Kitchenware: New Knives

February 25, 2010 - Leave a Response

I recently decided to invest in a couple of decent knives to replace the nasty ones (a Chinese Henckel and a bolsterless Tramontina) that I’ve been using for the past couple of years. I’d been toying with the idea of acquiring some fine steel for a while, but a Christmas present from my mother precipitated my toying into action. I had a budget of $500, which I thought was more than generous enough to get myself started. In the end, after spending many hours studying on eGullet, Chowhound and KnifeForums (a scary yet wonderful place) I opted for:

A 270 mm Tojiro DP gyuto. This is a Japanese equivalent of the standard chef’s knife and is very versatile, although a little more fragile than a German knife due to the harder (and hence more brittle) steel and thinner blade (I actually made the cutting angle even narrower, taking it down from about 30 degrees (typical for such a Japanese knife, expect about a 40 degree angle with a Western knife) to 20 for extra sharpness and because I’m a wee bit insane). It makes up for increased fragility with superior sharpness and badass Japanese writing on the blade. It shouldn’t be whacked around as the blade is easily chipped but so far I’ve done my best to treat him (it…) well and the service I’ve received in return has been excellent. I originally ordered the shorter 240 mm version but changed my mind and opted to spend the extra $30 on the bigger knife. Definitely a good decision. The finish on the knife handle leaves a little to be desired which is worth noting if aesthetics area a primary concern. The handle is also quite bulky which may be an issue for people with smaller hands but for me it works great. The sharpness out of the box was very good, but not exceptional.

A 3 1/2” Shun Classic paring knife. Those in the know generally seem to speak ill of Shun, aside from the paring knife which is near-universally praised. The finish is much nicer than the Tojiro: it’s a damn sexy looking knife (although I actually generally prefer the look of a nice riveted handle). It’s also a great little knife to use, the handle is thin (as it is for the entire Shun Classic line) and whilst I don’t think I could get along with such a dainty grip on a bigger knife it’s perfect for a parer. The sharpness is good, although I think that the Tojiro is slightly better out of the box.

An Edge Pro Apex sharpening system with stones up to 1000 grit. Good knives are sharp knives. It might seem ridiculous to spend $200 on a way to keep your knives sharp especially if you’re not a professional chef, but if you consider the options: something that enables you to keep your knives sharp forever for $200 (plus replacement stones every few months)
2.spend $10 per knife on sharpening everything time you need a blade touching up
3.use blunt knives

it quickly becomes apparent (to me at least) that 1. is the way forward. And if you’ve never experienced the difference between a sharp knife and a blunt one: try it. You’ll see. It’s worth it.

With the 1000 grit stone I can get a really nice edge that will shave arm hair and push cut computer paper (that’s when you hold a sheet of paper and cut it vertically using just a downwards motion (no slicing) but will not whittle hair or push cut newspaper (two standard tests of incredible sharpness that take a serious case of OCD and some fine blade polishing to achieve).

Overall, I’m more than happy with my purchases.


Akai Sushi (Harbord Street)

February 24, 2010 - One Response

Service-wise, my second visit to the new sushi joint on Harbord was much more impressive than the first. We went for dinner and I had a sushi & sashimi bento. The fish seemed on par with what’s available on Bloor and somewhat below my favourite, Japango (although the last time I went there the rice was warm and over-vinegared but I can forgive that, especially as they served me some very nice uni). The tuna was lacking the vivid red colour you get in a really good piece and one of my hunks of salmon tasted a little fishy. The sashimi was cut far too large: it’s really only nice to eat a small piece of raw fish at a time, stuffing a slab of it down your throat in one go is not pleasant. Scallop sushi and sashimi were a nice touch, although I didn’t think much of the seasoning. Nonetheless, it was perfectly pleasant, and I’ll probably return, but if you’re in the neighbourhood and looking to eat on a budget, I’d recommend Flip, Toss & Thai.

Flip Toss & Thai Kitchen (141 Harbord Street)

February 18, 2010 - Leave a Response

A great little Thai place on Harbord. The food is not too salty or greasy and is always well cooked. One could argue that the portions are a little small for the price. I like the cashew shrimp. Take out seems to be the primary market but there and a few tables inside if you feel like taking a seat. Probably the best lunch option on Harbord.

93 Harbord (93 Harbord Street) (Winterlicious)

February 11, 2010 - Leave a Response

Went for Winterlicious, which was the only option available. Lentil soup was tasty, a little over spiced for my delicate palate, but certainly not bad.

Chicken tagine was pleasant, but a little too lemony. The presentation (not something I normally notice) of this dish was particularly ridiculous: the chicken and bok choi were slopped onto the plate and accompanied by a perfectly molded little mound of couscous.

Dessert was bad. ‘Poached figs’ were dried figs. Almonds were overly roasted and poor tasting. The yogurt was ok.

The lighting in the restaurant, as per the trend, was too low.

Not recommended: there are much better places on Harbord.

Akai Sushi (Harbord Street)

February 10, 2010 - Leave a Response

I went a week ago, for lunch. I had chirashi (my standard choice) which was very pleasant; a cut above the offerings on Bloor, a cut below Japango. It’s a little expensive for lunch (minimum $10 before tax and tip, compared to ~$7 on Bloor) which is an issue if you’re a student like me, but if I had a proper job I imagine I wouldn’t mind so much.

The decor was pleasant enough, but we were the only two people there (it was around 3 pm, I don’t know how they fare at peak hours) and the waiter didn’t seem to be able to hold it together very well even with such a small crowd. He was fairly slow and inattentive and made some errors.

They were also playing jazz which really jarred with the atmosphere and struck me as a fairly silly choice.

Whisky Review: Mortlach 16 (Speyside)

February 7, 2010 - Leave a Response

A massive dose of sherry on the nose and instant dryness on the palate. Maybe some smokiness? Spice? Vanilla? Beautiful nose, but maybe an acquired taste. Best get to work.

I’d like to try this one side-by-side with a Macallan.

Tobacco-y finish? Almost a cigar. A unique malt.

Cafe Victoria (37 King Street East, in the King Edward) (Winterlicious)

February 6, 2010 - Leave a Response

Fine for $20, but nothing special. Vegetable martini with balsamic reduction (vinegary red pepper gazpacho I think) was a pleasant start to the meal. I think the soup of the day (cauliflower) would have been nicer, but I was intrigued. The balsamic reduction didn’t taste particularly balsamic.

Seafood stew for main course was pleasant, the seafood was fairly average, but well in line with what you’d expect for a $20 three-course meal. I opted to have it with an orzo, tomato, olive and caper salad, which was nice but I ended up leaving a lot of it as I was in danger of succumbing to a grease and salt overdose.

Banana and chocolate cake tasted nothing like chocolate but was surprisingly banana-y and very pleasant.

Globe Bistro (124 Danforth Avenue) (Winterlicious)

February 6, 2010 - Leave a Response

We went here for Winterlicious and were quite impressed, a really good deal for the price. The atmosphere is nice, although the lighting is a little too low (a common theme, it seems). We both had scallops (two fairly small ones) for starter which were nicely seared and served with the requisite bacon (nice and crispy) and some good sunchoke and orange purees. For main, braised beef short rib, which was also very pleasant, although paired with a strange muscovado-based puree which didn’t do anything for me. Dessert was slightly less successful; I opted for the whisky toffee pudding over the cardamom apple tart, figuring neither were likely to taste much like whisky or cardamom but that the toffee pudding was likely a safer bet, which turned out the be the smart move. The highlight was the chocolate and oatmeal stout (which gave the chocolate an extra bitterness – something I like very much) mouse (foam?) that topped the pudding. The lady chanced the cardamom apple tart, which did not pay off and she sent it back. The server was very polite at this point and readily allowed the substitution of the apple for the toffee without making any fuss.

I’d be glad to go back and pay full price one day.

Whisky Review: Bowmore 12 (Islay)

January 2, 2010 - 2 Responses

Another nice malt, from one of my preferred distilleries. A cut below the Lagavulin but at a third of the price it’s great value. The colour is a pleasing orange; the nose is pleasant and not overpowering with a slightly sharp background and a (not unpleasant) hint of chlorine (or maybe that’s just because my glass wasn’t totally dry when I poured it?) without much of the characteristic Islay smoke. There are some faintly sweet notes. Maybe a hint of paper? The taste is fiery and a little bitter, without many specific flavours that I can pick out. Maybe slightly sweet although the sweetness is quickly overpowered. The finish is a quite bitter. Not one of the greats, but a good malt nonetheless.

After a while more tastes become evident: grass? Miso? A hint of smoke starts to come through.

Terroni (57a Adelaide Street East)

January 2, 2010 - Leave a Response

Decent Italian. I had a capricciosa pizza and a flourless chocolate cake. The pizza was good although I would have preferred my olives to have been stoned and distributed evenly, as opposed to whole and clustered in the centre of the pizza. The cake was better than expected – could have done with being a bit more chocolately, but at least it wasn’t too sweet. We drank chianti. Overall, not a bad option, but not worth going out of your way for.