Chilled Spicy Noodles at the Momofuku Noodle Bar Pop-up at Stackt Market

Chilled Spicy Noodles at Momofuku Noodle BarLocation: Stackt Market (28 Bathurst Street, Toronto)
Website: https://noodlebar-toronto.momofuku.com/

Momofuku Noodle Bar is currently doing a pop-up at Stackt Market; it’s outdoors and the menu is limited, but it was my first time eating at a restaurant with a waitress and the whole rigmarole since last March (which, coincidentally enough, was also at the Noodle Bar).

Chilled Spicy Noodles at Momofuku Noodle Bar

I had the Chilled Spicy Noodles, which the menu describes as “ramen noodles, black bean sauce, sichuan beef, candy cashew.”

My delight at being back at a restaurant (or in a restaurant-ish setting, at least) might be colouring my opinion here, but man it was good.

Chilled Spicy Noodles at Momofuku Noodle Bar

It’s an explosion of flavour — it’s salty, it’s savoury, it’s meaty, it’s sweet — but everything complements each other so well.  And that black bean sauce is a taste bonanza; it’s basically like a really great hoisin sauce, but with pops of intense flavour from the beans themselves (I don’t know what they do to the beans to get them to taste almost cheese-like, but it’s magical).

It’s served cold, which only intensifies the flavour, and the chewy ramen noodles are the perfect vehicle to bring it all together.  It’s a tasty dish.

Tasty Sandwiches at Chen Chen’s Nashville Hot Chicken

Chen Chen's Nashville Hot ChickenLocation: 1184 Queen Street West, Toronto
Website: https://www.chenchenshotchicken.com/

It’s hard to eat a Nashville hot chicken sandwich in the GTA without comparing it to Chica’s Chicken, a place that serves what might just be some of the best fried chicken I’ve ever had.

No, the sandwich from Chen Chen’s isn’t on that level, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it; it’s quite tasty.

Chen Chen's Nashville Hot Chicken

You can choose from five spice levels: Southern (which they describe as “no heat”), mild, medium, hot, or poultrygeist (which they describe as “extra HOT!!”). I went with hot, which is very spicy but not face-meltingly so.

The chicken is tender thigh meat — always a good thing — and the exterior is satisfyingly crunchy. My biggest issue here is that it’s a bit bland; outside of the cayenne-infused heat, the chicken doesn’t have a ton of flavour. It’s underseasoned.

The sandwich is topped with zingy pickles, coleslaw, and aioli, which all does a pretty decent job of bringing the sandwich some flavour. But the chicken’s blandness does mar an otherwise above average sandwich.

Tasty Dipped Sandwiches at Hot Dip

Hot DipLocation: 1186 Queen Street West, Toronto
Website: https://www.instagram.com/hotdiptoronto/

Hot Dip is a new sandwich shop on Queen Street that specializes in meaty sandwiches you can dip into things, and yeah, gimme that. That’s a genius idea.

They actually only have four sandwiches on the menu (at the moment, at least), which I appreciate. I always freeze like a deer in headlights when I see a menu with dozens of things on it — I know that everything on this huge menu cannot possibly be great, so just tell me what the good stuff is and what I can ignore.

Hot Dip

Focusing on only a few things solves this problem entirely.

I ordered the Hot Dip (because you should always get the menu item that shares a name with the restaurant) which is a roast beef sandwich with horseradish mayo topped with crispy onions and served on a pretzel roll. The dip, in this case, is sharp cheddar.

Hot Dip

It’s a very good sandwich. The thinly-sliced roast beef is super tender with a nice beefy flavour, and there’s a generous amount of it — the menu says eight ounces (i.e. half a pound, i.e. a lot of beef), and based on how substantial the sandwich is, I have no reason to believe they’re skimping on the meat.

The pretzel roll is just as good as the beef. Sometimes pretzel bread can be a bit on the dense side, but this struck a great balance between softness and heft, with a lightly crispy exterior.

Hot Dip

As for the dip, weirdly enough it’s the weakest part of the sandwich. Despite being called “sharp cheddar” it has a thoroughly mild flavour — it basically has the taste and texture of watered-down Cheez Whiz. It mostly just adds moisture to the sandwich, but between the fresh bread and the tender meat, it doesn’t particularly need it.

My other big issue: it’s an incredibly heavy sandwich, and it really needs something acidic to cut through the overwhelming richness. I guess the horseradish mayo is supposed to fill this role? But it’s completely overwhelmed by all the beef; you can barely even tell that it’s there. It’s certainly not a deal-killer (it’s still very tasty), but it makes the sandwich feel a bit one-note rich, which is a shame.

Classic Pork Ramen at Momofuku Noodle Bar

Momofuku Noodle BarLocation: 190 University Avenue, Toronto
Website: https://noodlebar-toronto.momofuku.com/

Apparently Momofuku has been open in Toronto for eight years.  I was under the impression that it was more like three or four years, which doesn’t seem like a huge difference but kind of shook me to my core.

Well, maybe that’s overstating it, but seriously: where does the time go?  It’s like one second you can comfortably call yourself young, then the next second you realize that you’re practically middle-aged, and when the hell did that happen??

But I digress.  We’re talkin’ about noodles here.

Momofuku Noodle Bar

I tried the classic bowl of pork ramen at Momofuku back when it opened, and my recollection is that it was tasty enough, but nothing particularly special.

It’s better than I remembered.  I don’t think anyone is going to call it the best ramen in the city, but it’s a top notch bowl of noodle soup.

The broth is quite tasty, with a nice porky flavour.  It comes with a scoop of sweet chili paste on top; the bowl really gets going once you mix that in.  It adds a nice sweet/savoury punch that does a great job of complementing the porkiness of the broth.

Momofuku Noodle Bar

The noodles are nice and chewy, and the toppings are all great — in particular, the delightfully fatty thick-cut chashu is super tender, and the egg (which is a Japanese-style soft-boiled egg — a.k.a. onsen tamago — rather than a standard ramen egg) adds a silky richness that compliments the slightly sweet broth quite well.

Momofuku Noodle Bar

I tried a couple of other things.  There was the fried calamari, which is tender on the inside and crispy on the outside, with a tasty mayo-based dipping sauce on the side.  And it’s hard to go to Momofuku and not get one of their buns; I tried the shiitake buns, which feature meaty mushrooms tossed in hoisin sauce.  Hoisin is one of those things that could make basically anything taste good, so yeah, it was good.

Quick Bites: Chodang Soon Tofu, Khau Gully, La Paloma

Chodang Soon Tofu
Kimchee soon tofu bowl at Chodang Soon Tofu

I’ve written about this place a couple of times before, both for this blog and another one, which is why I’m not bothering with a full post for this particular meal.  But I feel obligated to point out that Chodang Soon Tofu is still great; their namesake dish, a seriously delicious and hearty bowl of stew crammed with creamy tofu, is as vibrant and amazing as ever.  If you’re even remotely in the area, don’t miss this place; it’s a gem.

Khau Gully
Various dishes at Khau Gully

I tried a handful of dishes at Khau Gully, a delightful Indian restaurant just south of Yonge and Eglinton.  Nothing particularly knocked my socks off, but everything was solid.  In particular, the nimbu dhaniya murg featured tender chunks of chicken in a deliciously zippy sauce, and the awadhi subzi featured nicely cooked veggies in a very creamy, tasty sauce.  The kulfi is also worth checking out.  If you’ve never had kulfi before, it has a unique richness that makes it feel pretty distinct from traditional ice cream.

La Paloma
Zuppa Inglese at La Paloma

If I’m trying a gelato place for the first time, I’m probably going to pick a simple flavour like pistachio or stracciatella to gauge the quality of the ice cream.  But if it’s a place I’m familiar with, all bets are off; I’m instantly drawn to odder flavours I might not have tried before.  And I can’t say I’ve ever had a gelato flavour quite like the Zuppa Inglese at La Paloma: “English trifle with layers of cranberries, orange zest and our homemade sponge cake.”  It absolutely nails the trifle flavour, with the fruity/cakey/custardy taste shining through.  It’s also got that in-your-face booziness that you’ll often find in Italian desserts; this is a bit of an acquired taste (and it’s not my favourite thing in the world), but I don’t mind it.  The gelato itself was a bit icy, but this was otherwise a top-notch flavour.