Tasty Jerk Chicken at Roywoods

RoywoodsLocation: 65 Front Street West, Toronto (inside Union Station)
Website: https://roywoods.ca/

It’s been a while since I’ve had a sandwich from Toronto Life’s list of the 25 best in the city, but clearly, the list is still cranking out the hits.  The jerk chicken sandwich at Roywoods is good eatin’.

Roywoods

It’s quite simple: cocoa bread, jerk chicken, coleslaw, sliced tomato, and onion (I skipped the onion, because raw onions are the worst and why anyone thinks differently will forever baffle me).

You can’t really tell from the picture, but the jerk chicken is abundant, and it’s perfectly cooked.  I wish it were a bit spicier (it has a mild kick, but not much more than that) but the satisfying jerk flavour makes up for the lack of spice.

Roywoods

The only real issue is the slightly stale cocoa bread, but there was so much moisture from the saucy coleslaw and the juicy chicken that the dryness of the bread was just barely an issue.  Eating it is definitely a multiple napkin experience.

Roywoods

I tried a couple of sides as well.  The fried plantains had a nice combo of crispy and creamy, and the callaloo — featuring flavourful, tender greens — was just as good.

Decent Pork Belly at Chengdu Guokui

Chengdu GuokuiLocation: 4750 Yonge Street, North York (in the Emerald Park food court)
Website: None

I’ve mentioned before that the Emerald Park food court near Yonge and Sheppard is a treasure trove of unique Asian eateries (though not everything there is particularly great).

My latest discovery: Chengdu Guokui, which specializes in Sichuan cuisine.

I ordered the braised pork rice bowl, which comes with the aforementioned pork, stewed eggplant (I think?), and a spicy slaw on top of rice.

Chengdu Guokui

It’s almost 17 bucks with tax, which seems excessive until you get your bowl and realize that it weighs about a pound, and is crammed with enough pork belly to feed a small family.

It’s certainly better than the last thing I tried in this food court, but alas, it’s not great.  The main issue here is the pork; it’s quite underseasoned, and is lacking the punch of flavour you’re expecting from the dish.  It also had a vague leftover flavour, and wasn’t quite as melt-in-your-mouth tender as it should have been.  It was tasty enough, but it was nothing special.

Chengdu Guokui

The eggplant was nice and tender, and the rice, though mushy, featured a tasty sauce and was fairly satisfying.

The star of the show, oddly enough, was the slaw; it was tossed in an intensely flavourful chili oil, and had that great numbing heat you get from Sichuan cuisine.  I wish there had been about double the amount.

Disappointing Fried Bao at Zheng’s Juicy Fried Buns

Zheng's Juicy Fried BunsLocation: 4750 Yonge Street, North York (in the Emerald Park food court)
Website: https://baogong.business.site/

Last year, I checked out Sang-ji Fried Bao and tried the scallion oil noodles and the sang-ji bao (fried soup-filled pork buns).  I thought it was tasty enough, but nothing particularly mind-blowing.

Well, I just had the exact same meal at Zheng’s Juicy Fried Buns, and suddenly I’m appreciating Sang-ji Fried Bao so, so much more.

Zheng's Juicy Fried Buns

Here’s a one word review of the meal I just had: yikes.

I started with the scallion oil noodles, which tasted like plain instant noodles tossed in a whole bunch of soy sauce (and a buttload of oil); it was greasy and one-note salty with absolutely none of the sweet complexity you associate with this dish.  The deeply caramelized scallions were present, but they couldn’t do much to fight the face-punch of saltiness from the noodles themselves.  It doesn’t help that the undercooked instant noodles were a complete bummer to eat.

Zheng's Juicy Fried Buns

The pan-fried buns weren’t much better.  The wrapper was thick, gummy and unpleasantly doughy, and the would-be crispy bottom was actually just dry, like a stale cracker.  The soupy filling was completely bland (it needed a lot of vinegar to be even remotely edible), and the pork was surprisingly tough and flavourless.

Zheng's Juicy Fried Buns

Sang-ji Fried Bao is about two kilometres north of here, and trust me: that’s the one you want.  There’s no comparison.

Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles at Gol’s Lanzhou Noodle

Gol's Lanzhou NoodleLocation: 100 City Centre Drive, Mississauga (inside Square One)
Website: https://lanzhou.ca/

There’s something both delightful and bizarre about the presence of Gol’s Lanzhou Noodle in Square One’s food court.  It’s hard to imagine a place serving legit Chinese hand-pulled noodles — nestled between a KFC and a cheesesteak joint — being able to exist in a suburban shopping mall like Square One even just a decade ago.

But it’s here now, and it’s surprisingly great.

Gol's Lanzhou Noodle

I had the beef noodle soup, and I was shocked at how good it was.  It’s not the best bowl of noodles you’ll ever eat, but it’s seriously tasty for something in a mall’s food court.  It’s not even in Square One’s fancy new “Food District” — it’s in the plain old food court, right near places like A&W and Manchu Wok.

(Sorry, I know I’m harping on its location, but it kinda blows my mind.)

Gol's Lanzhou Noodle

And yes, they serve real-deal hand-pulled noodles; they’re freshly pulled to order, and you can watch them do it (which is always an oddly hypnotic display).

It’s a tasty bowl.  The soup is a bit too salty, but it has a clean beefy flavour with a nice hit of freshness from the cilantro.  It comes with a healthy amount of chili oil on the side; I wish this stuff were spicier (it’s just barely hot), but it has a fantastic smoky/savoury flavour that really kicks up the flavour of the soup.

Gol's Lanzhou Noodle

The sliced beef had a slight leftovery flavour, but was otherwise tender and enjoyable.

And the medium-thick noodles are great.  They were ever-so-slightly on the soft side, but they were nice and hearty, with a satisfying level of chew.

Seed to Sausage Meatery at the Food District in Square One

Seed to Sausage Meatery, Square OneLocation: 100 City Centre Drive, Mississauga (inside Square One)
Website: https://www.seedtosausage.ca/

The Food District in Square One is the latest in the recent trend of upmarket food courts that have been popping up throughout the city.  This is one of the more delightful food trends of late.  All the convenience of a food court, but with above average food?  Yes please.

Or is it above average?  Maybe not.  Enter: Seed to Sausage Meatery, which has an “award-winning” Montreal smoked meat sandwich on their menu (though the menu isn’t forthcoming on what this mysterious award might actually be).

Award-winning or not, I can’t say no to a smoked meat sandwich.

Seed to Sausage Meatery, Square One

Alas, it’s not great.  The meat is very thinly machine-sliced; normally I prefer the more satisfying thickness of hand-cut meat, but in this case, that just isn’t possible.  If you sliced this meat too thickly, it’d be like trying to eat your belt.  It would be completely inedible.

It’s tough.  The fat is just barely rendered, and the meat is dry and sinewy and difficult to bite through.  And yet somehow, it’s absolutely dripping with grease.  It might be the greasiest smoked meat sandwich I’ve ever had.  The grease soaked through the bread and turned it into mush in parts.

Seed to Sausage Meatery, Square One

It’s too bad, because the flavour is actually pretty good.  It’s a touch too salty, but it’s nicely spiced and has a mild but satisfying smokiness.  And the fresh, tasty bread was way above average — it was the best part of the sandwich by far.  So there’s definitely potential there.

I got a salad on the side instead of fries, which was clearly a mistake.  I went with the field greens salad, which comes with a vinaigrette that’s so intensely sweet you could put it on ice cream.  Remember Tahiti Treat?  I hadn’t thought about that soda in years, but as soon as I tried the dressing here, I flashed right back.  That’s how sweet it was.

It’s technically food court fare, so at least if the meal had been cheap, it might be possible to overlook some of its issues.  It isn’t; it’s $15.95 for the sandwich and one side, which makes it more expensive than unambiguously superior restaurants like Centre Street Deli and SumiLicious.