Asian Fusion at the Smorgasburg Food Festival

Nozomi at SmorgasburgLocation: 7 Queens Quay East, Toronto
Website: https://www.smorgasburgtoronto.com/

If you haven’t checked it out yet, Smorgasburg is a local offshoot of an American outdoor food festival, and finds a whole bunch of tasty-looking eats crammed together near the waterfront.  The vendors have been curated by food writer Suresh Doss, which means that unlike at a lot of food festivals like this, it’s a safe bet that everything is as good as it looks.  And there’s a lot of good-looking food on offer, with dozens of vendors each serving up a handful of tempting dishes.

Nozomi at Smorgasburg

I got a couple of things from Nozomi, who describe themselves as serving “Asian inspired comfort food,” and yeah, it was top-notch.

Nozomi at Smorgasburg

I tried a couple of things.  First up is the bulgogi kimchi cheesesteak, which is exactly what you want it to be.  Sometimes fusion dishes can feel a bit like they’re cramming together two things that probably didn’t need to be combined, but everything here really works: the flavourful beef, the gooey cheese, and the zingy kimchi all go perfectly together.  The soft roll does a great job of holding it all together without getting in the way.  It’s a great dish.

Nozomi at Smorgasburg

The other thing I tried is a dish they call “pocos,” which based on my attempts to google this, seems to be something they made up.  It’s basically a poke taco (it’s filled with salmon and seaweed), but with a crispy wonton-style shell instead of a tortilla.  It’s super tasty, with the tenderness of the sauce-coated salmon contrasting very nicely with the crispy shell.  Like with the cheesesteak, it takes something that could have come off as gimmicky and unnecessary, and makes it absolutely delightful.

Amazing Croissants at Geste Croissanterie

Geste Croissanterie
Location
: 1183 Dundas Street West, Toronto
Website: https://geste-croissant.com/

I love croissants.  I mean, who doesn’t?  They’re crispy, they’re fluffy, they’re buttery, they can be sweet, they can be savoury… they’re one of the world’s perfect foods, and there are few things more delightful than eating a really great one.

Well, Geste Croissanterie specializes in the stuff, and as you’d hope, they’re great.  I tried a sweet one and a savoury one, and they were both seriously delicious.

Geste Croissanterie

I started with the smoked salmon sandwich, which they make with a croissant that’s been formed into a ring like a bagel.  The croissant itself is top-notch; it’s super flaky and buttery, with a great contrast between the crispy exterior and the tender interior.  But the rest of the sandwich isn’t an afterthought, with some seriously good smoked salmon that’s definitely a cut above the stuff you can buy at the supermarket.

Geste Croissanterie

But it was the pistachio pain au chocolat (which the man behind the counter said is their most popular item — and I can absolutely see why) that really blew me away.  I’m sure it helped that it was clearly super fresh, but oh man this was easily one of the best things I’ve eaten in a while.

Geste Croissanterie

It features that same outstanding croissant base, which is filled with tasty chocolate and a gooey pistachio paste (I wish I had taken a picture of the interior so you could see how glorious it is).  It’s very sweet, but not overwhelmingly so, and the balance of all of the components is absolutely perfect.  It’s so good.

Meaty, Cheesy Sandwiches at Good Behaviour Submarine

Good Behaviour Submarine
Location
: 342 Westmoreland Avenue North, Toronto
Website: https://goodbehaviourto.ca/

Though Good Behaviour started out as an ice cream shop, they also serve an assortment of meaty subs, and sure, why not?  Ice cream and subs; seems like a winning combo to me.

The menu features a few cold subs, and a few hot ones.  I tried a couple of the hot ones: beef brisket (“smoked beef brisket, smoked gouda, banana peppers, caramelized onion, horseradish, beef fat vinaigrette, iceberg lettuce”) and pork shoulder (“braised pork shoulder, provolone, salsa verde, broccoli rabe, chili preserve, mustard mayo, lemon juice, red onion, iceberg lettuce”).

Good Behaviour Submarine

The sandwiches were both meaty, cheesy, and incredibly rich.  They were quite tasty — how could they not be, with that quantity of tender meat and gooey cheese — though nothing about either of them particularly blew me away.

Good Behaviour Submarine

The problem is that they’re both a bit one-note in their flavour and in their meaty richness.  Though maybe “problem” should be in quotes there, because let’s face it: a sandwich being meaty and rich isn’t exactly the end of the world, even if I’d like some other flavours/textures to break things up a bit.  To be fair, both sandwiches had elements like banana peppers and salsa verde that should have performed this function, but all I could taste was meat, cheese, and heavy sauces.

Good Behaviour Submarine

Still, they were both solid sandwiches, particularly the beef brisket, which had a mild but satisfying smokiness from the beef and the gouda.  And the bread is great — perfectly toasty, soft and fluffy, but with enough heft to stand up to the sloppy fillings.

An Amazing Sandwich at Elsa’s Food & Bakery

Elsa's Food & Bakery
Location
: 30 Baywood Road, Unit 15, Etobicoke
Website: https://www.facebook.com/Elsas-bakery-1905919683049150/

Elsa’s is a delightful hole-in-the-wall Iraqi bakery that specializes in a pita-esque flatbread called samoon; you can get it on its own (you should do this) or stuffed with shawarma or falafel (you should do this too).

This is the latest hidden gem I’ve discovered thanks to the inimitable Suresh Doss, and like basically everything he writes about, it’s great.

Elsa's Food & Bakery

It’s that bread.  It’s chewy, fluffy, flavourful, and amazing.  It’s tasty as part of a sandwich, but it’s also pretty damn good on its own.

I got the falafel sandwich, which comes with the usual toppings, along with the delightful addition of eggplant and fries.  The last time I had eggplant in a falafel sandwich was at L’As du Fallafel in Paris, and I’m starting to seriously wonder why every falafel sandwich doesn’t have eggplant in it.  It’s a fantastic addition.

Elsa's Food & Bakery

The other thing that stands out is the sauce they top it with, called amba — it’s a mango-based sauce, and it’s sweet, sour, tangy, and delicious, with a mildly curry-tinged flavour.  It’s not a subtle sauce; its intense zippiness completely dominated the other flavours in the sandwich, but it’s so tasty that this barely felt like an issue.

Quick Bites: Tom’s Dairy Freeze, Bang Bang, Rudy

Sundae from Tom's Dairy Freeze
Caramel Sundae at Tom’s Dairy Freeze

Hey, gotta take advantage of Tom’s while they’re around (they’re closed all winter).  On this particular visit I got a twist with hot caramel sauce, and yeah it’s as tasty as ever.

Bang Bang
Cherry Milkjam at Bang Bang

I’ve found Bang Bang to be a bit hit-or-miss lately, but when they’re good, they’re still really good.  This particular flavour is actually a “twist” of sorts — it combines cherry ice cream with dulce de leche, and yeah that’s a great combo.  The cherry is a bit sour on its own, but mixing it with the sweet richness of the dulce de leche tempers its tartness and is thoroughly delicious.

Rudy
Fried Chicken Sandwich at Rudy

I’ve already written about the fried chicken sandwich at Rudy (A.K.A. the Valentino), so I’m not going to beat a dead horse, but it’s still nothing particularly special.  It wasn’t overcooked this time, so it had that going for it, but it was almost aggressively middling.  If I you had told me it was a fried chicken sandwich from a fast food chain like Wendy’s or A&W, I would have believed you.  And Rudy’s is expanding quite a bit; I guess they’re becoming a fast food chain themselves, so… it is what it is. [shrug]