Subtle, Tasty Ramen at Hakata Shoryuken Ramen

Hakata Shoryuken RamenLocation: 225 Queen Street West, Toronto
Website: https://www.hakatashoryuken.com/

A lot of times, the broth in a bowl of Hakata-style tonkotsu ramen can be overwhelmingly porky.  The one-note pork flavour can get a bit wearying.

I’m normally not a big condiments guy — I’ll just eat it as it comes — but with this type of ramen, condiments tend to be necessary.  In particular, pickled ginger does a good job of adding some vibrancy and cutting through the soup’s richness.

Hakata Shoryuken Ramen

Oddly, however, the Hakata ramen at Hakata Shoryuken Ramen has the opposite problem; the flavour isn’t in-your-face at all.  It’s surprisingly mellow.

It’s unexpectedly low-key, but quite tasty.  The soup is nice and creamy, and though the porky flavour is subtle, it’s definitely there.  It’s not going to knock anyone’s socks off, but it’s a pleasant bowl of soup.

Hakata Shoryuken Ramen

The pickled ginger was still necessary, however — it gave the soup some welcome pops of flavour.  It’s a fifty cent add-on, but it’s worth ordering.

The egg was another add-on ($1.50), and it wasn’t great.  It was bland, and the texture was just odd — it was somewhere between an onsen tamago and a traditional ramen egg, and it wasn’t as good as either.

Hakata Shoryuken Ramen

Everything else was solid.  The chashu, in particular, was tender, tasty, and perfectly fatty.  The noodles were slightly too soft, but otherwise got the job done.

Style over Substance at Maha’s

Maha'sLocation: 226 Greenwood Avenue, Toronto
Website: https://www.mahasbrunch.com/

The Mind Blowing Chicken Sandwich at Maha’s is one of those dishes you see and immediately want to eat.  No, scratch that — need to eat.  I mean, look at that thing.

But then, that’s kind of the problem, isn’t it?  It’s a tasty dish, but it also feels very much like something that was created to be a stunner on Instagram, with the actual flavour being secondary.

Maha’s Mind Blowing Chicken, per the menu: “Maha’s sacred marinate, tossed with parsley, onions and tomatoes, served on a toasted egg bun with tomeya, homemade mayo and tehina.”

Maha's

The very generous pile of chicken is nice and moist, with a very unique and distinctive spicing that makes it stand out.  The sauces, too, compliment it quite nicely, and the onions and tomatoes add some welcome freshness and crunch.

But it’s a very assertively-flavoured dish, and I’ll admit that by the end, it was getting to be a bit much.  It really needed something on the side to help round things out and add a little variety.  There’s so much of that chicken; it starts out delightful, but eventually turns one-note and tiresome.

Maha's

It doesn’t help that the bun is all wrong.  Its fluffy lightness is completely lost among the chicken’s very assertive flavours, and the bottom bun (yes, there is a bottom bun underneath that pile) turns into complete mush.

We had ordered some of the balady pita bread on the side, and it worked so much better  — it has a nice chewy texture that holds up to the saucy chicken, and a nutty flavour that complements and helps to mellow out the assertive spicing.  I wish it had come as a wrap in that bread, but then that wouldn’t be quite the showstopper on Instagram, would it?

Maha's

I also tried the falafel, which was unambiguously delicious, and maybe the best falafel in the city.  It’s crispy, fluffy, and delightfully herby.  I couldn’t help but compare it to the stuff I recently had at Paramount, and it was night and day.  It’s almost a completely different dish.

An Odd “Dessert” at 7 Baker

7 BakerLocation: 3 Wellesley Street West, Toronto
Website: https://7baker.ca/

The Chocolate Lava Croissant at 7 Baker is interesting?  It’s quite tasty, but also… different.

It’s a high quality pastry, no doubt about it.  The croissant is top-notch; it’s nice and buttery, with a good level of exterior crispiness and a tender texture.  It’s not the best croissant I’ve ever had, but it’s clearly above average.

7 Baker

It’s filled with an intense, cocoa-packed chocolate pudding that’s creamy and tasty but also… not sweet.  Not even a little bit.

7 Baker

It’s weird.  It generally tastes good (though without a little sweetness to round things out, the bitterness of the cocoa is overly pronounced), but with the lack of sugar, I’m not sure what it is.  It’s ostensibly a dessert, but… desserts are supposed to be sweet, aren’t they?

I certainly didn’t dislike eating it, but it’s flummoxing.  I’m flummoxed by it.

Delicious Roti at My Roti Place

My Roti PlaceLocation: 406 Queen Street West, Toronto
Website: https://myrotiplace.com/

I’ve heard basically nothing but good things about My Roti Place, a rapidly expanding chain that specializes in spice-packed roti.  I feared it might have been overhyped, but yeah: it’s very good.

My Roti Place

You can choose your roti, your meat, and your sauce; I went pretty basic with Mom’s Classic Curry with chicken, wrapped in a classic roti.  The spice level is also customizable, with mild, medium, serious, and extreme being options.  I figured extreme might be a bit too intense, so I went with serious.

My Roti Place

I guess should have gone with extreme; the “serious” level of heat turned out to be not-so-serious.  It was noticeably hot, but I’d put it on the upper level of mild.  A bit more spice would have been nice.

I may as well get my other complaint out of the way.  The chunks of chicken, though generous, are dry and leftovery.

My Roti Place

Everything else about this was fantastic.  The roti was nice and chewy, and complemented the vibrant curry perfectly.  And that curry was outstanding; I’m happy to overlook any number of minor complaints when the curry is that tasty.  I don’t care what you serve a curry that good with; it’s automatically going to be delicious.  The curry has an amazing depth of flavour that I couldn’t get enough of.  It’s serious business.

A Sandwich with Issues at Parka Food Co.

Parka Food Co.Location: 424 Queen Street West, Toronto
Website: https://www.parkafoodco.com/

I don’t know what it is about “plant-based” restaurants serving sandwiches with overly dense buns, but I had that issue at Planta, I had it at Fresh, and now it’s happened again at Parka Food Co.

Is it the plant-based thing?  The lack of dairy?  Or is it a coincidence I’m reading too much into?  I don’t know.

(Also, whichever marketer came up with the term “plant-based” to make veganism sound more hip and healthy: kudos to you.  You have succeeded beyond your wildest dreams.)

Parka Food Co.

I tried the broccoli sandwich at Parka Food Co., which comes with “lightly battered broccoli, cashew cheese sauce, dill pickles, sauteed onions, roasted garlic, lettuce, parka aioli,” and it was mostly decent enough — but then there was that bun.

It’s all about Newton’s third law of motion: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  The bun is so firm and dense that the force of you holding it and biting into it has nowhere to go but down into the components of the sandwich.  A normal bun would absorb some of that force, but not this one.

Instead, everything gets squished out within a couple of bites.  I had to eat the sandwich with a fork and knife.  It’s not a big deal, but I kinda wanted to eat my sandwich like a sandwich.

Parka Food Co.

Aside from that, it wasn’t bad.  The broccoli has a nice crispy, battered exterior, and the inside is perfectly cooked — it’s tender but not mushy, with a satisfying bite.

The cashew “cheese” sauce is basically just a thick, gooey paste, without a whole lot of cheese-like properties.  But it’s fine on the sandwich.

And the sweet aioli and the pickles do a nice job of cutting through the richness of the fried broccoli and the “cheese.”  It’s a pretty good sandwich… or at least it would be if you could eat it like a sandwich.