Location: 4750 Yonge Street, North York (in the Emerald Park food court)
Last year, I checked out Sang-ji Fried Bao and tried the scallion oil noodles and the sang-ji bao (fried soup-filled pork buns). I thought it was tasty enough, but nothing particularly mind-blowing.
Well, I just had the exact same meal at Zheng’s Juicy Fried Buns, and suddenly I’m appreciating Sang-ji Fried Bao so, so much more.
Here’s a one word review of the meal I just had: yikes.
I started with the scallion oil noodles, which tasted like plain instant noodles tossed in a whole bunch of soy sauce (and a buttload of oil); it was greasy and one-note salty with absolutely none of the sweet complexity you associate with this dish. The deeply caramelized scallions were present, but they couldn’t do much to fight the face-punch of saltiness from the noodles themselves. It doesn’t help that the undercooked instant noodles were a complete bummer to eat.
The pan-fried buns weren’t much better. The wrapper was thick, gummy and unpleasantly doughy, and the would-be crispy bottom was actually just dry, like a stale cracker. The soupy filling was completely bland (it needed a lot of vinegar to be even remotely edible), and the pork was surprisingly tough and flavourless.
Sang-ji Fried Bao is about two kilometres north of here, and trust me: that’s the one you want. There’s no comparison.
Location: 1800 Sheppard Avenue East, North York (inside Fairview Mall)
It’s hard to go wrong with a Japanese cheese tart. It’s basically just a little cheesecake, and it’s delicious. If you’re a cheesecake fan, there’s absolutely no reason cheese tarts shouldn’t be in your life.
The version they sell at Pablo might not be the best one I’ve ever had, but it’s pretty darn tasty.
The filling is sweet but not too sweet, with a rich cheesecake flavour. I wish it had been a bit creamier, but it’s quite good.
The crust could have been a bit more crisp, but again, it’s very good: it’s nice and buttery, with an almost shortbread-like flavour. The crispy crust and the creamy cheesecake is a fairly irresistible combo.
Location: 3507 Bathurst Street, North York
I assumed I was in good hands when the woman behind the counter at Gouter spoke with a heavy French accent. Not that every French person can automatically make delicious pastries, but it made me think that the place was probably legit.
Yeah, about that.
I had the raspberry croissant, and it was fine. I certainly didn’t dislike eating it. But there wasn’t a single element that was better than okay.
The first sign that something was amiss was the paper bag it came in. The croissant was in there for about twenty minutes before I ate it. A good croissant should be buttery enough to immediately leave grease stains on a paper bag, but that bag was pristine.
The second sign that something was amiss came when I tore it in half and saw that it was filled with about a jar’s worth of raspberry jam. That’s too much jam. And I mean, it wasn’t unpleasant to eat, but there’s no balance there.
And as suspected, the croissant — though mildly buttery — wasn’t nearly buttery enough. It also had zero exterior crispiness other than at the very ends, and was generally lacking in flavour.
The overall experience was basically like eating a slice of Wonder Bread slathered with raspberry jam. There just wasn’t much to it — the lack of textural contrast and the one-note flavour was a bit of a bummer.
Location: 3401 Dufferin Street, North York (inside Yorkdale Mall)
Mii is a small fast food chain specializing in quick Vietnamese eats. As far as I know it’s only in mall food courts, which kinda makes you think it’s not going to be very good.
(Also, the name seems like a lawsuit from Nintendo waiting to happen. It’s a bit puzzling.)
Well, I just tried their classic banh mi, and I was shocked at how much I enjoyed it. It’s certainly not the best banh mi I’ve ever had, but it gets pretty much everything right, and very little wrong.
Basically: it’s not the bastardization you’d expect from the food court in Yorkdale. It’s legit.
It’s seven bucks, so it’s somewhat pricey by banh mi standards, but it’s a hefty sandwich; considering the location, you really can’t expect it to be much cheaper.
Everything is as it should be: a nice slathering of butter, a healthy amount of chunky pate, a variety of cold cuts, and a good proportion of veggies and cilantro. There was some kind of dark sauce that was a little bit too sweet for my taste, but aside from that, it was a tasty sammich.
The baguette was quite good, too; maybe a little bit too crunchy on its exterior, but otherwise soft and fresh.
Location: 1 Byng Avenue, North York
Sang-ji bao are basically like a traditional soup dumpling’s (a.k.a. xiao long bao) more rugged cousin. They’re pan fried, with a slightly thicker skin and a dark brown crust on the bottom. Soup dumplings are delicious, but if you want something a bit more hearty, sang-ji bao’s got your back.
And as you’d probably guess from the name, Sang-ji Fried Bao specializes in the stuff. I was pretty excited to try it.
We started with the scallion oil noodles, an absolutely delightful flavour-bomb of oily (but not overly greasy) noodles topped with peanuts and fried scallions. The peanuts offer a nice crunchy contrast to the chewy noodles, and the imposingly dark fried scallions are packed with flavour and immensely satisfying.
I liked this dish even more than the fried dumplings.
The sang-ji bao were certainly nothing to scoff at — they’re pleasingly porky and packed with scalding hot soup. The wrapper is a bit too thick, however, and the whole thing is a touch on the bland side.
Still, it’s got that satisfyingly crispy bottom, and the whole thing is tasty enough, even if it’s not the best version of these things that I’ve ever had.