Thursday, October 15, 2009

Toronto Trip #2 of 4 – August 15 and 16, 2009

This is the second of our four trips to Toronto during the second half of summer.

See Toronto Trip #1 here.
See Toronto Trip #3 here.
See Toronto Trip#4 here.

~ * ~

Jimmy and I used to start every road trip with Denny’s, but since going on The Diet this summer, I have blacklisted Denny’s. No one EVER needs to eat two giant platefuls of sausage, bacon, eggs, pancakes, and hash browns.

Now that Tim Hortons has breakfast sandwiches, I can also avoid starting a trip with McDonald’s. The idea is that while the breakfast sandwiches are available, I just might choose to have a bagel instead. This actually turns out to be the case most of the time.

But not this time. I was feeling a little cranky when I woke up, so I thought, “Forget The Diet. I’m going to Toronto for a wedding, so I might as well enjoy myself.” I’m not sure if that was how I should have dealt with my sour mood, but it was a good plan at the time.

Jimmy and I both ordered a sausage breakfast sandwich combo, which includes hashbrowns and drinks. Just when the cashier asked, “Will that be all?” Jimmy decided to add another breakfast sandwich, “for later.”

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The sandwiches were okay. I find them twice as heavy as McDonald’s Sausage Egg McMuffin, and I totally blame the biscuits. You might as well serve sausage, egg, and cheese between two slabs of butter because that’s exactly what the aftermath feels like. It’s slightly sweet and very salty, so it does hit all the right spots. It’s actually why I prefer Tim Hortons’ breakfast sandwich over McDonald’s’ (what the hell do I do with that last apostrophe?).

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The hashbrowns were not memorable. I think there were bits of dehydrated onion in there for “flavour.” Again, I prefer McDonald’s’ hashbrowns. They don’t muck about with extra ingredients.

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I got a steeped tea with one milk and one sugar, and Jimmy got a bottle of their iced tea. It’s funny that he keeps ordering this because after he drinks it, he always declares that he hates this iced tea. It’s too sweet and doesn’t resemble a sweetened iced tea at all. Nestea is the way to go.

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For $14, it wasn’t really worth it, but it’s convenient and familiar. It’s become so much a part of road trips that I think I might die if the ubiquitous Tim Hortons went bankrupt tomorrow. On second thought, that’s a little melodramatic. I would miss it, but I’m sure I’ll find something else to eat while travelling.

I have never had reason to complain about cashiers at Tim Hortons before because they were either competent and quick or just slow. This time, however, the cashier was so rude and incompetent, I was entertaining the idea of telling her off and speaking to a manager about it. The line went out the door and spilled onto the parking lot, so I restrained myself for the sake of maintaining peace in a Tim Hortons on a weekend morning.

Anyway, it was an ominous start to the trip.

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Once we started driving, I drank more of my tea. The flappy thing on the lid wouldn’t stay open or shut; it just stood straight up. This is a major pet peeve of mine, so I drank the rest of it in one go. This was bad thing number two.

Not long after that, traffic was backed up on the 401 West. It turns out there was an accident involving a transport. My friends were actually an hour ahead of Jimmy and I, so they were part of the traffic that had to back up to take the emergency detour route. Anyway, after about 15 minutes stuck in traffic and not knowing what was going on, Jimmy took the next exit, and we detoured into Brighton. We’re now up to bad thing number three.

For all of my many years of travelling to Toronto, I have never taken Highway 2 to get there. It was really quaint because we drove through so many little towns I never knew existed. It was a big change from driving the 401. There were a lot more Cadillacs and Lincolns, haha.

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We stopped in Brighton, in a tiny little restaurant, to look at the map. I can’t remember what it’s called, but it’s beside the Mac’s convenience store. Anyway, I ordered a coffee and a slice of lemon meringue pie while Jimmy figured out our route. The meringue wasn’t baked long enough, so it was too spongy for my tastes. The curd, however, was perfectly sour and sweet. It definitely made me pucker and squirm, which automatically makes it an awesome pie. I don’t remember the crust much, but it definitely wasn’t homemade. It lacked something, I’m not sure what, that homemade crusts all have.

After four hours, we finally made it to the GTA. Jimmy was starving at this point, so we stopped by Mr. Sun’s Noodle House in Scarborough. Though the outside signs remained the same, the menu and the interior (the ugly green was painted over) were different. I noticed that they changed the name on the menu (Mirage?) and pointed this out to Jimmy. Ominous sign number four.

We went ahead and ordered two beef noodle soups, a side of stinky tofu, and some seaweed salad.

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When the beef noodles arrived, they looked different. We started eating, and it was apparent that they were not the same noodles we loved. The soup didn’t have nearly as much depth of flavour as before, and it was overwhelmingly spiced (as in, too much anise and cloves). Because the soup was off, the beef was off, too. Even the noodles tasted inferior. There wasn’t any bounce (or QQ) to the noodles, and they were definitely overcooked. It was a pretty disappointing bowl of noodles. We’re up to five bad signs now.

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The seaweed salad was interesting. It wasn’t exactly what Jimmy remembered it to be in Taiwan, but I still thought it tasted okay. Its spiciness surprised me (in a good way), and I was immediately grateful for the slices of cooling cucumber in the salad. We barely touched this.

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Jimmy said the stinky tofu didn’t taste the same as before. I took one bite, and I finally decided that I didn’t like it. He insisted that I would like a proper stinky tofu, so I guess I should say that I don’t like the Taiwanese-Canadian version of stinky tofu. I did enjoy the pickled cabbage, though that didn’t taste quite the same either.

We paid the still ridiculously cheap bill and headed towards downtown to our hotel. Well, we got stuck in some major traffic on the DVP (Don Valley Parkway for those not familiar with Toronto), and we spent at least 45 minutes in gridlock. When we finally exited, we got lost looking for the Delta Chelsea. This part was entirely my fault, since I mixed up the directions with a different hotel. We eventually found the hotel, but as we were parking, I realized that I didn’t have the parking voucher, which entitled us to a discounted rate. At this point, we were dangerously close to being late for the wedding ceremony.

Now all of the bad things that happened culminated to this: Jimmy forgot to bring his shoes! We were travelling comfortably, so we were dressed casually and wearing flip flops. Poor Jimmy had to wear flip flops with his suit! At first I was SUPREMELY annoyed, but then, I just had to laugh. All of these weird signs were telling us that something was terribly wrong, and we totally ignored them! The next time the signs point to bad things, I will definitely trust my gut.

The wedding ceremony was short and sweet, and I didn’t have a chance to weep. The pre-reception cocktail hour was fantastic! Cups of alcoholic and non-alcoholic punch and hors d’oeuvres floated around, supplementing some fantastic conversation. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of any of the food from the cocktail hour and the reception.

The main course was chicken with shrimp skewered on sugar cane. It was quite delicious, but I didn’t have much of an appetite. We had Jackson Triggs wine (red and white) served with dinner, and then had an open bar. The dessert was a revelation: layered chocolate mousse pyramids with raspberry wine sauce. Now everyone said that the sauce was VERY heavy on the alcohol, but I didn’t taste it at all. However, I was already more than slightly tipsy, so that was a contributing factor.

It was great food, great drinks, great music, and great company for a great couple. I had a lot of fun (maybe a little too much fun) and really enjoyed myself. I should mention that I only shed a few tears during the speeches, unlike the last wedding where the tears were flowing freely. This was a big step for me! Anyway, Jimmy and I left the reception pretty early, around 10:30, because I was toasted and exhausted from a long, eventful day.

I suddenly got really hungry after getting up to the hotel room, so we went out in search of some quick food. We settled on Tea Shop 168 on Yonge. I think we ordered popcorn chicken, pork chop on rice, and udon. I had a watermelon milk tea with pearls, and Jimmy ordered lychee green tea with pearls. While the bubble tea was fantastic (watermelon is now my new favourite), the food was meh. The pork chop was overcooked and under-seasoned, and the udon was gross. The noodles were overcooked and mushy, and the broth was too plain. The popcorn chicken was okay, but I’ve definitely had better versions elsewhere. No pictures here because I was too drunk to remember to bring a camera.

I slept very soundly that night.

The next morning, I woke up to this scene from our hotel room balcony:

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It was gorgeous, and the weather looked especially promising. Continuing our ramen quest from our last wedding trip, we decided to visit Kenzo Ramen. We read some positive reviews and Christine had heard good things about it.

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When we arrived, they had just opened, so we were the only ones there. It was quiet and clean. Immaculate, actually.

I tweeted that it was the quickest meal ever. We were in and out in less than 15 minutes, no joke.

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I ordered the shio (salt) ramen in the foreground, and the bowl in the back was the shoyu (soy sauce) ramen for Jimmy.

This was my first taste of ramen, but to me, my shio ramen was perfection. It was garnished with shredded green onions, thin slices of cha shu (roasted pork), and a slice of naruto (kamaboko or fish cake). The broth tasted distinctly of seafood and pork, and yet, they blended together magically. The noodles were cooked just right (QQ). I slurped it down in less than five minutes. The only complaints I had were that it wasn’t hot enough, and it was a very small bowl of noodles. The picture is a little deceiving because the bowls look huge when, in fact, the amount of noodles was exactly the same as if we made instant noodles.

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Jimmy didn’t like his shoyu ramen as much as I loved my shio ramen. It came with a soft-boiled marinated egg, sliced cha shu, green onions, and naruto. The delicate balance present in my shio ramen’s broth was complete skewed in Jimmy’s shoyu broth. It tasted like there was too much going on. We both preferred the shio ramen.

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After slurping our noodles, we decided we were still a little hungry. I really wanted to try an onigiri, a rice ball filled with something and then wrapped in seaweed. We ordered a ume (pickled plum) onigiri. I was expecting something spectacular after watching the Dotch Cooking Show episodes, but it turned out to be just okay. I think there should have been more ume in it. Otherwise, it was rather plain.

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The bill was less than $20, another victory for the cheap travellers (aka Jimmy and me)! Yes, there is a typo in “custormer,” but whatever. They can misspell whatever they want if I can get a bowl of ramen for under $7!

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On our way out of Toronto, we stopped in Scarborough to shop at T&T and grabbed some bubble tea from Assameia. Jimmy, of course, got two jumbo original black milk tea with pearls.

And the hectic trip to Toronto turned out to be a relaxing trip back to Ottawa.

~ * ~

Tim Hortons
1185 Division Street
(Division at the 401)
Kingston, ON
(613) 546-0454

The little restaurant near Mac’s Convenience Store
Near 13 Elizabeth Street
Brighton, ON

Mirage (formerly Mr. Sun’s Noodle House)
4186 Finch Avenue East, Unit 25
Scarborough, ON

Delta Chelsea Hotel
33 Gerrard Street West
Toronto, ON

Tea Shop 168
377 Yonge Street
Toronto, ON
(416) 979-0168

Kenzo Japanese Noodle House on Urbanspoon

Assamiea Tea
Steeles Road East
In Metro Square, near T&T Milliken (5661 Steeles Road East)
Scarborough, ON


  1. I went to Kenzo with a friend last week and it wasn't bad. I ordered the shoyu ramen and was somewhat disappointed. The broth was pleasant at first, but then I quickly got sick of the flavour halfway through my bowl.

    We also tried Kenzo's takoyaki (at the downtown location) and it was a lot like the ones we had here. They were on the verge of being uncooked, but it still tasted yummy. I say we should try to make some at home. It doesn't look that hard.. and plus, then we'd be able to load them up. No more stingy takoyaki!

  2. Yeah, the shoyu was lacking. I slurped down my noodles so fast, Jimmy didn't have time to switch dishes, lol!

    It seems that we're going to have to go to Asia for takoyaki. When Jimmy saw the pictures from the Chinatown Festival, he immediately declared them fake.

    We'll have to find a takoyaki pan, but that could be a little side quest during our next trip. And before you ask, no, we do not know when we will be going.


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