Mediocre Barbecue at the Beach Hill Smokehouse

Beach Hill SmokehouseLocation: 172 Main Street, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.beachhillsmokehouse.com/

I mentioned, in my post about Hanabusa Cafe, that Toronto churns through food trends with an almost alarming fervor.  If anyone is keeping track of such things, Texas-style barbecue needs to be added to the list; something like a dozen restaurants have opened up in the last few years serving that very specific style of American barbecue cookery.

And yet no one seems to be able to consistently get it right.  Even the much-lauded Adamson falls short.  It’s tasty enough, but it lacks the deep smoky flavour that you’ll find in real-deal southern ‘cue.

Beach Hill Smokehouse

I had heard good things about the Beach Hill Smokehouse, but alas: the search continues.  These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.

I got the Austin sandwich, which is a no-frills brisket sandwich with barbecue sauce, served on a bun.  It comes with one pork rib as a bonus.

I probably should have ordered the brisket on its own.  The pictures I’ve seen of the Beach Hill’s brisket have featured big, impressively picturesque slices of glistening, fatty beef.

Beach Hill Smokehouse

The sandwich on the hand…  I have a strong suspicion that the sandwich is how they get rid of all of the little dried up bits that aren’t good enough to be served on their own.  The brisket scraps in my sandwich were vaguely smokey, but incredibly dry. Zero fat, zero moisture — just chewy and tough.  Even the generous amount of sauce (which was sweet, spicy, and tasty) couldn’t quite overcome the extreme dryness.

The bun was fine, but it was big and bready, and only served to further compound the dryness problem.

Beach Hill Smokehouse

The rib was a bit better than the brisket.  It was peppery and intensely sweet, with an almost ham-like cured flavour that reminded me of jerky.  The texture was nice, however — tender but not mushy, with a little bit of a meaty bite.  The flavour was a bit unusual, but it wasn’t altogether unappealing.

I got the loaded baked beans on the side, which was the clear highlight.  They had a really great flavour, with a pleasant kick and a generous amount of pork and sausage chunks.  They were some of the best baked beans I’ve had in a long time; they’re outstanding.

Satisfying Grilled Cheese at the RH Courtyard Cafe

RH Courtyard CafeLocation: 3401 Dufferin Street, North York (inside Yorkdale Mall)
Websitehttps://www.restorationhardware.com/content/category.jsp?context=TorontoCafe

Since I’ve already established that the restaurant at the Restoration Hardware in Yorkdale is better than it has any right to be (I was shocked at how decent the burger was), it shouldn’t be a surprise that the grilled cheese is quite tasty.

It’s a classic, no-frills grilled cheese.  This is a dish that a lot of places feel the need to gussy up, with toppings and condiments aplenty.  But grilled cheese is perfect on its own; all you need is good quality bread, cheese, and a whole bunch of butter.  No ornamentation is necessary.

RH Courtyard Cafe

And that’s exactly what the RH Courtyard Cafe gives you: the cheddar cheese is sharp and gooey, and the bread has the perfect amount of substance, with a crispy exterior and a soft interior.

It’s also ridiculously buttery, as it should be; if you can hold a grilled cheese sandwich without your hands instantly becoming slippery with grease, then you need to throw it right in the garbage.  It’s worthless.

But then there’s the price.  It’s 19 bucks.  As good as it is (and it’s quite good), it’s still just a grilled cheese sandwich, which might be the easiest (and cheapest) thing in the world to make.  So it’s hard to justify spending that much on it.

Amazing Roast Beef at Woodfire Sandwich Co.

Woodfire Sandwich Co.Location: 3797 Lake Shore Boulevard West, Etobicoke
Websitehttps://www.woodfiresandwich.com/

You can’t go wrong with a really good sandwich.  And the folks at Woodfire Sandwich Co. certainly seem to know their stuff.

In particular, the First Date — a roast beef sandwich with crispy onions, arugula, gorgonzola, sauteed mushrooms, and mayo — was something special.

Woodfire Sandwich Co.

The sandwich is crammed with an absolutely absurd amount of rare roast beef; this would be overwhelming with lesser quality beef, but here it’s amazing.  The meat is perfectly tender, with a really satisfying beefy flavour that’s only amplified by the fact that they serve it cold.

Woodfire Sandwich Co.

Beef and mushrooms are best friends, so I don’t need to tell you that this combination was great.  The cheese and the mayo add a nice amount of creaminess, and the peppery arugula does a great job of keeping the sandwich’s richer flavours in check.

It’s served in a sesame seed roll that perfectly straddles the line between lightness and heft; it makes its presence known and holds up well to the onslaught of beef and mushrooms, but it never overwhelms.  It’s a great roll for a great sandwich.

Woodfire Sandwich Co.

I also tried the fried chicken sandwich, which was less great (or more accurately: not great at all).  It was fine, but nothing about it stands out.    The exterior didn’t really have the crisp factor that you’re looking for in a great fried chicken sandwich, and the seasoning was ho-hum.  Plus, the chicken itself (white meat, sadly) was slightly overcooked and a bit dry.  It was a perfectly acceptable sandwich, but nothing about it stood out like the amazing roast beef.

Japanese Domination Continues at Koi Koi Sake Bar

Koi Koi Sake BarLocation: 170 Baldwin Street, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.koikoibar.com/

Joining places like Little Pebbles, Sakoshi Mart, and Millie Creperie, the Japanese domination of this stretch of Kensington Market continues with Koi Koi Sake Bar, which features a tasty selection of Japanese eats.  I, for one, welcome our new Japanese overlords.

I tried a few things.  First up was a nice little snack that every table gets by default.  I meant to ask what these were and completely forgot, but they were crunchy, savoury, and a little bit sweet.

Koi Koi Sake Bar

Next up was the katsu sando, which is a fried pork sandwich topped with a generous amount of mayo and tangy tonkatsu sauce, with some romaine lettuce for added crunch and freshness.  It’s a solid sandwich, though the pork was overcooked (I had a hard time even biting through it in parts).

Koi Koi Sake Bar

The miso nasu followed, which is a dish consisting of grilled, miso-glazed eggplant.  It feels like it’s missing something (a crunchy counterpoint to the soft eggplant, perhaps?), but it’s enjoyable enough; it basically tastes like they distilled the flavour of miso soup into a glaze and then brushed it onto an eggplant.

Koi Koi Sake Bar

The last dish was the bacon fried rice, which food writer David Ort called “possibly the best fried rice [he’s] ever had.” This is mostly what made me want to come here.

Koi Koi Sake Bar

I’m not sure if it’s the best I’ve ever had, but it was definitely top-shelf fried rice, with a nice meatiness from the generous bacon and a satisfying level of crispiness from the fried garlic slices.  The creamy mayo on top was a nice touch.

Cheap, Satisfying Eats at Ho Garden Chinese Restaurant

Ho Garden Chinese RestaurantLocation: 9255 Woodbine Avenue, Markham
Website: None

If you’re looking for bang for your buck, you’re not going to do much better than Ho Garden, a delightful Hong Kong-style diner in Markham.  I ordered the egg sandwich, which comes with a generous bowl of noodle soup with beef, and a mug of milk tea.  The price?  Seven bucks.  Delightful.

I was a little bit skeptical about the egg sandwich, but aside from the fact that it’s a Hong Kong comfort food staple, a friend strongly recommended it.

Ho Garden Chinese Restaurant

I’ll admit it — I was wrong to be skeptical.  It was surprisingly delicious.

It’s the definition of simplicity: it’s just a plain omelette served inside of crustless white bread.  No mayonnaise, no condiments — just eggs, salt, and untoasted bread.  Sounds way too plain, right?  Wrong.

Ho Garden Chinese Restaurant

The eggs were fluffy, creamy, and perfectly cooked, and the slightly sweet, light-as-a-cloud bread complimented them perfectly.  Considering its utter simplicity, it was shockingly good.

The noodles — which feature a generous amount of toothsome noodles in a flavourful, slightly spicy broth, topped with tender beef — were quite tasty as well, but it’s that egg sandwich that was clearly the star of the show.