Location: 235 Augusta Avenue, Toronto
I recently had a pide at Byblos Uptown that was good but not great; now here comes Best Istanbul Restaurant to show them how it’s really done.
I tried a couple of pides, and they were both seriously delicious. There was the Sucuk Pide (“Turkish flatbread with mozzarella, sucuk meat and eggs”) and the Veggie Pide (“mozzarella, spinach and feta cheese”).
Both were quite good, though the sucuk was my favourite of the two. If you’re unfamiliar with sucuk (which is sometimes spelled sujuk), it’s a really tasty, intensely-spiced sausage that’s kind of like a turbo-charged version of pepperoni. It’s so good.
It works perfectly on the pide, with its assertive flavour matching perfectly with the mild, gooey cheese. The crust is great too, with a nice exterior crispiness and a satisfyingly chewy/fluffy interior. I didn’t notice the egg, however; either they forgot about it (the picture on the menu shows a full egg yolk on the pide), or they mixed it right in with the cheese (though it didn’t taste like they did).
The Veggie was quite tasty as well, though the crust was slightly thinner and crispier, which wasn’t quite as satisfying as the other one. It was also a bit underseasoned, though a spritz from the accompanying lemon wedge easily took care of that problem.
Location: 291 Augusta Avenue, Toronto
Is it still butter chicken if it doesn’t have butter or chicken? That’s the question at TVX, a vegan joint in Kensington Market that serves what it calls “plant-based South Asian cuisine.”
Mostly, they serve a variety of vegan curries that come with rice and paratha roti. One of those curries is the aforementioned butter-and-chickenless butter chicken, which subs in fried cauliflower for chicken.
So is it still butter chicken? Not really. But is it tasty? Definitely.
It doesn’t taste quite like any butter chicken I’ve had before — the sauce is tangier and less creamy — but for what it is, it’s quite good. It’s garlicky, very spicy (you can choose your heat level — I went with the spiciest, and it wasn’t kidding around) and surprisingly satisfying.
The fried cauliflower works really well — it’s battered and fried, with a nice crunchy exterior and a meaty interior. It doesn’t even vaguely resemble the chicken in a traditional butter chicken, but the hearty crunch stands up nicely to the sauce, and it’s delicious regardless.
The paratha roti was also untraditional but tasty. It’s thicker and more substantial than any paratha roti I’ve had before, but it still had that satisfying combo of crispy, greasy exterior and chewy interior that you’re looking for.
Location: 28 Kensington Avenue, Toronto
I’ve tried to get the cinnamon bun from Fika Cafe a few times, and it’s been sold out every time.
I finally got one. It was worth the wait.
Fika Cafe is a Swedish bakery and coffee shop in Kensington Market; they sell a Swedish-style cinnamon bun, and it’s fantastic.
It’s basically like a cross between a Swedish cardamom bun and a more traditional cinnamon roll, and it’s so damn good. It tastes more strongly of cinnamon than cardamom, but that slightly floral cardamom taste is definitely there; it’s a delightful balance.
Everything else about it is pretty much perfect — it has the perfect amount of sweetness, with a light sugary glaze and additional pops of sweetness and texture from the pearl sugar on top. It’s pretty restrained, however, so if you’re expecting a Cinnabon-esque sugar-bomb, look elsewhere.
The pastry itself is dense but not too dense, with a nice chewy texture and just the right amount of fluffiness. And of course, the aforementioned cinnamon/cardamom balance is just right. It’s one of the best pastries I’ve had in a while.
Location: 160 Baldwin Street, Toronto
Sukoshi Mart is a little Japanese convenience store in Kensington Market that sells hard-to-find Japanese goods. They also sell freshly-made taiyaki, a waffle-like dessert that’s traditionally filled with either red bean or custard.
I like this place. If you’re looking for Japanese snacks or candy, it’s worth a visit.
The taiyaki, on the other hand? Not so much.
It’s fine. It’s perfectly edible, but the exterior is dense and doughy, and the red bean is overly sweet. It’s also misshapen and haphazard, so it doesn’t even have the (usually) delightful visual component. It’s not the best.
Location: 61 Kensington Avenue, Toronto
Rasta Pasta serves, as the name implies, a fusion of Caribbean and Italian cuisine. It’s a bizarre amalgamation of flavours, but they’ve been a Kensington Market hotspot for years, so they’re obviously doing something right.
Their pasta wasn’t available when I visited, so I kept it simple and ordered the jerk chicken sandwich, dubbed the Vatican.
The sandwich consists of saucy jerk chicken and coleslaw in a soft roll that’s nicely crispified thanks to a panini press. It’s quite good.
However, despite the presence of a functioning grill at the front of the restaurant, the chicken tastes more braised than grilled. It’s extremely tender, and the jerk sauce is flavour-packed and mildly spicy, but the crispy exterior and smoky flavour that you expect from jerk chicken is completely absent.
And yet it’s so tasty that it isn’t particularly an issue. The sweet coleslaw complements the savoury chicken really well, and the crispy roll is the perfect vehicle. It’s a very satisfying sandwich.