Unique Brunch at Byblos Uptown

Byblos UptownLocation: 2537 Yonge Street, Toronto
Website: https://byblosuptown.com/

Brunch is great, no doubt about it.  Eggs Benedict, pancakes, French toast — all tasty stuff.  But sometimes you want something a bit different, and if that’s the case, the Middle-Eastern-influenced brunch menu at Byblos fits the bill quite nicely.

Byblos Uptown

We started with the Turkish Manti Dumplings (“eggplant + yogurt sauce + date molasses”), which was easily the weakest dish of the three I tried.  The yogurt/molasses sauce was one-note sweet and tangy, and the dumplings were basically pure mush.  There was almost no distinction in texture between the wrapper and the creamy filling.

Byblos Uptown

Up next was the Eggplant Kibbeh: “zucchini flower + baharat + chickpea batter.”  This was interesting.  Kibbeh is a Middle Eastern dish made from spiced ground beef; it’s essentially a fried meatball stuffed with more meat.

Byblos Uptown

The vegetarian version they serve here has only the most vague kibbeh-like properties, but it’s tasty for what it is; it’s nicely spiced, and the creamy filling contrasts well with the crispy fried exterior.

Byblos Uptown

My main meal was the Bastirma Khachapuri: “manouri cheese + egg + guindilla + urfa chili.”  This was basically a Turkish pide filled with cheese, eggs, and bastirma, a cured meat that’s generally thought to be the precursor to pastrami.

Byblos Uptown

It was pretty tasty — it was freshly baked, with a nice crispy exterior and a chewy interior.  It’s not the best pide you’ll ever eat, but of course, the combo of cheese, eggs, and salty cured meat is a winner.  That’s always going to be a winner.  It’s hard to go wrong there.

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.

Passable Taiwanese Food at Chi Chop!!

Chi Chop!!Location: 2352 Yonge Street, Toronto
Website: http://chichop.ca/

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!!

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.

Chi Chop!!

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.

Chi Chop!!

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.

More Dipped Cones at Les Epicuriens

Les EpicuriensLocation: 2109 Yonge Street, Toronto
Website: https://www.facebook.com/indulgeyourtastebuds/

Hey, it’s yet another place doing dipped cones.  Hooray?

Look, I can’t say no to ice cream, but as I mentioned in my review of Chocolats Favoris last year, we’ve got a lot of places that serve dipped cones in Toronto.  It’s a crowded field.

Les Epicuriens

So does Les Epicuriens stand out?  I dunno, not really?  I mean, they have a lot of dip options (a dozen when I visited), but then most of these places have a lot of dip options.  They also have a handful of toppings (various nuts, candy pieces, etc.), but that’s also par for the course.

I went with the “special vanilla” ice cream (vegan chocolate is also an option) with a pistachio dip.

Les Epicuriens

The ice cream is really good.  It’s very rich and creamy with a nice, clean flavour.  I’d say it’s about on par with Tom’s.

The dip was fine, though it was aggressively sweet and had only a mild pistachio flavour.  It basically tasted like white chocolate with a vague whiff of nuttiness.  I’d probably try a different dip next time, or just get the ice cream on its own.

Creamy Japanese Pancakes at Fuwa Fuwa

Fuwa FuwaLocation: 408 Bloor Street West, Toronto
Website: https://www.fuwafuwapancakes.com/

Like Hanabusa Cafe in Kensington Market, Fuwa Fuwa specializes in Japanese souffle pancakes, which are basically like a cross between a pancake and a custardy souffle.

I’ve already talked about Hanabusa Cafe; you can probably just read that post to get a sense of what Fuwa Fuwa is like.  They’re very, very similar.

Fuwa Fuwa

I ordered the cookies and cream, which comes with two pancakes topped with Oreo-cookie-infused cream, a whole Oreo cookie, and a scoop of ice cream on the side.

It’s quite good — the pancakes are light, fluffy, custardy, mildly sweet, and very creamy.  The only noticeable difference between this place and Hanabusa Cafe are that the pancakes here are slightly creamier.  I couldn’t tell if they were slightly underbaked, or if that was intentional.  Either way, they were very tasty.

Fuwa Fuwa

The cookie-laden cream compliments them well, though the ice cream was overly sweet, with an odd flavour I couldn’t quite put my finger on.