Monday, December 17, 2007

Village Creperie

Village Creperie
703 Belmont Ave. West
Kitchener, Ontario

After our unusually critical reviews on All About Crepes, we sometimes wonder if our expectations were set too high. So when we heard about the opening of Village Creperie, we decided to give it a try.

If a restaurant's appearance can speak for its personality, Village Creperie strikes me as a slightly reserved, down-to-earth, yet chic place. The interior is quite neutral, with only one red wall to boost your appetite. Dark-wood chairs with clean lines, white linen, sturdy white ceramics, 18/10 stainless steel cutlery and a bar create an informal yet elegant ambiance. A bike hung behind the bar acts as a reminder of cycling in Brittany where its ever-changing landscape awaits you.

Once you are handed the menu, you'll be informed that the main dishes are under "Les Galettes" section, and desserts are under "Les Crepes" and "Les Flambées". Galette, made with buckwheat, is the savory type of crepe. Flambé refers to a cooking technique: by igniting liquor (minimum 40% alcohol content) which has been poured over food, you are able to add the flavor to the food without keeping the alcohol.

We were told that 98% of the ingredients used in the restaurant are organic. I don't know how they came up with this number (based on quantity or variety?). Here I have no intention to get into "is organic really better?" type of debate, but kudos to their determination on providing (what they believe) the best for the customers. If having three rolls of crepes for a three-course meal seems daunting, fear not! the only crepe in the appetizer list is "Petit crêpe au fromage de Brie: Brie, Nutmeg, Green onion w/ herb wine tomato puree, wrapped and melted in a crêpe". Crepes are, however, your only choice as main or dessert.

We started with kibbeh and soup of the day - vegetable soup with rye dinner roll. The texture of the vegetable soup was silky smooth, a great way to start the meal. Kibbeh is a Middle Eastern dish composed of minced meat, bulgar and spices and its vast variety ranges from raw to cooked. The kibbeh served at the Village Creperie is "baked organic, extra lean ground beef mixed with spices, onions, and bulgar cracked wheat w/ non-fat house-made yogurt cheese". Let's just say they looked like meat balls, tasted like meat balls, and they were mildly-flavored yet tasty.

For the main dishes, J had Reuben français while I enjoyed Saumon et moutarde.
Reuben français: House-made corned beef (no nitrites or nitrates) creates a delicious crêpe w/ sautéed sauerkraut & Mozzarella, drizzled with in-house Reuben dressing.
Saumon et moutarde: Wild marinated salmon fillet w/ organic buttermilk-dill, and grainy mustard
The piece of salmon in my crepe was very lean but moist. Butter milk, dill and grainy mustard are the tried-and-true match with salmon, you just can't go wrong with it. However, the spotlight should be on the crepe (or in this case, galette). The pancake was so thin yet spongy. With a bit of seasoning, I could eat a stack of this all on its own. The corned beef was quite different compared with the normal ones from deli or grocery stores; the corned beef made at Village Creperie didn't have that artificial after taste. Both dishes were nicely done but I prefer the corned beef over the salmon. Due to the thickness difference between the salmon and the galette, the salmon was so dominant that the galette was merely a staple in that dish.

Dining at the Village Creperie without having their crepes is like going to KFC without ordering chicken. We ordered one "regular" crepe, one flambeed.
LES CRÊPES: Dulce de Leche w/ toasted pecans, topped w/ fresh fruit
Pomme au Miel: Crêpe de Froment and caramelized organic apples & honey, flambéed with cognac and topped w/ crème fraîche

Dulce de leche used to be quite exotic. Thanks to President's Choice, it is being marketed extensively this season and becomes "mainstream". Dulce de leche is made by slowly simmering sweetened milk until it thickens so its look and taste are similar to caramel. In this dish, the "pancake" stood its ground. The toasted pecans were aromatic and they added crunchy texture to the dish. The dulce de leche was creamy but not too sugary; after having their version, I'll only grab a jar of this from the grocery store when I'm desperate. This was truly sensational. We had to draw our swords (dinner knives) and fight for it.

"Pomme au Miel" was another nice dessert. Normally flambé is considered a way to "wow" the diners. You pour liquor in the pan, tilt it then, WHAM! flame rises. On very rare occasion, an inexperienced server might not remove the bottle soon enough thus "bigger-than-expected" flame can be created accompanied by cries and chaos. Nope, this won't happen at the Village Creperie. A professor-like gentleman showed up with a cream pitcher containing cognac. He struck a match and set the cognac on fire, then poured it on the plate. The beautiful blue flame quickly spread along the cognac. It was quiet yet precise process, indeed something a (retired) professor of Chemistry would do. This dish had a pungent floral scent, I am not sure if it was from the apples or the honey.

There are only few of things with room for improvement. The portions might be small for men but more or less acceptable. Also, there's no coat check. As the weather gets colder, this service becomes crucial. The owners might intend to run it as a casual restaurant but it is NOT - on a weekday night, no one showed up in jeans. I couldn't help frowning for a second when I realized that I had to "sit" on my overcoat. Last but not the least, the "grouping" in the dessert section on the menu is confusing. For example, there are both "Dulce de Leche w/ toasted pecans, topped w/ fresh fruit" and "fresh fruits w/ dulce de leche or chocolate" on the menu, and they are not adjacent to each other. It will be nice if the list is sorted with some rules. (Or there is, I just haven't figure it out.) Overall, we had a great time. "Village Creperie" proves that new customers can become regulars, if your crepes are so good that people simply can't get it else where.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Niko Niko Roll & Sushi

Niko Niko
20 King St. East
Kitchener, Ontario

During our recent trips to Ye's we had noticed that the quality of the food had taken a turn for the worse, not to mention an implicit hike in prices (canned pop was no longer included in the all you can eat price). This, combined with the fact we had gorged ourselves far too many times in an effort to get our money's worth, led us to try Niko Niko Roll & Sushi -- a place that has been favourably mentioned by a couple of our friends. At first it seemed wrong to go somewhere that did not have limitless sushi when it was available just down the street, but it turned out sometimes less is more.

The emphasis of the menu is of course their namesake rolls. There are about 25 varieties to choose from, ranging from the traditional (Rainbow Roll - multicoloured raw fish) to the interesting (Grand Canyon) to the bizarrely named (Love Love). The presentation is top notch with nicely plated items decorated with care, compared to the slap-it-together-as-quickly-as-possible items from Ye's.

Most rolls are reasonably priced from $8-$12 each and 1-2 will fill up the average person. Also available are combos, which come with salad, and you can add a half order of udon noodles for $2. A special roll of the day (one selected from the menu) is also available at a discounted price with the combo and is a pretty good deal at $12.90 including salad and 6 pieces of sushi.

The salad is fairly typical - iceberg lettuce, shredded carrots and a couple slices of tomato with a nice Japanese dressing.

We tried the udon noodles for $2 extra with a combo. Again, a pretty safe noodle dish with all the standard ingredients, plus a shaker of shichimi togarashi (be careful, very spicy!)

In our two visits, we sampled the following rolls:

Hawaiian Roll (pictured with 6 piece sushi combo) - It wasn't one of the more interesting rolls, but it was the special of the day so we went with it. It was just avocado and tuna wrapped around a california roll.

Tornado Roll - squid tempura, spicy crab, avocado. Basically a tempura roll with avocado topped with chopped up spicy crab meat. A little on the creamy side with the sauce on top but tasty.

Spider Roll (not pictured) - soft shelled crab, avocado, cucumber and masago. A much heartier portion of soft-shelled crab than at Ye's. Here, there were actual crab legs and claws sticking of out the roll the way it should be. The crab was a little undercooked, or perhaps the oil temperature was slightly too low, as it wasn't as crispy as I would have liked. Otherwise, very enjoyable.

Grand Canyon Roll (not pictured) - eel, salmon, bread crumbs. This one was for the adventurous. Eel and salmon rolled together, topped with bread crumbs and cheese and baked. Cheese seems to be a fairly common ingredient at Niko Niko, appearing in quite a few of their rolls but it's not something I usually expect on sushi. Here it was overwhelming the rest of the ingredients in this roll, plus the warm temperature threw off the taste a little. As a bonus though, there were some crunchy rice bits stuck to the tinfoil like you'd find at bottom of a pot of fried rice.

Love Love (not pictured) - spicy tuna, salmon, avocado, cucumber. The spicy tuna was chopped on top, and not much to say about the taste except that it was a combination of the ingredients. The presentation was nice and probably accounts for the second "love".

The restaurant was more than half empty on the two week nights we visited, but I expect weekends to be more crowded. Decor wise the restaurant is well lit on the two week nightsand interestingly is decorated with murals of Venice, presumably from the location's last iteration as Venizia. The main mural was left largely intact, except for the addition of a Niko Niko sign done in a fine black Sharpie on one of the merchants along the canals of venice. See if you can spot it on your next visit!

Overall, we were pretty pleased with the quality of the food and will visit it quite often, especially when we're not in the mood to eat until we explode.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Baby Martini

It has been quite awhile since our last review, but never fear, dear reader, we are still alive and dining. A couple of months ago Baby Martini joined the family which put our restaurant outings briefly on hold. We will be training her in the art of fine cuisine as soon as possible as to avoid reviewing places like Chuck E Cheese and East Side Mario's. Look for some more reviews coming in the next few days!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Wok Wagon Express

Wok Wagon
450 Columbia St. West
Waterloo, Ontario

Every time I pass by Columbia and Fisher-Hallman / Bearinger, I can't help but to take a quick look into the parking lot, see if I can spot the "Wok Wagon". Eh, no, not the store, I am talking about the little white truck with the "Wok Wagon" logo and contact info.

The first time I ordered something from Wok Wagon (the restaurant) was several years ago. I grabbed the menu and expected to see items like "Sweet and Sour Chicken Balls". Well, they did have that. But there were also authentic Chinese dishes. I ordered "Almond Soo Guy" (almond chicken) w/ rice to go. I remembered I was on a tight schedule that day, I parked my car in the park and was planning to stuff myself w/ few bites of whatever so I could go to the next appointment. But man! It was good. (I am sure I didn't feel so just because I was hungry; I ordered this dish several times afterwards and it was just as good). The juicy chicken breast strips wrapped in crispy(outside) fluffy(inside) batter. The sauce, vegetables and rice were also nicely done. How come no one's ever mentioned this restaurant before? Is it because it barely qualifies as a restaurant (no seating, "take out" only)? Ever since this trial, Wok Wagon becomes "officially" on our Chinese take-out list.

What really makes Wok Wagon unique is not just the good food, but their "Kitchen-on-the-go". One year we celebrated J's B-day by inviting friends to our place and had Wok Wagon catering for us. The initial contact didn't go smoothly. Since the minimum order was $150 ($200 on weekends if I remember it correctly), I thought I might as well order all the items people might be interested. When I was on the 8th item, the guy taking the order interrupted me PROMPTLY, in an AUTHORITATIVE manner, "We can't serve this way. The food won't be hot enough if you order so many different items." "....(shocked for 5 seconds)...I'll call you back in 10 minutes." "OK." I did call back in 10 minutes, here's the final list:
- Honey Garlic Ribs $9.25
- Spicy Garlic Beef $9.25
- Imperial Pork $7.95
- Lemon Chicken $8.25
- Treasure Nest (seafood served in a bowl made of crispy fried potatoes) $12.95
- Cantonese Chow Mein $9.50
- Vegetable Fried Rice $5.50
- Spicy Tofu $6.50
I didn't order Almond Soo Guy due to allergy concern. Also, the Honey Garlic Ribs might be made in advance so it wasn't counted as a (hot) stir-fry item. (At least I wasn't interrupted this time so I guess I didn't "max out" the stir-fry limit.)

The truck arrived slightly ahead of schedule. It pulled into our driveway. Truck stopped, doors opened. The chef got off from the driver's side then went into the "kitchen" and got ready to cook. A girl walked out from the passenger's side; she was responsible for the paper work (billing), asking for serving bowls and passing the dishes to us. Btw, you could opt to rent their dishware or purchase the disposable ones. We figured it was just a friends' get-together. Worst comes worst, we have stainless steel mixing bowls and deep baking sheets. : p

After we got their permission, we took turns to visit the kitchen and saw how the chef worked in this compact kitchen. For so many dishes, it only took her less than 30 minutes to start, cook, clean-up and time to take a group picture w/ us. Not to mention all the dishes were still piping hot after the truck left our driveway.

Although some friends showed up late, as usual, and missed the show. People in general were quite happy w/ the food. The funny thing is, almost every dish had its own "fans", even the relatively generic chow mein and fried rice. Decent ingredients, a hot wok and fast action are key elements of good Chinese food. Wok Wagon achieves that with their kitchen on the wheels.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Ellison's Bistro

Ellison's Bistro
14 Charles St. West
Kitchener, Ontario

Last month we went to Atlantis at Paradise Island, Bahamas. We couldn't help but to compare the food we had over there with Ellison's, and I must say that the Caribbean cuisine in the resort didn't impress us much. Ellison's Bistro, to us, is a hidden gem in K-W area. We initially learned about this place through word of mouth. Since then we've visited this restaurant several times and tried various items.

We normally like to start with the pepper pot soup. The portions of main dishes are generous, to the extent that we rarely have chance to sample their desserts. Don't worry if you can't take the heat. The food here is not overly spicy, although you can always request for it. If you decide to go to Ellison's Bistro, I highly recommend their pepper pot soup, jerk chicken and roti with your choice of curry (chicken/goat/beef).

Pepper pot soup: the immense black pepper and herbal aroma will awake every sense of yours after your first sip. And just when you think it isn't as spicy as expected, the "heat" will suddenly kick in and numb your tongue and mouth. But you know you can't stop. There's more! The flavorful, thick beef soup is full of potatoes, veggies and stewing beef. Everything blends in yet still remains its unique taste. I would be dying to know the trick if this flavor can be achieved without long hours of baby-sitting the pot. We love to enjoy the soup on cold raining days, although Elvis told us it would be equally nice on warmer days as well - the spiciness will help you to sweat and hence you'll feel cooler afterwards.

Jerk chicken: I have this dish several times and it never disappoints me. The chicken is spicy yet moist inside. It is so flavorful that sometimes I can't help but to finish the whole dish and over-stuff myself. Despite the fact that Elvis is the only one working in the kitchen, he still tries hard to impress...with style. Things like green onion "flower" or orange twist are regulars on his plates.

Roti (fluffy flat bread) served with curry. Don't underestimate this "wrap"; that's a lot of food in it. The worst part is, not only it is difficult to stop eating, you might even ask for more dinner rolls so you can dip it in the remaining curry. It's that finger-licking good.

I took my sister to Ellison's Bistro during her visit. She is from Sydney (Australia), the city with abundant nice restaurants and fresh, good quality supplies. Not to mention she's been "the" finicky eater in my family. She was, however, quite impressed by Elvis' food and service.

Reservation is recommended. Once we decided to pop in without reservation and it was the only time Elvis didn't come greet us. It is nice that the chef actually comes out and greets you. If time is permitted, he is even happy to answer any question about the food, the menu and his restaurant. During a recent visit, I noticed his daily lunch special promo. The items vary by day and it's for take-out only. Probably a good idea to call for details.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


425 King St. North
Waterloo, Ontario N2J 2Z5

It's almost impossible not to have a huge buzz surrounding the opening of this new restaurant. With a lavish new building that catches your eyes even in the middle of the cold, dark winter, the veterans behind Charcoal Steak House and del Dente are attempting to bring a new upscale dining experience north (or is that west?) into Waterloo. We had high expectations for this place, and while it met most of them, there were some disappointments. Until the menu was posted recently on their website, I had hoped for a more adventurous culinary experience. Alas, the Widemans know their target market too well and brought "American comfort food" to town using a fairly standard menu with few twists. I suspect this approach will maximize their bottom line without taking many risks.

The interior was designed by Cricket Design who did a fabulous job creating a warm, inviting atmosphere which hits on all the latest mainstream design trends. A soaring facade of stonework towers over a huge fireplace. Dark tones and warm colours make you feel like you're relaxing in someone's family room. Trendy dogwood and tall grasses accent the walls. Contemporary drum shade lamps, chandeliers and sconces soften the mood with dim lighting. All of this is anchored by a huge two storey glass encased wine cellar that highlights the highest margin items in the house.

I reserved our dinner online at (very handy) for a Thursday night about one week after the restaurant opened. We arrived to a packed front lobby but were still greeted very promptly by the hostess team who took our jackets and found our reservation quickly. Even though the restaurant was only open for a week, the service was well above our expectations with only a few minor glitches. Other new restaurants opening should take note - iron out your service before opening, bad first impressions take a lot of effort to correct.

We were brought water quickly, although no drink order was taken at this time and this caused our bread, drinks and appetizers to eventually arrive at the same time. This was really the only quirk in service which otherwise was very friendly and efficient. Even while Wildcraft is advertised as "casual upscale", there were some nice high end touches such as having napkins refolded after leaving your seat.

First up were the sirloin skewers. This was my favourite dish of the night, even though it wasn't perfect. The beef had a fantastic rich, savoury taste, dusted with walnuts and just a hint of heat. Normally I prefer my beef on the rare side, but even though these were cooked through the texture was fine. Three of the five skewers were perfect, but the other two had a fair amount of chewy gristle. The chili orange aioli that accompanied it didn't quite complement the flavours by virtue of being too sweet.

Our other appetizer was the roasted wild mushroom soup. This was a puree of five mushrooms (portobello, shiitake, oyster, button and porcini), topped with some fresh enoki mushrooms and a healthy dose of white truffle oil. The truffle aroma was almost overwhelming at first, but added a rich earthiness to the dish. A great dish for the winter. In the background of the photo you might be able to make out salt and pepper grinders. They've dispensed with the "would you like some fresh ground pepper?" routine which was not missed - usually I'd expect the chef to properly season the dishes, and if not, I'd like to taste it first before deciding if it needs more spicing up.

For my main course, I had the seared ahi tuna. It had a nice crust of pepper, fennel and coriander seed and was evenly and properly seared. The flavour of the fish was a little plain and almost watery, especially when contrasted with the heavy spice crust. A nice ponzu sauce made up for the lack of taste though. The julienned vegetables was a little heavy on the onions and pepper. They were seated atop a bed of jasmine tea scented rice. The fish wasn't quite sushi grade, or at least it wasn't trimmed to sushi standards since there were some stringy bits of membrane running through a couple pieces.

G had the ricotta ravioli, a hearty portion of huge ravioli in a roasted pepper sauce. The sauce was quite sharp, but when matched with the rapini (hidden underneath) it was fine. The ravioli were stuffed very full with ricotta and herbs and were quite satisfying.

For dessert we shared the cranberry maple tart. It was a nice pairing of very sweet chai syrup and tart cranberries with a pecan crust. On the side was some whipped cream and nice candied ginger. G enjoyed this dessert very much. Normally she avoids this kind of desserts because they tend to be overly sweet. Nonetheless, a scoop of vanilla ice cream would go better with the tart than the whipped cream; that blob of white mass was really out of place.

Overall, the quality of the food and service were top notch, especially considering how new the restaurant is. The menu isn't quite as exciting as I had hoped. Starters include a few soups and salads ($5-$7). Some more interesting appetizers ($9-$17) include the sirloin skewers ($10.95), warm goat cheese ($8.95) or short rib quesadillas ($8.95). They have an offering of thin crust pizzas called flatbreads for around $10. Entrées are pretty standard and range from $13 for the W burger to $35 for the veal porterhouse. The list includes a few steaks, pork tenderloin, chicken breast, rack of lamb, salmon, seared tuna, a vegetarian stir fry and a couple of pasta dishes. You can also jack up your bill by adding some sides à la steakhouses - mushrooms, peppercorn sauce, shrimp skewers or fries ($4-$6).

Desserts are all made in house, and kudos to them for doing so. It's all too common these days to find the dessert menu stacked with Dufflet pastries. Again there was nothing surprising on the menu, which includes crème brûlée, cheesecake, chocolate torte, fruits, cheeses and gelato. I think the cranberry maple tart we had was the most original item.

Total for the evening was just under $100 including tax and tip. One bottle of sparkling water and no alcoholic beverages were consumed.

Finally, I couldn't resist a picture of the washroom. Trendy trough sinks and some gratuitous LCD TVs. The men's washroom had little instructions on the faucets, but the ladies did not. What kind of statement are they trying to make?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Johnny Fresco

Johnny Fresco
3-244 Weber St. North
Waterloo, Ontario, N2J 3H4

A couple of days ago a colleague insisted on going to this new place he previously remembered driving by. Of course, he didn't know the name of the place nor the type of food it served, but at least he knew where it was (corner of University and Weber). Turns out it was Johnny Fresco, which about two months ago took over the space where Donut Queen used to be. We did a brief drive by and it looked safe enough so we ventured in for lunch.

The space is bright and airy, but almost a little too sparse and empty. The menu is mostly fast food oriented, with burgers, pitas, fries, and other pick up and bite items. The set up is reminiscent of Harvey's where you order at the counter, a tray is set up and passed along the counter where toppings are placed on your cooked to order burger. The burgers are thick 6oz deals, which take a few minutes longer than the average fast food joint to cook. I ordered the only somewhat different item on the menu, the Greco Pita. This turned out to be a pita with a burger patty cut up and stuffed inside. It was a little dry and a little too full of burger meat for my tastes, even after I loaded it up with toppings, including tzatziki sauce, mushrooms, pineapple, hot peppers, plus the typical lettuce, tomato, cucumber. It came with a side and can of pop, the side being a choice of fries, garden, or caesar salad. Trying to be somewhat healthy, I choose the garden salad. It was served "Subway" style which means the same toppings that go on a sandwich/burger go into a plastic container to make the "salad". I tried some of my colleague's fries but they were not noteworthy (so why am I making a note of them?)

Overall, the food was about average, slightly above Harvey's but slightly below The Grill at University plaza. Most of the clientele seemed to be foot traffic from the local high school. It didn't seem like there was enough volume to support the place but I'm not a restaurateur. However, it was a cold and snowy day so perhaps it was down from the normal levels. Perhaps they were trying to cut costs because it felt like the only heat in the place was coming from the grill. It was freezing inside, and having bare metal chairs didn't help at all. I see no reason to return. The last thing this town needs is another copycat burger/greek fast food place.

Lunch items were $4-6, plus $1.50 for a combo or another $1 for a double burger (far too much meat for the average person).

China Garden

China Garden
31 University Ave. East
Waterloo, Ontario N2J 2A2

I can't believe we never write anything about China Garden. How can this be? We have had numerous meals from this restaurants ever since we first came to Waterloo. I still remember "the good old days", biking to China Garden for a bowlful of congee with dough fritters. We are no longer students and we've switched our main transportation tools to cars. Time flies! Still, there are days that we just crave for authentic Cantonese eatery food, and China Garden hasn't changed much since my first visit.

So far we have tried roughly 30% of their items, naturally we order some specific items more often than others:

- congee + dough fritters. I like the house special or shreaded pork with preserved eggs. There were times the congee was too watery, most of time the consistency is ok. And it is such a treat to dip crispy dough fritter into the thick congee then bite into it. :)

- fried rice: at one time we ordered the fried rice with two sauces (one ketchup-based the other cream-based) very frequently but we eventually got tired of it. Nowadays I tend to order salt fish and chicken fried rice and J enjoys the pineapple & chicken fried rice.
- sliced beef flat rice noodle. This is our all-time favorite comfort food, greasy and loads of flavor.
- fried noodles: I like the crispy noodles. As long as I get the crispy bits, I'm happy with any combination.
- beef tendon and brisket: the quantity is small but it normally packs with lots of flavour.
- XO sauce rice noodles. Pan-fried rice noodles with XO sauce and finish with peanut sauce.

Although they claim that they don't use MSG, I can still feel it afterwards(migrane, abnormal thirst and occasional rash). Not like MSG will stop me from having Chinese food completely. : p Btw, if you pay in cash and order $20+ (before tax) for takeout, you get 10% off.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

All About Crepes

All About Crepes (Closed)
75 King St. South
Waterloo, Ontario N2J 1P2

After giving this place a scathing review, I felt like I should give them a second chance and returned once again for lunch. I must admit, the plating and presentation was much improved over their first efforts, but the menu wasn't changed at all and featured the same oddly priced list of crepes. Portions were still small, fillings had a very processed and unrefined taste to them. The dessert crepe my companion had wasn't too bad, but seemed to be filled with nutella (and too much at that). Strangely, the place was still quite busy so what do I know.

Thai Sun

Thai Sun
75 King St. South
Waterloo, Ontario N2J 1P2

After what seemed like an interminable 6+ month wait, Thai Sun is finally open, capping off a small row of shops and restaurants on the newly built Willis Way. I visited the place for lunch a few days after shortly after the opening. The decor was very contemporary, with flowing curves, designer oriented highlights and changes in elevation for added architectural interest. The difference between renovating an existing space versus starting from a blank canvas is evident here as a lot of effort was put into the design, and pays off well with a good first impression.

The menu was better than I expected. Thai Sun looks to be targeting a more upscale market than the typical 500+ menu item selection found at most common Viet-Thai restaurants. For lunch, they offer a few specials on a rotating menu, plus about half a dozen each of appetizers, entrees, soups and salads. The specials included spinning noodles (more commonly known as pad thai), green chicken curry, and wonton soup with beef jerky. Most specials include a side such as a shrimp roll, spring roll, mango salad and/or sticky rice. I was intrigued yet hesitant to order the beef jerky, as I was afraid I'd end up with a hot rod or something similar. I was pleasantly surprised to find a few tasty sweet and salty pieces of cured beef sprinkled with sesame. The wonton soup was about average, a nicely flavoured broth with a small number of forgettable wontons. The mango salad was a tasteful combination of sliced mango, onions, peppers and cilantro. However, it didn't have as much mango as I would have liked. Sticky rice was served on the side in a small woven container and helped provide a solid base for the meal. My colleagues were all generally pleased with the food although portions were somewhat small and not filling enough for a bunch of strapping young men.

As expected with any brand new restaurant, there were quite a few service related missteps. We had to ask for napkins and cutlery, food took quite awhile to come out, and entrees didn't arrive at the same time forcing two of us to wait awhile before giving up and starting without meals in front of everyone. Also, the side dishes were completely mixed up and we missed one of them without knowing it. I wouldn't hold this against them though unless the problems continue after a few weeks.

The lunch specials were all $11.99 or $12.99, soups and appetizers all less than $10, and main dinner items around $15. I found this pretty reasonable for the quality of the food they offer. I applaud them for their take on Thai food, with high quality, fresher ingredients and less reliance on excessive sauces and cooking. They've put together something more interesting than the ubiquitous copycat Viet-Thai places around town.