Tag Archives: Toronto

Beast

Crispy Pork Hocks from Beast
Location:  96 Tecumseth Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://thebeastrestaurant.com/

I’ve actually written about Beast before, on Serious Eats, where I raved about the Beastwich.  But I have to rave again — the Crispy Pork Hocks at Beast were so damn good that I felt compelled to bring this blog out of semi-hiatus so I could talk about them.  Immediately after eating them, I was hit by a powerful compulsion: I need to tell someone about this.  I need to tell everyone about this.

The hock — the part of the pig where the foot attaches to the leg, usually served as one big, unwieldy hunk of pork, bone and all — has been streamlined by Beast into convenient little cubes of crispy, porky goodness.  It has been perfected.

Each cube is maybe an inch-and-a-half square, with an amazingly crispy, crunchy exterior, and a rich, perfectly cooked interior of tender, decadently fatty pork.  I’m not even sure I can put into words how amazingly good this was.

Seriously, look at this and tell me you don’t want to eat this right this second:

Crispy Pork Hocks from Beast

That layer of crispy, crunchy amazingness is just so incredibly satisfying, and the interior is the perfect combination of extravagant fattiness and fork-tender pork.  You might think it looks too fatty, but trust me, it’s not too fatty.

It’s served with a thick, sweet variation on soy sauce called kecap manis that kind of reminded me of hoisin sauce; it worked amazingly well with the pork.  It also comes with two eggs cooked how you want them, crispy potatoes, toast, and a fairly generous pile of zingy kimchi.

I don’t want to over-sell this, but I think it might be one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.  This is not a drill.  Drop whatever the hell you’re doing right now and get yourself to Beast.  If they’re not open yet, just camp out and wait.  Because who cares what else is going on when something this good exists in the world and you haven’t tried it yet.

Me Va Me

Me Va Me - Jerusalem Mix Laffa
Location240 Queen Street West, Toronto
Website: http://www.mevame.com/

I have to say, I wasn’t expecting a heck of a lot from Me Va Me, and so its level of quality was actually a pretty delightful surprise.

They have a decent amount of stuff on their menu, but I homed in on their laffa wraps.  I had a pretty great experience at Dr. Laffa a few months ago, so I was hoping for more of the same.

(For the initiated, a laffa is thicker and more substantial than a pita; it’s somewhere between traditional pita bread and naan.  It’s delicious.)

They have a few different wraps on the menu, including the mysterious Jerusalem Mix.  There’s no mention of what this is anywhere on the menu, so I asked: it’s a mixture of chicken liver, heart, thigh, and sauteed onions.

it’s hard to tell from my shoddy picture, but this thing is crammed to the gills with stuff.  They give you a very, very generous amount of meat, and cram a ton of other stuff in there as well (the usual assortment of pickles, veggies, and sauces).  I asked for everything except for onions, because raw onions are the worst and no one will ever be able to convince me otherwise.

Again, you can’t tell from my terrible picture, but this thing has heft.  It’s about the size and weight of a newborn baby: those with smaller appetites are advised to share.

I was getting worried that it was going to turn out to be overstuffed, but somehow, all the various flavours worked perfectly together.

Foremost were the various chicken bits that make up the Jerusalem Mix.  Seriously good. It was perfectly cooked, with the juicy thigh pieces working perfectly with the liver.  I like liver, but even if you don’t, the flavour is mellowed out by the sauteed onions and all the the other stuff.   I’m not entirely sure that the heart was necessary — there were a few vaguely rubbery pieces that I’m assuming were heart.  Still, tasty stuff.

I don’t think the laffa itself was quite as good as the one from Dr. Laffa, which was amazingly fresh and close to perfection.  But taking the whole package into account, I’ve gotta give the edge to Me Va Me.  All the stuff they mix in there worked really well, and the chicken itself was above average.

Boar

Boar - the veal sandwich
Location3 Glebe Road East, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.boarsandwiches.ca/

Boar is a spinoff of Black Camel, which serves some pretty solid sandwiches. Because of my affection for that place, I’ve been meaning to check Boar out for a while, though I don’t typically find myself near Yonge and Eglinton, so it took a few months to get there.

They serve Italian sandwiches like veal, sausage, and meatball, with your choice of various sauces and condiments.

I’m a sucker for a good veal sandwich, so I ordered that with tomato sauce and caramelized onions.

It’s a bit different from the traditional veal sandwich that they serve at a place like California Sandwiches: rather than being dipped in the tomato sauce, the breaded, fried veal cutlet has the sauce spooned on top.

These types of sandwiches typically feature a smooth, blended sauce with a fairly mild flavour. The sauce here, on the other hand, is rich and chunky, with the intense flavour of a sauce that’s been reduced to its purest essence. It’s pretty fantastic, and pairs perfectly with the tender, perfectly fried cutlet.

The only misstep are the caramelized onions (and that’s my fault, since I was the one who chose them); though they were perfectly cooked and sweetly flavourful, they were a little bit too assertive and just got in the way of the outstanding interplay between the rich sauce and the crispy cutlet.

It’s mostly a take-out place, though they do have a small dining room off to the side. With the exposed concrete walls, the rustic wood tables, and the boar’s head mounted on the wall, it has a vaguely creepy vibe that made me think Leatherface was going to bust in at any moment, chainsaw roaring. But the sandwich was so good that this could have happened, and I still would have called the visit a win.

Boar - the sitting area

Momofuku Milk Bar

Momofuku Milk Bar, Toronto - Crack Pie
Location190 University Avenue, Toronto
Websitehttp://milkbarstore.com/main/toronto/

When the much-anticipated Momofuku opened its doors in Toronto a few months back, it was missing one key piece (in my sugar-addled, dessert-craving mind at least): the Milk Bar, where they serve up cookies, pastries, and perhaps most famously, Crack Pie.

That omission has finally been rectified, with all kinds of treats available in a walk-in closet-sized space on Momofuku’s second floor (all baked, oddly enough, in New York and shipped here on a daily basis).

What’s Crack Pie? it’s basically a sugar pie, or a butter tart without the raisins, or a pecan pie without the pecans. It’s nothing you haven’t had many times before, which makes its moniker a bit of an over-sell; it’s good, but I’m not going to be rushing out to have another one. It’s not quite as addictive as its name implies (and whether a small slice is worth six dollars is up for debate).

I will be back, however, to try some of their cookies, which are much more reasonably priced at two bucks each.

My favourite thing about the Crack Pie is probably the crust. Though the filling is quite tasty, if a bit overly sweet, the crust is pretty great. It’s dense and buttery, with a thin, crispy layer of caramelized sugar on the outside. It’s probably the closest thing to crack-like addictiveness in this pie.

Momofuku Milk Bar, Toronto - milk Momofuku Milk Bar, Toronto - the space Momofuku Milk Bar, Toronto - Crack Pie

Caplansky’s Delicatessen

Caplansky's - the meatloaf
Location: 356 College Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.caplanskys.com/

I remember the early days of Caplansky’s; before he opened his own place, it was just Zane Caplansky himself at the back of the Monarch, a sketchy old bar in Little Italy. Back then the smoked meat was truly something special: smoky, uniquely spiced, and unctuously tender. It could have easily gone toe-to-toe with the best smoked meat I’ve ever had, and I couldn’t get enough of it.

But then, Caplansky moved to his own place, and things started to very quickly go downhill. The quality of the meat was wildly inconsistent, and they started taking shortcuts — such as curing the meat via chemical injection rather than naturally — that would have been anathema back at the Monarch.

The sandwiches were, at their worst, so dry they sucked all the moisture out of your mouth. The fat was rubbery and unrendered. I got one sandwich with zebra-patterned swathes of uncured gray meat. I stopped going regularly.

Things seem to have evened out recently. The last couple of times I’ve gone, the sandwiches have been much more consistent — but consistently middling. They’re fine. They are perfectly edible sandwiches. They’re better than Druxy’s, but worse than pretty much every other place in the city making good smoked meat sandwiches. The days of smoked meat that was so incredibly amazing it made my knees buckle are long gone, sadly.

But all this time I’ve never bothered trying anything else on the menu. Smoked meat is obviously the specialty, but they do have a fairly decent selection of non-sandwiches. I figured I’d try the meatloaf, which is tantalizingly described on the menu as “10 oz. of fresh ground beef and our famous smoked meat seared top and bottom.”

Oh boy. I’m going to stick with the sandwiches.

Though the meatloaf tasted sort of okay, it had a repulsively mushy, baby-food-like texture that was truly horrifying. It tasted like they took a meatloaf, cooked it, crammed the whole thing into a blender with some liquid, then formed that mush into slices and served it.

As for the smoked meat, it may as well not have even been there. There were tiny little bacon-bit-sized flecks of smoked meat interspersed throughout, but if I hadn’t seen them, I wouldn’t have even known they were there. You couldn’t taste them.

The slices are glazed with a classic ketchup-based sauce, which was basically okay, if a bit cloyingly sweet and one-dimensional.

The meatloaf is served with some sauteed vegetables, which were fine, and your choice for the second side. I went with mashed potatoes, which were actually the highlight. They were creamy and slightly chunky, with a mild garlicky flavour.

Thinking about the food on the way home, I came to the somewhat shocking realization that the meatloaf here was probably the worst I’ve ever had. Cafeteria meatloaf is better. Heck, even the frozen stuff you get at the supermarket is better. The version at Caplansky’s was shockingly bad. I’d feel embarrassed serving food of this caliber to guests in my home, let alone to paying customers in a restaurant.

Caplansky's - the restaurant Caplansky's - the meatloaf