Location: 21 Grenville Street, Toronto
Hana Sushi is gimmicky AF. But it’s fun. It’s essentially a conveyor belt sushi place, but all of the food you order comes on a tiny little train that runs on a separate set of tracks.
You also order everything on a tablet, so if you want to eat sushi with as little human interaction as possible, this is your place (though the waitress has to explain the whole system to you, and then brings your bill at the end of the meal, so it’s not quite a human-free experience).
As for the sushi itself: it’s fine. It’s about on par with the hundreds of passable sushi joints across the GTA, so it’s really only the gimmick that sets it apart. The rice was underseasoned and a little bit too dense, but the quality of the fish was decent, and the rolls were well put-together.
I had a variety of nigiri and rolls; the only one that really stood out was the torched salmon, which had a nicely smoky flavour from the flame, but which was still melt-in-your-mouth tender.
Location: 105 McCaul Street, Toronto
Does the world need yet another Manpuku post from me? Probably not! (This would be post number three, for those keeping count.) Am I going to do it anyway?
Yes. Yes I am.
I feel like I have to keep telling everyone I can about this place, because it continually impresses me with its delightful combination of tasty eats and ultra-affordable prices.
On this particular visit I tried the curry don, which features a heaping serving of rice topped with a generous amount of beef curry.
As with everything else here, it’s quite good. The mild curry isn’t going to knock anyone’s socks off, but it’s rich, tasty, and abundantly satisfying. It comes with a whole bunch of tender, thinly-shaved beef and is, unsurprisingly, an amazing deal at $6.99 (which I guess is actually kind of expensive by Manpuku’s standards).
Location: 515 Bloor Street West, Toronto
After ramen disappointments at Konjiki and Kinton, I was starting to worry that a really good bowl of ramen might be impossible to find in the city.
Well, here’s Santouka, riding in to save the day. Their ramen certainly wasn’t the best I’ve ever had, but it was a solid bowl of noodles. I enjoyed it.
They specialize in tonkotsu ramen, in which pork bones have been boiled down for hours until you get a rich and creamy broth. They have shio (salt), shoyu (soy sauce), miso, or spicy miso. I went with shio.
It’s a quality bowl of soup. The broth doesn’t quite have the magical complexity that you’ll find in the best versions of this dish, but it had a rich porky flavour (without the heavy greasiness that can bog down tonkotsu ramen), and a good amount of salt that doesn’t overwhelm.
The noodles were slightly thinner than I’d like, but they have a nice chewy bite. They’re satisfying.
The egg is an add-on, but it’s worth shelling out the extra cash; it’s nicely seasoned and perfectly-cooked, with a gooey but — and this is the key — not runny yolk.
Location: 510 Yonge Street, Toronto
Creme brulee: delicious. Crepes: delicious. A creme brulee crepe? Yes please.
I will, however, admit that I was skeptical; would this be one of those Instagram-friendly food mash-ups that never should have been mashed up?
Nope, it’s exactly as delicious as you’re hoping it’ll be. Actually, no; more delicious.
My only real complaint is that the top didn’t have the sugary, crackily crispiness that you’re looking for, despite being thoroughly torched.
Other than that, it was top notch. The custard was a little bit too sweet — I suspect that it came from a mix — but it was still quite tasty, and certainly got the job done.
There was also quite a bit of it; every bite had a generous amount of custard, even right at the bottom of the cone.
The crepe itself was the highlight; it was freshly made, with a chewy interior and a lightly crispy exterior that set it apart from the norm. It complimented the custard perfectly.
I enjoyed it so much that I went back a few days later for round two. I tried the Mango Raspberry, and it was just as good as the creme brulee. The crepe had the same addictive crispy/chewy contrast, and the filling featured a great balance of tartness and sweetness, with perfectly ripe chunks of fruit.
Location: 4750 Yonge Street – Unit 119, North York
I’ve mentioned before that the Japanese Netflix TV show, Kantaro: The Sweet Tooth Salaryman (about a Japanese businessman who’s obsessed with dessert), is pretty much the best. It’s frequently hilarious and features some mesmerizing food porn, not to mention enough slickly-shot footage of Tokyo to make you want to get on the next flight. It’s great.
He eats at least one dessert per episode, and it all looks amazing. Sadly, much of it is really difficult (if not impossible) to find in the GTA.
One of the desserts he eats is called ohagi, and you can actually find it at HCafe, a tiny little Japanese dessert shop near Yonge and Sheppard.
It’s pretty unique. It features a ball of chewy rice (a mix of glutinous rice and regular rice) surrounded by a sweet red bean paste.
It’s not quite like any dessert I’ve ever had — it’s chewy, almost like mochi, but with a coarser texture thanks to the grains of rice. The sweetness is very subtle, and though the flavour is mostly beany, there’s an underlying fruitiness.
It’s odd, but also surprisingly delicious. If you like mochi, this hits a lot of the same notes.