Bong Lua Vietnamese Restaurant

Bong Lua Vietnamese RestaurantLocation: 2572 Birchmount Road, Scarborough
Website: None

Bun Rieu — a Vietnamese crab noodle soup — is one of those dishes that’s everything at once.  It’s alternately sweet, salty, savoury, meaty, fishy, and sour.  It’s quite rich, but vibrant enough that it never feels overly heavy.

Bong Lua Vietnamese Restaurant

The version at Bong Lua isn’t mind-blowing, but it’s quite tasty.  The broth lacks the rich complexity of the best versions of this dish, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it.

Bong Lua Vietnamese Restaurant

There’s a great interplay between the sweet acidity of the tomatoes and the fishy funk from the crab.  That’s not the mention the chewy rice noodles, which suit the dish perfectly.  It’s a solid bowl of soup.

Halibut House Fish & Chips

Halibut House Fish and ChipsLocation: 2814 Lake Shore Boulevard West, Etobicoke
Website: https://www.halibuthouse.ca/

Halibut House is a fish and chips chain with over 20 locations around the GTA, though I didn’t even know it existed until very recently.

I don’t think it’s going to blow anyone’s mind, but if you’re looking for a tasty plate of fish and chips, you could do a lot worse.

Halibut House Fish and Chips

It’s also a decent deal.  You can get a half plate for about eleven bucks, which comes with a piece of halibut (of course), fries, and coleslaw.  The fish is on the smaller side, but the pile of fries is generous enough that it’s pretty much guaranteed to fill you up.

Halibut House Fish and Chips

The fish itself is a bit overcooked (it was quite dry), but the flavour was nice, and the batter was just right.  A lot of places tend to overwhelm the fish with a thick, overly-crunchy coating, but the batter here was nice and crispy while still allowing the fish to be the star of the show.

Halibut House Fish and Chips

The fries are the highlight.  They’re crispy, creamy, and very tasty.  The coleslaw is a bit bland, but it’s fine, and the tartar sauce is creamy and zesty (if a bit overly oniony).  It’s a solid plate of fish and chips.

A Simple (but Delicious) Sandwich at Mattachioni

MattachioniLocation: 1617 Dupont Street, Toronto
Website: http://www.mattachioni.com/

If it weren’t for Toronto Life’s list of the best sandwiches in the city, there’s no way I would have ordered the mortadella sandwich at Mattachioni.  Aside from the fact that the pizzas looked very, very good, the mortadella sandwich is quite bare bones — it’s just mortadella and fresh mozzarella on tomato focaccia bread.

Mattachioni

But of course, sometimes the simplest things are the best.  If you’re dealing with really good quality ingredients, less is more.

The contrast between the tender, salty mortadella and the creamy mozzarella works really well (fresh mozzarella has a radically different texture than the rubbery shrink-wrapped balls at the supermarket — it’s soft, creamy, and luxurious).

Mattachioni

The fluffy, slightly chewy focaccia is quite good too, though I wish it had a bit more texture (it was soft throughout).  It was also soaked through with olive oil; it gives the sandwich a nice greasy heft, though it might have been a little bit too much of a good thing.

Still, it’s a very tasty sandwich.  I don’t think I’d put it on my list of the best in the city, but I don’t begrudge anyone for putting it on theirs.

Mattachioni

I also got to try a little bit of the Margherita pizza, which was absolutely outstanding (I didn’t take a picture of that one, sadly, so you’ll just have to take my word that it looked and tasted amazing).

Mattachioni

They have both custard and dulce de leche bomboloni for dessert (a.k.a. Italian doughnuts).  I tried both, and while they were tasty, they definitely weren’t on the level of the sandwich or the pizza.  They were a little bit too dense, with a slightly oily flavour.

Beyond Burger at Tim Hortons

Beyond Burger at Tim HortonsLocation: 4100 Dixie Road, Mississauga
Website: https://www.timhortons.com/ca/en/index.php

The Beyond Burger at Tim Hortons is way better than it has any right to be.  Is it particularly good?  No, not really.  Would I order it again?  Absolutely not.  But it’s perfectly acceptable.  It’s not gross.

Maybe that’s a low bar.  But Tim Hortons isn’t exactly known for having an appetizing lunch selection.  And their last foray into the fake meat game — the Beyond Sausage breakfast sandwich — featured an impressive emulation of actual meat, but was otherwise pretty lousy.

Beyond Burger at Tim Hortons

Beyond Meat has clearly been evolving their product since I tried the Beyond burger at A&W last summer.  I found that one to be off-puttingly mushy.  The texture of the burger I just had at Tim’s was much, much better.

If you compare it to a good quality burger, it’s pretty much garbage.  But!  It actually compares quite favourably to the frozen burgers that are served all over the city.  If I had eaten it blind, that’s what I would have assumed it was.  It’s impressive.

Beyond Burger at Tim Hortons

In fact, I think I might have liked this a bit better than that type of frozen burger; those ones sometimes have a gamy, off meat flavour that’s a bit off-putting.  This one, on the other hand, has a generic meaty flavour that’s not unpleasant.  Again, it’s not particularly good, but it’s not bad either.  It’s fine.

They top it with cheese (which isn’t melted, of course), lettuce, tomato, ketchup, and mustard, which successfully covers up the patty’s lack of a beefy flavour.   Between the assertive condiments and the impressively accurate cheap burger texture, you’d never know that you’re not eating a lousy (but real!) hamburger.  I know that’s not exactly high praise, but I’m actually really impressed.

Roast Beef Perfection at Donna’s

Donna'sLocation: 827 Landsdowne Avenue, Toronto
Website: https://donnas.ca/

Yep, another sandwich from Toronto Life’s top 25.  Another damn good one, too, so clearly this list is not to be trifled with.  These sandwiches aren’t kidding around.

Donna’s serves a roast beef sandwich that’s topped with parsnip, horseradish sauce, crispy fried onions (or shallots?), and watercress.  As per Toronto Life, the meat is marinated in beef fat and honey.  It’s superb.

Donna's

The sandwich is awash with flavour, but everything works so well together — it never feels too assertive or busy.  First and foremost is the very healthy pile of thinly-sliced roast beef.  It’s beefy, tender, and just a little bit sweet from the honey.  It’s great.

Donna's

The horseradish sauce is creamy and zingy, with a nice even burn that makes its presence known, but doesn’t overwhelm.  The parsnip is kind of ingenious.  It’s thinly sliced, and on first glance it looks like cheese.  But it’s soft and creamy, and adds a bit of a starchy heft.

Donna's

It’s all on a soft, fresh, slightly chewy roll that compliments it perfectly.  Toronto Life calls it the fifth best sandwich in the city; that sounds about right to me.  It’s really, really good.