The Sad Decline of Paramount

ParamountLocation: 1290 Crestlawn Drive, Mississauga
Website: http://www.paramountfinefoods.com/

You’ll notice that I only have the one photo from Paramount, of a partially eaten take-out box of a dozen falafel.  I wasn’t planning on blogging about this one, but I think I kinda have to?

Paramount makes me sad.  The one I visited, in an industrial area of Mississauga, is actually the first location of the now omnipresent chain.  Back before they started expanding, it was a fantastic restaurant — easily some of the best Middle Eastern food in the GTA.  Every time I went there, the place was absolutely slammed.  It was so good, and people couldn’t get enough of it.

Then, of course, they started expanding, and the quality started to go downhill.  Slowly at first, but the decline was unmistakable.  The crowds thinned out, but it was still popular enough.

The last time I was there, maybe about a year ago, the food was clearly inferior to its highs in the pre-expansion days, but it was still pretty decent.

I just went to pick up an order of a dozen falafel, and the place was an absolute ghost town.  It’s easy enough to see why; it was quite possibly the worst falafel that I’ve ever had.  It was dense and dry, with an unpleasantly crumbly texture that sucks all the moisture out of your mouth.  It tasted wrong and stale despite being fresh from the fryer.

As for the weirdly sour tahini sauce and the bland pita bread, the less said the better.

I think I’m done with Paramount, and considering how good it used to be, that makes me sad.

Tasty Chicken at Yang’s Braised Chicken Rice

Yang's Braised Chicken RiceLocation: 780 Burnhamthorpe Road West, Mississauga
Website: http://yangschicken.ca/

Yang’s Braised Chicken Rice is a Chinese chain that recently opened seven simultaneous locations in the GTA.  Opening one restaurant is tricky enough; I can’t even imagine what must go into opening so many at the same time.

Whatever kinks they had (and there must have been kinks) since opening in September have clearly been worked out; the food and service were both top-notch.  Apparently they have over six thousand locations worldwide, so I guess opening seven more is no big deal.

Yang's Braised Chicken Rice

As you can probably guess from the name, Yang’s specializes in braised chicken rice, a dish in which tender, saucy braised chicken is served with a bowl of rice.

You can either get it standard or boneless (I went with the former), and you can pick your spice level (I picked “authentic,” which was actually quite mild; I’ll probably go spicier next time).

It seemed a bit simple at first, but it really grew on me; by the time I was done, I was 100 percent into it.

Yang's Braised Chicken Rice

The chicken is quite tender, and has a nice soy-sauce-infused flavour from the braising liquid.  Combined with the rice and the richly flavourful sauce, it’s surprisingly addictive.

Oddly enough, however, the chicken wasn’t the highlight — it was the slices of mushroom in the sauce.  These things do an amazing job of soaking up all the flavour from the dish; they’re basically chewy little flavour bombs.  They’re delightful.

Intense Hot Chocolate at SOMA Chocolatemaker

SOMA ChocolatemakerLocation: 32 Tank House Lane, Toronto
Website: https://www.somachocolate.com/

They sell hot chocolate at SOMA Chocolatemaker — but not just any hot chocolate.  You have the option to get it as “an intense shot,” which is just what it sounds like.  It’s basically like drinking pure, melted chocolate.

SOMA Chocolatemaker

It’s not as overwhelming as it sounds; it’s thick and rich, but it’s still drinkable.  It’s not quite at the consistency of melted chocolate, even if it’s close.

You can get Mayan hot chocolate, which is amped up with chili peppers and spices, or you can get the good old classic, which is what I ordered on this particular visit (I like the Mayan version too, but I do find that the spices kind of distract from the amazing chocolate).

SOMA Chocolatemaker

It’s amazing.  Of course it’s amazing; SOMA makes some of the best chocolate in the world, and they have the accolades to prove it.  The flavour is rich and complex, with just the right amount of sweetness.  I can’t imagine that a better cup of hot chocolate exists.

Amazing Shawarma at Shawarma Frenzy

Shawarma FrenzyLocation: 1011 Pape Avenue, Toronto
Website: None

I think the shawarma wrap at Shawarma Frenzy might just be the best deal in the city (it’s in the top five, that’s for sure).  It costs a mere $6.75, it’s the approximate size and heft of a small baby, and it’s crazy delicious.  There’s no downside.

Shawarma Frenzy

The chicken shawarma itself is absolutely outstanding; it nails every element.  Most importantly, it’s got a surfeit of the dark crispy bits that makes great shawarma so satisfying, but it’s not dried out at all, with tender, juicy meat.  And it’s really nicely seasoned.  It’s amazing.

Shawarma Frenzy

And the wrap features a very, very generous amount of meat, not to mention a good balance of fresh veggies, zingy pickles, and tasty sauces.  It has a nice garlicky hit, but it’s not so aggressive that you’ll be tasting garlic for the rest of the day.  I wish it were a little bit spicier (it’s just barely spicy), but that’s a very minor complaint.

The pita bread is great too — it’s fresh, a little bit chewy, and nicely crisped up in a sandwich press.  It’s a top notch shawarma wrap.  And it’s $6.75!  That’s ridiculous.

Delicious Bread Pudding and Pie at Bobbette and Belle

Bobbette and BelleLocation: 1121 Queen Street East, Toronto
Website: http://bobbetteandbelle.com/

It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that Bobbette and Belle is one of the best bakeries in the GTA.  Maybe the best?  It’s right up there, that’s for sure.

I tried the apple bread pudding on a recent visit, which they heat up and serve with a very tasty custard sauce.  I mean, look at it.  Do I even need to mention that it’s delicious?  Of course it’s delicious.

Bobbette and Belle

It’s crispy on its exterior and creamy inside, with a great custardy flavour.  The apples give it a nice zing, and the melty chocolate (yes, there’s melty chocolate in there, in case it didn’t already seem amazing enough) compliments it so well.  My only real complaint is that the apples are a bit crisp.  I know some people like their apples firm in pies and baked goods, but those people are wrong.  Tender apples 4 eva.

Still, the whole thing is so tasty that it just barely matters.

On another visit (yeah, I’ve been there a bunch, so what, wanna fight about it?) I tried the coconut banana cream pie, which was even better.

Bobbette and Belle

I love both banana cream pies and coconut cream pies, so I have no idea why it never occurred to me that you could combine the two, but you can and it’s amazing.  There’s also a layer of dulce de leche at the bottom of the pie, which gives the whole thing a rich, caramely flavour — and yet it’s not too sweet.  It’s perfect.

The crust is great too — crispy but not overly crunchy, with a nice buttery flavour and a mild sweetness that works amazingly well with the rest of the pie.  The whole thing is ridiculously good.