Shoddy Indian Food at Amaya in Sherway Gardens

Amaya Sherway GardensLocation: 25 Sherway Gardens Road, Etobicoke
Websitehttps://www.amayarestaurant.com/

Amaya is a (usually) decent quality chain that (usually) serves tasty Indian fare.  But the Sherway Gardens location is… odd.  I tried it when it first opened, and the food was so atrociously bad that it was nearly inedible.

I figured they deserved another chance — new restaurants often need a month or two to work out all the kinks.  I just tried the rogan josh, which features big chunks of lamb in a mildly spicy curry sauce on top of basmati rice.

Amaya Sherway Gardens

Yeah, it was pretty bad.  It’s so weird, because the other Amaya locations I’ve tried have been pretty reliable, but the Sherway Gardens location is almost like a completely different restaurant.

The flavour of the curry wasn’t bad, but the chunks of lamb were mostly tough and rubbery (with a few tender pieces interspersed throughout to mix things up), the rice was ice cold, and when I got to the bottom of the bowl, there was a big pool of greasy water that was tremendously off-putting.

Decent Thai Food at Pai

PaiLocation: 18 Duncan Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.paitoronto.com/

After recently having a mind-blowing meal at Khao San Road (which is just around the corner), I decided to Thai it up again, this time at Pai.  Alas, the meal was quite tasty, but it wasn’t even close to being on the same level as KSR.

I ordered the Pad Gra Prow — “holy basil stir fried with your choice of ground pork, chicken, beef or tofu, steamed jasmine rice, thai style fried egg, nam prik nam pla sauce.”

Pai

I went with pork, and elected to go Thai spicy, which is the highest spice level.

And indeed, they were absolutely, positively not kidding around with the spice.  I enjoyed the level of heat, but then I’m somewhat of a glutton for punishment in that regard (see also: my undying love for the “hot AF” chicken at Chica’s Chicken).

Pai

Sadly, aside from the impressive level of fiery heat, nothing about this dish particularly stands out.  It’s perfectly tasty, but none of the flavours pop, even when you add the fish sauce that comes on the side.  It’s a serviceable dish, but it’s boring.

Contrast that with the life-changing bowl of Khao Soi that I had at Khao San Road, and there’s no contest.

Of course, it’s not a fair comparison since the two dishes are so radically different.  But my dining companion had the pad thai at both restaurants and was able to make a 1:1 comparison.  He had the same reaction — Pai is fine, but KSR is magical.

Jumping on the Poke Bandwagon at Calii Love

Calii LoveLocation: 367 King Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.caliilove.com/

I’m not sure why, but the poke trend that swept through the city a couple of years ago completely passed me by; this was actually my first time trying the now-iconic Hawaiian dish.

The version you’ll find at most Toronto restaurants tends to have a bit more stuff than the real-deal Hawaiian version, which is basically just raw fish, dressing, and maybe some onions and herbs mixed in.

Calii Love

The “Clever” poke bowl I had at Calii Love, on the other hand, comes with: “Raw Yellowfin tuna, gochujang broccoli, crispy shallot, wakame seaweed salad, jalapeno, edamame, sushi rice, wasabi aioli.”

So I don’t know how authentic it is (not at all, I’m thinking), but either way, I quite enjoyed it.  There’s a whole lot going on, but all of the components were fresh and tasty, and the overall balance of flavours was really satisfying.

Calii Love

There was also enough of a balance of textures — the crunchy seaweed, the meaty tuna, the soft rice — that it never felt one-note or monotonous.

It actually reminded me a lot of Korean bibimbap, but with a very different flavour profile.

Board the Sushi Train at Hana Sushi

Hana SushiLocation: 21 Grenville Street, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.facebook.com/hanasushicafe/

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.

Hana Sushi

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).

Hana Sushi

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.

Hana Sushi

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.

Yet Another Tasty Meal at Manpuku

ManpukuLocation105 McCaul Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.manpuku.ca/

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.

Manpuku

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).