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Sharing a bubbling hot pan of spicy seafood stew from Seoul Restaurant (621 Bloor St. West) is one of the best ways to catch up with a good friend. When the dish arrives perched atop a flaming gas element, you’ll both sit quietly in anticipation for three minutes. That’s all the time it takes for the broth to cook the mussels, squid, various types of shrimp and fish, and warm through the tofu, zucchini, carrots, bean sprouts and cabbage. Then you’ll have plenty of time for rousing conversation and dramatic storytelling while you work through the stew, four types of pan chan (Korean side dishes) and a bowl of rice each. It’s a steal at $18, which serves two with leftovers.

Our favourite extra topping is udon noodles, but there’s plenty to choose from including sausage, ramen, a boiled egg, and one we couldn’t resist trying: cheese. Seeing a Kraft Single ooze and melt into all that seafood did seem blasphemous, but friendships will only grow stronger over the shared revelation that this creamy addition to the soup is surprisingly good.

Seoul Sam Mi Restaurant / 621 Bloor St W, Toronto
416.532.9669

before

Fresh coastal mussels (steamed and drenched in olive oil and lemon juice), served with a side salad (no iceburg lettuce here), a basket of bread, plus freshly caught grilled fish with zucchini and greens topped with roasted tomatoes. Location? Split, the largest coastal city in Croatia. We feasted on this magnificent lunch at Šperun while waiting for our high-speed ferry to whisk us away to an island called Vis. Let’s just say lunch remained with us only for a short while. One very fast boat and one rocky sea makes for two very distraught travelers. ‘Nuff said.

after

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The trend-obsessed New York was buzzing last week since a new Cambodian sandwich eatery opened its doors on 12th Street close to Union Square. It’s called Num Pang, which means “bread” or “sandwich.” I’ve never eaten Cambodian food before, so on a Saturday afternoon I was one of many who patiently gathered outside the street-level ordering window to find out first-hand what all the hoopla was about.

Num Pang has a modest menu, six sandwiches ranging in price from $6.75 to $8.75. But don’t let that fool you into thinking there isn’t enough variety. They’ve got whatever your belly’s craving, be it coconut shrimp, grilled pork, veggies or steak. Each sandwich is served with sliced cucumber, pickled julienne carrots, fresh cilantro and chili mayo on a toasted semolina flour baguette. But wait, it doesn’t stop there. Wash it all down with a freshly squeezed blood orange lemonade. It’s a bit on the tart side, but sweetened with a touch of honey. Could this be the beginning of a new sandwich era? I definitely hope so.

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When we traveled to Buenos Aires, we encountered many unexpected things; a 35-minute cab ride that cost only $6, freshly grilled steak and wine from a shopping mall food court, a terrifying and equally humiliating pigeon attack, and unforgettable cocktails and food at a hip Scandinavian restaurant.

Located at Gorriti 5870 in Palermo, Olsen features soaring 12-metre ceilings, a sculptural fountain and an interior decorated in blond woods with clean lines. Our dear friends from Peppermelon suggested starting the meal with two shared appetizers of bite-sized Swedish-inspired sushi, and dense bagels and mini pancakes served with smoked salmon, herring and caviar (shown above).

We blame the unattractively dangling camera strap in that photo on the 60+ vodka cocktails on Olsen’s menu. Our favourite was the Pink Flamingo — a mix of Absolut Ruby Red, Cointreau, slices of cucumber and pink grapefruit — as seen at the very top of the this photo:

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The mains included a goat-cheese salad with balsalmic reduction and melt-in-your-mouth gnocchi slathered in cream sauce, asparagus and smoked salmon. We can’t remember if we had dessert, but we do remember that our taste buds could not appreciate the highly popular drink of Fernet and Cola that we were forced to try. We thought it was kinda like licking a foot with a chaser of soap. Unexpected, indeed.

Olsen / 5870 Gorriti, Buenos Aires
11 4776 7677‎ / Tues-Thurs noon-1am, Fri-Sat 12:30pm-2:30am, Sun 10am-1am

Once you try sushi at the hands of Bruce Bu at Yuzu (236 Adelaide St. West), you’ll never be able to eat sub-par Toronto sushi again. (Yes, I’m looking at you Sushi Time and, cough, Ho Su.) As you can tell from the Sushi Dinner Deluxe above ($29), this is a place where fish becomes art. The grade of sushi is far superior, and Bruce embellishes the nigiri with tasty gems like roasted garlic, marinated onions and edible flowers. I highly recommend upgrading the California Roll for a Spicy Scallop Maki. It’s literally impossible for me to go there without having one, because it’s hands down the best I’ve ever had.

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For special occasions, the Yuzu Dinner is a terrific deal at $50 for seven courses, which includes an absolutely sublime serving of Gindara (black cod broiled with a sweet miso glaze accompanied by yuzu sauce) as shown above on the left. And for everyday eats, you can’t go wrong with the $9.95 lunch specials.

Don’t forget to say hi to Bruce, who happens to be one of the most likeable chefs in the city. Before you know it, you’ll be using his signature sign-off as you say good-bye: “See you tomorrow!”

Yuzu / 236 Adelaide St. W., Toronto
416 205 9808 / Mon-Fri 11:30-10:30, Sat 5-11:30