Location: 515 Dundas Street West, Oakville
The Pho Beef Banh Mi at Just Braise in Oakville is pretty much exactly what you want it to be; it is the Brundlefly version of a bowl of pho and a banh mi, and it’s delicious.
Here’s how the menu describes it: “braised beef, pho sauce, pickled veg, cucumber, garlic mayo, hoisin+sriracha, cilantro.”
The combo of the beef and the pho sauce does a great job of capturing the flavour of that particular soup. The only issue: the beef was actually pretty dry, which holds the sandwich back from greatness.
Everything else was quite tasty — the pickled veggies and the crunchy cucumber add a nice bright counterpoint to the savoury beef, and the garlic mayo / hoisin / sriracha combo compliments the beef very well.
It helps that the bread is perfect; it’s lightly crispy on the outside, with a great fluffy interior. It’s a tasty sandwich.
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: 4750 Yonge Street, North York (in the Emerald Park food court)
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.
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.
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.
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: 25 The West Mall, Etobicoke (inside Sherway Gardens)
The latest featured flavour at Sweet Jesus is Holy Mint, and if you like the mint/chocolate combo, you’ll almost certainly enjoy it.
Personally, I like that combo, so yeah — I enjoyed it.
Holy Mint, as per the Sweet Jesus website: “Mint soft serve, chocolate mints, chocolate mint cookies, milk cookies, chocolate chips, chocolate sauce.”
It’s quite tasty. In particular, the mint soft serve is fantastic; it’s nice and creamy, and the mint flavour is perfect. Some mint desserts can be a bit overwhelming and toothpasty, but the flavour here is nicely balanced. It’s also sweet, but not too sweet. It’s great.
I will say that I’m a bit concerned about Sweet Jesus, particularly their Sherway Gardens location. I visited on Saturday — i.e. the last Saturday before Christmas — and the mall was, not surprisingly, wall-to-wall people. And yet Sweet Jesus was as deserted as it always seems to be. I’ll be very surprised if this particular location makes it through 2020, and that makes me sad.