Unique Pumpkin Ramen at Momofuku Noodle Bar

Momofuku Noodle BarLocation: 190 University Avenue, Toronto
Website: https://noodlebar-toronto.momofuku.com/

The pumpkin ramen from Momofuku Noodle Bar is extremely untraditional, and extremely delicious.

From the menu: “kanpyo, cheese, scallion pesto.”

An aside: I’m not sure if I’ve ranted about this before, but menu descriptions that consist solely of a dry recital of ingredients fills me with an unreasonable amount of rage.  Admittedly it’s not a huge issue in this case — it’s ramen, so you know that the dish is, at its core, soup with noodles in it.  But these types of descriptions almost always tell you absolutely nothing about what the dish is going to be.  I know that it’s the way that all the young and hip restaurants are doing it, but if all the young and hip restaurants were jumping off a cliff, would you do that too??

Momofuku Noodle Bar

I digress.  Shoddy menu description notwithstanding, it’s a tasty dish.  I’m guessing the pumpkin is blended right into the soup, which is satisfyingly rich and creamy.  And the add-ons are great; in particular, the crispy breadcrumbs compliment the ramen quite well.  Or at least I think they’re breadcrumbs?  Maybe I should check the menu to see what they are oh wait I can’t.

Whatever they are, they’re nicely seasoned and add some crispy contrast to the bowl.

Everything else works just as well, from the zippy pesto to the gooey cheese.  And the kanpyo (a traditional Japanese ingredient made from a type of gourd) brings some meaty substance.

The noodles are slightly underseasoned and bland, but are otherwise perfectly firm and chewy.  It’s an odd bowl of ramen, but it’s very good.

Momofuku Noodle Bar

I tried the Citrus Pie for dessert, which the menu very helpfully describes as “yuzu, lemon, lime.”  It’s basically a lemon meringue pie.

It’s tasty enough; the desserts here are generally not on the level of the savoury dishes, and this was no exception.  The creamy, citrus-packed filling was actually very good, with just the right amount of tartness that doesn’t overwhelm.  But the crust was a bit on the soggy side, and the meringue was unpleasantly grainy.

Outstanding Greek Food at Mamakas Taverna

Mamakas TavernaLocation: 80 Ossington Avenue, Toronto
Website: https://mamakas.ca/

I had an idea that Mamakas Taverna was probably something special when I tried their pork souvlaki at the recent OssFest street festival and was completely blown away.  I was finally able to visit the restaurant itself, and yeah.  Yeah.  That souvlaki wasn’t a fluke.  Everything is so good.

Mamakas Taverna

It’s the type of place where you order a bunch of stuff and share, which works out well because everything is so incredibly delicious that you want to try the whole menu.

Mamakas Taverna

There’s the spanakopita, which is basically the platonic ideal of that dish, with a crispy, buttery exterior and an intensely flavourful spinach filling.  The filling was actually quite unique, with a mildly sweet, citrusy tang that does a great job of balancing out the richness of the dish.

Mamakas Taverna

There were these keftedes — perfectly-spiced beef and pork meatballs with a delightfully crispy exterior from the fryer.

Mamakas Taverna

This looks like a pretty standard salad, but the meaty lentils combined with the fresh herbs and the nice pops of sweetness and crunch from the pomegranate — not to mention a dressing that complements it perfectly and isn’t over-applied — made it just as memorable as any of the other dishes.

Mamakas Taverna

The octopus was probably the simplest dish I tried, and proof that if you’re working with great quality ingredients and preparing them well, further ornamentation is unnecessary.  The meat had a great amount of char from the grill, with a mild sweetness and nice meaty bite.  If you’re queasy about eating octopus, you need to get over yourself; you don’t know what you’re missing.  Bad octopus can be rubbery and horrible, but good octopus is like the delicious love-child between a scallop and a pork chop.

Mamakas Taverna

My favourite dish of the night was also easily the least photogenic.  No, this braised short rib doesn’t look like much, but holy moly it was ridiculously good.  Insanely tender (but not mushy) with just the right amount of perfectly creamy fat and an intensely beefy flavour, it was basically like the best pot roast you’ve ever had.

Mamakas Taverna

The dessert — a walnut spice cake with yogurt mousse — was just as delicious as everything else, because of course it was.  The cake was nutty and rich, and the tartness of the creamy mousse complemented it perfectly.

Delicious Boba Milk at Bubble Lee

Bubble LeeLocation: 3621 Highway 7, Markham
Website: http://www.bubbleleecanada.com/

They serve brown sugar boba milk at Bubble Lee; like I mentioned in my review of Tiger Sugar, this stuff is basically bubble tea without the tea.  It’s delicious.

Bubble Lee

The secret are those delightfully chewy tapioca balls and the tasty brown-sugar-infused sauce that they serve them with.  I don’t even need the drink; just serve those things in a bowl with a spoon.  Serve them on top of ice cream (actually, that’s an amazing idea.  Restaurateurs: feel free to steal that).

Bubble Lee

I think I liked the version at Tiger Sugar a little bit better — they serve it with a “cream mousse” that makes it indulgently rich — but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with what they’re serving at Bubble Lee.   On the plus side, it’s not as heavy, so it feels more like a regular drink and less like something you have to take a nap to recover from.

Tasty Treats at Kevin’s Taiyaki

Kevin's TaiyakiLocation: 333 Dundas Street East, Mississauga (inside PAT Supermarket)
Website: None

Kevin’s Taiyaki is inside the PAT Supermarket in Mississauga, which is a pretty trippy place to visit.  It’s basically like stepping through a portal into South Korea.  When I went, every other person — both customer and employee — was Korean, and the only language I heard spoken was Korean.  PAT has a downtown location as well, but I’ve never quite had the same experience there.

I have a definite fondness for South Korea (I think it’s an underrated travel destination), so that was delightful.

Kevin's Taiyaki

Like the downtown PAT, there’s a location of Kevin’s Taiyaki right inside the supermarket, which specializes in red bean or custard filled pastries.

I got the red bean, and it was very, very good.  It was freshly made, with a nice crispy exterior, fluffy pastry (if you’ve never had taiyaki before, it’s extremely waffle-like), and a delicious red bean filling.  The red bean had a restrained level of sweetness and a chunky (but still smooth) texture that was extremely satisfying.

Kevin's Taiyaki

Taiyaki is one of those dishes that’s very simple and rarely bad, but difficult to do really well.  Kevin’s Taiyaki does it really well.

Quick Bites: Sweet Jesus, Parka Food Co., and Bakerbots Baking

Sweet Jesus
Apple Fritter Crisp from Sweet Jesus

This was actually pretty tasty.  Here’s how Sweet Jesus describes the Apple Fritter Crisp: “Vanilla soft serve, Apple pie sauce, Apple fritter pieces, Apple fritter crumb, Caramel sauce.”  I enjoyed it, mostly — it pretty much nails the apple pie/crumble element, with a cinnamon-infused flavour, and a nice hit of caramel and apples.  But the “apple fritter crumb” it’s rolled in was more chewy than crispy (there was a disconcerting lack of crispiness for something with “crisp” in its name), and the apple fritter pieces were entirely absent.  Still, the creamy vanilla ice cream and the apple-crumble-infused flavour are a tasty combo.

Parka Food Co.
Caesar Salad at Parka Food Co.

I recently found myself back at Parka Food Co., a place that specializes in vegan eats; on my first visit I had a sandwich and found the bun to be fairly horrifying, so I skipped the sandwiches and went with a Caesar salad instead.  It was fine, I guess?  Caesar dressing traditionally features very non-vegan ingredients like anchovies, egg yolks, and cheese; whatever vegan alternatives they used here were decent enough.  But the dressing was overly vinegary, and the pickled onions on top are a bizarre choice — they only amplify the puckery vinegar flavour.

Blackbird Baking Co.
Lemon Tart and Raspberry Rosewater Tart from Bakerbots Baking

Both of these tarts were absolutely fantastic, particularly the Raspberry Rosewater tart, which featured an ultra-rich custard with a pronounced rosewater flavour that complimented the tart raspberries on top perfectly.  And unlike the last pie I had at this place, the crust was superlative; it was crispy, buttery, and perfect.