Black “Awks” Bistro – my first impression

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Prior to the launch of the Black Ox Bistro restaurant, I had been hearing a lot of hype from friends and family who were getting super excited for the opening. Upon further investigation on Facebook, I realized it had much to do with the fact that it was a halal restaurant serving meaty mains. I must admit, the branding and overall layout of the restaurant is classy and makes you think expensive. However, with the recent bad reviews I had been hearing about Affy’s restaurant – a once classy halal steakhouse in Toronto – it was time for new competition to roll into town.

My first time trying the restaurant was this past Valentine’s Day with my husband. We don’t normally celebrate this as a special occasion, but thought it would be nice to try it out. We called in 2 days before to ask for a reservation and were placed on hold for 2 hours. Yes, you’re probably thinking – why did you wait that long and not hang up? We did, and when we called back 15 minutes later, then 30 minutes later, and then an hour later – it was evident the lady who answered put us on hold and forgot. Not a huge problem for us, but their own phone line was busy for those few hours. I called back the next day and thought I would give them the benefit of the doubt, and was again asked to be put on hold, so I refused and reminded them of yesterday’s incident – to which she acknowledged by laughing.¬†We finally got an early dinner reservation for 4:30pm on V’Day.

The next day we showed up on time and had to wait in line while the front host tried to find us seating. He said they had originally placed us at the entrance table which was clearly not suited for a romantic V’Day dinner – as the entire venue was over filled with people going in and out of the front door resulting in a constant cold Canadian winter breeze. I did appreciate the front host finding us alternate seating though.

When we were finally seated, sandwiched between the rows of booths on either side of us, it became clear how overcrowded the seating was. The tables in the centre of the room – including ours – were all placed at an angle to accommodate more people. While this works for any fast food place, I did not particularly enjoy how crammed we were. To give you a better idea, allow me to further explain. My husband was seated closer to another woman on either side of him, than he was to me. To add to this, the tables were ridiculously small – just barely enough for one person. My husband had to keep apologizing to the lady on the other side of him as anytime he moved he would touch her accidentally. You could tell how awkward the entire seating arrangement was by the looks on all the couples’ faces, as they tried to have a conversation with their s/o without having someone else overhear. To put my feelings that night into the best words possible, I’m going to quote Kim K – “This is super awkward.”

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I prayed that the food would distract me from the whole situation. The menu was preset for that day, so we ordered one app to share – the beef brisket poutine, a filet mignon medium-rare for me, a NY striploin steak for him, and a chocolate pie in shortbread crust as dessert for each of us. I have to say, this was one of the most satisfying meals I have had in a long time. My steak was cooked to perfection with delicious peppercorn seasoning, and the poutine was to die for. If anything, I would go back just for that poutine – probably won’t dine in though.

At the end of the night, we ended up paying $100 for a meal that was advertised as $70 for to people. We noticed they charged us $8 extra for the steaks as it was considered an ‘upgrade.’ However, no where on the menu did it say under that heading that you would be charged extra. The waitresses did a great job in serving us, so we didn’t feel it was worth hassling them. After waiting around for the poor waitresses to get through the crammed tables, we finally found some room to exit.I couldn’t be happier to get out of there as soon as possible. It was definitely the shortest dinner I have ever had at a restaurant.

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Beiruti Grand Cafe – French/Mediterranean fusion cuisine

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I have been driving by this area for a number of years on my daily commute, and have monitored the Beiruti Grand Cafe from construction to opening. Nestled in the bustling corporate area on Consumers Rd in North York Ontario, you will find this delightful new hot spot perfect for a quick lunch or on the go latte. While I’m an avid Tim’s drinker, I always love trying new local coffee shops. Upon entrance, you will immediately notice the lavish decor from the door to lighting and various seating areas distributed about the cafe. The minimalist design with all white interior and cozy seating make for an inviting atmosphere. The simple layout ensures you immediately feast your eyes on the main attraction – the colourful displays full of an array of creamy gelato flavours, pastries, and other desserts. Don’t expect to find cheap tasting danishes and overly sugary donuts here. Instead, grab a slice of tiramisu, cheese cake or a delicious macaroon – you won’t be disappointed.

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While sampling through their gelatos, you will find yourself feeling very indecisive. Each flavour is simply dreamy in it’s own way. I settled for their salted caramel latte instead – something I have been used to ordering from Starbucks. I didn’t expect it to be so smooth with just the right mix of sugar and milk. In comparison to Starbucks, I find the pricing works out to be equivalent for the size – a ‘tall’ size is about $4-5 here as well. One thing is for sure, it doesn’t taste like something full of chemicals – and that’s a feeling I’m willing to pay for.

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At Beiruti Grand Cafe there are so many options from desserts, gelatos, coffees, smoothies, to lunch specials with paninis, flat breads, and other French-Mediterranean fusion foods. Unfortunately for us, they’re usually extra busy during lunch so you can find the wait to be a bit longer. Whenever I’m around, I can’t help but stop by for a little taste of something sweet.

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Chocolada – a delicious little gem in Thornhill

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When it comes to cakes, I’m not a fan of those retail store bought birthday cakes and desserts you always seem to find at children’s parties. The icing always feels so overwhelming that by the time you finally bite into the actual cake, you have already fulfilled your sweet craving. Maybe as a kid growing up we all enjoyed those cakes because we never really knew how bad they truly were for us – or perhaps the fact that you only got them once a year. While seeing a vanilla cake full of sprinkles definitely tugs on your heart strings, it doesn’t quite cut it when you want a special occasion cake with a luxurious (dare I say grown-up) taste.

While looking for an anniversary cake for my husband and myself, we knew it would be a major compromise. I’m more of fruit-loving gal with minimal vanilla icing – preferably whipped cream. He’s got nothing but love for chocolate -which is also the reason we have never been able to share a dessert. After some google searching, review reading, and seeing as there were a couple other bakeries nearby this one, we decided to drive down and give it a try.

Chocolada is located in the corner of a little plaza on Steeles Ave West and Yonge St in Thornhill Ontario. Upon entering you will want to quickly run away when you see the heaps of flyers and newspapers on the floor before you can get into the store – no idea what purpose this serves. Once you get through this, you will bless your eyes with artfully decorated cakes, miniature desserts, baked goods, and specialty teas (this part had me love-struck). The one thing you definitely cannot miss is the busy in and out of customers and people sipping their lattes and indulging in their desserts while seated at cute little tables off to the side. I knew I had to try it.

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After sharing a chocolate cake slice with my husband, we knew this place was it. Now, it was just a matter of deciding which cake would satisfy both our taste buds and that of our families. It wasn’t long before we made our decision to go with the chocolate strawberry mousse cake – with decadent chocolate cake and mousse, and light strawberry filling in each layer. Although my husband did have to pass up a Nutella chocolate cake (yes, don’t hate), he didn’t regret it as he finally agreed that chocolate and fruit work well¬†together.

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If you are looking for a budget cake, I wouldn’t recommend this as the cakes start at $29 for an 8″. However, it was just enough for 9 people. If you want a custom cake, they are fairly quick as I was informed they need 1-2 days notice to make a fresh cake to order – in comparison to other bakeries.

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The best thing about the cake is that you barely feel like you ate it – which could also be a bad thing. It is so light and airy because of the mousse and light strawberry filling that I could have kept eating it had it not finished so quickly.

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That above my friends, is one of the desserts I had the pleasure of trying. If you haven’t already noticed, it is tiramisu in an edible chocolate cup. It was simply delicious – as were the other desserts I tried. The only downfall, they don’t offer free sampling before you buy the cake – can’t blame them though. After having our anniversary cake, we don’t settle on anything else even for birthdays and other occasions.

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