Asian Fusion at the Smorgasburg Food Festival

Nozomi at SmorgasburgLocation: 7 Queens Quay East, Toronto
Website: https://www.smorgasburgtoronto.com/

If you haven’t checked it out yet, Smorgasburg is a local offshoot of an American outdoor food festival, and finds a whole bunch of tasty-looking eats crammed together near the waterfront.  The vendors have been curated by food writer Suresh Doss, which means that unlike at a lot of food festivals like this, it’s a safe bet that everything is as good as it looks.  And there’s a lot of good-looking food on offer, with dozens of vendors each serving up a handful of tempting dishes.

Nozomi at Smorgasburg

I got a couple of things from Nozomi, who describe themselves as serving “Asian inspired comfort food,” and yeah, it was top-notch.

Nozomi at Smorgasburg

I tried a couple of things.  First up is the bulgogi kimchi cheesesteak, which is exactly what you want it to be.  Sometimes fusion dishes can feel a bit like they’re cramming together two things that probably didn’t need to be combined, but everything here really works: the flavourful beef, the gooey cheese, and the zingy kimchi all go perfectly together.  The soft roll does a great job of holding it all together without getting in the way.  It’s a great dish.

Nozomi at Smorgasburg

The other thing I tried is a dish they call “pocos,” which based on my attempts to google this, seems to be something they made up.  It’s basically a poke taco (it’s filled with salmon and seaweed), but with a crispy wonton-style shell instead of a tortilla.  It’s super tasty, with the tenderness of the sauce-coated salmon contrasting very nicely with the crispy shell.  Like with the cheesesteak, it takes something that could have come off as gimmicky and unnecessary, and makes it absolutely delightful.

Barbecue Meets Pizza at Conspiracy Pizza

Conspiracy Pizza
Location
: 858 Eglinton Avenue East, Toronto
Website: https://www.conspiracypizza.ca/

Though Conspiracy Pizza started out as a pop-up inside of the infamous (and defunct) Adamson Barbecue, they’ve since cut ties and have their own space (which they share with Churnt Up, an ice cream shop, and Phamily Eats, which sells patties).

They’ve still got a bit of a barbecue theme, however — their namesake pie, the Conspiracy, comes topped with “white sauce, emmental cheese, brisket, red onion, jalapeno, barbecue sauce.”

Conspiracy Pizza

It’s an odd pizza, but it absolutely works.  In particular, the chunks of brisket are shockingly good — they’re nice and tender, and they’ve got a distinctly smoky flavour.  It makes me wish they served a sandwich, because it’s top-notch BBQ brisket.

Conspiracy Pizza

But then the whole pizza is pretty great, with pops of heat from the jalapenos, a satisfying richness from the white sauce and the cheese, and with the barbecue sauce bringing it a nice zippy sweetness to cut through the meat and cheese.  The crust is quite good too, with a super crispy exterior and a fluffy interior.

I also tried the Government Cheese, which comes topped with “mozza, cheddar, emmental, provolone, manchego, oregano.”

Conspiracy Pizza

It takes a lot for me to say that a pizza is too cheesy, but… this one was too cheesy.  It’s overwhelming.  It also kinda reminded me of a Costco pizza (the cheddar, maybe?).  It’s not bad — a huge pile of gooey cheese is never going to be all bad — but I can’t say I’d ever order it again.

Noodles and Buns at Momofuku Noodle Bar

Momofuku Noodle BarLocation: 190 University Avenue, Toronto
Websitehttps://noodlebar-toronto.momofuku.com/

I don’t really have a favourite restaurant in the city — I have a tendency to want to try something new every time I eat out, so it’s rare that I’ll go to the same place more than a couple of times.

So I guess Momofuku Noodle Bar is one of my favourite restaurants by default, because I’ve been there several times, and it’s consistently very good.

Momofuku Noodle Bar

On this particular visit I tried a couple of their buns — chicken burger and cod cake — and both were quite tasty.  The chicken burger, which featured a generous spread of pepper hummus, was the more interesting of the two.  But the crispy, tasty cod was quite good as well.

Momofuku Noodle Bar

I also tried the onigiri, and with its crispy fried bottom layer of nori, it was certainly an interesting take on the ubiquitous Japanese snack.   But it was a little bit bland, and probably not something I’d order again.

Momofuku Noodle Bar

The Jaja noodles, which the menu describes as “bacon, black bean, cabbage, pickle,” was good, but it was another item I probably wouldn’t get again.  It had a meaty, umami-filled flavour, but it felt one-note.  It really needed a bit more vibrancy to round out its porky richness (it probably didn’t help that it reminded me a lot of a dish I had in Malaysia called chili pan mee that was superior in every regard).