Noodles and Buns at Momofuku Noodle Bar

Momofuku Noodle BarLocation: 190 University Avenue, Toronto
Websitehttps://noodlebar-toronto.momofuku.com/

I don’t really have a favourite restaurant in the city — I have a tendency to want to try something new every time I eat out, so it’s rare that I’ll go to the same place more than a couple of times.

So I guess Momofuku Noodle Bar is one of my favourite restaurants by default, because I’ve been there several times, and it’s consistently very good.

Momofuku Noodle Bar

On this particular visit I tried a couple of their buns — chicken burger and cod cake — and both were quite tasty.  The chicken burger, which featured a generous spread of pepper hummus, was the more interesting of the two.  But the crispy, tasty cod was quite good as well.

Momofuku Noodle Bar

I also tried the onigiri, and with its crispy fried bottom layer of nori, it was certainly an interesting take on the ubiquitous Japanese snack.   But it was a little bit bland, and probably not something I’d order again.

Momofuku Noodle Bar

The Jaja noodles, which the menu describes as “bacon, black bean, cabbage, pickle,” was good, but it was another item I probably wouldn’t get again.  It had a meaty, umami-filled flavour, but it felt one-note.  It really needed a bit more vibrancy to round out its porky richness (it probably didn’t help that it reminded me a lot of a dish I had in Malaysia called chili pan mee that was superior in every regard).

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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.

Pizzeria Libretto, or: The Inventor of Pizza is Rolling in His Grave

Pizzeria Libretto
Location: 545 King Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://pizzerialibretto.com/

So, here’s a not-so-delightful tidbit: apparently I’ve ruined Neapolitan-style pizza for myself by eating my way through Naples for a week, because I just got a margherita pizza from Pizzeria Libretto, and it was hot garbage.

I didn’t think the gulf in quality would be so severe, but absolutely everything about this pizza was wrong.  The proportion of sauce was off, but in a really baffling way — the pizza was simultaneously too dry, and too soft.  It was weird.  The flavour of the sauce was about right (the sauce in this style of pizza is just plain tomatoes, so it’s hard to mess up), but I don’t think there was enough of it.

Pizzeria Libretto

The cheese was okay, but again, the texture was off.  It was too dry.  It’s hard for me to put my finger on what exactly was wrong, because I’m not a pizza expert, but something was clearly wrong.  None of the pizzas in Naples developed brown spots on the cheese like this one, and the texture was slightly rubbery.

The worst offender was the crust.  It was somehow over-charred around the edges — it was unpleasantly bitter in spots — and under-charred on the bottom.  I mean, look at the almost entirely colourless bottom of this slice:

Pizzeria Libretto

That’s not right.  It was insanely bland, and had barely a fraction of the amazing chew that the pizzas in Naples had.  It was like Wonder Bread; there’s no there there.

Everything else was quite good, at least.  The buttermilk fried calamari featured a perfectly crispy, tasty exterior encasing squid with a great balance of tenderness and bite.  It came with some really tasty romesco sauce that accompanied it perfectly.

Pizzeria Libretto

I also tried the Prosciutto di Parma, and like the calamari, it was quite delicious.  Granted, all the restaurant had to do was slice it, but it was very tasty nonetheless.

Pizzeria Libretto

But that pizza, though.  What was that??  It was disastrously bad.  It was like the Neapolitan pizza equivalent of Pizza Pizza.  Actually, it was worse than Pizza Pizza, because at least Pizza Pizza knows what it is and doesn’t have any delusions of grandeur.

Tasty Deli Sandwiches at Rose and Sons

Rose and SonsIf you were lucky enough to try Caplansky’s at its original digs in the Monarch Tavern, then you’ll know that it was truly something special.  One of the things that made their smoked meat stand out was its intensely smoky flavour.  This was greatly diminished once they moved to their permanent location and had to start making the meat in greater quantities (and of course, in a sad turn of events, Caplansky’s is now gone altogether).

Well, it looks like Torontonians craving that unique smokiness now have somewhere to go, because Rose and Sons was recently transformed into an old-school deli, and they’re serving up pastrami with a distinctively smoky flavour.

Rose and Sons

It’s actually quite good — I got the hot pastrami sandwich, and my only real complaint is that the meat should have been a bit fattier (they called it medium, but it was much closer to lean).

Rose and Sons

That’s an easy fix, though: I’ll ask for it fatty the next time I go, because there’s definitely going to be a next time.  It’s a great sandwich, with perfectly thick slices of tender, smoky, nicely spiced pastrami.

Rose and Sons

I also tried the potato and onion knish, which didn’t fare quite as well.  I think this might have been the second or third knish I’ve had in my entire life, so it’s possible that I’m just not a fan — but this was dry pastry encasing bland, crumbly potatoes with a slightly oniony flavour.  It desperately needed a gravy or some kind of sauce, or really anything to give it just a little bit of moisture (not to mention flavour).  I didn’t care for it.

Nashville Hot Chicken at Porchetta and Co.

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

I love Porchetta and Co.  Their porchetta sandwich?  Classic.  Best porchetta in the city.  Their fried chicken sandwiches?  Usually delicious!  Their Nashville hot chicken sandwich?  Uh…

Hey, they can’t all be winners.  And it wasn’t all bad.  The fried chicken itself was superlative, as usual: perfectly-cooked chicken with a crispy, crunchy, tasty exterior.  It’s good stuff.

Porchetta and Co.

Nashville hot chicken is a notoriously spicy dish that involves a post-cooking dunk into spice-infused oil to give the chicken additional flavour and heat.  It’s typically sprinkled with more spices, just to kick up the heat factor.  Porchetta and Co. appear to have remembered the oil — the sandwich was absolutely dripping with it — but forgotten the spices.  The oily coating on the chicken was bland, and worse, it wasn’t spicy.  At all.  The spice level here never registered beyond a mild tingle.  WTF?

The other components of the sandwich — lettuce, mayo, pickles, plain white bread — were fine, though the sugary-sweet pickles were a bit overpowering.