Momofuku – Toronto (Canada)

The Momofuku restaurant phenomenon, founded by Michelin-starrred chef David Chang, made its way to Toronto a few years ago and I finally had the chance to visit. Momofuku is adjacent to the Shangri-La Hotel and sits behind an astounding piece of public art created by celebrated artist Zhang Huan entitled “Rising”, a magnificent sculpture that rises over a reflective pool.

If that’s not impressive enough, Momofuku is located in an architecturally stunning three-storey glass cube. What can only be described as a complex, Momofuku comprises of five different concepts. There’s even a subtle map at the entrance to help find your way inside.

Momofuku boasts three restaurants. The Noodle Bar, with its communal tables and bar overlooking the open kitchen, is located on the ground floor. There’s also Daishō (steakhouse) and Shōtō (multi-course tasting menu) on the top floor.

The second floor is home to Nikai, a bar and lounge with food from the Noodle Bar’s menu. Also located on this floor is the Milk Bar, established by pastry chef Christina Tosi. This dessert shop is housed in a small refrigerated glass room.

We booked the Noodle Bar online through Momofuku’s website but it seemed they couldn’t find our reservation so we were shown to Nikai on the second floor. Actually, I’m not really sure what happened when we arrived as there was very little communication. Whether they had our reservation for the Noodle Bar but preferred to seat us in the bar and lounge or had no record of it, we’ll never know. Although we had a nice view overlooking the Noodle Bar below, we were seated on backless stools in a crowded corner so we immediately asked to change place as the stools would have been torture for Paulo’s chronic back problem. We were moved to the bar where the stools were much more comfortable but we had our backs turned to any kind of view of the surroundings. This was a bit disappointing until I realised that the very nice bartender would also take our food order so all was good. We had a captive audience… plus the cocktails were excellent!

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Bannock – Toronto (Canada)

Bannock is one of the unique and innovative restaurants in the Oliver & Bonacini portfolio, renowned in Canada and especially Ontario. The creation of Peter Oliver and Michael Bonacini, Bannock is a Canadian comfort food restaurant and café enviably located in Hudson’s Bay flagship store in downtown Toronto.

The café is a great place to grab a quick sandwich, salad, pastry or coffee but the restaurant, past the centrally located open kitchen, is the place to be. The beautifully designed space is stunning and lends a real Canadian feel with its sweeping ceiling of interlocking hemlock boards reclaimed from a 150-year-old wharf in Lake Ontario. White washed pine, concrete imprinted with planks, banquettes, wooden chairs, marble tables, a communal table and atmospheric lighting all contribute to the modern Canadian aesthetic.

However, it’s not all style over substance. Bannock offers Canadian comfort food at its best. Although the restaurant is named after the traditional Scottish flatbread adapted by early Canadian settlers and indigenous peoples, the bread is their own take on bannock and is the inspiration for some of their menu items, such as the sandwiches and pizzas.

“Bannock’s honest approach to food is rooted in familiar, wholesome ingredients that are reflective of Canada’s rich regional and cultural diversity, delivered in an innovative and playful way”. (Official website)

Paulo and I couldn’t pass up Bannock’s excellent poutine so we shared a portion as our starter. Made with skin-on fries from Yukon Gold potatoes smothered in artisanal cheese curds and chicken gravy, there was so much to love in this classic Canadian dish. A sprinkling of spring onions and rosemary added some colour and elevated the poutine to posh status.

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Pig Out BBQ – Pickering, Ontario (Canada)

Where do you go when you want to pig out on some good barbecue? Well, a great place would be the aptly named Pig Out BBQ in Pickering. If that’s too far east of Toronto for you, there is also one on Spadina Avenue near the University of Toronto that picked up on the success of this first location.

Pig Out BBQ Outside

The menu features comfort food staples such as pulled pork, beef brisket, chicken wings, burgers, ribs, smoked sausage, tacos (fish, chicken, beef or pork), sweet potato fries, onion rings, poutine, baked beans, mac n cheese, corn bread, warm banana bread pudding and more pig-out worthy dishes.

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Although located on a busy road in Pickering, it’s a real hidden gem. Or should I say, it was… until Food Network Canada’s hit TV program You Gotta Eat Here featured Pig Out BBQ on one of their episodes, which aired in 2014. Canadian readers can watch the episode here. The show airs in a few countries, including the UK, so keep an eye out for it.

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Mill Street Brew Pub – Toronto (Canada)

The Mill Street Brew Pub is located in Toronto’s historic Distillery District amid the restored Victorian-era buildings of Gooderham and Worts, once the largest distiller of alcoholic beverages in Canada. Mill Street Brewery’s award winning beers are brewed on the premises as well as in a larger facility east of Toronto.

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The Mill Street Brew Pub offers tours of the brewery as well as an on-site shop to stock up on beers and merchandise. It’s definitely a tourist destination but an excellent one at that… and it’s always a good sign that it’s popular with the locals.

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The Mill Street Brew Pub serves decent fare, mostly comfort foods that go very well with their beers. The atmosphere is always jovial and the servers are helpful and friendly.

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