I couldn't tell you where 'The Best' is. I don't think you could either.
I’m tired of people asking me where ‘the best’ is.
It’s the hardest question to answer, yet it’s the question I’m asked the most.
It’s a simple question. One that cuts right to the chase. If they trust my opinion, then they assume that I’ve tried enough places to have a definitive answer. I’ve disregarded the duds, forgotten about the ok places. I have some spots that I would go back to, but the best, that clearly stands out from all others.
The truth is, I feel grossly underqualified to even begin to attempt to answer the question. I understand how massive this city is. I’ve tried a lot, but there’s even more I haven’t tried. And with how volatile the food industry is in Toronto, there are new places opening up in corners I have yet to visit.
Everything is subjective.
You try to tell me you know where the best empanada is and I am immediately skeptical. Even if you swear by them, and promise that they are delicious and amazing, I still won’t believe you. My benchmark is my mom’s. Those are my favorite, and the absolute best for me. There is no comparison. I don’t want to insult you and your culture, but never come to me with your version of the best empanada and have the dough be fried. Not for me hombre.
Therefore, I am inherently biased. I’ve tried a few in this city, but my mom's reign supreme. I couldn’t tell you a single place I recommend. They might taste good, they may actually be incredible. But not the best.
Let’s use pho, Vietnam’s national dish, as an example. Almost as many pho spots as sushi spots now, everyone seems to have their go-to spot that has no rival.
When I think of pho, I think of one spot. Pho Ahn Tien right off of Orfus behind the Red Lobster. I went there in high school, brought friends there, went with my family, other people’s families. I still go there, and it hits like no other. It’s my pho home base.
But is it the ‘best’?
How can I say this is the best pho in the city if I haven’t tried every single restaurant that serves pho? Is that not the absolute minimum that needs to be accomplished? Do I not need to do my base level of homework and gather all the data before making such a claim? The answer should be yes, but I still am tempted to say that this is the ‘best’.
That bowl of pho from Pho Ahn Tien serves as much more than just a bowl of pho from Pho Ahn Tien. It’s a constant reminder of me and where I grew up, and how much I care about and value that neighborhood. And the pho is delicious every single time, making it an appropriate anchor for those memories.
But you, reader, don’t have those memories. So when you try the same bowl of pho that means more to me, you’re solely going based on the taste. You don’t have that emotional attachment that I do, making our experience, and in turn our perception, much different.
Am I blinded by those memories? Definitely not. Taste will always come first, but it’s those memories that bump Pho Ahn Tien to number one for me.
So stop asking where ‘the best’ is. If you ask me, I’ll tell you where I love to go and where are some of my favorites, but I won’t single out one as ‘the best’. I wouldn’t know, and I know that the majority don’t know either. I’ll figure that out myself.