INSTAGRAM GIVEAWAY!

Happening right now on my Instagram account! Win a $25 Gift Card for Starbucks!

#GIVEAWAY | Thank you to everyone who follows me! I can’t believe I’ve hit 2500 followers and as a way of thanks, I’d like to run a contest just for you guys!

CONTEST DETAILS:
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One winner will receive a $25 gift card to Starbucks. This contest is in no way sponsored by Starbucks. I’m simply thanking my followers with a gift I’d love to receive for Christmas.
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To Enter:
1. Follow @xiaoeats on Instagram
2. Like the Instagram post
3. Optional #1: For 1 Bonus Entry, Tag 2 Friends. (2 Tags = 1 Entry)
4. Optional #2: For 2 Bonus Entries, Repost this image and use hashtag: #xiaoeatsgiveaway
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Contest ends on December 16, 2015 at 11:59PM.
🌟Winner will be contacted the following day.
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GOOD LUCK EVERYONE and Thank you for following!
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Per Instagram rules, we must mention this is no way sponsored, administered, or associated with Instagram, Inc. By entering, entrants confirm they are 13+ years of age, release Instagram of responsibility, and agree to Instagram’s term of use.

Contest is open to Canadian residents only.

BEST DATE NIGHT

For me, the equation for a perfect date includes good food, good drinks and good conversation. A date is about spending time with another person, be it getting to know each other for the first time, getting a break from the kids or re-connecting after a busy week at work. To facilitate this, my pick for the Best Date Night restaurants in Toronto offer great food, an air of privacy and no ear-drum breaking music. I’m old, I don’t love yelling across the table all night.

1. Kwan Dim Sum


Rating/Price: 5.0 $$
Why? Elevated dim sum, lovely service, elegant interior, dishes perfect for sharing
Must Order: Shrimp Dumplings, Rice Roll
Good For? First dates, midtown location, refined Chinese food
 

2. La Carnita


Rating/Price: 4.5 $$
Why? Well priced, delicious tacos, cozy seating
Must Order: In Cod We Trust, Dessert
Good For? Casual date, dinner before another activity
 

3. The Good Son


Rating/Price: 5.0 $$$
Why? Intimate dining area, great tasting menu, good cocktails
Must Order: Charcuterie and Cheese Board, Seasonal Cocktails
Good For? Special occasions, trying to impress, foodies
 

4. Koyoi


Rating/Price: 4.5 $$
Why? Good food, located downtown, hidden gem
Must Order: Sashimi Salad, Beef Tataki
Good For? Casual date, pitchers of beer
 

5. Oyster Boy


Rating/Price: 4.5 $$$
Why? Fresh oysters, intimate seating, amazing pasta
Must Order: Oysters, Papperdelle Pasta
Good For? Seafood lovers, special occasions
 

6. Pizzeria Libretto


Rating/Price: 4.5 $$
Why? Delicious pizzas, also available for take away
Must Order: Duck Confit Pizza, Calamari
Good For? Casual date, pizza lovers
 

7. Sake Bar Kushi


Rating/Price: 4.5 $$$
Why? Intimate booths, traditional izakaya decor, many menu choices, perfect for sharing
Must Order: Ebi Mayo, Yakitori
Good For? Izakaya experience without the yelling, midtown location
 

8. Pai Northern Kitchen


Rating/Price: 4.0 $$
Why? Takes reservations, best Thai food in the city
Must Order: Squash Fritters, Papaya Salad
Good For? Casual date, dinner before going out
 

9. Bestellen


Rating/Price: 4.5 $$$
Why? Intimate seating, good wine list, wonderful service, great steak without breaking the bank
Must Order: Dry Aged Steak
Good For? Foodies, special occasions
 

Honourable Mentions:

Still TBE (To be Eaten):

Did I miss your favourite restaurant? Let me know in the comments. Last Updated: 10/02/2015  

BEST FOR LARGE GROUPS

Somehow, whenever I plan a meal out with friends, our head count always spirals up and up until we’re in the double digits. I always find it challenging to find a restaurant in Toronto that can seat more than 8 people, takes reservations and doesn’t force a set menu on us. With a large group, in addition to being comfortably seated, budget and service is key. Sometimes bills need to be split, food is shared, there’s couples, everyone arrives at a different time and everyone has a different budget. The restaurants listed below have all been great at handling a large table of hungry, fussy diners at a reasonable price point.

1. Zakkushi


Rating/Price: 5.0 / $$$
Why? Tapas style menu, great for sharing, loud, boisterous atmosphere
Must Order: P-toro & kawa skewers
Good For? Beer drinkers, carnivores, large, loud groups
 

2. Patria


Rating/Price: 4.0 / $$$
Why? Downtown location, beautiful sophisticated space, authentic Spanish cuisine
Must Order: Jambon Serrano, Paella
Good For? Special events, celebrations, excuse to dress up
 

3. DaiLo


Rating/Price: 4.0 / $$$
Why? Sick Asian food, great decor, upstairs bar LoPan
Must Order: Big Mac Bao, Fried Giggi Trout
Good For? Celebrations, late night cocktails, foodies
 

4. Song Cook's Authentic Korean Restaurant


Rating/Price: 5.0 / $
Why? Authentic Korean cuisine, low price, plenty of seating
Must Order: JaJangMyun, Jokbal, TangSuYuk
Good For? Casual gathering, 905'ers, groups of >8, budget friendly
 

5. Thoroughbred


Rating/Price: 4.0 / $$$
Why? Menu that's great for sharing, downtown location, great wine selection
Must Order: Kung Pao Cauliflower, Chicken Liver Mousse
Good For? Foodies, celebrations, group of 8-10, cocktails
 

6. Han Ba Tang


Rating/Price: 4.5 $$
Why? Infused soju, great menu for sharing, attentive service
Must Order: Soju flight, Kimchi Fries, Spicy Seafood Stew
Good For? Soju, avoiding downtown, fusion cuisine
 

7. Bent Restaurant


Rating/Price: 4.5 / $$$
Why? Large space, great outdoor patio, upbeat atmosphere
Must Order: Singaporean Style Slaw, Tong Yuen
Good For? Groups of 8-12, cocktails, boisturous crowd, birthdays
 

8. El Catrin Destileria


Rating/Price: 4.0 $$$
Why? Giant outdoor patio, multiple private dining areas, plenty of tequila
Must Order: Tuna Ceviche, Bucket of Shrimp
Good For? Large groups, private events, celebrations, special occasion
 

Honourable Mentions:

Still TBE (To be Eaten):

  • Kingyo Izakaya
  • Carbon Bar
  • Copacabana
  • Colette Grand Cafe

Did I miss your favourite restaurant? Let me know in the comments.

Last Updated: 04/28/2015

BLOGGER PROBLEMS

Since I learned how to write, I’ve had a journal. When the Internet came around, my pen and paper moved to the digital medium. One fact remained constant, I’m terrible with consistency. Over the past decade, I’ve had livejournal accounts, lots of blogs, fansites and they’ve all fallen into the pit of “never updated” or “yearly updates only”. With that history, I’ve been pretty good with xiaoEats over the past two years.

I’m often asked, how do I stay motivated with posting and the truth is, it’s still fun. Regardless of the blog, I would still eat, and still take pictures of my food. With the blog, I get to share awesome food with others and hopefully help them find new food experiences, the same reason I read blogs. While my motivation for blogging hasn’t waned, there are blogger problems that I struggle with.

Blogger Problems I struggle with (and how I try to overcome them):

Problem: Content, content, content – Some weeks, I’m overwhelmed with reviews backed up from months ago, other weeks I’m looking for any excuse to eat out. My preference is a middle ground, having enough content (5-8 reviews) for the next 3-4 weeks, during which I find build a steady queue. After food events or a vacation though, I always find myself backlogged.

Solutions:

  1. I like to pace out my backlog, I draft the posts and then schedule them to be published when my local content is low. A content manager (ie. a simple Excel sheet or To Do List) works wonders.
  2. Other sources of content. One of the main reasons I started “Xiao Cooks” was to broaden my content scope, along with this oft neglected blog section and my Best Eats lists.
WinterliciousHeader

Winter/Summer Licious – A great event that always leaves me with a backlog of posts

Problem: Keeping it fresh – Speaking of backlogs, one of my biggest challenges is keeping my memory of a dining experience fresh in my goldfish brain. 

Solutions:

  1. Taking copious notes during the meal or immediately after. I find voice notes on my phone super helpful and always carry a thin notebook with an attached pen.
  2. If notes would ruin the atmosphere of a meal (ie. scribbling in the middle of a romantic date), I rely on the better memories of family and friends.

It took me 6 months to publish all the posts from my two week vacation in Maui

Problem: Writing style – My passion is creative writing, fiction, which I haven’t had the time to practice over the past two years. Blogging is a whole different style of writing, more journal writing and exposition than narrative. Restaurant reviews especially can be a dry read. I’m trying to convey facts to my readers, while being concise and descriptive at the same time. I don’t want to just state my opinion, I want to show my readers why I have that opinion and what drove it. When it comes to service, if nothing’s out of the ordinary, I struggle with using the same stale sentences and descriptors. There’s also the matter of effort. Honestly, at times I’ll spent hours writing and editing a review, other times I’m just trying to churn out a post.

Solutions:

  1. Reading professional food critics, reading recipes, watching food TV and learning from all of these sources how to describe food. I’m always learning.
  2. Writing a draft, leaving it and then coming back to edit. Like any piece of writing, I can spend hours changing and re-writing a single sentence. The most efficient method of writing for me is not to dwell on one line, get all the words out and then come back to the post with fresh eyes. Sometimes I’ll remember an additional detail, or have thought of a better metaphor, all improvements that come with time for the post to stew.
  3. Always edit/re-read a post. It should be before the post is published, but even after, I try to re-read my writing to catch grammar mistakes or awkward sentences. I often rope The Fiance or friends into the editor role.