First big trip for the year 2018 ! I’ve been wanting to visit this particular continent for the years and lucky for me, I finally managed to accumulate these hard earned annual leaves to make this work back in March. That’s just because I’ve utilized my maximum capacity of leaves available last year. Oh well, seventeen days and I got to kill two birds with a stone: Canada & Mexico. If you’re gonna spend 4 hours (Penang- Hong Kong ) and 15 hours (Hong Kong to Toronto) – you gotta stretch it as much as your pocket and time permits.
“Toronto is a reflection of Canada. Known as the largest city in Canada, it is the capital city of the province of Ontario. With over 140 languages spoken, it is the most multi-culturally diverse city on the planet! Some of the world’s finest restaurants are found here, alongside happening bars and clubs and eclectic festivals.” – Lonely Planet
So.. after being fed dinner-supper-breakfast by Cathay Pacific, two movies on board, some snooze time and a friendly chat with a fellow Canadian passenger, I touched down at Toronto Pearson International airport at 830pm (-1 day). My Malaysian passport did not agree with the automated passport clearance machine and I had to go through the immigration manually. It wasn’t the best experience for sure, but I made it out eventually. Here we go… my one week March escape!
Where to Stay?
AirBnb is the way to go if you’re looking to stretch your funds! Nestled in the lovely Parkdale neighbourhood, it was well within proximity to Roncesvalles, Queen Street West and Downtown Toronto. It is a newly renovated main floor apartment in an 1870’s Victorian home. The king size bed and custom white bathroom were both highlights for me. Some of the best restaurants in the city was just merely 15-20 minutes walk away. I like that the whole apartment is very private and spacious, and the host was sweet enough to leave a suggestion lists of what to see and do in the city. Certainly felt like home away from home!
10 Favourite Food Spots
Toronto is no exception when it comes to their exciting culinary scene and food diversity. By the time I got into the city, it was time for supper and I was introduced first and foremost to some poutine!
1. House of Poutine @ Queen Street West
What’s poutine? ‘Poutine’ is essentially hot chips, cheese curds and gravy. Something you should try if you’re in Canada. It seemed to be a favourite pit stop among the locals for post-drinks. The portion was decent for sharing and it came up to about CAD $15 for two. All depending on what toppings you would like to add on – hint bacon. They also cater to vegans.
2. Grand Electric @ Queen Street West
Toronto is a food mecca! If you have a flare for some Mexican flavours, this is it! I personally favor the tacos in Grand Electric and it seriously exceeded my expectations. It may even out beat the ones in Mexico. The restaurant is rather small and they don’t take reservations. Torontonians seemed to enjoy and flock to this hip joint for their Mexican cravings. The Baja fish tacos and Americana Quesadillas (of braised beef cheek, cilantro, lettuce and quesa) were tantalizing to the taste buds. Top it off with an Electric Lager on tap and I promise – you won’t regret!
3. Mitzi’s Cafe @ Parkdale
Major love for this corner cafe in the lovely neighbourhood of Parkdale. This place was recommended by the AirBnb host on their lists of suggestions and it was just a mere 5 minutes walk from home. It’s a great brunch spot and I love the simplicity of the menu. The cafe is a beautiful place to sit back, relax and enjoy a good cup of coffee. The food was freshly made to order and although it is busy, their service was friendly. Average cost came up to about CAD $35-40 for two.
4. Ramen Isshin @ College Street
One can never go wrong with a good bowl of Ramen noodle soup on a late winter afternoon. When it’s 2 degrees outside, a hearty bowl of Ramen does all the tricks. There was a line during lunch time and expect to wait for 15-20 minutes. Surprisingly, the broth was flavorful and it had a rich Tonkotsu depth to it. If you are an avid noodle fan, you would appreciate the firm yet chewy texture of this ramen noodles. Hands down one of the good Ramen restaurants I’ve been to, second in line to the one in Singapore .
5. Voodoo Child Espresso & Cocktail Bar @ College Street
If there is an award for the most creative coffee cafe, this would bagged a title for sure. How often do you actually come across a cafe that does signature coffee cocktails, accompanied by a selection of teas and pastries offered by the usual cafes. Although the cafe had limited seatings, it was cozy and perfect for an afternoon read or to chill with a buddy. I had a ‘Voodoo Child’ and it was served in a skull glass. Savage!
6. The Shore Club Toronto
Livin’ up to its ‘seafood, steak and cocktails’ tagline. I stepped foot into the Shore Club and was instantly impressed by its classic design and ambience. It must have felt and looked like a scene out of a James Bond movie. The restaurant and bar itself were classy and the waitress was friendly and welcoming. Definitely recommending the buck-a-shuck if you ever set foot in Downtown Toronto. It is also a place to bring your date if you want to impress him or her. Why not happy hour in a midweek work day and feast yourself to a dozen of oysters, fresh succulent prawn cocktails and a wide array of beer on tap and wine.
7. La Cubana @ Ossington Avenue
Look no further than La Cubana for Cuban delicacies! The cuban plates, sandwiches and medianoches were impeccable. I didn’t know I had a thing for Cuban dishes until this came along. And man.. I’m craving for that Honey-glazed Pork Belly with pineapple salsa served with red cabbage slaw, rice and beans and tostones as we speak. I might just need to make my way to Cuba for the real deal but this ultimately blew my mind. Paired it with mojito and I was so pumped to take on the day!
8. Wanda’s Pie in the Sky @ Kensington Market
Bringing a slice of home to the heart of the city! That’s what Wanda says. This place is pie heaven. I repeat, PIE HEAVEN! With an extensive range of homemade pies, it was so hard to resist and we ended up with two distinctive choices: Pecan Pie and the classic Apple Crumble. Known for having some of the best pies, the crust was crumbly and rich. The filling was rather sweet, but still good when paired with black coffee. Although the price is quite steep for a slice of pie, I think it’s worthy to give it a shot.
9. The Kegs Steakhouse & Bar @ Mississauga
Best piece of steak in a long, long time! Something I’m deprived of here in Penang. Excellent service and the server took the initiative to recommend their best steaks and wine to pair with it. The medium rare prime steak was grilled to perfection. Just nice and tender in the middle, while crusty on the outside. Overall, I would give them a 9/10. The prime rib was also served with a double baked Jack potato and fresh vegetables. Since it was my birthday, I had a slice of cake as dessert on the house! Yays!
10. Convenience Bar @ Queen Street West
One of its kind in Toronto! It camouflaged as a cozy corner convenience store, providing the entrance to a 80s-themed hangout spot. If you are retro lover, you would love this place although the crowd is somewhat young and hippie. I would suggest checking it out but it is probably not a joint to spend your whole night. The $5 drinks on tap were cheap but it was pretty diluted. Food was decent for the price you pay and it’s definitely a good spot to check people out. There was a huge ass TV with CCTV footages and the main highlight would be the bathroom with pink lighting downstairs. Instagram worthy I would say.
There’s always something new to try in Toronto. That is the ultimate beauty and aspect of travelling – you get the opportunity to try different kinds of foods and satisfy the palate. The food scene in this beautiful city did not disappoint. I look forward to be back again!