Location: 2537 Yonge Street, Toronto
Brunch is great, no doubt about it. Eggs Benedict, pancakes, French toast — all tasty stuff. But sometimes you want something a bit different, and if that’s the case, the Middle-Eastern-influenced brunch menu at Byblos fits the bill quite nicely.
We started with the Turkish Manti Dumplings (“eggplant + yogurt sauce + date molasses”), which was easily the weakest dish of the three I tried. The yogurt/molasses sauce was one-note sweet and tangy, and the dumplings were basically pure mush. There was almost no distinction in texture between the wrapper and the creamy filling.
Up next was the Eggplant Kibbeh: “zucchini flower + baharat + chickpea batter.” This was interesting. Kibbeh is a Middle Eastern dish made from spiced ground beef; it’s essentially a fried meatball stuffed with more meat.
The vegetarian version they serve here has only the most vague kibbeh-like properties, but it’s tasty for what it is; it’s nicely spiced, and the creamy filling contrasts well with the crispy fried exterior.
My main meal was the Bastirma Khachapuri: “manouri cheese + egg + guindilla + urfa chili.” This was basically a Turkish pide filled with cheese, eggs, and bastirma, a cured meat that’s generally thought to be the precursor to pastrami.
It was pretty tasty — it was freshly baked, with a nice crispy exterior and a chewy interior. It’s not the best pide you’ll ever eat, but of course, the combo of cheese, eggs, and salty cured meat is a winner. That’s always going to be a winner. It’s hard to go wrong there.
Location: 270 West Beaver Creek Road, Richmond Hill
If you have anyone you’re looking to impress with a fancier dim sum joint, you could do worse than Yu Seafood. The restaurant itself is quite a bit more sleek than your average dim sum place, and the presentation of the dishes is a bit snazzier.
And of course, it also has the prices to match — it’s not outrageous, but it’s noticeably more expensive than the norm.
The food is all solid, though nothing quite blew me away. I think pretty much everything was slightly (or more than slightly) underseasoned.
One of their specialties is the visually striking Bamboo Charcoal & Egg Yolk Bun. It looks impressive and tastes pretty good, but the molten custard filling was broken; it was lumpy and oily.
Everything I tried was quite tasty — but given the hefty pricing, it’s not quite as amazing as you’d hope.
Location: It’s a truck, so check their Twitter
FeasTO is a very single-minded food truck: they serve dumplings, dumplings, and more dumplings. It’s always a good idea to do one thing and do it well.
FeasTO definitely does it well.
I tried a couple of things: the Korean Chicken and the Chili Sesame Shrimp Wontons.
They were both quite tasty, though I think the shrimp was my favourite of the two. They were basically like the shrimp wontons you’ll find in a bowl of wonton noodle soup, with a tasty sauce that adds some zing.
It’s nicely cooked; the thin wrapper isn’t too mushy, and the shrimp is perfect.
I didn’t like the Korean fried chicken quite as much, but there certainly wasn’t anything wrong with it. It’s deep fried and crispy, and tossed in the type of sweet and spicy sauce you’ll find on Korean fried chicken.
The sauce is a bit more subtle than I’d like (or perhaps there just wasn’t enough of it) and the spice level was non-existent (this was an issue with both varieties), but I still quite enjoyed it.
Location: 180 Queen Street West, Toronto
I just talked about Shanghai Dim Sum, a dim sum restaurant in Richmond Hill that’s both delicious and delightfully affordable.
Well, Planta Queen serves dim sum on the weekends, and it’s the complete inverse of that — it’s ridiculously expensive and thoroughly mediocre.
I managed to try a few things, and while nothing was outright unpleasant, everything I tried was an inferior version of something you could get at a dim sum joint or elsewhere. The dumplings were probably the worst offenders — the various fillings were fine, but the wrappers were flabby and overcooked.
Adding insult to injury? They all ranged from 13 to 15 bucks for an order of four. For 15 bucks, I could get 60 soup dumplings from Shanghai Dim Sum (well, I’m sure they have a limit per table, but you get the idea) — and those dumplings were about a million times better than any of the dumplings here.
The other things I tried — a dosa, fried mushrooms, dan dan noodles — were all decent enough, but again, they were crazy expensive and thoroughly inferior to the real deal.
The best thing I had — by far — was the chocolate cake. The pastry chef here is clearly the real talent in the kitchen, because the cake was abundantly satisfying. It was rich, fudgy, and slightly fruity, with a deep chocolately flavour. It was amazing.
Location: 330 Highway 7, Richmond Hill
If you’re looking for a delicious and delightfully affordable meal, you could absolutely do worse than Shanghai Dim Sum. If you show up before 11:00 AM (and you should definitely do this) you can order off a special early morning menu that includes an order of four soup dumplings for 99 cents.
99 cents! Are they they best soup dumplings you’ll ever have? No, but they’re quite tasty, and for the price, they’re outstanding.
Everything else was quite good as well. We managed to try a generous amount of stuff (I was quite full by the end of the meal) — the total bill? About 30 bucks for three people. You can’t argue with that price.
The restaurant also has the distinction of serving what might be the garlickiest dish I’ve ever had. The boiled pork with garlic paste features tender slices of pork belly doused in a sauce that’s effectively pure, uncooked garlic. It was actually quite tasty, but that garlic taste lingered on my palate for a solid 24 hours.