Fluffy Souffle Pancakes at Hanabusa Cafe

Hanabusa CafeLocation: 77 Kensington Avenue, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.hanabusacafe.com/

It seems like every few months, some new food trend sweeps its way through the city.  In the last couple of years we’ve had stuff like poke, chicken and waffles, Japanese cheesecakes, and sushi burritos.  The latest seems to be souffle pancakes, a Japanese dessert that’s exactly what it sounds like (a cross between pancakes and souffle).

If what they’re serving at Hanabusa Cafe is any indication, this is a trend that I can get behind.

Hanabusa Cafe

My only other experience with this dish was at a place called am.pm in Hong Kong, and that version was dense, overly eggy, and just all-around unappealing.

The one at Hanabusa Cafe, on the other hand, was the polar opposite — it was almost absurdly fluffy, with a mild sweetness and a satisfying custardy flavour without any of the in-your-face egginess you might be expecting.  I ordered the Original Pancake, which is the simplest choice: it’s three pancakes topped with a dollop of whipped cream and served with a side of strawberries and blackberries.  It’s outstanding.

Hanabusa Cafe

Unlike a traditional pancake, it’s already fairly sweet, so it’s perfectly delicious on its own.  I could eat about a million of these (though they’re surprisingly heavy, so three feels like a good number).  The ethereal lightness combined with the custardy flavour is seriously addictive.

I’ll admit that my expectations weren’t all that high, but I really, really enjoyed this.

Delightfully Cheap (and Delicious) Noodles at Manpuku

ManpukuLocation: 105 McCaul Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.manpuku.ca/

I just got a bowl of curry udon noodles from Manpuku, and they were both super cheap and super delicious.  What’s better than that?  (I’ll answer for you: nothing.  Nothing is better than that.)

For six bucks, you get a very generous amount of udon noodles in a rich, curry-flavoured broth with some tender potatoes and a heaping pile of sliced pork.  It’s an almost suspiciously good deal; for that little, it really shouldn’t be all that good, right?  But it’s so good.

Manpuku

The broth is rich and delicious, the sliced pork is super tender and infused with that great curry flavour, and the noodles are chewy and perfectly cooked.  The noodles are maybe a little bit bland, but other than that I honestly don’t have any complaints about this bowl.

Manpuku

It’s not the type of thing that’s going to blow anybody’s mind, but it’s rich, hearty, and delicious.  I’d be hard-pressed to think of a more satisfying meal for under six bucks in the GTA.

Crispy Fried Goodness at Mr. Tonkatsu

Mr. TonkatsuLocation: 520 Bloor Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.mrtonkatsu.com/

Tonkatsu is one of those dishes that’s very difficult to dislike.  You can coat pretty much anything in panko breading and then deep fry it, and that thing is going to be tasty.  A fried, panko-breaded pork cutlet?  Served with rice and a delicious dipping sauce?  Yeah, it’s hard to go wrong there.

And while Mr. Tonkatsu doesn’t serve the best tonkatsu I’ve ever had, they certainly do a solid job with it.

Mr. Tonkatsu

They have a couple of different pork options on the menu — loin and tenderloin, with the latter being an extra dollar.  I went with loin, which comes with a bowl of rice, tonkatsu sauce, shredded cabbage, and miso soup.

The panko breading on the tonkatsu had an absolutely perfect texture — it was golden and lightly crispy, with just enough heft to make its presence known, but not enough to overwhelm the meat.  But it was way underseasoned; it was actually pretty bland.

Mr. Tonkatsu

Thankfully, the tonkatsu sauce very thoroughly solves that problem.  I normally like that stuff — it’s kind of like a Japanese take on HP sauce — but the version here was something special, with way more complexity than the norm.

It’s good that the sauce was so delicious, because the meat needed a lot of it.  Aside from the distinct lack of flavour, the pork itself was overcooked and extremely dry.  A prodigious application of the tasty sauce goes a long way towards fixing those problems, but they are problems nonetheless.

Mr. Tonkatsu

Everything else was quite good.  The dressing for the cabbage was the usual sesame-infused concoction you’d expect; it was quite satisfying.  And the miso soup had a mildly fishy funk that I found to be delightful.

Scratching my Head at Konjiki Ramen

Konjiki Ramen
Location
: 5051 Yonge Street, North York
Websitehttps://konjikiramen.com/

I think ramen might just be my favourite food on the planet.  Burgers are obviously a strong contender, but there’s something about a truly great bowl of ramen that’s incomparable.

That’s why the ramen at Konjiki — a seriously acclaimed Tokyo ramen joint that has just opened their first outpost in Canada — was so disappointing.  Their specialty is ramen made with clam, shellfish, chicken and pork.  I was exceptionally excited to try it.

You can either get shio (salt) or shoyu (soy sauce); I went with shoyu, which was clearly a mistake.  The flavour was all salty soy sauce, which completely wipes out all of the nuances from the broth.

https://tastyburgers.ca/

The thing that’s so irresistible about a great bowl of ramen is how complex it is; it feels like you’re discovering something new with every mouthful.  But there was nothing new to discover here after the first slurp.  It certainly wasn’t bad, but the first sip was exactly the same as the last.

The noodles were quite good, at least, with a satisfying chewiness.  The texture was slightly off in a way that I couldn’t quite put my finger on, but that’s a minor complaint.

The chasu, on the other hand, wasn’t great.  It was super dry, and just didn’t add much to the bowl.

I also tried the gyoza (which were pork, shrimp, and cabbage dumplings) and the karaage (fried chicken), and they were both tasty, if nothing particularly mind-blowing.

Konjiki Ramen

I should also note that there were some service issues.  I was with a group of four, and two bowls of ramen came fairly quickly.  The other two took an extra fifteen minutes to arrive.  The waitress was extremely apologetic once she realized what was happening, and I got a free egg out of the deal (which was nicely cooked, with a gooey, just-barely-set yolk — but like the ramen itself, it was too salty).

Overall, not the greatest experience ever, and certainly not worth waiting for when there are several other ramen joints right nearby.