SLURP Noodlefest 2013

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.

Gwailo Noodle Dish

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.

Duck Pho

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.

Splendido Ramen

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.

Richmond Station Pho

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.