Guava BBQ Shortrib Medianoche at La Cubana

La CubanaLocation: 392 Roncesvalles Avenue, Toronto
Website: http://www.lacubana.ca/

I had a bit of an iffy meal on my last visit to La Cubana, but if the sandwich I just had was any indication, that was just a blip on the radar.  La Cubana is still very, very good.

Specifically, I had the Guava BBQ Shortrib Medianoche, which Toronto Life recently called the 11th best sandwich in the city.  I don’t always agree with Toronto Life’s opinions on food, but in this case they’re dead on.  It’s outstanding.

La Cubana

The sandwich features a very generous amount of shortrib topped with “red cabbage slaw, chimichurri, pickled jalapeno, crispy onion.”  It’s served on a soft bun they bake in-house.

The shortrib itself is absurdly good.  It manages to be melt-in-your-mouth tender while still retaining its texture.  It has a nice beefy flavour that’s complemented perfectly by the guava BBQ sauce — the sandwich is saucy as hell (there was a huge pool on the plate when I was done eating), but the sauce is so good that it feels just right.  It’s sweet, but it has a tangy, zippy bite that balances it out.

La Cubana

Everything else complements it perfectly.  The crispy onions are really tasty, and you get a good amount of  crunch and acidity from the slaw and the jalapenos.  It’s a great mix of flavours and textures.

And the bun is soft and fluffy, with just enough substance to hold up to the saucy, generously stuffed sandwich.  It’s so good.

Seed to Sausage Meatery at the Food District in Square One

Seed to Sausage Meatery, Square OneLocation: 100 City Centre Drive, Mississauga (inside Square One)
Website: https://www.seedtosausage.ca/

The Food District in Square One is the latest in the recent trend of upmarket food courts that have been popping up throughout the city.  This is one of the more delightful food trends of late.  All the convenience of a food court, but with above average food?  Yes please.

Or is it above average?  Maybe not.  Enter: Seed to Sausage Meatery, which has an “award-winning” Montreal smoked meat sandwich on their menu (though the menu isn’t forthcoming on what this mysterious award might actually be).

Award-winning or not, I can’t say no to a smoked meat sandwich.

Seed to Sausage Meatery, Square One

Alas, it’s not great.  The meat is very thinly machine-sliced; normally I prefer the more satisfying thickness of hand-cut meat, but in this case, that just isn’t possible.  If you sliced this meat too thickly, it’d be like trying to eat your belt.  It would be completely inedible.

It’s tough.  The fat is just barely rendered, and the meat is dry and sinewy and difficult to bite through.  And yet somehow, it’s absolutely dripping with grease.  It might be the greasiest smoked meat sandwich I’ve ever had.  The grease soaked through the bread and turned it into mush in parts.

Seed to Sausage Meatery, Square One

It’s too bad, because the flavour is actually pretty good.  It’s a touch too salty, but it’s nicely spiced and has a mild but satisfying smokiness.  And the fresh, tasty bread was way above average — it was the best part of the sandwich by far.  So there’s definitely potential there.

I got a salad on the side instead of fries, which was clearly a mistake.  I went with the field greens salad, which comes with a vinaigrette that’s so intensely sweet you could put it on ice cream.  Remember Tahiti Treat?  I hadn’t thought about that soda in years, but as soon as I tried the dressing here, I flashed right back.  That’s how sweet it was.

It’s technically food court fare, so at least if the meal had been cheap, it might be possible to overlook some of its issues.  It isn’t; it’s $15.95 for the sandwich and one side, which makes it more expensive than unambiguously superior restaurants like Centre Street Deli and SumiLicious.

Outstanding Noodles at Mei Nung Beef Noodle House

Mei Nung Beef Noodle HouseLocation: 3255 Highway 7, Markham
Website: None

Though there are a ton of amazing restaurants in the First Markham plaza, you’re going to have a hard time topping Mei Nung Beef Noodle House, which specializes in Taiwanese beef noodle soup.

The beef and beef tendon noodle soup is where it’s at.  You can choose from rice noodles, glass noodles, or homemade noodles, and the choice is clear — you’ve gotta get the homemade noodles.  They’re thick and hearty, with an amazingly satisfying level of chewiness.  They’re so good.

Mei Nung Beef Noodle House

But then everything about this bowl is so good.  The broth is ridiculous: it’s beefy, zippy, and immensely flavourful.

You think it can’t possibly get any better, and then you add a spoonful of their wonderfully smoky chili oil, and lo and behold — it gets better.

Mei Nung Beef Noodle House

The chunks of beef are super tasty and enormously tender, though the tendons are the real star of the show.  They’re so perfectly cooked that they’re essentially like meat butter.  They’re soft and unctuous and amazing.

They’re also super tasty; they do an impressive job of absorbing all of the seasoning in the soup.  They’re squishy, melt-in-your-mouth flavour bombs.

Mei Nung Beef Noodle House

It all adds up to a bowl of noodle soup that’s easily one of the best in the GTA.  I challenge you to find a substantially better bowl of beef noodle soup — even with a plane ticket to Taiwan.

Amazing Noodle Soup at I Love Pho 2

I Love Pho 2Location: 1248 Dundas Street East, Mississauga
Website: None

I’ve always liked Vietnamese food, but I feel like I’ve spent the majority of my life seriously underrating it.  I’ve recently discovered that Vietnamese cuisine can be downright magical, with a vibrancy and depth of flavour that’s irresistible.

And there’s so much more to it than the obvious choices like pho and banh mi (not that there’s anything wrong with either of those dishes).

I Love Pho 2

Case in point: the bun rieu at I Love Pho 2, a zingy noodle soup made with a tomato- and crab-based broth that’s absolutely crammed with stuff: sliced beef, sliced pork, ground pork, tomato, blood cake, fried tofu, fried onions, fresh herbs, and a whole plate’s worth of crunchy veggies, not to mention the heaping portion of soft, chewy rice noodles.

I Love Pho 2

It’s amazingly good.  There’s a really delightful variety of flavours and textures — sometimes, the meat in a soup like this can taste off or be a little tough, but everything here was great.

It’s the broth, however, that makes this dish so special.  It has a really rich seafood/crab flavour, with a nice zinginess from the tomato and a mild sweetness that rounds things out.  It was incredibly satisfying.

I Love Pho 2

It was also an amazing value — I got the medium size, which cost about ten bucks and came with an almost comically oversized bowl that was filled to the brim and absolutely crammed with noodles and various meats.

Passable Noodle Soup at Pho Vistro

Pho VistroLocation: 259 Queen Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.phovistro.com/

The pho at Pho Vistro was fine.  There wasn’t anything particularly wrong with it, and I didn’t dislike eating it.

But it made no real impression on me; my biggest takeaway is that it was food and I ate it.  It wasn’t memorable in any particular way.

Pho Vistro

They have a few different varieties of pho on the menu; I ordered the restaurant’s namesake dish, which features beef and chicken.

The broth had a nice, clean chicken flavour, but almost none of the distinctive spicing you expect from a good bowl of pho.  They have a couple of bottles of sauce on the table that add a nice dose of spice and zestiness; these are absolutely essential.  On its own, the soup is seriously bland.

Pho Vistro

The slices of chicken and beef are okay, but they all had a vaguely leftovery flavour, and they’re all a bit tough.

The broad rice noodles are what you’d expect. They’re good.

Pho Vistro

It all adds up to a very inoffensive meal that I can’t imagine anyone getting too excited over.