Date 16: Dayali with Aiwen, Tom, Connie, and Lisa


Dayali, at 20 Gibson Drive, Markham; call (905) 604-8680

Aiwen was able to snag her parent’s VIP card, so we decided to hoof on over to Dayali in Markham. Dayali is a burgeoning chain from Beijing specializing in Peking Duck. This was my first time trekking out to Markham for Chinese food, something I have been hoping to do for a good while now. In fact, when moving to Toronto almost two years ago, I expected this would be a regular occurrence. Back in Vancouver, we had Richmond, a suburb known for its variety and quality of Chinese food. My friends and I used to make it out there regularly, largely because its accessible via the Skytrain. No such luck with Markham. Fortunately, Connie generously donated his wheels, driving us all up to Dayali and then back to our respective homes.

As you can probably tell, I’m sorting through a bunch of old dinner dates so I can get to the more recent stuff. That also means that my memory for the dinner isn’t great.

Lotus root at Dayali

That said, I do remember the feelings associated with this meal – and they are overwhelmingly positive. Some of the dishes leading up to the duck were not quite up to par, especially the fried yams, which were one note, and the fry work in general slipped into the egregiously greasy.

One standout was the cumin roasted skewered frog legs. Meaty, juicy, and robust with cumin, these legs would not be confused with chicken.

Frog legs at Dayali

Of course, the main event was the reason we came. And it was truly beyond reproach. Crispy skin, fatty meat, and all of the accoutrements one would expect with a proper Peking duck meal. In my excitement, I forgot to take photos.

It was a fun evening with colleagues and one I hope will soon repeat.

Perpend: The only beer choices are Budweiser and Coors Light.


Date 13: Julie’s Cuban Cafe with Amanda


Julie’s Cuban Cafe, at 202 Dovercourt Road; call (416) 532-7397

Not long after Wallflower, Amanda and I dined at Julie’s Cuban Cafe, a little restaurant hidden away in a residential section of Dovercourt.  Ironically, it’s where I suggested Bryn and I dine a few weeks prior (we ended up at This End Up), but she said anywhere but there.  That’s not to mention that I attended a nice, but ultimately tainted birthday party there last November.

Julie's Cuban App specials

But at the end of the day, I was rounding out a brutal week of work, and Amanda offered to handle dinner plans.  I love it when someone takes initiative since all too often people can just be timid or wishy-washy and plans never get made.

So, the stress melted away, we threw back a few mojitos (which the bubbly, free-spirited server told us featured mint grown in their garden), and enjoyed a halcyon evening.  (I should note, however, that the mojitos could have used a bit more oomph mint-wise).

We threw them a curve ball, ordering entirely from the specials menu: a salad of hearts of palm and strawberry, beef empanadas, and tilapia with black beans and rice, and a mango salad.  Overall, I think see what Bryn was talking about.  The frying was problematic as the oil was clearly old, and the fish dish was really just a meat and sides.

If you’re going to bill yourself as a simple neighborhood restaurant, then you really have to execute at a high level.  Julie’s doesn’t do that.  It’s fine, but in this area, there are better options.