Bong Lua Vietnamese Restaurant

Bong Lua Vietnamese RestaurantLocation: 2572 Birchmount Road, Scarborough
Website: None

Bun Rieu — a Vietnamese crab noodle soup — is one of those dishes that’s everything at once.  It’s alternately sweet, salty, savoury, meaty, fishy, and sour.  It’s quite rich, but vibrant enough that it never feels overly heavy.

Bong Lua Vietnamese Restaurant

The version at Bong Lua isn’t mind-blowing, but it’s quite tasty.  The broth lacks the rich complexity of the best versions of this dish, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it.

Bong Lua Vietnamese Restaurant

There’s a great interplay between the sweet acidity of the tomatoes and the fishy funk from the crab.  That’s not the mention the chewy rice noodles, which suit the dish perfectly.  It’s a solid bowl of soup.

Middling Ramen at Sansotei Ramen

Santosei RamenLocation: 100 City Centre Drive, Mississauga (inside Square One)
Websitehttps://www.sansotei.com/

Sometimes, I just don’t have all that much to say about a particular dish.  When something is fine — not particularly good, but not particularly bad — it can be difficult to muster up all that much enthusiasm to write about it.

Santosei Ramen

The tonkotsu ramen at Santosei is one of those dishes.  The only exceptional thing about it is how exceptionally middle-of-the-road it is.

Santosei Ramen

There are some things about it that I liked, however.  You can choose thick or thin noodles — I went with thick, and they were chewy and satisfying.  And the broth has a rich porkiness that’s pretty tasty.  But it’s a bit one-note in its flavour, and it’s intensely salty.

The chasu wasn’t bad, but I think it needed to cook for slightly longer, as it had a vaguely rubbery texture.   The egg was nice, but ice cold.

Santosei Ramen

Even by the standards of ramen in Toronto, what they’re serving at Santosei is quite ho-hum.  But…  I don’t know.  It’s fine, I guess?

Rich, Chickeny Ramen at Touhenboku Ramen

Touhenboku RamenLocation: 2459 Yonge Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.touhenboku.ca/

The ramen at Touhenboku is a little bit different than the norm.  Most of the ramen shops in Toronto serve tonkotsu-style ramen, in which pork bones are boiled for hours and hours until you wind up with a very rich, porky broth.

Touhenboku, on the other hand, subs out the pork for chicken, and yet still manages to retain that intense richness that you associate with tonkotsu.

Touhenboku Ramen

If your average bowl of chicken soup is the soup equivalent of white meat (lighter, with a more restrained flavour) then what they’re serving at Touhenboku is more like dark meat, with a really intense flavour and a fattier texture.

In fact, the soup might be a bit too fatty, with a heavy oiliness that’s borderline too much.  I’m certainly not going to complain about a very rich bowl of ramen, but this one was slightly too greasy.

Touhenboku Ramen

I ordered the sea salt ramen (a.k.a. shio ramen) from the “Tomo’s favourite” section of the menu.  It’s a pretty standard bowl, with the usual assortment of veggies, an egg, and chasu.

It’s (mostly) quite good.  The noodles were a bit too thin (thick is also an option, however — I think that’s the one to go with), and the flavour was slightly one-note in its rich chickeniness (chickeniness… that’s a word, right?), but it was a satisfying bowl of soup.

Touhenboku Ramen

Most notably, the very intense chicken flavour is pretty remarkable, and the thinly sliced chasu was ultra-tender and perfectly seasoned, with a great porky flavour.  The egg was also perfectly cooked, with a great gooey yolk, so there’s definitely more good here than bad.

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.

Amazing Khao Soi at Khao San Road

Khao San RoadLocation: 11 Charlotte Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.khaosanroad.ca/

The Khao Soi at Khao San Road is improbably good.  It’s the type of dish where you have your first mouthful and think “wait… is this as delicious as I think it is?”  Then you take another mouthful, and yeah: it really is that good.

Khao soi is a Thai noodle soup that features a super rich curry broth topped with crispy fried noodles for texture.

Khao San Road

The version at Khao San Road is outstanding.  That restaurant is one of those places with a perpetual line out the door; once you try the food, it’s easy enough to see why.

The curry-infused soup — made indulgently rich thanks to creamy coconut milk — is so damn satisfying.

There’s nothing subtle about it; it’s an absolute flavour bomb, but with a complexity that ensures it never feels one-note or overwhelming, despite how assertive the flavours are.

Khao San Road

I had it with chicken, which complimented it quite well; you can also get tofu, beef, or shrimp.

The combination of the crispy noodles on top, the chewy noodles in the bowl, and the ultra-creamy soup is seriously addictive.  It’s ridiculously good.