On the outside, it looks like a large two storey home but when you walk in, the interior is grand. The rooms have been kept intact with dark wood trim and chandeliers hanging from the ceilings – I almost felt like I should have been here having afternoon tea instead of dim sum. We were seated in the downstairs dining room and to be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from Casa Imperial but to my surprise the dim sum was pretty delicious. Below are some of the dishes we ordered, most are common in dim sum but my favourites are the siu mai, sticky rice in lotus leaf and beef steamed rice roll. You’ll notice that they do siu mai a bit differently here, made with the typical shrimp and pork except here they’ve topped it with conpoy – dried scallops. Definitely worth the drive up!
If you’ve been reading my posts lately, you know that I’ve finally been tackling my restaurant list. Pizzeria Libretto is another restaurant that I was able to cross off. Now that they have opened an outpost in the financial district (literally 2 blocks away from my office), there was just no excuse to hold off any longer. A few of my colleagues decided to go for dinner one night and it was busy, for the first and second seating. I started the meal with a cocktail (can’t remember the name but I remember the sweet limoncello taste!) and burrata served atop lentils and pea shoots. The it was time for the pizzas. Classically made in the neopolitan way, my favourite was the white pizza of cremini mushroom, roasted garlic, buffalo mozzarella, gorgonzola, rosemary, thyme and pecorino. It was delicious, with almost truffle-like flavour! And if you eat your way through the entire pizza, they are sizeable pies, definitely order the panna cotta. Now I know what you’re thinking, tiramisu right? But no, the panna cotta was surprisingly tasty – everyone knows tiramisu which is why I recommend the panna cotta. I believe the accompaniment changes season to season and at this time, it was served with maple syrup and granola crumble. Yum!
Lately I’ve been craving Thai food like crazy, so much so that I’ve even gone as far as trying to make pad thai at home and frankly, it never does taste as good as it does when someone else makes it. And Pai is my current spot to get awesome pad thai. The interior is uniquely decorated, a cross between kitsch and tiki. I’m going to be honest, I’ve gone to Pai three times in the past six weeks and each time I go, I start with the Thai iced tea. If you love condensed milk, you’re gonna love the iced tea. I have yet to try the thai bucket but its next. Now that you know the pad thai is amazing, the squash fritters are delicious dipped in the tamarind sauce. However, the surprise dish of the night was the pad gra prow which we were told is authentic thai street food. Stir fried ground beef with basil and oyster sauce, served on jasmine rice, topped with a fried egg and nam plik nam pla sauce (fish sauce, garlic, chili and lime) – delicious! If you love thai food, you need to come to Pai.
My restaurant list keeps getting larger and larger but I’ve finally knocked one of my oldest entries off the list recently, Ruby Watchco. I’ve been a fan of Lynn Crawford ever since my meal at Truffles at the Four Seasons Toronto so you can just imagine how excited I was for my dinner. Having reservations on a Tuesday night, there were plenty of tables available. The menu changes daily and is served family style which means there is only one four-course meal prepared and served – no options. That night, the meal started with a charred romaine salad and a plate of cheddar and chive biscuits with homemade butter. The main dish and sides quickly came after: porchetta, BBQ ribs, heirloom carrots, sweet potatoes and charred broccoli. The porchetta and ribs were both tender and amazingly delicious, especially the ribs – it was fall of the bone tender. But the side dish of heirloom carrots with herb dressing and pecans was the best of the night. The herb dressing was creamy and perfect with the crunch of the pecans and sweetness of the carrots. Next came the cheese course and was finished with an apple rhubarb crumble (although they called it a pudding). It was a fantastic tasting dinner, no disappointments here. And if you’re curious about the name (I was so I asked), its named after an old watch company in India and somehow the signage made it to Canada, they found the sign and liked the name.
There were two places that I needed to come back and visit on my trip back to Tarpon Springs, Rusty Bellies (check my previous post) and Hellas. I love greek desserts, everything from baklava to their cookies…they are all delicious. Even with my trips to Little Greece in Toronto (on the Danforth) I’ve never come across chocolate covered baklava and two years ago, I tried it for the first time. So I was craving for some baklava and my favourite, diples. These are rolled, deep fried dough that is then dipped in a honey syrup and topped with chopped nuts and cinnamon. I discovered diples at Hellas and fell in love with this airy, sweet dessert. Its a perfect place to stop by for dessert and a coffee…heck, do what I did – dinner at Rusty Bellies and dessert at Hellas, you can’t go wrong!
The last time I was in Tarpon Springs I had some of the best steamed seafood here at Rusty Bellies so I had to go back. And yes, I ordered the same thing. I couldn’t help myself, the Rusty pot belly was so good the first time around I needed to eat it again. Its a full bucket filled to the brim with steamed shrimp, oysters, clams, mussels, snow crab, corn and potatoes – so fresh and delicious, they catch their own seafood that supplies both the seafood market and restaurant. To start the meal, a paper bag full of their famous hush puppies. Perfectly fried morsels of dough – I could eat bags of this stuff, that’s how good it is :) Tarpon Springs isn’t a big destination spot in Florida but if ever in the area, Rusty Bellies is worth a stop!