Chilled Spicy Noodles at the Momofuku Noodle Bar Pop-up at Stackt Market

Chilled Spicy Noodles at Momofuku Noodle BarLocation: Stackt Market (28 Bathurst Street, Toronto)
Website: https://noodlebar-toronto.momofuku.com/

Momofuku Noodle Bar is currently doing a pop-up at Stackt Market; it’s outdoors and the menu is limited, but it was my first time eating at a restaurant with a waitress and the whole rigmarole since last March (which, coincidentally enough, was also at the Noodle Bar).

Chilled Spicy Noodles at Momofuku Noodle Bar

I had the Chilled Spicy Noodles, which the menu describes as “ramen noodles, black bean sauce, sichuan beef, candy cashew.”

My delight at being back at a restaurant (or in a restaurant-ish setting, at least) might be colouring my opinion here, but man it was good.

Chilled Spicy Noodles at Momofuku Noodle Bar

It’s an explosion of flavour — it’s salty, it’s savoury, it’s meaty, it’s sweet — but everything complements each other so well.  And that black bean sauce is a taste bonanza; it’s basically like a really great hoisin sauce, but with pops of intense flavour from the beans themselves (I don’t know what they do to the beans to get them to taste almost cheese-like, but it’s magical).

It’s served cold, which only intensifies the flavour, and the chewy ramen noodles are the perfect vehicle to bring it all together.  It’s a tasty dish.

Tasty Dipped Sandwiches at Hot Dip

Hot DipLocation: 1186 Queen Street West, Toronto
Website: https://www.instagram.com/hotdiptoronto/

Hot Dip is a new sandwich shop on Queen Street that specializes in meaty sandwiches you can dip into things, and yeah, gimme that. That’s a genius idea.

They actually only have four sandwiches on the menu (at the moment, at least), which I appreciate. I always freeze like a deer in headlights when I see a menu with dozens of things on it — I know that everything on this huge menu cannot possibly be great, so just tell me what the good stuff is and what I can ignore.

Hot Dip

Focusing on only a few things solves this problem entirely.

I ordered the Hot Dip (because you should always get the menu item that shares a name with the restaurant) which is a roast beef sandwich with horseradish mayo topped with crispy onions and served on a pretzel roll. The dip, in this case, is sharp cheddar.

Hot Dip

It’s a very good sandwich. The thinly-sliced roast beef is super tender with a nice beefy flavour, and there’s a generous amount of it — the menu says eight ounces (i.e. half a pound, i.e. a lot of beef), and based on how substantial the sandwich is, I have no reason to believe they’re skimping on the meat.

The pretzel roll is just as good as the beef. Sometimes pretzel bread can be a bit on the dense side, but this struck a great balance between softness and heft, with a lightly crispy exterior.

Hot Dip

As for the dip, weirdly enough it’s the weakest part of the sandwich. Despite being called “sharp cheddar” it has a thoroughly mild flavour — it basically has the taste and texture of watered-down Cheez Whiz. It mostly just adds moisture to the sandwich, but between the fresh bread and the tender meat, it doesn’t particularly need it.

My other big issue: it’s an incredibly heavy sandwich, and it really needs something acidic to cut through the overwhelming richness. I guess the horseradish mayo is supposed to fill this role? But it’s completely overwhelmed by all the beef; you can barely even tell that it’s there. It’s certainly not a deal-killer (it’s still very tasty), but it makes the sandwich feel a bit one-note rich, which is a shame.

Outstanding Greek Food at Mamakas Taverna

Mamakas TavernaLocation: 80 Ossington Avenue, Toronto
Website: https://mamakas.ca/

I had an idea that Mamakas Taverna was probably something special when I tried their pork souvlaki at the recent OssFest street festival and was completely blown away.  I was finally able to visit the restaurant itself, and yeah.  Yeah.  That souvlaki wasn’t a fluke.  Everything is so good.

Mamakas Taverna

It’s the type of place where you order a bunch of stuff and share, which works out well because everything is so incredibly delicious that you want to try the whole menu.

Mamakas Taverna

There’s the spanakopita, which is basically the platonic ideal of that dish, with a crispy, buttery exterior and an intensely flavourful spinach filling.  The filling was actually quite unique, with a mildly sweet, citrusy tang that does a great job of balancing out the richness of the dish.

Mamakas Taverna

There were these keftedes — perfectly-spiced beef and pork meatballs with a delightfully crispy exterior from the fryer.

Mamakas Taverna

This looks like a pretty standard salad, but the meaty lentils combined with the fresh herbs and the nice pops of sweetness and crunch from the pomegranate — not to mention a dressing that complements it perfectly and isn’t over-applied — made it just as memorable as any of the other dishes.

Mamakas Taverna

The octopus was probably the simplest dish I tried, and proof that if you’re working with great quality ingredients and preparing them well, further ornamentation is unnecessary.  The meat had a great amount of char from the grill, with a mild sweetness and nice meaty bite.  If you’re queasy about eating octopus, you need to get over yourself; you don’t know what you’re missing.  Bad octopus can be rubbery and horrible, but good octopus is like the delicious love-child between a scallop and a pork chop.

Mamakas Taverna

My favourite dish of the night was also easily the least photogenic.  No, this braised short rib doesn’t look like much, but holy moly it was ridiculously good.  Insanely tender (but not mushy) with just the right amount of perfectly creamy fat and an intensely beefy flavour, it was basically like the best pot roast you’ve ever had.

Mamakas Taverna

The dessert — a walnut spice cake with yogurt mousse — was just as delicious as everything else, because of course it was.  The cake was nutty and rich, and the tartness of the creamy mousse complemented it perfectly.

A Disappointing Meal at Dreyfus

Dreyfus
Location
: 96 Harbord Street, Toronto
Website: https://www.facebook.com/Dreyfus-Toronto-382976892314156/

Dreyfus’ main claim to fame is that it was opened by an alumnus of Joe Beef, a seriously acclaimed Montreal bistro (among many, many accolades, it was recently called Canada’s second best restaurant).  I’ve never tried that place, so this seemed like the next best thing.

The menu consists of various small, shareable plates with big price tags; cheap eats this isn’t, but then every now and then you need to break the bank and try some top-notch food.  Or at least, that was the idea.

Dreyfus

The menu is entirely French, which means that effectively, there is no menu — the waiter tells you about every dish, and then you have to remember it all; not ideal for a place that requires you to order multiple dishes.  That whole conceit is a bit overly precious, but if the food is great, who cares?

Yeah, about that.

Nothing is outright bad, I’ll give it that, but for what they’re charging, the food is very much a mixed bag.

Dreyfus

There were some highlights, however.  There was a dish that featured endives topped with tender roast pork shoulder that was particularly delicious.  The endive was doused in a tasty, Russian-style dressing and was basically a variation on a wedge salad, and the thickly-sliced pork was meaty and tender.

Dreyfus

The croque cubano — essentially an open-faced Cubano that you can eat in a couple of bites — was crispy, meaty, zesty, and satisfying.

Dreyfus

And the ice cream sandwich featured top-notch ice cream sandwiched between two chewy, delicious cookies.

Dreyfus

Everything else was a bit iffy.  The steak tartare was fine, but it was way overseasoned and had zero beefy flavour.

Dreyfus

I can’t remember what the croquette was even supposed to be; the vaguely yogurty interior was basically just a thick, tasteless sludge.

Dreyfus

This squash dish topped with Jersey Royal cheese should have been tasty, but the cheese was haphazardly applied, and most of the squash was undercooked and crunchy.

The mackerel seemed okay, but it was absolutely doused in an overly vinegary sauce that completely overwhelmed the fish.

Dreyfus

The madelines were basically tasty, but they were overcooked and dry, and the sauce that comes on the side was overly sweet (the sugar that was haphazardly dumped into the container probably didn’t help).

Asian Fusion Sandwiches at Just Braise

Just BraiseLocation: 515 Dundas Street West, Oakville
Website: https://www.justbraise.ca/

The Pho Beef Banh Mi at Just Braise in Oakville is pretty much exactly what you want it to be; it is the Brundlefly version of a bowl of pho and a banh mi, and it’s delicious.

Here’s how the menu describes it: “braised beef, pho sauce, pickled veg, cucumber, garlic mayo, hoisin+sriracha, cilantro.”

Just Braise

The combo of the beef and the pho sauce does a great job of capturing the flavour of that particular soup.  The only issue: the beef was actually pretty dry, which holds the sandwich back from greatness.

Everything else was quite tasty — the pickled veggies and the crunchy cucumber add a nice bright counterpoint to the savoury beef, and the garlic mayo / hoisin / sriracha combo compliments the beef very well.

It helps that the bread is perfect; it’s lightly crispy on the outside, with a great fluffy interior.  It’s a tasty sandwich.