Asian Fusion at the Smorgasburg Food Festival

Nozomi at SmorgasburgLocation: 7 Queens Quay East, Toronto
Website: https://www.smorgasburgtoronto.com/

If you haven’t checked it out yet, Smorgasburg is a local offshoot of an American outdoor food festival, and finds a whole bunch of tasty-looking eats crammed together near the waterfront.  The vendors have been curated by food writer Suresh Doss, which means that unlike at a lot of food festivals like this, it’s a safe bet that everything is as good as it looks.  And there’s a lot of good-looking food on offer, with dozens of vendors each serving up a handful of tempting dishes.

Nozomi at Smorgasburg

I got a couple of things from Nozomi, who describe themselves as serving “Asian inspired comfort food,” and yeah, it was top-notch.

Nozomi at Smorgasburg

I tried a couple of things.  First up is the bulgogi kimchi cheesesteak, which is exactly what you want it to be.  Sometimes fusion dishes can feel a bit like they’re cramming together two things that probably didn’t need to be combined, but everything here really works: the flavourful beef, the gooey cheese, and the zingy kimchi all go perfectly together.  The soft roll does a great job of holding it all together without getting in the way.  It’s a great dish.

Nozomi at Smorgasburg

The other thing I tried is a dish they call “pocos,” which based on my attempts to google this, seems to be something they made up.  It’s basically a poke taco (it’s filled with salmon and seaweed), but with a crispy wonton-style shell instead of a tortilla.  It’s super tasty, with the tenderness of the sauce-coated salmon contrasting very nicely with the crispy shell.  Like with the cheesesteak, it takes something that could have come off as gimmicky and unnecessary, and makes it absolutely delightful.

Chodang Soon Tofu

Chodang Soon Tofu - tofu kimchi
Location: 5130 Dundas Street West, Toronto
Website: None

Ah, Chowhound.  As a resource for discovering hidden gems, it is second-to-none.  Case in point: Chodang Soon Tofu.

The place specializes in fiery red soups that come to the table in a piping hot stone bowl; it’s a roiling inferno of a soup that is pretty much guaranteed to burn your tongue.  As I’ve had the soup here a couple of times (and it is quite tasty, despite the pain), I decided to get something different.  I went with the Tofu Kimchi, which is a bit more expensive than the other items on the menu at $12.98 (all the soups are eight bucks).

Korean food is traditionally served with a variety of side dishes — banchan, in Korean — and they definitely don’t skimp on that here.  Before the main course, we received soft, fresh tofu with a soy-sauce based dipping sauce, two different types of kimchi, bean sprouts, and a breaded, fried fish.   All tasty stuff, and all free with the meal, so it’s a pretty great value.

And as it turns out, the Tofu Kimchi was more expensive because it is clearly meant to be shared.  I’m not sure if the picture adequately conveys the scale of this dish, but it was massive.  I got about halfway through and had to throw in the towel.  

It’s a fairly simple dish; stir-fried kimchi with thin strips of pork belly and green onions, surrounded by soft, creamy tofu.  It seemed a bit simple when I first started eating it, but the spicy kimchi and pork mixed with the creamy tofu turned out to be a suprisingly addictive combo.

Chodang Soon Tofu - the menu Chodang Soon Tofu - the restaurant Chodang Soon Tofu - tofu kimchi Chodang Soon Tofu - fried fish Chodang Soon Tofu - kimchi Chodang Soon Tofu - fresh tofu