Quick Bites: Red Lobster, Tuck Shop Kitchen, Lola’s Gelato

Lobster-topped stuffed tilapia from Red Lobster
Lobster-topped stuffed tilapia from Red Lobster

I used to love Red Lobster as a kid.  It was my birthday restaurant for pretty much the entirety of my childhood, so I still have very warm, fuzzy memories of the place.  Every several years I feel the need to go back to indulge my nostalgia and remind myself that no, it’s not very good.  The lobster-topped stuffed tilapia was actually surprisingly terrible; the flavour was one-note salty and it was absolutely doused in an unpleasant cream sauce.  The rice tasted like one of those Uncle Ben’s packets from Dollarama that’s been reheated about a dozen times.  The whole thing was just a straight-up bummer.  I do still enjoy the biscuits, however, so there’s that.

Smoked Butternut Squash and Egg sandwich from Tuck Shop Kitchen
Smoked Butternut Squash and Egg sandwich from Tuck Shop Kitchen

Though they had more traditional breakfast sandwiches on their menu (which they serve only on Sundays), I was intrigued by this one, which comes topped with “Applewood smoked butternut squash ‘Bacon’, Canadian cheddar, egg and roasted garlic aioli on a toasted sesame bun.”  It’s a tasty sandwich, though like with most items labeled as vegetarian bacon, the squash did not resemble anything even vaguely related to bacon.  It was just a smoky slice of squash.  Still, it works quite well in the sandwich — my only complaint would be that it’s a very rich sandwich, and needs something acidic to cut that down a bit.  The menu lists pickled jalapenos as an optional one dollar addon, and I think that would be the thing this sandwich is missing.

Candy Cane Bark gelato from Lola's Gelato
Candy Cane Bark gelato from Lola’s Gelato

I feel like everyone (myself included!) sleeps on Lola’s because it’s so far out of the downtown core, but every time I go there I’m impressed by how great the gelato is.  This visit was no different; I was particularly struck with the quality of the gelato itself, which is incredibly rich and creamy.  And the flavour was great, with a nice balance of mintiness and chocolate.  Their assortment of flavours tends to be a bit more basic than places like Nani’s or Mizzica, but when the gelato itself is this great, who cares?

A Tasty Egg Sandwich at Egg Club

Egg Club
: 531 Yonge Street, Toronto
Website: https://eggclub.ca/

As you’d guess from the name, Egg Club is all about egg sandwiches; every sandwich here features a fluffy omelet with various toppings, served on sweet Japanese milk bread.  It reminds me a lot of Egg Bae, but I think I like this place better.

Egg Club

You can get sandwiches here with stuff like ham, bacon, or even lobster, but I went pretty simple with the eponymous Egg Club: “Balsamic Onion, Swiss Cheese, Creme Fraiche, Egg Club Sauce.”

Egg Club

Between the silky eggs, the cheese, the sweet brioche-style bread, and the creamy sauces, it’s a very rich sandwich.  It’s a bit one-note (this was my biggest problem with Egg Bae as well), but the balsamic onion does a pretty solid job of bringing some sweet acidity that tones it down.  It’s hard to tell from the pictures, but there’s a generous amount throughout the sandwich, and it’s fairly essential in keeping things balanced.

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.