On Hiatus (and a few quick reviews)

I’m traveling, so this site is going into hibernation for a while.  Feel free to follow my travels at Up in the Nusair (or don’t, I can’t force you… or can I??  No, I can’t… yet).

But first, here’s a few very quick reviews of places I didn’t get a chance to write full posts for before I left.

Cafe Landwer

Cafe Landwer

I actually visited this place a couple of times recently.  The first time I had the shakshuka, which was quite tasty and comes with an almost absurd amount of food.  It’s a little bit bland, but it comes with an ample amount of fresh bread for dipping, and the tahini sauce helps amp things up.

Cafe Landwer

The second time I had the Sinia Kebab, which features beef kebabs and some grilled veggies on top of freshly baked flatbread, topped with a tahini sauce.  This was quite tasty, though it really needs something acidic to cut through the richness.  I eventually wound up spooning in some of the salad that comes on the side.  I’m not sure if that’s the intent, but it helped.

Jelly Roll from Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons

It’s a jelly roll from Tim Hortons; it tastes exactly how you think it’s going to taste.  It’s basically a very minor upgrade over Little Debbie.  It’s pretty junky, but I enjoyed it.

Pho from I Love Pho 2

I Love Pho 2

I already wrote about the surprisingly great I Love Pho 2, and the pho confirms it: this is a place that knows their stuff.  The broth has a really great flavour, and the variety of meats they mix in are all perfectly cooked and tasty.

SoSo Food Club

SoSo Food Club

I tried a handful of dishes at SoSo Food Club.  Everything was tasty, but the highlight was the addictively cumin-tinged lamb biang biang noodles.  The strong cumin flavour, the tender lamb, and the extra-broad noodles all work very well together.  The mapo tofu, with its numbing heat and silky tofu, was another highlight.

The Drake Commissary

The Drake Commissary

The bread here is amazing.  Like at Terroni, you have to pay for it, but unlike at that place, it wasn’t infuriating.  It was well worth paying for.  I came here at brunch and had the trapper beans, which had a lot going on, but everything worked perfectly together.  In particular, the beans had a savoury richness (and a complete lack of sweetness) that made them quite unlike any baked beans I’ve had before.

Mango Pancakes from HK Sweets

HK Sweets

This was fine, I guess.  I actually had mango pancakes in Hong Kong, and they were ridiculously good.  I was hoping these would recapture that, even slightly, but no such luck.  Aside from the fact that they’re not actually pancakes (they’re crepes), the mango was underripe and crunchy, and I think the cream was actually Cool Whip or something similar.  Still, it was decent enough for what it was.

Chicken Shawarma from Ghadir Meat & Restaurant

Ghadir Meat & Restaurant

Oh man, this shawarma.  I actually visited this place based on a tweet from Suresh Doss — he called it the best shawarma in the GTA, which should really tell you all you need to know.  The man knows his food, and he’s certainly not wrong about Ghadir.  It’s amazing.  It’s got the perfect blend of tender meat with lots of crispy bits, tasty sauces, and fresh veggies.  If it’s not the best shawarma in the GTA, it’s certainly a very strong contender for that crown.

Middling Ramen at Sansotei Ramen

Santosei RamenLocation: 100 City Centre Drive, Mississauga (inside Square One)
Websitehttps://www.sansotei.com/

Sometimes, I just don’t have all that much to say about a particular dish.  When something is fine — not particularly good, but not particularly bad — it can be difficult to muster up all that much enthusiasm to write about it.

Santosei Ramen

The tonkotsu ramen at Santosei is one of those dishes.  The only exceptional thing about it is how exceptionally middle-of-the-road it is.

Santosei Ramen

There are some things about it that I liked, however.  You can choose thick or thin noodles — I went with thick, and they were chewy and satisfying.  And the broth has a rich porkiness that’s pretty tasty.  But it’s a bit one-note in its flavour, and it’s intensely salty.

The chasu wasn’t bad, but I think it needed to cook for slightly longer, as it had a vaguely rubbery texture.   The egg was nice, but ice cold.

Santosei Ramen

Even by the standards of ramen in Toronto, what they’re serving at Santosei is quite ho-hum.  But…  I don’t know.  It’s fine, I guess?

Delicious Ramen at Ryu’s Noodle Bar

Ryus Noodle BarLocation: 786 Broadview Avenue, Toronto
Websitehttp://ryusnoodlebar.com/

A couple of months ago, Ryu’s Noodle Bar made a bunch of headlines by being one of only two non-Japanese ramen joints invited to set up a stall in the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum in Japan.

Obviously, a visit was inevitable.

(And yes, technically the place is called Ryus Noodle Bar, without the apostrophe, but I’m not spelling it that way.  Get out of here with that.)

Ryus Noodle Bar

Their specialty is “RYUS rich shio,” which is similar to the porky tonkotsu style of ramen that’s so popular in Toronto, but made with chicken instead of pork.

It’s basically Touhenboku, but better (sorry, Touhenboku, but you’ve been bested).

The chicken-based broth at Ryu’s is fairly similar to what they’re serving at Touhenboku, but with a richer consistency and a more satisfying depth of flavour.

Ryus Noodle Bar

All the issues I had with Touhenboku — the one-note flavour and the greasy consistency — are completely absent here.  Yes, the bowl has an intense chicken flavour, but there’s enough going on that you never get sick of it.  Once you hit the bottom of the bowl, you’re sad to see it end.

And despite its incredible richness, there’s absolutely no greasiness.

I can’t say enough about the flavour — it’s basically like the best roast chicken that you’ve ever had, but condensed down into a soup.

Ryus Noodle Bar

The noodles and toppings are great, too.  It’s topped with a slice of chicken along with the typical chasu (which is delicious); the chicken is white meat, but it’s cooked perfectly, making it incredibly tender.

They suggest you add an egg to the bowl, which is an additional charge, but totally worth it.  The yolk is creamy, custardy, and perfect.  I wish it were a little bit hotter (it was actually quite cold, which is maybe my only significant complaint about the whole bowl), but that’s a minor issue.

Suffice it to say, Ryu’s is a very, very strong contender for the best bowl of ramen in the city.  It’s so good.

Decent Noodles at Origination Noodle House

Origination Noodle HouseLocation: 421 Dundas Street West, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.originationtoronto.ca/

The dish I ordered at Origination Noodle House turned out to be basically the exact same one I had at Dagu Rice Noodle.  I probably should have realized that it was the same dish, but it didn’t occur to me until I actually started eating.

It was fine.  I wasn’t crazy about it at Dagu Rice Noodle, and I was similarly unmoved by its charms here.

Origination Noodle House

The presentation was interesting.  It’s basically a bowl of noodle soup that features thick rice noodles along with various meats and veggies in a basic (and bubbling hot) broth.  But at Origination, it comes completely deconstructed.

Origination Noodle House

First, they bring you a plate with all of the various meats and vegetables, then they bring a bowl of noodles, and finally, a bubbling hot bowl of broth.  Everything gets dumped into the broth, and you’re good to go.

I think the version at Dagu Rice Noodle was slightly better, if only because the meat (and the tender pork in particular) was more satisfying.  It was otherwise very similar: chewy rice noodles, veggies of various textures that all taste about the same, and a simple broth that practically demands a very liberal application of chili oil.

Origination Noodle House

Like at Dagu, I didn’t dislike eating it, but I can’t say I’m in any particular rush to have it again.

Rich, Chickeny Ramen at Touhenboku Ramen

Touhenboku RamenLocation: 2459 Yonge Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.touhenboku.ca/

The ramen at Touhenboku is a little bit different than the norm.  Most of the ramen shops in Toronto serve tonkotsu-style ramen, in which pork bones are boiled for hours and hours until you wind up with a very rich, porky broth.

Touhenboku, on the other hand, subs out the pork for chicken, and yet still manages to retain that intense richness that you associate with tonkotsu.

Touhenboku Ramen

If your average bowl of chicken soup is the soup equivalent of white meat (lighter, with a more restrained flavour) then what they’re serving at Touhenboku is more like dark meat, with a really intense flavour and a fattier texture.

In fact, the soup might be a bit too fatty, with a heavy oiliness that’s borderline too much.  I’m certainly not going to complain about a very rich bowl of ramen, but this one was slightly too greasy.

Touhenboku Ramen

I ordered the sea salt ramen (a.k.a. shio ramen) from the “Tomo’s favourite” section of the menu.  It’s a pretty standard bowl, with the usual assortment of veggies, an egg, and chasu.

It’s (mostly) quite good.  The noodles were a bit too thin (thick is also an option, however — I think that’s the one to go with), and the flavour was slightly one-note in its rich chickeniness (chickeniness… that’s a word, right?), but it was a satisfying bowl of soup.

Touhenboku Ramen

Most notably, the very intense chicken flavour is pretty remarkable, and the thinly sliced chasu was ultra-tender and perfectly seasoned, with a great porky flavour.  The egg was also perfectly cooked, with a great gooey yolk, so there’s definitely more good here than bad.