There are certain parts of Hamilton I don’t get out to too often. Westdale would be one of those areas. I’m typically only there to get my favourite Grilled Cheese from another restaurant. When Lacey, Vesna (no online presence, she’s the smart one) and I were trying to sort out dinner plans recently, they suggested Koosh Bistro. They’d been there a few months ago for a Hamilton Dishcrawl and were pleased with what they’d eaten. I always say, word of mouth is the best endorsement so we locked up dinner plans.
Insalata Mista – $8.25
Vesna ordered this salad to start. Everything looked fresh with vibrant colour. It was comprised of Spring Mix, Cucumbers, Tomatoes, Red Onions, Carrots and Radishes. She wasn’t really a fan of the Red Wine Rosemary Garlic Vinaigrette (wow that’s a mouthful unto itself) though. All in all she thought it was “OK.”
Carpaccio Di Manzo – $14.75
I was hopeful to try something new. I was going to try Mushroom & Artichoke Bruschetta but then I saw this on the menu. I’ve never had Carpaccio before and had no idea what I was getting into. I’ve got to say, I was pleasantly surprised. When Koosh Bistro says the AAA Angus Beef is sliced thinly, they aren’t kidding. The medallions were paper thin and delicious. Oddly enough, the one component I was worried about, Capers, were what elevated the dish. They provided a bit of punch on the back end of each bite. The Beef was dressed with Red Onions, Parmesan and tied together with Garlic Ginger Cognac Sauce. The dish was also very large in size and came with far too little bread for the amount of meat. A few more slices would have been preferable.
Veal Gorgonzola – $23.99
Both Lacey and Vesna ordered this as their entreee. They’d eaten it during Dishcrawl and were looking forward to having it again. I’m all kinds of opposed to Gorgonzola as I find it horribly overpowering, and declined making our order a trifecta. This was a Pan Seared Veal Scaloppini in Gorgonzola Sauce topped with Whiskey Candied Apples. They subbed out potatoes for Mizithra Pasta. I did sample a small bit (for science obviously) and was happy with how tender the Veal was. I have to admit the Gorgonzola wasn’t nearly as strong as I’d feared. I can’t really speak on the Apple as I didn’t try and I don’t do sweet with savoury. The girls were both satisfied.
Puttanesca Sausage – $18.99
Usually you get Fettuccine with some Sausage. This was Sausage with some Fettuccine. Capers, Shallots and a generous amount of Chiles were thrown into the mix. I got a strong sense of heat out of every bite. It usually comes with Anchovies but I can’t stand them and took a pass. Also, let’s get one thing out of the way right now. This dish was a TANK! This was the first time in well… I can’t recall to be honest… where I didn’t finish my entree. I had to pack up 1/2 of it for lunch the next day (note that it kept very well). My only gripe was that this was drowning in sauce. I like sauce but Pasta shouldn’t resemble Soup.
Tartufo (Special) – $8
Yeah… I was that person. The one that packs their entree and then turns around and orders dessert. DON’T JUDGE ME! As soon as I found out I could get Italian Ice Cream and didn’t have to sift through Cherries/Raspeberries or any fruit at all, I was on board. Bring me all the Whipped Cream. This was flat out amazing. With so much Chocolate, I expected to be smacked over the head with sweetness but this was ideal.
Espresso Creme Brulee – $6.99
Vesna wrapped up with this dessert but much like her salad, she wasn’t over the moon with it.
Chocolate Crepe – $7.50
I wish I had better lighting to do this dish justice. It was soooooo pretty upon arrival. The home made Crepe was filled with Hazelnut Cream Cheese Icing and Bananas then topped with Chocolate Ganache, Whipped Cream, Hazelnuts and Icing Sugar. Holy hell did it ever look good. Lacey was beyond happy with her dessert. I would imagine just about anyone would be from the look of it.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t give props to our server Jackie. That girl MOTORED all night and was a one woman show for what turned out to be a busy Monday evening. I want to know what memory exercises she uses to list the specials. She had everything down to the finest detail. Always attentive without being overbearing. A great server can really be the icing on the cake (crepe?).
We had an enjoyable time at Koosh Bistro. Everything ranged from solid to fantastic. If anything, drop in for dessert and get that Chocolate Crepe. You won’t be disappointed.
I’ve got a bad habit of going out to dinner, snapping the photos for a review and then forgetting to you know… WRITE the review. I was looking through shots on my camera today and noticed an abundance of delicious looking food. The lightbulb went off and I realized I hadn’t written my review of Napoli Ristorante. I was in Niagara Falls a couple weeks ago with Marie, Kathy, and Mark for a fun night out. We were going to go the generic steak route (sorry Keg, YOU LOSE!) but Marie received a recommendation for this restaurant so we gave it a shot.
House made Foccacia got our night started. The bread was fantastic but the real kicker was the olive oil. It had just a little bit of heat thrown into the mix.
Mussels & Frites (Special – $15)
Mark and I were deliberating on an appetizer. It looked like it was going to be another generic Fried Calamari split. Our server mentioned the specials though and it became a no brainer. The girls don’t “eat anything out of the sea” so this was all for the boys. Oddly enough, the Mussels weren’t the star of this dish for me. It was the Fries. These things were SALTY! It’s almost like they took the salt so far that it went from a turn off all the way into AWESOME! I couldn’t get enough of them. The Mussels were in a broth with Onions and diced Pancetta. Everything came together perfectly and we were both glad we ordered this over Calamari.
Margherita Pizza – $14
Kathy ordered this pizza and ate… 1 slice. *flips table* Anyway this was relatively run of the mill. Mozzerella was fresh and it had an abundance of Basil (maybe a little too much?). Kathy added Mushrooms but it didn’t really bring much in terms of flavour. Shout outs to the crust? Whaaaaaatever, it wasn’t good.
Vitello Di Parmigiano – $22
I’m very sorry about the quality of the above photos. I just couldn’t get proper lighting (as you can see by the stark contrast between shots). I can just picture my boys Casey & Marcel shaking their heads at me. SHUT UP YOU TWO! Mark & Marie ordered this dish and I’m not exaggerating when I say they were over the moon with it. Marie‘s pretty selective when it comes to Veal. She had nothing but good things to say about it. I didn’t ask about the accompanying Tonnarelli.
Pasta Special – $18
OK so I’ll be honest with you. I can’t for the life of me remember the exact pasta used in this dish. It’s a special so it’s not listed on the web site either. First look tells me Tagliatelle though. Any pasta lovers want to smack me down or praise my good eye? What I do know is our server said “Goat Cheese” and I was all “YES! YES! YES!” It was a cream based sauce with diced Porcini Mushrooms. The pasta was topped with Rapini and of course the Goat Cheese. I couldn’t get enough of this. The pasta was cooked perfectly. Sauce was rich and the Goat Cheese took that richness to even greater heights. Lovely… now I want it again.
Tiramisu – $8.50
I was KO’d by my pasta and Kathy only got through 1 slice of Pizza so this was the Mark & Marie show. After a situation 2 years ago with a Tiramisu built with Cake instead of Lady Fingers, and Marie‘s BANNING us from going back to that particular restaurant, I’m always ready to hide under the table when she orders this dessert. Thankfully it was everything her and Mark were looking for to finish off dinner. I actually hate Tiramisu (texture issues) so I can’t render an opinion one way or another. They were pleased though.
Lackluster Pizza aside, we were all very happy with dinner. The service was impeccable all night. The quality of food was top flight and at a decent price point (I do love going to value town). If you’re in Niagara Falls, give Napoli Ristorante a shot. You won’t be disappointed.
Before I forget, make a reservation. We called ours in days in advance and couldn’t get a table any later than 530pm on the Saturday.
Anyone that knows me knows I’m all about the Fried Chicken. When Marie came to me a month ago with news of a Chicken And Waffles joint opening up in Hamilton, saying I was excited would be a huge understatement. With the exception of a select few times in the US, I’ve never had a chance for the sweet and savoury combo that is Fried Chicken and Waffles. Staxx Burger Chicken & Waffle House, located in Hamilton’s International Village along King Street East between Ferguson and Walnut, opened just over a week ago. I’d planned to hit it up with Marie as per usual but she was unavailable (I wanted to go immediately and she had “work”) so I was joined this time by my buddy Vanny.
It’s pretty no frills in terms of decor. A bar at the front seats 5. I don’t know how guys were watching TV in front of that door. That draft would drive me NUTS! After that, they had simple tables and chairs that seat around 25 people. Ambiance is the least of my concerns while eating Fried Chicken. Moving along…
Cevapi On A Bun With Fries – $11.80 + 50 cents for Gravy
I’ll be honest in saying I didn’t have a clue what Cevapi was. What I did know was Vanny‘s face lit up like a Christmas tree as soon as he saw it on the menu. For those not in the know (look at me fronting like I had a clue at the time of trying it), it’s a minced meat sausage. In this case, it was served on a bun (I never saw the bun, Vanny said it was there though) and covered in Sour Cream and diced Red Peppers. Vanny ordered his with Fries and a side of Gravy along with a side of Ajvar (Red Pepper Relish) for his Cevapi. Its colour immediately said “heat” but it was more acidic than anything. I tried the Cevapi and was very pleased with it. In fact I enjoyed its flavour far more than a traditional Sausage. I’ll have to try the complete dish another time. Vanny was happy with it as well and said he’d get it again.
Fried Chicken And Waffles – $10.60 + 70 cents for “Pure Canadian Maple Syrup”
Now THIS is what brought me to the dance. The first thing I noticed was that it was all white meat. Now I love me some Breast (har har) but it usually dries out and is sorely lacking the juices of a Thigh or Leg. I was overjoyed to find out this Breast meat was anything but dry. I couldn’t believe how good a job Staxx Burger Chicken & Waffle House did with their Fried Chicken. The skin was crispy but never felt overly greasy. I got 2 Breasts and a Wing. Every piece was juicy and delicious. For those of you looking for dark meat, we were advised you can order that specifically and they’ll accommodate you. Otherwise, it’d be white meat first so be forewarned. Sadly, the accompanying hot sauce was lacking. It tasted like Frank’s Red Hot. *shrugs* whaaaaaatever.
Staxx Burger Chicken & Waffle House does waffles right (they better with that name). The waffles were thick in size but light and fluffy. The outer layer was crisp with a hint of sweetness. You get 8 pieces (essentially 2 waffles) and it’s a large enough portion for 2 people. I went for lunch around 1pm. I hadn’t eaten all day and still couldn’t put away the entire meal. I upgraded to Maple Syrup from what I believe was a thicker commercial product. The consistency was a little thinner than I’d care for but that’s what happens when you’ve had too much Aunt Jemima in your life and try the real deal. It wasn’t overly sweet and paired perfectly with the Waffles. At 70 cents, you really can’t go wrong with the upgrade.
So let’s get the obvious out of the way. I was VERY HAPPY with my lunch at Staxx Burger Chicken & Waffle House. Everything was cooked perfectly. The portion vs price was ideal. The service was dynamite; attentive without being smothering. I’ll be going back on Monday with Marie and will likely get Jerk Chicken & Waffles (you read that right) or just go straight up sweet with their Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Waffle.
Last couple things to note. There’s no liquor license yet. Lord help me I’ll live there in the summer if I can get beer with my Fried Chicken. Also, at present they’re cash only.
Drop in and enjoy.
James Street North, in downtown Hamilton, is constantly adding new spots to dine. It’s part of a major revamp of Hamilton as a whole and I’m glad to see it happen. A month ago, I caught word of Lavo‘s opening. I’m always one for Italian food so it was only a matter of time before I popped in and sampled what they had to offer. I was joined by Marie & Kathy this time around.
We popped in on a quiet Wednesday. Sorry about the odd angled photos, I didn’t want to get anyone in the shots. I’ve never been one to try and pretend like I have any idea about interior design. I will say that I loved the fact the Pizza oven was in plain view. I’ve always been big on open kitchens, and while that isn’t the case here, the oven was a nice touch.
We received complimentary Flatbread brushed with with Basil and Garlic. It came with Hummus made daily in house. It had been suggested the Hummus wasn’t made fresh in the restaurant but I was assured by the manager that is not the case. It was a perfect way to get our evening started.
Caesar Salad – $9
Lavo makes all of their dressing in house, including their Caesar. Our server Alicia noted that there is Anchovie in the mix though. That’s a red flag for me as I’m not a fan. Marie didn’t mind though and ordered this to start. I gave it a taste and I’ll admit I didn’t get any fishy taste. I think I’ve been traumatized too many times by dressings that are overloaded with Anchovie. The Baby Romaine Lettuce was cold, crisp and enjoyable. I didn’t get in on the Pancetta or Focaccia. Marie noted she would have liked a bit more garlic, though that’d come up again later in the night.
Mista – $7
Kathy ordered this mixed green salad with Heirloom Tomato, Cucumbers, and Crumbled Feta. It was dressed with a Lemon Vinigrette. She thought it was fine but nothing special. I’m not one for mixed greens and took a pass. It should be noted that Kathy only got through half the salad because we were overwhelmed by…
Basil & Tomato Parmigiano Bruschetta – $8
Our server warned us this would be big and that it was meant for sharing. I’ve heard that so many times in so many restaurants it just flies in one ear and out the other. Well… she wasn’t kidding. This thing was a BEAST! It looked like a Large Pizza when it arrived. I hadn’t had carbs in basically a week so I was overjoyed to see this beauty placed in front of us. The Flatbread was baked perfectly. I’m all about that crisp bite. It was topped with Heirloom Tomatos and mixed Kalamata Olives but I got no sense of the latter. I’m actually grateful for that as I can’t stand Olives. This should have been eaten by 4 – people instead of well… me, with Kathy getting in on a bit of it. I’d order this to my face again easy.
Prosciutto Sliders – $9
You get 2 with your order and a side of mixed greens. I probably could have eaten 6. The Focaccia was warm and crisp upon biting into it. The Prosciutto was delicious. I was leery it’d be too salty but this was spot on. The Roasted Red Peppers were a a bit over but it’s splitting hairs. It’s probably the difference in a couple seconds to be honest. I’m not typically one for sliced Tomato (coming from the guy who just ate a Bruschetta to his face) but it worked well here. I told Marie to order this in the future without Tomato as she was definitely missing out not getting a taste.
Pizza Margherita – $13
Welcome to the lone mediocre experience on the night. Kathy ordered this pizza (I swear this girl is cursed when she eats with me). You know how some people say something is “fine.” Well this was exactly that. There was nothing wrong with it, but nothing really stood out to me either. The pizza itself was crisp. I found the sauce limp, lacking in any robust flavours. Buffalo Mozzerella is very mild and needs help from toppings. Considering it’s as basic a pizza as you can get, that’s a lose/lose situation.
Veal Parmigiano – $18
Marie‘s the veal girl and is pretty discerning about it. To say she enjoyed this would be an engrossing understatement. The Veal was pounded out perfectly, with fantastic breading and plentiful amounts of Mozzerella. I got in on a little of the action and was pleased with it. I’d probably lose my mind taking the Veal strip and putting it in freshly baked Focaccia. God… now I want it. I better learn to make Veal like this quickly. ANYWAY… Marie subbed in Linguine and then asked if they could load it up with Garlic. As I said after trying the pasta, the garlic punched me in the face. NOTE this isn’t the norm, this was done as per her request and she was very happy.
Carbonara – $14
You know how you take for granted a restaurant will cook your pasta Al Dente and most of them overcook? This was definitely not the case here. As a standalone, this pasta was cooked PERFECTLY! It’s rare I note something like that because I think I’ve grown used to restaurants simply overcooking their pasta. The delicious Bacon Lardon permeated throughout the dish and in every bite. Thin sliced Pancetta was strewn throughout but I’ll be frank in saying I found it lacking in amount. As a whole, the dish worked well though and I can almost still taste that Bacon.
White Chocolate Fudge Brownie Delight – $11
The photo may not do it justice. It was large enough for 4. I rarely eat dessert and I absolutely loved it. Sweet freaks may fight their friends over the last bite. Just… just eat it.
Another great addition to Hamilton’s James Street North. Mediocre Pizza aside, we thoroughly enjoyed everything placed in front of us at Lavo. As for service, our server Alicia was a complete sweetheart. She was attentive, funny, informative in answering our questions, and helpful in handling substitutions. I recommend Lavo. I’ll be going back sooner rather than later. Bring your appetite, you’re going to need it.
Sarcoa opened in July 2012. I was all set to review it but word of mouth was generally negative. The scenery was gorgeous as it’s built right on the Hamilton waterfront but the way the restaurant was run left a lot to be desired. I figured I would just throw it on the back burner. It’d have likely stayed there if it wasn’t for a random review posted up in the Hamilton Subreddit. I figured the venue has had a year to work the kinks out. I also learned they recently came under new management, so why not give it shot? Marie, Kathy and I were hoping to sit outside but that crazy bitch Mother Nature had other plans.
Smoked Brisket Poutine – $9
The girls weren’t too big on this appetizer but I absolutely loved it. Hand cut fries with Cheese Curds and thinly sliced Smoked Brisket. A Jus (I assume from the Brisket) binds the whole thing together. I could have eaten the Brisket all day. It just melted in your mouth. I would have liked a little more Cheese curds though. It felt like an add on rather than an integral part of the Poutine.
Chicken & Waffles – $12
While the Poutine was a split, we all agreed the Chicken & Waffles was amazing. The chicken was very hot, tender and juicy. I would have loved to know how it was seasoned as it stood out among the many variations of Fried Chicken I’ve eaten over the years. The waffle was lacking in terms of crispness but it was to be expected with the amount of wet toppings. It was very sweet, a little more so than I’d care for but hardly off putting. It all comes together with Sausage Gravy and Chopped Pancetta. There’s no doubt in my mind I’ll order this again.
Dry Aged Strip Loin – $35
All 3 of us ordered steak. I’m typically wary of ordering steak outside of a steakhouse/chophouse. the girls both really enjoyed their entree. They both err on the Medium Well side. Our server (Joshua, who was FANTASTIC!) advised going with Medium. Kathy, for the first time in the 6 months we’ve been dining together, actually finished her entree. Marie was in some kind of insanely happy place during the entire experience. Leave it to say they wouldn’t have issues ordering steak again. I had a minor gripe with my steak as I ordered Medium Rare and it arrived Medium. Again, this goes back to my Steak at a Steakhouse only theory. It tasted fine but it wasn’t what I wanted. If I ever ordered again, it’d be Rare. On a more positive note, the starch’s were top flight. The girls both ordered Mashed Potatoes and said they were amazing. I was thoroughly impressed with the Gnocchi. The initial bites were best though. The experience dwindled as they got soggy in the Sauce. I wonder if I could get the Gnocchi on a separate plate? It’d kind of destroy presentation but I’d prefer it for taste.
Fresh Breeze – $10
Sarcoa offers a variety of specialty coffees. This was more of a specialty Hot Chocolate though. Peppermint Schnapps, Kahlua, HC, and finished with Whipped Cream. We were all pretty stuffed after such a large meal and passed on dessert but had to give this a try. Marie enjoyed it though said it needed a proper stir as she basically got a heavy shot of alcohol at the bottom. Not exactly a pleasant finish to an otherwise fine Hot Chocolate. Ask your server for a spoon.
All in all we had a very enjoyable time at Sarcoa. The service was stellar and the food, minor gripes aside, was delicious. It’s a shame I reviewed it so late in the summer as I would have loved to get pictures of the expansive and beautiful patio overlooking the water. It’ll have to wait until the next time I’m back and trust me, I will be back.
There are 2 Food Trucks that I’ve given a good amount of repeat business over the summer. Southern Smoke Truck is one of them. They lured me in with their Daddy Mac & Cheese back in early June and I’ve been stalking them whenever I can ever since. With the exception of the aforementioned Mac & Cheese, the items on review were first time tastes.
Smoked Daddy Mac & Cheese – $5
This is the best Macaroni & Cheese I have EVER eaten. I don’t know why more restaurants don’t use Cavatappi Pasta. I love the thick texture. Southern Smoke Truck use copious amounts of Old Cheddar with a little Black Pepper. The whole thing is fused together over their Smoker. I can’t recommend this highly enough. This is literally the one thing that keeps me coming back time and time again to eat from them. It’s simple but oh so delicious. Please note you can get it as a side to one of their main dishes for $2 more.
Pulled Pork Nachos – $8
I’d say Marie and I split this but she sort of picked her way around the Tomatoes (which legit are everywhere). Southern Smoke Truck uses 2.5oz of Pulled Pork (after cooking, no scumming out customers here). The chips were crispy (I HATE when chips gets soggy under toppings). The pork was tender and sweet. It’s laid atop melted cheese, drizzled in Sour Cream, and finished with Tomato and a little Green Onion. It’s one of their weekly specials so you’ll have to keep an eye out when it’s featured or luck into it.
Fastest Chicken In The South – $9
You can get this as a Sandwich or a Wrap. Yes I’ve eaten it both ways. DON’T JUDGE ME! Southern Smoke Truck gives you a generous portion of Pulled Chicken. It’s always very hot (temperature) so be careful. I burned the top of my mouth biting into the wrap. When Marie and I tried this (she got the wrap at the time) we both agreed that while it’s a good Chicken sandwich, the Bacon is what puts it over the top and the ingredient you’ll remember. I don’t know how they make it, but that Bacon is amazing. Just crispy enough and bursting with flavour. It’s finished off with Arugula and your choice of Cajun Mayo (my favourite) or Kansas City Ranch. After having both, I much preferred the sandwich. I didn’t get as much satisfaction from the wrap.
I’ve been frequenting Southern Smoke Truck for 3 months and I don’t see that ending any time soon. Their food is consistently delicious and priced at a great value. Check out their site for their weekly schedule of stops.
Oh yeah… GET THE DADDY MAC & CHEESE!
A couple of weeks ago, I caught word of a few new Food Trucks that opened right around Canada Day. Sadly I’ve been burying my face in Gore Park for my truck consumption of late so I hadn’t had an opportunity to try the new guys out. Lucky for me, Savoury Saturday gave me an opportunity to change things up. I’d heard about Urban Express having good sandwiches. I’m a sucker for a sandwich so it was a no brainer to see what they had to offer. Marie met up with me for this venture.
Chipotle Mango Chicken – $9
Marie ordered this one without Tomato (she’s 100% anti Tomato). This had its ups and down. Chicken was cooked perfectly with a great sear. We both enjoyed the amazing Garlic Mayo. I’m not a big sweet guy but she was happy with the Mango dressing. On the flip side, the Bacon was under-cooked and thus a bit chewy. The true issue though was the bread itself. The bun was fantastic as Urban Express picks up daily from a local bakery on the Hamilton Mountain. However, the bun was too large for its own good. There was too much bread compared to the ingredients in the sandwich. A smaller bun would make a world of difference in terms of getting more flavour.
The Loader – $11
I don’t typically like throwing my mug in my reviews but I wanted to give everyone a full understand of just how big this sandwich really was. This was an absolute meat overload. The Loader has Steak, Bacon, and Sausage. and then covered in melted Mozzarella & Provolone. It’s finished off with 2 layers of Tomatoes, Lettuce and Garlic Mayo. Unlike the other sandwich, The Loader NEEDS every bit of the bun to hold it together. It had serious weight to it. The Steak & Bacon were both cooked to my liking. I prefer Steak Medium to Medium Well Done ONLY IN A SANDWICH! Bacon was crisp but not burned. On the flip side, I found the Sausage a little under-cooked. It created a weird texture clash with the steak & bacon upon biting into it. Lettuce & Tomato were both fresh and tasty. I’d pass on the second layer of Tomato though in favour of something along the lines of Red Onion. On the whole I really enjoyed it. I ate at 1pm and wasn’t hungry again for 8 or 9 hours. It could easily be enough food for the day.
I’ll eventually be back to try the Chicken Pesto as that’s what first caught my eye but as usual my eyes were bigger than my stomach (if that’s even possible) and went with The Loader. If you see Urban Express, come hungry. You’re going to need plenty of room to tackle their sandwiches.
Shout outs to Bees. They’re Marie‘s FAVOURITE lunch companion.