A Misguided Brunch at Ramona’s Kitchen

Ramona's KitchenLocation: 7355 Bayview Avenue, Thornhill
Websitehttp://www.ramonaskitchen.ca/

I should note a couple of things up front: Ramona’s Kitchen is popular.  I showed up with a group of four at around 11:30 on a Saturday, and the place was absolutely packed, with a full restaurant and a bunch of people waiting around for tables.  It took a solid half hour to sit down.  So people obviously like the place.

And everyone I was with really liked the food.  A lot.

Ramona's Kitchen

That being said?  I ordered the breakfast poutine, and it was kind of shocking how bad it was.

The dish consists of hash browns (which they call “tri-coloured potatoes” for the three types of potatoes they use), hollandaise sauce, cheese curds, and a poached egg.

The individual components were all decent — the potatoes were crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, the hollandaise was rich and creamy, and the poached egg had a perfectly runny yolk.

Ramona's Kitchen

But the whole thing was just off.

It was served in a tall, narrow bucket, which I guess is a fun presentation, but really awkward to eat out of.

And while most of the components were good, the curds were a bit too salty and tasted stale (fresh curds should squeak when you bite into them; these did not).  And though the potatoes were hot and fresh, the hollandaise was only warm, which didn’t provide enough heat to get the curds even vaguely melty.

Ramona's Kitchen

Also (I sure have a lot of complaints about these cheese curds, don’t I?), the majority of the pieces were tiny little curd fragments, and since they were cold and unmelted, the whole thing was unappealingly cottage-cheese-esque.

The hollandaise was quite good, though, as were the potatoes, so you’d think that alone would be enough to make this delicious.  I mean, crispy potatoes?  Delicious.  Hollandaise?  Also delicious.  But if there was ever a case of “too much of a good thing,” this is clearly it.  The entire bucket was absolutely swimming in heavy, creamy hollandaise, and it’s just overkill.  It’s like hollandaise pudding with potatoes.  It’s off-putting.

Ramona's Kitchen

That’s not to mention that, by the bottom of the bucket, the hollandaise had started to congeal, making it even thicker and richer, with a gluey, mayonnaise-like consistency.

But again: I think this is a good restaurant?  Just don’t order the breakfast poutine unless you really, really like hollandaise (and I do!  But not as much as I thought, apparently).

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Cubano Disappointment at La Cubana

La Cubana
Location
: 92 Ossington Avenue, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.lacubana.ca/

I love the cubano sandwich at La Cubana.  Or at least, I usually do.

I was going to order something else, but then I realized that I’ve never actually written about the cubano here, and I really don’t need much more of an excuse than that.

And here’s the thing: it was good.  It certainly wasn’t bad, per se.  That’s the problem with serving truly great food; there’s nowhere to go but down, and even something that’s quite good is going to seem like a letdown in comparison.

La Cubana

The cubano here is normally the perfect amalgam of gooey cheese, savoury meats, and zingy pickles.  It’s astonishingly good.  Usually.

This time?  It was off.  Though the cheese was nice and gooey, the pork had a mildly gamy, leftovery flavour, there were almost no pickles to cut the richness of the cheese and the meat, and the bread was dry and overly crunchy.  I ate the sandwich as carefully as I could, and it still thoroughly mangled the roof of my mouth.

Has La Cubana gone downhill?  Or was the kitchen just having a bad day?  I’ll feel bad if it’s the latter — but they served me what they served me, so I don’t feel too bad about it.

Pizzeria Libretto, or: The Inventor of Pizza is Rolling in His Grave

Pizzeria Libretto
Location: 545 King Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://pizzerialibretto.com/

So, here’s a not-so-delightful tidbit: apparently I’ve ruined Neapolitan-style pizza for myself by eating my way through Naples for a week, because I just got a margherita pizza from Pizzeria Libretto, and it was hot garbage.

I didn’t think the gulf in quality would be so severe, but absolutely everything about this pizza was wrong.  The proportion of sauce was off, but in a really baffling way — the pizza was simultaneously too dry, and too soft.  It was weird.  The flavour of the sauce was about right (the sauce in this style of pizza is just plain tomatoes, so it’s hard to mess up), but I don’t think there was enough of it.

Pizzeria Libretto

The cheese was okay, but again, the texture was off.  It was too dry.  It’s hard for me to put my finger on what exactly was wrong, because I’m not a pizza expert, but something was clearly wrong.  None of the pizzas in Naples developed brown spots on the cheese like this one, and the texture was slightly rubbery.

The worst offender was the crust.  It was somehow over-charred around the edges — it was unpleasantly bitter in spots — and under-charred on the bottom.  I mean, look at the almost entirely colourless bottom of this slice:

Pizzeria Libretto

That’s not right.  It was insanely bland, and had barely a fraction of the amazing chew that the pizzas in Naples had.  It was like Wonder Bread; there’s no there there.

Everything else was quite good, at least.  The buttermilk fried calamari featured a perfectly crispy, tasty exterior encasing squid with a great balance of tenderness and bite.  It came with some really tasty romesco sauce that accompanied it perfectly.

Pizzeria Libretto

I also tried the Prosciutto di Parma, and like the calamari, it was quite delicious.  Granted, all the restaurant had to do was slice it, but it was very tasty nonetheless.

Pizzeria Libretto

But that pizza, though.  What was that??  It was disastrously bad.  It was like the Neapolitan pizza equivalent of Pizza Pizza.  Actually, it was worse than Pizza Pizza, because at least Pizza Pizza knows what it is and doesn’t have any delusions of grandeur.

Smoky Mushroom Bacon Cheeseburger at Wendy’s

Wendy's

Wendy’s is probably my favourite fast food burger joint (it’s neck-and-neck with A&W).  But of course, being the best fast food burger chain isn’t exactly a tall mountain to climb.  That’s why I was so shocked at how much I enjoyed the Smoky Mushroom Bacon Cheeseburger at Wendy’s.

It’s topped with mushrooms, bacon, aioli, fried onion tanglers, and Asiago cheese.  It’s easily the best fast food hamburger I’ve had in a long, long time.

It’s still a fast food burger, so the patty itself wasn’t particularly great — but it wasn’t too dry and it didn’t have any off flavours.  For a big fast food chain, that’s about as good as it gets.

Smoky Mushroom Bacon Cheeseburger at Wendy's

Burgers from a place like this tend to be more about the toppings than the burger itself, and that’s where this one really stood out.  The Gouda was pleasantly sharp and creamy, the aioli was tasty, and the bacon was substantial enough to not get lost among the other flavours.

I’m normally not a huge fan of mushrooms on a burger, but these were well cooked and suited the burger well.  But what really put this over the top were the fried onion tanglers.  I assumed these were going to be the typical crispy fried onions that come out of a bag, but they were actually little onion rings that had clearly been freshly made. They were great.

Smoky Mushroom Bacon Cheeseburger at Wendy's

At first I was thinking that the price was a bit much — it’s about $7.50 with tax for the burger alone — but then I ate it, and yeah.  It’s worth the money.  It was good.  Not just good for fast food, but good, period.

I should note that the Wendy’s I went to was staffed entirely by adults who seemed to know what they were doing.  It was obvious that all of the components were relatively fresh, and it was assembled with care.  But it could have just as easily been thrown together by a bored teenager, so as is always the case with fast food, your mileage may vary.

Sausage Perfection at Wvrst

WvrstLocation: 609 King Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.wvrst.com/

I tried Wvrst once, around when it first opened.  It was good, but nothing about it really jumped out at me, so I never felt particularly compelled to go back.

Well, I just found myself back there, and clearly I was wrong about the place, because the sausage I ate was probably one of the best that I’ve ever had.

Wvrst

They have an intimidatingly long list of sausages on their menu.  I got the Kaas: “pork/beef/parrano cheese/light smoke.”  You can either get it on a bun or as currywurst.  I went with a bun, and had it topped with sauteed onions and jalapenos.

Wvrst

Oh man, that sausage.  The texture was absolutely perfect.  To me, the meat in a sausage needs to retain some of its essential meatiness; it shouldn’t have been ground into oblivion.  It should still be sausagey, of course, but the texture should be more rustic than a hot dog.  Wvrst absolutely nails this.

And the flavour was great: meaty and smoky, not overly salty, and with surprisingly generous pockets of gooey, melty cheese.  I was actually pretty blown away by how good it was.

Wvrst

I got the duck fat fries on the side, and they were just as good.  You could pick from a bunch of dipping sauces; I went with the Wvrst sauce (rule of thumb: if something on the menu is named after the restaurant, you should probably be ordering that thing).  It was tangy and delicious, and complimented the fries perfectly.