On Hiatus (and a few quick reviews)

I’m traveling, so this site is going into hibernation for a while.  Feel free to follow my travels at Up in the Nusair (or don’t, I can’t force you… or can I??  No, I can’t… yet).

But first, here’s a few very quick reviews of places I didn’t get a chance to write full posts for before I left.

Cafe Landwer

Cafe Landwer

I actually visited this place a couple of times recently.  The first time I had the shakshuka, which was quite tasty and comes with an almost absurd amount of food.  It’s a little bit bland, but it comes with an ample amount of fresh bread for dipping, and the tahini sauce helps amp things up.

Cafe Landwer

The second time I had the Sinia Kebab, which features beef kebabs and some grilled veggies on top of freshly baked flatbread, topped with a tahini sauce.  This was quite tasty, though it really needs something acidic to cut through the richness.  I eventually wound up spooning in some of the salad that comes on the side.  I’m not sure if that’s the intent, but it helped.

Jelly Roll from Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons

It’s a jelly roll from Tim Hortons; it tastes exactly how you think it’s going to taste.  It’s basically a very minor upgrade over Little Debbie.  It’s pretty junky, but I enjoyed it.

Pho from I Love Pho 2

I Love Pho 2

I already wrote about the surprisingly great I Love Pho 2, and the pho confirms it: this is a place that knows their stuff.  The broth has a really great flavour, and the variety of meats they mix in are all perfectly cooked and tasty.

SoSo Food Club

SoSo Food Club

I tried a handful of dishes at SoSo Food Club.  Everything was tasty, but the highlight was the addictively cumin-tinged lamb biang biang noodles.  The strong cumin flavour, the tender lamb, and the extra-broad noodles all work very well together.  The mapo tofu, with its numbing heat and silky tofu, was another highlight.

The Drake Commissary

The Drake Commissary

The bread here is amazing.  Like at Terroni, you have to pay for it, but unlike at that place, it wasn’t infuriating.  It was well worth paying for.  I came here at brunch and had the trapper beans, which had a lot going on, but everything worked perfectly together.  In particular, the beans had a savoury richness (and a complete lack of sweetness) that made them quite unlike any baked beans I’ve had before.

Mango Pancakes from HK Sweets

HK Sweets

This was fine, I guess.  I actually had mango pancakes in Hong Kong, and they were ridiculously good.  I was hoping these would recapture that, even slightly, but no such luck.  Aside from the fact that they’re not actually pancakes (they’re crepes), the mango was underripe and crunchy, and I think the cream was actually Cool Whip or something similar.  Still, it was decent enough for what it was.

Chicken Shawarma from Ghadir Meat & Restaurant

Ghadir Meat & Restaurant

Oh man, this shawarma.  I actually visited this place based on a tweet from Suresh Doss — he called it the best shawarma in the GTA, which should really tell you all you need to know.  The man knows his food, and he’s certainly not wrong about Ghadir.  It’s amazing.  It’s got the perfect blend of tender meat with lots of crispy bits, tasty sauces, and fresh veggies.  If it’s not the best shawarma in the GTA, it’s certainly a very strong contender for that crown.

Unique Desserts at Patchmon’s Thai Desserts

Patchmon's Thai DessertsLocation: 2463 Bloor Street West, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.thaidesserts.ca/

I mentioned recently that Asian desserts have a tendency to be an acquired taste.  That is absolutely, positively the case with Patchmon’s Thai Desserts.

But that’s part of the appeal — how often do you get a chance to try something that’s entirely unlike anything you’ve ever eaten before?  There’s something thrilling about that, especially when the thing you’re eating is also delicious.

Patchmon's Thai Desserts

I tried three desserts, and the biggest “whoa, that’s new” was easily the Thai taro custard.  For the most part, it’s not all that unusual — it kind of tastes like a much denser, richer version of creme caramel, with an almost cakey consistency.

It’s also topped with caramelized shallots.

Patchmon's Thai Desserts

It’s weird.  The shallots aren’t just a topping — the whole thing is perfumed with their flavour.  It sounds like it should be off-putting, but oddly enough, it works.

There’s no doubt that it’s unusual, though.  It’s one of those things I ate with a perpetually furrowed brow.  I’ll also admit that I didn’t finish it.  It sat in my fridge for about a week until I finally threw it out.  As much as I liked it, I never particularly felt like reliving that odd sensation of eating dessert that’s also a little bit oniony.

Patchmon's Thai Desserts

The next thing I tried was the Thai coconut layer cake.  Despite the name, it’s actually more of a jelly, which the woman behind the counter explained is made with tapioca rather than gelatin, and which is flavoured with pandan leaves.

This was my favourite of the three.  The texture was denser and creamier than your typical gelatin (it was somewhere between mochi and Jell-o), and the flavour was great, if a bit hard to describe.  It’s vaguely nutty and almost malty.  It’s quite good.

Patchmon's Thai Desserts

The third item was the ta-goe (sweet tapioca with coconut cream).  I didn’t particularly enjoy this one.  The texture — featuring a creamy top layer and a tapioca-infused bottom layer — was quite nice.  But it had a sharply salty, almost sour flavour that I found to be a bit overwhelming.  I have no doubt that it’s an authentic version of that particular dessert, but I think it’s an acquired taste that I haven’t yet acquired.

Tasty Cookies at Cookie Scoop

Cookie ScoopLocation: 1115 Castlefield Avenue, Toronto
Websitehttps://cookiescoop.ca/

I recently mentioned that there aren’t nearly enough cookie shops in the city.  I mean, you can never have enough cookies, but the handful of shops we have in the GTA definitely isn’t enough.

Well, here’s one more, though the location is in an industrial area that’s a bit out of the way (they offer delivery on their website, and I suspect that’s where they do most of their business).

Cookie Scoop

It’s a tiny shop, but they offer a dizzying array of cookies; I decided to get six, and it was exceptionally difficult to pick from the many, many delicious looking choices.

I ultimately went with pistachio milk chocolate, peanut butter Nutella, Mars Bar cookie, Italian milk chocolate gianduja, hazelnut praline (Ferrero Rocher), and milk chocolate brownie.  All the flavours looked so good, though.  I wanted all of them, but that wouldn’t have ended well for anybody.

Cookie Scoop

 

They’re solid cookies, but they have a cakey texture that you only get from cookies that have been engineered to be perpetually chewy.  I’m guessing this is due to their delivery-heavy business, which means the cookies probably won’t be consumed until a day or two after they’re baked, if not longer.

Cookie Scoop

Don’t get me wrong — they’re quite tasty, but I prefer the classic dense and buttery cookies that they serve at a place like Craig’s.  There’s nothing wrong with the cakier variety they serve here, but the crispy/chewy texture of a more traditional chocolate chip cookie can’t be beat.

Cookie Scoop

Still, the flavours were all top notch (I particularly enjoyed the peanut butter Nutella), and despite my minor quibbles with the texture, they’re tasty cookies.

(Mostly) Tasty Wheel Cakes at Formocha

FormochaLocation: 55 Eglinton Avenue East, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.formochabubbletea.com/

They sell Taiwanese-style wheel cakes at Formocha (which are essentially pancakes that are cooked in a circular mold with a sweet filling) and they’re mostly pretty good.  But there are a couple of issues.

Formocha

The first (and biggest) issue?  Red bean wasn’t a filling choice, at least when I went.  I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to deduct about a million points for its absence.  I mean, come on.  It’s the classic filling.  Red bean or GTFO.

Formocha

I wound up trying custard, and Oreo custard.  They were both tasty enough, but (and here’s the second issue) the custard tasted off.  There was something weird about it, with an almost fruity flavour that was vaguely off-putting.

The Oreo was much better — rather than the chunks that you might expect, it was filled with an entire cookie, which was surprisingly delightful.

Plus, the cakes themselves were super fresh (they cook them to order), with a slightly crispy exterior and a fluffy interior.  They were good, but… come on.  Red bean.  Give it to me.

Tasty Chinese Dessert at Sweet Turtle Desserts

Sweet Turtle DessertsLocation: 550 Highway 7, Richmond Hill
Website: None

Sometimes, Asian desserts can be a bit of an acquired taste.  With their emphasis on ingredients you don’t necessarily associate with sweets (like beans or tofu), unusual spices, and a very restrained level of sweetness, they can seem a bit odd if you’re not used to them.

If you are used to them, however?  They’re delicious.

Sweet Turtle Desserts

Sweet Turtle Desserts in the Times Square plaza in Richmond Hill is an absolute cornucopia of various Chinese puddings and sweet drinks (there are easily over a hundred items on the menu).  I ordered the soya bean jelly with sesame, which is a creamy tofu-based pudding topped with a black sesame sauce.

Sweet Turtle Desserts

The tofu itself is completely unsweetened, with a luxuriously silky texture but very little flavour.  It doesn’t seem like much, but that silkiness is surprisingly addictive.

The black sesame topping suits it very well, with a nice hit of sesame and just enough sweetness to keep things interesting.  It’s quite good.