Perfect Key Lime Pie at La Rocca Creative Kitchen

La Rocca Creative KitchenLocation: 1285 Elgin Mills Road East, Richmond Hill
Websitehttps://laroccakitchen.com/

Is key lime pie the king of pies?  It might be!  The contrast between the tart filling, the sweet graham cracker crust, and the creamy topping is absolutely magical when done well.  I have a hard time saying no when I see it on a menu.

And La Rocca Creative Kitchen — which serves the type of little pastries that look so nice it’s almost a shame to eat them — makes a really good one.

La Rocca Creative Kitchen

It’s a little bit untraditional.  The typical whipped cream topping is subbed out for creamy Italian meringue, and the crust is made from speculoos cookies instead of graham cracker.

It’s great.  Sometimes a key lime pie’s crust can be too substantial or dry, but this had the perfect level of crunch without getting in the way, and the flavour of the speculoos set it apart from the norm.

La Rocca Creative Kitchen

The dense, creamy Italian meringue might even be better than whipped cream.  Certainly, it does a perfect job of balancing out the tart key lime custard.

And the custard was just right — it’s sweet and creamy, with just the right amount of tartness.  It’s good stuff.

Decent BBQ at Beauty Barbecue & Smokehouse

Beauty BBQ & SmokehouseLocation: 2901 Bayview Avenue, North York
Websitehttps://www.beautybbq.com/

Judging by Toronto’s restaurants, really great barbecue must be the toughest thing to get right.  Because there are a lot of BBQ joints in the GTA, and very, very few of them are much better than okay.

You can add Beauty Barbecue & Smokehouse to the “okay” list.  It’s fine.  I didn’t dislike eating there.  It’s certainly not great, but I’ve had worse barbecue in the city.

Beauty BBQ & Smokehouse

I tried three things and a couple of sides: smoked + roasted pork shoulder, Torontreal smoked meat, and baby back ribs, along with grilled cornbread and kale coleslaw.  I was really hoping to try the brisket; alas, it was sold out.

Beauty BBQ & Smokehouse

The pork shoulder was the oddest of the bunch.  It didn’t even vaguely resemble the pulled pork you might be expecting from a barbecue joint.  Instead, it was thinly sliced and tasted more like porchetta than something you’d find in the American south, with an overwhelmingly herby, rosemary-tinged flavour.  I suspect it hadn’t seen a smoker in many hours (if not days) as it had zero smokiness and a mildly gamy reheated pork flavour.

Beauty BBQ & Smokehouse

The Torontreal smoked meat was a definite upgrade over the pork.  Though it can’t compete with the best smoked meat in the city, it was nicely spiced and had a surprisingly smoky flavour.  But the meat was tough and the fat was vaguely rubbery.  Despite the fact that it was sliced very thinly, it was disconcertingly difficult to cut with a plastic knife.

Beauty BBQ & Smokehouse

The ribs were the best of the bunch.  They had a good level of smoke and a nice texture — tender, but with a bit of bite.  Something about them wasn’t quite clicking (I think maybe the rub?), but the vinegary-sweet sauce was tasty, and it was overall a quality rack of ribs.

Beauty BBQ & Smokehouse

As for the two sides, they were both solid.  Neither particularly stood out, but the coleslaw was nice and zingy, and the cornbread was sweet, buttery, and satisfying.

Delicious Mochi at Sasaki Fine Pastry

Sasaki Fine PastryLocation: 3160 Steeles Avenue East, Markham
Websitehttps://www.instagram.com/sasakifinepastry/

Sasaki Fine Pastry is the latest gem I’ve discovered thanks to the inimitable Suresh Doss, who specializes in sussing out the best non-Western eats in the city, usually out in the ‘burbs.  If you’re on Twitter and you’re not following him, I don’t even know what you’re doing with your life.

Sasaki Fine Pastry

Sasaki specializes in daifuku, a Japanese dessert in which soft, chewy mochi is stuffed with various sweet fillings.  On this particular visit they had seven flavours available; I tried mango cream, strawberry cream, yuzu cream, and sesame cream.

It’s easily the best mochi I’ve ever had.  I like mochi, but it can sometimes be a little too gummy.  But the version here had a delightfully delicate chew that almost melts in your mouth.

Sasaki Fine Pastry

The subtly sweet, creamy fillings were all great, though the strawberry — which featured a mixture of strawberry cream and sweet red bean filling — was the highlight.

Sasaki Fine Pastry

I also tried the red bean and cream doriyaki, which features a filling of sweet red bean and whipped cream that’s sandwiched between two little pancakes.  Like the daifuki, this was super fresh, subtly sweet, and extremely delicious.

Another Tasty Meal at Manpuku

ManpukuLocation105 McCaul Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.manpuku.ca/

I’ve already talked about Manpuku, so I’ll keep this brief.  I went back and tried the shigure don, and just like the udon I tried on my last visit, it was absolutely delicious and delightfully cheap.

The shigure don consisted of a heaping pile of tasty, well-marinated beef and onions atop  a generous portion of rice.  The beef looks a bit dry in the picture, but it was actually super tender, and surprisingly packed with flavour.  And the soft, tasty onions compliment the beef perfectly.

Manpuku

It cost $6.49.  I mean, come on, Manpuku — now you’re making all the other restaurants look bad.  I’ve frequently paid three or four times as much money for meals that weren’t half as good as what they’re serving here.

Tasty Chimney Cones at Eva’s Original

Eva's Original ChimneysLocation: 100 City Centre Drive, Mississauga (inside Square One)
Websitehttp://www.originalchimneys.com/

I’ve tried Eva’s once before, back when it was just a food truck.  I waited in line for about 90 minutes; I think we can all agree that this is an absurd amount of time to wait in line for ice cream.

I thought it was fine, but nothing particularly special, and certainly not worth the intense line (but then, what is?).

Eva's Original Chimneys

I actually enjoyed it much, much more this time (not having to wait in line for the length of a romantic comedy probably helped).

But even aside from that, it was clearly improved.  The baked, bready cone had an irresistible texture — perfectly crispy on the outside, and fluffy as a cloud on the inside.  Aside from the fact that it was impossible to eat without making a mess, it was an absolutely perfect vehicle for ice cream.

Eva's Original Chimneys

And the ice cream was great.  I got the current flavour of the month, peach cobbler: “Peach compote, granola, whipped cream, peach coulis, peach slice.”  And indeed, it basically tastes like peach cobbler a la mode, with the crispy/fluffy cone complimenting it perfectly.

My only real complaint is the price: I got the smaller size, which came up to about ten bucks with tax.  I wish it had been a couple of bucks cheaper — but then it was pretty damn good, so it’s hard to complain too much.