Saturday, July 6, 2013

Tiff Movie & Canteen Dinner

Thursday night Hubby and I met up with my cousin in downtown Toronto for a Tiff movie and dinner. 

Didn't really know what to expect because didn't know what Tiff was, just that it was probably an independent theatre like the ones in Tribeca.

It was a gorgeous day in Toronto, with a clear sky and an awesome view of Toronto. We waited for her in front of the Sunlife building where I think a lot of a schoolmates work.

I really enjoy people-watching, and noticed that people in Toronto (white-collars) dress a lot less formal than in New York. Guess we are just more laid-back than NYC.

When we got there it was still pretty early for the show, but late for a sit-down dinner. So we grabbed our tickets, then went to Second Cup for a coffee.

Hubby got a sweetened ice coffee and I a french vanilla latte. I forgot how much I used to like Second Cup, because although they are a chain, they are quite artisanal in their coffee making.

Their baristas are quite knowledgable and know how to make a mean cup of joe.

I really liked my french vanilla, with some sprinkles of chocolate flakes on top.

We took our coffees back to the theatre to browse around their gift shop a bit. While we were there, there was someone being interviewed (probably their artistic director). 

I actually had no idea what movie we were about to watch, just that it was part of the Asian Film Festival called Reel Asian. So there were a munch of Chinese memorabilia at the store.

Plus some cute stuffed animals like the one above, resembling the one I saw at FAO Schwarz.

And this cute piggy with a third eye protruding from its forehead.

Anyone need a sugar frosting toothpick?

Or how about this neat little notebook to keep track of all your celebrity sightings?

When it was about time we went upstairs to the theatre.

There were not a lot of patrons at the theatre, but a good mixture of asian and western audiences. Before the movie there was a short talk by the organizers, including the guy who we saw being interviewed earlier. Then the director came up and spoke a few words. Literally a few words. "I hope you don't fall asleep," said the 70-year-old director.

My cousin explained to me that it was an old-school movie from the 60s. And it was in black-and-white. The movie was called "The Arch", but in Chinese it was called "Mrs. Dong". Movie was about a widow who lives with her mother and her daughter in ancient China (couldn't really tell which dynasty, maybe Song?) She falls in love with a general who stays at their house to protect the village from robbers, but because of her dignity and the arch which was about to be erected for her husband, she cannot express her love for him.

As a result, her daughter (who is infatuated with the general) marries him, leaving her and her grandmother behind. Soon the grandmother passes away, and she is left all alone. Her housekeeper secretly loves her and cannot bear to see her all alone, so he too leaves her once her arch is erected.

There was a Q&A with the director of the film, an Asian-American who was educated in California, and went back to Hong Kong to make the film. Apparently it was very avard-garde for its time, touching upon the feminist movement in an old retrospective. She was also influenced by French films, which a lot of the audience saw, but I had no idea where or how.

We were starving by the time the movie finished, so we grabbed some seats at the theater restaurant, The Canteen, an Oliver & Bonacini restaurant. Since it was too cold inside the theatre, we grabbed some seats outside to people and scenery watch as we ate. It was pleasantly nice outside, and you didn't have to scream on top of your lungs to be heard (Canadians are just much more civilized it seems!).

It was a pretty hip restaurant with lots of young people. We sat down, got some water, and ordered right away. We got a spicy carrot and kale salad, butter chicken curry pizza and their house special the knuckle sandwich with fries, all to share.

Their service was prompt and courteous, the waitress asking us what we needed here and there, despite the bustling crowd.

Our food came altogether like we requested. The salad came with marinated carrot, kale, chickpeas, crispy shallots and a dollop of greek yogurt. None of us really liked this yogurt because it was too tough to chew. The kale tasted like a stiff cardboard. The carrot was crunchy and flavorful but also tough to chew. the chickpeas were probably the best part of the salad. And we only discovered the greek yogurt hidden at the bottom.

The butter chicken pizza turned out really good. This was recommended by my cousin, who's been here before. The chicken was well-marinated, and savory. The mango that became caramelized in the heat provided a sweet twang to the otherwise mildly salty pizza. Couldn't really taste the cashews but the halloumi (mixture of milk and goat cheese) was pretty good.

And the knuckle sandwich looked vicious, with a mound of pulled pork on top of a soft hot-dog bun. I really liked the fries that came in a little Creuset cask iron pot.

The Knuckle sandwich itself was like of lackluster, without much BBQ flavor. It was quite tender though. The sauerkraut was way too vinegary for my liking. That along with the spicy porter mustard was like biting into a giant vat of vinegar.

Here's another look at the really crunchy carrot that resembles a sweet potato:

The not-so-flavorful pulled-pork sandwich.

We managed to finish the entire thing, except for a few unchewable pieces of kale that was left behind. The tab came out to $44, which was really reasonable by NYC standards. Next time if we come back I want to try their salt and vinegar fries with creamy buttermilk ranch dressing, the O&B breakfast with three eggs, sausage, bacon, mushrooms and home-fries.

On our way home, we picked up a little box of Timbits. Hubby wanted to try some, so I got him a box of 10 for only $1.99.

Assorted Timbits with lots of flavor. He kept on calling these Munchkins like Dunkin' Doughnut's but I insisted that it's purely Canadian, man!

**** (4/5)

The Canteen
330 King St. West
Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5V 3X2

Kids-friendly (inside seating is pretty huge)

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