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Restaurants

A-OK Foods

Posted by Jason Finestone / Listed on December 21, 2012 / review policy

a ok foods torontoA-OK Foods is utterly without pretensions; a refreshing move from the sister restaurants of one of the most celebrated restaurants to hit the city recently, Yours Truly. To suggest that one should abandon all etiquette when dining out would be erroneous--and in many cases it's a fitting opportunity to flex one's formal politesse--but a chance to simply unwind and enjoy is always a welcome feature of a restaurant. A-OK Foods provides diners with an everyman's assortment of the snack food-style eats that made its sister restaurant so popular with the Ossington bar crawlers in its early days.

a ok foods torontoLong, painted picnic tables flank the wood shingled walls and Jonathan Sabine-designed fixtures cast a soft light on happy patrons. If you're coming alone or in a small group expect to be seated with other eager eaters a-la-table, or at one of the few bar stools along the front window.

Open for lunch and dinner (Wednesday to Monday from 11:30-3pm and 5:30-10pm), chef Chris Jang does some inventive globetrotting with his dishes that feature mainly Chinese, Korean and Mexican flavours. A few Yours Truly staples such as salt cod inari ($7) will find their way on the menu. Jang's handmade ramen, currently in shoyu (soy sauce) and Sichuan tsukemen form, will certainly become mainstays, but it's the chalkboard that will define the daily offerings.

a ok foods torontoIf you want to know more about what's coming out of the kitchen, it's best to ask one of the incredibly personable servers. I know there's been some commentary concerning rude, slow or otherwise un-engaging service at Yours Truly--A-OK Foods cannot be described with any of those adjectives.

a ok foods torontoWe started the meal with the famed salt cod inari--salt cod cured for three days, blended with soft, sweet rice, and stuffed into a light aburaage wrapping. I find that salt cod can often be overwhelmingly fishy, but this had a sublime, almost smoky flavour to it, and the QP mayo, smeared on the rim of the plate, brought everything together perfectly.

a ok foods torontoWith so much talk about Jang's ramen rolling, shaping, curing and creating, it was essential to dive into a bowl of his handmade ramen. To best feature the bouncy bounty of the noodles, we went for a less traditional take on the Japanese staple with Jang's Chinese-spiced, Sichuan tsukemen ramen ($10.50). The noodles are texturally supreme. Sultry, sous vide pork belly with a robust flavour is sliced and grilled to order. A soft boiled egg and a piece of flaky, fried laver is served alongside a dipping broth made from a blend of Sichuan chilies, chicken stock, black bean sauce, chili bean sauce and Sichuan peppercorns that tickle your tongue and leave your mouth half-numb. It's an interesting eating experience overall that reminds me more of Chinese hot pot than Japanese ramen.

The chino wings ($8.50) were next up. Seasoned, fried to golden perfection, then tossed in the wok with Sichuan chilies, garlic, ginger and scallions, these drums n' flats were a salty breed. A chili vinaigrette, however, made for a perfect medley of salt and tart. I'd order them again!

a ok foods torontoAt this point we knew there was only one dish to go. A fresh, crisp lettuce wrap--san choi bao ($7.50)--resembling a YT dish of yore, came on a leaf of iceberg lettuce with crispy vermicelli noodles, and a sautee of marinated pork and veggies in a sweet black bean and chili bean paste.

a ok foods torontoWhile a part of me wanted to order the entire menu, I knew I'd be smart to come back and sample some more on another occasion. As I took down the last few drops of my pilsner (the only alcohol on the menu for now), I felt a deep sense of satisfaction. I was comfortable, well-fed, and feeling entirely in my element.

Discussion

29 Comments

Ken / December 21, 2012 at 08:48 am
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Thanks Jason, I really like the look of this place, "lack of pretensions" echoes my initial impression from your photos. The food doesn't try to be especially nicely dressed/plated, and so much the better for it.
Adding it to my to-eat list!
Moneesha replying to a comment from Ken / December 21, 2012 at 09:07 am
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"without pretentions"=lazy and/or amateur-ville. Just look at the food presentation. Gross!
Tory / December 21, 2012 at 10:34 am
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Moneesha, I never comment on these things. Have you been to A-Okay? It's GREAT and it does lack pretension, food presentation is actually quite endearing and pleasing. I guess you definitely DON'T lack pretension.
Drape replying to a comment from Moneesha / December 21, 2012 at 10:36 am
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Oh shut up. You lame ass whiny little b!tch
lol / December 21, 2012 at 11:29 am
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White people whoring out food genres what else is new...
john / December 21, 2012 at 11:55 am
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hah, i like the "queen st" hiragana on the sign.
john / December 21, 2012 at 11:55 am
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katakana, rather.
lol@lol / December 21, 2012 at 12:30 pm
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Non-white with a chip on his/her shoulder... what else is new...
Coque Asian / December 21, 2012 at 01:21 pm
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Uh... the entire kitchen is made up of Korean, japanese and mexiacn folks. LOL UR COOL
BlogTOStaff / December 21, 2012 at 01:55 pm
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What do they do to the Ramen to make give it that pinky-grey colour?
Lje / December 21, 2012 at 06:46 pm
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So where IS the restaurant? An address, or at least a neighbourhood would be useful.
john / December 21, 2012 at 06:55 pm
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Lje, you just have to look at the top right of the screen for a map and an address. Come on man, it's not hard if you put a bit of effort in.
Michael replying to a comment from Lje / December 21, 2012 at 07:00 pm
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Right hand side of the page. Map, address, website, phone number.... I'd say that where BlogTO decided to put the info was easy to miss, but really it's not.
Jean-Luc Stéphant / January 4, 2013 at 03:10 pm
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Those dishes look pretty tasty! When I'm in Toronto I'm going to go to this restaurant.
Joyce / January 7, 2013 at 04:31 pm
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Went there a couple of weeks ago and food was terrible. Ramen was mediocre, the lettuce wraps were too salty and soy sauce heavy (any Chinese restaurant in Markham can make tastier wraps for half the price) and the horchata tasted like lavender soap. Chino wings were ok. Service was ok. But generally the restaurant was NOT ok.
JJ replying to a comment from Joyce / January 10, 2013 at 12:07 am
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I agree. I'm sure people will disagree but I really think this place isn't any good. Ordered the Brussels Sprouts and the Shoyu. The brussel sprouts were just OK and the Shoyu was inedible. I honestly can't remember the last time I was more disappointed in a restaurant. Service was fairly poor. Great concept....I won't be going back though. Unless they step it up it will be interesting to see if a restaurant can solely rely on location and trendiness.
Brandon / January 12, 2013 at 03:13 pm
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They should work on getting things at Yours Truly right before opening another place.
joe mama / January 15, 2013 at 12:09 am
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What's with businesses in this area not changing their signs? Baby Huey and The Communists Daughter (and now A-OK Foods) are perfect examples. I went to Baby Huey numerous times while telling friends it was "Lang Van II" until I realized the tiny chalkboard in the window saying "Baby Huey". It's basic marketing best practices, make sure all your collateral matches. Doesn't take a genius to figure out why it's useful. I walked by this place numerous times while being confused by the chalkboard on the sidewalk (with a beer logo on top) advertising "ramen" then seeing the sign "A-OK Foods" but looking up to see the sign "Shaw we go". Get a clue business owners...You're not helping yourself. Nevertheless, I'll probably try this place now that I know what it is, but if not for BlogTo I probably never would have figured it out, because walking in just to see what it is takes too much time in this fast-moving society of ours.
Ossiresident replying to a comment from Brandon / January 17, 2013 at 01:54 pm
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I know I am going to get flamed as a Yours Truly staff member or some kind of fanboy/girl of the place but I really can't understand the random hate they receive online. I live in the neighborhood and they are consistently the busiest resto on Oss and things like http://www.thestar.com/entertainment/restaurants/article/1120475--yours-truly-review
http://www.postcity.com/Post-City-Magazines/KatesTop100-2012/List/index.php/name/Yours-Truly/record/6955/ http://www.dine.to/profile_features.php?feature=review&;id=20009 can't all be a fluke can they? Obviously they haven't re-invented the wheel but it can't be that bad of a place...
Brandon replying to a comment from Ossiresident / January 27, 2013 at 02:12 pm
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I'm not "hating" on them unfairly; I just don't think the food is any good. The execution was uneven and about a quarter of the 20 dishes I had were downright terrible.

Go to a place like Momofuku Ko (probably the best proxy in terms of price and attitude - in fact, last time I was there for dinner one of our chefs mentioned he knows Jeff Claudio) and tell me how many of the 12-20 dishes you eat there are even "mediocre." I'm willing to bet it's one, max.

I think the only people who actually think it's good are suburbanite-cum-hipster Torontonians who have never ventured outside the Toronto food bubble.
ossiresident replying to a comment from Brandon / February 6, 2013 at 06:17 pm
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So Joanne Kates, Amy Pataki, and Alan A. Vernon are suburbanite-cum-hipster Torontonians? I'm confused by your response.

You are entitled to your opinion of the place of course, I'm just saying when all the top food writers (professionals) in town seem to be lining up in praise of this place and it remains extremely busy (from my local vantage point) that you might be a member of the extremely vocal minority I am talking about.

What is it about this place (Yours Truly) that makes it so polarizing?
Tanya / March 2, 2013 at 02:10 pm
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The food here is delicious! I don't understand the backlash.
Corey / March 6, 2013 at 04:53 pm
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This restaurant is amazing. My only complaint; not open Monday and Tuesday. Not getting involved with the negativity. It's better than the mediocre offerings in Liberty Village (Panini & Co + School excluded). Go eat at A-OK. Try the Cod, Chino wings and the Dan Dan. Off the hook.
H8r Bro / March 12, 2013 at 11:27 pm
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EVERYTHING IN TORONTO SUCKS. INCLUDING ME.
Sam / March 19, 2013 at 11:57 am
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The wings are terrible! Food is mediocre at best.
Ham replying to a comment from Joyce / March 21, 2013 at 11:27 pm
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I have to agree also that I was really disappointed with A-OK. My husband and I went to try just because the people of Yours Truly opened the place. I felt like there was no 'passion' for the food. It wasn't authentic enough nor imaginative and it's evident when you know what GOOD 'dan dan' mein and ramen should taste like. It's almost like "let's jump on the band wagon and open a Ramen Place but not focus on the food itself"
Janice / July 17, 2013 at 04:42 pm
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I first tried this place about a week after they opened- everything we had- the wings, the lettuce wraps, the ramen, were WAY too salty. I'm not usually one to hate on sodium but it was just over the top. Gave the place a second chance a few months later because we assumed that they just needed some time to get their act together but again, everything we ate their was over-salted. There are tons of great places to eat in the Queen West/Ossington strip but this place is unfortunately not one of them. If you're looking for a decently priced Asian snack bar Odd Seoul right around the corner is definitely a far cry from this crap.
Janice / July 17, 2013 at 04:44 pm
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Oh and PS. beer in dinky plastic cups?? The WORST.
Shawn / September 8, 2013 at 06:54 pm
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I think you guys are just trying to get yourselves together and all in good time! Rome was not built in a day and I have always had great service and great food. Pity you cannot get rid of that silly ``shaw we go`` below the place. I might come over for a snack later.

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