Last week I had the pleasure of trying Fresh City Farm’s newly launched ready-to eat Fresh Meals. If you haven’t heard of Fresh City Farms, they are a Toronto-based city farm and organic e-grocer, delivering fresh organic produce and groceries … Continue reading
I don’t think it needs to be said again, but I’ll say it anyway. I love oysters. Besides the facts that make them so insanely neat, I love them, most of all, for their ability to bring friends closer together, put smiles on faces and fill (some of) us with mixed feelings of dread, wonder and respect. From childhood, oysters have been a favourite of mine and will remain on my love-list forever. They never cease to amaze me!
Last month I turned twenty-eight. Twenty-eight on the twenty-eighth. To be more specific: my ‘champagne birthday’. I decided to plan something fun for this once-in-a-lifetime happening and, almost in the same instant, I decided that oysters had to be involved. If you know me well enough (or have thoroughly explored this blog), you know that it makes perfect sense that I would gather my friends on my birthday for a group Oyster 101 and shuckfest. All my favourite people AND oysters (AND spicy caesars) in the same place? That just can’t be beat. Nothing could make me happier than to share a bit of oyster-love with the ones I love! Also: can I really be friends with you if you don’t know a thing or two about oysters? (Kidding…sort of not, though.)
It only took me a dozen oysters at Oysterfest in Toronto two years ago to realize what I’d been missing out on for so many years. I hadn’t eaten raw oysters before that special day, and fell in love with the briny beauties instantly. I didn’t know much about oysters or the oyster community in Toronto back then. All I knew was that I needed to find out where the best oysters were, and have some more!
I AM SO GLAD I FOUND OYSTER BOY.
It’s not only their AMAZING oysters that make Oyster Boy my favourite oyster bar. It’s also the atmosphere. I love everything about the place. It’s a small, warm, cozy restaurant by Trinity Bellwoods Park on Queen Street West with wonderful food and terrific people. Everyone is extremely friendly, from the shuckers, to the servers, to the chefs. It’s one of those restaurants that you walk into and can feel the love. You feel their love for oysters, for the restaurant, and for eachother. The restaurant is simply, and very well, decorated. The walls are adorned with all things oyster and the sea. You’ll find a beautiful collection of everything from family photos to seaside memorabilia, art, maps, and oyster shells. They’ve even got pretty little oyster shell light fixtures along the walls. You can tell each of these pieces has got a story behind it, and that’s what makes it more special than anything. Take the time to check it all out. Oyster boy is like a small family that welcomes you into their home. I sometimes joke that it’s my second home (and by joke, I mean I sort of wish it was). Everything’s just so great there that it seems silly to go anywhere else. For a while I didn’t even bother trying other oyster bars. I’ve now tried a handful of places in Toronto, and have to say that Oyster Boy remains my fave.
Oyster Boy has built a strong reputation for being one of the best oyster houses in the city. They are also one the main suppliers of oysters in Toronto, catering to restaurants, events, and private parties. Their oysters are always fresh and you’ll find some of the top shuckers in Canada behind the oyster bar. They’re super friendly, and so knowledgable. There’s lots to learn, so ask away! In fact, they hold really great shucking classes at the restaurant on weekends. I did a class a few months ago and it was loads of fun. You’ll learn more than you’d ever dream about oysters and all the tricks to shucking them the right way. The best part though, of course, is eating your first 16 self-shucked beauties.
My first time shucking at a shucking class. Call to check availability and book a class. Booking a class with a group of friends or colleagues for a birthday or work event is a great idea. 🙂
Our two dozen from my visit last week. These were Plack Pearls (BC), Kumamotos (USA), and St. Simons (NB). Delish. We always ask the shucker which oysters are particularly good that day. If you’re not sure which oysters to order, be sure to ask. The servers and shuckers know their stuff, and they’ll give you great suggestions.
The Black Pearls were really yummy, and they’re gorgeous to look at. The shells were more thin and delicate than most others I’ve seen, and the oysters had frilly black edges. They were a perfect combination of salty and sweet, and almost had a slight watermelon or melon rind flavour to them. We liked these so much that we saved them for last. 🙂
Kumamotos have always been a favourite of mine. Definitely worth a try…and then another try (and another one). They are small oysters that originate from the Kumamoto region of Kyushu, Japan. They were transported to the United States and are now farmed on the west coast. They have deep cupping, fluted shells (like a little oyster bucket…so cute) and a mild, smooth, sweet taste. They are sometimes described as having a buttery flavour. I’ve also heard them be referred to as a “dessert oyster”. I always say they’re like the cheesecake of oysters…maybe that’s taking it a little too far…I love cheesecake.
Oysters are always served with lemon, freshly grated horseradish, and three housemade sauces. The sauces include a cocktail sauce, a ginger and banana pepper hot sauce, and a shallot and red wine vinaigrette. The hot pepper blend is not too hot, it adds the perfect amount of spice, and the red wine vinaigrette is amazing. Their sauces are the best I’ve had.
There are cooked oyster options too, if you’re not into the whole raw seafood thing. They bake oysters a few different ways, or you can order them fried. I’ve tried the Oysters Royale, baked with crab meat and a sherry bechamel. A really nice change from the classic Rockefellers you find at most other restaurants.
There are so many other oyster varieties I’ve eaten at Oyster Boy. Some of the others include Black Point, Beach Angel, Malpeque, Caraquette, Caspumpec, Cavendish Cup, and Colville Bay oysters. Try some from the east coast, and some from the west. Mix it up!
They have my favourite beer on tap. (Another plus.) Pints of Beau’s (and Jameson) have become our Oyster Boy tradition. It’s what I order every time I’m there. Spicy caesars are good too (with fresh horseradish, yum!).
Although oysters are a main attraction for me, I cannot deny that the rest of the menu is equally delicious! Oyster Boy is a seafood lover’s dream come true. I’ve been lucky enough to try a number of different menu items on my many visits. We always order a couple of other things to go with our oysters.
I am a huge chowder fan and the Sustainable Seafood Chowder here is really good. It’s rich and hearty, and the nice, plump clams are the best part. A lot of the time they have a daily soup special as well, so make sure you ask your server. The daily specials are always tres fab!
This is a past soup special: Smoked Whitefish Jalapeno Corn Chowder, with fingerling potatoes and topped with seasoned popcorn. It was similar to the Smoked Jalapeno Corn Chowder with Smoked Oysters they served at Soupstock 2012.
Oyster Boy makes a pretty mean fish taco…and fish tacos rule! The fish is crisp, juicy and has got nice, spicy flavour. The juicy, saucy goodness tends to leak all over your hands and you end up with sauce all over your face, but this is what tacos are about. Ask for some extra napkins and dig in. Enjoy them!
Steamed clams and mussels are both classic seafood favourites, and we order them here time and time again. The mussels are done three ways: classic garlic, white wine, parsley broth, a coconut curry broth, and a smoky tomato chorizo broth. I’ve tried all three. The coconut curry broth can be a nice change if you’re in a curry kind of mood, but you can’t go wrong with the classic. The clams are steamed in the classic garlic, white wine, parsley broth, and usually plump and juicy. (If you ask nicely you could try them in one of the mussel flavours.) Don’t forget to ask for bread to mop up that broth!
They serve whole steamed shellfish, lobster or crab (when it’s available). It’s so much cheaper to steam one of these bad boys at home, but you deserve a treat every now and then! The dungeness crab we had was fresh and perfectly steamed.
The Sturgeon Ceviche is divine. It’s a great starter, served with crispy taro chips.
I love oyster boy’s thin-cut shoestring fries. They are to die for, and a great side to add to your meal. They come with a choice of chipotle, lime jalapeno aioli, or a curry sauce on a half oyster shell. 🙂 They also offer yummy onion rings, the size of your hand!
They’ve got other seafood favourites such as crab cakes and fish and chips (I’ve heard the fish and chips are really great), along with some tasty salads as well. They also serve pasta and non-seafood options. (I’m usually there for seafood.) Always check what the daily specials are because they are always AMAZING! They have some really creative delicious choices!
We always stop by late in the evening, so I’ve never had to wait for a table, although I’ve heard it gets crazy busy during prime meal times. Reserve a table to be safe.
I’ve hopefully inspired you to give this place a try. It’s one of my favourite restaurants and I hope you love it as much as I do.
Happy seafooding! xx
There’s almost no better way to celebrate a birthday than with a taco feast. Tacos are one of many pleasures in my life (with an emphasis on fish tacos). All my taco tasting actually began when I declared my life to be a continuing hunt for the best fish tacos in Toronto. I have to say though, there are a bunch of bests. I can’t choose one, that’s silly. There’s so many yummy variations, and I love them all. So naturally, when my birthday-girl-of-a-friend asks if I want to go for birthday tacos at La Carnita…I say HELL YES.
I’ve been to La Carnita a few times and cannot get enough of it! This once pop-up turned perma-restaurant serves delicious Mexican street food and has a great drink menu as well! It’s definitely a Toronto taco hotspot. The food and drinks are moderate to highly priced. I’d say two people could spend within 50 dollars for drinks and a satisfying spread of food (including an app and dessert). Totally worth it though. The atmosphere is super relaxed and they play great music (not too loud). When you walk into the restaurant, you are instantly greeted by the wonderful aroma, old-school hip-hop, and friendly staff. And The charming restaurant is dimly lit with unique light fixtures and full of dark, rustic furniture. The walls are covered in custom free-hand graffiti and murals, and it is always packed. They don’t take reservations, so you just have to pray they won’t be too busy. You can leave your phone number and they’ll text you when a table becomes available for you.
The best way to pass the time while waiting for a table is to take a seat at the bar (if it’s not completely full), and choose a delicious drink from their drink menu. They have great Mexican beers as well as wines and some really unique, yummy cocktails. I order a drink and I’m usually seated before I even finish it. I generally order a mojito…because I love them. However, this time I decided to try something new. Our drink selections:
The boys ordered beers (boys do that), but didn’t end up choosing Mexican varieties. They went for a pint of Muskoka Mad Tom IPA and a bottle of Liberty Ale. We girls opted to try beer cocktails. They were new to us, and quite delicious! My drink was called the Bread & Butter and involved mixing a bottle of Negra Modelo with iced lime juice in a chili and salt rimmed glass. She chose to try the OG Michelada, which was like a delicious spicy beer caesar. This was a mix of Clamato, lime juice, hot sauce, and a cold can of Tecate. If you like caesars, that’s a good one to try. I have a friend who lives and dies by La Carnita’s Who Shot Ya, which is a pink bourbon-based drink, and apparently delicious. It’s a mix of bourbon, ginger, lemon, and hibiscus grenadine. So creative!
As predicted, a table was ready for us before we were even five sips into our drinks. We sat down, got comfy, and began to devise our taco plan of action.
If I could, I would order everything on the menu. They have a selection of yummy starters. We always start with the crispy housemade tortilla chips (that are dusted in ancho chile powder..yum!). The toasty chips can come with one side, or all three that they have to offer. We always do all three (again, don’t ask me to pick one). They make slight changes to the menu throughout the year. This visit we had a trio of guacamole, a fresh housemade salsa fresca, and a mezcal chipotle pate. I checked out their current menu and they’ve replaced the salsa with a sikil pak (Mexican pumpkin seed dip)…a reason for me to return! Chips are great! Dips are great! We ordered more tortillas to finish our remaining dip. “Umm, NO I’m not done with that!”
I’ve got to go back to try some other starters. I’ve had a swordfish ceviche there in the past that was delish. They also serve Mexican meatballs, avocado mango salad, and Mexican street-corn (when in season) charred to perfection with a Mexican crema drizzled over top.
Now for the main event…TACOS! La Carnita does a variety of different tacos. All have their own kind of flavour and are yummy in their own way. The restaurant also offers daily taco specials, so there’s a featured taco for every day of the week. One of the features I have yet to try (but I’ve heard all about) is a crispy squid taco that they’ve named Squid The Kid (love their fun taco names). Crispy squid + mango hot sauce + crema + lime cabbage + red chillies + cilantro…sounds like Mexican seafood heaven to me. I’d like to go there when I die, please.
Side note about the strategic food-ordering skills I’ve developed with my boyfriend to maximize how many yummy dishes we can taste in one meal (that I’ve mentioned in other posts)… Our taco eating secret is to order all different tacos and eat half each. This is the best way to enjoy all the different flavours, and not have your jeans burst open during your meal. (If you explode, you probably won’t be able to ever eat again…big foodie fail). We usually do four tacos between the two of us.
This visit, our quartet decided on two orders of In Cod We Trust, La Carnita’s famous voltron fish taco. I’m not religious, but I definitely believe in cod. 🙂 This taco is a MUST every time I go. (I told you about my fish taco addiction.) Fried cod + voltron sauce + lime crema + pickled red cabbage + cilantro = fish party in your mouth (pickled cabbage is one of my fave taco toppings).
We also ordered two Crispy Avocado & Frijoles tacos. These are so yummy and a great vegetarian option. Beans + crispy avocado + chipotle sauce + queso fresco (cheese) + cilantro = creamy, crispy, beany goodness.
Another one I always go for is the Tostada De Ceviche. I gravitate towards the seafood options, and I LOVE ceviche. Swordfish + guacamole + coconut + habanero + tomato + cucumber…on a crispy tostada. The tanginess of the ceviche with the guacamole (and a bit of spice) is wonderful.
A really good taco, if you’re not seafood-crazy, is the Pollo Frito. Chicken + peanut mole sauce + pickled green cabbage + salsa fresca. My favourite part about this is that the chicken is SPICY. I love a good kick to my food, and this was a very pleasant surprise. The pickled cabbage and spicy kick work wonderfully together.
The Beef Cheek!!! Another taco that offers some good, spicy flavour. Ancho braised beef cheek (tender creaminess) + lime avocado + green cabbage + pickled jalapeno + crispy shallots = spicy, cheeky love wrapped in a tortilla blanket.
One of the boys chose to go for the Thursday featured taco, the Cochinita Pibil. This is braised pork + orange jicama salsa + pickled onion + queso cotija. (The pictures tell me there may have been some guac in there too.) Never tried this one, but it looks almost like juicy pulled pork and I was told it was tasty and reminded him of chili.
When the taco platters start to arrive I get excited for what’s coming. We each bite into our first tacos and smile. So great sharing good food with good people. We spent our time eating, drinking, chatting, comparing tacos, and picking favourites. Before I even knew it, I was stuffed.
I’m not too much of a dessert person, but it was a birthday celebration after all. The dessert menu consisted of Churros, Paletas, and Tres Leche Cake. I pointed out that there were four of us, and three churros in a single order. We sort of hesitated to order six of these Mexican doughnut sticks. We were so full. However, the waitress laughed and said not too worry about it. People fight over churros, they would be eaten. We took her word for it and asked for two orders.
It was a smart decision, because they were delicious. Warm, crisp, and sugary, and served in a cup of warm housemade cajeta (sweetened caramelized milk). Non-dessert-eating me ended eating two churros, and scraping every last bit of cajeta from the cups. Sometimes I like dessert…
When you get your bill, it always comes along with a free limited print of a Dia de los Muertos inspired skull done by different artists. I think you can buy the prints too. It’s just one more thing I love about La Carnita. The work they do with art and the support they give artists. They’ve incorporated some amazing art in their restaurant, in the lighting and the art and murals on the walls. Super cool.
In a city as cultured as Toronto, there are so many great restaurants to try! La Carnita is one of my favourite Mexican restaurants. If you haven’t been there, you should give it a try. I think you’ll love it. 🙂
They’re located near College & Bathurst. On College St. just west of Bathurst St. (501 College St. Toronto, Ontario, Canada.) Check out their website!
Happy feasting! xx
Continuing the seafood spree that is my life, I decided to finally head to Scarborough and try Diana’s Oyster Bar & Grill. I’ve only had oysters in a couple places in Toronto. I’ve always remained loyal to Oyster Boy (Queen St. West, Toronto), that place is like my second home. However, I love trying new things and I had heard so many wonderful things about Diana’s that I just had to go and see for myself what all the fuss was about (sorry, Oyster Boy).
Before the restaurant, Diana’s Seafood was a seafood store only (one of the best fishmongers in Toronto), selling all types of fresh seafood and oysters. I haven’t been to the store yet, but I definitely will go soon. The store is shaped like a ship, with the bow facing the street, it has the big swinging doors, and its walls are lined with portholes shaped windows. How fitting! I’ll hopefully find time to go this weekend. They’re having a special on sea urchin! (YUMMY! That got me super excited.) In late 2011, Diana’s took over the property next door and opened a restaurant. Customers can now enjoy their fresh seafood without having to wait to get home and prepare it themselves.
We went on a Saturday, later in the evening. It was an anniversary celebration, and what better way to celebrate then to indulge in dozens of oysters and delish seafood dishes. 🙂
The first thing I noticed was all the huge selection of oysters they had behind the bar, all on ice with name tags. I love trying new varieties of oysters. I try as many new ones as I can. The raw bar had about 14 different types of oysters along with fresh Cherry Stone clams and sea scallops. I was so excited to try them all! Apart from the Malpeques and Kumamotos, I hadn’t tried any of the other oysters they were serving. Boy was I in for a treat!
The restaurant was small, clean, well lit, and simply decorated.
We started with some really good bread (plus a bit of olive oil and balsamic). The bread was warm, light, and with just a touch of toasty crispness. I’ve made it a rule to keep bread eating before meals to a minimum, but it was hard. This bread was great.
I’ve learned to order strategically when going to restaurants now. My eyes are definitely bigger than my stomach. It’s hard when I want to try everything! I start by looking through the whole menu. I try to stay away from entrees, unless they sound absolutely wondrous and too hard to pass up. We sometimes share an entree between two people and then order an assortment of appetizers. At oyster bars, we always start with the usual two dozen oysters. I was really looking forward to the fresh clams and scallops, but to my dismay, they had just run out of the sea scallops. Bummer.
A delicious assortment of oysters arrived at our table and I was bouncing up and down in my seat for joy. We asked for the shucker’s recommendation and I let the waitress know I wanted to try new varieties and which not to include. We had a mix of Lucky Lime, Shigoku, European Flat, Fanny Bay, Virginica, and South Lake oysters as well as some Cherry Stone clams. Each oyster had its own distinct flavour and texture. They were SO GOOD. Diana’s serves them with housemade seafood sauce, mignonette, and a scotch bonnet hot sauce (it’s hot, and so good) along with lemon and freshly grated horseradish.
Cherry Stone clams. They have a mild briny taste are a bit chewier than oysters. These were amazing, but I still love my oysters better.
European flats. These were sweet and meaty, with a weird metallic finish. I’ve never had oysters with such a strong aftertaste. I think it’s a hate it or love it kind of taste. I thought they were delicious.
The Virginica oysters were really delicious. They were plump, meaty, salty, and similar to a Malpeque.
The Shingokus have very deep shells, like little oyster buckets. They were sweet with a light clean salty taste. I almost found they reminded in the slightest bit of Kumamotos (which are a lot more buttery and rich). These are also much larger than Kumamotos.
Dressed Shigokus. We always do a cheers, it’s our thing.
Fanny Bay oysters.
Doing what I do best.
Our waitress brought us an extra few Virginicas. 🙂
The oysters were the best part. I really enjoyed the variety and their freshness. I was so satisfied. Our other dishes began to arrive…
We ordered the lobster bisque. I love lobster but don’t do bisque very often. Diana’s bisque was really good. It was rich, not too creamy, lots of flavour and lobster. I scraped my bowl clean. (Bad manners, I know.)
The steamed Gallo mussels were steamed in a white wine sauce (there was also a spicy marinera option). They were quite tasty, but the mussels were a bit overcooked. I must confess, after my recent trip to Halifax, I don’t know if I’ll ever be satisfied with mussels anywhere else ever again. I had the BEST mussels I’ve ever eaten at The Five Fisherman Restaurant & Grill. They were fresh local mussels from Halifax and were cooked in white wine to PERFECTION. Absolutely divine. The biggest , juiciest, most plump mussels I’ve ever seen. My pre-Five-Fisherman-mussel-experience self would probably say these mussels would have been terrific, had they been cooked just a little less.
One thing on the menu that caught my eye was the sea urchin bruschetta. I haven’t always been a sea urchin lover, but I’ve grown to really enjoy its flavour and texture. The thing with sea urchin is that it has to be super fresh to taste great. I could eat a whole tub of fresh urchin. Fresh, raw seafood tastes so good on its own. You can really appreciate its true flavour this way.The bruschetta was yummy and so beautifully plated, although I think I personally prefer a fresh sea urchin sashimi. Really creative dish though, and delicious nonetheless.
Full and so satisfied, I couldn’t even imagine eating dessert. Part of me was dying for a takeout order of creme brulee, but they said it would be too hard to pack it up. (I didn’t need it anyway.) We ordered a cappucino and latte instead, and sat happily discussing how great the oysters were. We were the last customers there and got to enjoy our hot drinks in peace. What a great evening.
Check out their website for menus & raw bar selection:
If you’d like to visit the Diana’s fish market for really great, fresh seafood, they list their products and specials on their website:
This is my first post in my first blog ever! And I’m so excited!
For those who don’t know me, I’m the most perfect example of a food fanatic. I’m the girl that takes a picture of everything I eat, before I eat it, just in case I want to relive the memory later (this has led to an accumulation of a frightening amount of food pictures that I can’t bring myself to delete). I’m an artist at heart. I can never pass up the opportunity to capture a glorious moment of culinary beauty! My friends have been trained to sit and stare at their delicious meals so that I can get my perfect shot before they dig in, no matter how starving they may be. (Haha, best friends ever!) I’m the annoying girl on Facebook that’ll flood your newsfeed with photo after photo of everything I’ve ever eaten. It took me months and months (over a year), of my friends and family telling me over and over again to “Start a food blog!”, to finally realize how passionate I am about food, cooking, photography, and everything in between.
This Hungry Kitten is a blog dedicated to my love for food. It’s a place where I will share my favourite recipes, my favourite restaurants, and my favourite food photos. The internet has been an amazing resource to me for recipe hunting, reading restaurant reviews, and learning great lessons in cooking. Apart from the valuable cooking basics I picked up from mama and papa, I’ve pretty much learned everything else I know about cooking and food through cookbooks and websites. I’m so thrilled that now I’ll be able to share what I’ve learned with the rest of the world!
Growing up in Toronto with a Chinese mom and Scottish dad opened the doors to worlds of different foods for me. My mother usually opts for the Asian cuisine (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai food…she loves it all). My dad is a food adventurer and loves discovering new flavours. I grew up eating anything and everything from chicken feet at dim sum, sharing rotis with my dad, smoked meat sammies in Montreal, mix and match souvlaki skewers with my sis, to veggies and seafood of all kinds, in all forms. I eat what I love, and I love it all!
When I’m not at work in the lab (I’m a microbiologist), shopping, at the gym, in dance class, relaxing in the bath, taking naps, or doing whatever else I do, I am usually fooding. I may have made this word up, but for me, it involves cooking, dining, looking up recipes, ingredient searching, reading reviews, and finding new restaurants in Toronto where I can get my eat on. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely love to indulge, but healthy eating is also a top priority for me and I try new healthy options in my cooking all the time. I spent half my life training professionally to become a ballet dancer, I understand the importance of a healthy diet. I’ll be posting lots of yummy healthy recipes in the weeks to come! I often try vegan, gluten-free, low-carb or sugar-free/low-sugar recipe options. I don’t have very many dietary restrictions, but I take special measures when cooking for friends :). If it tastes amazing and I’ve made it healthier, then that’s a super plus!
Enough about me! I could babble on for days! Hopefully this first post has given you an overview of who I am, the focus of this blog, and why I’m blogging. Hope it’s a hit and that you’re as excited as I am! I’ll hopefully have some recipes and reviews up soon!
Happy eating! xx