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.

A Very Memorable Meal at Cava

Cava TorontoLocation: 1560 Yonge Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.cavarestaurant.ca/

I tend to focus mostly on places that offer prices on the cheaper end of the spectrum; aside from the obvious (they’re cheap!), I generally find them more satisfying.  There aren’t many things in the world that I love more than a really great bowl of noodles from a hole in the wall.

Still, it’s nice to venture out to pricier restaurants every now and then.  There’s a level of craft and a quality of ingredients that you just can’t get without shelling out some cash.

Cava Toronto

Cava is a great example of this.  It certainly isn’t cheap, but holy moly the food was good.

They focus on Spanish-inspired tapas, so I got to try a handful of things.

Cava Toronto

The chicken liver and foie gras mousse was deeply flavourful and luxuriously creamy.  It’s served with a little bowl of grainy mustard on the side, which does a great job of cutting the richness of the mineraly pate.

Cava Toronto

The “Supergilda” features a deliciously fishy sardine on tomato-spread toast, speared with olives and anchovy.  It’s simple, but immensely satisfying.

Cava Toronto

Next up was the jamon croquetta, which was a crunchy fried tube of creamy goodness.  It was a bit light on the jamon, but was otherwise really tasty.

Cava Toronto

The beef salpicon was one of my favourites of the evening.  It had a seriously intense beefy flavour, a tasty combo of high quality olive oil and acidity, and a fantastic contrast between the tender beef and the crispy bits on top.

Cava Toronto

My absolute favourite dish of the night was the eggplant with queso fresco, bonito, and tomatillo sauce.  Holy crap, this dish.  The contrast in textures here was insane — the deep fried exterior was shatteringly crisp, and the eggplant within was absurdly creamy.  The combo of those two textures was bonkers, and the gooey cheese, smoky/funky bonito flakes, and zingy tomatillo sauce complimented it perfectly.  So damn good.

Cava Toronto

The last savoury dish was the roasted pork belly and morcilla in a kidney bean stew.  This was basically an upscale version of pork and beans.  It was almost absurdly rich, with the blood sausage really amping up the luxurious flavour of the beans.

Cava Toronto

We had the churros for dessert, which was probably the only real disappointment of the night.  The cinnamon- and sugar-dusted churros were certainly tasty, but nothing about them stood out from the churros you can get at any number of places throughout the GTA.

Cava Toronto

It did, however, come with a small cup of drinking chocolate that had an amazingly intense flavour.  Just give me a big mug of that and I’ll be a happy man.

Mediocre Barbecue at the Beach Hill Smokehouse

Beach Hill SmokehouseLocation: 172 Main Street, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.beachhillsmokehouse.com/

I mentioned, in my post about Hanabusa Cafe, that Toronto churns through food trends with an almost alarming fervor.  If anyone is keeping track of such things, Texas-style barbecue needs to be added to the list; something like a dozen restaurants have opened up in the last few years serving that very specific style of American barbecue cookery.

And yet no one seems to be able to consistently get it right.  Even the much-lauded Adamson falls short.  It’s tasty enough, but it lacks the deep smoky flavour that you’ll find in real-deal southern ‘cue.

Beach Hill Smokehouse

I had heard good things about the Beach Hill Smokehouse, but alas: the search continues.  These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.

I got the Austin sandwich, which is a no-frills brisket sandwich with barbecue sauce, served on a bun.  It comes with one pork rib as a bonus.

I probably should have ordered the brisket on its own.  The pictures I’ve seen of the Beach Hill’s brisket have featured big, impressively picturesque slices of glistening, fatty beef.

Beach Hill Smokehouse

The sandwich on the hand…  I have a strong suspicion that the sandwich is how they get rid of all of the little dried up bits that aren’t good enough to be served on their own.  The brisket scraps in my sandwich were vaguely smokey, but incredibly dry. Zero fat, zero moisture — just chewy and tough.  Even the generous amount of sauce (which was sweet, spicy, and tasty) couldn’t quite overcome the extreme dryness.

The bun was fine, but it was big and bready, and only served to further compound the dryness problem.

Beach Hill Smokehouse

The rib was a bit better than the brisket.  It was peppery and intensely sweet, with an almost ham-like cured flavour that reminded me of jerky.  The texture was nice, however — tender but not mushy, with a little bit of a meaty bite.  The flavour was a bit unusual, but it wasn’t altogether unappealing.

I got the loaded baked beans on the side, which was the clear highlight.  They had a really great flavour, with a pleasant kick and a generous amount of pork and sausage chunks.  They were some of the best baked beans I’ve had in a long time; they’re outstanding.