Quick Bites: Red Lobster, Tuck Shop Kitchen, Lola’s Gelato

Lobster-topped stuffed tilapia from Red Lobster
Lobster-topped stuffed tilapia from Red Lobster

I used to love Red Lobster as a kid.  It was my birthday restaurant for pretty much the entirety of my childhood, so I still have very warm, fuzzy memories of the place.  Every several years I feel the need to go back to indulge my nostalgia and remind myself that no, it’s not very good.  The lobster-topped stuffed tilapia was actually surprisingly terrible; the flavour was one-note salty and it was absolutely doused in an unpleasant cream sauce.  The rice tasted like one of those Uncle Ben’s packets from Dollarama that’s been reheated about a dozen times.  The whole thing was just a straight-up bummer.  I do still enjoy the biscuits, however, so there’s that.

Smoked Butternut Squash and Egg sandwich from Tuck Shop Kitchen
Smoked Butternut Squash and Egg sandwich from Tuck Shop Kitchen

Though they had more traditional breakfast sandwiches on their menu (which they serve only on Sundays), I was intrigued by this one, which comes topped with “Applewood smoked butternut squash ‘Bacon’, Canadian cheddar, egg and roasted garlic aioli on a toasted sesame bun.”  It’s a tasty sandwich, though like with most items labeled as vegetarian bacon, the squash did not resemble anything even vaguely related to bacon.  It was just a smoky slice of squash.  Still, it works quite well in the sandwich — my only complaint would be that it’s a very rich sandwich, and needs something acidic to cut that down a bit.  The menu lists pickled jalapenos as an optional one dollar addon, and I think that would be the thing this sandwich is missing.

Candy Cane Bark gelato from Lola's Gelato
Candy Cane Bark gelato from Lola’s Gelato

I feel like everyone (myself included!) sleeps on Lola’s because it’s so far out of the downtown core, but every time I go there I’m impressed by how great the gelato is.  This visit was no different; I was particularly struck with the quality of the gelato itself, which is incredibly rich and creamy.  And the flavour was great, with a nice balance of mintiness and chocolate.  Their assortment of flavours tends to be a bit more basic than places like Nani’s or Mizzica, but when the gelato itself is this great, who cares?

Holy Mint Ice Cream at Sweet Jesus

Sweet Jesus - Holy MintLocation: 25 The West Mall, Etobicoke (inside Sherway Gardens)
Website: https://www.sweetjesusicecream.com/

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.

Sweet Jesus - Holy Mint

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.

Sweet Jesus - Holy Mint

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.

Tasty Soft Serve Gelato at Bar Ape

Bar ApeLocation: 283 Rushton Road, Toronto

You wouldn’t be blamed for getting kinda bored of gelato in Toronto.  You seemingly can’t walk more than a few blocks without coming across a gelato shop in the city.  A lot of it is quite good, but after a while, it all starts to feel samey.

Enter: Bar Ape, which mixes things up by selling their gelato in soft serve form.  Of course, this means that they can only serve two flavours at a time (though chocolate-covered gelato bars are available in a variety of combinations), but it’s a worthwhile trade-off for something that’s so delightfully unique.

On this particular visit the two flavours were chocolate sorbet and fresh mint.  I got the twist, which comes with both.

Bar Ape

Sorbet is generally made without dairy, so I was concerned that it would be icy or thin, but it was rich and creamy, with a really nice dark chocolate flavour.

The fresh mint was even better; unlike 99 percent of mint ice creams, which are made with mint flavouring, this was clearly made with actual fresh mint leaves.  This gave it an interesting herby flavour that really made it stand out.  The combination between it and the chocolate was a home run.

The only real downside?  The wooden spoons.  They’re becoming more and more common in the city, and I feel bad for criticizing them — they’re obviously more environmentally-friendly than plastic — but the rough texture and mild woody flavour makes them an off-putting implement for eating ice cream.  Plastic (or metal) or GTFO.