Brunch with a Twist at Madame Levant

Madame LevantLocation: 821 Gerrard Street East, Toronto
Website: https://www.madamelevant.com/

Madame Levant is a brunch spot with an interesting gimmick; most of the menu consists of brunch classics “with a Levantine twist.”

Actually, maybe using the word “gimmick” to describe what they’re serving here is unfair.  Based on the two dishes I tried, Madame Levant manages to combine brunch standbys and Middle Eastern ingredients in a way that feels completely organic.

Madame Levant

First up was the Halawa Pancakes, which the menu describes as “GF flour blend pancakes served with orange blossom tahini maple syrup & topped with pistachios and ward (dried flower petals).”

Halawa — a sweet, tahini-based dessert — and pancakes turn out to be a great combo, and the floral notes you get from the orange blossom and flower petals complements it perfectly.  I feel like I need all of my maple syrup to be infused with tahini from now on; it adds a richness and a mildly nutty flavour that really amps up its deliciousness.

The pancakes are gluten free, but aside from a slightly denser texture than the norm, they’re very good.

Madame Levant

I also tried the Sujuk Scrambled: “beef sausages finished with pomegranate molasses, 3 soft scrambled eggs, with a side of hummus, pita, & olives.”

This one’s pretty basic, but when you’re dealing with good ingredients that are well prepared, sometimes simpler is better.  The sausage is tasty and the eggs are nicely creamy.  Hummus and eggs aren’t a combination that I would have thought of, but it works.  Nothing here knocked my socks off, but it’s a solid dish.

A Middling Breakfast at Cafe Crepe

Cafe CrepeLocation: 246 Queen Street West, Toronto
Website: https://cafecrepe.com/

Cafe Crepe does surprisingly well; I recently showed up at 9:30 on a Saturday morning, expecting it to be mostly empty, and the place was absolutely packed.  People, apparently, love crepes.

And the crepe itself is solid.  Everything else, on the other hand…

I ordered the Cafe Crepe Speciale, which comes with three eggs that are theoretically cooked how you like them, “with bacon or sausage & your choice of crêpe: sugar butter, lemon sugar or cinnamon sugar.”

Cafe Crepe

I went with a lemon sugar crepe, sausage, and eggs cooked over easy.

I briefly considered mentioning something when the waitress plopped down a plate of scrambled eggs, but the prospect of eating in shifts with my dining companion wasn’t particularly compelling.

It was fine?  I guess?  The scrambled eggs were slightly overcooked and completely underseasoned (if they had any salt, I couldn’t taste it), but decent enough.  And the sausage was something resembling chorizo rather than the breakfast sausage you’re expecting, but it’s tasty enough.

Cafe Crepe

As for the crepe, it’s actually very good — it’s nice and fresh, with a texture that does a great job of balancing tenderness and bite.   But it’s absolutely doused in sugar (it’s both on top of and inside the crepe), and the lemon (which was also copiously applied) tasted off; I’m pretty sure it was actually ReaLemon or something similar.

It wasn’t a bad breakfast, but it probably makes more sense to order a crepe that’s harder to mess up, like Nutella and banana.

Tasty (and Cheap!) Eats at Shanghai Dim Sum

Shanghai Dim SumLocation: 330 Highway 7, Richmond Hill
Website: http://www.shanghaidimsum.ca/

If you’re looking for a delicious and delightfully affordable meal, you could absolutely do worse than Shanghai Dim Sum.  If you show up before 11:00 AM (and you should definitely do this) you can order off a special early morning menu that includes an order of four soup dumplings for 99 cents.

Shanghai Dim Sum

99 cents!  Are they they best soup dumplings you’ll ever have?  No, but they’re quite tasty, and for the price, they’re outstanding.

Shanghai Dim Sum

Everything else was quite good as well.  We managed to try a generous amount of stuff (I was quite full by the end of the meal) — the total bill?  About 30 bucks for three people.  You can’t argue with that price.

Shanghai Dim Sum

The restaurant also has the distinction of serving what might be the garlickiest dish I’ve ever had.  The boiled pork with garlic paste features tender slices of pork belly doused in a sauce that’s effectively pure, uncooked garlic.  It was actually quite tasty, but that garlic taste lingered on my palate for a solid 24 hours.

Another Decent Breakfast Sandwich at Egg Bae

Egg BaeLocation189 Augusta Avenue, Toronto
Websitehttp://eggbae.ca/

I think it’s safe to say that Egg Bae isn’t for me.  I think it’s fine — actually, it’s better than fine.  All of their sandwiches use high quality ingredients that are prepared well; they’re just not particularly to my taste.

The last sandwich I tried — the eponymous Egg Bae — was tasty enough, but I found it to be one-note soft and rich.

Egg Bae

This time, I went with a pick from Toronto Life’s list of the 25 best sandwiches in the city: the Eh Bae Bae (“Soft Scrambled Eggs, Sweet and Spicy Bacon, Muenster Cheese, Tomato, Arugula, Pickled Shallots, Bae Sauce”).

Once again, the individual components are all top-notch; the sweet bun is fresh and fluffy, the bacon is meaty and satisfying, the Muenster is nice and gooey, and the eggs are ultra creamy and luxurious.

Egg Bae

But while this sandwich actually has a bit more balance from the pickled shallots, it needs a lot more; it’s incredibly rich.  It does have some texture thanks to the bacon and the veggies, but it’s still mostly just soft overload.

That’s not to mention that between the glazed bacon and the very sweet bun, it’s an intensely sweet sandwich.

Still, it’s enjoyable enough — but considering the quality of the ingredients, it could be so much better.

Beyond Sausage Egg and Cheese from Tim Hortons

Beyond Sausage Egg and Cheese from Tim HortonsLocation: 2960 South Sheridan Way, Oakville
Website: https://www.timhortons.com/ca/en/index.php

The fake meat gold rush continues; I think it’s safe to say that, before long, all of the fast food chains will have imitation meats from places like Beyond Meat or Impossible Foods on their menus.

Tim Hortons is the latest, with three new breakfast sandwiches featuring sausage that looks and tastes like sausage — but isn’t.

I tried the Beyond Meat burger from A&W last summer, and I thought it vaguely approximated real meat, but wasn’t going to fool anyone.

The Beyond Sausage at Tim Hortons is much more convincing.

I got the Egg and Cheese, which features a Beyond Sausage patty, an omelette patty, and processed cheese on an English muffin.

Beyond Sausage Egg and Cheese from Tim Hortons

The sausage certainly isn’t great, but it convincingly tastes like an actual sausage — a mediocre sausage, mind you, but if I hadn’t known it was fake meat, I wouldn’t have guessed.  That’s impressive.

(Of course, emulating a lousy, ultra-processed sausage is much, much easier than emulating one that actually tastes good, but one step at a time, I guess?)

There was something about the spicing that I found vaguely unappealing, and the flavour was particularly aggressive, presumably to cover up the lack of a meaty flavour.  But for the most part, it’s decent enough.

The texture is dead-on.  Unlike the Beyond Meat burger I had at A&W, it’s not mushy at all.  It’s a bit dry, and no one’s going to confuse it for a decent quality sausage, but the texture is basically identical to the type of mediocre sausage you’ll find at a place like Tim Hortons.  I was surprised at how close it got.

Otherwise, the sandwich was typical Tim Hortons, which is to say it was pretty lousy — the cheese was barely melted, the omelette was rubbery, and the English muffin was dense and dry.