Outstanding Greek Food at Mamakas Taverna

Mamakas TavernaLocation: 80 Ossington Avenue, Toronto
Website: https://mamakas.ca/

I had an idea that Mamakas Taverna was probably something special when I tried their pork souvlaki at the recent OssFest street festival and was completely blown away.  I was finally able to visit the restaurant itself, and yeah.  Yeah.  That souvlaki wasn’t a fluke.  Everything is so good.

Mamakas Taverna

It’s the type of place where you order a bunch of stuff and share, which works out well because everything is so incredibly delicious that you want to try the whole menu.

Mamakas Taverna

There’s the spanakopita, which is basically the platonic ideal of that dish, with a crispy, buttery exterior and an intensely flavourful spinach filling.  The filling was actually quite unique, with a mildly sweet, citrusy tang that does a great job of balancing out the richness of the dish.

Mamakas Taverna

There were these keftedes — perfectly-spiced beef and pork meatballs with a delightfully crispy exterior from the fryer.

Mamakas Taverna

This looks like a pretty standard salad, but the meaty lentils combined with the fresh herbs and the nice pops of sweetness and crunch from the pomegranate — not to mention a dressing that complements it perfectly and isn’t over-applied — made it just as memorable as any of the other dishes.

Mamakas Taverna

The octopus was probably the simplest dish I tried, and proof that if you’re working with great quality ingredients and preparing them well, further ornamentation is unnecessary.  The meat had a great amount of char from the grill, with a mild sweetness and nice meaty bite.  If you’re queasy about eating octopus, you need to get over yourself; you don’t know what you’re missing.  Bad octopus can be rubbery and horrible, but good octopus is like the delicious love-child between a scallop and a pork chop.

Mamakas Taverna

My favourite dish of the night was also easily the least photogenic.  No, this braised short rib doesn’t look like much, but holy moly it was ridiculously good.  Insanely tender (but not mushy) with just the right amount of perfectly creamy fat and an intensely beefy flavour, it was basically like the best pot roast you’ve ever had.

Mamakas Taverna

The dessert — a walnut spice cake with yogurt mousse — was just as delicious as everything else, because of course it was.  The cake was nutty and rich, and the tartness of the creamy mousse complemented it perfectly.

A Middling Breakfast at Cafe Crepe

Cafe CrepeLocation: 246 Queen Street West, Toronto
Website: https://cafecrepe.com/

Cafe Crepe does surprisingly well; I recently showed up at 9:30 on a Saturday morning, expecting it to be mostly empty, and the place was absolutely packed.  People, apparently, love crepes.

And the crepe itself is solid.  Everything else, on the other hand…

I ordered the Cafe Crepe Speciale, which comes with three eggs that are theoretically cooked how you like them, “with bacon or sausage & your choice of crêpe: sugar butter, lemon sugar or cinnamon sugar.”

Cafe Crepe

I went with a lemon sugar crepe, sausage, and eggs cooked over easy.

I briefly considered mentioning something when the waitress plopped down a plate of scrambled eggs, but the prospect of eating in shifts with my dining companion wasn’t particularly compelling.

It was fine?  I guess?  The scrambled eggs were slightly overcooked and completely underseasoned (if they had any salt, I couldn’t taste it), but decent enough.  And the sausage was something resembling chorizo rather than the breakfast sausage you’re expecting, but it’s tasty enough.

Cafe Crepe

As for the crepe, it’s actually very good — it’s nice and fresh, with a texture that does a great job of balancing tenderness and bite.   But it’s absolutely doused in sugar (it’s both on top of and inside the crepe), and the lemon (which was also copiously applied) tasted off; I’m pretty sure it was actually ReaLemon or something similar.

It wasn’t a bad breakfast, but it probably makes more sense to order a crepe that’s harder to mess up, like Nutella and banana.

A Disappointing Meal at Dreyfus

Dreyfus
Location
: 96 Harbord Street, Toronto
Website: https://www.facebook.com/Dreyfus-Toronto-382976892314156/

Dreyfus’ main claim to fame is that it was opened by an alumnus of Joe Beef, a seriously acclaimed Montreal bistro (among many, many accolades, it was recently called Canada’s second best restaurant).  I’ve never tried that place, so this seemed like the next best thing.

The menu consists of various small, shareable plates with big price tags; cheap eats this isn’t, but then every now and then you need to break the bank and try some top-notch food.  Or at least, that was the idea.

Dreyfus

The menu is entirely French, which means that effectively, there is no menu — the waiter tells you about every dish, and then you have to remember it all; not ideal for a place that requires you to order multiple dishes.  That whole conceit is a bit overly precious, but if the food is great, who cares?

Yeah, about that.

Nothing is outright bad, I’ll give it that, but for what they’re charging, the food is very much a mixed bag.

Dreyfus

There were some highlights, however.  There was a dish that featured endives topped with tender roast pork shoulder that was particularly delicious.  The endive was doused in a tasty, Russian-style dressing and was basically a variation on a wedge salad, and the thickly-sliced pork was meaty and tender.

Dreyfus

The croque cubano — essentially an open-faced Cubano that you can eat in a couple of bites — was crispy, meaty, zesty, and satisfying.

Dreyfus

And the ice cream sandwich featured top-notch ice cream sandwiched between two chewy, delicious cookies.

Dreyfus

Everything else was a bit iffy.  The steak tartare was fine, but it was way overseasoned and had zero beefy flavour.

Dreyfus

I can’t remember what the croquette was even supposed to be; the vaguely yogurty interior was basically just a thick, tasteless sludge.

Dreyfus

This squash dish topped with Jersey Royal cheese should have been tasty, but the cheese was haphazardly applied, and most of the squash was undercooked and crunchy.

The mackerel seemed okay, but it was absolutely doused in an overly vinegary sauce that completely overwhelmed the fish.

Dreyfus

The madelines were basically tasty, but they were overcooked and dry, and the sauce that comes on the side was overly sweet (the sugar that was haphazardly dumped into the container probably didn’t help).

Quality Noodles at Wuhan Noodle 1950

Wuhan Noodle 1950Location: 3621 Highway 7, Markham
Website: https://www.wuhan-noodle-1950.com/

I actually visited Wuhan Noodle and wrote this post back in December, well before all the coronavirus shenanigans and racism that put this place in the news.  To be clear: no, you won’t get the coronavirus by visiting this restaurant.  I wish I were a bit more positive about it now, but here’s what I originally wrote back in December:

Wuhan Noodle 1950

I think I’ve become spoiled by the abundant availability of hand-pulled noodles in the GTA.  Case in point: Wuhan Noodle 1950.   They serve a very tasty bowl of noodles — but it’s hard not to compare them to the places that make their own in-house.

It probably doesn’t help that the dish I ordered — the Wuhan Dry Noodles — is basically all noodles and sauce, which means that the noodles themselves are front-and-centre.

Wuhan Noodle 1950

And the noodles here are perfectly cooked, with a nice firm bite — but they lack that addictive chewiness that you only get when you make them fresh.

Still, the creamy sesame- and peanut-infused sauce is very tasty; the included spoonful of chili oil gives it a mild kick, and the herbs and pickled veg bring some nice pops of flavour that compliment the creamy sauce.

Wuhan Noodle 1950

It’s probably not reasonable to expect every place like this to make their own noodles, and yet… here we are.

Amazing Roast Pork at Wilson’s Haus of Lechon

Wilson's Haus of LechonLocation: 365 Wilson Avenue, North York
Website: https://www.facebook.com/wilsonshausoflechon/

If you’re looking for tasty roast pork, go to Wilson’s Haus of Lechon.  Trust me on this one; just do it.

Wilson's Haus of Lechon

As you might imagine, this place specializes in lechon, the Philippines’s version of roast suckling pig.  I knew I was probably in good hands as soon as I walked in the door and saw the whole, glorious pig sitting behind the counter.

Wilson's Haus of Lechon

I wound up trying the roast pig and the roast chicken, and both were pretty much incredible.

The pork is absolutely fantastic; it’s tender, juicy, and absolutely exploding with flavour.  The meat itself was thoroughly infused with a delightfully garlicky, herby punch of flavour.  But the pork itself still shines through.  It’s so good.

Wilson's Haus of Lechon

I wish the skin had been a bit crispier, but it was otherwise so delicious that it didn’t really matter.

Wilson's Haus of Lechon

The chicken was also pretty amazing, though it’s hard for anything to compare to that pork.  I wanted dark meat and wound up with a breast, but it was surprisingly tender for white meat, and of course it had that same garlicky/herby flavour.

The combo comes with sticky rice and lumpia Shanghai, which is a very tasty pork-stuffed Filipino spring roll.  It’s all so good.