Location: 69 Kensington Avenue, Toronto
Seven Lives serves what is frequently called the best fish taco in the city, which makes deciding what to order there quite easy. It’s the fish taco. It’s gotta be the fish taco.
I’ve actually been wanting to try this place for quite a while, but it’s popular; the place routinely has a line-up going out the door, and it’s a tiny restaurant. If you don’t get a seat on one of the two benches out front, or at the one table inside, you’re out of luck. You’ll just have to eat and walk, which is a bit of a challenge with their generously-stuffed tacos.
It’s worth the wait and the hassle. It is as advertised: it’s clearly one of the best fish tacos in the city, if not the best.
It consists of a very generous piece of fried haddock topped with cabbage, pico de gallo, and a garlicky sauce. Everything works really well together. The fish, in particular, is delicious; it’s super tender and flaky with a very satisfying crispy exterior that never overwhelms the fish itself.
The toppings are great — the cabbage and the pico de gallo add some nice freshness and crunch (not to mention an acidity that helps cut through the fried fish), and the creamy sauce brings a nice garlicky bite.
My only real issue here are the two corn tortillas, which were a bit stale (corn tortillas are one of those things that pretty much have to be consumed within minutes rather than hours of being cooked — they get stale fast). But that’s a minor complaint for an otherwise superlative taco.
Location: 25 The West Mall, Etobicoke
I just posted about the Nanaimo Bar McFlurry, which is part of McDonald’s soon-to-end (on the 17th) Great Canadian Tastes promotion. And now I’ve tried the other item in that menu, Fish and Chips. Because of course I did. What did you think, that McDonald’s was going to introduce fish and chips and I wasn’t going to try it?? Get out of here.
It’s fine, I guess. When I first heard about it, I assumed they were just going to throw a Filet-O-Fish patty on some fries and call it a day, but this isn’t that.
The meal comes with two pieces of fried haddock that basically taste like any number of middle-of-the-road frozen fish filets you can get at the supermarket (it’s not reconstituted fish pieces, so it’s got that going for it).
They’re nice and crispy, and when I had them at least, they were freshly fried — but they definitely have that distinctive processed flavour that lets you know they were made in a big factory many miles away and then frozen.
The fish itself was dry, but it could have been worse. Like I said, it was fine. Not great, but perfectly edible.
The meal comes with a little tub of tartar sauce, which is zippy and surprisingly oniony. I wasn’t crazy about that (raw onions are the worst; why everyone thinks they’re acceptable to eat is a complete mystery to me), but it was definitely a bit more interesting than you’d expect.
Location: 367 King Street West, Toronto
I’m not sure why, but the poke trend that swept through the city a couple of years ago completely passed me by; this was actually my first time trying the now-iconic Hawaiian dish.
The version you’ll find at most Toronto restaurants tends to have a bit more stuff than the real-deal Hawaiian version, which is basically just raw fish, dressing, and maybe some onions and herbs mixed in.
The “Clever” poke bowl I had at Calii Love, on the other hand, comes with: “Raw Yellowfin tuna, gochujang broccoli, crispy shallot, wakame seaweed salad, jalapeno, edamame, sushi rice, wasabi aioli.”
So I don’t know how authentic it is (not at all, I’m thinking), but either way, I quite enjoyed it. There’s a whole lot going on, but all of the components were fresh and tasty, and the overall balance of flavours was really satisfying.
There was also enough of a balance of textures — the crunchy seaweed, the meaty tuna, the soft rice — that it never felt one-note or monotonous.
It actually reminded me a lot of Korean bibimbap, but with a very different flavour profile.
Location: 21 Grenville Street, Toronto
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.
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).
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.
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.
Location: 96 Laird Drive, Toronto
Everyone loves fish and chips, don’t they? It’s one of those universally appealing meals that’s hard to truly hate. I mean, it’s a big old plate of deep fried goodness.
But it’s surprisingly difficult to find a place that does it really well (without a plane ticket to the UK, at least). It’s such a simple dish, but sometimes the simplest meals are the toughest to pull off. It’s just fish and batter; if your technique isn’t perfect, there’s nowhere to hide.
I got the haddock and chips from Olde York, and while it was certainly tasty, there were a couple of things holding it back from being much better than okay.
A lot of fish and chips joints tend drop the ball with the batter itself; so many places over-apply it, resulting in a thick and crunchy shell that overwhelms the fish. And while Olde York isn’t the worst offender in this regard, the batter was definitely too substantial.
It’s also easy to overcook the fish, and alas, that was an issue here as well. It wasn’t too blatant, but it was dryer than it should have been.
I don’t want to make this a complain-a-thon, because I actually did enjoy it… but the fries could have been crispier and the tartar sauce was way too sweet.
But that’s the thing about fish and chips: even when it’s not perfect, it’s still so satisfying.