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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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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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Happy Lunar New Year! The new year according to the lunar calendar is also known as “Chinese New Year” for those of us in English-speaking countries. Koreans, just like the Chinese, traditionally followed the lunar calendar before adopting the Gregorian calendar of the west, so we Koreans refer to the same horoscopes as the Chinese. For 2014, we celebrate the Year of the Horse, and apparently it is the year of the “Blue Horse” for this cycle. According to the Korean Broadcasting System (KBS), the Blue Horse, unlike a regular horse horoscope character, comes around every 60 years. This is just as unique as the two other “special” horoscopes that I am aware of — The Golden Pig, which happens to be my dad, and the White Horse, which happens to be my sister.

The Lunar New Year is a very big event in Korea; it is considered the most important holiday of all, besides Chuseok or Korean Thanksgiving in the fall. And holidays in Korea mean family and food, not unlike the celebratory traditions of many other cultures. So what does my family do? We make a feast. But what do Korean people make at home to feed a crowd? I am the kind of person who asks my friends from non-Anglo-Saxon backgrounds what their families make at home, so I thought others may be interested in what the dinner table looks like for Korean-Canadian families. So here it is.

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“Kalbi” or barbecue short ribs

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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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Pourquoi Pas Espresso Bar
1447 Rue Amherst (south of Maisonneuve)
Montréal, Québec H2L 3L2
(514) 419-9400
https://www.facebook.com/PQuoiPas

How is everyone’s Labour Day weekend going? Mine is actually quite boring; I have been at home doing work as I have several deadlines this month even though the new school year for me officially starts on Tuesday. Regardless, I managed to enjoy the outdoors by fitting in some long runs to the mountain here in Montréal — Mont Royal (Mount Royal for anglos) — to practise some long runs and hill work. I absolutely love the mountain, which is only about 3 kilometres from my home. I will share some photos of the mountain and park in the near future, so look out for a future post on Mont Royal.

As I mentioned, I have been working from home but about half, or perhaps more than half, of the time I like to work in cafés. There are some excellent cafés here in the city, with most providing free Wi-Fi for its customers — I know, we’re spoiled that we don’t have to pay for WiFi in cafés in Montréal unlike many cities in North America. So what usually happens is that I perch myself at a café all day which can be a nice reprieve from being holed alone in my apartment. There are so many great cafés in Montréal and I definitely have my favourites, but I also love discovering new ones. Last month, my friend and I were doing some vintage furniture shopping in The Village and we came across Pourquoi Pas Espresso Bar just north of the hustle and bustle of rue Sainte-Catherine.

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