Location: 30 Courtneypark Drive East, Mississauga
I actually had no particular intention of trying the Grand Big Mac. I mean, it’s just a bigger Big Mac, right? I was hoping to try the Ghost Pepper McChicken, but the McDonald’s I visited didn’t have it, so what the hell, Grand Big Mac it is.
It’s… just a bigger Big Mac.
It’s not the most exciting thing in the world, but if you’re craving a Big Mac and you’re very hungry, sure, why not? The regular Big Mac is 570 calories and the Grand Big Mac is 850, so there’s definitely a noticeable difference in size. Otherwise, it’s a Big Mac, but bigger.
It might have been a bit more interesting if it had the same bun but bigger patties, because then at least then you’d be getting a slightly different, beefier experience. But everything is proportionately bigger, so eating it feels about the same as eating a regular Big Mac. There’s just more of it.
Location: 1184 Queen Street West, Toronto
Ice Creamonology had only been around for a few months when, after what sounds like a pretty horrifying dispute with their landlord, they had to move out of their spot on Queen’s Quay. That’s a bummer, but they seem to have landed on their feet, with a new location on the west end right next to Chen Chen’s.
Their rotating menu mostly consists of old standbys like pistachio, dark chocolate, and vanilla; I kept it pretty simple with Cookies and Cream, which they describe as coming with “real Oreo pieces and Oreo crumbs.”
Nothing about the flavour particularly blew me away, though to be fair I’m not sure what you could do with cookies and cream to make it mind-blowing. It features a pretty perfect amount of cookie pieces; it’s enough to give it a nice Oreo-infused flavour, but not so much that it overwhelms the ice cream.
And the quality of the ice cream is pretty decent, though the flavour is a bit muted and it’s gummier than I’d like (it’s much stretcher and chewier than your average scoop).
Location: Stackt Market (28 Bathurst Street, Toronto)
Momofuku Noodle Bar is currently doing a pop-up at Stackt Market; it’s outdoors and the menu is limited, but it was my first time eating at a restaurant with a waitress and the whole rigmarole since last March (which, coincidentally enough, was also at the Noodle Bar).
I had the Chilled Spicy Noodles, which the menu describes as “ramen noodles, black bean sauce, sichuan beef, candy cashew.”
My delight at being back at a restaurant (or in a restaurant-ish setting, at least) might be colouring my opinion here, but man it was good.
It’s an explosion of flavour — it’s salty, it’s savoury, it’s meaty, it’s sweet — but everything complements each other so well. And that black bean sauce is a taste bonanza; it’s basically like a really great hoisin sauce, but with pops of intense flavour from the beans themselves (I don’t know what they do to the beans to get them to taste almost cheese-like, but it’s magical).
It’s served cold, which only intensifies the flavour, and the chewy ramen noodles are the perfect vehicle to bring it all together. It’s a tasty dish.
Location: 55 Bloor Street West (in the Manulife Centre), Toronto
Eataly is currently doing a promotion they’re calling the Summer Scoop Series; every month, they’re collaborating with a different local gelato-maker on a special flavour. This month, they’re working with Nani’s Gelato, and the flavour is pistachio ricotta kulfi.
The Eataly website describes it as “an Indian-inspired flavour with an Italian twist, featuring Italian pistachio paste, chopped pistachios, steeped saffron, cardamom, and whipped ricotta.”
As you’d expect from Nani’s (and the gelato at Eataly is no slouch, either), it’s superb. The pistachio flavour is pronounced, and it’s perfectly complemented by the saffron and cardamom. The bits of sweet ricotta interspersed throughout are a nice touch. It’s top-notch gelato.
Location: 1184 Queen Street West, Toronto
It’s hard to eat a Nashville hot chicken sandwich in the GTA without comparing it to Chica’s Chicken, a place that serves what might just be some of the best fried chicken I’ve ever had.
No, the sandwich from Chen Chen’s isn’t on that level, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it; it’s quite tasty.
You can choose from five spice levels: Southern (which they describe as “no heat”), mild, medium, hot, or poultrygeist (which they describe as “extra HOT!!”). I went with hot, which is very spicy but not face-meltingly so.
The chicken is tender thigh meat — always a good thing — and the exterior is satisfyingly crunchy. My biggest issue here is that it’s a bit bland; outside of the cayenne-infused heat, the chicken doesn’t have a ton of flavour. It’s underseasoned.
The sandwich is topped with zingy pickles, coleslaw, and aioli, which all does a pretty decent job of bringing the sandwich some flavour. But the chicken’s blandness does mar an otherwise above average sandwich.