Five months ago, I visited Toronto and Halifax with E who was then four months and what a world of difference it is to travel with him again. (The flights are another matter altogether, not to be addressed here.)
Sunrise House [Yelp]
Ahh, one of the the many pleasures of visiting Toronto. My sister asks what I’d like and I’m always down for Korean, particularly some tofu soup. At least once each time I visit, and it’s not a lot to ask because it’s a quick and cheap meal.
Now that my sister has moved and co-habitates with her fiance, we head to Koreatown Bloor-Christie instead of North York. Okay, we were still closer North York but I had some designs on where to have dessert so we went south. It felt like it took forever to get there – traffic licks.
Sunrise House is an old favourite of the fiance’s and a good discovery. Good assortment of banchan and with his presence we order things just my sister and I would not have, like pan-fried dumplings. What doesn’t change is my sister and I each ordering tofu soup. Oh, Toronto of abundant Korean offerings, of $8 tofu soup that rocks while in the Korean strip (a mere road) in Vancouver, it is $11! I got a satisfyingly medium-spicy beef with vegetables topping tofu soup and polished it off. In my haste, and perhaps poor positioning with E strapped to me throughout, my photo of the soup was thoroughly blurry!
One of the spots I was most excited to visit was Bang Bang Ice Cream. Over the months, I revisited my list of Toronto spots to hit up and kept adding to why I wanted to go to Bang Bang: cookie ice cream sandwich, cream puff ice cream sandwich, Hong Kong style bubble waffle ice cream, cinnamon bun ice cream “sandwich”… just a host of great vessels for your ice cream!
It was shaping up to be a nice and sunny Saturday and as we drove along Ossington and the street narrowed and we starting to watch for the address, it was easy to spot the ice cream shop with the long line that spanned at least two other shops. So, we waited patiently and had plenty of time to make up our minds.
My sister ordered campfire marshmallow in an awesome looking hollowed out profiterole (cream puff) while her fiance ordered cracked mint on double chocolate cookies. Despite the warning it would take 20 minutes (it was more like 10), I ordered the Hong Kong egg bubble waffle and was thrown for a loop when she asked me for a second flavour. Well, not too much. I had the two flavours that would make NPY salivate: cracked mint and mango pudding.
Toronto, in the area rapidly becoming a quick service Asian food mecca, near Ryerson at Yonge and Gerrard, is the first North American location for this Taiwanese fried chicken chain. The queues are no longer crazy, but it was also a late lunch on a Tuesday.
Besides the marketing that the chicken is extra large, I could also tell from the price we should only order one fried chicken to share. And I wanted to try the fried king oyster mushroom. It seemed that MY didn’t want to save our drink for later so we got a passionfruit soda. I’m grateful we ordered the original flavour as it appears that spiciness is just a matter of sprinkling what looks like chili or cayenne pepper. We could taste the original pepper and salt flavour and enjoy it. The king oyster mushroom was not that plentiful at all – otherwise, it’s a tasty and meaty mushroom to fry up.
This matcha shop has a long history behind it (155 years!) and Toronto is its first North American location. From poring over the menu online I had my eye on the Hojicha Float, hojicha being a roasted green tea. But I was easily dissuaded from ordering something with ice cream when that might be coming later and we instead ordered a hojicha latte (for me) and matcha black sesame latte. They were very nice Asian flavoured lattes to sip and savour during our subsequent walk around Muji and H&M Home.
But as we waited, we saw one staff member preparing so many floats in succession. It is very aesthetically pleasing to me to see green slush topped with thick, rich-looking green-coloured matcha soft serve. Next time I’m coming back for that!
I have definitely laid eyes on the long queues outside Uncle Tetsu at Bay and Dundas, the first location of the chain outside of Asia. But as we zigzagged around downtown (if you plotted the food stops, you’d see), we saw the queue at Uncle Tetsu that day was quite manageable. I could have done without (and not known what I was missing) but MY had been interested in try it and when we were ready to leave the area, we joined the queue.
I love how defined the rules are and thankfully, we did not have to wait for a new batch to finish. Meanwhile, we mistook the small madelines as cheesecake and panicked that the handheld delicacy was commanding $10! Not to fear, we got one whole cheesecake (and qualified for two more) and joined the throngs of people we identified around downtown with a tell-tale Uncle Tetsu paper bag.
We had it in the evening and the cheesecake was perfectly lovely – egg was essential to the texture and it was so velvety. I’ve had pale imitations of Japanese cheesecake from Chinese bakeries and I can now see what the hype is all about.
While it’s not currently the case, NPY and I watched the first season of Masterchef Canada in its entirety and we rooted for young engineering student from Toronto, Eric Chong. After he won, he teamed up with judge Alvin Leung (the “demon chef” lending the “D” of the name) to start R&D on Spadina. I’ve been wanting to try this place for a while but didn’t have the right company.
Although I was carrying E, we found a good time to go, which was as soon as they opened, at 5:30 p.m. Of course we ordered the CSB and we took some of the server’s advice while also ordering some other items that caught my eye.
Venison chili spring rolls tasted like spring roll with chili. “You can put anything into a spring roll,” MY said approvingly, and it was served with a cooling sour cream with a kick from jalapeno.
When we ordered the scallop ceviche, we made a little fuss about having the garden foam on the side or not at all because it has cilantro. The herb reviled by us completes the Mexican theme of the dish, you see, but we didn’t want it. This dish met with our approval with the sheer number of scallops – it’s very shareable – and they were fresh and cooked perfectly.
I ordered Macau Cauliflower Curry for the vegetable content and it was a comfort food dish with the current and a touch of noodles in the form of cheung fun (rolled rice noodles).
Even without the server’s recommendation, Fried Chicken and Cronuts caught my eye. Yes, it’s a spin on chicken and waffles where the “waffle” was so tasty, flaky and lightly glazed cronuts. There was also a spice blend mixed into the chicken batter. We didn’t enjoy the dark dipping sauce that came with the dish though.
And then, the last to arrive, were the CSB. These buns were baked instead of steamed or fried and while the barbecued pork was quality tasting, the topping really isn’t novel to us. This was quite the let down after all the hype.
We saved room from dinner and packed some of the dishes to go so that we could get ice cream. I had decided not to return to Sweet Jesus while urging MY to check it out another time, in the name of trying somewhere new. Kekou serves Asian gelato and I realized that all of their flavours have an Asian spin. We ordered chocolate ginger, Vietnamese coffee and HK milk tea.
For a while now, I’ve been so eager to eat at Jamie Oliver’s Italian and it was not yet open last visit in November 2015. It seemed so long time coming. MY, who now live so close to Yorkdale, had already been to and thought the food was just okay and informed me that it’s a chain Italian restaurant. Still, I forged ahead as I had made plans with friends and with two babies in tow and me doing the solo parenting thing, I was loathed to think of slinging E around downtown again.
The servers were thrilled to see the babies and it was clearly a restaurant accommodating to children starting with their reception of E and then offering him some “fruit water” complimentary. I had a grown-up berry shrub that didn’t actually contain shrub.
My friend E really enjoyed her mushroom pasta and it does look really good.
MY advised me on the sizes and to maximize what I could try, I ordered a half portion of their “Famous Prawn Linguine” and was warned it was spicy. Um, it wasn’t! The shrimp was tasty but the rest was underwhelming. I also ordered the mushroom flatbread (picture was very blurry) which wasn’t particularly divine either. Too bad!
I get the feeling that take out food and delivery make up a far larger proportion of the meals for MY and her fiance than they do for me. They have just moved and don’t know which restaurants are in their delivery area yet. My last evening in Toronto was busy for everyone and MY tried out UberEats and through it tried this pan Asian place in North York. That category would send chills down my spine but I think being in Toronto make the place take it up a notch.
With three diners and an open mind, MY make great selections to try them out diversely with spicy tuna on tempura yam and beef wrapped enoki appetizers, mango and tamarind stir fries, Vietnamese curry and a Thai style basil fried rice. It was a solidly decent meal.
I had an unfancy list of vegetables I requested my mum buy organic for E including apples, pears, sweet potatoes, peas, butternut squash and broccoli. All mum could find at Superstore was apples and carrots. All other were not available and mum says that’s just Halifax’s tastes for you and I couldn’t believe it. So, we were off to Pete’s which hasn’t been a Frootique for a while.
When we first walked in, I had to slow us down to take some photos. It is quite a nice experience to see and emphasizes how used to boring, sterile looking marts I am now. We only did find apples, carrots, sweet potatoes and broccoli.
Then I spied the Keurig coffee tree and spent a few minutes picking flavours of coffee and hot chocolate to buy. It was splendid to have the choice and although I saw one a few days later at a Superstore, I found intriguing brands at Pete’s and not at Superstore.
And I found some cheese ends so I could assemble a fun platter for my mother (whose love of cheese ends at sliced cheese, it turns out) and me to share.
When T and I deliberated where to meet up, I was so relieved she suggested she would come to Dartmouth Crossing, so close to where I was staying. So it was up to me to pick somewhere to try. I was a little intrigued by Modern Thai which enjoys good ratings and it’s a good middle ground for our own cuisines.
We each ordered a hot and sour soup – T got the Thai style which is similar to her own Vietnamese style (which I didn’t know existed) and I got the Chinese one for “research” reasons. It was pretty decent with a a slight thickness to its consistency and good and plentiful ingredients.
I ordered a Thai dinner of red curry vegetables and tofu but requested that I get an egg roll instead of the usual spring roll, after such rave reviews of their curry egg rolls. I simply can’t understand why restaurants would puree their meat filling for egg rolls. Why not use the ingredient fillings intact? The salad that came with the dinner defied my expectation (green salad) and didn’t look appetizing to me. The red curry was tasty enough but I didn’t like half of the vegetables.
The Coastal Cafe has been around since at least 2008 (year they received a local food award and displayed) and they have won the local food award nearly every year since then. I’m not sure how I didn’t know about it! Located in the Hydrostone area I have heard about but never visited, it’s a small “counter serve” shop. As my dad sat in the lone chair in a “waiting area”, I read about the queuing procedure and saw people go immediately to the counter to order. Shoot, so they were ahead of me because you order and then when a table is freeing up, your order will be prepared to somehow coincide with you being seated.
Perhaps they looked kindly upon us newbies and with E in tow so when I decided what to order and queued at the end, I was ushered to the front because my dad had given his name upon arriving at the restaurant ahead of us. So, we received a table shortly after and then received our food.
For my mum, I ordered the fish dish. She proceeded to give me all of the salad in which I found the pieces of smoked salmon. The salad of beet shoots was so fresh tasting I marveled it tasted like the outdoors, and I was appreciative of the presence of asparagus. The crisps topping was a nice touch and I didn’t notice they are apple, not potato. I liked the haddock fishcake with a swipe of roasted pepper butter sauce. Mum has certain expectations for fish that run a little on the traditional side so she wanted more smoked salmon and didn’t like the fishcake as much as I thought she would.
For my dad I ordered the “Durty Bird” which is a breakfast sandwich on a large English muffin with a fried egg, Havarti, avocado, bacon and haberno buffalo chicken. I snagged for myself just a small portion and wanted more!
To try dishes more widely, I ordered a sweet dish of French toast stuffed with Nutella and dulce de leche and marscapone cream. It was very delightful.
After brunch at Coastal Cafe, we wandered across the street as a funny menagerie. I haven’t had a drink since July 2014 (or barely any), my elderly parents who haven’t the foggiest about craft breweries and baby E.
As far as I know, Good Robot take the prize for cute branding. I hadn’t even particularly identified which beer I would have purchased for NPY or how to squeeze it in my suitcase. In any case, all they did were growler fills so I left with a cute small growler (since NPY only had a large one) which he can brandish around his favourite craft breweries in Vancouver. Not that anyone really notices.