A Unique (and Loud) Dining Experience at Grand Bizarre Supper Club

Grand Bizarre Supper ClubLocation: 15 Saskatchewan Road, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.grandbizarre.com/

I very randomly got an email about a month ago inviting me to the media preview of a new “supper club” called Grand Bizarre.  Anything with the word “club” in its name doesn’t particularly sound like my jam — but you know what is my jam?  Free food.  I quickly found a friend who was willing to go with me (the promise of the aforementioned free food made this an easy enough proposition), and I was off to the races.

Grand Bizarre Supper Club

The place is a bit odd; it opens once a week on Saturday nights, and it’s somewhere between a nightclub and a food court.  It’s an absolutely massive space, with several food vendors, a whole bunch of bartenders, and a DJ playing loud, thrumming dance music that makes it nearly impossible to talk (though thankfully, my dining companion and I were able to find a spot near the sushi bar that wasn’t quite as ear-splittingly loud as the rest of the joint).

Grand Bizarre Supper Club

One of the main gimmicks is that instead of paying cash for the various foodstuffs, you buy “Bizarre chips,” which look like poker chips and which act like currency to buy food.  I believe you still have to pay regular cash for the drinks, though I’m not entirely sure — it was an open bar during the media preview, which made me super glad I drove there instead of taking public transit.  I did, however, manage to have several free soda waters, so who’s the real winner here?  (please don’t answer that.)

Grand Bizarre Supper Club

They gave everybody nine Bizarre chips, which is worth 30 bucks, and which was enough to get a decent amount of food.  I managed to try a few things.

The first thing I tried (and easily the highlight of the night) was the fried chicken bao: “pimento cheese, bacon onion jam, pickled carrot slaw, bacon onion jam, steam bun.”  It cost five Bizarre chips, or about $16.50, and comes with a side of potato chips.

It was a solid sandwich.  The only real issue (though it was a big one) is that the fried chicken patty was way overcooked, and had clearly been sitting out for a while.  It was tasty, with a nice crispy exterior, but the meat was dry and lukewarm.

Grand Bizarre Supper Club

Everything else was quite good, with the amazing bacon onion jam easily being the star of the show.  It was an absolute taste bonanza, with a perfect combo of sweet and savoury.  I want to buy a big jar of this so I can eat it on everything.

Between the rich pimento cheese, the vinegary bite of the slaw, the spice of the jalapenos, and the sweet/savory combo of the bacon onion jam, it was a great balance of tastes and textures.

The bun was interesting.  It was somewhere between a Chinese bao and a hamburger bun, and was actually quite good.

If the chicken were fresh and not overcooked this would have been a fantastic sandwich, but even as it was it I enjoyed it.

Grand Bizarre Supper Club

Next up: the sushi area was selling a few dim sum classics along with the raw fish.  We tried the har gow (shrimp dumplings) and siu mai (chicken dumplings); each order came with four, and cost three Bizarre chips.

They were both horrifically bad.

The shrimp, I guess, was the better of the two.  It had obviously been sitting in a warming tray for way too long, because the wrapper basically disintegrated in my mouth, and the filling was off-puttingly squishy, with a few rock-hard shrimp bits.  The whole thing was absolute mush through and through (aside from the tiny little shrimp bits).  The flavour was fine, however.

Grand Bizarre Supper Club

The pork, on the other hand, was flat-out disgusting.  It was dry and tough and took a distressingly long time to chew.  And something about the flavour was just off.  I’m not gonna lie: it was barely fit for human consumption.

They’re also hilariously overpriced.  Each order was three chips (or ten dollars in human currency) for four pieces.  That’s more than double what you’ll pay for an infinitely better version of these at literally any dim sum place in the GTA (seriously: they’re the worst version I’ve had of both dishes by far).  So please: do not order these.  They’re bad and they’ll make you feel bad.

There were a handful of other savoury options (pizza, sushi, salad, etc.), but at this point we moved on to dessert.  We only had two Bizarre chips left between the two of us, so we found the one thing in the whole place that cost two (pretty much everything was between three and twelve chips).

Grand Bizarre Supper Club

I can’t remember what it was called and I forgot to take a photo of the menu at this particular area (I’ll bet they’re really glad they invited me to create this quality content), but whatever it was, it was fine.  It was chocolately, with a texture somewhere between a brownie and pudding.  It was a bit too gluey, but it had a nice chocolate flavour and some interesting spices that gave it an almost gingerbread-like taste profile.

There was also an area selling Cheesecake Factory cheesecakes and cupcakes that were free during the media night, so of course I had a slice of cheesecake and a cupcake.

Grand Bizarre Supper Club

This was actually my first time trying the cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory, and it was fine, I guess?  Even by the standards of boxed cheesecake it wasn’t that great (I think President’s Choice is better), but it was cheesecake and I ate it.  It was tasty enough.

The cupcake was about in line with the cheesecake.  There wasn’t anything blatantly wrong with it, but it’s safe to say that the cupcakes at basically any bakery will be tastier.

Grand Bizarre Supper Club

And that was that.  As I mentioned, the whole format isn’t really my thing, and the food wasn’t nearly good enough to make me ever want to come back here again.  But if you’re into nightclubs and you’re also hungry, it’s a thing you could do, I guess?

Bacon Maple Chicken Sandwich at Wendy’s

Bacon Maple Chicken Sandwich from Wendy'sLocation: 1569 The Queensway, Etobicoke
Websitehttps://www.wendys.com/en-ca/home

I actually quite like Wendy’s.  I mean, it’s still a fast food chain, so it’s not great — but it’s one of the better ones.

Well, usually, at least.

The Bacon Maple Chicken Sandwich definitely isn’t their finest hour.  It’s a fried chicken sandwich served on a croissant bun and topped with Swiss cheese, maple glaze, and bacon.

It’s super sweet and super dry, and I just did not enjoy eating it at all.

Bacon Maple Chicken Sandwich from Wendy's

The “maple glaze” is basically just thick, sludgy maple syrup.  It’s intensely sweet and far too overwhelming for a sandwich like this.  The mildly spicy chicken patty (you can get spicy or original) helps to balance out the sweetness a little bit, but it’s not nearly enough to overcome the sugar overload.

Everything else is dry.  The fried chicken patty is dry, the “croissant” bun is dry (and aside from the cosmetic, it has zero croissant-like properties), the completely unmelted cheese is dry — even the bacon is dry.  I like crispy bacon as much as the next guy, but the glass-like strips in this sandwich were taking it a bit too far.

It really needed additional sauce to give it moisture, but adding more of the maple glaze would pretty much be instant diabetes.  The whole thing is head-scratchingly misguided.

Hit-or-Miss Pizza at Nonna’s Oven

Nonna's OvenLocation: 1285 Elgin Mills Road East, Richmond Hill
Websitehttp://www.nonnasoven.com/

Nonna’s Oven is an Italian joint specializing in pizza (they also have pasta and sandwiches, though the pizza seems to be the main attraction) with locations in Richmond Hill and Oakville.  It’s not bad, but it’s probably not worth going out of your way for.

Nonna's Oven

We started with the frittura mista — a plate piled high with deep fried chunks of calamari, cuttlefish, shrimp, scallops, and whitefish.  This was mostly pretty good, though the squid was rubbery (everything was a bit overcooked) and the cuttlefish had an unpleasantly fishy funk.

Still, it’s hard to go wrong with anything that’s battered and deep fried, especially when the batter is as light and crispy as it is here.

Nonna's Oven

The pizzas were a bit of a mixed bag.  The first was the Margherita Italiana (“homemade tomato sauce, topped with fior di late cheese, fresh basil and light drizzled olive oil”).  The thing about a margherita pizza is that it’s so incredibly simple that if all the elements aren’t on point (the crust in particular), then it’s not going to be particularly good.

And the crust is definitely an issue here; it’s ultra thin and crispy, with absolutely no substance outside of a crispy crunch.  It’s basically like eating tomato sauce and cheese on a really bland cracker.  It’s not great.

Nonna's Oven

The Hawaiian Inferno pizza (“pineapple, bacon, onion and hot banana peppers”) was definitely the better of the two.  The more cheese- and topping-heavy pizza helped to compensate for the bland, crackery crust, and the toppings all worked pretty well together.

In the case of both pizzas, the real MVP was the jar of fiery chili oil they had on the table.  It had little bits of hot peppers, and if you got a heaping spoonful of the peppers and the oil, it really kicked things up and helped to make everything a bit more interesting.

Breakfast Sandwich Perfection at Gold Standard

Gold StandardLocation: 385 Roncesvalles Avenue, Toronto
Websitehttp://thefed.ca/goldstandard/

I recently tried the burger at Gold Standard, and while I enjoyed it (and appreciated that a Toronto burger joint was finally serving an American-style slider), I wasn’t blown away.

Well clearly, the breakfast sandwich is the thing to order, because that one?  That blew me away.

The Gold Standard breakfast sandwich, per their menu: “scrambled egg, cheddar, bacon, aioli, pickles, hot sauce, English muffin.”

Good lord, it’s delicious.

Gold Standard

I really should have cut it in half so that you could see its glorious innards; it doesn’t look like much in that picture, so you’ll just have to take my word that everything was well-proportioned and perfect.

All the components work so well together.  The perfectly cooked egg and the gooey cheese meld into something that’s downright magical.  The generously-applied crispy bacon adds texture and a meaty saltiness.  The mild kick from the hot sauce along with the vinegary bite of the pickles cuts the richness of the cheese, the bacon and the eggs.  And the soft, fresh, perfectly toasted English muffin holds it all together (and adds a light crispiness) without getting in the way.

Best breakfast sandwich ever?  Quite possibly!

Japanese Domination Continues at Koi Koi Sake Bar

Koi Koi Sake BarLocation: 170 Baldwin Street, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.koikoibar.com/

Joining places like Little Pebbles, Sakoshi Mart, and Millie Creperie, the Japanese domination of this stretch of Kensington Market continues with Koi Koi Sake Bar, which features a tasty selection of Japanese eats.  I, for one, welcome our new Japanese overlords.

I tried a few things.  First up was a nice little snack that every table gets by default.  I meant to ask what these were and completely forgot, but they were crunchy, savoury, and a little bit sweet.

Koi Koi Sake Bar

Next up was the katsu sando, which is a fried pork sandwich topped with a generous amount of mayo and tangy tonkatsu sauce, with some romaine lettuce for added crunch and freshness.  It’s a solid sandwich, though the pork was overcooked (I had a hard time even biting through it in parts).

Koi Koi Sake Bar

The miso nasu followed, which is a dish consisting of grilled, miso-glazed eggplant.  It feels like it’s missing something (a crunchy counterpoint to the soft eggplant, perhaps?), but it’s enjoyable enough; it basically tastes like they distilled the flavour of miso soup into a glaze and then brushed it onto an eggplant.

Koi Koi Sake Bar

The last dish was the bacon fried rice, which food writer David Ort called “possibly the best fried rice [he’s] ever had.” This is mostly what made me want to come here.

Koi Koi Sake Bar

I’m not sure if it’s the best I’ve ever had, but it was definitely top-shelf fried rice, with a nice meatiness from the generous bacon and a satisfying level of crispiness from the fried garlic slices.  The creamy mayo on top was a nice touch.