Classic Pork Ramen at Momofuku Noodle Bar

Momofuku Noodle BarLocation: 190 University Avenue, Toronto
Website: https://noodlebar-toronto.momofuku.com/

Apparently Momofuku has been open in Toronto for eight years.  I was under the impression that it was more like three or four years, which doesn’t seem like a huge difference but kind of shook me to my core.

Well, maybe that’s overstating it, but seriously: where does the time go?  It’s like one second you can comfortably call yourself young, then the next second you realize that you’re practically middle-aged, and when the hell did that happen??

But I digress.  We’re talkin’ about noodles here.

Momofuku Noodle Bar

I tried the classic bowl of pork ramen at Momofuku back when it opened, and my recollection is that it was tasty enough, but nothing particularly special.

It’s better than I remembered.  I don’t think anyone is going to call it the best ramen in the city, but it’s a top notch bowl of noodle soup.

The broth is quite tasty, with a nice porky flavour.  It comes with a scoop of sweet chili paste on top; the bowl really gets going once you mix that in.  It adds a nice sweet/savoury punch that does a great job of complementing the porkiness of the broth.

Momofuku Noodle Bar

The noodles are nice and chewy, and the toppings are all great — in particular, the delightfully fatty thick-cut chashu is super tender, and the egg (which is a Japanese-style soft-boiled egg — a.k.a. onsen tamago — rather than a standard ramen egg) adds a silky richness that compliments the slightly sweet broth quite well.

Momofuku Noodle Bar

I tried a couple of other things.  There was the fried calamari, which is tender on the inside and crispy on the outside, with a tasty mayo-based dipping sauce on the side.  And it’s hard to go to Momofuku and not get one of their buns; I tried the shiitake buns, which feature meaty mushrooms tossed in hoisin sauce.  Hoisin is one of those things that could make basically anything taste good, so yeah, it was good.

Quick Bites: Chodang Soon Tofu, Khau Gully, La Paloma

Chodang Soon Tofu
Kimchee soon tofu bowl at Chodang Soon Tofu

I’ve written about this place a couple of times before, both for this blog and another one, which is why I’m not bothering with a full post for this particular meal.  But I feel obligated to point out that Chodang Soon Tofu is still great; their namesake dish, a seriously delicious and hearty bowl of stew crammed with creamy tofu, is as vibrant and amazing as ever.  If you’re even remotely in the area, don’t miss this place; it’s a gem.

Khau Gully
Various dishes at Khau Gully

I tried a handful of dishes at Khau Gully, a delightful Indian restaurant just south of Yonge and Eglinton.  Nothing particularly knocked my socks off, but everything was solid.  In particular, the nimbu dhaniya murg featured tender chunks of chicken in a deliciously zippy sauce, and the awadhi subzi featured nicely cooked veggies in a very creamy, tasty sauce.  The kulfi is also worth checking out.  If you’ve never had kulfi before, it has a unique richness that makes it feel pretty distinct from traditional ice cream.

La Paloma
Zuppa Inglese at La Paloma

If I’m trying a gelato place for the first time, I’m probably going to pick a simple flavour like pistachio or stracciatella to gauge the quality of the ice cream.  But if it’s a place I’m familiar with, all bets are off; I’m instantly drawn to odder flavours I might not have tried before.  And I can’t say I’ve ever had a gelato flavour quite like the Zuppa Inglese at La Paloma: “English trifle with layers of cranberries, orange zest and our homemade sponge cake.”  It absolutely nails the trifle flavour, with the fruity/cakey/custardy taste shining through.  It’s also got that in-your-face booziness that you’ll often find in Italian desserts; this is a bit of an acquired taste (and it’s not my favourite thing in the world), but I don’t mind it.  The gelato itself was a bit icy, but this was otherwise a top-notch flavour.

Quality Neapolitan Pizza at Sip Wine Bar

Sip Wine BarLocation: 2 Broadway Avenue, Toronto
Website: http://www.sipwinebar.ca/

I wound up at Sip Wine Bar entirely because the restaurant I was supposed to be visiting turned out to be closed (RIP to the Yonge Street location of Via Mercanti), so I’ll admit that my expectations weren’t particularly high.

Sip Wine Bar

They went even lower once I tried the appetizer, a decent but uninspired bruschetta that basically defines the word “meh.”

Sip Wine Bar

But I actually quite enjoyed the pizza.  I ordered the margherita, because as I’ve said before, it is the king of pizzas and one of the world’s few perfect foods.  It’s also a great test of a pizza joint’s ability, because there are no fancy toppings to hide behind.  If the quality of your dough and your technique aren’t on point, it’s game over.

Sip Wine Bar

Sip Wine Bar definitely passed that test.  It’s not the best pizza I’ve ever had, but every element was right where it should be — in particular, the crust was great.  It had a good amount of flavour and a great chew, and enough char to give it some personality without overwhelming.  The ratio of sauce and cheese was also quite satisfying.  It was a quality suh.

Solid Texas BBQ at Adamson Barbecue

Adamson BarbecueLocation: 15195 Yonge Street, Aurora
Website: https://adamsonbarbecue.com/

Though restaurants serving Texas-style BBQ have become a dime a dozen in the GTA, Adamson was among the first in that trend, and if you ask pretty much anybody, they’re the best.

I tried it once a couple of years ago, and I’ll admit that I wasn’t convinced.  I found the food to be tasty enough, but it was hampered by some fairly serious issues (most pressingly: a complete lack of smoky flavour, improperly sliced brisket, and mediocre pulled pork).

Well, I just tried their new Aurora location, and it was (mostly) a much, much better experience.

Adamson Barbecue

I will say that ordering take-out is probably not the best way to go (though it is, for obvious reasons, the only way to go right now).  When you pre-order on their website, all the meats come tightly wrapped in butcher paper, and the whole thing is sealed in a foil take-out container.  You also can’t specify a pick-up time other than before or after 4:00 PM.  This means that the meat effectively continues to cook in the tray, and is a bit more dry than it should be by the time you eat it.

Even still, it was quite tasty.  I tried basically everything on the menu: beef brisket, spare ribs, turkey breast, pulled pork, and a couple of sausages (bratwurst and jalapeno cheddar).

The brisket is their claim to fame, and yeah, it’s very good.  It could have been more tender (see: the aforementioned take-out issue), but it was otherwise top-shelf brisket.  It was quite smoky, it had a good amount of tender fat (the fat wasn’t quite as well rendered as you’d like, but that’s a minor complaint — it was mostly very creamy), and the bark was really tasty.  Texas-style barbecue is traditionally seasoned with just salt and pepper, and while it tasted like there might have been a bit more going on here, it was quite good.

Adamson Barbecue

Everything else was (mostly) really tasty.  The turkey was smoky and tender, the ribs had a great texture and more of that delightful smoke flavour (though they did taste a bit over-brined), and both sausages were top-notch, particularly the jalapeno cheddar.

The pulled pork was even worse than I remembered it, however.  It was incredibly dry, it had zero smoky flavour, and it had that underlying gaminess that you only get from pork that’s been reheated one time too many.  I’d be absolutely shocked if it was cooked the same day I ate it.

I also tried the baked beans and the coleslaw, and while neither was anything to get too excited about (the baked beans tasted more like some kind of bean stew than like traditional baked beans), but they were both tasty enough.

Amazing Lamb and Rice at Mandi Afandi

Mandi AfandiLocation: 5120 Dixie Road, Mississauga
Website: https://www.mandiafandi.ca/

I’ll admit that I was skeptical about Mandi Afandi.  The spot they’re in formerly housed a Popeyes Chicken; since it closed down in 2013, that location has been home to a revolving door of failed restaurants.  The last one — Mandilicious — also specialized in mandi.  I didn’t have high hopes for what I assumed would be the latest in a string of shuttered eateries.

But then Suresh Doss highlighted the place in his column for CBC, and of course, I had to sit up and take notice.  If Doss writes about a restaurant, you can be reasonably assured that the food will be tasty.

Mandi Afandi

They have a handful of things on the menu, but of course, mandi — a traditional Yemini dish which features slow-cooked meat and rice — is right there in the name.  They serve it with either lamb, chicken, or both.

I tried the lamb.  Even with the Doss seal of approval, I was still fairly skeptical about the place, and I could not have been more wrong.  It was shockingly delicious.

The lamb is delightfully tender and absolutely crammed with flavour from the spices they cook it with and the meat itself.  I love lamb, and this is some of the best I’ve had in a long time.

Mandi Afandi

You’d think that the rice would take a backseat to the meat, but surprisingly enough, it’s just as good.  You can tell its been cooked with the meat because its infused with that flavour, and it’s fragrant with the same delightful spices that make the lamb so tasty.

The crispy fried onions only amp up the flavour, and add a nice textural counterpoint to the tender lamb and fluffy rice.  You also get little containers of yogurt sauce and hot sauce on the side, and while neither are particularly necessary (it’s already so damn good on its own), they both compliment the dish quite well.