Location: 100 City Centre Drive, Mississauga
Bao Mama currently has a temporary pop-up in the Food District at Square One (until April 16th), but if you miss them there, you can check out their permanent location in Scarborough. And you might want to do that, because their Filipino-inspired buns are thoroughly tasty.
The first one I tried was the hip hipon crispy shrimp bao, which features crispy fried shrimp topped with a zingy sauce and “Asian house slaw.” The shrimp was a bit overcooked, but this was otherwise quite satisfying, with a nice contrast between the fluffy bao and the crispy fried shrimp, not to mention the tasty slaw and the slightly sweet sauce.
I also tried the triple B braised beef asado bao, which is stuffed with a generous amount of tender braised beef, and topped with the house slaw and crispy onions. This was easily my favourite of the two; that ultra-tender, very flavourful beef is something special.
They have a tangy, sweet chili sauce you can get on the side, and this stuff is a must — it complements both baos perfectly, and does a great job of amping up the flavours and adding a mild kick.
Location: 3401 Dufferin Street, North York (inside Yorkdale Mall)
Though I hadn’t heard of iQ until very recently, they actually have nine locations as I write this, mostly downtown. The whole place kind of comes off as a parody of a trendy health food joint, with various bowls and avocado toasts on the menu, but based on the bowl I tried, it’s actually pretty tasty.
I got the Steelhead + Veg bowl: “roasted steelhead trout, avocado, roasted sweet potato, steamed broccoli, cucumber, pickled onion, jalapeno, brown rice, chopped romaine, lime wedge, carrot ginger dressing.”
It’s not bad at all. It’s got a good variety of tastes and textures, the dressing was nice and zippy, and the quality of the fish (which is served cold, like the rest of the ingredients here) is quite good. I don’t think it’s going to blow anyone’s mind, but for something that’s so blatantly healthy, it’s pretty satisfying.
Location: 25 The West Mall, Etobicoke (inside Sherway Gardens)
The latest featured flavour at Sweet Jesus is Holy Mint, and if you like the mint/chocolate combo, you’ll almost certainly enjoy it.
Personally, I like that combo, so yeah — I enjoyed it.
Holy Mint, as per the Sweet Jesus website: “Mint soft serve, chocolate mints, chocolate mint cookies, milk cookies, chocolate chips, chocolate sauce.”
It’s quite tasty. In particular, the mint soft serve is fantastic; it’s nice and creamy, and the mint flavour is perfect. Some mint desserts can be a bit overwhelming and toothpasty, but the flavour here is nicely balanced. It’s also sweet, but not too sweet. It’s great.
I will say that I’m a bit concerned about Sweet Jesus, particularly their Sherway Gardens location. I visited on Saturday — i.e. the last Saturday before Christmas — and the mall was, not surprisingly, wall-to-wall people. And yet Sweet Jesus was as deserted as it always seems to be. I’ll be very surprised if this particular location makes it through 2020, and that makes me sad.
Location: 100 City Centre Drive, Mississauga (inside Square One)
There’s something both delightful and bizarre about the presence of Gol’s Lanzhou Noodle in Square One’s food court. It’s hard to imagine a place serving legit Chinese hand-pulled noodles — nestled between a KFC and a cheesesteak joint — being able to exist in a suburban shopping mall like Square One even just a decade ago.
But it’s here now, and it’s surprisingly great.
I had the beef noodle soup, and I was shocked at how good it was. It’s not the best bowl of noodles you’ll ever eat, but it’s seriously tasty for something in a mall’s food court. It’s not even in Square One’s fancy new “Food District” — it’s in the plain old food court, right near places like A&W and Manchu Wok.
(Sorry, I know I’m harping on its location, but it kinda blows my mind.)
And yes, they serve real-deal hand-pulled noodles; they’re freshly pulled to order, and you can watch them do it (which is always an oddly hypnotic display).
It’s a tasty bowl. The soup is a bit too salty, but it has a clean beefy flavour with a nice hit of freshness from the cilantro. It comes with a healthy amount of chili oil on the side; I wish this stuff were spicier (it’s just barely hot), but it has a fantastic smoky/savoury flavour that really kicks up the flavour of the soup.
The sliced beef had a slight leftovery flavour, but was otherwise tender and enjoyable.
And the medium-thick noodles are great. They were ever-so-slightly on the soft side, but they were nice and hearty, with a satisfying level of chew.
Location: 4141 Dixie Road, Mississauga (inside Rockwood Mall)
I’ll admit that I had basically written off rolled ice cream as a gimmick. The one time I tried it previously, in Kensington Market, I thought it was fine, but a bit thin and mediocre.
Wow Wow Yum Yum, on the other hand, has me convinced that rolled ice cream can be just as tasty as the traditional churned variety.
If you’re not familiar with this type of ice cream, what makes it so distinct is that it’s essentially created right on the spot. It’s made by pouring the unfrozen ice cream mixture directly onto an ice-cold anti-griddle. The mixture then freezes almost instantly, and is rolled up and served in a cup.
It was way better than I thought it would be. It’s remarkably rich and creamy — if you close your eyes and forget about the gimmick, it’s just really good quality ice cream.
My only real issue here was the flavour. I tried their most popular, Nutella banana, which had the problem that plagues so many banana desserts — the banana they used was clearly underripe. That was a bit of a bummer.