Jamie's Italian | Dining in Covent Garden, London

If you're looking for a spot to grab an enjoyable and casual bite to eat, Jamie's Italian never fails in London. Their Carbonara pasta is our go-to as well as their cocktail selection. The cocktails are always on par and the specials are changing with the seasons. The fries never disappoint, the pork crackling is airy and crunchy, and on top of that their calamari is superb. 

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Food: Calamari, Pork Crackling, Cobbler Cocktail Special, Spaghetti Carbonara, Fries, Gin & Elderflower Cordial Cocktail Special, Panna Cotta with berries and crumble.
Made by: Jamie's Italian
Location: Covent Garden, 11 Upper St Martin's Lane, London

Kissa Tanto | Dining in Vancouver

Voted 2nd best in Vancouver, and ranked in the top 20 in Canada, Kissa Tanto has quite the reputation, but does it have the consistency it takes to stay on top? We took a chance on this odd but uniquely decorated location. As you walk in, you're taken into a retro chic world. The service is friendly and very knowledgeable - everyone was such a foodie!

The appetizers were quite tasty; we experienced their wagyu tartare (carne crudo), which was quite decadent for a starter, and then had the eggplant fritters which were quite largely sized deep fried balls. The porchetta agnolotti was really well made - the pasta was cooked perfectly and the thickness of the agnolotti was precise. The insides however did not entirely taste of porchetta, more of a ham than the smoky and meaty flavours we had hoped for.

We then had a taste of the slow-cooked wagyu steak. This was definitely a wow! Everything you're looking for in a wagyu: a melt-in-your-mouth experience. The special that evening was a pork belly - which was massive but it was divine. Lastly, the dessert of the night was tiramisu. Airy, light, fluffy, not too sweet and just purely indulgent; the tiramisu won our hearts.

We highly recommend you make a reservation (well in advance) to dine at Kissa Tanto. The wine list includes all sorts including sake, as seen in the carafe in the images below. Kissa Tanto's fusion of Asian and Italian cuisines, proves that fusion culinary can be done.

Food: Carne Cruda - Snake River Farms wagyu, pearl onion petals, salt, charred scallino sauce, parmesan, arima sansho, fresh herbs, gnocco frito, Frittelle di Melanzane - garlic eggplant fritter, Porchetta Agnolotti, Wagyu Lifter Steak - 24hr slow cooked, fermented cabbage, Calabrian chili and parmesan, Special of Pork Belly, Dessert Special of Tiramisu.
Made by: Kissa Tanto
Location: 263 East Pender Street, Vancouver

Nook | Dining in Vancouver

Although it's a bit of a line to get on most days, Nook is a great spot for that Italian meal you've been craving. From their pizzas to their pastas, and their cocktails and desserts, the food at Nook does not disappoint. We love the fact that their pastas are cooked al dente (as they should be) and their pizza's crusts are the perfect thickness and filled with flavour. Their Negroni's are very good and very potent. The service is fast pace once you're sat down, and always with a smile. The ambiance in Nook is hustling and bustling with great tunes and people. The fun part about Nook is that it's right on the waterfront near Kitsilano Beach (literally across the street). So after dinner on a summer's night, you can go for a relaxing stroll to help your tummy digest from all the gourmet Italian food you've subjected yourself to.

You can never go wrong when dining at Nook, we will definitely be back! 

Food: Funghi pizza, Gnocchi and baby meatballs, Caserecce with Italian sausage, roast fennel, olives, tomato and chilies.
Made by: Nook Restaurant
Location: 1525 Yew St. Vancouver.

Royal Dinette | Dining in Vancouver

It's hard to believe Royal Dinette has yet to be published on The Gourmoo. Well here we go! 

We cannot count how many times we've visited this Downtown restaurant in Vancouver. Owned by Farmer's Apprentice, its sister restaurant is just as amazing. The Royal Dinette features local ingredients, creating a fresh, farm to table experience. The restaurant is spacious accompanied with a comfortable and chic ambience. It's a fun place to try new dishes that are created almost every day (as the menu changes quite often).

The cocktails (happy hour is a must) are classic and inventively delicious. If you're looking for a unique dining experience and unique menu, Royal Dinette is your place to go.

Below there's a look as to what you might find at this establishment. All the photos are from many visits put together. All their pastas are made in house - they even make their own gluten free pasta which is actually quite fantastic! Their salads are very fresh, sometimes you can find cheese or fish in them - very delectable.

Food: all food varied (take a guess or just go and see for yourself!) 
Made by: Royal Dinette
Location: 905 Dunsmuir Street, Vancouver BC.

Cherche Midi | Dining in NYC

One of my favourite cuisines is that of French cuisine - bistro cuisine in particular. It's not stuffy, pretentious French food, but instead it's homey, simple and absolutely delicious. Pastis used to be a place to frequent in the Big Apple, however after it's closure, many of us were waiting for what was next for owner Keith McNally and GM Eddie Pinto... they were surely not going to end their legacy. 

Well they haven't! Now with Cherche Midi in the Bowery, we can once dine again with at least the feeling of being in Pastis. It is very similar inside, with its tiled flooring and rustic feel. It is very much based on a typical french bistro with its white table cloths and classic bistro chairs. 

The food was very good, I had the beef tartare as a main course and we had a taste of their special which was house-made pasta with mushrooms - I know it's not French cuisine but I would definitely order it again if it comes around! The steak tartare had the right amount of kick to it and it was a great portion as a main. The list of cocktails is very intriguing, I tried their Flower of Scotland which is a gin based cocktail with lemon and fresh basil. Simple, but perfect for a lunchtime cocktail. Of course you can order the classic steak & frites and the frites are VERY good. I think that it's a must to order frites when dining at any french establishment.

I would go back in a heartbeat for another lovely experience and gratifying meal. Bon Appetit! 

Food: House-made fresh pasta with funghi, steak tartare, and the Flower of Scotland cocktail.
Restaurant: Cherche Midi
Location: 282 Bowery, New York, NY 10012

Enoteca Sociale

An absolute favourite. Italian, family styled dining is one of my favourites. I of course have to blog about Enoteca Sociale because a) it's definitely a number one of mine in Toronto and b) it's just so good! IMG_8637

Opened not long ago, this Enoteca has so many things working for them. They are welcoming, the service is superb and they know what they're talking about! Moreover, if you want to taste the best of italian food (or as close as you're going to get to it) with local produce, Sociale has it all. The menu has changed every time that I've been and has not failed me once. From antipastis like their house-cured meats, to their home-made pastas (which is a huge seller for me), everything is delicious.

The last time I went I got to enjoy bone marrow - decadent and so worth it - as well as various pasta dishes from spaghetti to ravioli... Pork chop was another entrée that I got to taste (simple dish but juicy nonetheless).IMG_8638

That evening, a sticky toffee pudding (the best in Toronto might I add), a lemon pudding, and a butter tart with a chocolate filling was offered on the menu.

I highly recommend Enetoca Sociale, but make sure you make reservations WELL in advanced (I usually book at least two weeks in advanced!) Enjoy!

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Al Fresco Restaurante Italiano

Al Fresco was such a wonderful experience. Sitting on the patio, enjoying sangria and pasta... with the sun shining, nothing beats Lisbon during the summer. If you're a foodie, well this is a great spot for you!

Below, we have the appetizer of an egg, lightly battered and fried on top of greens, with a side of mushrooms.  The sangria was very refreshing especially in the heat, but as our entrées we kept it hot. We enjoyed vongole (clams in white sauce with linguine) and a creamy mushroom pasta. Lastly, we enjoyed a specialty of the restaurant: a Zabaione, which consists of egg whites, sugar, and a sweet wine (like that of Moscato d'Asti). It's the consistency of a light custard. Very rich, but definitely a must try. If you want to see more of Al Fresco's creations, click here to get to their Facebook page. Bom apetite!

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Campagnolo

Walk-ins are apparently not uncommon in Toronto when it comes to eating out. My uncle and I were able to walk into Campagnolo at around 7pm and got seats at the bar. We enjoyed a very fulfilling dinner that included pastas, mains, delicious cocktails and a yummy dessert. The bar tender also acted as our waiter and happily recommended his favourite dishes and drinks. The dining room is a decent size and evokes a homey and casual feel. There are two kitchens (one in the dining room and the other at the back). It is a bit loud but the music and ambiance with everyone inside makes the room come alive. The menu tends to change quite often, but we enjoyed a calamari dish, bone marrow with crostinis, two pasta dishes and a very sweet dessert.

Campagnolo was a memorable experience and I am glad I finally got to dine at this snazzy joint. The food was great tasting and presented very nicely. The service was wonderful. I highly recommend anyone in Toronto to dine here!

Osteria Morini - Soho, NYC

Talk about over 10 home-made pastas to choose from! Renown chef, Michael White, opened Osteria Morini in New York City in Soho and  as well in New Jersey. This young, upcoming restaurant has received fantastic reviews and has been packed through Monday to Saturday every week! It's never not busy. Morini offers an italian home-styled setting and the food compliments the atmosphere. With antipastis to start, pasta to follow and if you're feeling ambitious a main course after that, you are sure to enjoy a wonderful experience at chef White's italian escape. IMG_8743

With their own cured meats, I highly suggest ordering a platter to share ($11 per choice, $19 for three and $29 for five). From prosciutto to bresaola, there are plenty to choose from. They also offer crostini which you can pick what toppings you'd like to accompany your one piece ($6) or three pieces ($16) or five pieces ($28). Veal Crudo, tonnato and a hard boiled egg, rabbit with porcini, cherries and orange, or even smoked trout with olives and sour cream could be a choice to have on your crostinis.

The menu has A LOT to offer, and it's great when you can have so many choices (it only asks that you come back to try the other items you hadn't). Entrées consist of many seafood options like that of Branzino, grilled mediterranean sea bass, and meats like that of duck breast ($28) or braised short ribs ($30). Oh and don't forget about the grilled meats and spit roasts they offer (yes, pork, lamb or a 32 oz dry aged prime NY strip steak for two for $79)... crazy!

Lastly, I was the only one who ate dessert that night, but I had a chocolate hazelnut cake with chocolate zabaglione and olive oil gelato ($11) TO SAY THE LEAST. AMAZING. Such a simple dessert but one of my favourites! Olive oil gelato was delicious!

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There is always the case where you cannot decide for yourself on what you might order so they have offered a prix fixe menu available for $70 per person. Learn more here.

Overall I had a pleasurable experience in the living room like restaurant of an old italian barn house. The decor speaks to the 1700s farmlands of Italy. The noise level is pretty moderate but it's a lot of fun to be immersed in such close proximities with other tables whilst dining. The bar menu runs from 5pm-11pm and offer unique drinks and cocktails as well as a large wine menu.

Why go here? Well if you're in NYC I highly suggest Morini because of its home-styled cooking and comfort when dining. It's not pretentious whatsoever and affordable for being in the city. Having dined at many italian restaurants in the big apple, Osteria Morini landed a top spot on my list. Everything tasted absolutely true to the restaurant's roots.  Buon Appetito!