Stellar Dim Sum at Dragon Boat Fusion Cuisine

Dragon Boat Fusion CuisineLocation: 160 East Beaver Creek Road, Markham
Websitehttp://www.dragonboatfusioncuisine.com/

Dragon Boat Fusion Cuisine is a dim sum joint that does well.  We showed up at around 10:40 on a Saturday, and the place was seriously crowded.  By the time we left, it was even more packed, with a crowd waiting for tables almost going out the door.

Dragon Boat Fusion Cuisine

Eating the food, it’s easy enough to see why.  Some highlights:

Dragon Boat Fusion Cuisine

The char siu was sweet and incredibly tender.

Dragon Boat Fusion Cuisine

These fried seafood-filled tubes were nice and crispy on the outside, with a fishy (but not overbearing) flavour.

Dragon Boat Fusion Cuisine

The fried dough noodle rolls were probably the best version of that dish that I’ve ever had, with a surprisingly complex flavour and a very satisfying contrast of textures between the chewy noodle, the crispy fried exterior, and the soft interior.

Dragon Boat Fusion Cuisine

I really should have taken a picture of the interior of these salted egg buns, because they were absolutely crammed with an oozy, sweet custardy filling.

Dragon Boat Fusion Cuisine

There were only a couple of weak dishes — surprisingly, they were the dim sum standbys that you’d think they’d work especially hard to get right.  The har gow featured an overly thick, almost gummy wrapper encasing overcooked shrimp.

Dragon Boat Fusion Cuisine

And the pork buns featured a filling that tasted a bit too leftovery.

Still, they were only two mild weak points in a meal that was otherwise quite stellar.

Climbing the Lobster Mountain at Fishman Lobster Clubhouse

Fishman Lobster ClubhouseLocation: 4020 Finch Avenue East, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.flctoronto.com/

Is it even possible to see the impressively enormous piles of lobster or crab at Fishman Lobster Clubhouse and not want to immediately go there?  I don’t think it is!

I’ve been drooling over those piles on Instagram for some time now, not to mention on David Chang’s amazing Netflix show, Ugly Delicious.  But you need a big group to really do the place justice, so I had to bide my time until a large enough group could be assembled.

I recently went with a group of ten, and yeah, we did the place justice.

Fishman Lobster Clubhouse

We started with a few different dishes — soup, braised beef, greens, fried rice, noodles — and they were all tasty enough, but that’s not the reason you’re there.

We ordered a twenty pound pile of lobster, which consisted of two enormous beasts that they actually brought to the table before the meal started (a lot of people like to pose for pre-dinner photographs with their lobsters or crabs, which felt like a bit much to me).

Fishman Lobster Clubhouse

Later, the mountain arrives.  And it’s an awe-inspiring sight: a seemingly endless amount of deep-fried lobster chunks, a whole bunch of fries, and enough crispy fried garlic bits to launch a vampire genocide.

It’s so good.  The lobster is cut up into easy-to-eat chunks; it’s still on the shell, but the meat is accessible without the need for any shell-crunching tools.  Which is good, because there’s a lot of lobster there — there’s no time to mess around with cracking shells.  There’s a whole bunch of lobster to eat.

Fishman Lobster Clubhouse

It’s more lobster than I’ve ever had in a single meal, and it’s so tasty; the meat is tender, garlicky, a little bit sweet, and has some nice fried crispy bits.  That’s not to mention the fried garlic, which is surprisingly addictive (you’re going to reek of garlic for about 24 hours after eating here; deal with it).

I ate an insane amount of lobster.  I was so full.  It was one of the most memorable meals I’ve had in a while.

Amazing Noodle Soup at I Love Pho 2

I Love Pho 2Location: 1248 Dundas Street East, Mississauga
Website: None

I’ve always liked Vietnamese food, but I feel like I’ve spent the majority of my life seriously underrating it.  I’ve recently discovered that Vietnamese cuisine can be downright magical, with a vibrancy and depth of flavour that’s irresistible.

And there’s so much more to it than the obvious choices like pho and banh mi (not that there’s anything wrong with either of those dishes).

I Love Pho 2

Case in point: the bun rieu at I Love Pho 2, a zingy noodle soup made with a tomato- and crab-based broth that’s absolutely crammed with stuff: sliced beef, sliced pork, ground pork, tomato, blood cake, fried tofu, fried onions, fresh herbs, and a whole plate’s worth of crunchy veggies, not to mention the heaping portion of soft, chewy rice noodles.

I Love Pho 2

It’s amazingly good.  There’s a really delightful variety of flavours and textures — sometimes, the meat in a soup like this can taste off or be a little tough, but everything here was great.

It’s the broth, however, that makes this dish so special.  It has a really rich seafood/crab flavour, with a nice zinginess from the tomato and a mild sweetness that rounds things out.  It was incredibly satisfying.

I Love Pho 2

It was also an amazing value — I got the medium size, which cost about ten bucks and came with an almost comically oversized bowl that was filled to the brim and absolutely crammed with noodles and various meats.

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.

Delicious and Unique pasta at Shiso Tree Cafe

Shiso Tree CafeLocation: 3160 Steeles Avenue East, Markham
Websitehttps://www.facebook.com/ShisoTree/

Italian/Japanese fusion might sound odd on paper, but aside from the fact that Italian restaurants are actually quite popular in Japan, Shiso Tree Cafe is amazing.  All you need is one bite of their food to put any doubts to bed.

Shiso Tree Cafe

I tried a couple of starters: the tera-goma tebasaki (perfectly cooked chicken wings with a crunchy exterior and an addictively sweet glaze) and the tarutaru fries (amazing fries with homemade tartar sauce for dipping).  But their pasta is the real reason to come here.

Shiso Tree Cafe

I had the nori tsukudani: “braised nori sauce, onsen tamago, ikura, scallops, mentsuyu.”

It was so good, with the vibrant Japanese flavours making it really stand out from your average bowl of pasta.

The braised nori sauce tasted exactly how you’d hope it would: like nori, but in sauce form.  There’s something a bit odd (and very delightful) about taking such a familiar flavour and putting it in a new context.

Shiso Tree Cafe

And the onsen tamago (which is kind of like a silkier version of a poached egg, with a white that’s just barely set) was the perfect compliment.  It essentially liquefies into the pasta, coating the noodles and giving them an eggy richness.

The sweet, perfectly-cooked scallops match really well with the seaweed-infused sauce, and the greens add crunchy pops of freshness.  The pasta itself is, as you’d hope, perfectly al dente.

It’s certainly an unusual bowl of pasta, but it’s one where all of the flavours have been so perfectly considered.  It’s amazing.

Shiso Tree Cafe

I finished with the chestnut creme brulee, which was a fairly ingenious spin on a classic dessert; the rich chestnut flavour complimented the custard perfectly, and the crackily torched sugar on top was as satisfying as ever.