The Region of Waterloo is home to many regions that inspire start-ups (such as Thalmic Labs), housing, and of course many restaurants. The Region is developing and propelling a movement alike many urban areas, by bringing innovative ideas and talented people together, whilst keeping the scenic and spacious rural landscape. Andrew Coppolino of (@WatRegionEats on Twitter) gave us a tour on behalf of Waterloo Region Tourism, with 4 set destinations in mind for the day.

** Article and Pictures by Janey Tso. Visit her Instagram and Twitter to check out her feeds ** 

One of these regions was Downtown Kitchener , located in the heart of downtown Kitchener. Although many restaurants incorporate diversity from different cultures, the ingredients are primarily local from Ontario. Our very first stop was B@TheMuseum, a gastropub connected to the city’s prominent landmarks - the Kitchener Museum. They’re known for their local craft beers and entertainment nights – including vinyl nights and live performances - and their ambiance “intrigues curiosity and welcomes comfort”, which attracts customers of all ages. Andrew and the waitresses informed us of some of the restaurant as well as recommendations for nearby restaurants. 

 Steam Buns (2 for $8) –  a light shareable appetizer with pulled duck, hoisin, sriracha, cilantro, scallions

Chow Dumplings  ($11) – popular menu item featuring vegetarian or pork dumplings in a sesame soy dip (I loved this appetizer)

B@TheMuseum stays true to their roots by using traditional cooking methods – induction burners, baking – over deep frying since there are no hood vents. The lack of oil brings out the flavours in their food. Of course we had to try their beers as well, including their personal favourite – Railway City’s Honey Elixir – and their top-selling flagship starter – Four Fathers.

4 oz flight tasters – Pommies’ Cranberry Cider (sweetest), Railway City’s Honey Elixir, Block 3 St. Jacob’s Cheap Gold Golden strong ale, Four Fathers’ Starter Session IPA (hoppy in flavour), Elora’s Three Fields

 The next restaurant was next-door, called The Berlin. The atmosphere was inviting, yet high-class. They’re matched with some of the country’s most influential chefs, who’ve had experience cooking at fine-dining restaurants. Even their kitchen is an open concept, where one can smell and see their meals come to life. Alike B@TheMuseum, The Berlin places an emphasis on using quality ingredients from local farmers. Many of the dishes are cooked over a coal-burning fire, adding a European flare. With so much variety, it is no surprise that their menu is always changing, along with what’s in season, so there is always a chance to try something new and refreshing. None of the dishes were disappointing; it was hard to pick a favourite because the flavours and spices were so unique in each dish. 

Open-concept Kitchen

Queen Elizabeth has stayed at the Walper Hotel, their partnered hotel next-door.

Beef Pancetta with Arugula from Stratford

Pork head with Foie Gras Terrine in a Toasted Seed Vinaigrette Dressing 

Scallop and Asian Pear Skewer Garnished with Pickled Basil

Charred Carrots in an Aniseedy Spiced Emulsion using Carrot Juice as Vinegar 

Daisy Bay Oysters over Mustard Greens and Topped with Grapefruit Jelly 

Trout cooked slowly over coals until 60% done, crispy skin, charred onions marinated in Riesling vinegar to order 

 Steak Served with a Foie Gras Parfait and Wild Chives

Duck Prosciutto and Beet Salad

Champagne AgraPart & Fils Terroirs Extra Bruit Blanc de Blancs Aged Oak Wine Not Found in LCBO

We drove to Uptown Waterloo afterwards, with Abe Erb as our next destination, a brew house in itself. Large metal vessels are aligned along the second level of the brewery, which validates the authenticity of providing fresh beer. They craft cocktails, whiskeys, and also serve small craft beers, wine, and non-spirited options. We had quite a meal prior to this, so we opted for a flight to sample taps from Ontario. 

(right to left) Erb Street Organic 

1857 Kölsch – a light, crisp, gold ale that recently made its way to the LCBO
Das Spritzhaus Hefeweizen  - medium bodied wheat beer “notes of banana with hints of clove”. It was pouring straight down the line that day, hence the freshest
British Mild – tastes like toffee

Our last restaurant was Taco Farm, a collaboration between 2 restaurateurs of nearby restaurants - Chainsaw and Uptown 21 to be exact. These gluten-free tacos have been featured on “You Gotta Eat Here”, and the restaurant carries a large variety of tequila, wherein one can learn about the process of making it and its different types in their “Tequila Schools”. Being a part of the tour, we were able to catch a glimpse into the taco-making equipment before diving into our meal.

Fresh Tortilla Chips with Salsa (complimentary) 

Chicken Pibil ($5) – citrus, achiote, banana leaf stewed chicken, pickled onion, guacamole

Fried Fish ($5) – crispy fried cod, cabbage crudito, farm sauce, cilantro, Jake’s chili-garlic sauce (My favorite of the three)

Grilled Cheese & Mushroom Quesadilla ($6.50) – melted 3 queso blend, smoked mushrooms, mole poblano, salsa verde

Exploring Waterloo’s Food Boroughs opened our eyes to the food scene in this wonderful Region. We were surprised as to that all of the restaurants we visited supported local farms, and satisfied our palates beyond our expectations. Like Downtown Toronto, many of the businesses are close to one another, but the atmosphere is refreshing, clean, and comfortable, with spacious areas to lounge around. If you want to take a mini road-trip with approximately a 2-hour drive, Waterloo is a great place to check out for their restaurants.

** Article and Pictures by Janey Tso. Visit her Instagram and Twitter to check out her feeds ** 

Disclaimer: The tour/food provided in this post was complimentary. However, all of the opinions expressed in this review are of my own.

Waterloo Food Tour

by on Thursday, December 29, 2016
The Region of Waterloo is home to many regions that inspire start-ups (such as Thalmic Labs), housing, and of course many restaurants. The...
Spicy Mafia is from the same team behind both Kaka AYCE and Morals Village. I had the pleasure of attending a tasting at Spicy Mafia during their soft opening, and enjoyed an intimate mini hot pot meal. The concept at Spicy Mafia is similar to Morals Village Hot Pot except it's not AYCE. Rather, the meal is DIY, and each diner gets their own personal hot pot complete with a pre-arranged assortments of items. However, you are free to add more items for extra costs. 

Spicy Mafia is housed in the previous HOPO spot and its interior is very bold and modern with lots of prints. There are also a few mafia themed motifs throughout the restaurant including writings on the servers' shirts. It's very fitting considering its name. 

We started off the night with some snacks, Chicken Nuggets served with Tartar Sauce ($3.99) and Cold Noodle Mixed with Spicy Sauce ($5.99). I am not a fan of cold noodles, but the ones here was pretty good, as the sauce added quite a kick.

Prices start at $12.99 for your choice of soup base, one item from staple food, one meat item, and two dipping sauce. The mini hot pot set comes with all the following topping items; luncheon meat, Japanese crab meat, Hong Kong style red sausage, while shrimp, tofu puff, Napa cabbage, lettuce, lotus root, sweet corn, seaweed, and enoki

Unlike the large soup bases menu at Morals, there are only five options for soup bases at Spicy Mafia. The newest soup base is the healthier option, Chinese Angelica Soup Base. 

For meats, you have the option to choose from the following; New Zealand Spring Lamb, Pork Slice, Certified Angus Beef Slice. Each portion comes with four to five slices, but you can always order more meat plates for an additional $2.50 each. 

For my hot pot, I opted for the signature spicy soup base, Japanese udon (+$1), certfied Angus beef slice, and housemade sesame sauce and housemade spicy oil as my sauces. The signature spicy soup base is my go-to soup base at Morals Village, so I definitely wanted it as my soup base

For my drink order, I got the Creamy Thai Coconut Slush, which was refreshing considering the spicy soup base that I chose. 

I'd say that the overall meal was affordable especially given the quality of the food. It would have been nice to have a little more meat slices, but the extra cost isn't too bad for more. I had a lot of fun with the hot pot concept, and the meal was just right - I was not too full nor too hungry. Spicy Mafia is a good alternative to hot pot if your appetite isn't up for AYCE hot pot, as that can get pretty pricey, especially if you're not that hungry.   

Spicy Mafia is currently running a 20% off deal when you post on social media of your meal. 

Address: 20 Gibson Drive Unit 111A Markham, ON, L3R 0M7

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Disclaimer: The food provided in this post was complimentary. However, all of the opinions expressed in this review are of my own.

Spicy Mafia

by on Thursday, December 22, 2016
Spicy Mafia   is from the same team behind both Kaka AYCE and Morals Village. I had the pleasure of attending a tasting at  Spicy Mafia  du...
Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of attending the grand opening of the newly opened Dave & Buster's in Oakville, ON. I am quite familiar with the brand, as Dave & Buster's has been a household name for many years. Its first Canadian location opened in the year 2000 up in Vaughan, and has since been frequent by many visitors. This location marks the second location in Canada, and it is bigger than ever. 

However, over the last two decades, much has changed, including the demise of arcade and game centers due the emergence of mobile phones and Netflix. The health movement over the last six years has also made Dave & Buster's traditional burger and fries menu far less appealing than what it was. With that being said, they have changed their food menu, and the options are now more diverse. The menu is rather extensive with items like shareable appetizers, side salads, beef steaks and ribs, pasta, sandwiches, and so much more. 

In order to survive in such a different hospitality landscape. Changes had to be made not only to the brand's offering, but to the overall corporate identity of what Dave & Buster's should be in today's digital age. The all-new Dave & Buster's in Oakville opens with a menu of new food, new drinks, new games and the ultimate sports viewing at their sports bar area. The new space was quite large at 36,000-square-foot and designed to be upscale, and modern. 

Guests at the media preview also got to try a few food items like the Pepperoni Pretzel Pull-Apart, the Caveman Combo (ribs, sliders and fries piled high in a bucket!), a Legendary Burger lineup featuring a burger topped with boneless buffalo wings, and the all-new Carnivore Pizzadilla. I do recommend the new food items. The new food menu was diverse with burgers, fries, ribs, and more healthy options, whereas the drinks were exotic to every detail. Colorful in design, which matches the excitement of the glowing lights when you enter the gaming zone. 

The Million Dollar Midway caters to all sort of gamers, as there are more than 160 games to choose from. Some notable ones are Star Trek, Ghostbusters, Star Wars Battle Pod, Candy Crush, Pac-Mac, Air Hockey, and more. Plus, every Wednesday is “Half Price Games Wednesday”, where every game is half off, all day long. Those hard-earned tickets can be redeemed with a trip to the Winner’s Circle for a variety of prizes, including Apple products, Xbox games, sports memorabilia and much more!

It has been over 2 years since my last visit to a D&B. The new Oakville complex has changed before my eyes to what I remember of Dave & Buster's. It is now a spacious sports bar with comfortable seats, and outfitted with massive HD TVs. Lastly, corporate rooms are also available for rent allowing companies to have team building activities upstairs. All this shift in their brand was to expand their target audience to bring on a more mature crowd but also pleasing their old client base. 

All in all, Dave & Buster's has done a fantastic job in re-inventing itself in a market that had been tight squeezed over the last 4 years. Their food menu will continue to be refreshed to meet the continuous demands of what makes Toronto a central hub for fine dining & quality entertainment.

Address: 2021 Winston Park Dr, Oakville, ON L6H 6P5

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Disclaimer: The food provided in this post was complimentary. However, all of the opinions expressed in this review are of my own.