Location: 8362 Kennedy Road, Unionville
Big Beef Bowl is another place that serves fresh, chewy noodles, which means I’m pretty much going to love it by default. I’m very easy to please when it comes to a big bowl of delicious noodles.
I got the braised beef brisket noodles, which comes with your choice from six types of noodles: round or flat, with three thicknesses each. I got the round noodles in a medium thickness. And they were great — they might have been ever-so-slightly too soft, but they were otherwise hearty and chewy and satisfying.
The soup itself wasn’t anything too special, but it got the job done. It was a bit spicy by default, but was improved immeasurably by a few hearty spoonfuls of the chili oil they’ve got on the table. You always have to be careful with that particular condiment, because depending on the place, its spiciness ranges from a moderate tingle to volcano hot. The one at Big Beef Bowl isn’t particularly spicy, but it has a satisfying toasty flavour that really improves the soup.
There were also several chunks of fatty, immensely tender beef brisket. I could have eaten a whole pile of these.
Location: 5308 Dundas Street West, Etobicoke
I’ve actually already written about Kebab 49, so I’m going to keep this post brief. That was a couple of years ago, and the place is still chugging along, serving some of the best doner in the city.
Yes: Kebab 49 is still great. On this particular visit I got the durum wrap with lamb and veal (durum is a Turkish flatbread; Kebab 49 makes it in-house in their wood-burning oven, and it’s chewy and fresh and amazing).
The lamb and veal doner is outstanding. A lot of shawarama/doner tends to be a bit dry, but not here — there’s just enough fat mixed in to keep things from drying out. It’s perfectly seasoned, and the distinctive lamby flavour really shines through.
But the best part are all the crispy bits from where the rotating stack of meat has come into contact with the fire. This is how you know you’re dealing with a place that knows what’s what. Way too many restaurants start carving too soon, and you end up with sad, soggy meat. Not Kebab 49. You can’t really tell from the photo, but there were delicious crispy bits interspersed throughout the entire wrap. It was glorious.
Location: 9255 Woodbine Avenue, Markham
If you’re looking for bang for your buck, you’re not going to do much better than Ho Garden, a delightful Hong Kong-style diner in Markham. I ordered the egg sandwich, which comes with a generous bowl of noodle soup with beef, and a mug of milk tea. The price? Seven bucks. Delightful.
I was a little bit skeptical about the egg sandwich, but aside from the fact that it’s a Hong Kong comfort food staple, a friend strongly recommended it.
I’ll admit it — I was wrong to be skeptical. It was surprisingly delicious.
It’s the definition of simplicity: it’s just a plain omelette served inside of crustless white bread. No mayonnaise, no condiments — just eggs, salt, and untoasted bread. Sounds way too plain, right? Wrong.
The eggs were fluffy, creamy, and perfectly cooked, and the slightly sweet, light-as-a-cloud bread complimented them perfectly. Considering its utter simplicity, it was shockingly good.
The noodles — which feature a generous amount of toothsome noodles in a flavourful, slightly spicy broth, topped with tender beef — were quite tasty as well, but it’s that egg sandwich that was clearly the star of the show.
Location: 1900 The Queensway, Etobicoke
I’ve mentioned before that Scaddabush is a surprisingly good casual chain restaurant; well, I just tried the pizza, and yeah, I still like the place.
I got the Mario: “prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, San Marzano tomato sauce, baby arugula.”
It’s good — it’s not mind-blowing, but I certainly enjoyed eating it a heck of a lot more than the pizza at Pizzeria Libretto.
The crust is basically Roman-style — thin and a little bit bready, with a satisfying amount of crispiness on its exterior. It’s not bad at all. And the toppings are solid. The tomato sauce is slightly garlicky and not over-applied, and the salty prosciutto and peppery arugula work quite well together.
It’s nothing that anyone’s going to get too excited over — but like everything else at Scaddabush, it’s better than you’d think, given the quality of the competition.
Location: 254 Augusta Avenue, Toronto
The Livelihood Cafe is a laudable endeavor — it’s part of a non-profit organization that helps new immigrants build a career in Canada.
So maybe I’m a jerk for saying this (okay, I’m definitely a jerk for saying this), but the food was actually pretty bad.
I tried a few things. The first dish featured multigrain toast topped with some kind of pepper spread, cucumber, and cheese (I forgot to take a picture of the menu and I couldn’t find one online, so I’m a bit fuzzy on the specifics). This was the best of the three dishes I tried. The grainy bread was a little bit too rustic, overwhelming the mild pepper spread, and the whole thing had an overriding bitterness, but it wasn’t horrible.
Up next was the baba ganoush, which came with a side of over-toasted pita bread that was halfway between crunchy and chewy. Baba ganoush is a spread that’s made primarily with roasted eggplant and tahini, so how this managed to taste of neither of those things is a complete mystery. It was just kind of salty and pasty and unpleasant.
The last (and worst) dish was the mana’eesh, which is a flatbread topped with a mix of za’atar (a Middle Eastern spice mix) and olive oil. Only there barely seemed to be any olive oil; the za’atar was overly dry and grainy, and the bread was off-puttingly thick and rubbery. I could barely eat more than a couple of bites of this.
Also: it was a bagel-sized piece of bread for nine bucks, which is gallingly expensive — though if you think of it as a charitable donation, it takes some of the sting away.
This is going to sound harsh, but everything was so bad I would have rather just flat-out donated money to charity without having to eat the food.