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Matcha Tea & Dessert Review, A Brewed Series with Cake

matcha seating

Before Matcha Tea & Dessert finished its renovations and store setup, I was eating around the block and got excited knowing its close to grand opening! Think about it, a store named after Matcha would definitely serve matcha and green tea foods – it can totally satisfy my cravings.

Within Matcha, its store decor was simple and had seating at the back off their restaurant. The seats consist of three small square tables on one side like Tsujiri as well as four longer rectangular tables similar to Chatime. The down side about those small tables is that it lacks leg and feet room between two people. Other than that, Matcha atmosphere and music was pleasant.

matcha menu

Just yesterday, my boyfriend and I had the chance to check this spot out. Its signage at night is somewhat difficult to spot, but they do have a leaf symbol projected onto the ground near the entrance. Not knowing what to expect, we had to step aside and take a moment to look through all the drinks and dessert. The restaurant was not busy and almost empty, so we had no rush either.

Noticeably, half the food menu was covered away and not available. Only the drinks and ice cream, and maybe two flavour of cakes can be ordered. Having read multiple Yelp reviews while deciding on what to order, I can understand why it has such a poor rating even when this place is brand new. But from my working experience, I rather think this is all due to poor management of customer experience and branding. First off, their store name is Matcha. That speaks bluntly to customers you serve matcha items and you should be good at it. Secondly, putting things up on their menu that you cannot sell, is a big no. It’s setting your customer expectation and standard/bar higher than normal. My suggestion would be to remove it until they actually have the item rather than leaving it on.

matcha drinks

Despite all the negative Yelp reviews, I still decided to try their items and judge for myself. Thus, we ordered the Ujicha (hot) and Matcha Cheese Foam (cold) – both recommended picks of Matcha.

Matcha Cheese Foam ($5.95): had a good taste of matcha and that slight texture of powder when it’s more authentic in its ingredients. However, I can tell the overall flavour still tasted watered down. As for the cheese part, I couldn’t taste any different until I got to the bottom. It tasted more like cheesecake than cheese.

Ujicha ($5.95): On the other hand for Ujicha, I would give a similar feedback. It’s nice that there was the matcha aroma.. but in a sense, it seemed weak and watered down as well. Ujicha’s general taste is like the hot version of Matcha Cheese Foam.

When we sat down, the staff came over and handed out a new matcha tarte they were planning to sell. That was nice of them and good customer service! However, if I were to comment on the cake, the flavour was there and balanced out with the base yet the tarte texture was dry itself.

I would say Matcha is relatively pricey for the quality and price paid on these drinks. Because at the end of the day, I can get better variety and matcha-flavoured tea in other dessert stores across Toronto and GTA. Nevertheless, its a good location to relax and even play board or card games.

P.S. Matcha hired mandarin-speaking employees, so I highly think they are Chinese-owned instead of having a Japanese background.

Store Location: 407 Spadina Avenue, Toronto, Ontario M5T 2G6 (Canada)

Atmosphere: 3.5/5
Customer Service: 3/5
Food Quality: 2/5

OVERALL RATING: 2.5/5
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Matcha Tea & Dessert Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Kekou Review, Asian Style Gelato Made Fresh

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Kekou has been one of my favourite and top gelato pick in Toronto! Since the first time, my taste buds have already been amazed and captivated by the cool yet quirky flavours they sell.

There are a few locations downtown but I’ve only been to the Spadina store. It’s small inside and can only house four small tables. Thus, don’t walk in expecting some out-of-this-world decor. I have to admit it looks pretty bare and plain but who cares, it’s the gelato that matters!

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Kekou’s customer experience is quite enjoyable simply because you can taste test every flavour until you mind is set (without the staff grunting). Plus, the staff were willing to introduce and provide good suggestions. Apart from gelato, they also serve a variety of tea brewed from tea leaves – which I haven’t tried and cannot comment on.

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I said quirky earlier, and yes I sure did. Their flavours are super Asian and exotic, which includes popular choices like Vietnamese coffee, HK milk tea, durian, mango, and few more. It doesn’t get boring either as their flavours change every so often.

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Personally, my favourites do align with Kekou’s popular picks (those heart-shaped ones). I’m still loyal to both the HK Milk Tea and Vietnamese Coffee gelato. Similarly, they are rich and strong in flavour and still carries out that smooth gelato sorbet-like texture. Hands down Kekou has the coolest gelato!

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Additionally, I’ve tried Mango and it almost mimics the real mango flavour and same goes for durian (if you can take it). Other ones I’ve also tasted include Tsingtao Peach, Chinese 24 Herb, and Soursop. They were very unique in its own way. Example: Chinese 24 Herb doesn’t taste bitter but it has a slight kick, whereas Tsingtao Peach draws a hint of alcohol (won’t get you drunk). All were so good and it’s always such a difficult choice to make every time I walk into the store 😛

Remember to get a stamp every time you visit Kekou. They offer a paper loyalty stamp card where you get a stamp for every purchase. If you forgot your card, they give you a new one and it’s combinable with any other.

Note: Recently Kekou changed their pricing structure. Customers used to be able to pick two flavours for a small cup which they fill to the max. Now the sizes vary by scoops: 1 scoop for small, 2 scoops for medium, and 3 scoops for large cup. They probably realized this makes better money and profits more in the long run.

Kekou being delicious and my favourite gelato spot, I would love to know what other flavours you guys noticed and how you thought of it!? Feel free to leave me comments.

Store Location: 394 Queen Street West, Toronto, Ontario M5V 2A6 (Canada)

Atmosphere: 3/5
Customer Service: 4.5/5
Food Quality: 4.5/5

OVERALL RATING: 4.5/5
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Kekou Gelato Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Anh Dao Review, Casual Vietnamese Dining In Chinatown

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If you’re like me who’s a food lover and has been to different Vietnamese places and ate enough pho, you should have a fair standard of what’s a good bowl of pho. And remember not to teach on behalf of someone else’s ethnic food if you are not a local or have the roots.. or else you’ll end up famous like Chef Tyler Akin who was featured in Bon Appetit’s pho uproar video “PSA: This Is How You Should Be Eating Pho”. There’s also a nice follow-up read if interested – click here.

Just recently, I had my first visit to Anh Dao with some friends on a Friday night. I got to say, this was one of the worse pho restaurants in Toronto. I’m not quite sure why it still has a 3.5 rating on both Zomato and Yelp, because to me having a 3.5 rating means it’s good (not the best) but holds up the ‘I will still come back another time’ opinion.

Anh Dao is a medium-sized restaurant that can accommodate approximately 6-7 tables. They are located right in the center of Chinatown, easily accessible if you’re in the area. The interior decor is average and payments (cash or credit) are made at the cashier located next to the kitchen, near the back of the store.

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Our group arrived at Anh Dao around 6:45pm and the restaurant was not full – maybe just two other tables. We ordered 6-7 dishes where maybe 3 of them were identical. My boyfriend and I shared an order of spring rolls and we each ordered a bowl of pho (N1: House Special for $7.50). Per menu, it should have included sliced rare beef, lean well-done brisket, beef balls, and tripe. That wasn’t really the case. There were very little portion of noodles, only a few slices of thin beef, no tendons, and half a meatball found floating within my soup.

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Moreover, our entire table’s food came super late – we waited almost 30 minutes for the first batch of food to come and additional 15 minutes for the remainder including my friend’s curry rice. Who needs to wait so long at a Vietnamese restaurant! Seriously, that plate of curry was also full of onions and entirely covered in sauce – not appetizing at all. I’m sure it didn’t need that long to make. On top of all that, Anh Dao didn’t provide any extra bowls or small plates for putting seafood sauce into and there were many flies flying around too (one even landed into my soup).

Anyhow, I was truly disappointed. The only good part about my experience was towards their spring rolls. They were very thin compared to ones I’ve tried elsewhere, but the inside guts were tasty. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t want to come back to this restaurant again.

Store Location: 383 Spadina Avenue, Toronto, Ontario M5T 2G6 (Canada)

Atmosphere: 3/5
Customer Service: 3/5
Food Quality: 2/5

OVERALL RATING: 2.5/5
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Anh Dao Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tsujiri Review, Matcha Desserts You Can Taste Without Visiting Japan

When I first visited Tsujiri, it was the newest matcha dessert spot in downtown Toronto, located just one street down from the famous Uncle Tetsu cheesecake stores. It’s been awhile since they brought this chain over from Japan, but I will definitely say my town is getting more and more trendy with every new foreign store that pops up.

My boyfriend and I were wanted to grab some green tea ice cream from Uncle Tetsu’s matcha store. But seeing the unexpected huge line, we decided to give Tsujiri a try. Like all new spots that get featured on BlogTO, Tsujiri has a line up no doubt. However, it wasn’t as bad as I thought – around 30 minutes.

Tsujiri’s menu is quite big for a dessert store serving from coffee to sundaes. Yet you will also realize many items are 90% exact to the next one. In the end, we ordered the Tsujiri shaved ice and Shiratama sundae. Both were very similar in ingredients but super delicious!

Tsujiri Shaved Ice: had ice cream mixed within the filling as you eat your way down. It also comes along with matcha ice cream on top and mochi balls on the side.

Shiratama Sundae: this had the same ingredients as the shaved ice but the entire matcha dessert is ice cream mixed with red bean paste and red bean bits in the filling (whereas the shaved ice doesn’t have the bits).

Tsujiri definitely puts a strong matcha taste to their desserts and the aroma is simply awesome. The flavour hits you right away on the first bite. It’s rare to find something as close to their green tea flavour. I think the closest would be Tendou’s matcha cones in Markham.

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Tsujiri is definitely a recommended restaurant, but make sure you are comfortable with spending approx. $8 for each of their menu items. It’s expensive and I personally wouldn’t go all the time.

As for the store atmosphere, it’s a tight space that includes both the dessert assembly line, tables, and line up. Seating is very limited to only three two-person side tables and one big tatami table at the far end of Tsujiri. I was happy we managed to snatch a table 🙂

Next time, I want to try their O-Matcha macaron!

Store Location: 147 Dundas Street, Toronto, Ontario M5G 1P5 (Canada)

Atmosphere: 3.5/5
Customer Service: 4/5
Food Quality: 4/5

OVERALL RATING: 4/5
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TSUJIRI Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Nana Review, The Thai Sister Of Khao San

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Nana is known to be the sister restaurant of Khao San Road (one of my downtown favs). Their location is around 5-10mins walk from the nearest subway station. From the outside, you wouldn’t notice it among all the other stores along the street. We almost missed the entrance as Nana’s restaurant name was very discreet and small. If you see something that looks Thai-related, head right in!

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Nana apparently only take reservations made 24 hours prior. Because of that, I came as a group of six without reservations on a Friday night. The first time around, we waited for an hour and still no table was available (partial reason was the requirement that the entire party must be there to be seated). We gave up and went to Lisa Marie nearby instead. Second time around, the wait was still bearable and we ended up getting seated in an hour (again).

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Based on restaurant size, Nana is much smaller than its sister yet more hipster-looking. They have that Asian 大排擋 (dai pai dong) layout where the chairs are colourful, round and plastic. The walls are also covered in retro posters and artworks that are simply abstract. As a customer, you’d be confined to eating in a tight space elbow to elbow with your buddies – just make sure you aren’t claustrophobic. Nice of them, they even offer a coat rack for jackets since the tables may not have enough room.

Note: there are a few hooks underneath the table for handbags!

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As the menu is pretty simple and limited in food selection, majority of us ordered the same dishes including: khao soi kai, mi ga ti moo, and khao pad pong kra ree.

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Khao Soi Kai: For myself, I tried their khao soi. It’s an egg noodle dish mixed in golden curry coconut broth. It comes with few slices of crispy dark meat chicken cutlets on the side topped with cilantro, bean sprouts, onion, and a slice of lime. Although I couldn’t really tell what else lies within the bowl, I felt they didn’t provide enough noodles to be entirely full. Nevertheless, the sauce was just right – not too sweet nor too spicy. The soup base wasn’t thick either, which didn’t make me thirsty or feel weird afterwards (I’ve had bad experiences before, trust me).

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Mi Ga Ti Moo: the texture and visualization is quite similar to the Khao Soi Kai, but its soup base is definitely much sweeter. If you want something towards the sweeter side, this is a good choice. This dish apparently uses thin rice noodles mixed with red curry, coconut, bean sprouts, tofu and sweet basil which perhaps gave it the sweeter flavour.

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Khao Pad Pong Kra Ree: this is basically yellow curry fried rice with coconut (chicken choice of meat). On top of its typical fried rice mixed in curry and coconut sauce, it also includes tomatoes, cilantro, and fried shallots. If you like fried rice and enjoy a mildly spiced (tasted almost no spice) dish, this is a good recommendation to bring flavour into your meal.

Commenting on service, it was mediocre as our water wasn’t always refilled given the spicy dishes. I also find the seat spacing more squishy and it would be tough during winter to put everything down (coats, bags). Near the end of the meal, they were pretty quick to rush us with the bill as our table is cleared as well. Overall its not much of a service yet they charge an automatic 18% gratuity on top of your bill. All in all, I wasn’t too amazed by its food and service. I find that Nana’s food is a bit too expensive for its value.

Store Location: 785 Queen Street West, Toronto, Ontario M6J 1G1 (Canada)

Atmosphere: 3.5/5
Customer Service: 3/5
Food Quality: 4/5

OVERALL RATING: 3.5/5
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Nana Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Krispy Kreme Review, When Doughnuts Melts In Your Mouth

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Krispy Kreme had used to be really popular in United States, Canada, Hong Kong, and parts of Europe. Perhaps people started to become more healthy, Krispy Kreme stores gradually closed down across the world. Now, there is only three locations remaining in Toronto (two downtown, one Mississauga): one on Harbord Street, one on McCaul Street, and one at Heartland Town Center.

I only ventured towards their McCaul location after purchasing a Groupon online of $10 for 2 dozen donuts. Isn’t that deal amazing? I haven’t had any of their donuts probably since two years ago, but $2.79 at Timmy’s could only get me a medium coffee and one donut for breakfast in comparison!

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Early on a weekday, I walked to Krispy Kreme Doughnut Cafe around 6:30pm. In the midst of picking out my 24 donuts and packaging it up, I realized I’ll have to carry two big boxes of donuts with me to dinner. Hence, I asked if they could keep all my donuts until 10PM (closing hour) for later pick-up. They were very nice and said yes to accommodate hehe. Good service!!

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To keep it simple and avoid a hassle, I chose one full box in plain original flavour and the latter assorted – 1/3 as filled-donuts and 2/3 with ones that have sprinkles on top. The original is always delicious even eaten by itself. All the others were super good too! There were strawberry-filled, chocolate and cream-filled donuts. Some also has chocolate bits and hazelnut on top. Overall, the donuts were not too sweet, even the donuts with filling.

Remember to always microwave them when possible! It melts right into your mouth on every bite.

If you are finding a place to sit down and gobble down the donuts, this location at McCaul has good seating. There’s actually comfortable sofa chairs and tables in a small room at the back of Krispy Kreme (second room inside the store) – definitely a quiet atmosphere that customers might not know about.

Store Location: 162 McCaul Street, Toronto, Ontario M5T 1W3 (Canada)

Atmosphere: 3.5/5
Customer Service: 4.5/5
Food Quality: 4.5/5

OVERALL RATING: 4/5
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Khao San Road

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Khao San Road is named as one of the top Thai restaurants to dine around Toronto. And having visited this place twice, I have to agree with this perception. Their food is totally delicious and very flavourful! But due to its sauce’s thickness and richness, I doubt I can eat it too frequently.

To be honest, I don’t recall much of my first visit. Only remembering that my friends and I ordered a lot and every dish was great. However returning the second time, my impression of Khao San Road stayed the same. I got the opportunity to try their Khao Soi and Garlic Chicken appetizer this round.

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The garlic chicken ingredients consisted of panko crust, kaffir lime leaf and its naam djeem dipping sauce on the side (see photo above). It was not bad but it wasn’t the best either. The texture was fairly soft and crispy on the outside, but I found it towards the dry end. Perhaps it was made more as a dry appetizer than saucy.

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On the other hand, their khao soi was super yummy! In this angular bowl, it has everything mixed together – the beef, egg noodles, golden curry, coconut milk, scallions, coriander, lime, and topped with the crispy noodles as well! The curry-like soup base is what made the dish delicious. The aroma it gave off combined with herbs made it very enticing and it wasn’t too viscous either. Both the crispy and egg noodles gave it a lot of texture and richness soaked in sauce – soft and crispy at the same time.

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As for their service, I appreciated it quite well. When we ordered our food and asked for no spice, the waiter joked with us saying we should all ask for mild spicy to be adventurous and Asian haha. Likewise, even though there were people waiting as we have finished our dinner, the staff didn’t hush us out like how some restaurants would.

Store Location: 326 Adelaide Street West, Toronto, Ontario M5V 1R3 (Canada)

Atmosphere: 4/5
Customer Service: 4.5/5
Food Quality: 4.5/5

OVERALL RATING: 4.5/5
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Kinton Ramen

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If you’re hungry, craving Japanese ramen and around the AGO / Nathan Phillips Square area, go check out Kinton! Up until now, I have visited the restaurant multiple times, I even became a Kinton Bowler once (one who finishes the entire bowl of ramen including the soup base)!

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My initial visit was on a Sunday around 6pm. There was no line-up even though the store was petite with limited seating. The seats itself were small without a back, but customers are still able to place small items in a hole under the chair or able to hang your coats on the rack near the entrance. The service at most Japanese ramen restaurants – Kinton inclusive – are always welcoming, especially with their loud greetings and farewells. Food was also served fairly quickly without having to wait too long. For two people, we ordered the Miso Ramen with pork belly in a rich soup base and the Cheese Ramen with everything else identical.

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Giving a first impression, the portions were great. It was double of the sizes offered at Santouka. As for their pork belly, it was tasty with fatty and thin textures well-balanced in the meat. Recalling that I requested the soup base to be rich, it wasn’t as flavourful and original as I thought. However, the noodle texture was good and somewhat chewy. Its thickness was decent and the meal overall was quite filling for the price we paid for. Our bill totaled approximately $27 including tips and tax.

P.S. if you are a cheese fan, then try the Cheese Ramen – it’s quite good too with cheese melted everywhere!

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The Cheese Ramen has its own unique flavour (comes with pork belly as well). I generally mix the cheese under the noodles and use my chopsticks to slightly spread it out, this enables the cheese to not bunch up together while it melts with the noodles. Keep in mind the cheese has a slightly salted flavour, so it also adds to your overall soup base aroma.

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My second visit was fairly similar, but noticed that they have added a special menu. I ordered the same Miso Ramen with a combo for only $12.70 which includes a bowl of tuna rice and a drink of my choice (see photo on the right). I went to Nestea to refresh myself:)

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The tuna on the rice was actually cold, which I didn’t expect. It was quite tasty with rice but probably served like a cold appetizer. After finishing our ramen and seeing how Mr. Super Bowler next to me finished his bowl and downed the soup, I can’t lose to that either! Guess what, I did the same and you can imagine how full I was to slurp the entire bowl of ramen and drink to the last drop. Nevertheless, I’m proud of my achievement and even got an Instagram snap! Super Bowler status FTW! Note: I only accomplished this once among many visits haha.

In terms of pricing, my second visit came out to be approximately $30 compared to the $27 before. For only $3 more, you can make your meal a combo and get super bloated – it’s not too bad of a deal at all!

Store Location: 51 Baldwin Street, Toronto, Ontario M5T 1Y9 (Canada)

Atmosphere: 3.5/5
Customer Service: 4.5/5
Food Quality: 4/5

OVERALL RATING: 4/5
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