On Hiatus (and a few quick reviews)

I’m traveling, so this site is going into hibernation for a while.  Feel free to follow my travels at Up in the Nusair (or don’t, I can’t force you… or can I??  No, I can’t… yet).

But first, here’s a few very quick reviews of places I didn’t get a chance to write full posts for before I left.

Cafe Landwer

Cafe Landwer

I actually visited this place a couple of times recently.  The first time I had the shakshuka, which was quite tasty and comes with an almost absurd amount of food.  It’s a little bit bland, but it comes with an ample amount of fresh bread for dipping, and the tahini sauce helps amp things up.

Cafe Landwer

The second time I had the Sinia Kebab, which features beef kebabs and some grilled veggies on top of freshly baked flatbread, topped with a tahini sauce.  This was quite tasty, though it really needs something acidic to cut through the richness.  I eventually wound up spooning in some of the salad that comes on the side.  I’m not sure if that’s the intent, but it helped.

Jelly Roll from Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons

It’s a jelly roll from Tim Hortons; it tastes exactly how you think it’s going to taste.  It’s basically a very minor upgrade over Little Debbie.  It’s pretty junky, but I enjoyed it.

Pho from I Love Pho 2

I Love Pho 2

I already wrote about the surprisingly great I Love Pho 2, and the pho confirms it: this is a place that knows their stuff.  The broth has a really great flavour, and the variety of meats they mix in are all perfectly cooked and tasty.

SoSo Food Club

SoSo Food Club

I tried a handful of dishes at SoSo Food Club.  Everything was tasty, but the highlight was the addictively cumin-tinged lamb biang biang noodles.  The strong cumin flavour, the tender lamb, and the extra-broad noodles all work very well together.  The mapo tofu, with its numbing heat and silky tofu, was another highlight.

The Drake Commissary

The Drake Commissary

The bread here is amazing.  Like at Terroni, you have to pay for it, but unlike at that place, it wasn’t infuriating.  It was well worth paying for.  I came here at brunch and had the trapper beans, which had a lot going on, but everything worked perfectly together.  In particular, the beans had a savoury richness (and a complete lack of sweetness) that made them quite unlike any baked beans I’ve had before.

Mango Pancakes from HK Sweets

HK Sweets

This was fine, I guess.  I actually had mango pancakes in Hong Kong, and they were ridiculously good.  I was hoping these would recapture that, even slightly, but no such luck.  Aside from the fact that they’re not actually pancakes (they’re crepes), the mango was underripe and crunchy, and I think the cream was actually Cool Whip or something similar.  Still, it was decent enough for what it was.

Chicken Shawarma from Ghadir Meat & Restaurant

Ghadir Meat & Restaurant

Oh man, this shawarma.  I actually visited this place based on a tweet from Suresh Doss — he called it the best shawarma in the GTA, which should really tell you all you need to know.  The man knows his food, and he’s certainly not wrong about Ghadir.  It’s amazing.  It’s got the perfect blend of tender meat with lots of crispy bits, tasty sauces, and fresh veggies.  If it’s not the best shawarma in the GTA, it’s certainly a very strong contender for that crown.

Middling Ramen at Sansotei Ramen

Santosei RamenLocation: 100 City Centre Drive, Mississauga (inside Square One)
Websitehttps://www.sansotei.com/

Sometimes, I just don’t have all that much to say about a particular dish.  When something is fine — not particularly good, but not particularly bad — it can be difficult to muster up all that much enthusiasm to write about it.

Santosei Ramen

The tonkotsu ramen at Santosei is one of those dishes.  The only exceptional thing about it is how exceptionally middle-of-the-road it is.

Santosei Ramen

There are some things about it that I liked, however.  You can choose thick or thin noodles — I went with thick, and they were chewy and satisfying.  And the broth has a rich porkiness that’s pretty tasty.  But it’s a bit one-note in its flavour, and it’s intensely salty.

The chasu wasn’t bad, but I think it needed to cook for slightly longer, as it had a vaguely rubbery texture.   The egg was nice, but ice cold.

Santosei Ramen

Even by the standards of ramen in Toronto, what they’re serving at Santosei is quite ho-hum.  But…  I don’t know.  It’s fine, I guess?

Delicious Fried Chicken at Union Chicken

Union ChickenLocation: 25 The West Mall, Etobicoke
Websitehttps://unionchicken.com/

The common refrain is that you should give a restaurant at least a few weeks before you pass judgment on it.  It often takes a little while for the kitchen to work out all the kinks.

Union Chicken is a perfect example of this.  Last year, I went there within a couple of weeks of its opening; it was absolutely, positively awful.  I tried a few things and they were all horrifically bad.

Union Chicken

In the meantime, I’ve heard basically nothing but good things, so I figured it was probably about time to give it another shot.  And it was night and day.  Everything was really, really good.

The Buffalo and blue cheese fried chicken sandwich was delicious.  It’s got everything you’re looking for in a fried chicken sandwich: that amazing exterior crunch, a juicy piece of chicken (the fact that it’s thigh instead of breast helps mightily in this regard), and a zingy sauce that makes it all sing.

Union Chicken

There’s something about the magical interplay between vinegary Buffalo sauce and creamy blue cheese dressing that just works, and Union Chicken only elevates that — the blue cheese dressing on the sandwich is seriously tasty, with a mild garlicky bite that sets it apart.

I had the baked beans on the side, and they were also well above average.  Sometimes baked beans can be a bit of a sweet overload, but these had a nice vinegary punch to round things out, and a decent amount of spice.  The texture was a bit soupy, but they were otherwise top-shelf beans.

That sandwich, though.  I was honestly surprised at how good it was.  It definitely belongs on a list of the best fried chicken in the city.

Delicious Ramen at Ryu’s Noodle Bar

Ryus Noodle BarLocation: 786 Broadview Avenue, Toronto
Websitehttp://ryusnoodlebar.com/

A couple of months ago, Ryu’s Noodle Bar made a bunch of headlines by being one of only two non-Japanese ramen joints invited to set up a stall in the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum in Japan.

Obviously, a visit was inevitable.

(And yes, technically the place is called Ryus Noodle Bar, without the apostrophe, but I’m not spelling it that way.  Get out of here with that.)

Ryus Noodle Bar

Their specialty is “RYUS rich shio,” which is similar to the porky tonkotsu style of ramen that’s so popular in Toronto, but made with chicken instead of pork.

It’s basically Touhenboku, but better (sorry, Touhenboku, but you’ve been bested).

The chicken-based broth at Ryu’s is fairly similar to what they’re serving at Touhenboku, but with a richer consistency and a more satisfying depth of flavour.

Ryus Noodle Bar

All the issues I had with Touhenboku — the one-note flavour and the greasy consistency — are completely absent here.  Yes, the bowl has an intense chicken flavour, but there’s enough going on that you never get sick of it.  Once you hit the bottom of the bowl, you’re sad to see it end.

And despite its incredible richness, there’s absolutely no greasiness.

I can’t say enough about the flavour — it’s basically like the best roast chicken that you’ve ever had, but condensed down into a soup.

Ryus Noodle Bar

The noodles and toppings are great, too.  It’s topped with a slice of chicken along with the typical chasu (which is delicious); the chicken is white meat, but it’s cooked perfectly, making it incredibly tender.

They suggest you add an egg to the bowl, which is an additional charge, but totally worth it.  The yolk is creamy, custardy, and perfect.  I wish it were a little bit hotter (it was actually quite cold, which is maybe my only significant complaint about the whole bowl), but that’s a minor issue.

Suffice it to say, Ryu’s is a very, very strong contender for the best bowl of ramen in the city.  It’s so good.

The Porchetta at Porchetta & Co.: Still Great

Porchetta & Co.Location: 545 King Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://porchettaco.com/

Though I’m a big fan of the porchetta sandwich at Porchetta & Co., my tendency is to get tempted by the various fried chicken sandwich specials.  It’s been ages since I’ve had the good old plain porchetta sandwich.

Porchetta & Co.

I was afraid it might have gone downhill.  It’s an outstanding sandwich, but many successful restaurants have a hard time maintaining consistency over the years, and eventually become a victim of their own success.  This is especially true once expansion becomes a factor.

Well, I’m happy to say that this doesn’t seem to be an issue here.  The porchetta sandwich: still outstanding.

Porchetta & Co.

I didn’t see any crackling when I opened it up, which concerned me.  But I guess it was all hiding under the meat, because there was a pretty good amount.  (I could have used more, but then it’s basically impossible to get enough crackling.  I could have an all-crackling sandwich, and I’d still be like “that was pretty good, but it needed more crackling.”)

I also thought the sandwich looked a little lean on first inspection, but again, it was all hiding in there; the meat was super tender, with a perfect amount of tasty fat interspersed throughout.

Porchetta & Co.

It’s a seriously, seriously great sandwich.  The crispy, fluffy bun is as perfect as ever, and the pork itself is still top-notch.  The spicing is subtle compared to some porchetta, but there’s more than enough for it to pack some serious flavour.  That’s not to mention that the milder seasoning allows the natural flavour of the pork to really shine through.

Porchetta & Co.

You can get all kinds of toppings, if you want — in fact, the “House Special” is topped with parmesan, truffle sauce, mustard, and hot sauce.   And certainly, it’s not un-tasty.  But all that stuff is superfluous, and worse, it just gets in the way of the amazing pork.  The porchetta is so tender, porky, and herby; obscuring it with additional sauces and flavours just seems like a shame.