Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tasty Tuesday: Shiso Tree Café

Shrimp Okonomiyaki Pasta from Shiso Tree Café
Is there any emotional issue in the world that pasta can't fix?  I don't think so.

Broken heart? 
Some lasagna or mac & cheese will heal what ails you.

Feeling victorious?  Celebrate with some penne alla vodka!

Wistful & thinking of wonderful, far-off places?  Linguin ai frutti di mare will do you some good.

The only thing that could make pasta even more world-rocking to me is injecting some foreign flavours into it.  This should come as no surprise; as you know, I love fusion foods.  Add a little Japanese influence to anything and it will automatically become better, tastier, more appealing.

One of my absolute favourite eateries in the world serves Japanese-style pasta.  For months after visiting Tokyo, I would actually dream and fantasize of the amazingness I tasted there.  Now that I'm home in Canada, there isn't anything quite like it, but I've found something that is kind of close, but lovely in its own way: Shiso Tree Café.

This little restaurant is tucked into a commercial space that's kind of like the JapanTown of Toronto - appropriately, it is named J-Town.  J-Town consists of a supermarket (complete with butcher, baker, and fishmonger), a food court-like area, a gift boutique, a video rental service, a beauty products vendor, an esthetic service/hairdresser, and three restaurants (a ramen shop, an izakaya and a Japanese-Italian restaurant, which is what I'm talking about).

I can't even tell you how much I love this place!  I have never had a bad experience here.  The service is always courteous and the food is always stunning.  The prices are also pretty reasonable - about $12-19 for a pasta, and for $7, you can upgrade to a combo, which includes a salad, a soup and a dessert.  It's a place that I want to go back to again and again, just like Japan.

Here is what a combo looks like:
Drinks are not included in the combos; L: iced coffee, R: kick-butt mango drink
Here's a small salad that comes with the combo - I LOVE the salad dressing because it's not very acidic.  It's savoury and yummy, and I think there's some kind of sesame in it.  So good!
That day, the soup we had was cream of celery.  SO YUM!  It was amazing how it was rich and creamy without being heavy.  It was so flavourful and savoury.  The croutons floating on the top were diviiine.  Another time we went, there was some kind of a tomato vegetable soup, which wasn't as good the cream of celery, but was tasty also.

Shamefully, I can't remember what this was - I think it was shrimp and corn in cream sauce.  By the way, the thick garlic toast was also amazing.  It feels so decadent to bite into thick, crispy, soft toast!
This is my absolutely favourite that I've tasted from this restaurant so far.  I don't remember what the official name was, but there were clams, bacon, white wine, cream, shiso...  My eyes roll back when I remember this.  I'm always tempted to order this again whenever I go, but I make an effort to try new dishes.  Also, I should probably note that pastas are cooked very al dente at this restaurant, which is how pasta is generally preferred in Japan.  No complaints from me! 

We both had the mango & strawberry shortcake, which was really nice!  I also love the green tea & red bean cake, the chocolate cake, the chestnut one... I love all their cakes, and they come from next door, the bakery at the supermarket.  Normally, these retail for $5 a slice.

Smoked salmon with dill cream sauce - really, really good!  (But I like the clam/bacon/white wine business better.)

I highly, highly recommend this place to everyone who loves pastas and are curious about how two cultures can contribute flavours to highly memorable culinary creations.  It is located at:

Shiso Tree Café
3160 Steeles Avenue East #1
Markham, ON
(905) 479-9319

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