Tuesday, January 11, 2011


You guys should be happy to know I'm going to try to spend less of each entry on writing and critiquing in the future, and focus more on my strengths- drawing! Turns out I love food too much to be a critic, go figure.

Utopia Restaurant Toronto, 586 College Street
586 College Street

I believe in honesty. This is not my first visit to Utopia! Though I’m not a frequent patron of the Little Italy resto, I’ve been a fair share of times. I tend to be pleased with the food, sometimes by a lot, sometimes not so much. I’ve never been disappointed.
To mix things up, my sister and I tried out the famous back patio. I know, I know. How is winter my first patio visit? I was a fool in the summer, that’s how. We head back, and I’m already not sure we made the right choice. Inside the main body of the building is happy lighting, comfortable wood chairs, and beautiful exposed brick. It has a clean bistro feel, and I usually feel very happy inside. This patio is so different! Some of the feel of the interior was reflected in the wall decorations, a long shelf of wood running along one wall, with herbs potted in long tin pans along it. I like that touch. It was the seating that I regretted- like most patios, it had those horrible plastic stacking chairs, and ugly plastic marble-top tables. I have seen beautiful and functional patios. This is not one of them. We sat, and the heating was right on us- very cozy. Throughout our dinner, the heat went on and off, and while we never froze, it did get distracting. I recommend sitting indoors whenever possible!
The servers here are really, really friendly. I sat at the bar a while and chatted with the bartender while waiting for my sister, and felt right at home. After we had ordered, there was a mix up with the special that I had ordered- the chef made something else, thinking the Sunday special was another kind of burrito. We were assured that the mistake was quickly being remedied. Moments later, she came back with a half-pint for each of us on the house- totally unexpected! It was an unnecessarily nice touch. Even more surprising was that it only took five more minutes for out orders to come out. So while there was a mistake to begin with, they made up for it entirely.
The menu at Utopia is extensive, made up of multiple variations on favourites like burgers (lamb, beef and veggie), burritos, quesadillas, sandwiches and salads. There are also appetizers, and a couple entrées. They have a nice beer and wine list as well, including KLB’s raspberry wheat beer, of which I’m very fond, and had with my meal.
We ordered an app, two mains, and a delicious dessert.

Creamy Crummy Croquettes
Tofu Cream Croquettes – 5.75
Panko crusted tofu & cream cheese, chipotle sauce
Adding a panko crust to something usually makes it a winner for me- I love that crunch! Though perfectly fried, these dumplings were a disappointment, unfortunately. While there was nothing offensive about them, there was nothing good about them, either- Utopia fell into the classic tofu handling pitfall of not having enough flavour. They were incredibly bland. They also had no texture. Here is a food for those with recently ousted wisdom teeth. You don’t have to chew at all! The sauce that came with them added the only flavour they had at all. Now, that sauce was really good! I found it to be like sweet and sour sauce, but much smokier.

Turf Wars!
Surn’n Turf Burrito (Sunday Special) – 9.99
Cheddar, salsa, lettuce, grilled onions, jalapeño mayonnaise. Coleslaw.
Utopia knows how to fill a plate- I think my eyes may have been bigger than my stomach. The burrito itself is a monster, stuffed and stacked one half on top to the other. It comes with a heaping side of black bean rice, and no shy portion of coleslaw. The coleslaw is the kind I like- vinaigrette instead of cream. What made this coleslaw stand out was the use of sesame oil, making it taste bolder than any ‘slaw I have ever had. I was impressed that the chef’s put so much thought into what is usually an unpopular side. The rice was cooked perfectly, very soft and fluffy, with the beans adding texture, colour, and flavour. I think it could have been bolder, having little flavour outside of the natural bean taste. I added salt.
Years ago, I worked at a burrito joint, and have frequented a few since then. As such, I like to consider myself a casual expert in the art of the inauthentic burrito- Toronto style. This one had it happening in all the right places. The tortilla was crisped perfectly, the light taste of char going wonderfully with steak strips. I didn’t taste the shrimp too strongly, but it was present and added a distinct texture. The steak won this one for me. It was crisp on the outside, tender and juicy inside, not chewy at all. It dominated the combination of flavours, with other things like the jalapeño mayo and onions working to accent it. Altogether the whole thing was more than I could finish.

My sisters delish dish
Baked Chicken Pesto Sandwich – 9.50
Chicken, pesto, asiago cheese, sourdough roll, salsa. Fries.
Since Mary had this one, I can't really write a huge commentary on it. I tried some and it was very flavourful and full of pesto...which is great! Definitely generous.

For those who skipped French class- 'Brulé' means burned!
Crème Brulé - seasonal price
I like a variety of desserts, and crème brulé tops that list. I love the caramelized sugar crunch, to cold dense interior. The crème brulé served at Utopia was a departure from what I have had before. The texture of the cream itself was much lighter than I expected, so much so that I would call it a mousse. It was not smooth loosening itself onto the spoon with a chunky fluffiness that surprised me. The flavour was also very light, delicate. I was expecting a bold and decadent cream, but received a more. The crust was thin, and though it tasted good, I wish there had been more, and that it had been thicker. Topping everything off was a sprinkling of blueberries. They didn’t taste too fresh. That may be expected given the season, but I had hoped that there would be more pop in the fruit. Although this was a good crème brulé, it was not the best that I’ve had.

Torontos best kept secret
My amazing friend and sister, Mary <3 Utopia Cafe on Urbanspoon

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