Pizza and Gelato at Eataly

EatalyLocation: 55 Bloor Street West, Toronto (inside the Manulife Centre)
Website: https://www.eataly.ca/

After years and years of speculation and hype, Eataly finally opened in Toronto last month; judging by the intense crowds, it’s a hit.  Apparently there were lines just to get in for the first few weeks, and on a recent visit on Saturday, the place was absolutely packed.

Eataly

So was it worth the wait?  It’s hard to say based on one relatively brief visit, but I’m gonna say yeah, it was.  It’s basically an enormous, high-end Italian grocery store crossed with a food hall.  They sell all kinds of really interesting looking stuff, and all the food I tried was tasty.  It’s delightful.

I tried a couple of things.  First up was a pizza at La Pizza & La Pasta, a sit-down restaurant with a wood-burning oven that pumps out authentic Neapolitan pizzas.

Eataly

The meal started with some seriously good-quality bread, which came with a bowl of intensely nutty olive oil for dipping.

As for the pizza, I had to try the margherita.  As I’ve said before, I think it’s one of the world’s few perfect foods.  It’s also a great way to judge the quality of a pizza joint; its simplicity puts the technique of the kitchen in full display.  There’s no fancy ingredients to hide behind.

Eataly

The version they serve here didn’t blow me away — the crust was slightly lacking in substance and flavour — but it was a solid B+.  In particular, the pizza had a perfect amount of char from the blazing hot oven.   The person manning the oven clearly knows what he’s doing.

Eataly

Just around the corner from the restaurant is Il Gelato Artigianale, which has a whole bunch of tasty-looking flavours of gelato on offer.  I went with stracciatella, and I quite enjoyed it.

Eataly

I found it a bit overly sweet at first, but the combo of the sweet ice cream and the very bitter chocolate (they’re definitely using a darker chocolate than the norm) won me over.  And the gelato itself is nice and creamy, even if it was slightly on the thin side.

Subtle, Tasty Ramen at Hakata Shoryuken Ramen

Hakata Shoryuken RamenLocation: 225 Queen Street West, Toronto
Website: https://www.hakatashoryuken.com/

A lot of times, the broth in a bowl of Hakata-style tonkotsu ramen can be overwhelmingly porky.  The one-note pork flavour can get a bit wearying.

I’m normally not a big condiments guy — I’ll just eat it as it comes — but with this type of ramen, condiments tend to be necessary.  In particular, pickled ginger does a good job of adding some vibrancy and cutting through the soup’s richness.

Hakata Shoryuken Ramen

Oddly, however, the Hakata ramen at Hakata Shoryuken Ramen has the opposite problem; the flavour isn’t in-your-face at all.  It’s surprisingly mellow.

It’s unexpectedly low-key, but quite tasty.  The soup is nice and creamy, and though the porky flavour is subtle, it’s definitely there.  It’s not going to knock anyone’s socks off, but it’s a pleasant bowl of soup.

Hakata Shoryuken Ramen

The pickled ginger was still necessary, however — it gave the soup some welcome pops of flavour.  It’s a fifty cent add-on, but it’s worth ordering.

The egg was another add-on ($1.50), and it wasn’t great.  It was bland, and the texture was just odd — it was somewhere between an onsen tamago and a traditional ramen egg, and it wasn’t as good as either.

Hakata Shoryuken Ramen

Everything else was solid.  The chashu, in particular, was tender, tasty, and perfectly fatty.  The noodles were slightly too soft, but otherwise got the job done.

An Odd “Dessert” at 7 Baker

7 BakerLocation: 3 Wellesley Street West, Toronto
Website: https://7baker.ca/

The Chocolate Lava Croissant at 7 Baker is interesting?  It’s quite tasty, but also… different.

It’s a high quality pastry, no doubt about it.  The croissant is top-notch; it’s nice and buttery, with a good level of exterior crispiness and a tender texture.  It’s not the best croissant I’ve ever had, but it’s clearly above average.

7 Baker

It’s filled with an intense, cocoa-packed chocolate pudding that’s creamy and tasty but also… not sweet.  Not even a little bit.

7 Baker

It’s weird.  It generally tastes good (though without a little sweetness to round things out, the bitterness of the cocoa is overly pronounced), but with the lack of sugar, I’m not sure what it is.  It’s ostensibly a dessert, but… desserts are supposed to be sweet, aren’t they?

I certainly didn’t dislike eating it, but it’s flummoxing.  I’m flummoxed by it.

Delicious Roti at My Roti Place

My Roti PlaceLocation: 406 Queen Street West, Toronto
Website: https://myrotiplace.com/

I’ve heard basically nothing but good things about My Roti Place, a rapidly expanding chain that specializes in spice-packed roti.  I feared it might have been overhyped, but yeah: it’s very good.

My Roti Place

You can choose your roti, your meat, and your sauce; I went pretty basic with Mom’s Classic Curry with chicken, wrapped in a classic roti.  The spice level is also customizable, with mild, medium, serious, and extreme being options.  I figured extreme might be a bit too intense, so I went with serious.

My Roti Place

I guess should have gone with extreme; the “serious” level of heat turned out to be not-so-serious.  It was noticeably hot, but I’d put it on the upper level of mild.  A bit more spice would have been nice.

I may as well get my other complaint out of the way.  The chunks of chicken, though generous, are dry and leftovery.

My Roti Place

Everything else about this was fantastic.  The roti was nice and chewy, and complemented the vibrant curry perfectly.  And that curry was outstanding; I’m happy to overlook any number of minor complaints when the curry is that tasty.  I don’t care what you serve a curry that good with; it’s automatically going to be delicious.  The curry has an amazing depth of flavour that I couldn’t get enough of.  It’s serious business.

A Sandwich with Issues at Parka Food Co.

Parka Food Co.Location: 424 Queen Street West, Toronto
Website: https://www.parkafoodco.com/

I don’t know what it is about “plant-based” restaurants serving sandwiches with overly dense buns, but I had that issue at Planta, I had it at Fresh, and now it’s happened again at Parka Food Co.

Is it the plant-based thing?  The lack of dairy?  Or is it a coincidence I’m reading too much into?  I don’t know.

(Also, whichever marketer came up with the term “plant-based” to make veganism sound more hip and healthy: kudos to you.  You have succeeded beyond your wildest dreams.)

Parka Food Co.

I tried the broccoli sandwich at Parka Food Co., which comes with “lightly battered broccoli, cashew cheese sauce, dill pickles, sauteed onions, roasted garlic, lettuce, parka aioli,” and it was mostly decent enough — but then there was that bun.

It’s all about Newton’s third law of motion: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  The bun is so firm and dense that the force of you holding it and biting into it has nowhere to go but down into the components of the sandwich.  A normal bun would absorb some of that force, but not this one.

Instead, everything gets squished out within a couple of bites.  I had to eat the sandwich with a fork and knife.  It’s not a big deal, but I kinda wanted to eat my sandwich like a sandwich.

Parka Food Co.

Aside from that, it wasn’t bad.  The broccoli has a nice crispy, battered exterior, and the inside is perfectly cooked — it’s tender but not mushy, with a satisfying bite.

The cashew “cheese” sauce is basically just a thick, gooey paste, without a whole lot of cheese-like properties.  But it’s fine on the sandwich.

And the sweet aioli and the pickles do a nice job of cutting through the richness of the fried broccoli and the “cheese.”  It’s a pretty good sandwich… or at least it would be if you could eat it like a sandwich.