New steak house stakes a claim

Plus Lao­tian eats, a Peruvian-via-Mon­treal trans­plant and more

Richmond Hill Post - - Food -

A FRIENDLY PLACE

Any 905er with a taste for steak should take note: Vaughan is now home to a brand new steak house. Chop, a trans­plant from Canada’s west, is all about an af­ford­able al­ter­na­tive to fine din­ing in a ca­sual set­ting.

Lo­cated on Colos­sus Drive, at the cor­ner of High­way 400 and High­way 7, the lat­est ad­di­tion to the glut of Chop Steak­houses is but the sec­ond in the Toronto area. Although out west there is a smat­ter­ing of Chops (Regina, Ed­mon­ton, Cal­gary), the steak house has re­cently been shak­ing things up in On­tario.

In­side, the ex­pan­sive space is done up in royal blues and bronzes, with wood-topped ta­bles, caged chan­de­liers and a wine cel­lar of an ac­cent wall. For those who in­sist on catch­ing the game while nosh­ing, an oval bar is out­fit­ted with a ros­ter of flat screen TVs, en­sur­ing noth­ing will es­cape you (as long as you perch on those seats with a view).

Din­ers can start their meals with apps that run the gamut from es­car­got-stuffed mush­room to a lob­ster, scal­lop and Gor­gonzola dip. Need that steak up front? Chomp on mar­i­nated steak bites, served with horse­rad­ish aïoli and sweet Di­jon BBQ dip.

When it comes to the steak, Chop keeps the fo­cus trained on cer­ti­fied An­gus beef, which is cooked at 1,800 de­grees Fahren­heit in a spe­cially de­signed oven. Happy car­ni­vores can go whole hog, if so de­sired, or­der­ing the Chop Ex­pe­ri­ence din­ner with a soup or salad and side paired up with your pick of cut: New York strip loin, teriyaki top sir­loin, filet mignon or smoked rib eye to name a few. Pop­u­lar non-steak op­tions in­clude the cit­rus soy glazed sal­mon, served with cu­cum­ber or­ange salsa and a wild rice pi­laf.

As for sip­pers, Chop pours a cae­sar flagged with cel­ery, a sweet pep­per, lime and cel­ery salt (Chop Steak­house, 41 Colos­sus Dr., Wood­bridge, 905-850-2467).

— Karolyne El­la­cott

LAO­TIAN HOSPI­TAL­ITY

Sabai Sabai has en­tered into its sec­ond in­car­na­tion with a move to the Yonge and Bloor area, a dou­bling of its ca­pac­ity and a re­newed fo­cus on Lao­tian hospi­tal­ity and prepa­ra­tions.

Own­ers Ja­son Jiang and Seng Luong re­turned from a few weeks of vis­it­ing their home coun­try with the goal of “bring­ing back the essence of Laos.” Chef Nuit Reg­u­lar (part­ner in the busi­ness and chef-owner of Sukhothai and Pai) has helped to trans­late some of Jiang and Luong’s per­sonal recipes as well as in­fuse her clas­sic north­ern Thai essence along­side some new Lao­tian spe­cial­ties into the menu.

Green pa­paya sal­ads ($11) are mixed by mor­tar and pes­tle, in­cor­po­rat­ing sweet and salty Thai blue crab, crisp long bean and house-made fish sauce, called padaek, done with fer­mented fresh­wa­ter fish and shrimp paste.

No oil is used to sauté the minced pork laap Lao let­tuce wraps ($12), in­fused with an aro­matic bou­quet of fresh herbs like Viet­namese fin­ger mint, coriander saw­tooth mint, lemon grass, lime leaf, gin­ger and shal­lot.

An 11-item ve­gan menu is also avail­able daily, with clas­sics like the tom ka soup ($7.50) and eggplant stir-fry with Thai basil and red pep­per ($10), as well as the slen­der mixed rice noo­dles that form the base for co­conut mee kati ($13) with tamarind sauce, king oys­ter mush­rooms and tofu, in­stead of the chicken and egg thread op­tions found on the main menu (Sabai Sabai, 81 Bloor St. E., 647-748-4225).

— Ja­son Fine­stone

IT’S ALL ABOUT PERU

Mochica, a Toronto out­post of one of Mon­treal’s Peruvian restau­rants, now oc­cu­pies the space at 614 Col­lege St. The ad­dress, near Bathurst, had been home to Pisco 1641.

The restau­rant’s name refers to the Moche civ­i­liza­tion that pre­dated the In­cas in the nar­row strip of Peru be­tween the Pa­cific Ocean and the An­des.

Co-owner and chef Martin Oré, who is orig­i­nally from Tru­jillo, opened Mochica in Mon­treal 12 years ago to pay homage to his roots. His culi­nary roots started at home with his abuela. Hav­ing tired of life as a civil ser­vant with the Hous­ing So­ci­ety of Que­bec, Oré de­cided to turn pas­sion into a ca­reer and en­rolled in the Cor­don Bleu culi­nary school in Lima, study­ing tra­di­tional Peruvian cui­sine. Oré is a restau­rant vet­eran who also owns Huaca Mar and Ce­viche Bar in Tru­jillo and the Mochi­can Palace Ho­tel, a five-star ho­tel in Huan­chaco, Peru.

The menu at Mochica is seafood heavy, pay­ing homage to Tru­jillo, a coastal city abun­dant in fish and shell­fish. Ce­viche fea­tures promi­nently on the menu, although, if you want to ex­pe­ri­ence some­thing that is re­flec­tive of Peruvian culture, you’ll want to opt for the tira­dito, a cousin to ce­viche that was in­flu­enced by Peru’s Ja­panese ex-pats.

Meatier op­tions in­clude the an­tic­u­cho de cora­zon or grilled beef heart. If you’re feel­ing re­ally ad­ven­tur­ous, there’s also al­paca on of­fer. Tra­di­tion­ally, a llama was sac­ri­ficed to the gods, but Oré has de­cided to source his meat from the al­paca (llama’s smaller cousin) farms of Que­bec. For those who have never tasted al­paca be­fore, Oré de­scribes it as some­where be­tween lamb and veal. The drinks menu is pisco heavy, from the tra­di­tional pisco sour, made from lime, sugar and spir­its, to more un­con­ven­tional of­fer­ings like pas­sion fruit (Mochica, 614 Col­lege St., 647-352-1641).

— Yvonne Tsui

NOT SO BA­SIC

Noted restau­ra­teur Hemant Bhag­wani, of Lea­side’s amaz­ing Amaya, has opened his new­est project, Leela In­dian Food Bar, in the Junc­tion. The restau­rant’s moniker is a nod to Ramlila — an epic play that de­picts the life of Rama, an in­car­na­tion of the god Vishnu, and is staged over a 10-day pe­riod (or some­times longer). Bhag­wani wanted to con­nect the im­agery of rich colours, sets and his­tory with the vi­brant flavours of In­dian cui­sine. An artis­tic de­pic­tion of Rama serves as the fo­cal point of the restau­rant’s decor.

“In­dian food has be­come too bor­ing,” says Bhag­wani, be­fore stat­ing that the cui­sine is ei­ther tra­di­tional or go­ing mod­ern. He hopes to play with recipes that are rooted in tra­di­tion and re­fine the flavours. For in­stance, his HB’s but­ter chicken ($12.95) is smoked over char­coal, and in place of the com­mon canned toma­toes that most restau­rants use in their recipes Bhag­wani uses ex­tremely ripe toma­toes to give it in­ten­sity of flavour.

You’ll also find menu items that pay homage to cuisines that have been in­flu­enced by In­dia. The kad­hai “kali mirch” chicken ($9.95), for ex­am­ple, is Chi­nese wok-fried with black pep­per and tossed with onions and banana pep­pers. The pa­neer lasagne ($10.95) subs in thin slices of pa­neer as lasagna sheets and minced eggplant as the fill­ing. The in­spi­ra­tion be­hind it stems from a trip Bhag­wani took to Mi­ami, where he dined on zuc­chini lasagna at a plant-based restau­rant. His “In­di­an­ized” ver­sion is a dish he’s par­tic­u­larly proud of (Leela In­dian Food Bar, 3108 Dun­das St. W., 416-769-7777).

— Yvonne Tsui

Clock­wise from left: Chop’s glazed sal­mon with wild rice pi­laf, the chicken naan at Leela, Sabai Sabai’s pork belly Lao sausage

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