MOTHERHOME (330 Front West, at Blue Jays Way, 416-596-8880) Complete meals for $6 per person, with a bottle of water. Open Monday to Friday 11 am to 6 pm. Closed Saturday and Sunday. Unlicensed. Cash only. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NN Rating: NN
I've championed enough mom 'n' pop hole in the walls in the past to fill a book. In fact, I have. So why write something negative about some hybrid developing-world café located in a car wash when its gruesome grub will more than likely put it out of business before I put in the metaphorical boot?
Well, the lengthy lunchtime lineups snaking out the front door of Motherhome, a cafeteria-style Burmese spot, of all things, in the food court of an office tower surrounded by condos across from the Skydome, make it game.
Throw in the news that few items on the chalkboard card with the heading Different Style Food cost more than 5 bucks and you'd be correct in assuming that Motherhome is NOW's kind of joint. Sadly, she's not.
Burmese cooking is generally not adventurous. Like Hakka but more hackneyed, it takes the lowest common denominator of Chinese and Indian cuisines and makes them its own - with soy sauce and curry powder.
One can't help but be bowled over by partners Thida Khine and Htay Tint, quite possibly the town's most genuinely friendly people behind a steam table. But, oh my, the all-over-the-map spread they serve is a bit of a mess.
Witness Burmese-style teriyaki beef ($4.35), thin strips of overcooked meat mixed with carrot strips over plain rice in a sauce that tastes predominantly of ketchup, soy and sugar. Or Burmese-style tofu and vegetable stir-fry - marinated bean curd, bell pepper, celery and sculpted carrots over mushy fried rice littered with frozen peas and corn ($4.99). The opposite of bland, Burmese-style Madras beef curry ($3.99) finds slow-cooked, well-done cubes of stewing beef and waxy potato in a too aggressively fired thick tomato gravy.
Listed as a Cold Item, Burmese-style chicken, egg and avocado served with corn and a homemade garlic-ginger-lemon sauce ($5.99) turns out to be an Atkins-accommodating main featuring two grilled chicken tenders, two rashers of bacon, several strips of sandwich ham, a quartered avocado, a pale tomato and a hard-boiled egg, all on a bed of innocuously dressed leaf lettuce. In other words, a triple-decker club and a salad, hold the bread and the tasselled toothpick.
As one sweaty construction worker sitting at a McDonald's-type table said to another, pointing to his fluorescent orange tray holding a hefty Tex-Mex burrito packed with curried rice, big chunks of chicken, kidney beans and crunchy carrot layered with heat-lamp-congealed cheese product ($3.99), "Look at the size of this fuckin' thing. And it's so cheap!"
We only wish that Motherhome played up its best parts - its unique and potentially tasty Burmese dishes - and paid less attention to watering them down.
But, then, when has it ever mattered what a critic thinks?