1. Hotel Ocho: Summerlicious ‘14 Stop 4

    First things first: if you haven’t yet done so please go to this link and vote for us as your favourite photo for Summerlicious on BlogTO! If you’ve already voted, a huge thank you goes out to you. Without further ado, our review of Ocho.

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    Here’s our first of three posts after recovering from our Summerlicious feeding frenzy, Hotel Ocho (FB, Twitter)! It’s one of the more affordable Summerlicious options we tried this year. Priced at $15 for lunch and $20 for dinner, their menu is a veritable steal in value. We at the Meandering Spork headquarters have wanted to try Ocho for a while now because we walk past this place a lot (it’s on the southerly edge of Chinatown and borders the Queen West fashion district) and the decor, with its generally airy, chill vibe, drew us in. When we saw that Ocho was offering a Summerlicious menu, we jumped at the chance to sample their food. :)

    The Appetizers:

    Chilled Sweet Potato, Mango & Yogurt Soup (Vegetarian/Local)
    With: Fresh Cilantro

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    This is one of those times when our choice of an adventurous dish was probably a little ill-advised. Neither of us particularly like sweet and chilled soups, but we decided to give it a go anyway. Sweet potato, mango and yogurt is a strange combination on paper and in this case, it translated to an equally strange soup. The sweet potato soup itself was very thick but was a bit bland. Though the diced mangoes on top added a little flavour, it was not enough to give a sense of full flavour. This soup felt like an exercise in exercising subtlety, but perhaps a bit too much?

    Smoked Salmon & Arugula (Local)
    With: Olives, Feta & Black Pepper Lemon Crème Fraîche 

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    The smoked salmon was delightfully done, very tender with lots of flavours. Yes, this is an attractive photo, and it does the dish justice. The black pepper was a nice touch, since both Dan and Anna prefer stronger flavours. While olives aren’t really popular with either of us (a personal preference), the arugula certainly tasted very fresh, was delightfully crunchy, and the dressing complemented the overall flavours of the salad. This was a much more classic plate of subtle flavours and we liked it. :)

    The Mains:

    Oven Baked Halibut (Local)
    With: Wild Rice, Seasonal Vegetables & Mandarin Glaze

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    First thing to point out is, yes, those are real mandarins on top of that halibut, and man they are sweet and sour and juicy, so if you pick it up thinking that it’s not a real mandarin slice…you’d be wrong. Dan didn’t particularly like it (he likes his savoury noms), but had to admit that it complemented the other flavours on the dish well. The halibut itself was very well done, being nice, flaky, and well seasoned. The best part of this dish may be the wild rice, which was very delicious since it had a very distinct flavour and aroma of its own. The veggies added a good variation in texture to the overall plate.

    Filo Parcel Filled with AAA New York & Brie Cheese (Local)
    With: Mushroom Jus on Mixed Greens & New Potatoes

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    It’s a giant spring roll! This was our favourite part of the meal, since 1) it’s a spring roll and 2) it was absolutely delicious. Now mind you, neither of us knew that that’s what a filo roll was. Quite frankly, when we saw AAA New York, we assumed we were getting steak again. But lo and behold, it was a pleasant surprise. The beef was very juicy and tender and the brie was the perfect complement. The crust was flaky and added some much needed texture and crunch to the dish. Best of all, it wasn’t dry at all and was perfectly cooked. Overall, if this dish was offered on Ocho’s regular menu, it is safe to say that we would go back just to have it again.

    The Desserts:

    Mango Sorbet (Vegan/Local)

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    Mangoes are definitely reminiscent of summer and this sorbet was a very refreshing end to the meal. While it doesn’t quite measure up to the best sorbets/gelatos we’ve ever had (Dan: Anna still dreams about that place. XD) (Anna: It’s true.), the sorbet was very light and fresh, while not overpoweringly sweet on our palates. The powdered sugar was a pretty, albeit unnecessary, touch, and the berries added some complexity to an otherwise stellar if uncomplicated dessert. This is a classic, summer dessert that hit the right spots.

    Raspberry Cheesecake

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    A quick note, we actually had ordered the lime mousse and not the raspberry cheesecake, but when this came instead we were quite happy to stick with it. Anna thought that the presentation of the cheesecake looked remarkably like a little palm tree (Anna: It’s so cute lookit!) and it certainly is very pretty. The cheesecake itself is not as rich and dense as, say, a New York cheesecake; rather, it had a lighter and fluffier consistency. However, it was heavier relative to the mango sorbet though. All told, it’s a nice palate cleanser at the end of the meal, and didn’t sit too heavily in our stomachs.

    The Wrap:

    So how’d we feel after wanting to try Ocho for so long? We liked it. It’s rustic atmosphere had a nice modern spin on it, just like the food, the presentation, and tastes. That filo parcel was quite simply, a splendid surprise that we’ll be happy to come back for. Aside from that mixed up dessert, the service was really good and at the end of the day with pricing set at Summerlicious’ lowest tier, the value really is quite good. You’re effectively getting a free dessert with your appetizer and main course at these prices. Maybe next time we’ll be back for dinner. The hotel’s always looked pretty at night. ^^

    The Location:

    Situated at the southern end of Chinatown on Spadina Ave., Hotel Ocho is one of the chic “new-old” buildings in the area. Feel free to take a stroll up through Chinatown or down south to the lake before or after the meal. Parking may be found for fairly cheap (< $8) in either Chinatown or closer to the downtown core if you don’t mind the walk.

    Hotel Ocho on Urbanspoon