Surprisingly Tasty Carbonara at Bobbie Sue’s Mac + Cheese

Bobbie Sue's Mac + CheeseLocation: 162 Ossington Avenue, Toronto
Website: https://bobbiesues.com/

I was pretty much completely blown away by the carbonara at Bobbie Sue’s Mac + Cheese.  It wasn’t what I was expecting at all, but in all the best ways.

I sort of figured it was going to be some kind of bizarre mash-up of mac and cheese and carbonara, but it definitely wasn’t that.  It was actually a legit bowl of carbonara, and it was delightful.

Bobbie Sue's Mac + Cheese

The menu describes the carbonara as “pancetta + Grana Padano + egg yolk.” I really enjoyed it.

The diced pancetta (and yes, it was pancetta, as it should be — not bacon) was abundant and nicely crisped up — it was crispy, salty, and porky.  The sauce was rich and creamy from the egg yolks, with a nice cheesy kick from the Grana Padano (an Italian cheese that’s very similar to Parmesan).  And the pasta was perfectly al dente.

Bobbie Sue's Mac + Cheese

It was maybe slightly too dry, but aside from that it was shockingly good.  You’re barely expecting a bowl of carbonara from an actual Italian restaurant to be that delicious, let alone a mac and cheese take-out window that doesn’t have a seating area.  It’s a really delightful surprise.

Pizza and Gelato at Eataly

EatalyLocation: 55 Bloor Street West, Toronto (inside the Manulife Centre)
Website: https://www.eataly.ca/

After years and years of speculation and hype, Eataly finally opened in Toronto last month; judging by the intense crowds, it’s a hit.  Apparently there were lines just to get in for the first few weeks, and on a recent visit on Saturday, the place was absolutely packed.

Eataly

So was it worth the wait?  It’s hard to say based on one relatively brief visit, but I’m gonna say yeah, it was.  It’s basically an enormous, high-end Italian grocery store crossed with a food hall.  They sell all kinds of really interesting looking stuff, and all the food I tried was tasty.  It’s delightful.

I tried a couple of things.  First up was a pizza at La Pizza & La Pasta, a sit-down restaurant with a wood-burning oven that pumps out authentic Neapolitan pizzas.

Eataly

The meal started with some seriously good-quality bread, which came with a bowl of intensely nutty olive oil for dipping.

As for the pizza, I had to try the margherita.  As I’ve said before, I think it’s one of the world’s few perfect foods.  It’s also a great way to judge the quality of a pizza joint; its simplicity puts the technique of the kitchen in full display.  There’s no fancy ingredients to hide behind.

Eataly

The version they serve here didn’t blow me away — the crust was slightly lacking in substance and flavour — but it was a solid B+.  In particular, the pizza had a perfect amount of char from the blazing hot oven.   The person manning the oven clearly knows what he’s doing.

Eataly

Just around the corner from the restaurant is Il Gelato Artigianale, which has a whole bunch of tasty-looking flavours of gelato on offer.  I went with stracciatella, and I quite enjoyed it.

Eataly

I found it a bit overly sweet at first, but the combo of the sweet ice cream and the very bitter chocolate (they’re definitely using a darker chocolate than the norm) won me over.  And the gelato itself is nice and creamy, even if it was slightly on the thin side.

Choices, Choices, and More Choices at The SOS

The SOSLocation: 118 John Street, Toronto
Website: http://sospasta.ca/

I know that this is an odd complaint that most people probably won’t agree with, but I’ll admit that restaurants that offer a million different combinations kind of bug me.  If you’re going to do this, at least give me a few suggestions so I have an idea of what works well together.  How am I supposed to know which sauces compliment which pasta varieties?  And which toppings work best with those?  I’m not a chef.  Why are you getting me to do your job for you?  Do you want me to come into the kitchen and cook my meal as well?

The SOS

Which is to say that at The SOS they have 11 types of pasta, 10 sauces, 11 toppings, and absolutely no guidance on what goes best with what (at least not without asking the cashier and holding up the line like a jerk, which I didn’t particularly care to do).

The SOS

Thankfully they have a daily special; on this particular day it was panko-crusted mac and cheese, which I obviously ordered.

The SOS

It’s quite tasty.  The pasta is perfectly al dente, and the sauce is incredibly rich and creamy, with a mild cheesy flavour.  The crispy panko offers a nice bit of texture.  It’s slightly underseasoned, and nothing about it rocked my world, but it’s a solid bowl of mac and cheese.

More Delicious Pasta at Shiso Tree Cafe

Shiso Tree CafeLocation: 3160 Steeles Avenue East, Markham
Website: https://www.facebook.com/ShisoTree/

I mentioned recently that I generally prefer checking out restaurants I haven’t tried over revisiting ones I have.  There are, however, exceptions to that rule, such as: Shiso Tree Cafe, a restaurant that fuses Japanese and Italian cuisine with some seriously delicious results.

On this visit I had the shoyu mushroom spaghetti: “shimeji, enoki, king oyster mushrooms in mentsuyu butter sauce.”

Shiso Tree Cafe

It’s so good.  It looks a little bit dry in the photo; a lot of the sauce is at the bottom of the bowl, but once you mix it up, it becomes creamy and amazing (and the sauce is rich enough to cling perfectly to the pasta — there wasn’t any left in the bowl when the spaghetti was done).

It has an incredibly satisfying buttery/savoury flavour, and the various types of mushrooms add a nice variety of textures and flavours.  It’s a top-notch bowl of pasta.

Shiso Tree Cafe

It’s also an incredible deal; every pasta on their lunch menu costs twelve bucks and comes with a salad, soup, and a slice of garlic bread.  The salad looks a little sad, but features a sesame-infused dressing that’s a cut above the standard Japanese-inspired salad dressing you’re expecting.  The creamy seafood soup is rich, flavourful, and packed with tasty chunks of seafood — it’s way better than a free soup has any right to be.  The garlic bread is quite tasty, too.

Descendant: Still Some of the Best Pizza in the City

Descendant PizzaLocation: 1168 Queen Street East, Toronto
Website: http://descendantdsp.com/

Though I generally like to visit places I haven’t tried when I eat out, exceptions have to be made.  Especially in the case of a restaurant serving food as great as Descendant, which makes superb Detroit-style pizza.  It’s a strong contender for the best pizza in the city.

And yeah, it’s still great.

I tried a couple of pizzas — the Gatt-Daddy (“house made fennel sausage, Mama Lil’s Peppers, red onion, sauce, basil aioli, fresh parsley & basil”) and the Jaffna (“kothu roti, mango chutney, cilantro cream, green onion, Calabrian chilis, fresh cilantro, coconut sambol”).

Descendant Pizza

Orrdering a pizza as bizarrely topped as the Jaffna might be a dicey proposition at a lesser pizza joint — but Descendant is not a lesser pizza joint.  Aside from making technically superb pizzas, Descendant does an amazing job of taking seemingly bizarre flavour combos and doing something special with them.  The Jaffna is sweet, spicy, savoury, and tangy in all the best ways.

The Gatt-Daddy is more traditional, and of course, they knock it out of the park.

Descendant Pizza

It helps that the pizza itself is so good — the crust is delightfully crispy on the bottom, and dense enough to hold up to the voluminous toppings while still being delightfully fluffy and amazing.  It’s a balancing act, and one that Descendant pulls of beautifully.

And of course, there’s that Detroit-style pizza trademark — the ring of dark, crispy goodness around the pizza where the cheese has come into contact with the square pan.  It’s so good.