Date: Sunday February 22nd, 2015
What: The first noodlebar TO + friends event of 2015
Who: Chef Steve Gonzalez of Valdez joined the noodle bar TO team to make an exclusive, one-night-only a la carte menu – blending Latin and Chinese flavours for a unique fusion experience.
Price: under $20 per dish (excluding the fried chicken at $80)
Best Dishes: Guacamole, Ceviche, Spicy Chicken Sando, El Jefe’s Family Meal, Fried Chicken & Caviar and Soft Serve.
Steer Clear of: Extremely Spicy Noodle (unless you have a mouth of steel!)
Stars: 2 (out of 4)
Dish: Guacamole (not pictured)
Description: Traditional guacamole, served with nori crackers, spicy ramen noodle crackers, shrimp chips and fried chicken skin.
Thoughts: Absolutely loved this fusion dish. The guacamole was fresh and delicious and went rather well with the variety of asian-inspired crackers.
Dish: Chicken Liver ($12)
Description: Truffle xo sauce, ramen cracker, ice apple cider
Thoughts: Slightly salty for my liking, but a great dish for the liver parfait-lover. The ice apple cider made for a sweet addition to the salty liver which was all rounded out with the spicy ramen crackers.
Dish: Ceviche ($14)
Description: Albacore, leche de tigre, cilantro, citrus, scallion, toasted coconut.
Thoughts: This was one of my favourite dishes of the night. The citrus emulsion paired wonderfully with the tender fish. Topped off with white and pink grapefruit segments, cilantro and toasted coconut, this refreshing ceviche was the perfect mix of sweet, sour and spicy.
Dish: Spicy Chicken Sando ($6.5 each)
Description: Crispy chicken, chili, qp mayo, iceberg
Thoughts: Definitely a favourite of the night. These little bundles of flavour arrived, wrapped up in branded, brown wax paper – resembling something you might get at a fast food establishment. The sweet mayo and spicy chili complemented the perfectly fried chicken, served on a crunchy, yet chewy, cornmeal version of the traditional steamed bun. It was basically the best gourmet version of McDonald’s crispy chicken sandwich I’ve ever tasted.
Dish: Chicken Meatball Bao ($5 for two)
Description: Ssam sauce, pickled chili, thai basil.
Thoughts: I was originally disappointed when these baos arrived and were not on what I had expected to be a steamed bun. However, the fillings in these boas did not disappoint. The sweet and spicy ssam sauce paired nicely with the ground chicken meatball, making for a nice snack for the table the munch on heading into the main course.
Dish: Sopa de Caracol ($15)
Description: Conch, king crab, smoked pumpkin, plantain, coconut, rice.
Thoughts: The crab came across slightly too pungent in this dish. However, on the whole, the sopa’s sweet and savoury flavour was a unique addition to the night’s menu.
Dish: Very/Extremely Spicy Noodle ($13)
Description: Szechuan noodle, zha chi, scallion
Thoughts: Maybe a good dish that was well-executed based on David Chang’s goal for it – but it was so spicy that I personally couldn’t even taste whether it was good or not. They definitely warn you, so it’s no one’s fault but your own if you order it! ‘Blow-your-face-off spicy noodle’ might be a bit more accurate name.
Dish: Chicken Tan Tan ($14)
Description: Hozon, sesame, chili, scallion, egg, ground chicken.
Thoughts: Yummy, but really nothing special. This is a good dish for the pickier eaters at the table!
Dish: Dumpling Ramen ($18)
Description: Shrimp, crab, truffle, dashi, ramen.
Thoughts: Also a tasty version of ramen, but again, not sure I understand the hype surrounding it.
Dish: El Jefe’s Family Meal ($14)
Description: Arepa, rice, beans, pork, guacamole, fried egg.
Thoughts: Imagine the best version of a chipotle burrito bowl that you’ve ever tasted, married with huevos rancheros. That would be how I would describe this delicious dish. Rice is topped with baked – almost al dente – kidney beans, creamy guacamole, an over easy egg and the most delicious, fall-apart-tender slices of pork belly. Finished off with two freshly made mini arepas, this dish is certainly one to remember. My one issue with this dish is that there wasn’t enough pork belly to match the abundance of rice and beans. Had they added one or two more pieces of pork, this dish might have been perfect.
Dish: Oysters Escobar ($7)
Description: Black kale, cream cheese, miso royale
Thoughts: Like a delicious Asian inspired version of oysters Rockefeller.
Dish: Grilled Octopus Ssam ($14)
Description: Whisky tare, ‘nduja, sweet pickles.
Thoughts: With octopus popping up on just about every menu in Toronto these days, it’s difficult not to order it to test out whether the chef has put a lot of thought into the dish or is just a follower in this ever increasing trend. When it came to David Chang’s ssam, I have to say I was not all that impressed. The octopus was fine, slightly leaning on the chewy side. The ‘nduja was a nice spicy compliment, but the sweet pickles were misplaced – just adding an unneccesary dimension to the dish.
Dish: Fried Chicken & Caviar ($80)
Description: acadian sturgeon caviar, smoked maple syrup
Thoughts: There’s no doubt that Chang’s fried chicken is absolutely delicious. But with five pieces of fried chicken, it was definitely not worth $80. The dish was reminiscent of honey garlic chicken wings with a sauce that’s been elevated by the most wonderfully sticky smoked maple syrup. However, it’s clear that the price was jacked up due to the addition of sturgeon caviar which really got lost in the dish and was completely unnecessary. Had the dish not had the caviar and been priced at $20, I would have been just as happy.
Special Note: This dish was normally supposed to be served as exclusively dark meat. With a special request to have a mix of dark and white meat, the kitchen was able to whip up a special version of this dish just for our table – a pleasant surprise that went above and beyond our initial expectations.
Dish: Milk Bar Soft Serve ($6)
Description: cereal milk/fried apple pie/twist + cornflake crunch
Thoughts: Possibly one of my favourite soft serve ice creams ever. The cereal milk is absolutely refreshing, not to mention, nostalgic – perfectly capturing the flavours of the bottom of a bowl of cornflake cereal. With the sweet fried apple pie adding an amazing contrast to the cereal milk, topped off with a sweet and salty cornflake crunch, this mini cup of ice cream certainly leaves you wanting more
Dish: Assortment of sweets
Description: Cornflake marshmallow cookie, compost cookie, birthday cake truffles.
Thoughts: Of course we couldn’t leave momofuku without making a trip to the milk bar! In all honesty, the cookies are good but not great. The birthday cake truffles, on the other hand, are something to talk about. Overly sweet – you can’t really have more than one. This play on birthday cake is basically like eating a cake batter version of raw cookie dough – not something you see very often, or ever.