Yesterday, Toronto Phodown descended on SLURP Noodlefest, a local celebration of all things long and chewy. I had few expectations, or even a general idea of how a Noodlefest works, and I was pleasantly surprised.
Several local restaurants, such as Splendido and Sukothai, set up stalls in the Great Hall on Queen West serving a signature noodle dish, as well as often another side (Splendido did a pork belly big mac as well). Admittance was about $10 and dishes cost between $5 and $10. A pleasant surprise was the beverage program. Drinks were priced at $5 each and were of a high quality. I had an excellent wasabi caesar, but there was also a ginger-infused gin and tonic on offer that drew raves.
The vibe was pretty laid back as patrons milled around a couple of large rooms with vendors set up along the periphery. Those wishing to take a load off whilst slurping were invited to enjoy some seating upstairs with a bird’s eye view of the proceedings. The only major wait was for the Splendio station, which commanded a healthy line throughout my time at Noodlefest.
In terms noodles, I managed to sample three dishes – two phos and a ramen.
First was a duck pho ($4) from Hawthorne Food and Drink, a new restaurant located at 60 Richmond Street East. This was a fine attempt at a duck pho, but it was my least favorite dish of the day. While I enjoyed the rich duck broth, I found the roasted duck it was topped with to be over-salted.
My second try was Splendido’s truffled ramen. It was an indulgence at $10, but each serving was topped with a healthy dose of freshly sliced black truffle, justifying the cost. The ramen noodles themselves were well executed with the perfect amount of chew. These noodles, paired with a giant whiff of truffle and a perfect egg (cooked sous vide) brought a classic dish to new heights.
Finally, I tried the only classic pho available at the festival – a pho from Richmond Station. I tend to be skeptical of classic phos served outside of a hole-in-the wall pho joint, but my fears were misplaced here. Richmond Station served up an extremely well-executed pho with beef brisket. I was extremely impressed by the broth, which demonstrated a real delicacy in spicing, something that’s often lost in such an intense dish. A minor quibble is the thick noodles, which I found to be a bit floury.
As a whole, Noodlefest was a terrific afternoon out among friends and fellow noodle-acolytes, and a great chance to try a variety of restaurants while staying warm and cozy under a single roof.