Location: 21 Grenville Street, Toronto
Hana Sushi is gimmicky AF. But it’s fun. It’s essentially a conveyor belt sushi place, but all of the food you order comes on a tiny little train that runs on a separate set of tracks.
You also order everything on a tablet, so if you want to eat sushi with as little human interaction as possible, this is your place (though the waitress has to explain the whole system to you, and then brings your bill at the end of the meal, so it’s not quite a human-free experience).
As for the sushi itself: it’s fine. It’s about on par with the hundreds of passable sushi joints across the GTA, so it’s really only the gimmick that sets it apart. The rice was underseasoned and a little bit too dense, but the quality of the fish was decent, and the rolls were well put-together.
I had a variety of nigiri and rolls; the only one that really stood out was the torched salmon, which had a nicely smoky flavour from the flame, but which was still melt-in-your-mouth tender.
Location: 105 McCaul Street, Toronto
Does the world need yet another Manpuku post from me? Probably not! (This would be post number three, for those keeping count.) Am I going to do it anyway?
Yes. Yes I am.
I feel like I have to keep telling everyone I can about this place, because it continually impresses me with its delightful combination of tasty eats and ultra-affordable prices.
On this particular visit I tried the curry don, which features a heaping serving of rice topped with a generous amount of beef curry.
As with everything else here, it’s quite good. The mild curry isn’t going to knock anyone’s socks off, but it’s rich, tasty, and abundantly satisfying. It comes with a whole bunch of tender, thinly-shaved beef and is, unsurprisingly, an amazing deal at $6.99 (which I guess is actually kind of expensive by Manpuku’s standards).
Location: 3636 Steeles Avenue East, Markham
Running Pig is a no-frills take-out joint that serves various meat options and veggies on top of rice. It’s not the best thing you’ll ever eat, but it’s a hefty amount of meat and rice for $7.50; it’s hard to go wrong there.
I got the pork knuckle bento, which comes with a generous pile of pork knuckles (one is missing from my photo — I dug right in then realized I forgot to take a picture), a hard-boiled egg, tofu skin, and a variety of veggies on rice.
Pork knuckles can be mostly collagen without a whole lot of meat (particularly the way they’re cut here); if it’s not properly rendered, it’s going to be rubbery. And while these were mostly okay, they definitely could have braised for a little bit longer.
The various veggies and tofu were all tasty enough, and combined with the rice, it makes for a solid meal. Nothing here particularly stands out, but it’s cheap, quick, and satisfying. Sometimes that’s enough.
Location: 4750 Yonge Street – Unit 119, North York
I’ve mentioned before that the Japanese Netflix TV show, Kantaro: The Sweet Tooth Salaryman (about a Japanese businessman who’s obsessed with dessert), is pretty much the best. It’s frequently hilarious and features some mesmerizing food porn, not to mention enough slickly-shot footage of Tokyo to make you want to get on the next flight. It’s great.
He eats at least one dessert per episode, and it all looks amazing. Sadly, much of it is really difficult (if not impossible) to find in the GTA.
One of the desserts he eats is called ohagi, and you can actually find it at HCafe, a tiny little Japanese dessert shop near Yonge and Sheppard.
It’s pretty unique. It features a ball of chewy rice (a mix of glutinous rice and regular rice) surrounded by a sweet red bean paste.
It’s not quite like any dessert I’ve ever had — it’s chewy, almost like mochi, but with a coarser texture thanks to the grains of rice. The sweetness is very subtle, and though the flavour is mostly beany, there’s an underlying fruitiness.
It’s odd, but also surprisingly delicious. If you like mochi, this hits a lot of the same notes.
Location: 105 McCaul Street, Toronto
I’ve already talked about Manpuku, so I’ll keep this brief. I went back and tried the shigure don, and just like the udon I tried on my last visit, it was absolutely delicious and delightfully cheap.
The shigure don consisted of a heaping pile of tasty, well-marinated beef and onions atop a generous portion of rice. The beef looks a bit dry in the picture, but it was actually super tender, and surprisingly packed with flavour. And the soft, tasty onions compliment the beef perfectly.
It cost $6.49. I mean, come on, Manpuku — now you’re making all the other restaurants look bad. I’ve frequently paid three or four times as much money for meals that weren’t half as good as what they’re serving here.