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.

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.

Lamb Shoulder at Cherry Street Bar-B-Que

Cherry Street Bar-B-QueAssembly Chef’s Hall is Toronto’s first food hall — it’s basically like a food court, if food courts were amazing.

There’s a bunch of interesting restaurants here, though I was homing in on the burger from Resto Boemo, which I wanted to review for my burger blog.  But then I saw that Cherry Street Bar-B-Que was serving lamb shoulder as part of a St. Patrick’s Day special, and it was game over.  I love southern-style barbecue, and I love lamb.  Barbecued lamb?  Hell yes.

Cherry Street Bar-B-Que

It comes served on chunky mashed potatoes, and is topped with a generous amount of their Murphy’s Stout BBQ sauce, which was amazing.  It was extremely untraditional — it wasn’t nearly as sweet or as acidic as you’d expect, with a rich, tomatoey flavour that’s rounded out by the stout, which adds notes of chocolate and coffee.  It sounds odd, but it worked incredibly well with the lamb.  I should have asked if I could buy a bottle.

And that lamb was quite tasty, though like pretty much every barbecue place in the GTA, it had almost zero smokey flavour.  But in this case I didn’t even particularly mind — the amazing flavour of the lamb was front-and-centre, and it’s hard to complain too much about that.  It was tender while still retaining some texture, with some really tasty bark, and just enough fat to keep things interesting, but not enough to overwhelm.