Tasty Turkish Flatbread at Best Istanbul Restaurant

Best Istanbul RestaurantLocation: 235 Augusta Avenue, Toronto
Website: http://bestistanbul.ca/

I recently had a pide at Byblos Uptown that was good but not great; now here comes Best Istanbul Restaurant to show them how it’s really done.

I tried a couple of pides, and they were both seriously delicious.  There was the Sucuk Pide (“Turkish flatbread with mozzarella, sucuk meat and eggs”) and the Veggie Pide (“mozzarella, spinach and feta cheese”).

Best Istanbul Restaurant

Both were quite good, though the sucuk was my favourite of the two.  If you’re unfamiliar with sucuk (which is sometimes spelled sujuk), it’s a really tasty, intensely-spiced sausage that’s kind of like a turbo-charged version of pepperoni.  It’s so good.

Best Istanbul Restaurant

It works perfectly on the pide, with its assertive flavour matching perfectly with the mild, gooey cheese.  The crust is great too, with a nice exterior crispiness and a satisfyingly chewy/fluffy interior.  I didn’t notice the egg, however; either they forgot about it (the picture on the menu shows a full egg yolk on the pide), or they mixed it right in with the cheese (though it didn’t taste like they did).

Best Istanbul Restaurant

The Veggie was quite tasty as well, though the crust was slightly thinner and crispier, which wasn’t quite as satisfying as the other one.  It was also a bit underseasoned, though a spritz from the accompanying lemon wedge easily took care of that problem.

Fake Butter Chicken at TVX: The Vegan Extremist

The Vegan ExtremistLocation: 291 Augusta Avenue, Toronto
Website: https://www.facebook.com/TheVeganExtremist/

Is it still butter chicken if it doesn’t have butter or chicken?  That’s the question at TVX, a vegan joint in Kensington Market that serves what it calls “plant-based South Asian cuisine.”

Mostly, they serve a variety of vegan curries that come with rice and paratha roti.  One of those curries is the aforementioned butter-and-chickenless butter chicken, which subs in fried cauliflower for chicken.

The Vegan Extremist

So is it still butter chicken?  Not really.  But is it tasty?  Definitely.

It doesn’t taste quite like any butter chicken I’ve had before — the sauce is tangier and less creamy — but for what it is, it’s quite good.  It’s garlicky, very spicy (you can choose your heat level — I went with the spiciest, and it wasn’t kidding around) and surprisingly satisfying.

The Vegan Extremist

The fried cauliflower works really well — it’s battered and fried, with a nice crunchy exterior and a meaty interior.  It doesn’t even vaguely resemble the chicken in a traditional butter chicken, but the hearty crunch stands up nicely to the sauce, and it’s delicious regardless.

The paratha roti was also untraditional but tasty.  It’s thicker and more substantial than any paratha roti I’ve had before, but it still had that satisfying combo of crispy, greasy exterior and chewy interior that you’re looking for.

Nine Layer Burrito at Fresh

FreshLocation: 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Toronto
Website: https://freshplantpowered.com/

Fresh, a chain that specializes in vegan eats, is fine.  I recently had their “burger” and thought it was fine (though it obviously bore no resemblance to an actual hamburger).  I just tried the Nine Layer Burrito, and yeah — it’s fine.

It’s definitely crammed with a lot of stuff: “mushroom & artichoke chorizo, marinated black beans, pico de gallo, cashew queso, jalapeno crema, avocado, shredded lettuce, brown rice, pickled jalapenos.”

Fresh

It’s…  fine.  It’s not as good as a burrito from any decent burrito place, but if you find yourself at Fresh, I’m sure you could do worse.

There’s a whole bunch of stuff in there, and it tastes like there’s a whole bunch of stuff in there.  It doesn’t have a ton of cohesion, but it’s tasty enough for what it is.

I was kinda curious about the  faux “chorizo”, but of course, it’s hard to pick out any one element with all of the flavours that are going on here.  So I tried some on its own; it basically just tastes like funky pureed mushrooms, with absolutely no resemblance to chorizo.

Fresh

The only element of the burrito I found overtly unappealing was the whole wheat tortilla.  I like whole wheat bread as much as the next guy, but it’s just wrong on a burrito.  It calls attention to itself and tastes off.

I also tried the salad with house vinaigrette.  The vinaigrette seemed like it might have been okay, but it was applied so sparingly you could barely taste it.  The “salad” basically tasted like undressed greens.

An Amazing Vegetarian Sandwich at Black Camel

Black CamelLocation: 4 Crescent Road, Toronto
Website: https://www.blackcamel.ca/

If it weren’t for Toronto Life’s list of the best sandwiches in the city, never in a million years would it have occurred to me to try the roasted veggie sandwich at Black Camel.  I suppose I’m indebted to the list, because the sandwich was quite delicious.

Black Camel is a little take-out sandwich shop that specializes in tender, slow-roasted beef brisket and pork sandwiches (they also have chicken, steak, and a BLT).

I had assumed that the roasted veggie sandwich was more of a perfunctory, vegetarian-appeasing menu-filler than something anyone would actually want to order.

Black Camel

I was super duper wrong.  The veggie sandwich was just as good as their other offerings.  Maybe better.

The sandwich consists of roasted roma tomatoes, red pepper, and eggplant, with some peppery arugula for good measure.  It’s served on a soft, fresh bun.

Black Camel

You can choose from a variety of sauces; Toronto Life recommended the Charamoula sauce, which the menu describes as a “Moroccan-inspired mayonnaise [that] blends the flavours of garlic, cilantro, lemon juice, and smoked paprika into a one-of-a-kind topping.”  The list also recommended adding Fontina cheese, and who am I to argue with the list?

It’s a fantastic sandwich.  The veggies are all tender but not mushy, with a nice herby flavour.  They’re sweet, savoury, and absolutely crammed with flavour.

Black Camel

But it’s the Charamoula mayo that’s clearly the star of the show.  It’s zesty, spicy, and incredibly assertive without being overwhelming.  It’s one of those sauces that would make practically anything taste good; the fact that the veggies themselves are quite tasty is just a bonus.

The mild Fontina cheese adds a nice creaminess that only ups the richness from the silky mayo.  It’s a shockingly delicious sandwich.

Beyond Burger at Tim Hortons

Beyond Burger at Tim HortonsLocation: 4100 Dixie Road, Mississauga
Website: https://www.timhortons.com/ca/en/index.php

The Beyond Burger at Tim Hortons is way better than it has any right to be.  Is it particularly good?  No, not really.  Would I order it again?  Absolutely not.  But it’s perfectly acceptable.  It’s not gross.

Maybe that’s a low bar.  But Tim Hortons isn’t exactly known for having an appetizing lunch selection.  And their last foray into the fake meat game — the Beyond Sausage breakfast sandwich — featured an impressive emulation of actual meat, but was otherwise pretty lousy.

Beyond Burger at Tim Hortons

Beyond Meat has clearly been evolving their product since I tried the Beyond burger at A&W last summer.  I found that one to be off-puttingly mushy.  The texture of the burger I just had at Tim’s was much, much better.

If you compare it to a good quality burger, it’s pretty much garbage.  But!  It actually compares quite favourably to the frozen burgers that are served all over the city.  If I had eaten it blind, that’s what I would have assumed it was.  It’s impressive.

Beyond Burger at Tim Hortons

In fact, I think I might have liked this a bit better than that type of frozen burger; those ones sometimes have a gamy, off meat flavour that’s a bit off-putting.  This one, on the other hand, has a generic meaty flavour that’s not unpleasant.  Again, it’s not particularly good, but it’s not bad either.  It’s fine.

They top it with cheese (which isn’t melted, of course), lettuce, tomato, ketchup, and mustard, which successfully covers up the patty’s lack of a beefy flavour.   Between the assertive condiments and the impressively accurate cheap burger texture, you’d never know that you’re not eating a lousy (but real!) hamburger.  I know that’s not exactly high praise, but I’m actually really impressed.