Last weekend Spotlight Toronto hosted the second Slurp Noodlefest at 99 Sudbury Street. Tickets were $10 and they went fast but luckily I scored a handful for Joe, Joanna and myself. Next time I just might crash the party though, because they didn't even check tickets at the door!
Some participating restaurants were Nota Bene, Yours Truly, Momofuku and a handful of other restaurants I usually wouldn't be able to afford to eat at otherwise! I took this as a way to economically enjoy some offerings from Toronto's best chefs.
We got to the event at about 12:30pm and the room was filled to the rim - no space to turn around and/or eat! This was my only qualm about the event, there were way too many people there for the size of the venue. With everyone carrying around a bowl of hot soup, you really had to be careful not to make a mess of yourself or someone else!
One of the first bowls of the day came from Yours Truly ($5). They offered a bowl of mazemen which is a broth-less noodle dish. All the topping are placed on top and you're meant to toss everything together. I'm a huge fan of noodles - but not so much the broth sometimes so I really enjoyed this one. Joanna and Joe on the other hand, preferred the more "soupy" noodles so they passed on this.
The longest line up of the day (20min +) had to come from Nota Bene. Our game plan was to keep Joe in line while Joanna and I brought food back to the Nota Bene line. They were offering wood-fired bacon & egg ramen ($5) with pork & truffle foam ($1). Everything was executed perfectly, from the foam to the perfectly poached egg and surprisingly, the portion was quite substantial.
What the three of us quickly noticed was the quality of the broths. Not one broth we had that day was full bodied or flavourful - Nota Bene included! Sorry to say it, we just found all of them to be very one demential and hollow - no depth to any of the soups. But the toppings offered from torched pork shoulder, guanciale, pork belly, and chicken skin (yes chicken skin!) were fantastic!
The Drake Hotels ($5) were probably the most disappointing. They didn't have a sign describing what they were offering so I'm just going off by memory - but it was the only soup the three of us couldn't finish. They described it as an "Italian" version of the Japanese Ramen. The broth was mushroomy, in a not so yummy way and although the egg was cooked well, it just didn't fit in overall.
One of the most "wow" bowls for me was from Samuel J Moore. While waiting in line at Yours Truly, I spotted someone with one of these extravagant bowls and once I heard "fried chicken skin", I was completely sold!
I was ecstatic to see the line was moving quite rapidly as well. SJM's Chicken Noodle was $4 a cup and we added crispy chicken skin, pork belly, and rapini for a dollar each. They were very generous with the crispy chicken skin and even more generous with the pulled pieces of chicken and huge chunks of pork. This was one of the few stands we found that offered huge chunks of protein instead of bits and bites. We also appreciated the change to egg noodles instead of what everyone else was using.
One of the other longer and louder lineups of the day was for Kinton Ramen. They were offering a Spicy Garlic Ramen - chili pepper based, corn scallion, fresh grated garlic, and pork shoulder ($5). They were also the only stand offering something spicy! While everyone else went with a clear broth I was excited to see Kinton went with something bold. I was expecting that dollop of garlic to be really overwhelming but once everything was mixed in, it melted away really nicely into the soup. After the few "misses" we had, it was nice to receive such a flavourful bowl of noodles from Kinton.
I was also really excited to see establishments who don't specialize in noodles, like Pizzeria Libretto and their Shio Style Noodles ($5). The thin slices of guanciale (bacon made with pork cheek) were fantastic and melted in your mouth.
Our favourite offerings for the day came from a pop up called @FeasTO. We were definitely pleasantly surprised that out of all those top notch restaurants, a little 'ol pop up blew us out of the water. Their crab & miso mazemen with pea sprouts, roasted nori, and chive flowers ($5) might have been underwhelming in presentation, but overwhelming in flavour. The real chunks of crap were fantastic! The "what the pho dumplings" ($5) were so great we came back for seconds on our way out. They did a great job of capturing the perfect mouthful of pho into one tiny little dumpling!
The Momofuku Chilled Spicy noodles - sichuan sausage, black bean, cashews ($5) were good - not great. This would have made a bomb digity work lunch and the pork meatball was flavourful enough, there was just no "wow" factor. My arch-nemesis the pork bun ($5) was also there so obviously we got one ...or two. I still have a love/hate relationship with these buns - they're so damn $%&* delicious but so ^%** overpriced!!
BTW David Lee was there in the flesh and I completely fan-girled him. How do you think I got this not-at-all- shady picture of him?
Besides the tight quarters I really enjoyed the event. I would recommend going earlier than later because a handful of the stalls were already sold out before 3pm and the event was running till 4pm!