Located on 181 College St., a bustling street overseeing the entrance of University of Toronto’s St. George campus, Teara Lab presents as a trendy burger joint for those hungry Torontonians seeking more than just the average bun and patty.
Having already found success with Kaka All You Can Eat up in Markham, you can be rest assured that the team behind Teara Lab know what they’re doing when it comes to this sister establishment. The concept behind Teara Lab is a simple formula of Japanese plus burgers with a generous helping of innovation.
The main chef, Frank Liu, works by the motto “Every food item needs a kick”, and he honours that sentiment by fusing classic Japanese flavours with our familiar, north American sandwich. The staff don pristine white lab coats, showcasing the idea of experimentation with different flavour profiles to achieve a perfect blend of the two cultures.
Review of the Food
During our visit to Teara Lab, we tasted three massive burgers/sandwiches, including their signature Teriyaki Chicken Burger, complemented by a batch of delicious, thin-cut fries with a secret wasabi-mayo dip.
Being across from a university campus, it’s no wonder that Teara Lab’s prices reflect its location. The burgers are modestly priced, with most of the burgers being about $10 with the exception of the $14 shortrib sandwich. By adding just $2, you can order a combo, which includes fries and a can of pop.
Another winning feature of Teara Lab is their selection of drinks. Not only do they provide mouth-watering burgers and sandwiches, they also offer an array of drinks that are not to be dismissed. They offer a large selection of teas and slushes, covering classics like Hokkaido Milk Tea, Mango Slush, and even Fresh Watermelon Juice, all in the range of $4 to $5.
Teriyaki Chicken Burger—$9.49 single; $11.49 combo
The Teriyaki Chicken Burger features a baked cut of chicken glazed with a sweet teriyaki sauce, piled high with fresh tomatoes and lettuce, a zingy wasabi-mayo, crispy onions, and a dash of seaweed powder to complete the Japanese flavour profile.
The main star of this burger is, of course, the juicy chicken. Although most chicken burgers use white meat, Teara Lab opts for dark meat, the kind that is more reminiscent of Asian cuisine as well as less dry to eat.
Yuzu Teriyaki Fish Burger—$9.99 single; $11.99 combo
Packed with as many toppings as the Teriyaki Chicken Burger, the Yuzu Teriyaki Fish Burger does not lag behind as a fellow menu item. At first glance, the most eye-catching detail is the black bun. The secret to dying the burger bun its inky black is all thanks to black sesame seeds, as opposed to squid ink as some other places have done. Thankfully, the colour is not reflected in the taste of the bun, and it tastes just as a bun should.
As its name suggests, this fish also has a teriyaki sauce, although there’s ever so slightly a stronger edge of saltiness to pair with the sweetness. The fish fillet soaks up the teriyaki sauce well so that each bite comes away with that delectable sweet-savoury sauce.
Soy Glazed Pork Belly Sandwich—$9.99 single; $11.99 combo
Last but not least, a personal favourite of mine: the Soy Glazed Pork Belly Sandwich. Swapping out the fluffy burger bun for a hotdog bun, this sandwich offers lettuce, tomatoes, kimchi, mayonnaise, rinsed onions, avocado, tenderized pork belly, and a sheet of seaweed.
I’d love to wax poetry about the pork belly, but all you really have to know is the portions are generous and the pork has a mild, sweet soy sauce glaze that’s a good departure from the sometimes overbearing saltiness of some Asian food (I’m looking at you, mediocre Chinese takeout).
One of the delightful surprises I found is how much the sheet of seaweed really pulls together this sandwich; there are moments when the seaweed creeps up to the forefront between bites, and it becomes a reminder of the Japanese inspirations behind this sandwich.
Current and Future Plans for Teara Lab
Note: The Torched Pork Belly Burger has been renamed Soy Glazed Pork Belly Sandwich.
With it being only about six months into their opening, Teara Lab is still in the experimental, soft-opening stage of its life. The staff are still working to tweak the menu, with items like the Tonkatsu Pork Burger likely being fazed out of the menu and new creations being slotted into its place.
While we were there, we heard hints and whispers of a vegetarian mushroom burger as well as a miso sauce burger; keep an eye out for news about these introductions through their instagram as well as their website.
Last, but not least, my parting gift to you is the following open secret: Teara Lab has a special offer for those of you familiar with social media. If you share Teara Lab on social media and show the share to a server before and on June 20th, you will be rewarded with a free sandwich of your choice.