Location: 7 Queens Quay East, Toronto
If you haven’t checked it out yet, Smorgasburg is a local offshoot of an American outdoor food festival, and finds a whole bunch of tasty-looking eats crammed together near the waterfront. The vendors have been curated by food writer Suresh Doss, which means that unlike at a lot of food festivals like this, it’s a safe bet that everything is as good as it looks. And there’s a lot of good-looking food on offer, with dozens of vendors each serving up a handful of tempting dishes.
I got a couple of things from Nozomi, who describe themselves as serving “Asian inspired comfort food,” and yeah, it was top-notch.
I tried a couple of things. First up is the bulgogi kimchi cheesesteak, which is exactly what you want it to be. Sometimes fusion dishes can feel a bit like they’re cramming together two things that probably didn’t need to be combined, but everything here really works: the flavourful beef, the gooey cheese, and the zingy kimchi all go perfectly together. The soft roll does a great job of holding it all together without getting in the way. It’s a great dish.
The other thing I tried is a dish they call “pocos,” which based on my attempts to google this, seems to be something they made up. It’s basically a poke taco (it’s filled with salmon and seaweed), but with a crispy wonton-style shell instead of a tortilla. It’s super tasty, with the tenderness of the sauce-coated salmon contrasting very nicely with the crispy shell. Like with the cheesesteak, it takes something that could have come off as gimmicky and unnecessary, and makes it absolutely delightful.
Location: 420 Queen Street West, Toronto
The poke bowl at Pokito isn’t exactly the most photogenic dish of all time. I mean, look at that thing. It’s basically just a melange of green and brown, but hey — if it tastes good, who cares?
And yes, it definitely tastes good.
The menu at poke is extremely flexible; you can get a bowl of poke that’s customized to your liking, or you can do what I did and order one of signature bowls. I went with the Creamy Spicy Salmon Bowl, which the menu describes as “Rice, Salmon, Crab Salad, Seaweed, Edemame.” Once you choose from white or brown rice and a few optional toppings, you’re good to go.
I went with sushi rice and got a topping of crispy onions, but otherwise got the bowl as-is.
It’s quite tasty. It’s got a great variety of tastes and textures; at first it seems like there’s maybe too much stuff, but everything complements each other quite well. And the star of the show — the salmon — tastes fresh, works really well with the creamy spicy sauce (which is, sadly, only marginally spicy), and is abundant enough that you won’t have to worry about running out before the bowl is done.
Location: 367 King Street West, Toronto
I’m not sure why, but the poke trend that swept through the city a couple of years ago completely passed me by; this was actually my first time trying the now-iconic Hawaiian dish.
The version you’ll find at most Toronto restaurants tends to have a bit more stuff than the real-deal Hawaiian version, which is basically just raw fish, dressing, and maybe some onions and herbs mixed in.
The “Clever” poke bowl I had at Calii Love, on the other hand, comes with: “Raw Yellowfin tuna, gochujang broccoli, crispy shallot, wakame seaweed salad, jalapeno, edamame, sushi rice, wasabi aioli.”
So I don’t know how authentic it is (not at all, I’m thinking), but either way, I quite enjoyed it. There’s a whole lot going on, but all of the components were fresh and tasty, and the overall balance of flavours was really satisfying.
There was also enough of a balance of textures — the crunchy seaweed, the meaty tuna, the soft rice — that it never felt one-note or monotonous.
It actually reminded me a lot of Korean bibimbap, but with a very different flavour profile.