Where Toronto Eats: Chop Chop

Succulent dumplings and glistening stir fried noodles are by now a mainstay in many Torontonians’ diets — they are everywhere and affordable, unselfconsciously delicious despite their stints as American-Chinese food. In the precarious food world where trends bubble over, these classics seem somehow eternal. We’ll be slurping up versions of glistening noodles long after toasts become toasted bread again, terms of authenticity are redefined, and the kingdom come. And if there is a place to slurp, slurp as the world pirouettes out of orbit, Chop Chop on Dundas West is the place to do it.

The tall windows, the white walls, and the high ceiling of Chop Chop would put one in mind of a hip brunch place with colorful hollandaise sauce and ‘creative’ takes on French toasts, if it weren’t for the subtle nutty smell of woks being worked in a small open kitchen. The simple menu, divided into three short sections, ‘Dumplings’, ‘Appetizers’, and ‘Mains’, feels like a bridge between a menu at a corner takeout joint and one at a place marked authentic. Ginger beef, Shanghai Noodles, and General Tao chicken sit side by side with mapo tofu, Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup, and spicy cucumber salad. The daily specials menu that includes braised eggplant and pig ears continue the theme. Chop Chop does not cater to the shooters in search of the authentic, nor does it fall back on the comforts of the simulacrum. It’s truly welcoming, in the way eating at a friend’s place is: Come eat what we like to eat.

If you luck out and find the pan-fried vegetable dumplings on the daily specials, start there. The thick and chewy skin that’s absorbed the nutty oil lead the way to the sweet fillings of cabbage and other veges I was frankly too absorbed in eating to decipher. The Shanghai noodles is unsettling as it reminds diners of how good this simple dish can be: vegetables sautéed to be soft with a hint of crunch, slivers of pork and small shrimps swimming in the tangle of oil-glistened, perfectly seasoned noodles. The mapo tofu, more mellow and tangy than it would be in a Sichuanese restaurant, is silky and comes with just the right amount of kick to offset its own sweetness. The braised eggplant makes the apostate believe in vegetables again.

Among the fortune cookie-like aphorisms written in crisp red letters throughout Chop Chop, every syllable of “Happiness begins from within your stomach” rings true like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Fashion and Food Meet In Madrid

There is no doubt that the fashion blogging industry is changing and consequently the way we consume fashion is changing too. We are not just adding to our wish list what our favorite influencers wear to this or that event. We now want to go where they go, eat at the restaurants they eat, and have the cocktail they drink after a long day of work.

Restaurants are more aware now than ever of the important role influencers play — hence creating an appealing atmosphere with Instagram-friendly decoration has become one of their priorities. And it has proven very succesful as it attracts both established and new bloggers.

Since these places are of the latest Instagram trend, we’ve visited three of the top restaurants in Madrid that you should definitely stop by (and Instagram)!

Credit: Claudia Peris
Credit: Claudia Peris

El Invernadero Salvador Bachiller

If there is a restaurant that reflects the fusion of fashion and food, this is it. El Invernadero, which means the Greenhouse, is hidden in one of the fashion stores owned by that super famous accessories brand, Salvador Bachiller.

It goes completely unnoticed by the hundreds of tourists and citizens who walk up and down Gran Via, one of Madrid’s most commercial streets. Salvador Bachiller store is a normal shop with its colorful products displayed all over the place. However, if you walk through its doors and venture inward, right at the end you’ll see a stair that will lead you to a secret garden.

Once downstairs, this magical restaurant and bar are decorated with a wide range of different plants, from small trees to young bushes that create an enigmatic atmosphere perfect for surprising your date, hanging out with your friends, or simply spending a different day with your family.

Credit: Claudia Peris
Credit: Claudia Peris

Ramses.Life

Situated at the heart of Madrid’s poshest neighborhood with a beautiful view of the famous Puerta Alcalá and El Retiro park, this restaurant is the favorite of celebrities and the wealthy who gather here to enjoy delicious food, drinks, and music in good company.

Ramses, a fashionable restaurant par excellence, keeps the party going all day, from morning-afternoon brunch to cocktails at night. When lights go down for a subtler atmosphere, Ramses invites anyone to relax and have fun to the sound of a famous DJ (just mind the bill!).

The decoration is Instagram-friendly so you can go and take a cute selfie with a nice background or, if you are lucky, with some well-known Spanish artist. This place is just the spot to see and be seen in the capital.

Credit: Claudia Peris
Credit: Claudia Peris

Casa Lobo

This restaurant and cocktail bar situated in the beautiful residential area of Arturo Soria is the new favorite spot of Spanish fashion influencers and bloggers.

Casa Lobo’s different spaces — a cocktail bar area, a fancy restaurant, and two terraces —, all under the same atmosphere, offer great food and cocktails with beautiful presentations to boot, which incidentally make it easy to share photos of them on your social media accounts.

And after taking that photo, surprise your senses with its menu: a fusion of traditional Spanish food and international influences and avant-garde ideas.

Today, Casa Lobo is becoming so well known that a reservation in advance is necessary, but if you’d like a quick stop by for a drink and a catch up with some friends, there’s always their famous after-work cocktail time.

Continue following our fashion & lifestyle coverage on Facebook, Twitter, and instagram.

What I Wear To Work: Michael Hunter, Chef and co-owner of Antler

 

Michael Hunter - Antler Kitchen & Bar
Phooto Credit: Del Mahabadi

 

Name: Michael Hunter
Occupation: Chef and co-owner of Antler
Wardrobe essentials: In the kitchen, my Birkenstock clogs. Being on your feet all day you need proper support.
Uniform: I’ve ditched the classic chef uniform. I find jackets hot and uncomfortable. I’ve been wearing one for 19 years and now I prefer wearing a t-shirt.
Favourite item in your closet: My hunting gear.

What sources, people, and experiences have you been inspired from?

MH: Nature is my biggest inspiration. I love to cook with what is fresh and in season. I love wild mushrooms and other types of wild food because they are so unique and special. Morels can’t be farmed and only are in season for a month. I look forward to finding them with my kids all year long. I’ve been inspired by many chef mentors and fellow co-workers over the years. That’s the great thing about working as a chef, it’s the type of career where learning is endless. Traveling is also a learning experience for me. I love learning about other cultures food traditions and history.

How has Toronto culinary scene evolved over the years?

MH: I find the chefs are working together and promoting each other. Guest chef series dinners never would have happened before. There seems to be more of a community and camaraderie amongst chefs. Toronto has grown into such a diverse food city. There are so many culturally diverse restaurants now, it’s truly amazing.

What is the most complete experience that people should have when going to a restaurant?

MH: It’s about the whole package, from the quality of food, service and ambiance, right down to the décor, vibe, music, art and even the washrooms.

What can attendees expect when they arrive at your booth during Taste Of Toronto?

MH: Hopefully they try something new. We’re serving farmed wild game meats and wild fish, which our restaurant promotes in the hopes that we inspire people to try eating wild food at home.

Micheal Hunter is just one of Toronto’s food leaders that will be participating this year at Taste of TorontoTickets are on sale now through Ticketmaster.   For more information visit tasteoftoronto.com

 

Hot List: Cresta Toronto

Often restaurants first create their menus and then select wines that are complimentary. How does this Italian-inspired restaurant differ? Cresta’s executive chef Tri Tran switched it around by building a menu around the complex palette of Thomas George Estates world class wines. Named after the iconic California vineyard Cresta Ridge vineyard of Thomas George Estates, the restaurant’s wine selection will definitely go great with your meal.

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Since warmer weather is finally here, we decided to grab a table outside on the patio. Located at 118 The Esplanade across from St. Lawrence Market, the mix of the gorgeous weather and very quiet and relaxing atmosphere was a great start to our evening.  

The interior of the restaurant has a very modern but yet a warm feeling to it. The bar is located right in the middle, and is perfect for customers who just want to go and enjoy a glass of wine.

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Left: Mayacamas Margarita. Right: Market Street Lemonade)

Once our Fashion and Content Director Drew Brown and I sat down, we were greeted by our friendly and extremely knowledgeable server Chris who recommended we start with one of their signature cocktails. Of course after a busy day, we didn’t mind trying one out and they were absolutely delicious! (left: mayacamas margarita. right: market street lemonade)

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heirloom tomato pizza made with fresh tomatoes, red onions, olives, shaved parmesan, basil.

Since it was our first time here we weren’t sure of what to order so the server was happy to give us a hand, telling us the popular choices. We first started off with what the restaurant was known for: pizza. I guess in my opinion, ordering pizza would be considered a main, but in this case it was actually our appetizer. I do not regret our decision .

We selected the heirloom tomato pizza topped with red onions, olives, shaved parmesan, and basil could quite possibly the tastiest pizza I’ve ever had!There was so much delicious sauce on the pizza, that we didn’t need to add their chill oil which is made in-house.

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flat iron steak, potato cake, blistered tomatoes, dandelion greens, balsamic rosemary jus

We wanted try a variety of dishes, so for our next course, I ordered the skate (fish) served with a parsley infused torchietti, grilled corn and tomato salsa. Usually I’m a bit hesitant when it comes to ordering fish because of my past restaurant experiences of being served fish that is either dry or tasteless. The skate was perfectly cooked with the just the right amount of flavour and not dry at all.  I strongly recommend this dishes if you are wanting something light but fulfilling; especially with these rising temperatures.

Drew ordered a medium rare steak that was cooked to perfection. The dish comes with potato cake, blistered tomatoes, and topped with a balsamic rosemary jus.

Both of us are not big a fans of brussel sprouts, and even though it’s a popular item on the menu, we were not completely sold when our server suggested we order it as a side dish. Since at this point all of  his recommendations were perfect, we decided to give it a shot. Gotta try something new once in a while, am I right? One bite and there was no turning back. Cresta’s crispy brussel sprouts with a balsamic glaze truly changed my whole perspective. 

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poached apple crumble with vanilla ice cream on top

Even though we were feeling stuffed after both courses, a meal is never truly complete without dessert. We ordered the poached apple crumble with vanilla ice cream on top. The combination of the cold ice cream with the warm poached apple and the crumble at the bottom was simply heavenly.

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After the most exquisite meal I’ve had so far, they offered us muffin made in-house as a parting gift. I am still raving about their food and service and Drew has finally managed to come out of his food coma.

I truly enjoyed my experience at Cresta Toronto and after learning they now serve brunch, I cannot wait to visit again. Call (416) 901-9113 and make a reservation. Trust me, you won’t regret it!

 

 

 

 

 

The Top 5 “On Our Radar” Stories

May was a whirlwind of a month for Toronto, especially over here at the Novella office, where we spent each day from the 1st to the 31st writing stories about some of our city’s best and brightest. Getting to know these individuals of leadership, creativity and entrepreneurship was an enlightening experience for us all, and we hope the readers felt the same as they read through each unique post.

Now that May has come and gone, we’re looking back at the top five “On Our Radar” posts. Check out the posts that you found most popular last month!

#1: Analogue Gallery Owner Lucia Graca — Photography (May 23)

Analogue Gallery has some of the coolest, most intimate photographs of some of the biggest cultural icons in the music industry. When you step foot into the gallery, it takes you back to the remarkable moments when your favourite musician was performing or rare moments captured offstage. The gallery includes works from some of the industry’s most noted photographers including Ethan Russell and Danny Clinch.”

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#2: Sean Young from El Furniture Warehouse & Queen St. Warehouse — Food (May 22)

“People usually only line up for good stuff. And that’s exactly the case with El Furniture Warehouse and Queen St. Warehouse, both brand-new restaurants (the former appeared in the Annex last summer and the latter opened at Queen and John just months ago) that together have achieved the unthinkable: they’ve added something new to Toronto’s dining (and drinking) scene.”

Sean Young (left) with his partners DJ Skratch Bastid (Paul Murray) and Ian Ross
Sean Young (left) with his partners DJ Skratch Bastid (Paul Murray) and Ian Ross

#3: Blynk Style App — Fashion & Technology (May 12)

“The average personal stylist costs an individual, no less than, $100/hour. Blynk is your personal stylist at your fingertips. The style App enables every customer free fashion advice through a fun, simple interactive and addictive platform. Users swipe to like and dislike outfits, and it also learns your style, giving full outfit recommendations that you can instantly shop from. Blynk combines intelligent technology and compiled feedback from thousands of images through user interactions. Fashion is constantly changing with trends, and this unique App experience, adapts to these changes.”

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#4: Needs&Wants Fashion Designer Sean Brown — Fashion (May 20)

“Toronto’s own fashion designer, Sean Brown, is making his mark in the men’s fashion industry. Brown’s NEEDS&WANTS clothing and brand story are the perfect remedy to overcome the geographical disadvantages (of not being from New York, London, and Paris), while letting the other larger  fashion destinations know that there is serious talent coming from the city of Toronto.”

Sean Brown

#5: Sloane Tea’s Hoda Paripoush — Food (May 24)

You’ve probably heard of Sloane, or at least scrolled past a few breathtaking pictures of its products on Instagram. Loose leaf lovers all over the city have fallen hard for the brand, which beautifully packages its products in ornate tin containers, making it near impossible not to snap a few photos. And, of course, the teas inside are tasty enough to convert any coffee addict.

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And lest we forget the other cool Torontonians and local projects that were featured in On Our Radar: fashion designer Tessa Chorny; Jayscale, Appalledq & Visionelle; Photographers Without Borders; Ela by Ela Handbags; Sketch founder Phyllis Novak; Ten Thousand Coffees founder Dave Wilkin; Freeman; fashion photographer Mike Lewis; Chill Ice House; photographer Steve Carty; Sam James Coffee Bar; The Hand Recordings; artist Kleeshay; jewellery designer Alynne Lavigne; illustrator and fine artist Alanna Cavanagh; master builder Sam Mizrahi; the Jamcam app; temporary tattoo brand Inkbox; Mankind Grooming; PR guru Natasha Koifman; Coup de Tête hat makers; and Sofar Sounds Toronto.

We hope you enjoyed meeting these local luminaries through “On Our Radar.” Be sure to keep up with them this summer to find out what other groundbreaking projects they’re working on! And here’s to another month of uncovering all that our city has to offer in arts, entertainment, culinary and more.