Italian Pesto Chicken Sandwich at McDonald’s

McDonald'sLocation: 5310 Dixie Road, Mississauga
Websitehttps://www.mcdonalds.ca

Next stop on the World Taste Tour: Italy, with the Italian Pesto Chicken Sandwich.  This is a McChicken patty topped with a pesto aioli sauce, shaved parmesan, arugula, and tomato.  It’s served on a “toasted focaccia bun sprinkled with rosemary.”

It’s actually not bad.  It’s definitely a lot better than the Chinese Szechuan Burger, and probably about on the same level as the French Creme Brulee McFlurry.

Like with the Szechuan Burger, the biggest issue here is with the meat itself.

McDonald's

The chicken patty is what it is.  It’s spongy, salty, ultra-processed, and has about as much resemblance to an actual piece of chicken as a Hyundai has to a Ferrari.  They’re in the same general ballpark, but they’re really not the same thing.

It’s junk, but then anyone walking through the doors of a McDonald’s knows exactly what they’re going to get.  Again: it is what it is.  It’s fine.

And everything else was pretty good.  The pesto aioli sauce has a surprisingly vibrant pesto flavour, and the shaved parmesan isn’t bad at all.  Parmesan, pesto, and peppery arugula are a boffo combination, and McDonald’s doesn’t mess it up.  The whole thing is aggressively salty, but other than that it tastes pretty good.

There wasn’t much rosemary flavour from the bun, but it was fresh, hearty, and a little bit chewy.  It suited the sandwich nicely.

Gross Meatballs and Tasty Dessert at Ikea

IkeaLocation: 1475 The Queensway, Etobicoke
Websitehttps://www.ikea.com/

Hot tip: Ikea serves chicken meatballs now, and you should absolutely, positively never order them.  You’re welcome.

They’re actually quite similar to the standard beef meatballs, which are junk — but tasty junk.  I wouldn’t want to eat them on a regular basis, but they’re not bad for what they are.

The chicken meatballs, on the other hand, are not tasty junk.  The flavour is basically fine; they taste a lot like the beef meatballs, but saltier and with a vague chicken-like flavour.

But the texture is horrific.  Remember those rubber Super Balls that would bounce and bounce and bounce?  I’m pretty sure these meatballs have most of the same properties.  They were so rubbery and horrible that I couldn’t even cut through them with a fork.

Ikea

On the plus side, I also had a slice of the chocolate caramel cake, and it’s surprisingly great.  It’s certainly not gourmet — it actually reminds me a lot of the brownies they used to serve in my high school’s cafeteria, but with the addition of caramel — but it’s rich and sweet and satisfying.  I think the next time I find myself in Ikea, I might just skip straight to the dessert.

Classic Eats at Swiss Chalet

Swiss ChaletLocation: 5980 McLaughlin Road, Mississauga
Websitehttps://www.swisschalet.com/

This is going to be a short one.  Because I just had the quarter chicken with fries from Swiss Chalet, and come on.  Do you really need me to describe this for you?  I’m pretty sure that you can legally lose your Canadian citizenship if you’ve never tried Swiss Chalet’s chicken.

Swiss Chalet

I know there are some people who think that Swiss Chalet has gone downhill and that it’s just not very good, and I think those people are nuts.  I can’t speak to anything beyond the chicken and the fries — it’s all I ever order — but those two items are still quite tasty.

And at eleven bucks for the chicken, a heaping portion of delicious fries, and a roll, it’s a pretty great deal.  Yes, white meat is a couple of bucks extra, but lets face it: dark meat is superior in every regard.  That’s not even an opinion.  That’s fact.  It’s just science.  It’s tastier and more moist.  I have a theory that people who prefer white meat don’t actually like chicken very much, because white meat is just a dryer, blander version of dark.

Overpriced Thai Food at Kiin

KiinLocation: 326 Adelaide Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.kiintoronto.com/

Kiin is the latest Thai restaurant in the burgeoning restaurant empire of Jeff and Nuit Regular (they also own Sukhothai, Pai, and Sabai Sabai).  It’s one of those places where you order a few things and share, which is nice because you get to try more stuff (though you inevitably end up spending more, which is a bigger issue than usual at Kiin).

Kiin

The first thing we tried was the pandan chicken, which features tender pieces of chicken that have been wrapped in a pandan leaf (you can eat those leaves, though they recommend that you remove them).  It comes with a bowl of sweet chili sauce for dipping.  It’s a tasty dish, but definitely not a home run — the chicken, though nice and tender, was quite plain, and the chili sauce was standard-issue and nothing to write home about.

Kiin

Next up was the pork jowl, which was a definite upgrade over the chicken.  It’s crammed with classic Southeast Asian flavours: it’s a little fishy and a little sweet, with a nice punch of sourness to round it out.  But it’s too assertive, and the balance of flavours is off.  It’s tasty, but the slices of pork (which are slightly tougher than they should be) are completely wiped out.

Kiin

The final dish was kua hang gai, which was a braised chicken stir fry.  No complaints here — the chicken was super tender, and the flavours were well-rounded and satisfying.  We got this with one order of jasmine rice and another of roti.  The deep-fried roti was crispy and tasty, but it was closer to fry bread than standard roti.  I liked it, but a more traditional preparation would have been preferable.

I mentioned that price was an issue.  The pandan chicken was $15, the jowl was $17, the stir fry was $26, the rice was $5, and roti was $6.  With tax and tip, it was approaching a hundred bucks, which is just way too much money for the calibre of food that we were served.  Not that any of the dishes were bad, but those are fine-dining prices, and the food wasn’t at that level.

Amazing Fried Chicken at Chica’s Chicken

Chica's ChickenLocation: 2853 Dundas Street West, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.facebook.com/chicaschicken/

Recently, I had the Nashville hot chicken sandwich from Porchetta and Co. and was thoroughly unimpressed; it was bland, disappointingly mild, and dripping with flavourless grease.  It was a surprisingly mediocre sandwich from an otherwise great restaurant.

Clearly, the problem was not with the dish itself, because I just had the version from Chica’s Chicken, and hot damn it was so good.

The menu here is exceptionally simple; it’s pretty much just bone-in chicken, chicken wings, and a chicken sandwich, along with a variety of sides.  I got the quarter chicken (dark, of course) with a side of coleslaw.

Chica's Chicken

There are three heat options: mild, medium, and hot AF.  I ordered hot, which prompted the woman behind the counter to warn me that it was indeed very hot.  She mentioned Carolina Reaper peppers (currently the hottest pepper in the world) along with another pepper I can’t recall.

It’s so good.  The chicken is perfectly cooked, with an amazingly satisfying level of crispiness on its skin and abundantly juicy chicken.  And the flavour is explosive; aside from the level of heat, their spice blend is outstanding.  It’s some of the best fried chicken I’ve ever had.

Chica's Chicken

As for the heat: it’s hot enough to make you sweat and to clear your sinuses, but not so spicy that it feels like something you should be eating on a dare.  It’s great.

It comes on a plain slice of bread (de rigueur for this style of chicken), which soaks up all of the amazing grease.  It also comes with a side of ranch for dipping, which was a huge upgrade over the typical Hidden Valley; it was creamy, slightly garlicky, and a little bit sweet.  It was a delicious compliment to the intensely spicy chicken.

The creamy coleslaw was great, too; I normally prefer vinegary coleslaw, but versions like this make me second guess myself.