Asian Fusion at the Smorgasburg Food Festival

Nozomi at SmorgasburgLocation: 7 Queens Quay East, Toronto
Website: https://www.smorgasburgtoronto.com/

If you haven’t checked it out yet, Smorgasburg is a local offshoot of an American outdoor food festival, and finds a whole bunch of tasty-looking eats crammed together near the waterfront.  The vendors have been curated by food writer Suresh Doss, which means that unlike at a lot of food festivals like this, it’s a safe bet that everything is as good as it looks.  And there’s a lot of good-looking food on offer, with dozens of vendors each serving up a handful of tempting dishes.

Nozomi at Smorgasburg

I got a couple of things from Nozomi, who describe themselves as serving “Asian inspired comfort food,” and yeah, it was top-notch.

Nozomi at Smorgasburg

I tried a couple of things.  First up is the bulgogi kimchi cheesesteak, which is exactly what you want it to be.  Sometimes fusion dishes can feel a bit like they’re cramming together two things that probably didn’t need to be combined, but everything here really works: the flavourful beef, the gooey cheese, and the zingy kimchi all go perfectly together.  The soft roll does a great job of holding it all together without getting in the way.  It’s a great dish.

Nozomi at Smorgasburg

The other thing I tried is a dish they call “pocos,” which based on my attempts to google this, seems to be something they made up.  It’s basically a poke taco (it’s filled with salmon and seaweed), but with a crispy wonton-style shell instead of a tortilla.  It’s super tasty, with the tenderness of the sauce-coated salmon contrasting very nicely with the crispy shell.  Like with the cheesesteak, it takes something that could have come off as gimmicky and unnecessary, and makes it absolutely delightful.

Above Average Patties at Phamilyeats

Phamilyeats
Location
: 858 Eglinton Avenue East, Toronto
Website: https://phamilyeats.ca/

Though Phamilyeats started out as one of the many delivery-only eateries that popped up during the pandemic, they now share a space with Conspiracy Pizza and Churnt Up.  They specialize in meat pies — either family-sized pot pies, or individual patties — and based on the patty I tried, they’re definitely worth checking out.

Phamilyeats

I went with the spicy beef patty, which is a classic patty through and through.  They’re not trying to reinvent the wheel, but it’s really well executed, with a great beefy flavour and a decent level of spice.

I also appreciated that the beef was a bit chunkier than the norm.  The meat in a lot of patties, particularly cheaper ones, is so thoroughly pulverized into a fine paste that it’s only vaguely recognizable as beef.  That’s definitely not the case here.

Phamilyeats

And the pastry might just be the highlight, with a delightful flakiness that complements the beef filling perfectly.

Barbecue Meets Pizza at Conspiracy Pizza

Conspiracy Pizza
Location
: 858 Eglinton Avenue East, Toronto
Website: https://www.conspiracypizza.ca/

Though Conspiracy Pizza started out as a pop-up inside of the infamous (and defunct) Adamson Barbecue, they’ve since cut ties and have their own space (which they share with Churnt Up, an ice cream shop, and Phamily Eats, which sells patties).

They’ve still got a bit of a barbecue theme, however — their namesake pie, the Conspiracy, comes topped with “white sauce, emmental cheese, brisket, red onion, jalapeno, barbecue sauce.”

Conspiracy Pizza

It’s an odd pizza, but it absolutely works.  In particular, the chunks of brisket are shockingly good — they’re nice and tender, and they’ve got a distinctly smoky flavour.  It makes me wish they served a sandwich, because it’s top-notch BBQ brisket.

Conspiracy Pizza

But then the whole pizza is pretty great, with pops of heat from the jalapenos, a satisfying richness from the white sauce and the cheese, and with the barbecue sauce bringing it a nice zippy sweetness to cut through the meat and cheese.  The crust is quite good too, with a super crispy exterior and a fluffy interior.

I also tried the Government Cheese, which comes topped with “mozza, cheddar, emmental, provolone, manchego, oregano.”

Conspiracy Pizza

It takes a lot for me to say that a pizza is too cheesy, but… this one was too cheesy.  It’s overwhelming.  It also kinda reminded me of a Costco pizza (the cheddar, maybe?).  It’s not bad — a huge pile of gooey cheese is never going to be all bad — but I can’t say I’d ever order it again.

Pho Ngoc Yen is a Hidden Gem

Pho Ngoc Yen
Location
: 1090 Kamato Road, Mississauga
Website: https://sites.google.com/orderup.ai/ngocyenrestaurant/home

Pho Ngoc Yen is one of those restaurants that must rely pretty much entirely on word of mouth; hidden away in an industrial neighbourhood in Mississauga, it’s basically in the middle of nowhere.  The odds of you stumbling onto it are quite miniscule.

Pho Ngoc Yen

But yeah, it’s definitely got the word of mouth that it needs, and I can see why — it’s great.

Pho Ngoc Yen

I got the Pho Ngoc Yen Dac Biet, which the menu describes as “NY’s special: rare beef, beef balls and boneless beef shank with rice noodles.”

Pho Ngoc Yen

It’s a great bowl of pho.  The generous amount of meat is tender and tasty, and the broth is beefy, richly spiced, and thoroughly delicious.  The noodles were slightly on the soft side, and my bowl was missing the beef balls, but the broth and the beef were both so tasty that this never felt like a big issue.

Untraditional (but Tasty) Sandwiches at Tut’s Egyptian Street Food

Tut's Egyptian Street FoodLocation: 567 King Street West, Toronto
Website: http://tutsrestaurant.com/

Tut’s is a bit of an odd one; the menu features a variety of Egyptian sandwiches, but instead of being served on the pita bread you’re expecting, they’re served on soft, squishy buns that are similar to the potato rolls you’ll find at so many burger joints around the city.

It’s not the most traditional choice, but hey — tasty is tasty, and yes, the sandwiches here are quite good.

Tut's Egyptian Street Food

A combo comes with two sandwiches and a side; I went with soguk (sausage) and kebda (pan-fried beef liver).

Both were really good.  Soguk (more commonly spelled sojuk or sujuk) is a very distinctively-spiced Middle Eastern sausage, and while the one they’re serving here has a much milder flavour than any version I’ve had before, it’s tasty nonetheless.  It comes topped with what they’re calling caramelized onions (they tasted more pickled than caramelized to me) and mustard mint sauce.  That sauce, in particular, is nicely zippy and really brings the sandwich together.

Tut's Egyptian Street Food

The liver comes topped with tahini sauce and a lime wedge for spritzing; like the sausage, it has a surprisingly mild flavour, but it’s tender, meaty, and delicious.  Even if you’re normally iffy on liver, this sandwich might surprise you — it’s really good.

And the soft, fresh, and slightly sweet bun works surprisingly well.  I thought I might miss the pita bread, but I did not.

Tut's Egyptian Street Food

I went with pickles on the side; I think fries are probably the more popular choice, but the occasional pickle slice does a great job of cutting through the richness of the very heavy sandwiches.