Upon entering A-OK, which over hovers over County General at the corner of Queen and Shaw, I felt like I was in a high school cafeteria, complete with pastel coloured picnic tables. Instead of long-winded calculus problems scripted on the board, a short and simple menu was presented offering eclectic spins on Asian food. The curriculum included small plate options mixed with the equally popular ramen bowls. The question would be whether the food had the same cafeteria flare as the decor.
The salt cod inari was a terrific start to the meal….kind of like a first period english class with a cool teacher. The wrapper was a chewy but not an uncomfortable texture housing rice that was moist, not mushy. The salt cod added subtle spots of saltiness throughout the inners of the roll. The feisty dipping sauce was cleverly spread along the rim of the plate, appealing to both the dimension of visual appeal and sapidity.
The spin on the shoyu ramen was decent but it certainly wasn’t the best in the city. It was rather generic and lacked the complexity of some of the other soups. The broth was one-toned, the noodles a bit limp and the pork was tender but not remarkable. The egg was well cooked and nicely seasoned and the goji berries were a cute touch. In the end, it was satisfying but not memorable, creating an economic argument by being priced at over ten bucks a bowl.
The pork ssam had a messy appearance and was tricky to eat. In the end, it had a nice, fresh taste but the flavours were scattered depending on the placement and size of the bite. Not a bad snack for 5 bucks. It might have been a bit more exciting if a short course in engineering promoting self-assembly had been employed.
My table mate ordered the Sichuan Tsukeman ramen bowl. I was tempted to do the same and I’m glad I didn’t. It was a bit of a mess. Understanding it’s a bit of a variation from the standard noodle bowls ( the broth is replaced with a spicy dipping sauce on the side) , it lacked the heartwarming nature of its Shoyu cousin. After dragging the limp noodles through the sauce, I was left with a nice quantity of spice but an oily taste that was less than appealing. The pork, egg and seaweed were interesting additions but still couldn’t cut into the monotony of the overpowering sauce. Let’s call it a cool science experiment gone slightly wrong.
A-OK foods fuses two of Toronto’s hottest culinary trends: asian inspired street food and ramen. Although it doesn’t deliver the best of either world, there were a few dishes worth talking about. As for the vibe, I only experienced the midday experience but it felt a bit like being in detention, lacking the buzz and excitement of similar eateries. In the end, the report card is such that I can’t give A-OK foods an A, but more likely a C and possibly a B minus if the salt cod inari is somewhere in the lesson plan.