For some, stepping into Superfresh is a blast from the past. At the entrance, a sign jokingly tells patrons to remove their shoes, while colourful baskets hang overhead. These, among other fixtures in the space, are nods to Asian culture and childhood, transporting patrons back to their parents’ or grandparents’ home. For others, it’s an opportunity to learn about and appreciate aspects of Asian culture they may be unfamiliar with.
Not quite a restaurant, not quite a food court, the recently opened Superfresh on Bloor Street West is an experience. Styled like an outdoor night market, complete with faux storefronts and hanging string lights, but set indoors, the space is all spectacle — all in celebration of Asian culture.
“It’s important to find support from your own community, while understanding that this is built for our community, but also built for others who are not Asian,” says Trevor Lui, co-owner of Superfresh and chef-owner of the BaoBird concept. “It’s really a space about educating people about different aspects of Asian culture that are not the regular stereotypical things that we find in mainstream media.”
The food offerings at Superfresh also go beyond the mainstream. “We didn’t want to have Asian food that everyone already knows exists,” says Lui. Rather than going with cuisines that are abundant in Toronto, Superfresh vendors serve dishes that are harder to find in the city, giving many patrons a chance to try something new and delicious.
“Every single vendor has something that’s outstanding,” says fellow Superfresh co-owner James Lee. “Great noodles. The Indonesian food is fantastic — very hard to find in the city. Then, [Lui’s] own fried chicken, which is amazing.”
“I could eat that prawn sandwich every day,” says Lui, referring to Katsupan’s savoury Prawn Katsu Sando.
Beyond serving impeccable fare, Superfresh also provides a learning opportunity to its all Asian-owned vendors, many of whom started outside the city and haven’t served a Toronto crowd before.
“I think that what we have helped some of our vendors to understand is what the true value of their food is. We fight the stigma that certain Asian food can only be worth a certain amount,” says Lui. “Spaghetti and meatballs for $22 should be the same as charging for a bowl of noodles that’s pulled fresh in front of you. And the stock takes two days to make. Why can’t we charge at least $16 for it? Why can’t we charge what Eurocentric food is charged?”
More than just a place to grab a drink and a bite to eat that costs what the food is actually worth, Superfresh is a community space with pop-ups, plus music and art programming. It’s also a space for healing.
“This is really a space about us actually coming to terms with our trauma from all the things that we suppressed as children: being made fun of as Asians, all the stereotypes that we experienced, sometimes being ashamed of our parents speaking our mother tongue in public or taking that lunch to school on Monday that everyone made fun of because they had bologna or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,” says Lui.
“This is all the trauma that we suppress that we never knew bugged us for so many years, but in the last few years, people reminded us of how different we were, even though we consider ourselves as Canadian as the next kid. We were all born here, raised here. We played sports on the street, we watched hockey, we watched the leaves turn colour, like everyone else, we wore snowsuits. So, this place is now our ability to literally express ourselves and say, ‘man, we’re really damn proud to be Asian.’”
Trevor Lui’s own BaoBird has a spot at Superfresh, serving flavourful small plates conducive to social dining. The inspiration comes from Taiwan, Korea, Hong Kong, Japan and beyond, resulting in a menu that ranges from Taiwanese fried chicken and popcorn chicken with fried Thai basil to steamed bao buns and chili garlic ginger noodles.
Big Beef Bowl
Big Beef Bowl’s perfectly-chewy, Lanzhou-style noodles are made fresh with every order, hand-pulled before your very eyes. Slurp up a large bowl of beef bone broth brimming with slow braised beef brisket or tender veal slices and a whole pile of noodles. They also serve “dry” noodles with minced pork or shredded chicken, and classic cold dishes like spicy potato slaw and pickled daikon.
Shokupan, Japanese milk bread, is the specialty here and all of their sandos come stacked between two fluffy slices. Choose from fillings like breaded, fried juicy prawns; creamy egg salad; or a crispy chicken or pork cutlet. Then go to town dunking your sando in their katsu curry dip, and pair it all with togarashi pepper fries.
One of only a few options in the city for authentic Indonesian food, Jajan is the place to dive deep into this flavourful cuisine. Their menu of classic Indonesian fare, eaten on the streets of Jakarta, includes dishes like satay ayam (grilled marinated chicken skewers) and me goreng (stir fry noodles with choice of chicken or tempeh) with plenty of vegan options like tahu goreng (golden crispy fried tofu).
The bar at the front isn’t the only place to get drinks at Superfresh. Behind the food hall, a hidden speakeasy beckons you in for traditional Korean snack plates. Grab a seat in the intimate back room and let the night get away from you between shots of soju. Check their Instagram for the secret password before you go.
This mini supermarket at the front of Superfresh caters to Asian millennials, providing a selection of curated snacks and ingredients — a mix of nostalgic classics and new local items. Find unique Pocky flavours and prawn chips alongside spices and sauces to help you recreate some of your favourite dishes.
Superfresh Asian night market, 384 Bloor St. W.; superfresh.to