Location: 77 Huron Street, Toronto
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.
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.
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.
(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.)
Location: 235 Spadina Avenue, Toronto
Dainties has just two things on their menu: standard macarons with a Korean bent, and macaron ice cream sandwiches. I tried one of the ice cream sandwiches, and not surprisingly, it’s tasty. It turns out that when you specialize in just one thing, you can do it very, very well.
They have a bunch of traditional flavours like vanilla and pistachio, along with more Korean/Asian-infused flavours. I went with black sesame, and I enjoyed it thoroughly.
I’m not sure where they source their ice cream from (or if they make it themselves), but it’s clearly good stuff — it’s nice and creamy, and the flavour is aces. The nutty, somewhat earthy flavour of the black sesame complements the sweet cookies perfectly. And those macaron cookies are great; the combo of the chewy cookies and the rich ice cream is a clear winner.
The only issue: they serve it way, way, way (way way way) too cold. I could barely even bite through it at first. I waited something like 10 minutes and it was still a bit too firm, but I only have so much willpower when I’ve got a delicious ice cream sandwich in my hands.
Location: 4 St. Patrick Street, Toronto
A mochi doughnut, for the unaware, is basically a regular doughnut, but with the addition of rice flour. This gives it a delightfully chewy texture that works better than you might expect. Even if you don’t like mochi, it’s worth a shot — the chewiness is definitely there, but it’s not particularly aggressive.
They have nine flavours at Isabella’s; they all looked tasty, but I went with the s’mores (“chocolate, toasted meringue, graham crackers”).
It’s really good. The chocolate glaze has a nice chocolatey flavour that isn’t too sweet, and while the fluffy toasted meringue isn’t super marshmallowy, it’s tasty and complements the chocolate well. I don’t think the graham cracker crumbs made much of a difference, but it’s tasty either way.
As for the doughnut itself, yeah, it’s good. The chewiness is just enough to set it apart from a standard doughnut, but not so much that it feels overwhelming. It’s really satisfying.
Location: 336 Queen Street West, Toronto
Chick-fil-A opened in Toronto a couple of years ago and was immediately greeted with a whole bunch of hype and perpetual lines.
They’ve been here long enough at this point (and have enough locations) that the hype has mostly died down. This is a good thing, because the chicken sandwich here is tasty, but probably not worth lining up for.
You just have to temper your expectations; if you’re comparing it to local joints like the now Michelin-noted (!) Chica’s Chicken, it’s nothing special. But compared to its fast food competition, it’s a solid sandwich (the sandwich here is certainly leagues better than McDonald’s latest chicken creation, the McCrispy).
It’s got a much more subtle crunch than the norm, but it’s nicely seasoned and, on my visit at least, hot from the fryer and nicely juicy.
It’s also a bit unusual in how sparsely topped it is, with just a couple of pickle slices, a buttered bun, and nothing else. But I guess that’s part of its charm, and the chicken is flavourful enough that you don’t really miss the toppings.
Location: 10 Stephanie Street, Toronto
Kome Yogurt is right across the street from the original Mizzica Gelateria & Cafe, which is an unfortunate location; I’ve been intrigued by it for a while, but obviously if I’m in the area my first choice is that amazing gelato, which is some of the best in the city.
But I’ve been to Mizzica a few times now, so sure, why not — let’s yogurt it up.
They actually have a pretty extensive menu, with a couple dozen choices ranging from various fruity options to Asian dessert standbys like red bean and black sesame. The woman behind the counter said that the Purple Kome is one of their most popular choices, so I went with that.
It’s pretty simple — it’s just sweet yogurt blended with purple rice. But sometimes the simplest things are the best.
It actually reminded me a lot of the dessert I recently had at Xe Kem; it’s pretty much the same thing, but in beverage form. There’s a decent amount of chewy rice at the bottom that you suck up with a big straw like bubble tea. It’s like rice pudding, but yogurty and drinkable. It’s quite refreshing.
My only complaint is that it’s probably a touch too sweet; I would have liked the tartness of the yogurt to stand out a bit more. But the sticker on the side of the cup indicated that the sweetness level was standard, which makes me think you can customize the sugar level. I’ll definitely have to do that next time.