Jalapeno Popper Fried Chicken Sandwich from Chica’s Chicken

Chica's ChickenLocation2853 Dundas Street West, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.chicaschicken.net/

I’ve written about Chica’s Chicken many, many times on this blog.  I’ve mentioned that I think they serve the best fried chicken in the city, and that’s still probably true — even if I wasn’t crazy about this particular sandwich.

The Jalapeno Popper Sando, as per their menu: “boneless fried chicken topped with chipotle aioli and pickled jalapeños, served on a toasted brioche bun.”

The fried chicken is as delicious as ever; it’s the perfect combo of crispy (but not overbearing) exterior and juicy interior.  It’s so damn good.

Chica's Chicken

I’m not quite as sold on the rest of the sandwich, however.  It’s that chipotle aioli.  It’s sweet.  I like the sweet/salty combo as much as the next guy, but holy moly the level of intense sugariness here is a bit intense.  It overpowers the other flavours of the sandwich.  I find the Sweet Heat sandwich at Chica’s to be a bit on the sweet side, and this one is even sweeter, somehow.  Between the sweet sauce and the sweet brioche bun, the flavour is extremely one note.

It also tastes absolutely nothing like a jalapeno popper, which is odd.  The whole point of a jalepeno popper is the contrast between the tangy cream cheese and the spicy bite of the jalapeno, and I don’t think there was any cream cheese here??  Or if there was, I couldn’t taste it over the aggressive sweetness.

Also, I don’t think I’ve ever had a jalapeno popper that was even remotely sweet.  Am I the weird one, or is Chica’s?

Oh well.  Everything else on the menu is so good that I don’t particularly care, but this is still an odd misstep from an otherwise great restaurant.

Above Average Patties at Stush Patties

Stush PattiesWebsite: https://stushpatties.com/

Stush Patties are available frozen at various supermarkets throughout the GTA (you can see where on their website), but alas, they don’t have a permanent location where you can buy their patties hot.

They were recently set up for the weekend at the Cheese Boutique, and I can say pretty conclusively that they need to open their own place ASAP.  They’re top notch patties.

Stush Patties

They had five types of patties on offer: beef, jerk chicken, jerk pulled pork, spicy lentil, and swiss chard.  They’re five bucks a pop (or slightly cheaper if you buy them frozen), which seems pricey, but you get what you pay for.

I went with the pulled pork, which features a whole bunch of tender pork with a delightful punch of tasty jerk flavour.  It’s meaty and very nicely spiced, with a pleasant kick and a mild sweetness that rounds things out.

Stush Patties

The pastry is quite good too; it’s rich and flaky without being overwhelming.  Some patties  overdo the pastry and skimp on the filling, but this one is just right.

Great New York Style Slices at Pizzeria Badiali

Pizzeria BadialdiLocation: 181 Dovercourt Road, Toronto
Website: https://www.pizzeriabadiali.com/

Pizzeria Badiali is a pizza joint that bills itself as “a nod to the New York classics.”  And yeah, it’s quite different from the Neapolitan-style pizzas you can find all over town.

Pizzeria Badialdi

Of course, it would have to be  — it’s a slice shop, and the floppier slices of a Neapolitan-style pizza aren’t exactly grab-and-go compatible.

The slices here, on the other hand, have a delightful crispiness that never feels overly crunchy, with an interior texture that balances fluffiness and chewiness quite well.  It reminds me a bit of the slices they serve nearby at Superpoint, but I think this might be even better.

Pizzeria Badialdi

I got the margherita: “crushed tomato, fior di latte, pecorino and padano, basil.”

It was great — in particular, the balance between the creamy fior di latte and the sharp pecorino and padano really popped.

Pizzeria Badialdi

The place is quite popular (someone actually came out and announced a twenty minute wait for a new batch of slices shortly after I got mine), and with the combo of great quality toppings and a superlative crust, it’s easy enough to see why.

Oji Seichi Might Just Serve the Best Ramen in the City

Oji SeichiLocation: 354 Broadview Avenue, Toronto
Website: https://www.ojiseichi.com/

Oji Seichi is the brainchild of Mitch Bates; he was previously the chef at Grey Gardens and the sadly defunct Momofuku Shoto, and in case those credits aren’t enough to tell you that the guy knows what he’s doing, let me tell you: the guy knows what he’s doing.  Based on my recent visit, the ramen at Oji Seichi might just be the best in the city?  It’s right up there, that’s for sure.

The menu also features an assortment of sandwiches, and I’m sure those are delicious too (how could they not be, given the quality of the ramen?), but trust me — you need to get the ramen.

Oji Seichi

The classic ramen features a broth made with chicken, pork, and seafood (a vegetarian option is also available) and comes in either shio or shoyu.  I got shio, and holy moly it was so good.

The broth is (mostly) perfect.  It’s a bit too greasy (your lips feel slick with grease almost immediately), but other than that, it’s outstanding.   It’s lighter than the rich tonkotsu style of ramen that’s so common in the GTA, but it’s absolutely exploding with flavour.  It’s got a deep roasty/meaty flavour that’s abundantly satisfying, with a subtle seafoody kick that hums along in the background without ever calling attention to itself.  It’s also lightly smoky, but again, in a way that complements all the other flavours in the bowl so well.

I’ve mentioned this before, but the best bowls of ramen have this magical ability to keep revealing something new with each mouthful, and this is definitely that.  The flavours are not subtle, but it absolutely never feels one-note or tiresome.

Oji Seichi

They make their noodles in house, and like the rest of the bowl, they’re top-notch; they’re perfectly chewy and have a very subtle, almost nutty flavour.  So good.

The toppings are outstanding, too.  The egg looks like it might be a bit undercooked in the photo, but trust me: it’s great.  Perfectly jammy yolk, super flavourful — my only complaint is that the bowl comes with half an egg and I needed about a million of them.

And the chashu, with its silky, melt-in-your-mouth texture, is even better.  They finish it on the grill to give it a smoky flavour, and good god I want to dive into a swimming pool filled with the stuff like Scrooge McDuck but with pork belly instead of money.  Crazy good.

A Decent Falafel Sandwich at The Haifa Room

The Haifa RoomLocation: 224 Ossington Avenue, Toronto
Website: https://www.instagram.com/thehaifaroom/

The Haifa Room has been up and running for a bit more than a month, and while the dining room isn’t open quite yet, they do have a take-out window where you can get a variety of sandwiches.

I went with the falafel sandwich: “Falafel, tahina, hummus, z’hug, cucumber and tomato salad, marinated red cabbage, parsley, onions, and pickles.”

I asked them to hold the onion, but otherwise got it as is.

It’s a solid sandwich, though nothing about it particularly blew me away.  The falafel itself is crispy and flavourful, with a nice fluffy interior that’s almost creamy (it might have been a tad undercooked, but it was tasty regardless).  And the healthy amount of parsley they top it with is a nice touch, adding a herby punch that complements the falafel quite well.

The Haifa Room

None of the other toppings particularly stand out, however, and I missed the red pickled turnips that you typically find in a sandwich like this; there were copious amounts of tahini and hummus, and in the absence of something with some zip, it felt overly rich and a bit one-note in its flavour.  It did have pickle slices, but they weren’t assertive enough to add much of anything.

(The menu also says the sandwich is topped with z’hug, a herby Yemenite hot sauce, but I didn’t see or taste anything even remotely hot-sauce-like in the sandwich.)

The vaguely stale pita bread probably didn’t help, which came out of a bag and tasted like it came out of a bag.

I feel like I’m complaining a lot for something I actually quite enjoyed, but pretty much everything here is one small step away from being very good, so it’s easy to notice the flaws that are holding it back.