Delicious and Unique pasta at Shiso Tree Cafe

Shiso Tree CafeLocation: 3160 Steeles Avenue East, Markham
Websitehttps://www.facebook.com/ShisoTree/

Italian/Japanese fusion might sound odd on paper, but aside from the fact that Italian restaurants are actually quite popular in Japan, Shiso Tree Cafe is amazing.  All you need is one bite of their food to put any doubts to bed.

Shiso Tree Cafe

I tried a couple of starters: the tera-goma tebasaki (perfectly cooked chicken wings with a crunchy exterior and an addictively sweet glaze) and the tarutaru fries (amazing fries with homemade tartar sauce for dipping).  But their pasta is the real reason to come here.

Shiso Tree Cafe

I had the nori tsukudani: “braised nori sauce, onsen tamago, ikura, scallops, mentsuyu.”

It was so good, with the vibrant Japanese flavours making it really stand out from your average bowl of pasta.

The braised nori sauce tasted exactly how you’d hope it would: like nori, but in sauce form.  There’s something a bit odd (and very delightful) about taking such a familiar flavour and putting it in a new context.

Shiso Tree Cafe

And the onsen tamago (which is kind of like a silkier version of a poached egg, with a white that’s just barely set) was the perfect compliment.  It essentially liquefies into the pasta, coating the noodles and giving them an eggy richness.

The sweet, perfectly-cooked scallops match really well with the seaweed-infused sauce, and the greens add crunchy pops of freshness.  The pasta itself is, as you’d hope, perfectly al dente.

It’s certainly an unusual bowl of pasta, but it’s one where all of the flavours have been so perfectly considered.  It’s amazing.

Shiso Tree Cafe

I finished with the chestnut creme brulee, which was a fairly ingenious spin on a classic dessert; the rich chestnut flavour complimented the custard perfectly, and the crackily torched sugar on top was as satisfying as ever.

Satisfying Eats at Running Pig

Running PigLocation: 3636 Steeles Avenue East, Markham
Website: None

Running Pig is a no-frills take-out joint that serves various meat options and veggies on top of rice.  It’s not the best thing you’ll ever eat, but it’s a hefty amount of meat and rice for $7.50; it’s hard to go wrong there.

Running Pig

I got the pork knuckle bento, which comes with a generous pile of pork knuckles (one is missing from my photo — I dug right in then realized I forgot to take a picture), a hard-boiled egg, tofu skin, and a variety of veggies on rice.

Pork knuckles can be mostly collagen without a whole lot of meat (particularly the way they’re cut here); if it’s not properly rendered, it’s going to be rubbery.  And while these were mostly okay, they definitely could have braised for a little bit longer.

Running Pig

The various veggies and tofu were all tasty enough, and combined with the rice, it makes for a solid meal.  Nothing here particularly stands out, but it’s cheap, quick, and satisfying.  Sometimes that’s enough.

Ultra-Chewy Noodles at Potato Noodle Soup of Bai

Potato Noodle Soup of BaiLocation: 4350 Steeles Avenue East, Markham
Website: None

I’ve had a lot of noodles over the course of my life, but — until now — I don’t think I’d ever tried potato noodles.

As the name implies, potato noodles are made with potato starch, which gives them a much, much chewier consistency than the norm.

Though I’ve heard good things about the cold noodles Potato Noodle Soup of Bai, I decided to go with the noodle soup — mostly because “noodle soup” is right there in the name.

Potato Noodle Soup of Bai

I got the plain potato noodle soup, which comes with noodles, meatballs, fish balls, half an egg, and various odds and ends in a fiery broth.

The noodles are really interesting.  There’s a Korean dish called jjolmyeon that features noodles that are so incredibly chewy you have to cut them with scissors before you start eating.  These kind of reminded me of a thicker, slightly less chewy version of those.

Potato Noodle Soup of Bai

The broth was a bit saltier than I’d like, but it was otherwise quite tasty, with a spicy kick and an almost creamy richness that you only get from a stock that’s been simmered for a long, long time.

The whole thing was fairly tasty, though with Sun’s Kitchen just a few steps away, I don’t know that I’d ever eat here again.

Delicious Mochi at Sasaki Fine Pastry

Sasaki Fine PastryLocation: 3160 Steeles Avenue East, Markham
Websitehttps://www.instagram.com/sasakifinepastry/

Sasaki Fine Pastry is the latest gem I’ve discovered thanks to the inimitable Suresh Doss, who specializes in sussing out the best non-Western eats in the city, usually out in the ‘burbs.  If you’re on Twitter and you’re not following him, I don’t even know what you’re doing with your life.

Sasaki Fine Pastry

Sasaki specializes in daifuku, a Japanese dessert in which soft, chewy mochi is stuffed with various sweet fillings.  On this particular visit they had seven flavours available; I tried mango cream, strawberry cream, yuzu cream, and sesame cream.

It’s easily the best mochi I’ve ever had.  I like mochi, but it can sometimes be a little too gummy.  But the version here had a delightfully delicate chew that almost melts in your mouth.

Sasaki Fine Pastry

The subtly sweet, creamy fillings were all great, though the strawberry — which featured a mixture of strawberry cream and sweet red bean filling — was the highlight.

Sasaki Fine Pastry

I also tried the red bean and cream doriyaki, which features a filling of sweet red bean and whipped cream that’s sandwiched between two little pancakes.  Like the daifuki, this was super fresh, subtly sweet, and extremely delicious.

Quality Noodle Soup at Big Beef Bowl

Big Beef BowlLocation: 8362 Kennedy Road, Unionville
Website: None

Big Beef Bowl is another place that serves fresh, chewy noodles, which means I’m pretty much going to love it by default.  I’m very easy to please when it comes to a big bowl of delicious noodles.

Big Beef Bowl

I got the braised beef brisket noodles, which comes with your choice from six types of noodles: round or flat, with three thicknesses each.  I got the round noodles in a medium thickness.  And they were great — they might have been ever-so-slightly too soft, but they were otherwise hearty and chewy and satisfying.

Big Beef Bowl

The soup itself wasn’t anything too special, but it got the job done.  It was a bit spicy by default, but was improved immeasurably by a few hearty spoonfuls of the chili oil they’ve got on the table.  You always have to be careful with that particular condiment, because depending on the place, its spiciness ranges from a moderate tingle to volcano hot.   The one at Big Beef Bowl isn’t particularly spicy, but it has a satisfying toasty flavour that really improves the soup.

There were also several chunks of fatty, immensely tender beef brisket.  I could have eaten a whole pile of these.