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.

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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.

Scratching my Head at Konjiki Ramen

Konjiki Ramen
Location
: 5051 Yonge Street, North York
Websitehttps://konjikiramen.com/

I think ramen might just be my favourite food on the planet.  Burgers are obviously a strong contender, but there’s something about a truly great bowl of ramen that’s incomparable.

That’s why the ramen at Konjiki — a seriously acclaimed Tokyo ramen joint that has just opened their first outpost in Canada — was so disappointing.  Their specialty is ramen made with clam, shellfish, chicken and pork.  I was exceptionally excited to try it.

You can either get shio (salt) or shoyu (soy sauce); I went with shoyu, which was clearly a mistake.  The flavour was all salty soy sauce, which completely wipes out all of the nuances from the broth.

https://tastyburgers.ca/

The thing that’s so irresistible about a great bowl of ramen is how complex it is; it feels like you’re discovering something new with every mouthful.  But there was nothing new to discover here after the first slurp.  It certainly wasn’t bad, but the first sip was exactly the same as the last.

The noodles were quite good, at least, with a satisfying chewiness.  The texture was slightly off in a way that I couldn’t quite put my finger on, but that’s a minor complaint.

The chasu, on the other hand, wasn’t great.  It was super dry, and just didn’t add much to the bowl.

I also tried the gyoza (which were pork, shrimp, and cabbage dumplings) and the karaage (fried chicken), and they were both tasty, if nothing particularly mind-blowing.

Konjiki Ramen

I should also note that there were some service issues.  I was with a group of four, and two bowls of ramen came fairly quickly.  The other two took an extra fifteen minutes to arrive.  The waitress was extremely apologetic once she realized what was happening, and I got a free egg out of the deal (which was nicely cooked, with a gooey, just-barely-set yolk — but like the ramen itself, it was too salty).

Overall, not the greatest experience ever, and certainly not worth waiting for when there are several other ramen joints right nearby.

Cubano Disappointment at La Cubana

La Cubana
Location
: 92 Ossington Avenue, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.lacubana.ca/

I love the cubano sandwich at La Cubana.  Or at least, I usually do.

I was going to order something else, but then I realized that I’ve never actually written about the cubano here, and I really don’t need much more of an excuse than that.

And here’s the thing: it was good.  It certainly wasn’t bad, per se.  That’s the problem with serving truly great food; there’s nowhere to go but down, and even something that’s quite good is going to seem like a letdown in comparison.

La Cubana

The cubano here is normally the perfect amalgam of gooey cheese, savoury meats, and zingy pickles.  It’s astonishingly good.  Usually.

This time?  It was off.  Though the cheese was nice and gooey, the pork had a mildly gamy, leftovery flavour, there were almost no pickles to cut the richness of the cheese and the meat, and the bread was dry and overly crunchy.  I ate the sandwich as carefully as I could, and it still thoroughly mangled the roof of my mouth.

Has La Cubana gone downhill?  Or was the kitchen just having a bad day?  I’ll feel bad if it’s the latter — but they served me what they served me, so I don’t feel too bad about it.