Quick Bites: Aquarela Restaurant, Hey Noodles, Good Taste Casserole Rice

Aquarela Restaurant
Mofongo at Aquarela Restaurant

After realizing that I had never tried mofongo — a Puerto Rican dish in which plantain is mashed with garlic and crispy pork skin — I quickly discovered that Aquarela is pretty much the only game in town.  Thankfully, they seem to be doing a pretty great job of carrying the torch for the dish in the GTA; I have nothing to compare it to, but it’s tasty, that’s for sure.  It’s rich, creamy, garlicky and abundantly delicious.  It’s kinda like mashed potatoes on steroids.  It also comes with your choice of meat; I went with the crispy pork belly, and yeah, that’s a great combo.  Something to cut through the plate’s overwhelming fatty richness would have been nice, but that’s a minor complaint for a very tasty dish.

Hey Noodles
Noodle Soup at Hey Noodles

The noodles at Hey Noodles are great (as you’d hope for from a place with “noodles” right in the name of the restaurant), but what really blew my mind was the price.  I ordered the Chongqing Street Noodles, which is a very large bowl of soup that’s absolutely crammed with noodles, and that somehow only costs $6.99.  The egg was an extra dollar, but even still, that’s a fantastic deal, especially considering how tasty it is.  The noodles are nice and chewy, and the soup is delightfully zingy, with that addictive combo of spiciness and numbing heat that you get in this style of Chinese cuisine.

Good Taste Casserole Rice
Clay pot rice at Good Taste Casserole Rice

Clay pot rice is an extremely simple dish — it’s basically just plain white rice that’s topped with meat and cooked in the eponymous pot, which makes the bottom layer of rice nice and crispy.  It’s simple, but immensely satisfying when done well.  The one I ordered was  topped with eel and various meats and sausages, and yeah, it’s super satisfying.  The fluffy/crispy rice, the tasty meats, and the sauce they have on the side (which was in a soy sauce container, but I’m fairly certain was more than just soy sauce) was a great combo.

Tasty Noodle Soup at Szechuan Noodle Bowl

Szechuan Noodle Bowl
Location
: 400 Dundas Street East, Mississauga
Website: https://szechuannoodlebowl.com/

Look, I’m a simple man.  If you slap a bowl of freshly-made noodles in front of me, my level of happiness is going to go up by like a hundred percent.  Szechuan Noodle Bowl — which, as the name implies, specializes in bowls of freshly-made noodles — makes me a happy man.

Szechuan Noodle Bowl

I ordered the Hand-Made Noodles, which comes spicy or non-spicy with your choice of topping (beef, ground pork, pork intestines, Chinese pickle, or chicken).  I went spicy with ground pork, and yeah, it’s good.

Szechuan Noodle Bowl

Those noodles are great — they’re thick, chewy, and satisfying.  The soup is mildly spicy and has a nice zippy flavour, and the generous amount of tasty ground pork complements it perfectly.

Szechuan Noodle Bowl

I wish there had been some chili oil on the table — the soup was spicy, but could have been kicked up a bit — but aside from that it was a top-notch bowl of noodles.

Ketchup Ice Cream (and More!) at The Ex

Ketchup ice cream at The Ex
Location
210 Princes’ Boulevard, Toronto
Websitehttps://theex.com/

The Ex!  It’s back!  And clearly I’m not the only person excited about this, because despite going in the middle of the week after work, the place was as crowded as I’ve ever seen it.  Clearly, there’s a lot of pent-up demand for sketchy rides, junky food, and stores selling random knick-knacks.

Of course, I was there for the food, and yes, I tried the ketchup ice cream.

The Ex

Two dollar spaghetti from Primo Spaghetti

This place has been around forever, though this was my first time actually trying it.  It’s pretty much exactly what you’d think a two dollar serving of spaghetti at a carnival would be: the sauce tasted like the cheapest stuff you can buy at the supermarket, and the spaghetti was overcooked mush.

The Ex

Deep fried perogies from The Perogy Chef

This is another place that’s been around forever; I’ve tried this one before and I knew it would be good, and indeed it was.  The perogies are tender, tasty, and slightly crispy on their exterior, and they’re doused in an oily sauce and a bunch of sweet caramelized onions.  The sour cream on the side adds a nice creamy zing that rounds things out quite well.  It’s a tasty snack.

The Ex

Flamin’ Hot Chicken Sandwich from Fried Chicken Sandwiches

This place promises a chicken sandwich that’s tossed in chipotle mayo and coated in Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.  Alas, the Cheetos (or Cheeto crumbs, more accurately) are just mounded on top, which isn’t quite as fun from an appearance or a taste perspective.  The whole thing is fine — it’s not the best fried chicken sandwich I’ve ever had, and it’s not the worst — but it barely has any Flamin’ Hot taste or texture.

The Ex

Viet Burrito from Pho 88

This is less of a burrito and more of an overstuffed fresh roll, but it’s still pretty tasty; it’s crammed with noodles, various veggies, chicken, and a whole spring roll, and it’s wrapped in rice paper.  It would have been nice if the peanut sauce were in the wrap instead of on the side (it’s a bit dry), but otherwise this was pretty good.  It’s basically like a Vietnamese vermicelli noodle bowl, but crammed into a handheld package.

The Ex

Fried cheese curds from the Midway

I wasn’t expecting it, but this might have been the best thing I ate at the Ex this year.  The curds are gooey and tasty, and the super satisfying crispy exterior doesn’t overwhelm.  It’s basically like a mozzarella stick, but better.  There’s not much more to say about this one.  It’s fried cheese.  It’s great.

The Ex

Ketchup ice cream from the Midway

Of course I tried the ketchup ice cream.  How could I not?  They also serve mustard ice cream; I was hoping to get both in a twist, but alas, that wasn’t an option.  I suppose I could have ordered one of each, but one of these things costs twelve bucks and I wasn’t about to spend over twenty dollars on novelty ice cream.  Anyway, it wasn’t bad!  Would I eat it again?  Absolutely not, but considering how disgusting this could have been, the fact that it’s actually pretty okay is kind of a miracle.  It has an unmistakable but (and this is key) not overwhelming ketchup flavour, which combines surprisingly well with the ice cream.  The ketchup flavour is present enough that you know exactly what you’re eating, but subtle enough to let the sweet ice cream be the star of the show.  It’s not gross!

Quick Bites: Pho Tien Thanh, Ice Creamonology, Nani’s Gelato

Pho Tien Thanh
BBQ Pork on Vermicelli at Pho Tien Thanh

Not a ton to say about this one — aside from the pork being a bit dry, this was a tasty version of a classic dish.  Most of the herbs and veggies are under the noodles, so you’ll just have to take my word for it, but there was a really good proportion of meat, noodles, herbs, and vegetables.  The meat was a little bit sweet and nicely savoury, and the whole thing was thoroughly enjoyable, if nothing too mind-blowing.

Ice Creamonology
Blueberry White Chocolate Cheesecake at Ice Creamonology

I wasn’t crazy about Ice Creamonology on my first visit, but I’ve been back a couple of times and it’s definitely getting better (or maybe it’s just growing on me?).  The ice cream is nice and creamy, and while it’s still a bit stretchier than your average scoop, it’s not as gummy as it was the first time I tried it.  I will say, however, that I haven’t been back since they’ve moved to Queens Quay, so I have no idea how it holds up now.

Nani's Gelato
Pumpkin Pie soft serve at Nani’s Gelato

I recently mentioned that the Pumpkin Pie Blizzard from Dairy Queen is the king of Blizzards, and this is basically just that, but a billion times better.  I tried this last October (I’m still working my way through my backlog since the blog came back from hiatus);  if you like pumpkin pie, the next time Nani’s brings this back (hopefully sooner than next October), you need to try it.  It’s so good.

Pho Ngoc Yen is a Hidden Gem

Pho Ngoc Yen
Location
: 1090 Kamato Road, Mississauga
Website: https://sites.google.com/orderup.ai/ngocyenrestaurant/home

Pho Ngoc Yen is one of those restaurants that must rely pretty much entirely on word of mouth; hidden away in an industrial neighbourhood in Mississauga, it’s basically in the middle of nowhere.  The odds of you stumbling onto it are quite miniscule.

Pho Ngoc Yen

But yeah, it’s definitely got the word of mouth that it needs, and I can see why — it’s great.

Pho Ngoc Yen

I got the Pho Ngoc Yen Dac Biet, which the menu describes as “NY’s special: rare beef, beef balls and boneless beef shank with rice noodles.”

Pho Ngoc Yen

It’s a great bowl of pho.  The generous amount of meat is tender and tasty, and the broth is beefy, richly spiced, and thoroughly delicious.  The noodles were slightly on the soft side, and my bowl was missing the beef balls, but the broth and the beef were both so tasty that this never felt like a big issue.