Location: Toronto, Canada
“No wifi available, talk to each other.”
I love this note stuck at the entrance of Himalayan Java House, a cozy little cafe located a short walk north of Yonge & Eglinton. This Nepalese owned & run cafe has no wifi, houses a mini-library and served coffees with adorably unique art!
Upon entering this wood framed cafe, one notices the simplistic and triangular flag-laden decor that offer a rural touch so reminiscent of Himalayan valleys. Its three two-seater tables, two two-seater couches and a longer six-seater table adds to the quaint, airy and comfy vibe. The menu is thankfully not so limited: Chai Lattes, Hot Chocolate, the usual Coffee options, Smoothies, Grilled Cheese Sandwich, Muffins of sorts, Cookies and even the traditional Samosa are all on offer. If you’re lucky (or early), you’ll be able to grab one of the thick brown-leather couches: either nestled beside a mini shelf of books-and-toys or against a large street-facing window, lined with tiny potted plants and half covered by wooden blinds that let in just enough sunlight to make you feel warm. It was a perfect spot for two souls who were looking to begin their morning with a quiet and peaceful start.
Service is fast, as ours took merely 3-4 minutes to arrive despite a full house. Himalayan Java House’s USP is that it almost always serves you a smile too, for their usual selection of coffee comes draped in surprise art - “Coffee art!” Made only between certain hours, these poster-perfect designs make you truly appreciate their unassuming baristas. My Hot Chocolate had a cute bunny on it. Mr. Fly’s Chai Latte had a young lad with cinnamon powder for hair. The beautiful foam almost makes you feel guilty to drink these tempting cups for fear of ruining it! But that’s okay, for the taste is not lost under the shadow of its more visually-appealing precursor. It is perhaps the simplicity of the place that makes one appreciate even its highly simple Grilled Cheese sandwich or the little cup of tangy tomato sauce that accompanies their mini Samosas. That said, their carrot cakes and the scones have been just as good.
Himalayan Java House, as so many other gems, is easy to miss in your walk around this neighbourhood. Yet, it is only upon visiting the place and observing the consistency of footfalls that you realize a silent cult-status it has carved for itself. And as always, nothing binds you from hopping on each bite to a short trip over the Asian highlands as you soak yourself in the warm sunlight filtering through the blinds. And if you can grab one of the many books - such as one narrating the experience of Dalai Lama and aptly titled ‘The Universe in a Single Atom’ - all the better.
Saturday had been off to a good start for us. But as we stepped out, their ‘Hours of Operation; caught our eye. Penciled in a simple piece of paper and stuck to the glass door, without any attempt at pretence or sheen, it underlined the theme of this place: Himalayan Java House is closed on Sundays and on all other days after 5 PM - a classic reminder that the owners of this place do follow their philosophy of work-detox and family-time. We smiled and walked.
Update: For the Indians out there, this should bring back some memories of childhood!
Location: Paris, France
Fine dining and a tour through the City of Lights on-the-go is a unique concept brought to you by Bustronome. This gastronomy is housed in a luxury double-decker restaurant-bus made with an all-glass roof and sides to give its guests a panoramic view while they are driven through the Parisian heritage. Bustronome gets full marks for both the tour and its food.
On board, guests are served 4 - 6 courses, each curated by a separate chef and prepared from the finest season products designed to give its diners the best of French gastronomy. The added delight to this experience is the music that plays on softly in the background giving everyone a calm and peaceful feeling. Diners are also offered a map and a sleek audio phone each, to listen to the history behind each landmark as the bus drives past it.
While we enjoyed the passing views of Eiffel Tower, Pont Alexandre III, Grand Palais, Musee du Louvre, Concorde and more, we were served exquisite indulgences. In spite of the menu being primarily non-vegetarian, the Bustronome team managed to serve us vegetarian delights too with wine that paired perfectly. Our four-course gastronomy began with a plate of 65-degree egg dressed in cream of Salsifis. It was followed by Mashed rutabaga and passion fruit condiments. The third course was that of wild rice and boiled veggies. It is no exaggeration to say that each of these pampered our tongues. The chef, of course, saved the best for the last - with a mind-blowing eclair-like dessert. The showstopper was a concoction of Pineapple ‘Paris-Brest’, salted butter caramel and praline ice cream. Heaven!
Aboard this restaurant on wheels, it will be your choice whether you want to merely enjoy the sites, dine and talk to each other or be a history buff and enjoy your private multilingual audio tour while you admire the magnificent Parisian heritage as you feed on the city’s finest trickles. And hey, should be in a romantic mood and want to propose to your lovely partner, this could most definitely be one of your spots!
65€ : Menu without drink
85€ : Menu with wine pairing
If you liked this blog and want to know more on how you can plan a a 5 day trip to Paris, read here.
Location: Toronto, Canada
Ever wondered how it would feel to dine as a blind? ONoir shows how beautiful this experience can be.
Each one of us is looking for a short escape from the mundane rat race we call life. But while we often escape from routine, we rarely manage to escape from thoughts our senses bring to us. Hidden on the streets of Toronto on Church street, a short walk from Bloor station, is an underground restaurant that can easily be missed. ONoir is a unique place that takes the dine-in-the-dark experience a notch higher. Not only are you served in a pitch dark setup, your servers are blind as well! There is just one simple but amazing rule to this place – No Cell Phone Allowed! It’s designed to make you focus on the beautiful moment at hand.
With reservation in place, once we have arrived at the restaurant, we were seated in a dimly lit cellar-like set up and asked to choose from their selectively tempting menu that includes a surprise veg/non-veg starter, a surprise veg/non-veg main and a surprise dessert. Should you feel a little adventurous I recommend you go for those just like I did. Once our order had been placed, our host asked me to put my left hand on her left shoulder and walked me past a door. My partner had his hand on my shoulder. As it slammed shut, the last ray of light disappeared. I heard another door creak open in the dark and followed the hostess’ shoulder into the dining area filled with nothing but sounds of chatter from other tables. Our hostess for the evening, Tracy, was a sweet lady with a vibe that oozed of kindness. In the short walk to our table, we were suddenly very aware of every trickle of sound around.
The sense of touch came next. As Tracy seated us at our table, guiding us through the cutlery that lay before us, we gently ran our fingers around the table to map the glass, the spoons, the plate, the cup of butter placed on it and even the empty chair beside. It felt like playing treasure hunt in the dark.
It was a patient wait. In the slow seconds that passed, we learn to listen. To hear only excited voices and giggles fill the air from neighbouring tables, devoid of any negativity, was a sobering reality check. It helped me calm down to the experience of a world without sight. What followed was the heightening of all my other senses, laid evident not so much in the aroma of that starter we had ordered, but in the first bite. Unable to see what I was eating, all my attention was drawn to the texture and taste of food on my tongue. I chewed this slight rough and creamy dish slowly, never more aware of pleasures to be found in the art of eating. I could taste each flavour and ingredient in this dish! Our surprise main was a tangy Asian cuisine, and was followed by huge dollop of joy: soft, fresh and creamy. As I approached the end of each plate, I couldn’t help but use my fingers curiously to make sure that I hadn’t left anything.
I apologise for not being able to mention the names of these surprise dishes, but I must honor the request of my host to maintain the curiosity and suspense behind their secret menu. This experience will cost you approx. 100 CAD for two people with no alcohol but I assure you it is worth every bite. With no digital distractions, we did not just talk but truly focused on our conversations. For that hour, humility had struck deep, making me appreciate the smaller things - from the taste of a basil leaf to the way my skin felt against everything I touched.
Occasionally we need such places, to overcome our fascination with the superficiality of looks - from what others may be thinking to what our hair looks like. At ONoir, we start to sense hearts over all. When we walked out of this restaurant back to a lit-up bustling megacity street and could once again see the world, we were thankful for all that we have been bestowed upon by god. Thank you, dear ONoir team, for creating this momentary sweet escape to experience the humbleness of life.
Location: Toronto, Canada
Our journey begins at an old factory backyard called Evergreen Brick Works. A factory that once heard many metals clinks, was now buzzing with giggles and chatter of people who were enjoying the warmth of the sun on their skin and indulging in the small pleasures of life.
Amidst this beautifully dilapidated, abandoned yet lively structure was a quaint little restaurant. With closely nested tables, Cafe Belong made everyone feel like they belonged to a single great conversation - often about the delicious looking dish on your neighbors table, while man’s best friend, furry and bright, could be seen basking in the bright sunlight to accentuate what this day was all about.
The food, tad pricey, justifies itself in no time. Our order began with a plate of two very fresh eggs poached to perfection and placed delicately on a crisp buttermilk biscuit, garnished with an avocado spread and caramelized onions with a side of salad - all soaked in their thick Hollandaise sauce. With just so much as a touch of a knife these perfectly poached eggs opened themselves to what looked like a slow yet delicious stream of yolk that made me feel like it was my sunny Sunday’s best friend named Eggs Be! Our sweeter inclinations led us to our next order, Buttermilk Pancakes! - Four very fluffy pancakes lay dressed in grilled peaches, blueberries and, wait for it, edible flowers! Topped with a scoop of vanilla mascarpone and dressed in almond crumble plus salted caramel - these little touches are what the food at this cafe is all about. Consider the humble french fries, which our neighbour ordered after seeing our plate, which incidentally, we had ordered looking at the other neighbour's table!
These Deep-Fried Chips were way thicker than usual and crisped enough to make our neighbor hear the delicious crunch in our mouth. It makes for a perfect sider! We concluded with glasses of fresh lemonade and a blend of orange and mango juice, ultimately implored by our tummies to rest through the following seconds in their aptly placed Muskoka chairs
What we couldn’t try from their goblet of Somewhereness was the wine. The cafe describes it as such: A group of wineries who thought that there was enough fakeness and that it was high time that some form of inimitable genuineness be bought to this world, came together and made a wine of pure honesty. An optimistic goblet filled with a blend made in Ontario’s ancient glacial, this wine is designed to give you the original taste of Somewhereness.
Roofed with a nest like chandelier and an aroma of striking essences, this quaint restaurant has another section, paved with an exotic entrance. Breezing through this little store one can see handmade soaps of various combinations like mint and chocolate, turmeric or charcoal and so many more. . With organic offerings in the form of soups, syrups, honey and other cooking condiments, and other pretty little artifacts to spruce up your home décor as well as brighten up your patio, this store offers a nice excuse for an idle post-meal stroll.
Before we made our way to truly discover the somewhereness, we took a short walk to another area of this magnanimous repurposed factory. What caught my attention was the sound of many children laughing. A beautiful area created at the backdoors of this abandoned factory, this farm like set up seemed like it was made to take children back to their roots, back to the beauty of our humble mother nature. Toddlers ran around freely, laughing and enjoying their surroundings. Fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and cabbages grew all around this little play zone. A beautiful flower adorned this factory’s back wall. Nearby laya flea market! And that is where our discovery begins.
If you love adventure and want to go on a hike from Evergreen Brick Works to Crothers Woods, click here.
Who is Mrs. & Mr. Fly?
Mr. Fly is a central character in the ongoing Kalki Evian series of books. Originally conjured in the fictional narrative to describe an unbiased view of our everyday world, he was soon joined in real life by a jolly Mrs. Fly who taught him how to truly discover pleasures in little things often missed while living out fast-paced lives. As they began exploring, this blog took shape with a view to share what they saw.