Location: 190 University Avenue, Toronto
Depending on who you ask, pavlova is either from Australia or New Zealand, and apparently the debate can get fairly heated. In my case, it’s an easy decision: I’ve already written about New Zealand, so Australia it is.
Momofuku is probably an odd choice to represent Australia, but it turns out that pavlova is not an easy dessert to find. I think the Noodle Bar is one of the few restaurants in the GTA to serve it — and even there, you’re not guaranteed to find it on the menu.
Well, if you see it, order it; it’s delicious.
It’s a very simple dessert. Traditionally, pavlova is just fruit, meringue, and whipped cream. The version at Momofuku subs out the cream for lemon curd, which you’d think wouldn’t work — but it totally works (to be fair, this was my first time trying pavlova, so I have nothing to compare it to).
The meringue is great — it’s lightly crispy on the outside, with a soft, slightly marshmallowy interior. The fruit in this particular version is blood orange, which is sweet and slightly tart. Combined with the lemon curd, it might have been too much of a citrusy bite, but the sweet meringue balances it out perfectly. It’s delightful.
Location: 3412 Weston Road, North York
It’s not often that a dish really blows me away — but the pachownee at Caribu West Indian Cuisine did. It’s an entirely offal-based dish, consisting of tripe, stomach, liver, and heart, and it was perfectly cooked to an almost improbable extent.
The liver and the heart had a nice meaty bite, but weren’t tough at all; everything else was amazingly tender. Silky, even, which certainly isn’t a texture I’d normally associate with something like tripe. I don’t know how they did it, but man, it was good.
It was also quite tasty, with a rich, curry-infused meatiness and none of the overt funkiness you might associate with offal. It’s got a bit of a kick, which is amped up by the bottle of vinegary hot sauce they have on the table.
It comes with plain white rice and a bowl of dhal (creamy lentils) to make things a bit more interesting.
Ordering it was kinda funny. The waitress looked at me with bemused skepticism and asked if I knew what the dish was. “It’s a whole bunch of innards,” she explained. She smiled when I confirmed that I still wanted it, as if I had passed some sort of test.
I also tried the chow mein with pepper shrimp, which was tasty enough, with a nice balance of savoury, sweet, and heat, and some very well prepared shrimp. But the noodles were mushy and the veggies were undercooked; it definitely couldn’t hold a candle to the amazing pachownee.
Location: 849 Albion Road, Etobicoke
The last time I tried fufu (which is basically a much starchier version of mashed potatoes that’s generally made with cassava or plantain), I found it to be an acquired taste that I haven’t quite acquired.
Well, Afro Continental Restaurant serves a very fufu-like dish called diehuo, and it was absolutely delightful.
Diehuo is a Ghanaian specialty that the menu describes as “smooth white corn dough in sauce with goat meat, tripe, cow foot, and cow intestines.”
The diehuo itself was tasty enough, with a nice thick texture that isn’t overly starchy or gummy. But it’s the “sauce” they serve it with (which is really more of a soup or a stew) that absolutely makes the dish.
It’s an absolute bonanza of flavours, with an addictive vibrancy and a decent amount of heat to keep things interesting. It has a mildly slimy texture, but not in an unpleasant way — it reminded me of mulukhiyah, a really tasty Middle Eastern soup.
And with the exception of the tripe, which was leathery and inedible, all of the meats were tender and delicious (though I didn’t get any intestine).
It’s the type of dish that makes me really happy to be doing this blog, because it’s something I otherwise probably never would have tried, and it’s so good.
Location: 5 McMurchy Avenue North, Brampton
I think the meat pie is one those dishes that’s served in basically every part of the world. From Jamaican patties to Argentinian empanadas to Cornish pasties (and beyond), it’s safe to say that wrapping meat in pastry is a universally beloved concept.
What’s not to love? You’ve got tasty pastry and savoury ground meat, all delivered in a convenient hand-held package. It’s great.
I recently tried African pepper soup and found it to be an acquired taste that I clearly haven’t acquired. Well, the meat pies they serve at Kejjis are the complete opposite. I could eat about a million of them.
The pastry shell is closer to an empanada than a Jamaican patty, with a slightly denser texture (perhaps a bit overly dense) and a lightly crispy exterior. It’s decent enough, but it’s clearly just there as a vehicle for the meat; the meat-to-pastry ratio is something like like 10:1.
And that meat is absolutely fantastic — it’s tender and moist with no greasiness, and the flavour, oddly enough, reminded me a lot of an enhanced version of an American breakfast sausage (think: Jimmy Dean, Bob Evans, etc.). It’s definitely not what I was expecting, but it was absolutely delicious.
Location: 83 Kennedy Road South, Brampton
It wasn’t until I pulled up at the plaza that I realized that T&T (not to be confused with the supermarket) is in the exact same spot as Muchomo Grill House, another African restaurant I tried a couple of years ago. Many of the places I check out for this blog are completely deserted when I visit them, and it makes me wonder how they survive. The obvious (and sad) answer: not all do.
T&T is a Nigerian restaurant that serves pepper soup, a West African specialty that’s found in several countries in that part of the world.
It’s an interesting dish. I didn’t dislike eating it, but it has an incredibly vibrant and assertive flavour, and it’s safe to say that it’s an acquired taste.
It’s basically an atom bomb of flavours — it punches you in the face. T&T serves it either with fish or goat (apparently it’s traditionally served with any number of meats); I went with fish. The soup itself is intensely fishy, with a zingy, spicy flavour that I found to be exhausting.
It’s an absolute face-punch of ginger and spices and fishiness, with a puckery level of acidity that’s a bit overwhelming. Something to mellow out the flavour a bit would have been nice. Rice, maybe? Potatoes? I’m sure this is sacrilege to people who grew up with the dish.
The fish was freshly cooked, with a nice clean flavour and flaky, moist meat. Which is a good thing, because the soup is literally just fish and broth. It’s not bad, but I don’t think it’s for me.
Location: 572 Rogers Road, Toronto
Despite the name, King’s BBQ Chicken Restaurant serves quite a bit more than just roasted bird — specifically, they specialize in chifa, a subset of Peruvian cuisine that gives Chinese food a South American twist. Apparently it’s been a big deal in Peru since the 1920s, courtesy of a large influx of Chinese immigration in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
The most beloved example of chifa is probably lomo saltado, a stir-fried beef dish with the bizarre (and delightful) addition of french fries.
It’s odd. It mostly tastes like any number of stir-fries; it’s sweet, savoury, and a little bit smoky from the blazing hot wok. But then there’s the very generous amount of fries mixed in, which work surprisingly well.
It’s not something I would have guessed would be as delicious as it is, but it tastes kind of like the tasty love child between Chinese food and a plate of loaded fries. It doesn’t need rice, because the starch is built right in. It’s ingenious.
They don’t just serve chifu at King’s BBQ Chicken; it wouldn’t be a Peruvian restaurant without ceviche, Peru’s national dish and culinary claim to fame (it’s served in several countries, but it was invented in Peru). The version here is quite tasty, with a nice acidic bite that doesn’t overwhelm, pops of spice from finely diced hot pepper, and a nice contrast in textures between the meaty fish and the crunchy onion.
And of course, you can’t go to a place with “BBQ Chicken” right in the name without trying the BBQ chicken. It’s very good — it’s not as distinctive as the lomo saltado or the ceviche, but it’s a quality piece of chicken. It’s nice and tender, and the seasoning is tasty. It’s good stuff.
Location: 3222 Eglinton Avenue East, Scarborough
Mac and cheese is delicious. That’s just a fact. I think it’s fair to say that if you don’t like macaroni and cheese, you have faulty tastebuds and are generally wrong about the way you live your life. All I can tell you is that you need to do better, and leave it at that.
It’s hard to put that much cheese into anything and for it not to be delicious. But of course, as cheesy as mac and cheese is, it’s made with stuff like milk and flour to balance out the its cheesiness and to create a creamy, cheese-infused sauce.
But then there’s käsknöpfle, Liechtenstein’s national dish (they serve the German version, called käse spätzle, at Little Bavaria; it’s the same dish with a different name).
Käsknöpfle is basically like mac and cheese if mac and cheese just wanted to cut straight to the point. Milk? Flour? Sauce? Nuts to that stuff, let’s just cram more cheese in there. It’s intense. Aside from the addition of sauteed onions, it’s basically just chewy pasta (spätzle, a short, chewy pasta that’s typically served as a side dish) and melty, sharply-flavoured cheese.
The version at Little Bavaria is absolutely delicious; it might also be one of the heaviest things I’ve ever eaten. I could literally feel myself getting fuller with each mouthful. The amount of cheese was profound, and the plate was basically swimming in oil when I was done. It’s so good.