Board the Sushi Train at Hana Sushi

Hana SushiLocation: 21 Grenville Street, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.facebook.com/hanasushicafe/

Hana Sushi is gimmicky AF.  But it’s fun.  It’s essentially a conveyor belt sushi place, but all of the food you order comes on a tiny little train that runs on a separate set of tracks.

Hana Sushi

You also order everything on a tablet, so if you want to eat sushi with as little human interaction as possible, this is your place (though the waitress has to explain the whole system to you, and then brings your bill at the end of the meal, so it’s not quite a human-free experience).

Hana Sushi

As for the sushi itself: it’s fine.  It’s about on par with the hundreds of passable sushi joints across the GTA, so it’s really only the gimmick that sets it apart.  The rice was underseasoned and a little bit too dense, but the quality of the fish was decent, and the rolls were well put-together.

Hana Sushi

I had a variety of nigiri and rolls; the only one that really stood out was the torched salmon, which had a nicely smoky flavour from the flame, but which was still melt-in-your-mouth tender.

Yet Another Tasty Meal at Manpuku

ManpukuLocation105 McCaul Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.manpuku.ca/

Does the world need yet another Manpuku post from me?  Probably not!  (This would be post number three, for those keeping count.)  Am I going to do it anyway?

Yes.  Yes I am.

I feel like I have to keep telling everyone I can about this place, because it continually impresses me with its delightful combination of tasty eats and ultra-affordable prices.

Manpuku

On this particular visit I tried the curry don, which features a heaping serving of rice topped with a generous amount of beef curry.

As with everything else here, it’s quite good.  The mild curry isn’t going to knock anyone’s socks off, but it’s rich, tasty, and abundantly satisfying.  It comes with a whole bunch of tender, thinly-shaved beef and is, unsurprisingly, an amazing deal at $6.99 (which I guess is actually kind of expensive by Manpuku’s standards).

Problematic Gelato at Kekou Gelato

Kekou GelatoLocation: 394 Queen Street West, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.kekou.ca/

Though ice cream and gelato joints serving Asian-inspired flavours seem to be popping up on an almost weekly basis, I’m pretty sure Kekou is the OG.  It might not be the pioneer in the city, but it was definitely one of the first.

They have a variety of unique flavours like black sesame, Vietnamese coffee, and durian (and they must also be doing other things with durian, because the place kinda reeks of the stuff).

Kekou Gelato

I went with rosewater pistachio, and the flavour was superb.  The balance between the nutty pistachio and the fragrant rosewater was just right; neither flavour overwhelmed the other, and they complimented each other perfectly.

The texture, however, was a bit of an issue.  It wasn’t icy, but it had a thin mouthfeel and a distinct lack of creaminess that was unsatisfying.

Kekou Gelato

The funny thing is, they actually have a sign up in the store explaining that the thin texture is intentional — it is, they claim, a side-effect of the gelato’s lack of stabilizers.

A couple of things about this:

1)

2) Even if this is true — that it’s impossible to make creamy gelato without the use of stabilizers, and that every luxuriously creamy gelato I’ve ever had (both here and in Italy) used some form of chemical magic for its rich texture — then maybe stabilizers are just part of making high quality gelato?

Again, I’m skeptical that this is the case, but I’m sure that making truly great gelato is a skill that takes years to master.  If your gelato-making know-how isn’t advanced enough to make it creamy without using stabilizers, then here’s an idea: use stabilizers.  Is the ability to smugly claim that your gelato is stabilizer-free really worth selling a subpar product?

It’s not a huge deal — and I’ve certainly had worse — but the fact that they’re coming right out and admitting that they’re selling inferior gelato on purpose is a little bit frustrating.

Good Eats at Hokkaido Ramen Santouka

Hokkaido Ramen SantoukaLocation: 515 Bloor Street West, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.santouka.co.jp/en

After ramen disappointments at Konjiki and Kinton, I was starting to worry that a really good bowl of ramen might be impossible to find in the city.

Well, here’s Santouka, riding in to save the day.  Their ramen certainly wasn’t the best I’ve ever had, but it was a solid bowl of noodles.  I enjoyed it.

Hokkaido Ramen Santouka

They specialize in tonkotsu ramen, in which pork bones have been boiled down for hours until you get a rich and creamy broth.  They have shio (salt), shoyu (soy sauce), miso, or spicy miso.  I went with shio.

Hokkaido Ramen Santouka

It’s a quality bowl of soup.  The broth doesn’t quite have the magical complexity that you’ll find in the best versions of this dish, but it had a rich porky flavour (without the heavy greasiness that can bog down tonkotsu ramen), and a good amount of salt that doesn’t overwhelm.

The noodles were slightly thinner than I’d like, but they have a nice chewy bite.  They’re satisfying.

Hokkaido Ramen Santouka

The egg is an add-on, but it’s worth shelling out the extra cash; it’s nicely seasoned and perfectly-cooked, with a gooey but — and this is the key — not runny yolk.

Outstanding Japanese Crepes at T-Swirl Crepe

T-Swirl CrepeLocation: 510 Yonge Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://t-swirlcrepe.com/

Creme brulee: delicious.  Crepes: delicious.  A creme brulee crepe?  Yes please.

I will, however, admit that I was skeptical; would this be one of those Instagram-friendly food mash-ups that never should have been mashed up?

T-Swirl Crepe

Nope, it’s exactly as delicious as you’re hoping it’ll be.  Actually, no; more delicious.

My only real complaint is that the top didn’t have the sugary, crackily crispiness that you’re looking for, despite being thoroughly torched.

Other than that, it was top notch.  The custard was a little bit too sweet — I suspect that it came from a mix — but it was still quite tasty, and certainly got the job done.

T-Swirl Crepe

There was also quite a bit of it; every bite had a generous amount of custard, even right at the bottom of the cone.

The crepe itself was the highlight; it was freshly made, with a chewy interior and a lightly crispy exterior that set it apart from the norm.  It complimented the custard perfectly.

T-Swirl Crepe

I enjoyed it so much that I went back a few days later for round two.  I tried the Mango Raspberry, and it was just as good as the creme brulee.  The crepe had the same addictive crispy/chewy contrast, and the filling featured a great balance of tartness and sweetness, with perfectly ripe chunks of fruit.