Stellar Ramen at Kyouka Ramen

Kyouka RamenLocation: 2222 Queen Street East, Toronto
Website: https://kyouka.ca/

The Beaches is a bit of a culinary wasteland; there are a lot of restaurants along the main stretch of Queen, but almost none of them are particularly good.

There are exceptions, however.  One of them is Kyouka Ramen; it easily serves some of the best ramen in the city.

Kyouka Ramen

I ordered the namesake Kyouka ramen: “daily chicken + pork broth, kombu dashi, aromatic sesame oil, green chives, bean sprouts, pork + chicken chashu, egg, naruto fish cake, wood ear mushroom, chili paste.”

The broth — a mixture of chicken and pork — is delightful.  It’s got that rich roasty, meaty flavour that you want from a top-shelf bowl of ramen, and it’s got it in spades.  It’s really nicely seasoned, with a good level of salt that helps all the other flavours sing, but never feels overwhelming.  It looks a bit greasy, but it doesn’t feel oily at all.  It’s top notch stuff.

Kyouka Ramen

The rest of the bowl is hit and miss, but the soup itself is so good that it barely even matters.

The noodles were probably the biggest issue.  They were slightly overcooked, and didn’t quite have that satisfying chew that you’re looking for from a great bowl of ramen.

The pork chashu was tender and delicious, with a mild smoky flavour that was quite tasty.  The chicken, however, was slightly dry and a bit tasteless.

Kyouka Ramen

The egg was perfectly cooked, with a nice gooey but not runny yolk — but it was underseasoned and bland.  Everything else was quite good.

Still, that soup was tasty enough that the bowl would easily be in my top five in Toronto.  It’s so good.

Mediocre Dim Sum at Planta Queen

Planta QueenLocation: 180 Queen Street West, Toronto
Website: https://www.plantarestaurants.com/

I just talked about Shanghai Dim Sum, a dim sum restaurant in Richmond Hill that’s both delicious and delightfully affordable.

Planta Queen

Well, Planta Queen serves dim sum on the weekends, and it’s the complete inverse of that — it’s ridiculously expensive and thoroughly mediocre.

Planta Queen

I managed to try a few things, and while nothing was outright unpleasant, everything I tried was an inferior version of something you could get at a dim sum joint or elsewhere.  The dumplings were probably the worst offenders — the various fillings were fine, but the wrappers were flabby and overcooked.

Planta Queen

Adding insult to injury?  They all ranged from 13 to 15 bucks for an order of four.  For 15 bucks, I could get 60 soup dumplings from Shanghai Dim Sum (well, I’m sure they have a limit per table, but you get the idea) — and those dumplings were about a million times better than any of the dumplings here.

Planta Queen

The other things I tried — a dosa, fried mushrooms, dan dan noodles — were all decent enough, but again, they were crazy expensive and thoroughly inferior to the real deal.

Planta Queen

The best thing I had — by far — was the chocolate cake.  The pastry chef here is clearly the real talent in the kitchen, because the cake was abundantly satisfying.  It was rich, fudgy, and slightly fruity, with a deep chocolately flavour.  It was amazing.

Delicious Fried Chicken at PG Clucks

PG ClucksLocation: 384 Bloor Street West (inside the Annex Food Hall)
Website: https://www.pgclucks.com/

I mentioned recently that I think Chica’s Chicken serves the best fried chicken in the city.  I still think that, but PG Clucks is giving them some serious competition for that title.

I tried the Jalapeno and Honey (Toronto Life’s pick for the second best sandwich in the city): “Honey Dipped Chicken, Sweet Pickled Jalapeños, Fermented Jalapeño Sauce, Ranch Sauce.”

PG Clucks

It’s so good.  It’s quite sweet from the honey (the chicken is tossed in some kind of honey sauce) but it’s balanced perfectly by the zingy pickled jalapenos and the abundantly delicious ranch and jalapeno sauces.  It’s almost absurd how delicious it is.

And the chicken itself is absolutely perfect — it’s super crispy, juicy, and flavourful.

PG Clucks

Bonus: their new location, in the Annex Food Hall, is way nicer than the original on College.  That one is just a closet-sized take-out joint, but this one actually has tables, which means that you don’t have to eat your sandwich hunched over on the sidewalk like an animal.  That’s always nice.

Tasty (and Cheap!) Eats at Shanghai Dim Sum

Shanghai Dim SumLocation: 330 Highway 7, Richmond Hill
Website: http://www.shanghaidimsum.ca/

If you’re looking for a delicious and delightfully affordable meal, you could absolutely do worse than Shanghai Dim Sum.  If you show up before 11:00 AM (and you should definitely do this) you can order off a special early morning menu that includes an order of four soup dumplings for 99 cents.

Shanghai Dim Sum

99 cents!  Are they they best soup dumplings you’ll ever have?  No, but they’re quite tasty, and for the price, they’re outstanding.

Shanghai Dim Sum

Everything else was quite good as well.  We managed to try a generous amount of stuff (I was quite full by the end of the meal) — the total bill?  About 30 bucks for three people.  You can’t argue with that price.

Shanghai Dim Sum

The restaurant also has the distinction of serving what might be the garlickiest dish I’ve ever had.  The boiled pork with garlic paste features tender slices of pork belly doused in a sauce that’s effectively pure, uncooked garlic.  It was actually quite tasty, but that garlic taste lingered on my palate for a solid 24 hours.

Nine Layer Burrito at Fresh

FreshLocation: 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Toronto
Website: https://freshplantpowered.com/

Fresh, a chain that specializes in vegan eats, is fine.  I recently had their “burger” and thought it was fine (though it obviously bore no resemblance to an actual hamburger).  I just tried the Nine Layer Burrito, and yeah — it’s fine.

It’s definitely crammed with a lot of stuff: “mushroom & artichoke chorizo, marinated black beans, pico de gallo, cashew queso, jalapeno crema, avocado, shredded lettuce, brown rice, pickled jalapenos.”

Fresh

It’s…  fine.  It’s not as good as a burrito from any decent burrito place, but if you find yourself at Fresh, I’m sure you could do worse.

There’s a whole bunch of stuff in there, and it tastes like there’s a whole bunch of stuff in there.  It doesn’t have a ton of cohesion, but it’s tasty enough for what it is.

I was kinda curious about the  faux “chorizo”, but of course, it’s hard to pick out any one element with all of the flavours that are going on here.  So I tried some on its own; it basically just tastes like funky pureed mushrooms, with absolutely no resemblance to chorizo.

Fresh

The only element of the burrito I found overtly unappealing was the whole wheat tortilla.  I like whole wheat bread as much as the next guy, but it’s just wrong on a burrito.  It calls attention to itself and tastes off.

I also tried the salad with house vinaigrette.  The vinaigrette seemed like it might have been okay, but it was applied so sparingly you could barely taste it.  The “salad” basically tasted like undressed greens.