Momofuko: Toronto - Avoid the Crowd

Toronto is like if NYC and LA had a baby, then abandoned that baby in the cold, expecting the endless community of new, towering skyscrapers to raise him.

Toronto has theater, nightlife, beautiful parks, and sits on Lake Ontario which is so vast you will think you are staring at the sea. They also have some terrific restaurants.  I was most excited about eating at Momofuko, without actually fuko-ing some host in NYC to get a table. Since it's currently #93 on the 2013 list of the world's best restaurants, the Big Apple branch has a wait list as long as, well, what I would fuko them with.

Only open a few months, the Torontonians haven't caught the Korean-American fusion fare fever. While I wish culinarily hung chef/owner David Chang much success, me rather love his food long time than wait in line long time. Did I mention it's freaking cold up there?



Ignore the crazy-ass sculpture out front. Obviously Barbara Walter's asked Chang what tree he would like to be and he said A dragon, with birds all over my body like flying leeches and maybe it can look like a jellyfish too or a scratch on my back from the birds.  Walk past fast.  I'd post a picture but you're aboot to eat.

Once safely inside, the warm walls with their dark colors are wombishly comforting.

Momofuko Toronto dining room

A womb is where babies are grown, and must have inspired his most popular dish --  the steamed pork buns. This must be what baby tastes like. The pork is so tender it seems more than steamed, more like it formed from vaporous meat and an angel gracefully floated the newborn down, gently placing it between the firm, yet comfy soft-as-a-baby's-bottom buns.

steamed pork buns

The welcoming bowl of chilled spicy noodles (noodles here are served as authentically cold as a Korean mother-in-law) with sichuan sausage, spinach and cashews was next.


spicy sauasge over rice noodles with spinach

I took the warm bowl from the kind waitress, thinking how different the service might be in NYC.
I dug my chopsticks fearlessly down to the bottom of the bowl, careful to grab just a bit, then pausing as I pulled out to pick up a little passenger of each ingredient on my way out.  As I took the first bite, I wanted the flavors to introduce themselves to me, one by one, so I cleared my throat to get their attention. The shockingly hot spice took advantage of my open gullet's hospitality and settled in nooks and crannies of my throat. I tried to warn my dining companion but I sounded like Stephen Hawking trying to spell h-o-t.  This might burn three times, I noted.

I know people come for the Fuji apple kimchi, but after trying it, I don't care to know those people. It's not the nasty feet-like taste of kimchi, that's not it, really, I promise.

fuji apple kimchi salad

This dish was missing the acid from the apple as much as Apple misses acid-dropping Steve Jobs. I wanted the dish to be better. But life's too short so I left the wimpily flavored salad and fortified my strength with mussels.

mussels in fermented soy garlic broth

As I forced the shell open as if I were a mean gynecologist, strong garlic wafted up protectively and let me know this dish was no pushover.  Trace amounts of fennel and fermented soy could be found as I dredged the bowl with the porcelain spoon, wishing for bread.

The service was caring, warm, and most likely not to end up in fisticuffs like perhaps in might down South in NYC. The waiters took turns bringing dishes to our table; maybe to get a look at the guy who was ordering so much food, or maybe because they understood the higher concept of cooperation and wanted to get the food to the guests as quickly as possible both to ensure better quality of the chef's art and to get us out faster and have another party seated to perpetuate a clever but logical lather-rinse-repeat interpretation of order-serve-repeat.

Other benefits for crossing over to the cold side is that Toronto is a great place to film movies and television shows. Parts look enough like NYC to use it as NYC, and those Cannuck rubes are attitude and union free, so you don't have those grumpy Teamsters and pesky SAG rules that get in the way of completing your project. Their streets are wider so you can close them to film, unlike NYC, where only parades, natural disasters and babies-in-a-well shut down 5th Avenue.

Americans like to cast stones after we cast our ballots if the election doesn't go our way; disgruntled yanks threaten to yank themselves right over into Canada if the wrong party prevails -- handy since most Canadian cities are a stones throw away from the US border. That vast tundra holds the promise of free-health care and a lack of guns, which may be connected.  And they don't hurl paint on you for wearing fur.

As I left, I was really, really rude to the hostess. She was shocked and as the tiny tear streaked down her tender, gentle face, I told her that it was for her own good. Soon, the New Yorkers would find out the Momofuko Toronto secret. She needed to get used to it.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Greg. Great piece! But we do have a union here called ACTRA and I'm a proud member. And I wouldn't want people to think that Toronto is cold year round. We had 4 months of blistering heat last summer. I do get asked by Americans all the time about my igloo, my moose, my mountie, and pardon me, but my beaver.

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