Middling Ramen at Sansotei Ramen

Santosei RamenLocation: 100 City Centre Drive, Mississauga (inside Square One)
Websitehttps://www.sansotei.com/

Sometimes, I just don’t have all that much to say about a particular dish.  When something is fine — not particularly good, but not particularly bad — it can be difficult to muster up all that much enthusiasm to write about it.

Santosei Ramen

The tonkotsu ramen at Santosei is one of those dishes.  The only exceptional thing about it is how exceptionally middle-of-the-road it is.

Santosei Ramen

There are some things about it that I liked, however.  You can choose thick or thin noodles — I went with thick, and they were chewy and satisfying.  And the broth has a rich porkiness that’s pretty tasty.  But it’s a bit one-note in its flavour, and it’s intensely salty.

The chasu wasn’t bad, but I think it needed to cook for slightly longer, as it had a vaguely rubbery texture.   The egg was nice, but ice cold.

Santosei Ramen

Even by the standards of ramen in Toronto, what they’re serving at Santosei is quite ho-hum.  But…  I don’t know.  It’s fine, I guess?

The Porchetta at Porchetta & Co.: Still Great

Porchetta & Co.Location: 545 King Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://porchettaco.com/

Though I’m a big fan of the porchetta sandwich at Porchetta & Co., my tendency is to get tempted by the various fried chicken sandwich specials.  It’s been ages since I’ve had the good old plain porchetta sandwich.

Porchetta & Co.

I was afraid it might have gone downhill.  It’s an outstanding sandwich, but many successful restaurants have a hard time maintaining consistency over the years, and eventually become a victim of their own success.  This is especially true once expansion becomes a factor.

Well, I’m happy to say that this doesn’t seem to be an issue here.  The porchetta sandwich: still outstanding.

Porchetta & Co.

I didn’t see any crackling when I opened it up, which concerned me.  But I guess it was all hiding under the meat, because there was a pretty good amount.  (I could have used more, but then it’s basically impossible to get enough crackling.  I could have an all-crackling sandwich, and I’d still be like “that was pretty good, but it needed more crackling.”)

I also thought the sandwich looked a little lean on first inspection, but again, it was all hiding in there; the meat was super tender, with a perfect amount of tasty fat interspersed throughout.

Porchetta & Co.

It’s a seriously, seriously great sandwich.  The crispy, fluffy bun is as perfect as ever, and the pork itself is still top-notch.  The spicing is subtle compared to some porchetta, but there’s more than enough for it to pack some serious flavour.  That’s not to mention that the milder seasoning allows the natural flavour of the pork to really shine through.

Porchetta & Co.

You can get all kinds of toppings, if you want — in fact, the “House Special” is topped with parmesan, truffle sauce, mustard, and hot sauce.   And certainly, it’s not un-tasty.  But all that stuff is superfluous, and worse, it just gets in the way of the amazing pork.  The porchetta is so tender, porky, and herby; obscuring it with additional sauces and flavours just seems like a shame.

Rich, Chickeny Ramen at Touhenboku Ramen

Touhenboku RamenLocation: 2459 Yonge Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.touhenboku.ca/

The ramen at Touhenboku is a little bit different than the norm.  Most of the ramen shops in Toronto serve tonkotsu-style ramen, in which pork bones are boiled for hours and hours until you wind up with a very rich, porky broth.

Touhenboku, on the other hand, subs out the pork for chicken, and yet still manages to retain that intense richness that you associate with tonkotsu.

Touhenboku Ramen

If your average bowl of chicken soup is the soup equivalent of white meat (lighter, with a more restrained flavour) then what they’re serving at Touhenboku is more like dark meat, with a really intense flavour and a fattier texture.

In fact, the soup might be a bit too fatty, with a heavy oiliness that’s borderline too much.  I’m certainly not going to complain about a very rich bowl of ramen, but this one was slightly too greasy.

Touhenboku Ramen

I ordered the sea salt ramen (a.k.a. shio ramen) from the “Tomo’s favourite” section of the menu.  It’s a pretty standard bowl, with the usual assortment of veggies, an egg, and chasu.

It’s (mostly) quite good.  The noodles were a bit too thin (thick is also an option, however — I think that’s the one to go with), and the flavour was slightly one-note in its rich chickeniness (chickeniness… that’s a word, right?), but it was a satisfying bowl of soup.

Touhenboku Ramen

Most notably, the very intense chicken flavour is pretty remarkable, and the thinly sliced chasu was ultra-tender and perfectly seasoned, with a great porky flavour.  The egg was also perfectly cooked, with a great gooey yolk, so there’s definitely more good here than bad.

Stellar Dim Sum at Dragon Boat Fusion Cuisine

Dragon Boat Fusion CuisineLocation: 160 East Beaver Creek Road, Markham
Websitehttp://www.dragonboatfusioncuisine.com/

Dragon Boat Fusion Cuisine is a dim sum joint that does well.  We showed up at around 10:40 on a Saturday, and the place was seriously crowded.  By the time we left, it was even more packed, with a crowd waiting for tables almost going out the door.

Dragon Boat Fusion Cuisine

Eating the food, it’s easy enough to see why.  Some highlights:

Dragon Boat Fusion Cuisine

The char siu was sweet and incredibly tender.

Dragon Boat Fusion Cuisine

These fried seafood-filled tubes were nice and crispy on the outside, with a fishy (but not overbearing) flavour.

Dragon Boat Fusion Cuisine

The fried dough noodle rolls were probably the best version of that dish that I’ve ever had, with a surprisingly complex flavour and a very satisfying contrast of textures between the chewy noodle, the crispy fried exterior, and the soft interior.

Dragon Boat Fusion Cuisine

I really should have taken a picture of the interior of these salted egg buns, because they were absolutely crammed with an oozy, sweet custardy filling.

Dragon Boat Fusion Cuisine

There were only a couple of weak dishes — surprisingly, they were the dim sum standbys that you’d think they’d work especially hard to get right.  The har gow featured an overly thick, almost gummy wrapper encasing overcooked shrimp.

Dragon Boat Fusion Cuisine

And the pork buns featured a filling that tasted a bit too leftovery.

Still, they were only two mild weak points in a meal that was otherwise quite stellar.

A Unique (and Loud) Dining Experience at Grand Bizarre Supper Club

Grand Bizarre Supper ClubLocation: 15 Saskatchewan Road, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.grandbizarre.com/

I very randomly got an email about a month ago inviting me to the media preview of a new “supper club” called Grand Bizarre.  Anything with the word “club” in its name doesn’t particularly sound like my jam — but you know what is my jam?  Free food.  I quickly found a friend who was willing to go with me (the promise of the aforementioned free food made this an easy enough proposition), and I was off to the races.

Grand Bizarre Supper Club

The place is a bit odd; it opens once a week on Saturday nights, and it’s somewhere between a nightclub and a food court.  It’s an absolutely massive space, with several food vendors, a whole bunch of bartenders, and a DJ playing loud, thrumming dance music that makes it nearly impossible to talk (though thankfully, my dining companion and I were able to find a spot near the sushi bar that wasn’t quite as ear-splittingly loud as the rest of the joint).

Grand Bizarre Supper Club

One of the main gimmicks is that instead of paying cash for the various foodstuffs, you buy “Bizarre chips,” which look like poker chips and which act like currency to buy food.  I believe you still have to pay regular cash for the drinks, though I’m not entirely sure — it was an open bar during the media preview, which made me super glad I drove there instead of taking public transit.  I did, however, manage to have several free soda waters, so who’s the real winner here?  (please don’t answer that.)

Grand Bizarre Supper Club

They gave everybody nine Bizarre chips, which is worth 30 bucks, and which was enough to get a decent amount of food.  I managed to try a few things.

The first thing I tried (and easily the highlight of the night) was the fried chicken bao: “pimento cheese, bacon onion jam, pickled carrot slaw, bacon onion jam, steam bun.”  It cost five Bizarre chips, or about $16.50, and comes with a side of potato chips.

It was a solid sandwich.  The only real issue (though it was a big one) is that the fried chicken patty was way overcooked, and had clearly been sitting out for a while.  It was tasty, with a nice crispy exterior, but the meat was dry and lukewarm.

Grand Bizarre Supper Club

Everything else was quite good, with the amazing bacon onion jam easily being the star of the show.  It was an absolute taste bonanza, with a perfect combo of sweet and savoury.  I want to buy a big jar of this so I can eat it on everything.

Between the rich pimento cheese, the vinegary bite of the slaw, the spice of the jalapenos, and the sweet/savory combo of the bacon onion jam, it was a great balance of tastes and textures.

The bun was interesting.  It was somewhere between a Chinese bao and a hamburger bun, and was actually quite good.

If the chicken were fresh and not overcooked this would have been a fantastic sandwich, but even as it was it I enjoyed it.

Grand Bizarre Supper Club

Next up: the sushi area was selling a few dim sum classics along with the raw fish.  We tried the har gow (shrimp dumplings) and siu mai (chicken dumplings); each order came with four, and cost three Bizarre chips.

They were both horrifically bad.

The shrimp, I guess, was the better of the two.  It had obviously been sitting in a warming tray for way too long, because the wrapper basically disintegrated in my mouth, and the filling was off-puttingly squishy, with a few rock-hard shrimp bits.  The whole thing was absolute mush through and through (aside from the tiny little shrimp bits).  The flavour was fine, however.

Grand Bizarre Supper Club

The pork, on the other hand, was flat-out disgusting.  It was dry and tough and took a distressingly long time to chew.  And something about the flavour was just off.  I’m not gonna lie: it was barely fit for human consumption.

They’re also hilariously overpriced.  Each order was three chips (or ten dollars in human currency) for four pieces.  That’s more than double what you’ll pay for an infinitely better version of these at literally any dim sum place in the GTA (seriously: they’re the worst version I’ve had of both dishes by far).  So please: do not order these.  They’re bad and they’ll make you feel bad.

There were a handful of other savoury options (pizza, sushi, salad, etc.), but at this point we moved on to dessert.  We only had two Bizarre chips left between the two of us, so we found the one thing in the whole place that cost two (pretty much everything was between three and twelve chips).

Grand Bizarre Supper Club

I can’t remember what it was called and I forgot to take a photo of the menu at this particular area (I’ll bet they’re really glad they invited me to create this quality content), but whatever it was, it was fine.  It was chocolately, with a texture somewhere between a brownie and pudding.  It was a bit too gluey, but it had a nice chocolate flavour and some interesting spices that gave it an almost gingerbread-like taste profile.

There was also an area selling Cheesecake Factory cheesecakes and cupcakes that were free during the media night, so of course I had a slice of cheesecake and a cupcake.

Grand Bizarre Supper Club

This was actually my first time trying the cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory, and it was fine, I guess?  Even by the standards of boxed cheesecake it wasn’t that great (I think President’s Choice is better), but it was cheesecake and I ate it.  It was tasty enough.

The cupcake was about in line with the cheesecake.  There wasn’t anything blatantly wrong with it, but it’s safe to say that the cupcakes at basically any bakery will be tastier.

Grand Bizarre Supper Club

And that was that.  As I mentioned, the whole format isn’t really my thing, and the food wasn’t nearly good enough to make me ever want to come back here again.  But if you’re into nightclubs and you’re also hungry, it’s a thing you could do, I guess?