Location: 160 Baldwin Street, Toronto
Koishi is a collaboration between Little Pebbles (which is great) and Arthur Pezzelli, the co-founder of Bang Bang (which is beyond great).
Bang Bang serves, bar none, the best ice cream in Toronto. It’s not even close; they blow everyone else out of the water. This makes Koishi a must-visit. A new place started by one of Bang Bang’s founders? Uh, yeah, I’m all over that.
Asian-style ice cream has very much become a thing in Toronto, and as you might infer from the name, that’s what Koishi is all about. They have a variety of Japanese-influenced flavours that you can get in a cone, a cup, or a sweet bun.
I’m all about the ice cream at places like this (as much as I love Bang Bang, the cookies are a complete waste of time), so I just went with a plain scoop in a cup.
I tried the honey soba: “toasted buckwheat & caramelized honey.”
It was pretty great — the crunchy bits of soba gave it a nice toasty flavour, and the honey was pleasantly floral, with a subtle sweetness that was just right.
The quality of the ice cream itself wasn’t as perfect as Bang Bang’s — it didn’t quite have the same level of rich creaminess, and it was very subtly icy — but it’s still top-shelf stuff.
Location: 111 Richmond Street West, Toronto (in the Assembly Chef’s Hall)
I got nervous when, after I ordered my chicken sandwich from Love Chix, they opened a drawer filled with pre-cooked chicken pieces and then dunked one in the fryer to reheat it.
Thankfully, it certainly could have been worse, but the chicken was dry and overcooked, and it’s easy enough to see why. This might have been less of an issue if they started with dark meat, which has a bit more leeway during the cooking process before it dries out. But it was white meat, and “moist” was not a word in its vocabulary.
The sandwich was otherwise quite tasty. It’s tossed in a honey hot sauce and topped with buttermilk ranch, coleslaw, and arugula. The honey flavour was quite pronounced, but there was enough of a spicy kick and a vinegary bite to balance out the sweetness. The creamy ranch and the peppery arugula helped to round things out. It was actually quite tasty.
And while the crunch factor wasn’t quite as pronounced as it could have been, it was certainly satisfying.
I just wish the meat itself weren’t so dry. I certainly understand why they serve their chicken this way; people might get impatient to wait the almost ten minutes it would take to fry a piece of chicken from scratch. But I wish they’d give you a choice.
Location: 2651 Yonge Street, Toronto
Milkcow Cafe is a South Korean soft serve chain — a concept which, thanks to Kiss the Tiramisu, now fills me with horror. I actually have a great deal of fondness for South Korea, but the ice cream at Kiss the Tiramisu was so profoundly awful that it made me lose a little bit of respect for the whole country. Just the absolute worst.
Thankfully, Milkcow Cafe is quite good. They have a variety of ice cream creations, all featuring a base of their “organic milk soft serve.” I went with the Milky Cube, which is drizzled with honey and topped with a big chunk of honeycomb.
They’re not kidding around with the milk thing — the ice cream is really unique, with a subtle sweetness and a pronounced milky flavour. It actually tastes like drinking a glass of milk, but in ice cream form. There’s no vanilla flavouring to get in the way; just pure milky goodness. It could have been creamier, and the texture was vaguely icy, but for the most part it was quite satisfying.
The honey had a nicely floral flavour and added a good punch of sweetness, but honestly, the ice cream itself was so interesting I would have been okay eating it on its own.
Location: 780 Queen Street West, Toronto
Though I feel like the pastries at Nadege have gone a bit downhill since their expansion to multiple locations, I still like the place. And I can’t say no to their latest addition: ice cream (I can never say no to ice cream. Never).
They have a small ice cream shop right next to their original Queen Street location, serving classic scooped ice cream (not to be confused with the soft serve they’ve had for a while now).
There’s a bunch of really interesting looking flavours; I went with La Mancha, which is described as “honey, blackberry, saffron, biscuit.”
It’s good, though the ice cream itself is nothing too special. It’s a bit thin; it’s not nearly as rich or as creamy as it should be. But the flavour makes up for it. It’s got a delightfully subtle sweetness, with refreshing swirls of tart blackberry sauce and big cakey chunks.
I wish the blackberry sauce weren’t so icy and that the chunks weren’t so generous (my scoop was something like fifty percent biscuit and fifty percent ice cream), but I still enjoyed it. I’m keen to go back, if only to try out some of the other flavours; they were almost all really unique.
Location: 536 Queen Street West, Toronto
If you’re looking for an off-kilter scoop of gelato, Death in Venice is the place to go. With their various flavours featuring ingredients like parsnip, kaffir lime, and lavender, you’d be advised to look elsewhere if you’re hoping for a scoop of plain chocolate or vanilla.
Of course, it’s easy enough to serve oddball flavours as a novelty; it’s not-so-easy to make them actually taste good.
I can happily say that Death in Venice absolutely nails the whole “tasting really good” thing.
On this particular visit I tried the pistachio yogurt and baklava, which was outstanding. It features crispy bits of phyllo pastry, pistachio chunks, and honey, which really nails the baklava flavour. The yogurt adds a very subtle tartness. There clearly isn’t enough yogurt here to qualify this as frozen yogurt; there’s just enough to add that flavour without being overly sour.
That’s not to mention the lemon zest, which works perfectly with the other elements here. I think there might have also been ricotta? I’m not sure.
But you know what I am sure about? That this was great. Because it was great. Aside from the really interesting combination of flavours, the gelato itself was creamy and luxurious. It’s good stuff.