is exactly how I imagined the trendy bars of Hollywood to look like!” – CH)
Asian-looking candle holder. yay theme.
The waiter comes and takes our order, we got a few things to share and also a pot of rose tea (smelled delicious =D) and a pleasant surprise? we got a free appetizer of baked (or maybe fried?) mandarin buns with a mango lime dip, it looked adorable and was actually very delicious!! The buns were slightly crunchy on the outside and soft and moist on the inside, with a light sweetness that perfectly complements the very mild tanginess of the dip. Bonus points for FREE!
Next up was the tuna dynamite roll… it was a disappointment to me. The wasabi cream was refreshing and yummy with a hint of spiciness, but the rolls were kinda boring. There was too much rice and it was really difficult to taste the tuna. On my second piece I especially removed the tuna to eat with the wasabi cream, sans obstruction from rice, but found it no better. The tuna was dry and had no taste. Definitely an order mishap.
Following was the Pad Thai. Now first I have to say that I’ve never been a pad thai connisseur, and because I’ve never had a pad thai that I especially enjoyed (despite good reviews from other people), I feel like my views on this dish is strongly biased. With that said, I did not enjoy the pad thai. When it came up, it was not steaming hot, and rather than stir-fried the dish looks… just stirred. The dish was more wet than I had been accustomed to, and it all seemed very… slippery?
It tasted okay, sweet and soury, substantial egg and shrimps were harmed in the making of this dish.
To provide you with another point of view, my friend, who is part Viet? and a lover of Pad Thai, said this was “the best pad thai she’s ever had in her life”. so.. that’s that for ya… I guess you would have to be the judge of this yourself.
Now this dish I am definitely qualified to judge!! As a lover of salmon (sashimi, glazed, grilled, baked, all variations!!), This is definitely the best glazed salmon I have ever had!! The meat was very moist and succulent, and the glaze was just sweet and soy-y enough to ensure there is flavour with every bite, without overpowering the fish itself! And the ricecakes as well were awesome, moderately chewy but still with the flavour of the glaze cooked in. Usually it’s hard to cook rice cakes because a minute too short and the cakes taste rubbery, and a bit too long will cause the rice cakes to lose their texture. Bravo for this.
With much debate, we finally succumbed to our sweet tooths and ordered the dessert. It was awesome 😀
The creme brulee would be my favourite of the night. It runs on the lighter side in terms of sweetness/flavour, which is just the way I prefer. You can definitely taste the ginger infused into the brulee part, albeit its very faint. Other co-eaters found it a bit plain in terms of taste and all enjoyed the other desert more..
which was the amazing concoction that is in the blurry photograph above (apologies, I feel horrible having to retake photos in a dim restaurant, especially when I could be disrupting other patrons with my frequent flash usage…) It’s basically just cheesecake and coconut crunchy flakes rolled into a gloriously rich ball, with a chopstick stuck on top so it resembles a lollipop.
IF you love cheesecake, you will absolutely fall in love with this amazingness. Creative presentation, excellent taste for a cheesecake concoction, and only $7 !!!
All in all, a good attempt at being hip and creative. The service was good but slow most of the night, but they were quite busy for the evening. An interesting note is that despite being an asian theme restaurant, the whole staff (over a dozen waitstaff/bussers/hosts/barkeeps) was caucasian… and the dining crowd was also less than 10% asian… I feel like the restaurant tried to cast a too-wide of a net to encompass asian fusion dishes, and in the process lost some of the essence of the asian dishes. The ideas for the dishes were interesting but the execution was poor, as seen in the unrefined tuna roll and the bland pad thai (missing the point that intricacies in taste is the cornerstone of japanese dishes, and exploration with many spices and flavours are key in thai/viet dishes)
Initially, it is easy for one to be impressed by the style of the restaurant and it’s food, but once you get over the looks, the experience may not be as worthwhile.
always followed by staring.