Country 050 – Canada (Halifax Donair)

donair
Location
: 295 Main Street East, Milton
Websitehttp://www.halifaxoriginaldonair.com/

It seems odd to be writing about Canada for this blog, but it is indeed one of the 196 countries on the list — so here we are.  Poutine probably would have been the obvious choice, but I figured this might be a bit more interesting.

After Germany and Turkey, this is actually my third time trying a version of donair (or doner) for this blog.  I really liked both of those, but this one might just be the best.

It’s pretty simple: spiced beef, cooked on a spit and thinly shaved, topped with tomato, onion, and a healthy dollop of sweet donair sauce.  It’s served in a pita that can just barely contain the almost comically large pile of meat.

There’s no classy way to eat this; it’s a delicious mess of contrasting textures, an absolute barrage of sweet and savoury flavours, and pretty much the purest example of comfort food that I can think of. There’s nothing delicate here; aside from the sheer mess factor (which is intense), the flavours are the opposite of subtle.  They’re a full-out assault; they’re grabbing you by the collar and screaming in your face.

It’s so good.

The beef itself is really nicely spiced — this particular style of donair was originally created by a Greek immigrant in Halifax, and tastes a lot like what you’d find in a gyro.  It’s tender and packed with flavour, and has an abundance of the crispy bits that you’re looking for in this sort of thing.  Combined with the chewy pita, it’s a delightful contrast of textures.

Then there’s the garlicky, sugary-sweet sauce — it seems insanely sweet at first.  And on most things, it would probably be overwhelmingly cloying. But here?  It totally works.  The sweet sauce and the very savoury meat mingle together and turn into something magical.  I don’t even know that I can explain why it works so well; it probably shouldn’t.  But it does.

The tomatoes and onions bring some freshness to the very heavy dish.  I’m normally not a fan of raw onions, but here they’re so thoroughly backgrounded by the wrap’s other assertive flavours that they pretty much just add a bit of crunch.

What a bummer this place is so far, though — Milton’s a bit of a drive.  But it’s totally worth it.

Country 039 – Turkey (Kabab 49)

kabab
Location
: 5308 Dundas Street West, Etobicoke
Websitehttp://kebab49.com/

So, here’s a fun fact (an actual fun fact, not E!’s version of a fun fact): Turkish doner was actually the first version of that particular type of vertically-rotisseried meat, preceding the similar shawarma and gyro by at least a few decades.  I always assumed that shawarma was the O.G. vertical rotating meat-stack, but nope, apparently it’s doner.

And the version they serve at Kabab 49?  It’s superb.  I ordered the mixed doner plate, which comes with a salad, a big pile of sliced onions, a generous portion of delightfully greasy rice, a few slices of freshly-baked bread, and of course, enough shaved meat to feed a small family.

Everything on the plate is quite good (well, except for the onions — raw onions are the worst thing in the world, and no one is ever going to convince me otherwise), but the highlight is that amazing doner.  The mixed plate features chicken and a mix of veal and lamb, and both were fantastic.  The veal and lamb was a bit better than the chicken, but both were moist, had plenty of the crispy bits you’re looking for in this type of thing, and were really well seasoned.

The meat works just as well with the rice as with the fluffy, fresh bread.  Eventually, you eat enough of the doner and discover a couple of bonus slices of bread at the bottom of the plate, suffused with tasty meat grease.   And then you walk out of the restaurant clutching your stomach and wondering how and why you finished the whole thing, because seriously: that plate is enormous.  But you kept eating it well past the point that common sense would dictate that you stop.  That’s how you know it’s something special.

Country 013 – Germany (Otto’s Berlin Doner)

otto
Location
: 256 Augusta Avenue, Toronto
Websitehttp://ottosdoner.com/

I don’t know if doner is the first dish that springs to mind when you think of German cuisine (it’s definitely a thing, though), but I was in Kensington Market, stumbled across this place, and thought: Yeah. Why not?

As it turns out, it was only the restaurant’s second day in existence, which is much sooner than I’d typically write about a place — but since the food and service were both quite good, I’m going to assume (or hope) that they’ve managed to avoid the kinks that can gum up a brand new restaurant.

The menu is fairly simple, with a few different types of German doner, along with currywurst (Bratwurst topped with a sweet curry sauce) and a handful of sides.  I went with the veal and lamb doner, because whenever I see lamb on a menu, I have a hard time saying no.

Packed with a generous amount of tasty, well seasoned meat that’s topped with a salad’s worth of fresh veggies (tomato, cucumber, lettuce, cabbage, and onions) and your choice of sauces (the man behind the register suggested yogurt and hot sauce), it’s probably not anything that anyone is going to get too excited over, but it’s a very good sandwich.

The bread is a highlight, and probably the most distinctive thing about it — it’s perfectly toasted,  with a great, crispy exterior, and a fresh, fluffy interior.  It’s much more substantial than the typical pita you’d get in a shawarma sandwich or a gyro, but it suits the doner perfectly.

The sauces probably should have been a bit more abundant (I got plenty of sauce-less mouthfuls), but aside from that it was a fine sandwich.  Mighty fine.

My dining companions tried the halloumi doner — which featured breaded and fried pieces of halloumi cheese in place of the of meat — and were both quite impressed.  I’ll have to try that one next time.

Otto's Berlin Doner - the restaurant Otto's Berlin Doner - the doner Otto's Berlin Doner - the doner