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This is the second of a series of eating east Asian cuisine in Toronto by flashbracket.

Banh Mi Boys
Location Reviewed:
399 Yonge Street
Toronto, ON M5B 1S9
(416) 977-0303
www.banhmiboys.com

During the past few visits to Toronto I would make my way to Banh Mi Boys. Their Yonge street location, south of College, is just around the corner from where I often stay and I first stepped foot into the busy eatery when I met up with a friend for lunch. I had been hearing about this place for a while now but hadn’t thought much of it. I love banh mi, the Vietnamese sandwich on a French baguette, and the thought of leaving Chinatown and paying more than four dollars for this half-foot sandwich seemed ridiculous to me. I would had never guessed that my dreams of eating dirty fast food would somehow become fulfilled from eating non-greasy Asian fusion grub in a sleek and trendy setting.

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The Yonge street location store front. Top Photo: Clockwise from top left – Five Spice Pork Belly Banh Mi, Tofu Fries, Tofu Taco, Panko Tofu Steamed Bao.

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This is the first of a series of eating east Asian cuisine in Toronto by flashbracket.

Kingyo Toronto
51B Winchester Street
Toronto, ON M4X 1R7
(647) 748-2121
www.kingyotoronto.ca

Where do I start with Kingyo? In a market full of excellent east Asian cuisine — Toronto that is, and definitely not Montréal — I often feel a bit overwhelmed trying to keep up with all the great restaurants serving Chinese dim sum, Korean barbecue, and Japanese ramen. I travel back to my hometown of Toronto whenever I can, and each time I’m back in town my family and friends are holding a list of places that we need to try, or restaurants they really want to go back to and know that I would be down for some good eats. Kingyo, a Vancouver inception, opened their Toronto outpost at the end of 2012 but I only made my way over to its Cabbagetown location earlier this year. So I am about a year late in the game. But I am glad that, since my first visit, I kept coming back to this restaurant serving Japanese bar food just about every time I was back in Hogtown. And every time I’m back on the train headed to Montréal I still think about my favourite meals and Kingyo is always one of them.

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A shop on rue Saint-Denis in the Plateau

Montréal is a truly beautiful city in the summer. In the winter? Well, the city becomes endowed with a damning amount of snow so we make most of what we’ve got during these gloomy months. But let’s get back to the summer season. Even though the daytime sun shows off European-inspired architecture and the well-kept gardens dotting the city, some might argue that Montréal becomes even more alive at night. And I’m not just pointing to the city’s famous adult entertainment — the city is so much more than being just the default Canadian getaway city for those celebrating the last of their bachelor(ette) days.

Some cases in point follow. An evening stroll reveals picturesque silhouettes of numerous steeples, vestiges of the city’s strong religious past. The city with the most number of restaurants per capita in Canada (and second in North America) brings fierce competition for diners, serving up excellent culinary experiences into the night. And of course the ongoing array of events jam-packed in the summer, such as Just for Laughs and Montréal Jazz Festival, keeps the city partying past your usual bedtime. It just happens that we took a few photos here and there during these warm months between sips of cocktails on a terrace. Here are a few images of some of the city’s summer evenings thus far, a small snapshot into the bustling summer nights in Montréal.

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Changing lights on the façade of Pavilion Judith-Jasmin at Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM)
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Omma
177 rue Bernard Ouest
Montréal, Québec H2T 2K4
(514) 274-1464
www.restaurantomma.com

Since moving to Montréal a few years ago, I have accepted a few culinary facts about the city:
(1) The baguettes are always amazing
(2) “Vegetarian? No problem, we have fish!”
(3) The quality of Korean restaurants are dreadful

File this under complaint number 8,356 about the gaping hole of good ethnic eats in la belle province. Alas, I have come to terms with the lack of quality and authentic Korean restaurants in Montréal with heavy pangs in my heart. I get it, I was spoiled with an excellent array of Korean food during the first twenty years of my life as I grew up in the Toronto suburbs where a subpar Korean restaurant would never last more than a year. Torontonians, both those of Korean heritage and seasoned Korean food diners, demand some decency when grabbing Korean grub, whether it is Korean barbecue, KFC (aka Korean Fried Chicken), hipster Korean tacos, momofuku (or those inspired by the inventive Japanese-Korean fusion eating trend), late-night pork bone soup, or just a traditional eatery. See? So many different types of Korean restaurants are out there! Why not bring some good ones to Montréal, I ask?

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Dol sot Bibimbap (top) with sweetened hot sauce, Kimchi Combo side (middle), and Spicy Lamb or Agneau épicé (bottom)
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Since arriving in Toronto from Montréal, my holiday has so far consisted of a major ice storm, power outages, and sloppy but frigid weather. Thankfully my family was lucky and celebrated Christmas in a lighted and heated home, and today we dropped by Baldwin Village in Chinatown for dinner. Baldwin Village is a family favourite enclave off of Chinatown that houses some of our favourite long-running restaurants in Toronto, and is just a very pleasant street to walk about between the clutter of downtown. Tonight the streets were sleek and slushy, but the Christmas lights illuminated beautifully on the pavement. Is it weird that I miss the weather being below 0 °C? I can’t wait to be back in the land of real snow in Montréal next week. Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas everyone.

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La Maison Kam Fung
1111 rue Saint-Urbain
Montréal, Québec H2Z 1Y6
(514) 878-2888
www.restaurantlamaisonkamfung.com

It’s been a bit of an ethnic food extravaganza here in Montréal as after stopping by Bombay Mahal, I went for a Sunday dim sum brunch in Chinatown. My friend and acquaintances included those who were new to the arena of dim sum and also not very big eaters of Asian food in general. So bringing an older European couple to a Sunday brunch nary of waffles and eggs was a gamble, but I think the meal went over well and we found new fans of Chinese breakfast.

Dim sum isn’t a big weekend brunch go-to here in Montréal as it was as I was growing up in Toronto. As a child my family, like many other Asian families, would arrange these Sunday meals with other family friends at our favourite spots, first hitting downtown restaurants but later heading out to the suburbs. (As it happens, with time the Hong Kong immigrants settled in places like Markham, leaving much of downtown Toronto Chinatown in the hands of mainland Chinese and Vietnamese immigrants.) Our party would number about twelve in total — three families of four — and like a hoard of Asian bus tour bangers, we would convene on the chosen spot and feed on a very heavy breakfast.

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Bombay Mahal
1001 rue Jean Talon Ouest
Montréal, Québec H3N 1T2
(514) 273-3331
www.restaurantbombaymahal.ca

I complain too much about the mediocrity of ethnic food here in Montréal. But I shouldn’t complain about this when most of the food offered in the city is so good, right? I mean, we have so much good bread, amazing French food, an abundance of maple syrup, and all the cheese that you can only wish for outside of Europe.

So when I start complaining about food in Montréal I know my friends back home in Toronto are just rolling their eyes. I get it, I do. You yearn for what you don’t have. The grass is greener on the other side. Yada yada. But when you grow up with good Indian food everywhere, and for mere pennies really, then you move almost 600 kilometres away and keep running into crappy Indian food…it’s disconcerting. It’s sad.

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