I just had to try the oysters in Toronto, didn’t I? Toronto – June 2013

I was in Toronto for a work conference and Wendy tagged along. We only stayed for a couple extra days but what a time we had!

Places visited:

Banh Mi Boys


After my work conference was over Friday afternoon, our first stop was Banh Mi Boys. This place KICKS ASS! Both cheeks! Located near the busy intersection of Queen St. and Spadina. Totally feels like New York or something around this area.


If a business is serious about banh mi, you gotta have a kitchen setup like this…a REAL kitchen! You got the grill station, the toasting station, the assembly line, everything required to make fresh, cooked-to-order banh mi.


Cramped space but buzzing with activity. I kinda liked it.


The menu. We got the Five Spice Pork Belly, Squid and the Jicama Green Papaya Salad to share.


Squid banh mi on the left and pork belly on the right.


Cross-section of the pork belly banh mi. All the banh mi (except the duck confit one) are less than $6! Nowhere in Vancouver even attempts this level of fresh banh mi with grilled ingredients. Maaaybe The Union but their banh mi are $7-8. I have yet to try The Union but I have my doubts*. Another contender might be DD Mau in Yaletown but their banh mi are $7+ and I’m not sure how much they actually cook to order… Every other banh mi place has pre-cooked, dried out pork or chicken in their trays, sitting for god knows how long… Banh Mi Boys was a revelation.

*Since this trip I’ve tried The Union a few times and love their crispy fish banh mi!


Jicima and Green Papaya Salad. There was even cilantro and mint in this. Quick, cheap, refreshing!


Squid banh mi. I loved this over the pork belly, surprisingly. Deep fried squid rings in a banh mi. Brings up reminders of po boy sandwiches and other kinds of deep fried seafood in sandwiches. The bread here really suits the ingredients. Soft, fluffy crumb with a slightly crispy crust, gives away easily to the fillings when you bite into it. Lime vinaigrette was the perfect condiment for this.

Banh Mi Boys on Urbanspoon


After Banh Mi Boys, we thought we’d check out The Burger’s Priest but the lineup was long and dense, so we skipped it.


I’ll have to try it next time! :(

Bar Hop


Next stop: Bar Hop. Dark, cozy craft beer place about a 5 minute walk from Banh Mi Boys.


Drinker’s paradise!


Big beer list! Love it!


They have a couple casks too, and bottles!


Great sign.

It was so freakin’ dark in there, my beer pics didn’t really turn out. I did get a flight of four tasters:

Dieu du Ciel Rose D’Hibiscus – Wendy said it tasted like saliva! So I joked that I should start a fake RateBeer or Beer Advocate account called “The Wife” and put her real reactions in there! Anyways, I really enjoyed being able to drink DDC Rose D’Hibiscus again since it’s really hard to get in Vancouver and also insanely expensive ($24 for 6-pack).

Dieu du Ciel Tripel with Citra – Funky and smelly. Alright but a bit disappointing.

Sawdust City The Princess Wears Girls Pants Belgian Golden Strong – Funny name. Alcohol, syrup, goes with the territory. Interesting to try.

Amsterdam Boneshaker IPA – Not bad. Long dry bitter finish. More bitter/pine than grapefruit though.


I had to try some food, even though I was trying to save my appetite for Black Hoof after this. This is the “Bar Hop Pops”, which are tempura-battered meatballs served with marinara. Meatballs were quite spongy and overworked, and the batter got soft even before it hit the table, so nice to try but I wouldn’t get it again.


Bottle of beer generously gifted to me by my local friend and fellow beer geek Gerald. My notes say “awesome, supremely drinkable!” Rob said, “Devil’s buttcrack”. Yeah, I really enjoyed this one. It went down so easy.

Bar Hop on Urbanspoon

The Black Hoof


Final stop of the evening, Black Hoof! I always have an amazing time here.


Tonight’s menu. Not enough stomachs.


Small beer list but I usually find something worthwhile to go with the kick-ass food.


We went with Bellwoods Monogamy Ale. I think it’s a single-hop beer but they’ve done summit, centennial, bravo and nelson sauvin so far, and I have no idea which hop was in this one. It was EXCELLENT though, with a dry hop character, easy to drink, fruity and a bit floral. It’s everything I love in a hopped-up pale ale.


The busy room and the open kitchen.


Horse Tartare. So good! There’s some mushrooms in there, some pickly bits, some aioli…it all went together into a delicious buttery mouthful!


Bone Marrow. It was market price, heh…$8 I think. Worth it. Served with chimichurri and maldon sea salt. This dish divided people at the table but I loved it.


Buffalo Style Sweetbreads. I think the sweetbreads were lightly smoked, so their texture was a bit firmer than straight sauteed sweetbreads. Still, with the buffalo sauce and other stuff on the plate (can’t remember what exactly) it tasted great.

I whipped out my cell phone to light these pics. A bit harsh but at least the colours look a bit better.


Andouille and Prawns with grits, egg yolk and FRESH peas! The peas were so yummy in this. I might’ve drunkily took the whole plate to finish it off.


The final blow to the gut, Tongue on Brioche. I’m pretty sure it’s beef tongue, sliced really thin. The tongue almost achieves this Montreal smoked meat quality, no wonder this is one of Black Hoof’s signature dishes. Even though the original chefs/owners have long since departed, they still do these dishes well. Magnificent time.


No room for dessert! Though the mind boggles at the flavour combination. Well, at least the server described the dish for us in great detail :)

The Black Hoof on Urbanspoon

Breakfast Pastries from Nadege Patisserie


A Pain au Chocolate and an Almond Croissant from Nadege Patisserie. Wendy really enjoyed these. The ratio of almond paste to pastry was great.

Roti Palace


A Toronto landmark!


And just down the block from Honest Ed’s is my favourite roti place in Toronto, Roti Palace.


Wendy sez it was good…alright…didn’t taste bitter. Not *that* special.


Roti Palace’s triumphant Shrimp Roti. So much rich, delicious curry inside with plump, perfectly cooked shrimp. They use the big shrimp here too. The roti at this place is so much more deep, punchy and flavourful than the roti I’ve had back home.


And a double to share.


This guy cooks the shrimp roti!

Caribbean Roti Palace on Urbanspoon

Bar Volo


Bar Volo, where I had one of my memorable early craft beer experiences. I had a Durham Hop Addict here and it was an eye-opener during a time when I was more about stouts and wheat beers.


Room still looks great. Not sure if they renovated a bit or what. (Gerald sez, “They have a bit. Mostly the upper bar area and the ceiling. Plus the extra-long draft list.”)


No more servers, now it’s just order at the bar!




I like their selection of sizes. Not like St. Augustine’s flight-or-pint-or-NOTHING!


Always a few casks.



House Ales Westside IPA – big fruity/citrus aroma. lemon. dry. great!

Dieu du Ciel Corne du Diable IPA – good middle-of-the-road IPA. Little sticky. Syrupy was it warms up. Overshadowed by Westside IPA.

Publican House Square Nail APA – Just ok, nothing distinctive, but easy to drink!

Dieu du Ciel Aphrodisiaque – Stout with cocoa and vanilla. Great stuff! Carbonation is a bit flat but still tastes good. I think I remember this beer being a bit flat, even in bottles. But it doesn’t hinder the flavour.


Indie Ale House Barnyard Belgian Rye IPA – had a sip, it was good. Tasted the spicy rye-ness coming out.


DDC bottles on display. They also had some Le Trou du Diable bottles on display too.


Order form for beer snack foods. Too bad they were out of the beef jerky, and the took the popcorn with saison salt off the menu!!! :(


Chips instead. Not bad.


I like their decor. I’ve had good times here.

I gave them a bottle of Parallel 49 Hopnotist and got to meet the owner Ralph!

Bar Volo on Urbanspoon



Small dinner at Union.


Le menu. Hey, they have PEI oysters on the menu! Good idea? Or bad??? We’ll see…


Burrata Salad with asparagus and romesco sauce. Yummy.


Bison Sliders with mirin galangal glaze on challah with pickles. OMG! I took one bite and had to…well, you’ll see…

They usually have elk sliders, but I guess it depends on if they can get elk meat or not, so they were serving bison sliders instead.


Tagliatelle with ragu. Really fresh basil. Sauce was perfect. Nothing beats a well-executed bowl of pasta.


Side veggies, including black kale! Tastes sweeter than regular kale, with less bitterness.

So I took a bite of the bison slider and put it down and said, “Oh my god, this is good. This is it. It all comes together. It’s done so well.”


I grabbed Rob’s coffee saucer and ran to the window counter to get a proper shot of this bite-sized piece of heaven. All meat burgers should dare to be like this: juicy, rare, succulent, minimal yet boastful.


Shot of the open kitchen. Union is a great place, if a bit expensive. I’d come back to eat their sliders though!


Hey, oysters! Half-a-dozen, please! Seemed like a good idea at the time. I started with the one of the far right and aaaaalmost sorta sensed a bit of “offness” to it but thought it was just my imagination. Maybe it still was my imagination, but I would feel much worse later on in the evening… Otherwise they tasted good. The habanero sauce (top) was actually REALLY spicy and the mignonette actually added something to the oysters… In fact, I thought the oysters NEEDED the mignonette…usually I like them as-is with just a bit of lemon and horseradish but this time the oysters needed a bit of help. Maybe that was a clue…

*** DISCLAIMER: I am in no way blaming Union in any way shape or form. These are raw oysters we’re talking about. There’s always a risk, and I totally accept that risk. It’s a fact of life with oysters, clams and mussels. It happens sometimes. I would go back to Union in a heartbeat. ***

Union on Urbanspoon

Bellwoods Brewery


Here’s Bellwoods Brewery, rated as #3 Top New Brewery in the world by some website.


They have a small retail store on the right and the brewpub on the left.


For sale at the retail store today.


People were buying bottles to go!


Their “Witchshark” tshirt, after their Witchshark IIPA. I bought a couple of cute and useful beer bags.


Interesting selection of beers on tap. They’re always experimenting with new brews.


They just installed their patio roof last week! This place was buuuuusy!


Toronto likes clipboard menus.


These unappetizing-looking things are deep fried pickles. The deep frying REALLY brings out of stinky, sour, pungent quality of the pickles. Served with much-needed ranch dressing.


Dandelion Greens with Crispy Pig’s Ear. Not bad.


The meat board! From hazy memory, top left clockwise: bressola, raisins, soppressata, pate, pig’s tongue, olives, bread from some place, terrine and duck hearts(!). LOVED the duck hearts. Dunno how they seasoned them, but they were cooked medium so still really juicy inside. Yum!

I gave the waitress a bottle of Parallel 49 Hopnotist as a gift and she got one of the owners to come down and talk to us! He gave me two beers!

First time I ever got anything in return!


Apparently the “Bring Out Your Dead” is one of their 1-year anniversary beers, which is pretty rare nowadays. I think I’ll let it cellar for a while :)


Even though I look ok in this picture, I was feeling baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad. My stomach started doing all these kinds of flips and gurgling…something was not right. Later in the evening back at Rob’s place, people could hear the noises coming from my gut. Ooooophhh It was getting hard to enjoy the food and beers… Here’s what I could taste through my nausea:

Farmhouse – Ok. Citrus, ok carbonation, sweetness. Saison yeast quality is kinda subdued.

Twin Peach – Sweet, fruity, ok. Uses citra and legacy hops but couldn’t fully appreciate the citra, which sucks cuz I love citra.

Hoppy Hefeweizen – Interesting hoppy dry puckery grapefruit character. Uses amarillo and simcoe.

Mashpipe Berlinerweiss – Perfumey, tart, good.

Wizard Wolf Pale Ale – Awesome! Dry, fruity, hint of dank. Uses chinook, amarillo and cascade. Great job! I bought a couple bottles to bring home! Even in my poor intestinal state, I could still appreciate this beer at least!


Yup! I just wish I passed on the oysters…

Bellwoods Brewery on Urbanspoon



Final brunch before we fly back home at Beast. They serve meat.


What’s that hashtag? #beastwich? Sounds interesting…


Staff shirts.


This way to meat!


Uh, yeah…


Yes, there’s more.


Gerald recommended the Beastwich. Biscuits, fried chicken, sausage gravy, fried egg?? Yes!!!


Busy place.


They also serve donuts! Lots of people were getting them. Top left, clockwise: Cardamom Cruller, Cinnamon Twist, Maple Bacon, Chocolate Hazelnut. All good, soft, fresh-tasting. Voodoo Donut is overrated.


One of the favourites, the Cardamom Cruller. Reminds us of that Chinese eggy fried donut thing covered with sugar crystals.


Breakfast of Champions! But really, it was past 11:00 😀


My stomach was feeling 80% better, so I managed to eat a *bit* more.


The Beastwich! We’ve got a deep fried chicken thigh smothered in sausage gravy, inside a biscuit with a fried egg, served with potatoes. $14 says you’ll love it.


Breakfast Sandwich with pork belly. Bland and boring :( too bad.


Veggie Egg Scramble. Tastes like it sounds.


Crispy Pork Hocks tossed with kecap manis and served with eggs and kimchi.


Fried to crispy perfection on the outside…


…moist and tender on the inside! I dunno how they prepare this. They’re cubes of pork hock! Decadent and easy to eat 😀


Closeup of the Beastwich. This thing wasn’t as heavy as you might think! I really enjoyed the aggressive spicing of the fried chicken batter. Reminded me of something like KFC but, you know, good.


Housemade ketchup on the left, watery hot sauce on the right.




Bye Beastwich! Bye Toronto! Keep your oysters to yourself!*

Beast on Urbanspoon

*This whole oysters thing is all true but partly in jest. I would totally order oysters again in Toronto.

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