Location: 2352 Yonge Street, Toronto
You wouldn’t particularly know it from what they’re serving at Chi Chop (sorry — Chi Chop!!), but Taiwanese food is pretty great. It has a lot in common with Chinese cuisine, but it’s also got its own thing going on in some very delightful ways.
Chi Chop (!!) serves Taiwanese-style fried chicken, and it’s fine. I got the Ninja crispy chicken bento box, which comes with a generous piece of boneless fried chicken, rice, a salad, three small spring rolls, and miso soup.
Nothing particularly stands out. The fried chicken isn’t bad, but it’s made from white meat, and it’s predictably dry. It’s also a bit too aggressively battered, with an overly thick exterior.
Still, I didn’t dislike eating it. It’s nicely seasoned, and there’s nothing blatantly wrong with it. It’s missing the sauce from the photo on their menu (which would have been nice), but… I don’t know. It didn’t offend me. It’s a shrug. An edible shrug.
It probably doesn’t help that the set is a bit muddled; the chicken is Taiwanese, the soup is Japanese, and the spring rolls taste Filipino (they have a separate section of the menu dedicated to Filipino cuisine). It definitely feels like a “Jack of all trades, master of none” situation.
Location: 55 Eglinton Avenue East, Toronto
They sell Taiwanese-style wheel cakes at Formocha (which are essentially pancakes that are cooked in a circular mold with a sweet filling) and they’re mostly pretty good. But there are a couple of issues.
The first (and biggest) issue? Red bean wasn’t a filling choice, at least when I went. I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to deduct about a million points for its absence. I mean, come on. It’s the classic filling. Red bean or GTFO.
I wound up trying custard, and Oreo custard. They were both tasty enough, but (and here’s the second issue) the custard tasted off. There was something weird about it, with an almost fruity flavour that was vaguely off-putting.
The Oreo was much better — rather than the chunks that you might expect, it was filled with an entire cookie, which was surprisingly delightful.
Plus, the cakes themselves were super fresh (they cook them to order), with a slightly crispy exterior and a fluffy interior. They were good, but… come on. Red bean. Give it to me.
Location: 3255 Highway 7, Markham
Though there are a ton of amazing restaurants in the First Markham plaza, you’re going to have a hard time topping Mei Nung Beef Noodle House, which specializes in Taiwanese beef noodle soup.
The beef and beef tendon noodle soup is where it’s at. You can choose from rice noodles, glass noodles, or homemade noodles, and the choice is clear — you’ve gotta get the homemade noodles. They’re thick and hearty, with an amazingly satisfying level of chewiness. They’re so good.
But then everything about this bowl is so good. The broth is ridiculous: it’s beefy, zippy, and immensely flavourful.
You think it can’t possibly get any better, and then you add a spoonful of their wonderfully smoky chili oil, and lo and behold — it gets better.
The chunks of beef are super tasty and enormously tender, though the tendons are the real star of the show. They’re so perfectly cooked that they’re essentially like meat butter. They’re soft and unctuous and amazing.
They’re also super tasty; they do an impressive job of absorbing all of the seasoning in the soup. They’re squishy, melt-in-your-mouth flavour bombs.
It all adds up to a bowl of noodle soup that’s easily one of the best in the GTA. I challenge you to find a substantially better bowl of beef noodle soup — even with a plane ticket to Taiwan.