Date 2: Momofuku Noodle Bar Toronto with Emily

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Momofuku Noodle Bar @ 190 University Avenue, Toronto – Call: (647) 253-8000

My roommate Emily and I celebrated the end of (my) exams with a memorable dinner at Momofuku Noodle Bar this past Thursday.

Noodle Bar exists in the lower floor of the Shangri-La  Hotel, which is also home to several other David Chang ventures, including Daisho, Shoto, and Nakai.

I was a bit early and hung out in the hotel lobby for a spell, which, and this may have just been my mood, came off as a little douchy.  They had a pianist and a jazz singer, but most of the tables were filled with people who seemed all too happy to be on display.  No one seemed relaxed or in the moment, and there was an overwhelming odor of bad perfume.

But that was the hotel lobby and the restaurant was a different story.  Frankly, I was impressed with the system they’ve worked out at Noodle Bar – it’s efficient, fast, and the servers are supremely confident with the menu.

Em and I decided on splitting three dishes: the redoubtable pork buns (~$9), dan dan mein (~$15), and the roasted rice cakes (~$9).

Dan Dan Mien

The dan dan mein is probably the most true to the original dish of the three – really just an elevated version of a classic Sichuan dish, and my favorite of the night.  We’re talking about a perfect pairing of al dente ramen-style noodles, peanuts, and the pungency of dried scallops.  It doesn’t try to be more than it is, and it doesn’t need to.  I prefer it to the Momofuku Ramen I tried in New York last summer, which is good ramen, but it’s not great ramen (and therefore something I would prefer not to pay $15 for).

The Momofuku pork buns are a classic for a reason.  It’s a great idea for a dish: braised pork belly, a chewy bao exterior, with hoisin sauce and cucumbers.  Everything is in balance, the cucumbers are a revelation, and now everyone has their take on this idea (see: Banh Mi Boys, which is cheaper and about as good).  It’s the reason David Chang has been as successful as he is.

Momofuku Toronto 2013

Finally, the pleasant surprise of the evening was the rice cakes.  They stood out because of their texture, which was slightly chewy but then a little crunchy on the exterior.  The chili onion sauce was compelling – sweet, a little spicy, and welcoming of the house-made siracha-inspired sauce each table is offered.  It was a focused dish with a point of view, executed to the nines.  The only complaint is, of course the complaint you’d have at any restaurant with $5 cokes: they were a bit pricey for food cost.  But then again, hey, it’s David Chang.  What did you expect?

Date 1: Burgers with Sean + Anne

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Summer hasn’t graced Toronto with her presence yet, but 100 dates of Summer kicked off with a dinner date at Sean and Anne’s for burgers and beer.  Regular phodowners, Sean and Anne also griddle up a mean burger and this was on full display Wednesday night.

I was treated to a nice Greek salad of local hothouse campari tomatoes, cucumbers and feta, and burgers with all the fixings.  Sean sauteed some porcini mushrooms and red onions, and I had the choice of mozzarella, English cheddar, and swiss (I opted for one with cheddar and one with mozz.).  There was also a gourmet honey mustard that was more or less the hit of the night.

Burgers from Sean

If I could change one thing, it’d be not forgetting the fries in the oven.  But I certainly wouldn’t change the rousing episode of Game of Thrones we watched afterwards.

1 down, 99 to go.

I’m Branching Out

Don’t get me wrong, I love pho as much as the next guy (the next guy is just having a hard time eating pho all the time).

But, I’ve come to the realization that as much I enjoy the Ford-factory level specialization that comes along with writing about one thing, and writing about it all the time, it’s just limiting.  I hope to dine out a great deal of the time this summer and it seems a shame to not write about it.

If you only want to read about pho, feel free to click the “pho” category on the right.

Italian dinner cat