Banh Mi Boys

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The trendification of Chinatown: good news or bad for the city’s celebrated “ethnic buffet”?

(Image: David/dbking)

(Image: David/dbking)

Last week, the New York Times published a glowing tribute to Toronto and its ethnically diverse food scene. The first-person travelogue, titled “Sampling Toronto’s ethnic buffet,” described a rambling food tour through some of the city’s most prominent cultural enclaves. Author Francine Prose reminisced about snacking on dim sum at Lai Wah Heen, lamb kebabs at Lahore Tikka House and soon tofu at Tofu Village. She posited that Toronto has succeeded where dozens of American cities, including New York, have failed: it’s managed to find the ideal sweet spot between cultural assimilation and discord. “[T]he city succeeds at simultaneously dissolving the borders between disparate cultures,” she wrote, “and preserving what’s best and most valuable about each one.”

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Banh Mi Boys will soon open Lucky Red, a new bao shop in Chinatown

The braised beef cheek steamed bao from Banh Mi Boys (Image: Gizelle Lau)

The braised beef cheek steamed bao from Banh Mi Boys (Image: Gizelle Lau)

Old-school banh mi fans may have been disappointed by the recent closure of Cali Bánh Mì & Chè in Chinatown, but all is not lost. The brothers behind Banh Mi BoysDavid, Philip and Peter Chau—have taken over the space at 318 Spadina Avenue, just north of Dundas, and they have an intriguing new project in the works. Lucky Red—not to be confused with Susur Lee’s upcoming restaurant, Luckee—will specialize in Chinese-inspired steamed buns, known as bao.

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Openings

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Introducing: Banh Mi Boys on Yonge Street, the second location of the popular Vietnamese sub shop

Introducing: Banh Mi Boys

Name: Banh Mi Boys
Neighbourhood: Downtown Core
Contact Info: 399 Yonge St., 416-977-0303, banhmiboys.com, @banhmiboys
Owners: David, Philip and Peter Chau

The Food: The same menu as the original Banh Mi Boys location on Queen West: Vietnamese sub sandwiches (including the five-spice pork belly banh mi, one of the city’s top 20 sammies), steamed baos and tacos. The Chau brothers are working on adding an authentic Vietnamese shrimp dish, and rumours are circulating about a secret menu—try ordering the pork belly and fried chicken Club Bao.

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Banh Mi Boys new Yonge Street location is now open

Banh-Mi-Boys

(Image: Banh Mi Boys)

The Banh Mi Boys’ long-awaited second spot for Vietnamese sandwich and street food opened at Yonge and Gerrard to a full house today. The restaurant’s currently in soft-launch mode before the official launch next Monday and is serving the same fare as its original Queen Street location. We suggest the five-spice pork belly banh mi. Yum.

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The Binge List: top 20 Toronto sandwiches

Toronto’s top 20 sandwiches

Not so long ago, Toronto was a white-bread city. That was before chefs started baking Danish rye, sous-viding bacon and otherwise messing with the old bread-meat-bread formula. Today’s sandwiches are unconventional, artisanal and, we can confirm after extensive testing, utterly delicious. Here, our picks for the top 20 Toronto sandwiches.

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The Dish Power Rankings: Terroir-ism edition

The-Dish-Power-Rankings

Toronto Life’s roundup of the restaurants with the biggest buzz, the longest lineups and the toughest tables to snag.

The seventh annual Terroir Symposium brought a raft of international food stars to Toronto—and rearranged this week’s top restaurants. Further down, the first reviews for Chantecler’s new tasting menu shoot it up the list.

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The Dish Power Rankings: Best New Restaurants edition

The-Dish-Power-Rankings

Toronto Life’s roundup of the restaurants with the biggest buzz, the longest lineups and the toughest tables to snag.

Our annual Where to Eat Now issue lands on newsstands today, crowning a new restaurant as the city’s buzziest. Elsewhere, the already-packed OddSeoul gets a boost from Drake.

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Banh Mi Boys’ downtown location is opening in February

(Image: @Olivia_de_Souza on Twitter)

Banh Mi Boys co-owner David Chau revealed on Twitter that the Yonge Street location of the popular Asian-fusion sandwich shop is going to be ready to launch by the end of February. Not bad, considering they only announced the new location in November. [Twitter]

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Year in Review: 2012’s biggest food trends, from the shadow return of fusion to the reign of ramen

Taste moves in waves: one year tall food is on every menu in town, and the next year, it’s a half-forgotten embarrassment. Sometimes, though, those embarrassments come back in a new guise. This year saw the quiet return of certain tendencies that we thought were long-buried, like fusion cuisine and wine bars, as well as the full-blown emergence of others that were bubbling away just below the surface, like tacos and, of course, ramen. Below, a roundup of what was hot in 2012.

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Banh Mi Boys announces their second location: a former milkshake shop at Yonge and Gerrard

Banh Mi Boys’s duck confit banh mi (Image: Gizelle Lau)

Cheap, delicious Vietnamese street food purveyors Banh Mi Boys have finally revealed the location of their highly anticipated second shop. Co-owner David Chau hinted last week that the new spot would be on Yonge (previous rumours had pointed to the Eaton Centre) before confirming the address to NOW Magazine earlier this week—339399 Yonge Street, in the storefront previously occupied by Shake-o-lait. The new Bahn Mi Boys will have a similar look to the one on Queen West, plus a small patio and late-night hours come summer. What goes well with late summer nights? Booze, of course. Word is a liquor license is a possibility for the new shop—albeit, unfortunately, not a very good one. [NOW Magazine]

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Flavour of the Month: Toronto’s 10 best meatballs

Flavour of the Month: Meatballs

Toronto chefs are making meatballs in every variation known to humankind. Here, 10 spectacular, sloppy spheres.

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Best of the City 2012: four of Toronto’s top takes on Asian street food

Best of the City: Asian street food INARI

INARI
Yours Truly
229 Ossington Ave., 416-533-2243
Inari Traditional Japanese inari pouches are dead simple: thin fried tofu wrapped around balls of sushi rice. At Yours Truly, chef Jeff Claudio upgrades them by adding tangy Portuguese salt cod and grace notes of toasted seaweed and sesame seeds. $6.

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New reviews: Stock, Banh Mi Boys and Bestellen

A big-ticket steak house, banh mi to queue for and a scenester meat shrine

STOCK star ½
Trump Hotel, 325 Bay St., 416-637-5550

Just opened: StockMost hotel dining rooms are conventional and quiet—depressing, even—but the restaurant on the 31st floor of the Trump Tower hums with captains-of-industry energy. Wealthy travellers gawk at the view, stockbrokers knock back $50 glasses of Tignanello, and Harry Rosen suits abound, including, on the night we visited, one worn by Harry Rosen himself. A dollar sign replaces the S in Stock’s logo, and there’s truth in advertising. The wine list starts at $50, and a $20 manhattan would be easier to swallow if it weren’t bludgeoned with bitters. Chef Todd Clarmo comes from the Oliver and Bonacini franchise and dishes up hit-and-miss steak house fare. The thick New York strip is tender; the crispy frites alongside come with a fabulous truffle aïoli. The lobster chunks in a salad, however, range from sweet and tender to salty and soggy. Pastry chef David Chow makes an incredible lemon cake with pistachio crumble, yogurt sorbet and lavender pearls. You can do better for less elsewhere, but no one in the room seems to care. Mains $24–$120.

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It’s all over folks: T.G.I. Friday’s starts serving Korean tacos

(Image: T.G.I. Friday’s)

The trend that started out in the food trucks of California and spread like hot gochujang to Toronto restaurants like Swish, JangBang and Banh Mi Boys is now officially over: that’s right, Korean tacos are now available at American casual dining chain T.G.I. Friday’s. Oh well—it was fun while it lasted, at least. [Eater]

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Openings

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Introducing: The Big Fish, a new fish and chips shop on Queen West

The view from the corner of Queen and Cameron (Image: Karolyne Ellacott)

Taking over the old Bon’s Submarine space at Queen just west of Spadina, the Big Fish is the first foray into western waters for George Hung, who also owns Leslieville’s Reliable Fish and Chips. While his other eatery sticks to the classic English dish, The Big Fish offers up a variety of grab ’n’ go foods for the fish lover—with the odd burger thrown in for good measure.

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