On Hiatus (and a few quick reviews)

I’m traveling, so this site is going into hibernation for a while.  Feel free to follow my travels at Up in the Nusair (or don’t, I can’t force you… or can I??  No, I can’t… yet).

But first, here’s a few very quick reviews of places I didn’t get a chance to write full posts for before I left.

Cafe Landwer

Cafe Landwer

I actually visited this place a couple of times recently.  The first time I had the shakshuka, which was quite tasty and comes with an almost absurd amount of food.  It’s a little bit bland, but it comes with an ample amount of fresh bread for dipping, and the tahini sauce helps amp things up.

Cafe Landwer

The second time I had the Sinia Kebab, which features beef kebabs and some grilled veggies on top of freshly baked flatbread, topped with a tahini sauce.  This was quite tasty, though it really needs something acidic to cut through the richness.  I eventually wound up spooning in some of the salad that comes on the side.  I’m not sure if that’s the intent, but it helped.

Jelly Roll from Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons

It’s a jelly roll from Tim Hortons; it tastes exactly how you think it’s going to taste.  It’s basically a very minor upgrade over Little Debbie.  It’s pretty junky, but I enjoyed it.

Pho from I Love Pho 2

I Love Pho 2

I already wrote about the surprisingly great I Love Pho 2, and the pho confirms it: this is a place that knows their stuff.  The broth has a really great flavour, and the variety of meats they mix in are all perfectly cooked and tasty.

SoSo Food Club

SoSo Food Club

I tried a handful of dishes at SoSo Food Club.  Everything was tasty, but the highlight was the addictively cumin-tinged lamb biang biang noodles.  The strong cumin flavour, the tender lamb, and the extra-broad noodles all work very well together.  The mapo tofu, with its numbing heat and silky tofu, was another highlight.

The Drake Commissary

The Drake Commissary

The bread here is amazing.  Like at Terroni, you have to pay for it, but unlike at that place, it wasn’t infuriating.  It was well worth paying for.  I came here at brunch and had the trapper beans, which had a lot going on, but everything worked perfectly together.  In particular, the beans had a savoury richness (and a complete lack of sweetness) that made them quite unlike any baked beans I’ve had before.

Mango Pancakes from HK Sweets

HK Sweets

This was fine, I guess.  I actually had mango pancakes in Hong Kong, and they were ridiculously good.  I was hoping these would recapture that, even slightly, but no such luck.  Aside from the fact that they’re not actually pancakes (they’re crepes), the mango was underripe and crunchy, and I think the cream was actually Cool Whip or something similar.  Still, it was decent enough for what it was.

Chicken Shawarma from Ghadir Meat & Restaurant

Ghadir Meat & Restaurant

Oh man, this shawarma.  I actually visited this place based on a tweet from Suresh Doss — he called it the best shawarma in the GTA, which should really tell you all you need to know.  The man knows his food, and he’s certainly not wrong about Ghadir.  It’s amazing.  It’s got the perfect blend of tender meat with lots of crispy bits, tasty sauces, and fresh veggies.  If it’s not the best shawarma in the GTA, it’s certainly a very strong contender for that crown.

Middling Ramen at Sansotei Ramen

Santosei RamenLocation: 100 City Centre Drive, Mississauga (inside Square One)
Websitehttps://www.sansotei.com/

Sometimes, I just don’t have all that much to say about a particular dish.  When something is fine — not particularly good, but not particularly bad — it can be difficult to muster up all that much enthusiasm to write about it.

Santosei Ramen

The tonkotsu ramen at Santosei is one of those dishes.  The only exceptional thing about it is how exceptionally middle-of-the-road it is.

Santosei Ramen

There are some things about it that I liked, however.  You can choose thick or thin noodles — I went with thick, and they were chewy and satisfying.  And the broth has a rich porkiness that’s pretty tasty.  But it’s a bit one-note in its flavour, and it’s intensely salty.

The chasu wasn’t bad, but I think it needed to cook for slightly longer, as it had a vaguely rubbery texture.   The egg was nice, but ice cold.

Santosei Ramen

Even by the standards of ramen in Toronto, what they’re serving at Santosei is quite ho-hum.  But…  I don’t know.  It’s fine, I guess?

Unique Desserts at Patchmon’s Thai Desserts

Patchmon's Thai DessertsLocation: 2463 Bloor Street West, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.thaidesserts.ca/

I mentioned recently that Asian desserts have a tendency to be an acquired taste.  That is absolutely, positively the case with Patchmon’s Thai Desserts.

But that’s part of the appeal — how often do you get a chance to try something that’s entirely unlike anything you’ve ever eaten before?  There’s something thrilling about that, especially when the thing you’re eating is also delicious.

Patchmon's Thai Desserts

I tried three desserts, and the biggest “whoa, that’s new” was easily the Thai taro custard.  For the most part, it’s not all that unusual — it kind of tastes like a much denser, richer version of creme caramel, with an almost cakey consistency.

It’s also topped with caramelized shallots.

Patchmon's Thai Desserts

It’s weird.  The shallots aren’t just a topping — the whole thing is perfumed with their flavour.  It sounds like it should be off-putting, but oddly enough, it works.

There’s no doubt that it’s unusual, though.  It’s one of those things I ate with a perpetually furrowed brow.  I’ll also admit that I didn’t finish it.  It sat in my fridge for about a week until I finally threw it out.  As much as I liked it, I never particularly felt like reliving that odd sensation of eating dessert that’s also a little bit oniony.

Patchmon's Thai Desserts

The next thing I tried was the Thai coconut layer cake.  Despite the name, it’s actually more of a jelly, which the woman behind the counter explained is made with tapioca rather than gelatin, and which is flavoured with pandan leaves.

This was my favourite of the three.  The texture was denser and creamier than your typical gelatin (it was somewhere between mochi and Jell-o), and the flavour was great, if a bit hard to describe.  It’s vaguely nutty and almost malty.  It’s quite good.

Patchmon's Thai Desserts

The third item was the ta-goe (sweet tapioca with coconut cream).  I didn’t particularly enjoy this one.  The texture — featuring a creamy top layer and a tapioca-infused bottom layer — was quite nice.  But it had a sharply salty, almost sour flavour that I found to be a bit overwhelming.  I have no doubt that it’s an authentic version of that particular dessert, but I think it’s an acquired taste that I haven’t yet acquired.

Delicious Fried Chicken at Union Chicken

Union ChickenLocation: 25 The West Mall, Etobicoke
Websitehttps://unionchicken.com/

The common refrain is that you should give a restaurant at least a few weeks before you pass judgment on it.  It often takes a little while for the kitchen to work out all the kinks.

Union Chicken is a perfect example of this.  Last year, I went there within a couple of weeks of its opening; it was absolutely, positively awful.  I tried a few things and they were all horrifically bad.

Union Chicken

In the meantime, I’ve heard basically nothing but good things, so I figured it was probably about time to give it another shot.  And it was night and day.  Everything was really, really good.

The Buffalo and blue cheese fried chicken sandwich was delicious.  It’s got everything you’re looking for in a fried chicken sandwich: that amazing exterior crunch, a juicy piece of chicken (the fact that it’s thigh instead of breast helps mightily in this regard), and a zingy sauce that makes it all sing.

Union Chicken

There’s something about the magical interplay between vinegary Buffalo sauce and creamy blue cheese dressing that just works, and Union Chicken only elevates that — the blue cheese dressing on the sandwich is seriously tasty, with a mild garlicky bite that sets it apart.

I had the baked beans on the side, and they were also well above average.  Sometimes baked beans can be a bit of a sweet overload, but these had a nice vinegary punch to round things out, and a decent amount of spice.  The texture was a bit soupy, but they were otherwise top-shelf beans.

That sandwich, though.  I was honestly surprised at how good it was.  It definitely belongs on a list of the best fried chicken in the city.

Tasty Cookies at Cookie Scoop

Cookie ScoopLocation: 1115 Castlefield Avenue, Toronto
Websitehttps://cookiescoop.ca/

I recently mentioned that there aren’t nearly enough cookie shops in the city.  I mean, you can never have enough cookies, but the handful of shops we have in the GTA definitely isn’t enough.

Well, here’s one more, though the location is in an industrial area that’s a bit out of the way (they offer delivery on their website, and I suspect that’s where they do most of their business).

Cookie Scoop

It’s a tiny shop, but they offer a dizzying array of cookies; I decided to get six, and it was exceptionally difficult to pick from the many, many delicious looking choices.

I ultimately went with pistachio milk chocolate, peanut butter Nutella, Mars Bar cookie, Italian milk chocolate gianduja, hazelnut praline (Ferrero Rocher), and milk chocolate brownie.  All the flavours looked so good, though.  I wanted all of them, but that wouldn’t have ended well for anybody.

Cookie Scoop

 

They’re solid cookies, but they have a cakey texture that you only get from cookies that have been engineered to be perpetually chewy.  I’m guessing this is due to their delivery-heavy business, which means the cookies probably won’t be consumed until a day or two after they’re baked, if not longer.

Cookie Scoop

Don’t get me wrong — they’re quite tasty, but I prefer the classic dense and buttery cookies that they serve at a place like Craig’s.  There’s nothing wrong with the cakier variety they serve here, but the crispy/chewy texture of a more traditional chocolate chip cookie can’t be beat.

Cookie Scoop

Still, the flavours were all top notch (I particularly enjoyed the peanut butter Nutella), and despite my minor quibbles with the texture, they’re tasty cookies.