Location: 386 Royal York Road, Toronto
Remember Beard Papa? Because I certainly do! That was (and still is, though their only Canadian locations are in Vancouver) a delightful Japanese chain that specialized in delicious cream puffs. They used to have a location in the Pacific Mall, but then they broke hearts across the GTA by shutting down like a bunch of jerks.
Sadly, there’s no indication that they’re coming back anytime soon, but in the meanwhile, we’ve got Choux Lab.
Choux Lab serves up choux pastries (which are light and fluffy, with a crispy exterior) with a variety of fillings. The vanilla is probably the most Beard-Papa-esque, but they were actually handing out samples of that one, and it was delicious (and indeed, did remind me of Beard Papa, with a creamy, custardy filling), so I figured I’d order something else.
I went with the hazelnut, and it was very, very good. The filling was rich and ultra-creamy, with a great hazelnut flavour and a nice balance of sweetness — sweet, but not overwhelmingly so. Beard Papa used to fill their puffs to order, and I was worried that the pre-made ones they serve here might lack that great crispy/fluffy/creamy combo. But the one I tried wasn’t soggy at all, and all the textures were right where they should be.
Choux Lab is just a few stores over from San Remo, and I worry that everyone will just stick with the reliable deliciousness there and not give this place a shot. But everyone needs to check this place out; I need them to stick around forever and not break my heart like Beard Papa did.
Location: 6039 Erin Mills Parkway, Mississauga
This is gong to be a short one, but I couldn’t not write a post about the recently-opened second location of Nani’s Gelato, deep in the wilds of Mississauga.
It’s slightly larger than the downtown location, though still not big enough for any seating — dashing my dreams of a full, sit-down Nani’s sundae experience.
(This is somewhat unrelated to the topic at hand, but what’s the deal with every Toronto ice cream joint being a grab-and-go experience? Where are all the sundae bars? And yes, I know that Demetres exists, but I’m dreaming about a place that serves ice cream on par with Nani’s or Bang Bang that also has a menu of elaborate sundaes. Someone make this happen please.)
Aside from the sad lack of anything even resembling a sundae, the gelato at the new location is as great as ever. On this particular visit I got Kit Kat Cookie Monster and Double Chocolate Nutella, and they were both rich, creamy, and delicious. The Nutella flavour, in particular, has a very intense chocolately richness and is thoroughly delightful.
Location: Stackt Market (28 Bathurst Street, Toronto)
Solato is a new gelato place in the Stackt Market with a pretty distinctive gimmick — the gelato itself is made on the spot in a process that’s basically like coffee pods, but for ice cream. It’s very slick.
The menu is relatively limited; when I went, it was just vanilla, chocolate, hazelnut, and a couple of fruity flavours. You can either get the gelato by itself for six bucks, or pay an extra dollar and get a couple of toppings.
I went with hazelnut sans-toppings, and the whole process was pretty seamless; they put a pod in one of the machines, and within a couple of minutes it was dispensing soft serve gelato.
It’s fine. It’s a fun gimmick, I guess, but it’s hard to deny that there’s better gelato in the city.
I was afraid it might taste artificial, but it has a pretty clean hazelnut flavour, albeit a weak one (the nutty taste is far from robust). It’s very smooth, which I guess is the advantage of making it right on the spot, but otherwise it’s nothing special; it’s a bit of a shrug, especially for the price, but if you’re in the Stackt Market anyway it might be worth a shot just for the novelty value.
Location: 4141 Dixie Road, Mississauga (inside Rockwood Mall)
I’ll admit that I had basically written off rolled ice cream as a gimmick. The one time I tried it previously, in Kensington Market, I thought it was fine, but a bit thin and mediocre.
Wow Wow Yum Yum, on the other hand, has me convinced that rolled ice cream can be just as tasty as the traditional churned variety.
If you’re not familiar with this type of ice cream, what makes it so distinct is that it’s essentially created right on the spot. It’s made by pouring the unfrozen ice cream mixture directly onto an ice-cold anti-griddle. The mixture then freezes almost instantly, and is rolled up and served in a cup.
It was way better than I thought it would be. It’s remarkably rich and creamy — if you close your eyes and forget about the gimmick, it’s just really good quality ice cream.
My only real issue here was the flavour. I tried their most popular, Nutella banana, which had the problem that plagues so many banana desserts — the banana they used was clearly underripe. That was a bit of a bummer.
Location: 370 King Street West, Toronto
Not everything needs to be (or can be) a home run. Sometimes it’s fine for a dish to be solid — perfectly tasty, but nothing too mind-blowing.
That’s 00 Gelato in a nutshell. I don’t think anyone’s going to call it the best gelato in the city, but it’s quite satisfying.
The place is a bit odd. It’s in a closet-sized spot on King, and it’s basically just a gelato counter in a doorway. It seems super makeshift, but it’s been popping up for the last few summers, so it’s permanent enough.
I had a scoop of the Ferrero Rocher, and it’s good. The gelato itself is rich and creamy, and the flavour is quite nice. It’s a bit too sweet, but it otherwise does a great job of capturing the Ferrero Rocher flavour, right down to the crispy wafer bits.