What's considered as an occasional indulgence is not to be taken lightly; sometimes we go out and indulge in the most gluttonous way possible with a goal of finding the most ridiculous thing we can eat. Favourite past time, you might say? In the eyes of a foodie, yes. But for anyone else looking to quench their curiosity, it might be as simple as saying "I've tried it".
Which is why my friends and I hopped at the chance to go to Fresh Off The Boat the moment we saw it featured on an episode of Day of Gluttony - 24 Toronto Restaurants in 24 Hours.
However politically incorrect or cheeky the name is, Fresh Off The Boat is a new seafood joint in Toronto renown for serving up soft shell crab and po' boys that melt in your mouth.
The space has limited seating, so if you walk in at peak times you'll be lucky to snatch a seat even if it's confined to the wooden plank against the wall. It's well designed for a fast food eatery and makes you feel like you're just offshore. As an avid fan of sriracha, I was delighted to find a shelf of decorative sriracha bottles near the back.
Fresh Off The Boat is led by owner and chef Quinten Tran, founder of Buster's Sea Cove food truck, who brings a Canadian-Asian flair to notable seafood dishes. The name attests to Tran himself, as he once arrived in Canada on a boat as a refugee.
The chalkboard menu is short and sweet, featuring 8 dishes. In addition to the signature items there are a few healthy options such as salads and other grilled fish specialties such as halibut and mahi mahi, which I have yet to try.
But let's get straight to the food. The softshell crab sandwich comes dressed in remoulade, tomato, lettuce and completed with soft brioche buns. The batter is lightly crisped to a perfect golden hue, yet a bit overpowering that you almost forget you're eating an entire crab. Coming in at a price point of $15.95, it's rather high on the budget spectrum for a fast food chain. You'll want to load up on the napkins and turn it into a handmade bib as it's both a handful and mouthful to eat. As someone once said, if you're not using your two hands, you're doing it wrong.
Next is the Maine lobster roll ($13.95), a North Eastern classic with lightly dressed pink meat piled generously into a white toasted bun. It was soft, full-flavoured and so delicious I nearly gulped it in three bites. I'm not sure whether I had an abnormally large appetite that day, but I felt the portion size was small for dinner. That being said, I would've ordered another one if I could.
The signature "FOB" sandwich ($11.95) was surprisingly ruled as a crowd favourite amongst my group of five hungry hippos. A seamless fusion between Asian banh mi and po’boy, it is a battered-catfish sub topped with kimchi and smoky aioli. I find it the perfect balance of batter and sauce, crispy and creamy. Simply put, if you happen to swing by in the Queen West area for lunch, you know what to get.
I applaud Tran for satisfying the stomachs of Torontonians who are longing for something novel since the days when the hype of Banh Mi Boys and Burger's Priest are long gone. If Fresh On The Boat is on your bucket list, you definitely need to give it a try.