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.

A Unique (and Loud) Dining Experience at Grand Bizarre Supper Club

Grand Bizarre Supper ClubLocation: 15 Saskatchewan Road, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.grandbizarre.com/

I very randomly got an email about a month ago inviting me to the media preview of a new “supper club” called Grand Bizarre.  Anything with the word “club” in its name doesn’t particularly sound like my jam — but you know what is my jam?  Free food.  I quickly found a friend who was willing to go with me (the promise of the aforementioned free food made this an easy enough proposition), and I was off to the races.

Grand Bizarre Supper Club

The place is a bit odd; it opens once a week on Saturday nights, and it’s somewhere between a nightclub and a food court.  It’s an absolutely massive space, with several food vendors, a whole bunch of bartenders, and a DJ playing loud, thrumming dance music that makes it nearly impossible to talk (though thankfully, my dining companion and I were able to find a spot near the sushi bar that wasn’t quite as ear-splittingly loud as the rest of the joint).

Grand Bizarre Supper Club

One of the main gimmicks is that instead of paying cash for the various foodstuffs, you buy “Bizarre chips,” which look like poker chips and which act like currency to buy food.  I believe you still have to pay regular cash for the drinks, though I’m not entirely sure — it was an open bar during the media preview, which made me super glad I drove there instead of taking public transit.  I did, however, manage to have several free soda waters, so who’s the real winner here?  (please don’t answer that.)

Grand Bizarre Supper Club

They gave everybody nine Bizarre chips, which is worth 30 bucks, and which was enough to get a decent amount of food.  I managed to try a few things.

The first thing I tried (and easily the highlight of the night) was the fried chicken bao: “pimento cheese, bacon onion jam, pickled carrot slaw, bacon onion jam, steam bun.”  It cost five Bizarre chips, or about $16.50, and comes with a side of potato chips.

It was a solid sandwich.  The only real issue (though it was a big one) is that the fried chicken patty was way overcooked, and had clearly been sitting out for a while.  It was tasty, with a nice crispy exterior, but the meat was dry and lukewarm.

Grand Bizarre Supper Club

Everything else was quite good, with the amazing bacon onion jam easily being the star of the show.  It was an absolute taste bonanza, with a perfect combo of sweet and savoury.  I want to buy a big jar of this so I can eat it on everything.

Between the rich pimento cheese, the vinegary bite of the slaw, the spice of the jalapenos, and the sweet/savory combo of the bacon onion jam, it was a great balance of tastes and textures.

The bun was interesting.  It was somewhere between a Chinese bao and a hamburger bun, and was actually quite good.

If the chicken were fresh and not overcooked this would have been a fantastic sandwich, but even as it was it I enjoyed it.

Grand Bizarre Supper Club

Next up: the sushi area was selling a few dim sum classics along with the raw fish.  We tried the har gow (shrimp dumplings) and siu mai (chicken dumplings); each order came with four, and cost three Bizarre chips.

They were both horrifically bad.

The shrimp, I guess, was the better of the two.  It had obviously been sitting in a warming tray for way too long, because the wrapper basically disintegrated in my mouth, and the filling was off-puttingly squishy, with a few rock-hard shrimp bits.  The whole thing was absolute mush through and through (aside from the tiny little shrimp bits).  The flavour was fine, however.

Grand Bizarre Supper Club

The pork, on the other hand, was flat-out disgusting.  It was dry and tough and took a distressingly long time to chew.  And something about the flavour was just off.  I’m not gonna lie: it was barely fit for human consumption.

They’re also hilariously overpriced.  Each order was three chips (or ten dollars in human currency) for four pieces.  That’s more than double what you’ll pay for an infinitely better version of these at literally any dim sum place in the GTA (seriously: they’re the worst version I’ve had of both dishes by far).  So please: do not order these.  They’re bad and they’ll make you feel bad.

There were a handful of other savoury options (pizza, sushi, salad, etc.), but at this point we moved on to dessert.  We only had two Bizarre chips left between the two of us, so we found the one thing in the whole place that cost two (pretty much everything was between three and twelve chips).

Grand Bizarre Supper Club

I can’t remember what it was called and I forgot to take a photo of the menu at this particular area (I’ll bet they’re really glad they invited me to create this quality content), but whatever it was, it was fine.  It was chocolately, with a texture somewhere between a brownie and pudding.  It was a bit too gluey, but it had a nice chocolate flavour and some interesting spices that gave it an almost gingerbread-like taste profile.

There was also an area selling Cheesecake Factory cheesecakes and cupcakes that were free during the media night, so of course I had a slice of cheesecake and a cupcake.

Grand Bizarre Supper Club

This was actually my first time trying the cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory, and it was fine, I guess?  Even by the standards of boxed cheesecake it wasn’t that great (I think President’s Choice is better), but it was cheesecake and I ate it.  It was tasty enough.

The cupcake was about in line with the cheesecake.  There wasn’t anything blatantly wrong with it, but it’s safe to say that the cupcakes at basically any bakery will be tastier.

Grand Bizarre Supper Club

And that was that.  As I mentioned, the whole format isn’t really my thing, and the food wasn’t nearly good enough to make me ever want to come back here again.  But if you’re into nightclubs and you’re also hungry, it’s a thing you could do, I guess?

Hit-or-Miss Pizza at Nonna’s Oven

Nonna's OvenLocation: 1285 Elgin Mills Road East, Richmond Hill
Websitehttp://www.nonnasoven.com/

Nonna’s Oven is an Italian joint specializing in pizza (they also have pasta and sandwiches, though the pizza seems to be the main attraction) with locations in Richmond Hill and Oakville.  It’s not bad, but it’s probably not worth going out of your way for.

Nonna's Oven

We started with the frittura mista — a plate piled high with deep fried chunks of calamari, cuttlefish, shrimp, scallops, and whitefish.  This was mostly pretty good, though the squid was rubbery (everything was a bit overcooked) and the cuttlefish had an unpleasantly fishy funk.

Still, it’s hard to go wrong with anything that’s battered and deep fried, especially when the batter is as light and crispy as it is here.

Nonna's Oven

The pizzas were a bit of a mixed bag.  The first was the Margherita Italiana (“homemade tomato sauce, topped with fior di late cheese, fresh basil and light drizzled olive oil”).  The thing about a margherita pizza is that it’s so incredibly simple that if all the elements aren’t on point (the crust in particular), then it’s not going to be particularly good.

And the crust is definitely an issue here; it’s ultra thin and crispy, with absolutely no substance outside of a crispy crunch.  It’s basically like eating tomato sauce and cheese on a really bland cracker.  It’s not great.

Nonna's Oven

The Hawaiian Inferno pizza (“pineapple, bacon, onion and hot banana peppers”) was definitely the better of the two.  The more cheese- and topping-heavy pizza helped to compensate for the bland, crackery crust, and the toppings all worked pretty well together.

In the case of both pizzas, the real MVP was the jar of fiery chili oil they had on the table.  It had little bits of hot peppers, and if you got a heaping spoonful of the peppers and the oil, it really kicked things up and helped to make everything a bit more interesting.

Amazing Wonton Noodle Soup at Wonton Chai Noodle

Wonton Chai NoodleLocation: 4040 Creditview Road, Mississauga
Websitehttp://www.wontonchainoodle.ca/

A good bowl of noodle soup is just the best.   It’s the best.  If you disagree, then I’m going to have to respectfully inform you that you’re wrong and that the way you’re living your life is wrong.

Wonton Chai Noodle

And Wonton Chai Noodle’s noodle soup game is strong.  Not only that, but it’s delightfully affordable.

Wonton Chai Noodle

Seven bucks gets you a very large, steaming bowl of noodley, shrimpy goodness.  The ultra-thin and ultra-firm noodles are really satisfying, and the simple-but-flavourful broth is imminently slurpable (especially when you add a heaping spoonful of the inferno-hot chili oil) — but it’s the wontons where this bowl really shines.

Wonton Chai Noodle

The filling of each wonton is crammed with whole pieces of perfectly cooked shrimp.  Shrimp is easy to overcook and turn rubbery, but these were spot-on.  And the flavour was just as good, with a rich seafoodiness that makes me want to order a whole pile of these and eat it like a bag of popcorn.  The wrapper was ever-so-slightly mushy, but aside from that they were seriously tasty.

Tasty Dim Sum at Yang’s Fine Chinese Cuisine

Yang's Fine Chinese CuisineLocation: 9665 Bayview Avenue, Richmond Hill
Websitehttp://yangsfinechinesecuisine.ca/

I really like dim sum.  It’s like brunch, but way more interesting.  There are only so many times you can have eggs benedict or pancakes before they start to bore you.  When that happens, the cavalcade of dumplings, buns, and other tasty bites at a dim sum joint are just what the doctor ordered.

Yang's Fine Chinese Cuisine

And Yang’s Fine Chinese Cuisine in Richmond Hill (not to be confused with Yang’s Chinese Cuisine in Markham) is quite good.

Yang's Fine Chinese Cuisine

I mean, look at all that stuff.  If you can tell me you don’t want to eat all of that right now, then you and me are two very different people.

Yang's Fine Chinese Cuisine

These little balls of shrimp surrounded by crunchy almond slivers might have been my favourite dish of the day.  The shrimp had a really great texture, and the crispiness and nuttiness of the exterior complimented it perfectly.

Yang's Fine Chinese Cuisine

And these pork buns?  Chicken and waffles wish they could nail the sweet/salty combo as well as these little guys.