A Sandwich with Issues at Parka Food Co.

Parka Food Co.Location: 424 Queen Street West, Toronto
Website: https://www.parkafoodco.com/

I don’t know what it is about “plant-based” restaurants serving sandwiches with overly dense buns, but I had that issue at Planta, I had it at Fresh, and now it’s happened again at Parka Food Co.

Is it the plant-based thing?  The lack of dairy?  Or is it a coincidence I’m reading too much into?  I don’t know.

(Also, whichever marketer came up with the term “plant-based” to make veganism sound more hip and healthy: kudos to you.  You have succeeded beyond your wildest dreams.)

Parka Food Co.

I tried the broccoli sandwich at Parka Food Co., which comes with “lightly battered broccoli, cashew cheese sauce, dill pickles, sauteed onions, roasted garlic, lettuce, parka aioli,” and it was mostly decent enough — but then there was that bun.

It’s all about Newton’s third law of motion: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  The bun is so firm and dense that the force of you holding it and biting into it has nowhere to go but down into the components of the sandwich.  A normal bun would absorb some of that force, but not this one.

Instead, everything gets squished out within a couple of bites.  I had to eat the sandwich with a fork and knife.  It’s not a big deal, but I kinda wanted to eat my sandwich like a sandwich.

Parka Food Co.

Aside from that, it wasn’t bad.  The broccoli has a nice crispy, battered exterior, and the inside is perfectly cooked — it’s tender but not mushy, with a satisfying bite.

The cashew “cheese” sauce is basically just a thick, gooey paste, without a whole lot of cheese-like properties.  But it’s fine on the sandwich.

And the sweet aioli and the pickles do a nice job of cutting through the richness of the fried broccoli and the “cheese.”  It’s a pretty good sandwich… or at least it would be if you could eat it like a sandwich.

Dumplings on Wheels at FeasTO

FeasTOLocation: It’s a truck, so check their Twitter
Website: http://www.feasto.ca/

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.

FeasTO

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.

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.

The Sad Decline of Paramount

ParamountLocation: 1290 Crestlawn Drive, Mississauga
Website: http://www.paramountfinefoods.com/

You’ll notice that I only have the one photo from Paramount, of a partially eaten take-out box of a dozen falafel.  I wasn’t planning on blogging about this one, but I think I kinda have to?

Paramount makes me sad.  The one I visited, in an industrial area of Mississauga, is actually the first location of the now omnipresent chain.  Back before they started expanding, it was a fantastic restaurant — easily some of the best Middle Eastern food in the GTA.  Every time I went there, the place was absolutely slammed.  It was so good, and people couldn’t get enough of it.

Then, of course, they started expanding, and the quality started to go downhill.  Slowly at first, but the decline was unmistakable.  The crowds thinned out, but it was still popular enough.

The last time I was there, maybe about a year ago, the food was clearly inferior to its highs in the pre-expansion days, but it was still pretty decent.

I just went to pick up an order of a dozen falafel, and the place was an absolute ghost town.  It’s easy enough to see why; it was quite possibly the worst falafel that I’ve ever had.  It was dense and dry, with an unpleasantly crumbly texture that sucks all the moisture out of your mouth.  It tasted wrong and stale despite being fresh from the fryer.

As for the weirdly sour tahini sauce and the bland pita bread, the less said the better.

I think I’m done with Paramount, and considering how good it used to be, that makes me sad.

A Delicious Fried Fish Sandwich at Sea Witch

Sea Witch Fish and ChipsLocation: 636 St. Clair Avenue West, Toronto
Website: http://www.seawitchfc.com/

Taking the fish from a plate of fish and chips and serving it in a sandwich is such an obvious idea that I’m shocked it isn’t more common.  And if Sea Witch is anything to go by, it totally works.

Sea Witch Fish and Chips

You can get the pickerel sandwich either with or without chips; it’s $15 with, and $13 without, so obviously you need to get the chips (it is, however, a massive amount of food, so bring your appetite).

Sea Witch Fish and Chips

It’s quite tasty.  The sandwich easily could have been too rich, but they wisely pile on a whole bunch of zingy pickled onions, not to mention a generous amount of tangy tartar sauce.  This balances things out quite nicely.  The hearty ciabatta holds together well, and proves to be an ideal vehicle for the hearty sandwich.

Sea Witch Fish and Chips

As for the fish itself, it’s good, though it’s not outstanding — the batter is slightly too substantial, and the fish is a bit overcooked and dry.  Still, with all of the other stuff going on, it works just fine.

The fries are the highlight.  They’re crispy, creamy, and substantial; they’re basically the perfect fish and chips chips.