The most obscure restaurant experience I’ve ever had. Or: Oh hi Campbellville!

After a big dip into the mainstream with my little snapshot of Smoke’s Poutinerie, I thought why not turn the dial ALL THE WAY to the other extreme and visit what I deem to be the most obscure and random restaurant visit I have ever had (and probably ever will, for the foreseeable future) in Canada.

I visited a Thai restaurant. In a small business complex. With no discernable signage. In the shadows of a hilly incline. In freakin’ Campbellville. WIN.

And just where is Campbellville? It’s a small-ish town several kilometers west from Milton, which in itself is several kilometers west of Mississauga, which in turn is several kilometers west of Toronto. Ta-dah!

We were heading back from out annual around-Ontario Christmas trip and decided we wanted to pull in into a random small town. Driving on the 401, Campbellville seemed like such a location. We’ve been almost everywhere visiting small towns in Ontario but even we haven’t heard of this place before.

The town turned out not to be much. A small main street covered in snow, with another road that curves up into somewhat of a hill, also covered in snow. But somewhere along that snowy drive, we saw a sign (facing the OTHER traffic direction, mind) that said there was a Thai restaurant located right “there”. “There” would mean we’d have to do a 180 turn and back down the hill slope and literally make a 90 degree turn into a small business complex that is practically leaning by the base of the cliffs, almost completely obscured from the main road.

Oh, and did I mention the restaurant had no prominent signage in front of its doors? I guarantee you that unless you live around the area, you won’t be able to find this place without a map. We had to take the time to sit down and look at our menu until we discerned what the name of the restaurant was: Thai House Cuisine (4). Why the 4? More on that later. And yes, it is what you think.

The restaurant was surprisingly very spacious in the inside. It was quiet, that’s for sure, given the weather and time of day (lunchtime just started…and it’s a Sunday). But everything was bright and cheerful without going over-the-top tacky with Thai decorations, as I know many restaurants are wont to do. They even have a second floor for special functions, and I briefly considered having my wedding dinner here, but decided not to out of fear of having pineapples thrown in my fact by frustrated guests who’ll probably spend an hour just trying to find the place.

It's so bright it's GLEAMING.

It’s so bright it’s GLEAMING.

The server, a charming late 30-ish lady from Thailand dressed in traditional Thai garb (what must she think of all this snow I wonder), was very friendly and told us that most of her clientele came either from Campbellville itself or sometimes from neighbouring Milton and Guelph. It turns out this is the 4th location (see?) of the Thai House Cuisine chain. The first one is in Toronto, the second one in Mississauga, third in Milton, and the fourth one here. CLEARLY there is a trend in opening each successive restaurant in progressively smaller towns. If this trend continues, the fifth restaurant will open in my basement. Still, she was very upbeat about the future prospects of this place and to be fair, it looked very well kept on the inside.

Curiosities piqued and bellies empty (and body COLD), we thought why the hell not? We then proceeded to try out their highlighted lunch specials. I personally got the spicy beef, while my parents had their green chicken curry.

The food came within a reasonable time and we greedily started poking into it. The lunch specials came with soup and spring roll, which were OK (par for the course) and were enough to whet our appetites. So I started to dig into the food and….was promptly disappointed. The seasonings were tasty enough, but the spice lacked a bit of kick and the sauce was a bit on the dry side (i.e. there’s not enough of it). Normally I wouldn’t mind that if the main meat dish was tender, but the beef was pretty dry and thin. There’s no juiciness in the meat at all and a little more sauce would’ve at least compensated for that. The vegetables around the beef were also a little overpowering: classic case of too much vegetables surrounding too little beef. Though, given how dry the beef was, this was probably not a bad thing.

Yeah um...this is as close to a food picture as you're gonna get. It was underwhelming. Nice lady, though.

Yeah um…this is as close to a food picture as you’re gonna get. It was underwhelming. Nice lady, though.

My parents green curry were a little bit better, but it’s also par for the course compared to many other Thai restaurants. There was a nice richness to the curry itself, and the chicken was far more tender than the beef (thank God). However, there was nothing that made it stand out more than any other Thai places that seemingly number in the thousands in Toronto or, indeed, Mississauga. So in that aspect it was lacklustre.

Overall, novelty and interesting find aside, this is one place I won’t recommend. It’s not awful by any stretch of the imagination, and I concede that the dinner a la carte options may be crafted with more care than the cheaper lunch specials, but I’ve been to many more Thai places with much better cheap lunch options than this. An OK option if you find yourself somehow in Campbellville (and what the hell are you doing there anyway?) as it’s acceptable. But in the general scheme of things it was a letdown. It’s too bad as I really, really wanted to like this place.

And I actually did. But unfortunately it was for everything but the food.

–Final verdict: Jangan Makan!

Thai House Cuisine (4)

43 Main Street South, Unit 3B
Campbellville, ON L0P 1B0

(905) 254-2888

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Getting all Canadian! Or: My first experience at Smoke’s Poutinerie.

After my last post, which was probably a bit terse, let’s talk about something positive and comforting: poutine.

For those of you residing outside of our great frozen country, poutine is arguably one of Canada’s great national dish. Thick cut fries, cheese curds, and a generous heaping of steaming gravy all rolled into a food item that’s practically a coronary attack on a plate. Add a dose of extra toppings, in the form of chicken, mushrooms, or bacon (OMGBACON), and you’ve got yourself wonderful variants of this delicious dish.

It may not seem sophisticated and it’s certainly not a delicate and complex dish by any means (compare it to the mind-blowing difficulty of creating the perfect sambal sauce in Indonesia and poutine doesn’t seem so impressive in comparison), but we in Canada love our poutine like the Brits love their fish n chips. It’s a national comfort dish and we can’t get enough of it. And to an extent, this includes me.

I actually love poutine. But the thing is that I only love freshly prepared poutine. Once the dish is a bit cold, the gucky gravy and cheese curds become kinda gross, to be honest. So I gotta eat and finish it when it’s hot, though doing so is risking some form of food coma, given how dense and carb-heavy this thing is.

So I was actually pleasantly surprised to know that there was a specialty poutine joint that opened up near my office, and was even more delighted that it was Smoke’s. Smoke’s Poutinerie is Canada’s biggest and most well-known poutine chain, which provides awesome varieties, generous quantities, and hot fresh poutine for you to immediately chow down on. Sounds like my cup of tea!

Located on Adelaide St., interestingly enough the same street I used to walk past every day on the way to my previous workplace, the restaurant is a small but not uncomfortable little box which feels like a modernized old-time burger joint. You line up, order your food at the counter and wait for it, then take it with your tray back to the seat. A little board above the counter shows you the many cholesterol-laden options available to you, and a wide chalkboard near the entrance is a blank canvas for your artistic graffitiing compulsions.

Or shameless free advertising.

Or shameless free advertising.

I was fortunate to be able to sample gratuitous quantities of multiple varieties as ordered by my coworkers. From regular poutine to the crazy Hogtown poutine, my eyes were moist with anticipation (and probably hot steam) as I bore down to find out why Smoke’s is almost universally loved by everyone in Canada. And the results were simply delicious.

The regular poutine in itself is already a great flavour combination and a solid place to start, with cheese curds that aren’t too soft which enhance the smoothness of the gravy and the soggyness (well, they kinda have to be) of the fries. But what truly nails it in my books is the insanity that is the Hogtown poutine. The flavours of the caramelized onions and sauteed mushrooms actually provide a nice subtle hint of sweetness and grit to the overall taste and texture of a normal poutine. Your chewy and gooey moments are punctuated at regular intervals by the contrastingly different vegetables, which are the in turn tied together nicely by a healthy dose of bacon. Douse a bit of hot sauce (they have Sriracha, which isn’t as good as Indonesian chili sauces, but it’ll do) and you’ve got both flavour AND texture city.

This is Canadian heaven in a box. Have too much of this and you may actually go straight TO heaven.

This is Canadian heaven in a box. Have too much of this and you may actually go straight TO heaven.

The ambience of the place is also nice. It feels a little hipster-ish, but there’s really no pretentiousness, with friendly and quick service. It can get very crowded during mealtimes, so be prepared to wait for a bit. The red-and-black checked pattern that is Smoke’s trademark colours are everywhere, and is a nice splash of corporate identity among the indie-like feel of the place.

The only bad thing, like I said before, is how intense the post-lunch food coma you’ll definitely experience after downing just HALF a box of this. I absolutely don’t know how all the people around me can polish off a full dose of this thing and not collapse instantaneously after the meal. Oh, and I guess the notion of paying over EIGHT BUCKS for what is essentially a heap of potatoes plus side fixin’s run contrary to my inner Chinese voice, that tells me “You can get a dish of rice plus meat and soybean drink for SEVEN DOLLARS in a Chinese food court! What are you, Spendy McRichBanks?”. So as long as you don’t have these voices in your head (and really, only my dad and I have them), then go and check Smoke’s out.

That's what I image Mr. McSpendy looks like.

Actually, that’s exactly what I imagine Mr. McRichBanks would look like.

It may not be fancy, and it’s certainly not anywhere near an upscale experience, but it’s a great way to sample comfort Canadian cuisine.

–Final verdict: Mari Makan!

Smoke’s Poutinerie

218 Adelaide Street West
Toronto, ON M5H 1W7
(416) 599-2873

Let’s go for some late night Chinese food!

Just as a quick update, my newest article on BlogTO went up a few days ago and it can be found here.

It’s a quick rundown of the various awesome places you can stuff your hungover and bleary-eyed self when you happen to be around downtown Toronto. Some of these places (I’m looking at you, New Ho King) have names that are positively cringe-worthy, but they are practically institutions among many youths and students that crawl the streets of Toronto at 3 in the morning. Some even offer late night dim sum. If there was ever a heaven on earth, this would be it.

A quick disclaimer: I didn’t personally select the places, they were actually given to me as the result of a previously conducted (annual?) poll. I just put the pretty words that you see there. It also helps that I’m quite familiar with a great deal of them.

My personal favourite? Garden Restaurant. The soy sauce chicken on rice is absolutely wonderful.

So when you’re out and about, dazed and confused, at some ungodly hour of the night, and wondering what the hell to eat, just remember: DKLoMakan (and BlogTO) will point you and your empty stomach the way.

Enjoy folks!

My ratings system explained

Just a quick explanation in anticipation of my upcoming reviews, I’ve categorized my verdict for a restaurant to one of three possible categories:

  • MARI MAKAN!Roughly translated as “Let’s Eat!” in English, this rating is for restaurants that I would definitely return to and wholeheartedly recommend to others
  • BOLEH MAKAN!Roughly translated as “Can Eat!” in English, this rating is for restaurants that I have some slight issues with, but are generally good and I would still recommend to others, though maybe with some caveats.
  • JANGAN MAKAN!Roughly translated as “Don’t Eat!” in English, this rating is…well I think it’s pretty self-explanatory.

I’m aware that all my reviews are purely subjective and largely dependent on what I personally tasted (I can’t judge on a food item that I didn’t eat, that’s called…um…LYING), but such is the nature of reviews in the first place.

On with the show!

Heavy construction ahead…

Get ready folks.

Thanks to all those who’ve started reading and following my blog. I just wanted to throw a disclaimer out there that the design and layout of the blog will definitely undergo through some radical changes (and re-changes ad infinitum) during the first few weeks (or months!) as I try to get comfortable and find a format that I’m truly comfortable with.

Other than that, enjoy the ride, and thanks for coming along!
PS: Feel free to comment if you like a particular design 🙂

A taste (teehee) of things to come

This is more of a test post than anything.

So don’t get too excited about this one.

DO get excited, however, for the upcoming posts that are coming up, featuring a cascade of culinary curiosities, restaurant reviews, delicious discussions and enchanting entertainment from the perspective of yours truly.

There may also be dancing girls (though I can’t promise that).

The genesis of the idea came from the fact that, all my life I’ve been going on a big MAKAN adventure, and I loved every minute of it. I plan to continue doing it as long as I can. Savouring every bite and living every moment.

The big difference? This time you guys are coming along for the ride 😉 So let’s keep on eatin’! MARI MAKAN!