Delightfully Cheap (and Delicious) Noodles at Manpuku

ManpukuLocation: 105 McCaul Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.manpuku.ca/

I just got a bowl of curry udon noodles from Manpuku, and they were both super cheap and super delicious.  What’s better than that?  (I’ll answer for you: nothing.  Nothing is better than that.)

For six bucks, you get a very generous amount of udon noodles in a rich, curry-flavoured broth with some tender potatoes and a heaping pile of sliced pork.  It’s an almost suspiciously good deal; for that little, it really shouldn’t be all that good, right?  But it’s so good.

Manpuku

The broth is rich and delicious, the sliced pork is super tender and infused with that great curry flavour, and the noodles are chewy and perfectly cooked.  The noodles are maybe a little bit bland, but other than that I honestly don’t have any complaints about this bowl.

Manpuku

It’s not the type of thing that’s going to blow anybody’s mind, but it’s rich, hearty, and delicious.  I’d be hard-pressed to think of a more satisfying meal for under six bucks in the GTA.

Overpriced Thai Food at Kiin

KiinLocation: 326 Adelaide Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.kiintoronto.com/

Kiin is the latest Thai restaurant in the burgeoning restaurant empire of Jeff and Nuit Regular (they also own Sukhothai, Pai, and Sabai Sabai).  It’s one of those places where you order a few things and share, which is nice because you get to try more stuff (though you inevitably end up spending more, which is a bigger issue than usual at Kiin).

Kiin

The first thing we tried was the pandan chicken, which features tender pieces of chicken that have been wrapped in a pandan leaf (you can eat those leaves, though they recommend that you remove them).  It comes with a bowl of sweet chili sauce for dipping.  It’s a tasty dish, but definitely not a home run — the chicken, though nice and tender, was quite plain, and the chili sauce was standard-issue and nothing to write home about.

Kiin

Next up was the pork jowl, which was a definite upgrade over the chicken.  It’s crammed with classic Southeast Asian flavours: it’s a little fishy and a little sweet, with a nice punch of sourness to round it out.  But it’s too assertive, and the balance of flavours is off.  It’s tasty, but the slices of pork (which are slightly tougher than they should be) are completely wiped out.

Kiin

The final dish was kua hang gai, which was a braised chicken stir fry.  No complaints here — the chicken was super tender, and the flavours were well-rounded and satisfying.  We got this with one order of jasmine rice and another of roti.  The deep-fried roti was crispy and tasty, but it was closer to fry bread than standard roti.  I liked it, but a more traditional preparation would have been preferable.

I mentioned that price was an issue.  The pandan chicken was $15, the jowl was $17, the stir fry was $26, the rice was $5, and roti was $6.  With tax and tip, it was approaching a hundred bucks, which is just way too much money for the calibre of food that we were served.  Not that any of the dishes were bad, but those are fine-dining prices, and the food wasn’t at that level.

Chewy, Hand-Pulled Noodles at Sun’s Kitchen

Sun's KitchenLocation: 4300 Steeles Avenue East, Markham (inside Pacific Mall)
Website: None

There are few things that are more satisfying than a really good bowl of chewy, hand-made noodles.  And Sun’s Kitchen in the Pacific Mall definitely knows how to do it.

If you come at the right time, you can see the noodle maker doing his thing; he pulls the dough again and again and again until a thick piece becomes a handful of noodles, almost as if by magic.  It’s the work of a man who has clearly spent years mastering his craft, and it’s a sight that’s as hypnotic as it is impressive.

Sun's Kitchen

I’ve been here at least a dozen times, and I order the same thing every time: noodles with spicy pork.  I’m occasionally tempted to order something else, but the spicy pork is so damn good, and I don’t come here enough to mess around.

It’s an exceptionally simple dish; it’s just spicy ground pork, a whole bunch of noodles, and some sliced cucumber to cut the richness and the heat of the pork.

It’s outstanding.  The pork is salty, spicy, and intense.  It’s the perfect foil for the amazingly chewy noodles.

It comes with a cup of sweet, citrusy soy milk.  I didn’t like it at first, but now I can’t get enough.  It also comes with a bowl of bland soup that I’m not crazy about.  I keep meaning to tell them to hold the soup, but I always forget.

Crispy Fried Goodness at Mr. Tonkatsu

Mr. TonkatsuLocation: 520 Bloor Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.mrtonkatsu.com/

Tonkatsu is one of those dishes that’s very difficult to dislike.  You can coat pretty much anything in panko breading and then deep fry it, and that thing is going to be tasty.  A fried, panko-breaded pork cutlet?  Served with rice and a delicious dipping sauce?  Yeah, it’s hard to go wrong there.

And while Mr. Tonkatsu doesn’t serve the best tonkatsu I’ve ever had, they certainly do a solid job with it.

Mr. Tonkatsu

They have a couple of different pork options on the menu — loin and tenderloin, with the latter being an extra dollar.  I went with loin, which comes with a bowl of rice, tonkatsu sauce, shredded cabbage, and miso soup.

The panko breading on the tonkatsu had an absolutely perfect texture — it was golden and lightly crispy, with just enough heft to make its presence known, but not enough to overwhelm the meat.  But it was way underseasoned; it was actually pretty bland.

Mr. Tonkatsu

Thankfully, the tonkatsu sauce very thoroughly solves that problem.  I normally like that stuff — it’s kind of like a Japanese take on HP sauce — but the version here was something special, with way more complexity than the norm.

It’s good that the sauce was so delicious, because the meat needed a lot of it.  Aside from the distinct lack of flavour, the pork itself was overcooked and extremely dry.  A prodigious application of the tasty sauce goes a long way towards fixing those problems, but they are problems nonetheless.

Mr. Tonkatsu

Everything else was quite good.  The dressing for the cabbage was the usual sesame-infused concoction you’d expect; it was quite satisfying.  And the miso soup had a mildly fishy funk that I found to be delightful.

Excellent BBQ at Excellent BBQ Restaurant

Excellent BBQ Restaurant, Richmond HillLocation: 9425 Leslie Street, Richmond Hill
Website: None

If you’re going to put the word excellent in the name of your restaurant, you’d better be able to back that up.  Even if you’re serving pretty good food, that’s not excellent, is it?

Well, Excellent BBQ Restaurant in the Richlane Mall in Richmond Hill definitely lives up to its name: it is indeed excellent.

There’s something really satisfying about the simplicity of Chinese-style BBQ like this.  It’s beyond simple — it’s basically just whole pieces of meat and rice — but when it’s done well, it’s delicious and comforting in a way that few dishes can match.

Excellent BBQ Restaurant, Richmond Hill

Excellent BBQ Restaurant does it quite well, which is evident as soon as you get there: when I visited, there was a line going out the door, and it remained that way for the whole time I was there.

When you’re serving food this good, word gets around.

We tried a few different things.  BBQ duck.

Excellent BBQ Restaurant, Richmond Hill

BBQ pork.

Excellent BBQ Restaurant, Richmond Hill

And roast pork.

Excellent BBQ Restaurant, Richmond Hill

Everything was really good.  In particular, the duck was fatty, tender, and perfect.  The skin could have been a bit crispier, but that’s a fairly minor complaint.

Both types of pork were just as good — there wasn’t a whole lot of crispy skin on the roast pork, but what was there was shatteringly crisp and amazing.  The BBQ pork was slightly dry, but again: that’s a minor complaint.