Location: 420 Queen Street West, Toronto
The poke bowl at Pokito isn’t exactly the most photogenic dish of all time. I mean, look at that thing. It’s basically just a melange of green and brown, but hey — if it tastes good, who cares?
And yes, it definitely tastes good.
The menu at poke is extremely flexible; you can get a bowl of poke that’s customized to your liking, or you can do what I did and order one of signature bowls. I went with the Creamy Spicy Salmon Bowl, which the menu describes as “Rice, Salmon, Crab Salad, Seaweed, Edemame.” Once you choose from white or brown rice and a few optional toppings, you’re good to go.
I went with sushi rice and got a topping of crispy onions, but otherwise got the bowl as-is.
It’s quite tasty. It’s got a great variety of tastes and textures; at first it seems like there’s maybe too much stuff, but everything complements each other quite well. And the star of the show — the salmon — tastes fresh, works really well with the creamy spicy sauce (which is, sadly, only marginally spicy), and is abundant enough that you won’t have to worry about running out before the bowl is done.
Location: 2572 Birchmount Road, Scarborough
Bun Rieu — a Vietnamese crab noodle soup — is one of those dishes that’s everything at once. It’s alternately sweet, salty, savoury, meaty, fishy, and sour. It’s quite rich, but vibrant enough that it never feels overly heavy.
The version at Bong Lua isn’t mind-blowing, but it’s quite tasty. The broth lacks the rich complexity of the best versions of this dish, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it.
There’s a great interplay between the sweet acidity of the tomatoes and the fishy funk from the crab. That’s not the mention the chewy rice noodles, which suit the dish perfectly. It’s a solid bowl of soup.
Location: 1248 Dundas Street East, Mississauga
I’ve always liked Vietnamese food, but I feel like I’ve spent the majority of my life seriously underrating it. I’ve recently discovered that Vietnamese cuisine can be downright magical, with a vibrancy and depth of flavour that’s irresistible.
And there’s so much more to it than the obvious choices like pho and banh mi (not that there’s anything wrong with either of those dishes).
Case in point: the bun rieu at I Love Pho 2, a zingy noodle soup made with a tomato- and crab-based broth that’s absolutely crammed with stuff: sliced beef, sliced pork, ground pork, tomato, blood cake, fried tofu, fried onions, fresh herbs, and a whole plate’s worth of crunchy veggies, not to mention the heaping portion of soft, chewy rice noodles.
It’s amazingly good. There’s a really delightful variety of flavours and textures — sometimes, the meat in a soup like this can taste off or be a little tough, but everything here was great.
It’s the broth, however, that makes this dish so special. It has a really rich seafood/crab flavour, with a nice zinginess from the tomato and a mild sweetness that rounds things out. It was incredibly satisfying.
It was also an amazing value — I got the medium size, which cost about ten bucks and came with an almost comically oversized bowl that was filled to the brim and absolutely crammed with noodles and various meats.