Saturday, August 12, 2006

Toronto 10-Stop Program, pt. 1

chocolate laboratory, chocolatemaking room, soma, toronto fig. a: Soma

72 hours. 1 wedding. 10 stops.

stop #1: Randy's Take-Out

I spotted Randy's on my last two visits to Toronto. I'm generally so starved for good West Indian food that I can't help noticing each and every patty shop, roti joint, and West Indian grocery every time I go to T.O.--it's not that you can't get good West Indian in Montreal, but there's just so much more of it in Toronto it boggles the mind. So many of Toronto's West Indian eateries are really, truly excellent too, and, anyway, I'm a complete sucker for Jamaican patties and jerk dishes, Trinidadian rotis and rum cakes, and ginger beers of all persuasions. Randy's stood out because it had a queue out the front door. Always a good sign. So this time around when we pulled into town we took the Allen down to Eglinton and made a beeline to Randy's. How can you argue with a place that sells patties by the dozen to its devoted regulars? How can you argue with a place that advertises, "Patties for the people since 1979." Answer: you can't. Randy's makes a top-notch patty: fresh, hot, flaky, delicate, and stuffed with spicy, tasty goodness. And they sell 'em for a song.

stop #2: Chinese Traditional Buns

This was a place grabbed our attention when we read last year's Now Magazine feature on Toronto's best Chinese. It seemed right up our alley and completely unlike anything we know of in Montreal. We'd just eaten at Randy's and we were just hours away from eating at the wedding we were going to in the Distillery District, but we were still a little peckish and we're just about always ready for good Chinese, so... Step downstairs into this underground haunt and you'll find a brightly lit (fluorescently so) yet welcoming little restaurant with a tantalizing northeastern Chinese menu composed of buns, dumplings, noodle dishes, and a whole host of house specialties we'd never seen on a menu anywhere else. We were awestruck. "Luckily," we'd just eaten and we had a wedding dinner looming, so we kept things simple, made a couple of quick decisions, and settled on some Tianjin-style buns and some shrimp and pork dumplings. The verdict: we're definitely coming back, and next time we're bringing a full appetite. Look out.

stop #3: Soma

We'd read about Soma in the pages of Sam's fantastic sweet pleasure : plaisir sucré a while ago but didn't realize it was located in the Distillery District just doors from Café Balzac and the wedding we were attending. Halfway during the wedding festivities we slipped out to take a look around the area before the sun set and just chanced upon Soma. We stepped into chef David Castellan's sparklingly modern premises and were instantly impressed. It was hard not to be impressed by the massive cacao bean roaster Soma had just acquired and which they had on display in their chocolatemaking room (you can see it there in the picture above, off to the left), not to mention their plans to start roasting cacao beans according to their own specifications. Unfortunately, we weren't really in a position to purchase a lot of chocolate at the time--it was very humid out that night, and we were going to be at a wedding for another 4 hours or so--but we did take a close look at their offerings, including their beautiful selection of chocolate bars, filled chocolates, and gelati, and when we couldn't it take any longer, we ordered their signature Mayan hot chocolate,

mayan cocoa, soma, toronto fig. b: Mayan hot chocolate

sat at the counter, and savored it. Not to be missed.

stop #4: Carousel Bakery

The next day we headed to the grand, old St. Lawrence Market on bikes for lunch. Our friend Pierre had been talking up the market's legendary peameal bacon sandwiches, and, frankly, we were curious. For those of you who don't know, peameal bacon is the true "Canadian bacon," and it bears no resemblance to those round slices of bacon that show up in Eggs Benedict and on "Hawaiian" pizza south of the border. Peameal bacon is lean, not fatty, it's cured but not smoked, and though it used to be dusted with peameal, it's cornmeal that has long since given this boneless pork loin its trademark yellow hue. Probably the most famous of the peameal bacon sandwich-selling outfits in St. Lawrence Market's south annex is Carousel Bakery, and it's also Pierre's preferred peameal vendor, so that's where we went. What exactly is a peameal bacon sandwich?, you ask. A couple of thin slices of fried peameal bacon served on a plain bun. End of story. Michelle and I split a peameal bacon special after I took it over to their fixins bar and dressed it. Most people just give their peameal bacon sandwiches a squirt of French's and leave it at that. I gave it a healthy dose of Dijon mustard and Kozlik's Hot Horseradish and turned it into a mindbomb. Highly recommended.

stop #5: Anton Kozlik's Canadian Mustard

We were so impressed by their three-alarm horseradish we marched right over to Kozlik's booth, ate about a 1/2 lb of Kozlik's free peameal bacon samples as we tested out their exotic mustards, and bought ourselves a jar of Hot Horseradish to bring back to Montreal with us.

Randy's Take-Out, 1569 Eglinton Avenue West, (416) 781-5313
Chinese Traditional Buns, 536 Dundas West, (416) 299-9011
Soma, Distillery District, 55 Mill St., (416) 815-7662
Carousel Bakery, St. Lawrence Market, 93 Front St. E., upper level 42, (416) 363-4247 or (416) 863-6764
Anton Kozlik's Canadian Mustard, St. Lawrence Market, 93 Front St. E., (416) 361-9788



Anonymous said...

Thanks for the address AJ. Was going to ask for them and for the intersections. Would still appreciate if you could give the intersections for Randy's Take-Out.

Many Thanks.


aj kinik said...

Hi Mathy,
Randy's is right next to the intersection of Eglinton and Oakwood. I guess that's technically a York address.

Mark Slutsky said...

"Anton Kozlik" is obviously a pseudonym for "Anthony Kinik."

Anonymous said...

I don't want to hijack the thread with a bunch of 'you ought to try' places, but here are a couple of Toronto spots I couldn't pass up mentioning:

The Stem Open Kitchen (Queen just East of Spadina, on the north side) - Amazing french toast. They used to have a sign over the griddle that read 'we cook using butter only!', but that's gone. The amazing french toast remains, and they fry up a mean peameal bacon to go with. It's refreshing to visit a diner that hasn't been modern or hipsterized.

The Street Meat Price War - Queen and Spadina again. There's a price war going on between the hot dog vendors. Get a great dog for $1 !

aj kinik said...

Sorry Smartypants,
Any resemblance between the names "Anton Kozlik" and "Anthony Kinik", a.k.a. "A.J. Kinik," is purely coincidental. At least that's what my lawyers told me to say.

Hi Michel,
Please, hijack away! This list, as you'll see, is far from comprehensive. And we're always on the lookout for hot tips of all kinds, Montreal, Toronto, or otherwise. The Stem Open Kitchen sounds great--I'll definitely give it a look-see next time I'm in Toronto. And Lord knows I love a good dog fight--I'll be sure to go and check out the frontlines on my next visit too. Thanks.

anton said...

aj kinik:
This is a comment from the original Anton Kozlik. I would hope that you are as handsome, intelligent and suave as the original, or should the original hope that he as handsome, intelligent and suave as you are? At least you can view my ugly mug at (

Regardless, I am glad you enjoy the mustard and the horseradish.