Asian Fusion at the Smorgasburg Food Festival

Nozomi at SmorgasburgLocation: 7 Queens Quay East, Toronto
Website: https://www.smorgasburgtoronto.com/

If you haven’t checked it out yet, Smorgasburg is a local offshoot of an American outdoor food festival, and finds a whole bunch of tasty-looking eats crammed together near the waterfront.  The vendors have been curated by food writer Suresh Doss, which means that unlike at a lot of food festivals like this, it’s a safe bet that everything is as good as it looks.  And there’s a lot of good-looking food on offer, with dozens of vendors each serving up a handful of tempting dishes.

Nozomi at Smorgasburg

I got a couple of things from Nozomi, who describe themselves as serving “Asian inspired comfort food,” and yeah, it was top-notch.

Nozomi at Smorgasburg

I tried a couple of things.  First up is the bulgogi kimchi cheesesteak, which is exactly what you want it to be.  Sometimes fusion dishes can feel a bit like they’re cramming together two things that probably didn’t need to be combined, but everything here really works: the flavourful beef, the gooey cheese, and the zingy kimchi all go perfectly together.  The soft roll does a great job of holding it all together without getting in the way.  It’s a great dish.

Nozomi at Smorgasburg

The other thing I tried is a dish they call “pocos,” which based on my attempts to google this, seems to be something they made up.  It’s basically a poke taco (it’s filled with salmon and seaweed), but with a crispy wonton-style shell instead of a tortilla.  It’s super tasty, with the tenderness of the sauce-coated salmon contrasting very nicely with the crispy shell.  Like with the cheesesteak, it takes something that could have come off as gimmicky and unnecessary, and makes it absolutely delightful.

A Ridiculously Bad Philly Cheesesteak at Philthy Philly’s

Philthy Philly'sLocation: 960 Southdown Road, Mississauga
Websitehttp://www.philthyphillys.com/

If you’re looking for an authentic Philly cheesesteak in Toronto, I think you’re out of luck. There used to be an amazing place called I Went to Philly; their cheesesteak was dead on. Tragically, it went out of business, breaking cheesesteak-loving hearts across the GTA.

It’s not all that difficult to find a cheesesteak in the city, but it’s almost impossible to find an authentic one; most places clutter it up with extraneous toppings like peppers and mushrooms and other sauces.  A real-deal Philly cheesesteak should consist of only four things: a roll, steak, griddled onions, and Cheese Wiz (you can substitute provolone if you’re feeling fancy, but really, Wiz is where it’s at).

Philthy Philly's

So I was pretty excited to try Philthy Philly’s — they have a ton of stuff on their menu, including a whole bunch of optional toppings, but if you want it, you can get a cheesesteak the way it’s supposed to be.

Alas, the cheesesteak here somehow manages to get every single element wrong. It would be impressive if it weren’t so frustrating.

Philthy Philly's

The beef was the wrongest part of the whole maelstrom of wrongness.  The beef in a Philly cheesesteak should be thinly shaved slices of steak.  The meat here, on the other hand, consisted of little pebbly bits of beef that were either ground, or chopped so finely that it may as well have been ground.  It also had a chewy, rubbery texture and absolutely zero beefy flavour.  It was pretty bad.

The “Cheese Wiz” had the consistency of water and zero cheesy tang; the onions had been cooked to the point of being mush.

Philthy Philly's

The final insult was the bread; instead of a lightly crispy outside and a fluffy interior, it was just dense and chewy throughout, with zero exterior crispiness.

The sandwich was cheap, at least.  The smallest size costs just seven bucks, comes on a six inch roll, and is crammed with a generous amount of beef.  But I wish they’d charge a little bit more for a higher quality product; as it is, the sandwich is about on par with Subway, and I say that as someone who doesn’t like Subway at all.