Every month, Ourfaves will sit down with a local T.O. Expert to get the scoop on where to eat, shop and play in the city. This month, we grilled resident food and travel writing dynamo Gizelle Lau. Find out her take on Toronto’s resto scene, what it means to be a foodie and where to fill up on $5.
GizelleLau: “A Toronto native and philosophy grad turned travel and food writer for TripAtlas.com who loves to travel and eat . . . so that works out pretty well.”
Ourfaves: Often the food only tells a part of the story when it comes to dining out. What factors do you take into consideration when you review a restaurant?
GizelleLau: I try to focus on the food as much as possible. But when you’re dining out, other factors can really make or break your evening – so things like service, friendliness/knowledge/helpfulness of servers and staff are also a big deal. Ambiance is also important and the decor/design of the restaurant also plays a part in that.
GL: As far as inventive dishes go, I’d say most restaurants in Toronto tend to play it safe.
OF: Being adventurous can have its downside. What’s the most bizarre food combination you’ve tried in the city?
GL: Cow brains is definitely one of the most bizarre dishes I’ve had in Toronto – it was at The Black Hoof.
OF: There are few things better than being able to grab a great meal at a steal. In your humble opinion, where can you find the best deals for breakfast, lunch and dinner in the city?
GL: I have yeat to find deals as good as they are in Chinatown for meals. For breakfast, I’d hit Kim Moon bakery to hang out with the old ladies for congee, a pineapple bun and a milk-tea (approx $5). For lunch, I’d go to King’s Noodle for bbq on rice or wontons with noodles (approx $5). For dinner, it would be Xe Lua (pho) for brisket noodles (approx $6).
OF: The term “foodie” means different things to different people. What does it mean to you to be a foodie?
GL: I tend to shy away from the term “foodie” – I feel like it has a bit of an obnoxious, exclusive undertone. There’s a lot I don’t know about the food, but at the end of the day, I love food. So whether it’s eating out, good restaurants, great cooking at home, fresh/local ingredients, great wine – it’s all about a passion of food in all of its forms and the drive to learn and explore food as a whole.
OF: Which foodies do you follow and why?
GL: Suresh Doss (@spotlightcity) knows everyone in the Toronto food scene and can tell you where to eat and what to get at every restaurant. Him and Andrea Chiu (@TOfoodie) have really done a great job at unifying food-lovers across Toronto on Twitter. Joel Solish (@foodie411) is the guy you wish you could eat like…if it wasn’t for the weight you’d gain (he seems to have a bottomless pit for a stomach). Eric Vellend (@ericvellend) knows the city really well and has some great articles. Renee Suen (@rssuen) is a good friend – if she recommends it, then it’s worth a visit. Dana MacCauley (@danamccauley) is one smart lady and knows a hell of a lot about food and trends. Finally, Ivy Knight (@ivyknight) for lots of local events as well as local/sustainable foods.
OF: We know you like to dine out. But how would you describe your skills in the kitchen?
GL: I’d like to think they’re pretty good!
OF: What is the best dish you’ve prepared at home?
GL: A couple weeks ago, I rolled out some fettuccine and made some pretty sick fettuccine alfredo. But the best dish made at home recently (with kudos to my husband, @mattmark) was lightly curried oxtail on super-smooth mashed potatoes and rapini.
OF: What is your fave cuisine?
GL: Can’t pick one. Chinese food is comfort food; I love the intricate, delicate, light flavours of Japanese cuisine; but right now, Mexican and Italian are the ones really keeping me excited.
OF: If you could choose anyone in the world to be a dinner date, who would your dream dinner date be?
GL: Ruch Reichl (former Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet Magazine)
OF: When you’re out, how do you decide what to order?
GL: I’ll see what’s recommended or what stands out the most to me. Actually, I decide on what I want and then what I want my husband to order [smiles].
OF: What’s the most unique resto gimmick you’ve ever encountered?
GL: In Toronto? Nitro-ice cream at Colborne Lane. They come out with a giant bowl with cream, sugar and eggs in it, then at your table, pour in the nitro, stir and voila…you have ice cream. Gimmick, indeed, but fun.
OF: Sweet! Gimmicks certainly add to the hype surrounding a restaurant. But sometimes, hype is just that. Which restaurant have you tried that lived up to its hype?
OF: And finally, where are you eating tonight?
GL: I’ll be having dinner at home tonight – probably Chinese (quick & easy comfort food after a long weekend of food poisoning) – soya sauce chicken.
Gizelle Lau is a freelance writer (travel, food, lifestyle writer) and photographer based in Toronto, Canada. She has written for publications like TripAtlas.com 24hrs Magazine, MSN.ca Travel, web tasarım ,Yahoo.ca Travel, Sympatico.ca, Great Hotels of the World Magazine, DivineCaroline.com, WOMAN.ca, and many more. She is a member of the Travel Media Association of Canada.