It’s actually a holiday in Quebec right now, but unlike the rest of the province Rick and I have opted to stay in town and have a little “stay-cation”. However, earlier this month Rick and I decided to treat ourselves for our 2 year anniversary this year and booked a little last-minute get away to TO. The idea was to have an indulgent, urban adventure being ridiculous hipsters and eating all of the food. It was awesome and I’m going to share it with you over the next three weeks.
I had originally planned on making the whole trip one post, but as usually happens, once I started writing I just couldn’t stop, so it seemed to make more sense to split it up over three separate posts of which this is the first.
Friday – We managed to skip out of work a little early to make sure we had time to chill at the airport before our flight. However, while we were getting acquainted with the free airport WiFi, the president of the company and our bosses decided to say hi on their way back from a business trip to Vancouver. Luckily the encounter didn’t last long, but it was still weird getting sucked back into work mode just as we were starting to relax and enjoy our weekend away.
The flight was fairly uneventful, except for some gnarly turbulence and some disconcerting clicking noises coming from the plane, likely a result of the pilot putting pedal to metal to try and make up the 1/2 hour we were due to be late. Thanks to his efforts we touched down at Billy Bishop airport in downtown Toronto at around 8:30pm, giving us plenty of time to freshen up and settle into our room before venturing out for a late night bite.
In keeping with of theme of “urban indulgence” we opted to stay at The Drake Hotel on Queen Street, which Rick had stayed at during a business trip a few weeks prior and sort of fallen in love with. Our room was quite small, with nary enough space for a queen bed, a few shelves, a TV and a three foot deep bathroom tucked into the back of the room. They also have this super creepy concrete teddy bear patio thing that is the first thing we saw when leaving our room every day:
They also have an amazing assortment of hipstery snacks in the room like wasabi peas, artisan nuts & mints that cost $8. And an awesome little punk plush doll that lived on our bed. However, probably the best find was hidden under the usual menus for room service and spa services. The Drake also has a “Pleasure Menu.”
This menu includes toys, accessories, and a curated selection of erotic films including artsy and non-hetero options. Although the most striking item on the menu had to be the $600 GOLD PLATED DILDO.
GOLD. PLATED. DILDO.
Right to your room.
Obviously they only include the thing on the menu so that people find it and tell their friends about it and everyone goes “wait, what was the name of the hotel with the crazy sex-toy menu and the $600 gold plated dildo?” And you say, “The Drake, on Queen Street. Also, their soap and shampoos smell very nice.”
Right, so after finding all the ridiculous and awesome things in our hotel room and taking a much needed shower, we set out about town to grab some food and get our drink on. Our first stop was The Emmet Ray, a twenty minute walk from our hotel. We picked it becasue it boasted an impressive bourbon list and a pop-up late night restaurant, which oddly no longer seems to be listed on their website, which is fine because we weren’t that impressed and didn’t end up eating there.
I guess the write up I’d read on whatever TO blog lead me to believe it was something other than the college bar we were presented with upon entering. Everyone was drinking beer and no one was eating food. Rick sent me to order drinks and when I asked the barkeep what they had in the way of bourbons he snidely mentioned that they had 51, dismissively tossed a menu in my direction and promptly disappeared. I don’t know if he was busy, or if his cat had just died or if I just smelled of tourist, but I have to say I was genuinely confused about how rude his behaviour was. I timidly took the menu and poured over it with Rick, but let’s face it, 51 bourbons is a lot to sort through. Rick picked one based on the awesomeness of the name while I decided to try again with the bartender and demand a recommendation.
“Hi, fifty one bourbons is a lot to sort through…”
“It’s the most in the city,” he boasted, while I wondered why everyone was getting smashed on cheap bear. I decided to stop being nice and cut to the chase.
“Yeah, that’s why we picked this place. I’m looking for something sweet, but smooth, with a hint of smokiness to it, what can you recommend.”
“Bourbon?” he replied, slightly incredulous.
“Yes,” I said, so shocked by the whole ton of the whole conversation that I managed to do so without adopting bitch face. He managed to recommend something I’d never tried before, I ordered Rick a double and returned to the table to explain what had just transpired. We opted to finish our drinks and leave without food.
The plan now was to wander back down Ossington and hope that we could find a place that was still serving food. I seemed to have remembered seeing some sort of Asian thing that had stood out to me and ended up dragging Rick into this place called Oddseoul. Oh my goodness, did they save the day. The concept is essentially Korean tapas, with a bar-food edge. The ‘avocado & scallion slaw’ was a little disappointing, being more salad-with-avocados-and-green-onions-like than slaw-like, but the dressing was pretty good. I enjoyed my ‘steam bun with bbq pork,’ although it almost burned my mouth off, but I guess that’s what I get for loving gochujang so much. Rick got the ‘Korean cheese steak,’ which was their take on Philly cheese steak with bulgogi-style beef topped with gooey cheese, all nestled in a toasted hunk of bahn mi bread. Lord have mercy, you have to try it.
However, by far our favourite dish, to the point where we actually ordered a second helping, before we’d even finished the first, was their shrimp tempura. The shrimp were enormous and juicy. The batter was light, latticed and incredibly crunchy… especially considering THE WHOLE THING WAS COATED IN SPICY KOREAN MAYONNAISE.
Off the hook. Rick still dreams about this stuff.
I even treated myself to a cocktail, which seems to be a thing in Toronto right now with all the bars boasting signature hand mixed bitters and what not. They called it an ‘odd fashioned,’ with chai infused rye, maple syrup and some sort of fragrant bitters. Damn tasty, although I have to remember to ask them to go easy on the ice because it got real watery, real quick. But those first few sips? Delish.
Having filled our bellies and cleansed our palates of the previous bar’s unpleasantness we return to the Drake, which now seemed to have turned into some sort of club you’d find on St-Laurent, pushed our way past the hoochies and stumbled into bed for a well deserved sleep.
To be continued..