Location: 1001 Islington Avenue, Etobicoke
Hey, guess what? Spicy Chicken McNuggets are Chicken McNuggets that are… spicy. Shocking, right??
Well, I figured they might taste slightly different, or have some kind of different seasoning or something, but as far as I can tell they taste just like the regular version, but with heat.
That spice level isn’t exactly going to blow your face off, but it is there. I’d probably put it a notch or two above mild.
I got the Ghost Pepper dip on the side, and that stuff is actually quite tasty; it’s noticeably hotter than the McNuggets, and it’s creamy and delightfully zippy. The heat sneaks up on you. It doesn’t seem that hot at first, but by the time I was done, my mouth was nice and toasty. I’d buy a whole bottle of that stuff if I could.
Location: 190 University Avenue, Toronto
Momofuku announced a few months ago that they’re shutting down their Toronto outpost later this month (with their location being replaced by Mott 32, a fancy Chinese restaurant chain). I figured one more visit to the Noodle Bar was in order to say goodbye.
I tried a couple of things. First up: the spicy rice cakes from their greatest hits menu, which the menu describes as “rice cakes seared on the plancha and tossed in a sauce with pork sausage, tofu, sichuan chili, gai lan, and finished with scallions.”
It’s a great dish; the rice cakes have a nice combo of crispy exterior and chewy interior, the flavourful sauce complements them perfectly, and the tasty pork sausage rounds things out. I can see why they consider this to be one of their greatest hits. It’s very good.
Since this is almost certainly my last ever visit to Momofuku (at least in Toronto), I had to get one of my favourites: the extremely spicy noodles. I feel like the level of extreme spice was slightly toned down from previous visits, and the noodles were a bit on the soft side, but this was otherwise a tasty (and still explosively spicy) dish.
Location: 2645 Liruma Road, Mississauga
Oaza Shawarma Plus is one of those local joints that doesn’t stand out in any particular way, but that’s still satisfying for what it is.
I got the chicken shawarma wrap, and it was pretty good. The chicken was entirely lacking in the crispy bits you’re hoping for from great shawarma, but aside from that it was juicy and plentiful. The sauces (hot sauce, garlic sauce, and tahini) were all tasty, and the proportion of sauce, chicken, and fresh veggies was just right.
Bonus: the wrap was nicely toasted in a sandwich press. I feel like unless you’re starting with some seriously fresh, delicious bread (and the pita here was of the bagged, store-bought variety), toasting will automatically enhance a shawarma wrap.
Do you need to get in your car and drive here immediately? No, absolutely not. But if you’re in the area, it’s a tasty enough wrap.
Location: 2853 Dundas Street West, Toronto
I’ve written about Chica’s Chicken many, many times on this blog. I’ve mentioned that I think they serve the best fried chicken in the city, and that’s still probably true — even if I wasn’t crazy about this particular sandwich.
The Jalapeno Popper Sando, as per their menu: “boneless fried chicken topped with chipotle aioli and pickled jalapeños, served on a toasted brioche bun.”
The fried chicken is as delicious as ever; it’s the perfect combo of crispy (but not overbearing) exterior and juicy interior. It’s so damn good.
I’m not quite as sold on the rest of the sandwich, however. It’s that chipotle aioli. It’s sweet. I like the sweet/salty combo as much as the next guy, but holy moly the level of intense sugariness here is a bit intense. It overpowers the other flavours of the sandwich. I find the Sweet Heat sandwich at Chica’s to be a bit on the sweet side, and this one is even sweeter, somehow. Between the sweet sauce and the sweet brioche bun, the flavour is extremely one note.
It also tastes absolutely nothing like a jalapeno popper, which is odd. The whole point of a jalepeno popper is the contrast between the tangy cream cheese and the spicy bite of the jalapeno, and I don’t think there was any cream cheese here?? Or if there was, I couldn’t taste it over the aggressive sweetness.
Also, I don’t think I’ve ever had a jalapeno popper that was even remotely sweet. Am I the weird one, or is Chica’s?
Oh well. Everything else on the menu is so good that I don’t particularly care, but this is still an odd misstep from an otherwise great restaurant.
Location: 2066 Yonge Street, Toronto
Dave’s Hot Chicken is an American fried chicken chain with a couple of locations in the city, and one more on the way. It’s easy to be cynical about the explosion of fried chicken restaurants in the city (Nashville hot chicken in particular), but aside from the fact that now is not exactly an easy time to be a restauranteur, fried chicken is delicious. Nashville hot chicken is delicious. So sure, why not?
The menu here consists pretty much entirely of fried chicken tenders that you can either get on their own, or in a sandwich. You can pick from seven levels of spiciness ranging from “no spice” to “reaper.”
I went with the sandwich and got it hot, which was milder than you’d expect — it has a noticeable kick, but it’s not exactly going to get anyone too hot and bothered. If you have any kind of tolerance for heat, extra hot or even reaper is probably a better choice.
Otherwise, it was pretty tasty — the white meat is a bit on the dry side, but it’s really well seasoned and quite tasty, with an exterior that’s noticeably crispy, but not overwhelming. It’s topped with a zingy special sauce, pickles, and coleslaw, which all do a great job of cutting through the richness of the sandwich.
It comes with crinkle-cut fries that are battered and seasoned; I’m normally not crazy about battered fries, but these were pretty good (I think it’s mostly that tasty seasoning, which would probably make anything taste good).
As far as fried chicken in the GTA goes, this isn’t on the level of local joints like Chica’s or PG Clucks, but for a chain it’s not bad at all.