Country 056 – Norway (Karelia Kitchen)


Location
: 1194 Bloor Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://kareliakitchen.com/

I feel like ordering cured fish at a Nordic restaurant  might be a bit on the nose, but I suppose there’s a reason why we so closely associate that stuff with Scandinavian countries.

Karelia Kitchen has a pretty bustling brunch crowd — the only reason my dining companion and I were able to get a table is that someone had skipped out on their reservation.  They were about to flat-out turn us away, without even the option to wait.  Suffice it to say, reservations are advised.

I ordered the potato pancakes, which come with hot-smoked trout, beet and horseradish cured gravlax, and a poached duck egg.

The highlight was easily the gravlax.  I’ve certainly had a pretty healthy amount of smoked salmon over my lifetime, but gravlax has eluded me.  It’s similar, but instead of being smoked, it’s cured in a mixture of sugar and salt (and in this case, beet juice and horseradish).

It was fantastic — the texture was silkier and more melt-in-your-mouth tender than any smoked salmon I’ve had before, and without any strong smoky flavours to get in the way, the flavour of the fish itself was much more pronounced.  It also had a really subtle sweetness that complimented the fish perfectly without overwhelming.

I don’t think I tasted any horseradish, which is a shame — it would have been a nice addition, but the gravlax was so good on its own that it’s hard to complain too vigorously.

The trout was pleasant, but nowhere nearly as transcendent as the gravlax.  It had a pleasantly smoky flavour, but it was a bit dry.

The potato pancakes were about on par with the trout — they were crisp on the outside and tender on the inside, but nothing about them stood out.

The poached duck egg had a pleasantly runny yolk, and a richer flavour than the typical chicken variety.  It all comes together quite well — and of course, that gravlax.  It’s so good.

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Country 023 – Finland (Fanny Chadwick’s)

fanny
Location
: 268 Howland Avenue, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.fannychadwicks.ca/

I’ll bet you didn’t know how multicultural pancakes are.  Check out their entry on Wikipedia; apparently about half of the countries in the world have their own variation on pancakes, which have been a staple at least since the time of the ancient Greeks.

And, yes, apparently Finland is one of the many pancake-loving countries out there.  Their take — at least based on what Fanny Chadwick’s is serving up — is kind of like a crepe, only thicker and with a more substantial chew.  Topped with a mango passion fruit compote, lightly sweetened ricotta and a bit of honey, and rolled up into dense, multi-layered rolls, they make for a hearty, satisfying breakfast.

The compote adds a nice balance of sweet and tart, with the blob of creamy ricotta on top rounding things out.  The honey is sparingly applied, so if you like your breakfast to be closer to dessert, you’d be best advised to look elsewhere.

I found it a bit too eggy both in texture and taste, but then I’m not crazy about things that are eggy that aren’t eggs (I’m indifferent to French toast for the same reason).  Despite that, however, I still quite enjoyed these pancakes.

You have a few choices for the side, but I went with the smoked fish, thinking that it was probably the most authentically Finnish.  I think it was salmon, but don’t quote me on that.  It was really, really good — perfectly tender, with a pronounced smoky flavour that didn’t overwhelm.  It was hot smoked rather than cold, so it had the flavour of traditional smoked salmon, but the texture of perfectly cooked fish.  It was great.

Fanny Chadwick's - Finnish Pancakes Fanny Chadwick's - Finnish Pancakes