Tasty Sandwiches at Chen Chen’s Nashville Hot Chicken

Chen Chen's Nashville Hot ChickenLocation: 1184 Queen Street West, Toronto
Website: https://www.chenchenshotchicken.com/

It’s hard to eat a Nashville hot chicken sandwich in the GTA without comparing it to Chica’s Chicken, a place that serves what might just be some of the best fried chicken I’ve ever had.

No, the sandwich from Chen Chen’s isn’t on that level, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it; it’s quite tasty.

Chen Chen's Nashville Hot Chicken

You can choose from five spice levels: Southern (which they describe as “no heat”), mild, medium, hot, or poultrygeist (which they describe as “extra HOT!!”). I went with hot, which is very spicy but not face-meltingly so.

The chicken is tender thigh meat — always a good thing — and the exterior is satisfyingly crunchy. My biggest issue here is that it’s a bit bland; outside of the cayenne-infused heat, the chicken doesn’t have a ton of flavour. It’s underseasoned.

The sandwich is topped with zingy pickles, coleslaw, and aioli, which all does a pretty decent job of bringing the sandwich some flavour. But the chicken’s blandness does mar an otherwise above average sandwich.

Amazing Ramen at Nobuya

NobuyaLocation: 285 Royal York Road, Etobicoke
Website: https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Ramen-Restaurant/Nobuya

Generally speaking, if Suresh Doss recommends a restaurant, I immediately add it to my list of places to check out.  The man has an almost supernatural gift for sniffing out unsung gems, and his recommendations are always stellar.

But I was particularly excited after reading his write-up on Nobuya, in which he raves about the ramen and calls the karaage “some of the best fried chicken you’ll ever have.”

Nobuya

Nobuya is an interesting place.  The restaurant is decked out in sports paraphernalia, and is entirely a one-man show.  It’s staffed entirely by the owner, who shuttles back and forth between the small dining room and the kitchen.  As you might expect, the service is leisurely, but very friendly.

I started, of course, with the karaage, which was a bit of a let-down.  It’s well seasoned, with a nice light crispiness on its exterior.  But the best versions of karaage are made with juicy dark meat; this was made with dried-out white meat.  It certainly wasn’t bad, but the dryness was a bummer.

Nobuya

But of course, the ramen is what you’re there for.  They have a few varieties on offer, but the owner identified the Tokyo ramen as his favourite, so that’s what I ordered.

Tokyo-style ramen is very, very different than the rich, hearty tonkotsu ramen that’s so omnipresent in the city; it has a much lighter consistency and a delicate flavour which makes it a very refreshing change of pace.

Nobuya

It’s also seriously delicious, with a complex meatiness, a very mild fishy funk, and a subtle sweetness to round things out.  It pulls off that delightful magic trick you’ll find in the best bowls of ramen, where every spoonful seems to bring something new to the table.

The many toppings — things like garlic, green onion, and pickled ginger — only amp up the already delightful flavour.  It’s fantastic.

Nobuya

But then there’s the noodles.  I’m assuming this was a one-time mistake (the bowl was too delicious for it to be anything but an unfortunate glitch), but the noodles in my and my dining companion’s bowl were overcooked to the point of mushiness.  Given how good the rest of the bowl was, this was particularly unfortunate.  But I guess if you’re one guy running an entire restaurant on your own, little slip-ups are bound to happen.

The chashu wasn’t great either, with a slightly tough texture and a gamy flavour.  But again, that soup was so damn good that it really didn’t matter.

Amazing Roast Pork at Wilson’s Haus of Lechon

Wilson's Haus of LechonLocation: 365 Wilson Avenue, North York
Website: https://www.facebook.com/wilsonshausoflechon/

If you’re looking for tasty roast pork, go to Wilson’s Haus of Lechon.  Trust me on this one; just do it.

Wilson's Haus of Lechon

As you might imagine, this place specializes in lechon, the Philippines’s version of roast suckling pig.  I knew I was probably in good hands as soon as I walked in the door and saw the whole, glorious pig sitting behind the counter.

Wilson's Haus of Lechon

I wound up trying the roast pig and the roast chicken, and both were pretty much incredible.

The pork is absolutely fantastic; it’s tender, juicy, and absolutely exploding with flavour.  The meat itself was thoroughly infused with a delightfully garlicky, herby punch of flavour.  But the pork itself still shines through.  It’s so good.

Wilson's Haus of Lechon

I wish the skin had been a bit crispier, but it was otherwise so delicious that it didn’t really matter.

Wilson's Haus of Lechon

The chicken was also pretty amazing, though it’s hard for anything to compare to that pork.  I wanted dark meat and wound up with a breast, but it was surprisingly tender for white meat, and of course it had that same garlicky/herby flavour.

The combo comes with sticky rice and lumpia Shanghai, which is a very tasty pork-stuffed Filipino spring roll.  It’s all so good.

Spicy Habanero McChicken at McDonald’s

Spicy Habanero McChickenLocation: 30 Courtneypark Drive East, Mississauga
Website: https://www.mcdonalds.com/ca/en-ca.html

You might recall that last year, McDonald’s released three progressively spicier McChicken sandwiches: jalapeno, habanero, and ghost pepper.  I was, sadly, out of town when this happened, otherwise you’d better believe I would have tried all three.

Spicy Habanero McChicken

Well, McDonald’s has done me (and you?) a favour by bringing back one of them — the middle one, habanero.  I wish I could have tried the ghost pepper version, but beggars can’t be choosers, I guess.

Spicy Habanero McChicken

Anyway, it’s nothing anyone should get too excited over; it’s just a standard McChicken with a creamy habanero sauce subbed in for the classic McChicken sauce.

Spicy Habanero McChicken

The sauce is pretty tasty, though.  It’s got a nice zippy flavour and a vague level of heat.

No, it’s not particularly spicy (I’d put it somewhere between mild and medium), but there’s definitely a noticeable tingle.  Between that and the slightly zestier flavour, I’d say it’s an upgrade over the standard McChicken sauce.

Maple & Cheddar Chicken at McDonald’s

McDonald's - Maple and Cheddar with Crispy ChickenLocation: 796 Burnhamthorpe Road West, Mississauga
Website: https://www.mcdonalds.com/ca/en-ca.html

The Maple & Cheddar Chicken was a pleasant surprise.  “Maple” being so prominent in the name of the sandwich, I sort of figured it would be way too sweet.  And yeah, it was sweet.  But the sweetness feels relatively well tuned.

McDonald's - Maple and Cheddar with Crispy Chicken

The Maple & Cheddar Chicken comes topped with maple mustard sauce, “mayo-style sauce,” cheddar cheese, crispy onions, tomato, and lettuce.

It pretty tasty, though the maple mustard sauce is basically all maple with a tiny bit of mustard.  It’s a glaze.  It’s incredibly mapley, and hardly mustardy at all.

McDonald's - Maple and Cheddar with Crispy Chicken

But the salty chicken, cheddar, and crispy onions all do a pretty decent job of balancing out the sweetness.  It works.

Also: put crispy onions on everything, please.  They’re delicious and enhance basically everything they’re on.  Well, maybe not on dessert, but hey –who knows?  Crispy onions on a sundae?  Might work.  I can’t rule it out.