Stellar Banh Mi at Ba Le House

Ba Le House
Location
: 1125 Dundas Street East, Mississauga
Website: None

Ba Le house is clearly doing well — it’s actually an off-shoot of Banh Mi Ba Le, which is in the same plaza just a few stores over.  I guess business was brisk enough that they were able to open a second store (which is a bit confusing — if you try to order a banh mi at Banh Mi Ba Le, they’ll direct you to Be Le House instead).

Ba Le House

I’m very glad that this place is doing well.  There’s actually another, completely unrelated banh mi joint around the corner in the same plaza, Banh Mi Saigon, and I sort of figured that Ba Le would be about the same — good but not great.

I could not have been more wrong.  I got the classic assorted cold cut banh mi, and holy moly it was good.  Probably the best banh mi I’ve had in the GTA.

Ba Le House

 

Everything about it just works; it’s meaty, porky, and delicious.  The proportion of cold cuts (which I’m guessing that they make in house, and which are a cut above the norm) to zingy veggies to fresh bread is just right.  There’s a nice slathering of creamy mayo and tasty pate, it’s got a mild but noticeable kick, and a slight sweetness from the hoisin.

Ba Le House

And the bread is great; it’s got a delicately crispy exterior and a fluffy but substantial interior that holds up to all the filling quite nicely.  A lot of banh mi can wreck the roof of your mouth of you’re not careful; this one has a delightful crispiness that you can still eat with aplomb.  No risk of mouth shredding here.

The sandwich comes up to five bucks even, which is an absolute steal for the level of quality that they’re serving up.  It’s so good.

Meaty Sandwiches at German Doner Kebab

German Doner Kebab
Location
: 246 Queen Street West, Toronto
Website: https://www.germandonerkebab.com/

German Doner Kebab is a German chain with locations around the world that specializes in — surprise, surprise — doner kebab.

They have a few things on the menu, though it all revolves around the doner kebab, which is meat that’s cooked on a vertical rotating spit, shawarma-style.  They serve chicken, beef, or a mix of both.

I ordered the Original German Doner Kebab, which features a whole bunch of meat (chicken and beef, in my case), veggies and sauce on what they call toasted sesame waffle bread.

German Doner Kebab

It’s tasty enough, though the way the sandwich was constructed meant that there was a ton of meat on the bottom, veggies in the middle, and sauce on top.  I tried my best to alternate bites between the three sections so I’d get a variety of flavours, but it was basically impossible to get a mouthful with all three components.

The sandwich comes as it comes, so I wasn’t told anything about the sauces or any of the toppings, but according to the website they have three sauces: signature spicy sauce, signature garlic sauce, and signature yogurt sauce.  I wish it were spicier, but otherwise the sauces were quite tasty: they were sweet, garlicky, and a little bit tangy.  They would have done a great job of balancing out the saltiness of the meat, but unfortunately there was a voluminous layer of veggies between the meat and the sauce, so I didn’t get any mouthfuls with both.

German Doner Kebab

Because yeah, the meat was very salty.  The level of seasoning was so intense that it entirely overwhelmed the flavour of the meat; I tried a bunch on its own (as you can see from the picture, a decent amount had tumbled out of the sandwich before they even brought it to me), and none of it particularly tasted like chicken or beef — it just tasted like generic, salty meat.  I literally couldn’t tell any of it apart.  They might have accidentally given me one or the other instead of a mix, but the fact that I couldn’t figure out what any of it was supposed to be is… odd.

Still, it was tasty enough; there were no off or gamy flavours here, so it certainly wasn’t unpleasant to eat.  That’s not to mention the bread, which was nicely toasted, with a satisfying exterior crunch and fluffy interior that (mostly) held together despite how messy the sandwich was.

It’s hard to wholeheartedly recommend this place when Otto’s Berlin Doner is serving a very similar sandwich that’s much, much better.  But if you’re in the area and you’re looking for a hearty, quick meal, you could definitely do worse.

A Creamy Pastry at Marvelous by Fred

Marvelous by Fred
Location
: 224 Queen Street West, Toronto
Website: https://marvelousbyfredtoronto-order.ca/

Marvelous by Fred is a French bakery chain with a bunch of locations in Europe, the States, and, in the last couple of years, Canada.  They have a handful of tasty looking desserts and sandwiches, but their specialty is the Merveilleux, a tasty combo of whipped cream and meringue.

Marvelous by Fred

They serve a few different varieties of this, but the classic is the dark chocolate, which the store describes as “dark chocolate whipped cream & dark chocolate shavings.”

It’s good. Obviously it’s good — it’s just a big pile of crispy meringue chunks held together by chocolate-infused whipped cream, and then covered in shaved dark chocolate and topped with more cream.  You literally cannot go wrong with that.  How could you?

Marvelous by Fred

It’s not mind-blowing, though.  I know that its creation is likely more involved than it tastes, but it kinda feels like I could mix together meringue, whipped cream, and chocolate at home and wind up with largely the same result.

Marvelous by Fred

I’m almost certainly not giving the bakery enough credit, but I can’t say I’ve ever thought that about literally any dessert from a French bakery, so there’s that.

Chicken Big Mac at McDonald’s

Chicken Big Mac at McDonald's
Location
: 5453 Dundas Street West, Toronto
Website: https://www.mcdonalds.com/

On one hand, the Chicken Big Mac is what it is: it’s a Big Mac, but with chicken instead of beef.  There’s not much more to it than that.

On the other hand, I actually found it to be way more delightful than I was expecting.  Apparently it’s a limited time thing that’s going away in April, but I think it’s tasty enough (and different enough from a regular Big Mac) to be on the permanent menu.

Chicken Big Mac at McDonald's

The patties are interesting.  They’re not just the McChicken patties you might expect; they’re thicker than a McDonald’s burger patty, but thinner than a McChicken.  They actually reminded me more of an oversized McNugget than an undersized McChicken.

Chicken Big Mac at McDonald's

This will depend on the location you visit, but the patties in my Big Mac were hot and crispy, and that texture actually added a lot of personality to the Big Mac template.

Chicken Big Mac at McDonald's

As for the taste, the milder flavour of the chicken lets a lot more of the zippiness from the special sauce and the pickles shine through; even the slice of cheese becomes more pronounced when you sub out beef for chicken.  Between that and the fried crispiness, the Chicken Big Mac really feels like its own thing, and not just like a gimmick you’d only want to try once.

A Tasty Wrap at Tianjin Auntie’s Steamed Bun

Tianjin Auntie's Steamed Bun
Location
: 77 Huron Street, Toronto
Website: None

When I first found out about the existence of jian bing a few years ago, it was impossible to find in Toronto (if it was being served, I couldn’t find any evidence of it online).  Living with the grim knowledge that something so delicious existed, and having no way (outside of an expensive plane ticket) to eat it was actually pretty brutal.

Tianjin Auntie's Steamed Bun

Thankfully, things have changed in the last few years; several places serving jian bing have been popping up, so if you’re looking for it (and you should be looking for it), you’re good to go.

I guess I should probably explain what jian bing even is — it’s more common than it used to be, but it’s not exactly at sushi levels of ubiquity quite yet.  It’s a tasty Chinese breakfast wrap that finds a crepe (of sorts) cooked with eggs until they combine into one thing, and it’s all wrapped up with tasty sauces and crispy fried dough. It’s delicious.

Tianjin Auntie's Steamed Bun

And the version they serve at Tianjin Auntie’s Steamed Bun is legit; it’s a seriously addictive combo of chewy exterior and crispy interior, it’s a savoury, a little bit sweet, eggy, and delicious.  It might actually be slightly too eggy, however, and the whole thing is somewhat soggy.  This dish is traditionally served as street food; I took it to go and was planning to eat and walk, but it quickly became apparent that it was a bit too sloppy to eat while on the move.   That’s a minor complaint, however.  It was still very good.

Tianjin Auntie's Steamed Bun

(I should also note that Tianjin Auntie’s Steamed Bun is a restaurant with a full menu of tasty looking Northern Chinese dishes, in case I’m giving you the impression that they just serve one thing.  A repeat visit is almost certainly in order.)