Friday, December 7, 2018

Pad Thai with Shrimp, Tofu & Organic Bean Sprouts

One of Thailand's national dishes, Pad Thai is a simple and delicious stir-fried noodle dish enjoyed throughout Thailand, one of the most popular and loved cuisines in the world. Showcasing the classic harmony of Thai flavours: sweet, sour and salty, this sensational recipe embodies the culinary spirit of Thailand,   made with soaked dried rice noodles, which are stir-fried with eggs, chopped extra-firm tofu, plenty of plump prawns and flavored with tamarind pulp, fish sauce, garlic, shallots, palm sugar, and garnished with lime wedges, fresh hot red chilis and chopped roast peanuts. Inspired by some of the delicious Pad Thai we enjoyed while in Bangkok, Chaing Mai and Koh Samui, this recipe shows how the flavours and textures of premium quality ingredients come together into one amazingly delicious dish.

Pad Thai with Shrimp, Tofu and Organic Bean Sprouts
Serves 2

4 oz wide flat Thai rice stick noodles, about 1/4 package
4 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp tamarind paste
3 tbsp palm sugar
1/8 tsp chilli powder, to taste
4 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
4 oz extra-firm tofu, chopped into 1/2-inch cubes
8 large prawns, peeled and deveined
2 large eggs, ready cracked
4 cups organic beansprouts
1/2 cup chopped cilantro, plus extra for garnish
4 green onions, green part only, cut into 2-inch diagonal pieces
1 cup roasted peanuts, roughly chopped 
2 limes, cut into wedges for garnish
2 fresh red chilis, seeded and sliced on a diagonal, optional

Soak the rice noodles in cold water for 1-2 hours, then drain. Meanwhile, make the sauce by combining the fish sauce, tamarind and palm sugar in a small pan or medium heat, stirring gently to dissolve the sugar. Season with chilli to taste and set aside. 

Lay out all the ingredients within easy reach of the hob in the order they'll be used. Put a wok on a high heat and add half the oil. Add the garlic and shallot and stir constantly for two minutes. Then add the shrimp and tofu and stir fry until the shrimp begin to change colour, about 30 seconds. Add the eggs to the pan and using a wooden spoon, pierce the yolks and gently move the eggs around the pan until almost cooked. Then place across the pan the drained noodles and gently stir fry until they become slightly limp, then add the sauce and stir fry until they are just tender and evenly coated with the sauce, about 3-4 minutes. Add the chopped green onions, two tablespoons of the chopped peanuts and cook, tossing, until they are mixed in and barely heated, about 30 seconds. Test a noodle for doneness, then add the cilantro and toss well to combine. The noodles should taste sweet, sour and salty.

To serve, transfer the noodles to a large platter, leaving space for a mound of bean sprouts next to the Pad Thai, then top with the reserved lime wedges. Garnish the noodles with the remaining chopped peanuts, cilantro and sliced red chilis, and serve immediately.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Nami: Sensational Japanese Cuisine & Robata Grill

For over three decades, Nami has been a quiet escape in the heart of downtown Toronto, for the finest sushi, sashimi, made-to-order grilled meat, fish and seafood at the Robata Grill, and Sukiyaki — Japanese hot pot. Considered to be one of the city's finest authentic Japanese restaurants, Nami is a hidden gem. My favourite sushi restaurant for many years, Kimono-clad servers tend to guests in the main dining area, as well as within private rice paper screened Tatami rooms which can be reserved for groups of eight people or more — a real treat. Peter oversees the Robata Grill and expertly prepares the most sublime grilled fish, seafood and succulent steamed mixed mushrooms bathed with butter, soy sauce and sake marinade. With an assortment of fish, many of which is brought in from Japan, it’s no surprise that 'nami' means 'wave' in Japanese. When it comes to uni, diners either love it or hate it, but Nami’s general manager and executive chef Tadashi Takinami absolutely loves it, with good reason, this “caviar” of the sea is imported direct from Hokkaido. The Sushi Bar is also a fabulous place to sit and watch the nigiri sushi and sashimi being hand prepared by seasoned sushi chefs, but our favourite spot is at the Robata Grill watching Peter masterfully grill the absolute best black cod in the city.

The best seat at Nami is at the Robata Grill right next to the sushi bar

Shrimp and Vegetable Tempura

Chawanmushi with chicken, shrimp, ginko nuts and shiitake mushroom, 
steamed in an egg custard soup with toromi-an sauce

Peter and his young protégé at the Robata Grill

Robata Grilled Salmon Belly and Black Cod with grilled asparagus, king mushrooms, 
sweet potato and zucchini

Shochikubai Sake, served hot

The younger generation of sushi chefs at Nami

Fresh grated wasabi root

Unagi: BBQ Freshwater Eel

Uni from British Columbia




Bluefin medium fatty tuna (chutoro) from Japan 

Spider Roll with soft shell crab rolled with tobiko (flying fish roe), avocado, 
cucumber and creamy Japanese mayonnaise

Peter, the culinary king of the Robata Grill

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Café Boulud Sunday Brunch at The Four Seasons

Michelin-star chef Daniel Boulud’s French Brasserie in Toronto's Four Seasons Hotel in Yorkville, Café Boulud, serves a seasonally changing menu rooted in French tradition, highlighting both bistro classics and contemporary dishes inspired by Chef Daniel’s family meals in Lyon, executed with finesse by chef de cuisine and longtime Boulud protegé Sylvain Assié. The snazzy dining room by London-based designer Martin Brudnizki — acclaimed as one of the world’s top restaurant designers known for bringing a lived-in luxury to his projects such as Le Caprice, J Sheekey, and The Ivy in London — is comfortable and sophisticated with luxurious yet understated details like Hermès wallpaper, Ralph Lauren sconces, retro walnut panelling, mod Jaguar green and tan leather banquets and rich oxblood red 1950s-style chairs, which evoke a playfulness as well as elegance to the space, inviting guests to sit back and surrender to Daniel and Sylvain's rustic yet meticulously executed bistro classics.

Arriving for a festive Sunday Brunch in early December, the Four Seasons was decked out with the most beautiful Christmas trees and fresh fragrant floral arrangements, to mark the beginning of the Christmas season. The heart of the Café Boulud's menu is traditionally French, offering dishes that both Chef Boulud and Chef Assié grew up with in the countryside of France, such as Quenelle de Brochet, northern pike with a cognac Nova Scotia lobster sauce, Croque Madame made housemade jambon de Paris, gruyère cheese, topped with a fried egg, and Handcut Steak Tartare served with pickles and mustard-egg dressing. Equally impressive is Café Boulud's emphasis on charcuterie with a program led by master charcutier Gilles Verot, with a selection of housemade terrines and pâtés. One of the standout dishes on the brunch menu however was the Berry Tartine, which was both beautifully composed and absolutely delicious, served on spelt bread toast slathered with fresh sheep’s cheese and strawberry rhubarb compote, and topped with a mound of strawberries, blackberries and blueberries. The Eggs Meurette with red wine poached eggs, braised short ribs and mushrooms on toasted sourdough bread was also excellent, as are Boulud's outstanding selection of desserts. Nothing says weekend quite like a delicious, leisurely brunch and a plate of warm Madeleines.

Festive Christmas Tree and beautiful fresh floral arrangements outside 
Café Boulud inside Toronto's Four Seasons

Fragrant pink roses

The snazzy interior is comfortable and sophisticated with luxurious retro walnut panelling, mod Jaguar green and tan leather banquets and rich oxblood red 1950s-style chairs

Café Boulud Sunday Brunch Menu

White Negroni Spritz with bitter lemon liqueur, Lillet, fresh squeezed lemon juice and prosecco

Warm flaky croissant

Berries Tartine made with spelt bread toast, maple pecans, fresh sheep’s cheese 
and strawberry rhubarb compote — outstanding!

DB Caesar Salad with tomato confit, anchovies, rosemary croutons, pesto and grated parmesan

Salade Nicoise with confit and seared tuna, olives, tomatoes haricots verts, potato, 
quail's eggs and mesclun greens

Grilled Kale and Fig Salad made with grilled kale, romaine, roasted fig cured duck breast, 
girolle and balsamic vinegar

Alois Lageder 2016 Pinot Grigio from Italy's Alto Adige

Brilliant straw yellow and rich in flavour

Egg Meurette with red wine poached eggs, braised short ribs and mushrooms on toasted sourdough bread

Steak and Eggs with two sunny side up farm fresh eggs, grilled flat iron steak, 
potato rösti and béarnaise sauce

Freshly baked warm lemon Madeleines

Chocolate Brownie Parfait with flourless chocolate cake, iced cream, whipped ganache and topped with praline chocolate croquant 


Breton Galette with Ham and Gruyère
Serves 8
Recipe courtesy of chef Daniel Boulud

2/3 cup buckwheat flour
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 cup water, plus extra as needed
2 tbsp salted butter, melted, plus extra as needed

8 large eggs
1/2 lb Gruyère cheese, grated
1/2 lb Breton sliced ham
1 cup cooked spinach leaves, optional
4 small vine-ripe tomatoes, sliced, optional
Fleur de sel
Freshly ground white pepper

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours and salt. Make a well in the center and add the eggs, milk, and 1 cup of water. Whisk from the inside out, gradually pulling in the dry ingredients from the sides until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Whisk in the melted butter. Then, whisk in ½ cup cold water, or enough so that the batter has the consistency of heavy cream.

Heat a 12-inch nonstick sauté pan over medium-high heat. Remove from the heat and ladle approximately ⅓ cup of the batter in the center. Immediately tilt the pan to evenly distribute the batter into a thin, even layer. Return to the heat and cook undisturbed until lightly browned at the edges, about 1 to 2 minutes. Then flip with a spatula and cook for 1 more minute. Transfer to a plate and repeat until batter is finished.

Return the crepes, one at a time, to the pan over medium heat, and brush the surface with melted salted butter. Separate an egg and reserve the yolk. Spread the egg white onto the crepe evenly by tilting the pan. Then place the egg yolk in the center. Sprinkle cheese around the yolk, and add 2 to 3 slices of ham on top. Scatter spinach leaves and tomato slices, if using, around the yolk. Fold in the corners of the crepe to make a square. Cover and cook until the cheese melts and the egg is cooked, about 30 seconds. Sprinkle yolk with fleur de sel and pepper and serve immediately.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Thai Shrimp Curry with Coconut Milk: Chu Chi Goong

King prawns in a rich red curry sauce with coconut milk, Chu Chi Goong is one of the most well loved curries in northern Thailand. Although large tiger prawns are typically used, a combination of jumbo shrimp and scallops are also excellent. Inspired by a recipe from The Young Thailand Cookbook by Wandee Young and Byron Ayanoglu, I also added sliced bamboo shoots, water chestnuts and bright green peas for added colour and texture. Garnished with finely sliced Kaffir lime leaves, sweet red pepper, fresh basil and served with fragrant Jasmin rice, this luscious curry is full flavoured with just enough heat to make it interesting.  

Thai Shrimp in Spicy Coconut Milk
Serves 2-4
Adapted from The Young Thailand Cookbook

6 lime leaves
4 cups unsweetened coconut milk
4 tbsp red curry paste
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp fish sauce
15 large shrimp, shelled and deveined
1/2 cup bamboo shoot strips, thinly sliced
1/2 cup water chestnuts, thinly sliced
1/4 cup green peas, frozen
2 1/2 cups steamed Jasmin rice

15 whole fresh Thai basil leaves
1 small red pepper, thinly sliced

Slice the lime leaves as thinly as possible — thread-like is best — and reserve. Heat 2 cups of the coconut milk in a large saucepan on high heat until it comes to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium, add the red curry paste and stir to dissolve, cooking for 1-2 minutes until the oil of the coconut milk rises to the surface. Add the sugar, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts and half of the reserved lime leaf. Stir-fry for 30 seconds, then add the fish sauce and final 2 cups of coconut milk. Turn the heat up to maximum and stir-cook for 1 minute. Add the shrimp and green peas, and stir into the sauce. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp have just turned opaque and the oil of the coconut milk has once again risen to the surface. Remove from the heat, and transfer to a warm serving dish and garnish with the remaining lime leaves, basil and strips of red pepper. Serve immediately with steamed Jasmin rice.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Ginza Kappou Ukai: Seasonal Japanese Kaiseki

Based on Ginza Kappou Ukai’s aesthetic concept of “Bimi Hojo, the ultimate dining atmosphere”, the elegant Tokyo restaurant was built in chic Sukiya-Zukuri, or tea ceremony house building style, incorporating both traditional Japanese design and modern architectural elements. They have private rooms, and although these rooms are popular, the chef recommends the counter seats, to enjoy watching how the meals are made, and chatting with the chef about the dishes and ingredients. Not as formal as omakase Kaiseki, the chefs serve seasonal cuisine kappo style, up close and personal with the customers. Using various traditional Japanese cooking methods, Ginza Kappou Ukai uses only the finest seasonal ingredients carefully selected from all over the world to allow guests to savour the sounds and smells of fine seasonal Japanese cuisine. Arriving at Kappou Ukai on a hot Tokyo evening, we were warmly greeted and seated at the chef’s counter and served a glass of champagne before we were treated to the chef's grand Kappou menu. Booking months ahead, reservations are absolutely essential.

The marble lobby with elevator to Ginza Kappou Ukai

A concierge greets guests at the entrance of Kappou Ukai

Lacquer tray table setting with chopsticks and linen napkin at the chef's counter

Glass of Moët & Chandon Rosé Champagne 

The Chef presents some of the sensational ingredients that will be enjoying in our Grand Kaiseki dinner, including uni, hairy crab, anago and sweet corn from Hokkaido

Noodles with tomatoes and sesame sauce

Swimming Crab dressed with orange gelatine

Junmai Ginjo Sake

This elegant crystal sake glass was a beautiful way to enjoy the sake

Sea Urchin and cooked octopus steamed egg custard with pumpkin

Chef presenting the hay smoked eggplant for the next dish

Watching the chef slicing the hot hay smoked eggplant while I enjoy my glass of sake

Shaving the dried Bonito for the eggplant dish

Chef composing the eggplant with a mound of shaved dried bonito

Chargrilled Hay Smoked Eggplant with dried Bonito flakes

Cold Puréed Corn Soup

2013 Barone Ricasoli Colledila Chianti Classico 

Chef grinding fresh wasabi root for the next dish

Chef blowtorching the fish 

Grilled local fish with warm sushi rice

Grilled local fish with fresh grated wasabi and sesame seeds

Warm Sushi Rice with furikake

Chef presenting the Hairy Crab ingredients for the next dish

The chef composing the Hairy Crab dish using the meat from the crab legs

Japanese maple leaves were a garnish for the presentation of the Hairy Crab,
and when I asked the chef about them, he brought a bunch from the kitchen to show me

Yabu being cooked in a copper pan over an open flame

Hairy Crab and Yabu - tofu skin - in soy milk shabu-shabu hot pot

Chef grilling the eel 

Hot from the grill, the chef delicately sliced the anago

Herb Crusted Grilled Eel with balsamic ginger sauce

Traditional Japanese earthenware rice pot presented in a wooden box

The chef presents the rice dish with sweet seasonal corn from Hokkaido

Grilled peach

Tsukemono, or Japanese pickles are an integral part towards the end of a Kaiseki meal

Tall lacquerware soup bowl with lid

Miso soup

Rice with sweet corn

Grilled peach in peach soup with seasonal fruit

A bowl of green Matcha tea was the grand finale of the kaiseki dinner