One of the hard things to do when you have food allergies, or know someone who has food allergies, is finding a good restaurant that can accommodate and cater to your specific needs. Recently, one of my co-workers was on a limited wheat diet but wanted to indulge in pasta. So when we heard that Ritorno had a selection of gluten-free choices on their menu, we decided to make a group trip out of it and see what deliciousness awaited us.

We arrived at the restaurant shortly before noon and our group of four was one of only three tables. Looking around the restaurant, it was bright and cozy with lots of natural light from the big windows along the wall that faced the parking lot. The tables were a dark wood and there was an open view into the kitchen from where we sat. The walls were lined with family pictures and it was a quaint atmosphere meant to make you feel at home while you ate. 

Our server came by and took our orders, and we were given a plate of sliced bread with three dipping choices: olive oil, balsamic vinaigrette and a spicy chilli sauce. The bread was soft in the middle and crusty on the outside – we actually ended up asking for a second plate of bread since we were so hungry. (And by “we,” I mean me. I fully admit I ate the majority of the bread.)
Somewhere between ordering our food and receiving the bread starter, a group of eight was seated next to us, and this is where it started to go downhill. Our server was pre-occupied with that table (although there were three servers working that we could see and only five tables in total), and we seemed to have been forgotten. After waiting almost 20 minutes, we finally got our drinks and those of us who ordered soup got our soups. Keeping in mind we were on a tight schedule because we had to go back to work, it seemed a long time for a few waters and a pop.

The restaurant offers a Potato, Asiago and Arugula soup ($8) which unfortunately sounded much better than it actually was. The soup was a creamy puree of potato, cheese and cream as the menu stated, but there was absolutely no flavour to it. It tasted watered down and lacking of any seasoning; while the basil pesto drizzle added a strange oily consistency to the soup. The arugula was plentiful and the only thing in the soup that gave it substance. Overall, it was extremely disappointing for the price.
Again, after waiting another long stretch with no acknowledgement from our server, our main entrees were brought out. Two of us ordered the soup and half sandwich combination ($13) from the lunch menu, but were brought the wrong soup. When we were able to bring this to our server’s attention, we were met with rudeness – as though she couldn’t have been wrong; we must have changed our minds and it was our fault. Instead of bringing back our correct soups immediately, she took her time and was standing by the kitchen chatting before she came back with our food. By then, we had decided we were going to eat the rest of our food or else it would have been cold.
The new soup was the daily soup, which for the day was a Potato Chowder. Large cubes of potato, corn and onion were in a tomato cream broth. The vegetables were cooked perfectly (read: they were not mushy) but again, the soup itself lacked seasoning and was quite bland.
With the soups, we had the Sausage Panini and the Meatball Panini. Both sandwiches were well prepared and stuffed full of meat. The meatballs were covered in a thick tomato sauce that was average, but the meatballs themselves tasted fresh and homemade. The sausage was the better choice of the two, and came with delicious roasted vegetables. 
The Fettuccine Alfredo ($16) with additional Chicken Skewer ($5) looked promising. The pasta itself was cooked to a perfect al dante with no noodles sticking to another. The sauce however, was again, bland and forgettable. As she was eating it, my co-worker remarked that it tasted no different than alfredo sauce from a jar at the grocery store. The chicken skewer was grilled to perfection – moist on the inside and not chewy on the outside. There was no noticeable taste to it that we could tell, so essentially, you’re paying $5 for four cubes of meat.   
Lastly, the gluten-free dish was the Penne Bolognese ($10) in the “piccolo” size (smaller than the normal servings, but still probably much more than what you should eat when it comes to proper serving sizes). Again, the pasta was cooked to a perfect al dante and was nice and hot. The fact that it was gluten-free didn’t make much difference to the taste or texture, if I hadn’t known I probably wouldn’t have been able to tell gluten-free pasta from regular pasta. The sauce had good texture with chunks of fresh tomato and a fair amount of meat, but the taste was a letdown. My companion also made the comment that she could probably do better with a jar of grocery store sauce for less money.
Overall, our trip to Ritorno was hugely disappointing, topped off by unfriendly service and an extremely long wait (it took us over 1.5 hours to get out the door – and we ate fast!) For the price we paid, we were unhappy with the lack of seasoning and flavour to any dish. There was no “wow” factor anywhere, and the service needs a lot of work. A quick poll of my companions and we all agree – we won’t be “Ritorno-ing” here again.

Ritorno on Restaurantica
Ritorno on Urbanspoon
261 Oak Walk Dr., Oakville

Teriyaki Experience - Mapleview Mall

Mall food. Mall Asian food to be exact. When I was a kid, that meant going to the only place in the food court that had Asian food and even then, the choices were limited to chicken balls and spring rolls. Nowadays, there are places that are Korean, Japanese, Thai...you name it, and it’s available while you shop! The choices are plentiful, which means that eating at a food court isn’t as boring as it used to be!

On somewhat of a healthy kick, I wanted to look for something that wouldn’t blow my diet out of the water but wasn’t a salad. I chose Teriyaki Experience because I figured steamed rice and stir-fry cooked in water (not oil) was one of the healthier choices available to me (though I won’t lie, the fries and burgers were staring me down pretty hard). 

Teriyaki Experience is a made-to-order establishment that throws whatever you order right on the grill that’s behind the glass, so you get to watch them make your food. I saw a sign for the Spicy Chicken and ordered that with rice (you could order it with noodles if you prefer) and a drink for around $8. Feeling brave, I asked for mine to be extra spicy in hopes that I could also clear my sinuses from this horrible cold I’ve been suffering from.

First they throw the meat on the grill and using two large flat spatulas, they toss it around a bit with some squirts of water. As it’s cooking, my rice was spooned into a plastic bowl and placed next to the grill. Once the meat was cooked, sliced onions, red and green peppers were tossed on the grill to slightly cook. Since I ordered the spicy dish, sauce was automatically ladled over the mixture to cook into the meat (usually they ask if you want sauce or not). Then, it’s all scooped up and over the rice and another generous ladle of sauce goes on top. At the end of the counter there are additional condiments you can add: hot sauce, sesame seeds and soy sauce. I gave it a good squirt of hot sauce and a healthy dose of sesame seeds to make it look pretty (I love sesame seeds).
The benefit of ordering a made-to-order meal such as this is that it comes to you piping hot – exactly how I love to eat my food. The first bite I had was a piece of chicken and vegetables with the sauce. Although hot in temperature, I did not find it to be extra spicy in the least, and I’m glad I added the extra hot sauce. To some, the spice may have been adequate, but I was hoping that extra spicy would have earned me some extra heat. Alas, it was not meant to be since the sauce tasted like a typical teriyaki sauce with extra black pepper thrown in. It was underwhelming to say the least. 

However, my biggest complaint was about the rice and its over-stickiness. Properly cooked rice should be sticky to a certain degree, but not so clumpy that it tastes like a big glob of mush with every forkful. You should still be able to see each individual grain and although it sticks to its fellow rice brothers and sisters, you should be able to distinguish one from the other. Unfortunately, the rice I received was none of this and I got a big bowl of gooey rice-like grains. I was so disappointed in the meal I ended up eating just the chicken pieces and being unable to finish the rest – made even more disappointing when I remembered how much I just paid for a few slices of chicken. 
Teriyaki Experience? More like Teri-yucky Experience. Next time, maybe that burger and fries isn’t such a bad idea after all, since this was an experience I would have rather passed on.


I don’t know about you, but when I get invited to big functions the one thing I’m most excited for is the food. Not to say that a wedding or holiday party isn’t the main event, but to me, the food is one of the most memorable things about the whole soiree. My condolences to whoever has to cater my wedding whenever I decide I want to get married, because I’m going to be crazy with high expectations for my food.

My company had our holiday party at Otello’s, which is a banquet hall that is located on the border of Oakville and Mississauga. The venue is split into a small room in a building to one side, and the main building has one large room that can be split in half with a room divider. Our function was in the main building and we had the whole big room to ourselves. Walking in through the doors, you are in a small foyer with two sets of double doors leading to the main room. The foyer is small but cozy with a fireplace between the sets of doors and warm lighting throughout.

The room itself has a bar directly to the right of the doors along the back wall, and a stage area along the whole left wall. There were no windows in the room, but again, the lighting was warm and there was a cozy feel to the room. Round tables of ten were set up across the room, and there is a dance floor if that is what you’re looking for. From what I understand, there were multiple linen choices and my company chose to go with black table covers and white napkins. The look was elegant and simplistic.

On each table there was a basket of assorted rolls and breads and plates with pats of butter sprinkled with coloured salts. The first course was a butternut squash soup that was served piping hot in simple white bowls. The soup had small chunks of diced butternut squash at the bottom and flecks of parsley floating at the top. The broth was smooth and creamy, pureed to a fine consistency.  The flavouring was subtle and the sweet notes of squash sang through the light cream. It was delicious and kept me wanting more.
As we were enjoying the soup, each table was brought a large bowl of mixed greens which was placed in the middle. I have no problem eating family-style, but one of my fellow diners asked for salad plates and was told that we were to use our bread plates. I found that to be an extremely odd answer – especially for a banquet hall which must serve multiple functions – to not have salad plates was strange to me.

The main course was steamed mixed vegetables, roasted potatoes and chicken in white wine sauce. The presentation was again simplistic; there was no fancy drizzling or anything like that here. A sprinkle of parsley was the only garnish to be had. The carrots and the broccoli were slightly over-cooked and had lost the crispness you would expect when biting into a perfectly steamed vegetable. There was no extra seasoning or anything added to the simply steamed vegetables. I actually ended up leaving them on my plate because one of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to food is overcooked vegetables. Soft and mushy should not be part of my vegetable vernacular when it comes to steaming. A good steamed vegetable should be cooked and have a crunch to it when I bite down. Getting off my vegetable soapbox, the potatoes were delicious. Perfectly seasoned with the smell of fresh herbs and roasted until there was a crispy skin and soft middle. I was much more pleased with the potatoes in comparison to the vegetables. Finally, the chicken had its low points and its high points. The piece I had was cooked to perfection where the skin was crispy and the meat was tender and juicy. The white wine sauce was a light cream sauce that was heavy on the parsley and salt, but I didn’t quite taste the wine. My biggest complaint with the chicken was that although it was cooked perfectly, it had no flavour. I suppose the thought was that the wine sauce would provide the majority of the flavour, but since the sauce fell flat in that department, I had a perfectly roasted piece of chicken that didn’t taste like much. It needed more seasoning, and the sauce needed to be more flavourful and they could have knocked this dish out of the park.
Lastly, for dessert we had a chocolate mousse with a swirl of raspberry served in martini glasses. The garnish was half a strawberry, a small brownie and a dollop of whipped cream which tasted as though it was fresh whipped. The brownie was decadent and the bite sized morsel was almost a rich enough dessert on its own. Dark chocolate baked into a dense brownie with a crispy edge – it was delicious. The parfait was okay. I neither loved it, nor hated it, but it was very average tasting and didn’t “wow” me as I thought it would. The mousse was light but the raspberry tasted thinned and almost too syrupy. Overall, I enjoyed the small brownie on top more than I did the actual dessert.
My overall impression of Otello’s is that it is a warm and cozy venue for smaller events (I think it has the capacity for around 200 people? Don’t quote me on that, but it’s not huge by any means). The service was friendly and discrete, and I appreciated the gesture they made of serving the women at the table first before serving the men (call me old-fashioned but I thought that was really nice). The food was decent and has potential to be outstanding. My only concern is that we were a group of about 60 people and there were a few slip-ups that I noticed, so I would be mindful of that if I was booking an event for a large group.

2273 Royal Windsor Dr., Oakville

Recipe - Yum Drops

I’m one of those people who always craves certain foods at certain times, and shortly after it’s satisfied, I’m onto the next craving. I remember reading somewhere once that a typical craving lasts 30 minutes on average, and I snorted reading that because my cravings have been known to linger for days, if not weeks.

They’re never simple cravings either. My current one has been for something salty-sweet, but I didn’t quite know what I wanted. My co-worker recently told me about a strange yet intriguing treat she had tried while traveling out West and my brain went into overdrive. These chocolate-peanut butter-chip concoctions definitely piqued my interest and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about them since she mentioned how good they were.

I decided I would make them as a sweet goodie for the roomie’s birthday since she said she didn’t want a typical cake. To be honest, as I was making them, I had a brief moment of “what am I doing?” since I used the basis of the recipe but fiddled around a bit with the ingredients I had on hand. The end result was nothing short of spectacular. Admittedly, the ingredient list sounds like a strange combination, but trust me when I say that these are delicious. The mixture of flavours and textures give it more depth than a cookie or a chocolate bar, and the combination of sweet and salty dance on your tongue. The beauty of this recipe is that it is so easy (one bowl, no baking, and super fast!) and so versatile, plus you can add virtually any ingredient you want to it. I’m pretty sure no matter what you do to it, it would still come out fantastic. Next time I make these, I think adding chopped nuts or raisins or coconut would also be good – the possibilities are endless, but the deliciousness will still be there no matter what you do!

As a final note that has nothing to do with the actual recipe, the actual naming of it caused quite the debate around these parts. My co-worker said that these were nameless, so I took the liberty of giving it a name for this post. Numerous names were tossed around (and viciously shot down) until we came up with the perfect, most simple way to describe exactly what these are. 

If you try them, let me know what you think/what you added!

Yum Drops

1 300g bag of chocolate chips
1 300g bag of peanut butter chips
1 300g bag of butterscotch chips
2 regular sized Skor bars
Regular potato chips, crushed
Popcorn, popped

1.       In microwave safe bowl, combine chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, butterscotch chips. Melt in microwave, stirring often. Be careful not to burn.
2.       Coarsely chop up Skor bars and stir into melted mixture.
3.       Start adding crushed potato chips and popcorn by the handful and toss with the melty goodness. (I find using my silicone spatula sprayed with a bit of Pam at this point helped make things not stick while I mixed.)
4.       Once you have reached your desired combination of salty to sweet (keep tasting...and try to stop yourself from eating the whole bowl as is), spoon by tablespoonful onto waxed paper and let set. You’ll find that the drops start to set fairly quickly, but if you want to speed up the process, slide the wax paper onto a cookie sheet and pop into your freezer for a few minutes. Store in an airtight container.

Makes approximately 30 drops.

*Note: I had a bit of the mixture leftover, but not enough to make a full drop, so I took full potato chips and spread the chocolate mixture on top and let it set. A little more salty, but oh so good. It's another option if you don't want to make them into drops and like a bit more salt with your sweetness. Call them Yum Chips!

House of Wings

As extremely girly as I am in most aspects of my life, there’s a little bit of tomboy in me who likes to be one of the guys and hang out with the boys. So on the night of the Canada vs. USA hockey game during the World Juniors, the boyfriend and I headed out in search of wings, beer, and big screen TVs.

We ended up at House of Wings, which isn’t too far from the house, and located on an end unit in a plaza that has everything from a bank to a grocery store. It was still a little early when we walked in, and we were one of only two tables in the whole restaurant. The decor is homage to old-time Western saloons complete with antique looking chandeliers and swinging saloon doors leading to the washrooms. The booths, tables, chairs and basically anything you could see was made of thick, dark wood which made for a very dark atmosphere which was a little hard to see in.

The menu is straightforward and simple when it comes to things other than the wing sauces. The sauce list was exhaustive and ranged from the standard barbeque to the exotic pineapple curry, and everything in between. There had to have been over 50 sauces to choose from, categorized by level of heat.

We ordered Crunchy Munchy Chips ($6.99) which came with your choice of sauce either drizzled over the chips or on the side. We chose the Sultan’s Wing on the side, which was a mixture of barbeque, blue cheese and Cajun seasoning. The chips came out hot and were fried to a crisp without being greasy and were left unsalted. The decision to leave it unsalted bode well for the sauce because you really got to taste the natural potato flavour of the chip, and you definitely tasted every aspect of the sauce. I was extremely impressed with the Sultan’s Wing, and I’m not generally a blue cheese fan at all. There was sweetness from the barbeque that mixed wonderfully with the Cajun to mute the heat down to a pleasant tinge without it being overly spicy. The blue cheese was present but not overwhelming, and really enhanced the potato flavour of the chip. I could have ordered basket after basket of these chips and I don’t think I’d ever tire of them.
Next up were the Deep Fried Pickles ($5.99), which were long pickle spears tossed in a thin coating of breadcrumbs and deep fried to a golden crisp. Five spears came in the order and were served with a dill dressing, which to me seemed to be redundant. I would have much preferred them with something else – perhaps a ranch dressing so the dill from the pickle could be showcased separately from the sauce. The pickles themselves were piping hot and juicy (I’m pretty sure I burnt my tongue biting into the first one, even though I let it cool slightly), but not as sour as I was hoping. They also weren’t as crisp as I would have hoped, and I believe that was because they were either softer pickles to start with or left in the fryer too long and became overcooked. 
We decided to each order a single order of wings ($9.99 each) so that we could each try a different sauce (rather than ordering a double order and being limited to one sauce). For mine, I chose Snake Eyes as my sauce because I’ve been on a honey mustard kick these days. Snakes Eyes is hot and honey mustard, which unfortunately was the spiciest sauce I could find on the menu that included honey mustard. The wings came out tossed in the hot sauce and drizzled with the honey mustard, which resulted in inconsistent flavours with each bite. The wings themselves were large and juicy, with not a lot of breading so the wings were very meaty. The hot sauce had a bit of a kick but neither the boyfriend nor I found it incredibly spicy. I wish the honey mustard was mixed with the hot sauce before the wings were tossed in it, because the bites I had with both flavours were amazing. The only problem is that it wasn’t enough, and it felt like I was just eating normal wings for most of the time. 
The boyfriend went with Roman Aura: Caesar, Romano parmesan, hot and dill and it was a great combination of flavours. The sauce itself is very similar to the Spicy Garlic Parmesan sauce you see at many wing places, but the dill was an added touch that we had never seen before, and it really balanced out the sauce perfectly. There was a very slight heat to the wings, but again, I would classify it more as a medium sauce rather than a hot sauce.
More people started showing up as game time neared, and we soon found ourselves in a bar full of hockey loving individuals. I hear on Tuesdays they have a wing special which is buy a pound, get a pound free! With good food, good service and a fun atmosphere to watch the game, it was a great night. Of course, Canada winning was the perfect cap to a great evening!  

House of Wings on Restaurantica
House of Wings
2501 Third Line, Oakville

McDonald's Apple Crisp McFlurry

While I was enjoying (and by “enjoying” I mean not sharing) my pie, the boyfriend chose the new Apple Crisp McFlurry as his treat choice. And by “chose” I mean I made him eat it so I could write a review of the new desserts being offered. He loves ice cream and he likes apple crisp...trust me, it really wasn’t much of a hardship! I, on the other hand, am very picky with my apple products because some things make me gag (apple juice, apple sauce) and some things make my heart flutter (apple pie, apple turnovers). Apple crisp is one of those hit or miss items that could go either way for me. It was just in everyone’s best interest if I stuck to the pies and he took over the apple crisp duty.

I’ve always been a fan of Flurries because they’re cheap alternatives to getting a DQ Blizzard, and they’re equally as delicious if you don’t mind less choice in flavours. The only downside is that I have yet to find a seasonal flavour of Flurry that McDonald’s has offered that I actually enjoy. They’re usually epic fails in terms of taste and texture when I try them. So already, the Apple Crisp had a lot of compensating to do for its predecessors. 
When thinking of what goes into an apple crisp, I think of big chunks of apples, a crumble top that isn`t overpowering to the apples, and lots of cinnamon to give it that cozy feel of autumn. The Flurry version had a more liberal interpretation of what makes an apple crisp an apple crisp. Yes, there were chunks of apple but they were small and there weren`t many in the cup. The crisp component was where it got really interesting. There were large chunks of hard, crunchy bits that completely overwhelmed the entire Flurry. It tasted like big pieces of granola, the size of a popped kernel of popcorn, or clumps of hard cereal. It was hard to tell because it was mixed into the ice cream, but the pieces never softened and the texture was so abrasive against the soft serve ice cream, it made it hard to eat. 
From the spoonful I had, the only flavour I could distinguish was the ice cream. There was no taste of apple or cinnamon or anything you would associate with an apple crisp. The bits of crisp were hard but tasteless and I didn’t enjoy the texture in a soft ice cream treat. My boyfriend said that it didn`t get any better as he made his way through the cup, it was the same odd texture combination until the end.
As I said in the beginning of this post – there has yet to be a seasonal flavour of McFlurry that I actually enjoy. Unfortunately, that statement still rings true even after trying the Apple Crisp. My advice if you want apple with your ice cream is to buy one of the apple pies and a small cone (but get it in a cup). Trust me; it`ll taste way better than the Apple Crisp McFlurry (and save you a bit of money).

McDonald's Banana Chocolate Pie

The newest pie offering from McDonald’s is the Banana Chocolate pie, which sounded much too delicious to pass up. I have generally approached banana flavoured items cautiously because the taste can be tricky to master without tasting too artificial and reminiscent of children’s penicillin medication. Although, I was one of those children who loved the taste of the banana medication, so perhaps I’m not the best one to be writing this review here. In my defence however, that stuff was addictively yummy.

Bringing this back to the review and away from my love of children’s medication, I was hesitant that it would taste anything like real bananas dipped in chocolate and enveloped in pastry. The picture also did not help my hesitation because the gooey off-white centre on top of a layer of chocolate didn’t exactly scream “banana” to me. After the debacle that was the Blueberry Maple, I was really starting to wonder why I was looking forward to this, but I was intrigued.

All of the pies from McDonald’s look the same on the outside in the sense that they don’t have any distinctive markings on the pastry that would allow you to identify one from the other if they were lined up in front of you. The one I bought actually came in a box that was for the Apple flavour, but had a sticker to indicate it wasn’t apple. Maybe they haven’t made up new boxes for it yet, or ran out for the day? I just thought it odd.
 Similar to the Blueberry Maple, there was no smell other than the smell of the pastry dough once out of the box. Broken in half, it was very similar to the picture – a thin layer of chocolate topped with a thin layer of off-white banana. I would liken it to the consistency of vanilla pudding if I had to draw a comparison. There was a distinct banana smell once I broke the pie in half, with a hint of chocolate. The first bite was actually impressive. A crisp pastry with a warm inside that tasted exactly like bananas dipped in chocolate. Although the filling was a little on the sweet side, the blandness of the pastry cut the sugar well. The only complaint I had with the pie was that the filling was too runny for my liking. It needed to be thickened so it didn’t ooze after each bite and cause a mess. That said, it wasn’t enough of a deterrent for me to eat every last crumb and wish I had a second one. Overall, I really liked this flavour and would get it again in a heartbeat.

Ruby Thai - Mapleview Mall

Mall food courts have come such a long way over the years. I remember when I was younger, the most exotic thing you could find in a food court were chicken balls with red sauce. No, that is not exotic, by the way.

Mapleview Mall in Burlington completely redid their food court a little while ago as part of the massive renovation of the entire mall. When the food court was re-opened, they had added huge windows along the whole back wall, booths with padded seats and a few new establishments along with their new fancy sitting area. 

I was really excited to see that Ruby Thai was open because Thai food is probably my favourite type of cuisine, and I was curious how it fared in a mall food court. One of the tricks used at the Mapleview location is they offer you samples as you walk by, and I couldn’t help but be drawn in to try the Thai chicken. The chicken was sweet and juicy – very similar to the bourbon chicken from another food court establishment in many malls, Bourbon Street Grill. It didn’t taste very Thai, but I liked it enough that I thought I’d give it a try.
On one side of the counter, there is a hot table set up behind a glass divider with containers of different items available – typical of many food court establishments. On the other end of the counter, there were large pots of boiling water and broth for noodle soups and dumplings. The menu is based on combinations and the prices vary depending on how many items you want plus your choice of rice, Pad Thai or egg noodles. I went with the two item combo with the egg noodles ($7.59). I wanted to taste the Pad Thai but had a feeling I wouldn’t like it very much, so I asked for a sample of it and was graciously given a small portion free of charge.
For my first side, I chose the Thai Chicken because I liked it when I was offered the sample. The meat is very moist, but it is not all white meat. There are distinct pieces of dark meat and I had a piece that was actually quite fatty. That aside, the flavouring of the sauce (very similar to a teriyaki glaze) was sweet and made the meat juicy and tender. If you don’t mind dark meat, it was an option I enjoyed. My second side was the Bang Bang Shrimp, which were large shrimp deep fried with their shells on and pan-tossed in a salt and pepper flake mixture. The shrimp were dry and I had trouble tasting any flavour at all. Growing up, we ate shrimp with the shells on all the time, but most people may be hesitant and peel it off – which would make it even less flavourful than it already was. Not sure if I would get it again with all the other choices available, but I liked saying Bang Bang Shrimp because I’m super mature and it made me giggle. The egg noodles weren’t anything special and fairly standard of food court Chinese egg noodles. Pan fried with a small amount of scrambled egg, shredded carrot and bean sprouts, the only flavour that I could taste was muted soy sauce. The good thing about them was that they weren’t greasy as some places might make them, and the noodles were cooked to perfection. I tossed it with a package of hot sauce and it tasted much better once it had some flavour. As for the Pad Thai that I wanted to sample, I am glad that I went with my gut and knew that I wouldn’t like it very much. They tasted like flat rice noodles tossed in a mixture of ketchup and the red sauce you get from Chinese places to pour over your chicken balls. It was overly sweet with a hint of sour, and had no other flavour to help it out. The noodles were greasy and aside from using rice noodles, I honestly have no idea what made this a Pad Thai. 

When I went to pay I spontaneously ordered a spring roll ($1.89) to round out my order because some part of me obviously felt like there wasn’t enough grease on my plate already. The spring roll itself was piping hot and the wrapper was crispy and light. Unfortunately, it was extremely greasy and seeped into the filling. The filling had bean sprouts and mushroom and I’m not sure what else, but it was pretty forgettable. The dipping sauce was a sweet chilli sauce that aside from being runny, was actually pretty good. It was the only thing that enabled me to finish the spring roll, or else I most likely would have tossed it.

My initial excitement at having a Thai establishment in the food court has quickly deflated after eating at Ruby Thai. From what I tried, there was nothing distinctly Thai in the offerings and it really wasn’t much different than going to any of the original Chinese places that have been around for years. For the price you’re paying, it’s certainly not the cheapest meal at the mall – but I would much rather pay a couple dollars more and get something more authentic and tasty outside the food court.

Imperial Buffet

I like a lot of variety when I’m eating, and have been known to step away from a meal to turn my attention to a completely different meal because I’m bored with my food. For precisely that reason, buffets have always been a good choice for me because I get to sample a large variety of food and my taste buds don’t get a chance to get bored. That and the fact that it normally pleases everyone’s tastes without my having to cook a bunch of different dishes, makes me a big supporter of buffet restaurants.

Located at the corner of Dixie and Dundas in Mississauga, Imperial Buffet has taken over the building which was once occupied by the Town and Country Buffet. It actually isn’t a new restaurant, since it literally moved down the street to this location from its previous, smaller location at the Rockwood Mall. In the back corner of a small plaza, there is plenty of parking on the premises. The restaurant itself is large, with multiple dining rooms all named after zodiac signs. The centre of the building is where the food is laid out in row after row of both hot and cold food. There is a large grill section with meat cut to order, a sushi bar, and a dessert bar that served made to order crepes and waffles.

We were situated in the Pisces room and made small talk with our server before ordering our drinks. For a weekend dinner, the price is $20.99 per person, and $2.50 for bottomless pop. The whole restaurant is decorated in soft yellows and neutral browns, and the tables are a nice light wood (no paper table covers!).

Imperial offers a large number of seafood dishes from hot/cold crab legs to fresh shucked oysters, mini lobsters and a large sushi bar with sashimi. I opted to start with the seafood soup which was an egg drop base with shrimp, scallops, crab and tofu. It was perfectly seasoned and the seafood was well cooked. I paired it with a small visit to the sushi bar where I was impressed with the variety of sushi that was available. The fish was fresh and thick cut, the rolls were rolled tightly without too much rice, and there were bowls of cold tofu that had a delicious sweet soy sauce. You had to ask for sashimi from the attendant, but unfortunately there was no one to be found and I was not able to try any of the offerings.
The salad bar had your typical Caesar and mixed greens, pasta and a few sliced vegetables with a variety of dressings. There was also a large cold seafood section that was piled high with crab legs, cocktail shrimp and fresh shucked oysters – not something you see every day in a buffet. The cocktail sauce that was available was sweet for my taste without a lot of horseradish. 
The hot food selection had a number of standard dishes from fried rice to chicken wings, as well as a number of seafood dishes such as two separate varieties of steamed fish, a number of shrimp dishes and mini lobsters in a spicy sauce. Having never tried mini lobsters before, I was disappointed that they were overcooked and rubbery. There were plenty of hot crab legs served with melted garlic butter, and all of the food was kept well stocked the entire time we were there.

The grilling station had chicken, beef, shrimp and pork, but there was also the addition of roast lamb with a red wine sauce on this particular night. Being a lamb lover, I was excited to try it, but was disappointed when again, it was overcooked. The seasoning was delicious and the sauce was similar to a gravy with a hint of red wine.  The pork chops in lemongrass were my favourite from the grill, but I found the majority of the pieces had quite a bit of fat on them.
Finally, the dessert section was impressive in the number of sweets it offered, but was a bit of a letdown. We waited for a crepe and a waffle, which came from the same batter, and were disappointed. Though the waffle itself was light and fluffy, in the interest of time, it was undercooked and still soft. Had it been left to be crunchy and golden brown, it would have tasted much better. The crepe was good but we made the mistake of adding melted chocolate sauce and strawberry sauce to it. The sauces had a strange artificial and bitter taste, making the crepe inedible. Aside from those, there were numerous pies, muffins, a chocolate fountain with marshmallows, and an ice cream bar (the coconut caramel was delicious). If I wasn’t so full from everything else, I was curious to try the strawberry brulee pie because it looked interesting and I had no idea what it was. I settled instead for a ramekin of crème brulee, which had the burnt sugar on top but was unfortunately overcooked so instead of a custard, it was more of a poached egg consistency.
There were a lot of high points to Imperial, and I enjoyed the variety of dishes that were offered. As with any buffet, you risk eating foods that have been over or undercooked because they are cooking in mass quantities. However, aside from cooking issues, I found the flavour of the majority of the dishes I tried to be quite enjoyable. I also liked that were a variety of dishes that you don’t typically see in a buffet and that the food was kept fresh and well stocked. The staff members are friendly and the price was standard of a good buffet, so I would recommend it if you are looking for a Chinese buffet that offers more than your typical fare.  
Imperial Buffet on Restaurantica
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Imperial Buffet
3120 Dixie Rd., Mississauga