Braving the Burrito Bowl

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When I was travelling through Toronto’s Pearson Airport during Reading Week, I came across a food establishment called Smoke’s Burritorie. It specialized in – you guessed it – burritos and burrito bowls. That afternoon, I just happened to be craving the latter, so you can imagine my excitement when I laid eyes on the menu.

Before I launch into a review of my overall experience, I think it would be helpful to first define a burrito bowl. Essentially, it’s a mix of rice, beans, some kind of protein (e.g. chicken, beef), cheese and vegetables. It’s a dish that is highly customizable depending on dietary and personal preferences. Most burrito bowls are made-to-order, meaning that once you select your ingredients, your personal bowl will be assembled right in front of you.

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So what makes a good burrito bowl? Personally, I value the freshness of the ingredients. No one wants to bite into a limp piece of lettuce or a spoonful of flavourless rice. You want to savour each component of the dish and be transported to food heaven, if such a place even exists.

At Smoke’s Burritorie, I ordered a chicken burrito bowl, which included “spicy” rice, black beans, lettuce, onions, tomatoes and what the attendant called “mild” sauce. The whole meal cost around $10, and considering I was still hungry afterwards, the portions definitely did not reflect the price. Then again, it was an airport establishment, so I suppose most food places would be overpriced.

Let’s talk about the food itself. I consider rice to be the primary component of any burrito bowl, and while the rice in my bowl was flavourful, it by no means made my mouth tingle or eyes water. In fact, I barely tasted any heat, so that was a bit disappointing. One would expect rice that’s advertised as “spicy” to at least have some kick to it.

Next, I had a spoonful of the black beans, which were pretty standard. To be honest, there’s not much you can do to mess them up. They’re packed with nutrients and are a healthy addition to any dish.

The other vegetables in my bowl had an average taste. The lettuce could have been crunchier, but wasn’t too watered down. The onions and tomatoes were a little soggy, but still maintained a semblance of their texture. In summary, the quality of these ingredients weren’t terrible, but they did nothing to elevate the dish.

Finally, let’s analyze the sauce. The individual who was making my order classified it as “mild”, and to be honest, there was so little of it that I don’t recall much of its flavour. I don’t think it tasted too bad.

All in all, my burrito bowl experience was quite underwhelming. The size of the dish and quality of the food were not worth the price, and the flavours (or lack thereof) did little to appease my taste buds. Nevertheless, I will brave the streets and continue to search for my perfect burrito bowl. Here’s to many more food adventures!

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