Chodang Soon Tofu

Chodang Soon Tofu - tofu kimchi
Location: 5130 Dundas Street West, Toronto
Website: None

Ah, Chowhound.  As a resource for discovering hidden gems, it is second-to-none.  Case in point: Chodang Soon Tofu.

The place specializes in fiery red soups that come to the table in a piping hot stone bowl; it’s a roiling inferno of a soup that is pretty much guaranteed to burn your tongue.  As I’ve had the soup here a couple of times (and it is quite tasty, despite the pain), I decided to get something different.  I went with the Tofu Kimchi, which is a bit more expensive than the other items on the menu at $12.98 (all the soups are eight bucks).

Korean food is traditionally served with a variety of side dishes — banchan, in Korean — and they definitely don’t skimp on that here.  Before the main course, we received soft, fresh tofu with a soy-sauce based dipping sauce, two different types of kimchi, bean sprouts, and a breaded, fried fish.   All tasty stuff, and all free with the meal, so it’s a pretty great value.

And as it turns out, the Tofu Kimchi was more expensive because it is clearly meant to be shared.  I’m not sure if the picture adequately conveys the scale of this dish, but it was massive.  I got about halfway through and had to throw in the towel.  

It’s a fairly simple dish; stir-fried kimchi with thin strips of pork belly and green onions, surrounded by soft, creamy tofu.  It seemed a bit simple when I first started eating it, but the spicy kimchi and pork mixed with the creamy tofu turned out to be a suprisingly addictive combo.

Chodang Soon Tofu - the menu Chodang Soon Tofu - the restaurant Chodang Soon Tofu - tofu kimchi Chodang Soon Tofu - fried fish Chodang Soon Tofu - kimchi Chodang Soon Tofu - fresh tofu

Burger King – Fire-Grilled Rib Sandwich

Burger King - Fire-Grilled Rib Sandwich
Location4141 Dixie Road, Mississauga

Burger King is the worst.  Seriously.  The absolute worst.  I remember at a certain point, several years back, thinking that it was one of the better fast food joints.  But then the quality started going downhill, and at first I thought “oh, I must be at a badly run Burger King,” but no.  They’re all bad now.

I’m not a fast food snob.  I enjoy it, for the most part.  You have to adjust your expectations, obviously, but a Big Mac can be quite satisfying when the craving hits.

My personal ranking of the big fast food burger chains would probably look something like this:

  1. A&W
  2. Wendy’s
  3. McDonald’s
  4. Harvey’s
  5. Garbage from a dumpster
  6. Burger King

So when I found out that Burger King was serving a McRib-esque sandwich, my better judgment told me to stay away, but hey, you only live once, right?

I should note that I actually do like the McRib.  Maybe it’s because I have fond childhood memories of the thing, but every time McDonald’s brings it back I feel obligated to eat it at least once.

Burger King’s version has all of the same components (barbeque sauce, mystery-meat-pork patty, and pickles), save for the onion.  But it is — surprise, surprise — not good.  The salty patty is a lot chewier and more rubbery than the McRib, and the cloyingly sweet barbeque sauce is one-note and vaguely unappealing.  The bun and pickles are fine, but the whole thing was kind of gross and nothing I’d ever want to eat again.

I tried the new doughnut holes, too, which were also pretty gross.  Can we just use the words Burger King as a replacement verb for gross?  I think so.  The doughnut holes were pretty Burger Kingy. Doughy, soggy, and downright mushy, the only highlight was when I remembered that I am a human being with free will, and can choose to never eat another one of these for as long as I live.  I wish I could make that choice for Burger King in general, but I know curiosity will drive me back here when they introduce something else new to their menu.  Oh well.

Burger King - the menu Burger King - Fire-Grilled Rib Sandwich Burger King - doughnut holes

Grand Electric

Grand Electric
Location: 1330 Queen Street West, Toronto

I don’t need to tell you about Grand Electric.  It opened in 2011, and since then, everyone in the GTA with even a vague interest in food has been there and has raved about the place.  Everyone.

I was afraid that it had been over-hyped to a level that no restaurant could reasonably reach.  I was wrong.  It is crazy delicious.

The small, no-frills restaurant is laid out with the menu written on a blackboard on the back wall.  And yes, as you have heard, it is very loud.  They like their hip-hop here, and they like to crank it up.  I could converse with my dining companion without having to raise my voice too much, so it wasn’t too bad (though I went for lunch and I suspect it gets louder in the evening).

Grand Electric

The menu is very reasonably priced, with all the tacos being sold individually for $3.60.  I went with Pork Tinga, Beef Cheek, and Scrapple.  I also  got an order of the Pig Head Fries, because how can I resist a menu item entitled Pig Head Fries? (the answer: I cannot.)

Did I mention that it was crazy delicious?  Because it was.  All three tacos were pretty great, though the highlight was the scrapple.  Featuring a rectangular, crispy-on-the-outside-and-deliciously-porky-on-the-inside patty of pure deliciousness, which is topped with avocados and green onions and features a perfectly complimentary sweet sauce, it is one of the best things I’ve eaten in a while.  If you told me this was all I could eat for the rest of my life, I’d be cool with that.

The other two tacos were more traditional and were perfectly delicious, though they never quite reached the levels of transcendent awesomeness of the scrapple.

As for the Pig Head Fries, they were crispy and salty, with a creamy interior and a delicious dipping sauce that tasted vaguely like the Big Mac sauce from McDonald’s. They were quite tasty.

Grand Electric Grand Electric Grand Electric Grand Electric

Bake Sale – Carrot Cake

Bake Sale - Carrot Cake
Location: 3076 Bloor Street West, Etobicoke

So the carrot cake from Bake Sale bakery?  Best store-bought cake I’ve ever had.  Seriously.  Most store-bought cakes have the same airy, vaguely processed texture that I find somewhat unappealing.  Not this cake; this one is dense, moist, and very close to cake perfection.

It has walnuts interspersed throughout, which add a satisfying textural component as well as a vague nuttiness that complements the cake quite well.

The cream cheese frosting is rich and sweet, but not overly so.  It’s also really well proportioned, giving you a perfect amount of cake and frosting in each bite.

It’s raisin-free, which I found delightful.  Hey raisins: what’s the point of you?  Go home.  No one likes you.

Look, it’s a classic carrot cake.  They’re not reinventing the wheel here.  This isn’t someone’s take on a carrot cake; it is a carrot cake, executed to absolute perfection.

Bake Sale - Carrot Cake Bake Sale - Carrot Cake

Panera Bread

Panera Bread - Pesto Sacchettini
Location: 197 North Queen Street, Etobicoke

One thing I like about Panera Bread is that its Canadian and American menus seem to be pretty consistent.  A lot of times there’ll be an interesting item introduced on the menu at a fast food joint, only for it never to materialize here in Canada (like KFC’s boneless chicken, McDonald’s Egg White Delight McMuffin, or Taco Bell’s Doritos Locos Tacos, among many others).

Panera Bread, on the other hand, seems to actually let Canadians try its new menu items, which is nice.

The latest thing at Panera is pasta.  They’ve got Tortellini Alfredo, Pesto Sacchettini, and Rustic Penne Bolognese.   I went with the Sacchettini, which is described as a “purse-like pasta filled with six cheeses.” Pesto?  Six different cheeses?  Sign me up.

There’s a choice between small and large, and though the small initially seems comically undersized, it’s actually fairly heavy and a good amount for lunch.

It’s not bad.  It is, as advertised, quite cheesy, and the generous amount of pesto clinging to each Sacchettini gives it a good amount of flavour.

It was, however, unevenly hot in the way that only food that has been quickly microwaved gets.  It’s also pretty much the opposite of al dente, with pasta that is disconcertingly close to Chef Boyardee in the texture department.

It comes with either a soup or a salad.  I got the Classic Salad, which is dressed with a passable balsamic vinaigrette.  It complimented the pasta fairly well; the occasional bite of the vinegary salad helped to cut the richness of the oily, cheesy pasta (and the pasta is definitely not kidding around with the oiliness — when I finished, there was a pretty substantial pool of oil at the bottom of the bowl).

It’s not bad, but at the price I don’t know how heartily I can recommend it.  I got it with a lemonade to drink, and it came up to almost 15 bucks, which is kind of absurd for the caliber of food you’re getting.

Panera Bread - Pesto Sacchettini Panera Bread - Pesto Sacchettini Panera Bread - Pesto Sacchettini