On Hiatus (and a few quick reviews)

I’m traveling, so this site is going into hibernation for a while.  Feel free to follow my travels at Up in the Nusair (or don’t, I can’t force you… or can I??  No, I can’t… yet).

But first, here’s a few very quick reviews of places I didn’t get a chance to write full posts for before I left.

Cafe Landwer

Cafe Landwer

I actually visited this place a couple of times recently.  The first time I had the shakshuka, which was quite tasty and comes with an almost absurd amount of food.  It’s a little bit bland, but it comes with an ample amount of fresh bread for dipping, and the tahini sauce helps amp things up.

Cafe Landwer

The second time I had the Sinia Kebab, which features beef kebabs and some grilled veggies on top of freshly baked flatbread, topped with a tahini sauce.  This was quite tasty, though it really needs something acidic to cut through the richness.  I eventually wound up spooning in some of the salad that comes on the side.  I’m not sure if that’s the intent, but it helped.

Jelly Roll from Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons

It’s a jelly roll from Tim Hortons; it tastes exactly how you think it’s going to taste.  It’s basically a very minor upgrade over Little Debbie.  It’s pretty junky, but I enjoyed it.

Pho from I Love Pho 2

I Love Pho 2

I already wrote about the surprisingly great I Love Pho 2, and the pho confirms it: this is a place that knows their stuff.  The broth has a really great flavour, and the variety of meats they mix in are all perfectly cooked and tasty.

SoSo Food Club

SoSo Food Club

I tried a handful of dishes at SoSo Food Club.  Everything was tasty, but the highlight was the addictively cumin-tinged lamb biang biang noodles.  The strong cumin flavour, the tender lamb, and the extra-broad noodles all work very well together.  The mapo tofu, with its numbing heat and silky tofu, was another highlight.

The Drake Commissary

The Drake Commissary

The bread here is amazing.  Like at Terroni, you have to pay for it, but unlike at that place, it wasn’t infuriating.  It was well worth paying for.  I came here at brunch and had the trapper beans, which had a lot going on, but everything worked perfectly together.  In particular, the beans had a savoury richness (and a complete lack of sweetness) that made them quite unlike any baked beans I’ve had before.

Mango Pancakes from HK Sweets

HK Sweets

This was fine, I guess.  I actually had mango pancakes in Hong Kong, and they were ridiculously good.  I was hoping these would recapture that, even slightly, but no such luck.  Aside from the fact that they’re not actually pancakes (they’re crepes), the mango was underripe and crunchy, and I think the cream was actually Cool Whip or something similar.  Still, it was decent enough for what it was.

Chicken Shawarma from Ghadir Meat & Restaurant

Ghadir Meat & Restaurant

Oh man, this shawarma.  I actually visited this place based on a tweet from Suresh Doss — he called it the best shawarma in the GTA, which should really tell you all you need to know.  The man knows his food, and he’s certainly not wrong about Ghadir.  It’s amazing.  It’s got the perfect blend of tender meat with lots of crispy bits, tasty sauces, and fresh veggies.  If it’s not the best shawarma in the GTA, it’s certainly a very strong contender for that crown.

Stellar Dim Sum at Dragon Boat Fusion Cuisine

Dragon Boat Fusion CuisineLocation: 160 East Beaver Creek Road, Markham
Websitehttp://www.dragonboatfusioncuisine.com/

Dragon Boat Fusion Cuisine is a dim sum joint that does well.  We showed up at around 10:40 on a Saturday, and the place was seriously crowded.  By the time we left, it was even more packed, with a crowd waiting for tables almost going out the door.

Dragon Boat Fusion Cuisine

Eating the food, it’s easy enough to see why.  Some highlights:

Dragon Boat Fusion Cuisine

The char siu was sweet and incredibly tender.

Dragon Boat Fusion Cuisine

These fried seafood-filled tubes were nice and crispy on the outside, with a fishy (but not overbearing) flavour.

Dragon Boat Fusion Cuisine

The fried dough noodle rolls were probably the best version of that dish that I’ve ever had, with a surprisingly complex flavour and a very satisfying contrast of textures between the chewy noodle, the crispy fried exterior, and the soft interior.

Dragon Boat Fusion Cuisine

I really should have taken a picture of the interior of these salted egg buns, because they were absolutely crammed with an oozy, sweet custardy filling.

Dragon Boat Fusion Cuisine

There were only a couple of weak dishes — surprisingly, they were the dim sum standbys that you’d think they’d work especially hard to get right.  The har gow featured an overly thick, almost gummy wrapper encasing overcooked shrimp.

Dragon Boat Fusion Cuisine

And the pork buns featured a filling that tasted a bit too leftovery.

Still, they were only two mild weak points in a meal that was otherwise quite stellar.

Breakfast Sandwich Perfection at Gold Standard

Gold StandardLocation: 385 Roncesvalles Avenue, Toronto
Websitehttp://thefed.ca/goldstandard/

I recently tried the burger at Gold Standard, and while I enjoyed it (and appreciated that a Toronto burger joint was finally serving an American-style slider), I wasn’t blown away.

Well clearly, the breakfast sandwich is the thing to order, because that one?  That blew me away.

The Gold Standard breakfast sandwich, per their menu: “scrambled egg, cheddar, bacon, aioli, pickles, hot sauce, English muffin.”

Good lord, it’s delicious.

Gold Standard

I really should have cut it in half so that you could see its glorious innards; it doesn’t look like much in that picture, so you’ll just have to take my word that everything was well-proportioned and perfect.

All the components work so well together.  The perfectly cooked egg and the gooey cheese meld into something that’s downright magical.  The generously-applied crispy bacon adds texture and a meaty saltiness.  The mild kick from the hot sauce along with the vinegary bite of the pickles cuts the richness of the cheese, the bacon and the eggs.  And the soft, fresh, perfectly toasted English muffin holds it all together (and adds a light crispiness) without getting in the way.

Best breakfast sandwich ever?  Quite possibly!

Cheap, Satisfying Eats at Ho Garden Chinese Restaurant

Ho Garden Chinese RestaurantLocation: 9255 Woodbine Avenue, Markham
Website: None

If you’re looking for bang for your buck, you’re not going to do much better than Ho Garden, a delightful Hong Kong-style diner in Markham.  I ordered the egg sandwich, which comes with a generous bowl of noodle soup with beef, and a mug of milk tea.  The price?  Seven bucks.  Delightful.

I was a little bit skeptical about the egg sandwich, but aside from the fact that it’s a Hong Kong comfort food staple, a friend strongly recommended it.

Ho Garden Chinese Restaurant

I’ll admit it — I was wrong to be skeptical.  It was surprisingly delicious.

It’s the definition of simplicity: it’s just a plain omelette served inside of crustless white bread.  No mayonnaise, no condiments — just eggs, salt, and untoasted bread.  Sounds way too plain, right?  Wrong.

Ho Garden Chinese Restaurant

The eggs were fluffy, creamy, and perfectly cooked, and the slightly sweet, light-as-a-cloud bread complimented them perfectly.  Considering its utter simplicity, it was shockingly good.

The noodles — which feature a generous amount of toothsome noodles in a flavourful, slightly spicy broth, topped with tender beef — were quite tasty as well, but it’s that egg sandwich that was clearly the star of the show.

Tasty Dim Sum at Yang’s Fine Chinese Cuisine

Yang's Fine Chinese CuisineLocation: 9665 Bayview Avenue, Richmond Hill
Websitehttp://yangsfinechinesecuisine.ca/

I really like dim sum.  It’s like brunch, but way more interesting.  There are only so many times you can have eggs benedict or pancakes before they start to bore you.  When that happens, the cavalcade of dumplings, buns, and other tasty bites at a dim sum joint are just what the doctor ordered.

Yang's Fine Chinese Cuisine

And Yang’s Fine Chinese Cuisine in Richmond Hill (not to be confused with Yang’s Chinese Cuisine in Markham) is quite good.

Yang's Fine Chinese Cuisine

I mean, look at all that stuff.  If you can tell me you don’t want to eat all of that right now, then you and me are two very different people.

Yang's Fine Chinese Cuisine

These little balls of shrimp surrounded by crunchy almond slivers might have been my favourite dish of the day.  The shrimp had a really great texture, and the crispiness and nuttiness of the exterior complimented it perfectly.

Yang's Fine Chinese Cuisine

And these pork buns?  Chicken and waffles wish they could nail the sweet/salty combo as well as these little guys.