Country 021 – Italy (A3 Napoli)

a3
Location
: 589 College Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://a3napoli.com/

Given that A3 is a collaboration between Porchetta and Co.‘s  Nick auf der Mauer and Pizzeria Libretto‘s Rocco Agostino, you’d just sort of assume that it’s going to be really good.  And you would be correct.  You would be 100% correct.

The menu is an even split between crispy goodies coming out of their fryer and piping hot pizzas from their enormous, impressive 900 degree pizza oven (which is pretty much the centrepiece of the restaurant).

We started with the “Land” assortment of fried deliciousness, which came with decadently gooey arancini, flavour-packed meatballs, fried mozzarella that would put any mozzarella stick  to shame, and perfectly cooked slices of sweet potato.  It included a little cup of marinara for dipping, but everything was so tasty on its own that it was mostly superfluous.

They serve a sandwich that changes every couple of weeks, served on what is essentially an undressed pizza that’s folded over.  It was meatball when I went, but it’ll probably be something different by the time you read this.

First and foremost is that bread, which has an addictively chewy texture and just the right amount of char from the inferno-hot pizza oven.  Can I have all of my sandwiches in this bread?  Because I want all of my sandwiches in this bread.

The inside of the sandwich was a perfect mix of rich tomato sauce, creamy pesto, and peppery arugula.  That’s not to mention, of course, the toothsome and abundant meatballs.  If I had to come up with the top five meatball sandwiches I’ve had in my life, this one would probably be on there.

We finished with the Zeppoli — little cinnamon-and-sugar-dusted doughnuts that are essentially like the best Timbits you’ve ever had, which come with a heady chocolate hazelnut sauce for dipping.  That sauce, I should note, was so good that my dining companion was compelled to drink the remains.

A3 Napoli - the Land Fritti A3 Napoli - the Meatball Sandwich A3 Napoli - the Zeppoli

Country 019 – Vietnam (Pho King Fabulous!)

pho
Location
: 2411 Yonge Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.phokingfabulous.com/

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: the name of this restaurant is probably going to make you cringe.  It’s an unfortunate bit of frat-boy humour that belies the legitimately tasty food that can be found inside.

You’d also expect an authentic Vietnamese joint to be a bit more bare-bones in its decor; the best Vietnamese restaurants in the city tend to have an endearingly run-down vibe that’s a bit at odds with the slickly appointed dining room you’ll find here.  Again: don’t judge this book by its cover.

I ordered the Fabulous Beef Noodle Soup, which the menu describes as being filled with a cornucopia of meats: “Rare eye round, well-done flank, soft tendon, tripe, and beef meatballs.”

You have the choice of a medium or large bowl; the medium is absolutely crammed with noodles and meat, so unless you have a particularly voracious appetite, it’ll do.

A bowl of pho like this lives and dies by its broth, and this one has one of the most richly flavourful broths that I’ve tried (but then I’ve had maybe ten bowls of pho in my entire life, so don’t get too impressed).  Kicked up with a couple of spoons of chili sauce and a squeeze of lime, and you’ve got a really satisfying bowl of soup.

The noodles are perfectly cooked and abundant, and the variety of meats gives the dish an appealing mix of flavours and textures: there’s the tender combination of rare and well done beef, the distinctively chewy/crunchy bite of the tripe, the unctuous richness of the almost melt-in-your-mouth tendon, and the hearty meatballs.  There wasn’t a weak link here, which was nice.

Pho King Fabulous - the restaurant Pho King Fabulous - the pho