CLOSED: Teara Lab (Toronto)

Aside from the stark modern white interior and the employees donned in lab coats, Teara Lab has little in common with science. Rather the technical nature of the restaurant’s name was inspired by their desire to keep inventing new unique menu items; their lead scientist … er head chef … Frank Liu set out to create a menu of sandwiches, which combines hearty ingredients with a Japanese twist.

The Japanese influence was entirely evident in the yuzu teriyaki fish burger ($8.49), a baked basa filet glazed in a citrusy savoury sauce that’s surprisingly tart, in a good way. Such a refreshing sandwich despite having havarti cheese and crispy onions on top. The Ace Bakery black bun makes it stand out, but still tastes like any other bread – how amazing would it be to colour the bun with cuttlefish ink instead?

On the other hand, the red wine braised short rib sandwich ($13.99) didn’t remind me of the East at all, considering it was made up of beef, caramelized onions, and cheese. Really, at first glance it could be a Philly cheesesteak without the peppers. But, as you taste it carefully, the sautéed enoki mushrooms come through … subtle, but the “twist” is there.

In the end, does it matter? The short rib was delicious and flavourful, an unexpectedly thick chunk of it accompanying the sandwich. The soft hot dog bun doesn’t stand a chance holding up against the sheer amount of other ingredients (lettuce, tomatoes and crispy onions), it’s messy but worth every juicy sticky drop.

If the sheer number of toppings isn’t enough, you can really Canadianize any sandwich by adding extra cheese ($1) or candied bacon ($1.50). Plus, for an additional $2, they’ll include hot crispy seaweed dusted fries and a pop.

With all of Teara Lab’s interesting sounding drinks, it’s hard to settle for a Coke Zero. So, my friend and I upgraded to a slush, served in a take-out cup, which made it perfect for walking around with on a hot summer’s day. A drink upgrade, with a combo, is calculated as the drink’s menu price less $1.50.

The mango slush ($4.50 for the large) is fruity and refreshing, not unlike what’s commonly found in bubble tea cafes. I particularly enjoyed the matcha red bean slush ($4.70 for the medium): the cool ice having a rich green tea flavour and sweetness originating from the thick red bean mixture.

Teara Lab’s sitting area is surprisingly elegant for a quick-service restaurant: a clean palette of white marble and simple non-purse friendly black chairs. As you enter the restaurant, place an order than grab a seat, when the sandwich is ready it’ll be brought over.

The establishment’s website predicts it’s going to be the next Japanese trend, attracting throngs of hungry customers. I don’t know if it’s going to elicit ridiculous lines, but a large sandwich stuffed with premium ingredients, surely the crowds will leave at least satisfied.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10
Disclaimer: The above meal was complimentary. Rest assured, as noted in my mission statement, I will always provide an honest opinion.

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 181 College Street

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!

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