Koreatown goes loco for poké
Plus wild ice cream at Yonge and Eg and a baked Alaska history lesson
TUNA TAKES THE CAKE
Anh Tran is soft-spoken and a bit shy, but the 26-year-old has made a statement with his recently opened fast-casual restaurant, Big Tuna Poké Bar in Koreatown.
Big Tuna slings four types of signature poké bowls and offers customizable versions of the Hawaiian special, which combines raw fish and fresh ingredients atop white or brown rice. The flavours at Big Tuna aren’t classic Hawaiian. “For some people, authenticity is so important,” Tran says. “For me, as long as you respect the heritage of where it’s from, you can do whatever you want — as long as the food tastes good.” A regular-sized bowl runs $10.95, and it’s $12.95 for a large.
The Big Katuna most closely resembles a classic poké, with ahi tuna from City Fish, cuke, onions, macadamia nuts and a classic ponzu sauce served with a few house-fried taro chips. The Ninja is a creamy blend of salmon, edamame and wasabi peas mixed with a spicy mayo and topped with tobiko, togarashi and roasted seaweed.
With frequent sellouts of ingredients before the 10 p.m. quitting time, Tran is overwhelmed with the support he’s seen. (Big Tuna Poké Bar, 599 Bloor St. W., 647-352-0599). — Jason Finestone
THE REAL SWEET SPOT
The Yonge and Eg ’hood is officially hitting a sweet spot. Midtowners now have a holy trinity of Sweet Jesus, La Carnita and Good Fortune Bar — the newest concept from the La Carnita team — arriving soon.
The former Philthy McNasty’s space is (thankfully) unrecognizable after a hefty reno. The exterior is now their trademark black and Tiffany blue, with a humming neon sign signalling that you’ve arrived. This is the fourth location of Sweet Jesus, which often has a queue down the street, no matter the weather or location.
Cones come in straight up soft serve (bo-ring) or coated with crumbly accoutrements like graham crackers and broken cake bits. All cones and cups will set you back $6.50 each. Vegans will celebrate the Life’s a Peach flavour, with fresh peach and caramel twist soft serve coated in charred peach sauce and rolled in flaky almond crumbs.
They also have a list of coffee creations. Hot and cold beverage menus
offer combos almost as unconventional as their soft serve menu, with cold drinks like the Miss Saigon (espresso, mulled brown sugar syrup, milk and condensed milk) or the hot burnt marshmallow latte, which sounds pretty much like a campfire in a cup.
One notable inclusion is the built-in confessional. The pervasive nature of oversharing has only been enhanced here with a Snapchat enabled iPad — no priest in sight. Yonge and Eg-ers finally get to see the light (Sweet Jesus, 130 Eglinton Ave. E.). — Libby Roach
KEEPING IT LOCAL
The Midtown ’hood around Belsize and Mount Pleasant has a new local. When the Longest Yard closed this spring, John Oakes, the owner of the Harbord House, took over the lease and put a new spin on the place.
“We’re just trying to be a great local spot in the neighbourhood,” Oakes says. “We’re a gastropub focusing on local craft beers and homemade comfort food.”
Harbord House regulars will recognize many of the meal-sized salads that have been brought over with minor tweaks. They also grind beef in house for their burgers.
The beer menu has serious craft credential, stretching from recognizable taps like Beau’s Lug tread and Muskoka Detour IPA to more advanced options like Great Lakes Brewery’s My Bitter Wife IPA and Royal City’s Hibiscus Saison. (The Belsize Public House, 535 Mt. Pleasant Rd., 416-487-6468). — David Ort
Grant van Gameren has set his sights on south Parkdale, taking over Harry’s, a long-standing diner. According to a job ad on Facebook, Nate Young will lead the kitchen team. Young has worked in the kitchen at van Gameren’s Bar Isabel since its early days in 2013.
The Big Katuna at Big Tuna Poké Bar
Sweet Jesus’ Cookies Cookies Cookies and Cream