Country 105 – Australia (Momofuku Noodle Bar)

Momofuku Noodle BarLocation: 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.

Momofuku Noodle Bar

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).

Momofuku Noodle Bar

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.


Country 096 – Iceland (Taste of Iceland)

Taste of Iceland 2019Location: 350 King Street West, Toronto

There isn’t a single Icelandic restaurant in the GTA, so if you want a sampling of their cuisine, the annual Taste of Iceland — in which a chef from that European country is flown in to cook a five-course meal for the weekend — is your only option.

It’s not a bad option.  It’s certainly pricey — with tax and tip factored into the $76 per person price tag, I think it probably adds up to about the same as half a dozen typical meals I’ll eat for this blog.  But you get what you pay for, and aside from some surprisingly abysmal service at host restaurant Luma, it was a memorable meal.

Taste of Iceland 2019

My good friend Wikipedia notes that the most common foods in Iceland are lamb, dairy, and fish; all three were represented in this meal, with the courses consisting of cured leg of lamb, charred Arctic char, Atlantic cod, skyr mousse, and doughnuts.

The thinly-sliced cured lamb was really unique, with a mild funky flavour and nice pops of texture from the crispy little chips made from salsify, a parsnip-esque root vegetable.  The crumbles of smoked cheese were also a nice touch.

Taste of Iceland 2019

The two fish dishes were easily the highlight; both were amazingly well prepared and featured some seriously tasty accompaniments.  In particular, the Arctic char was almost ridiculously moist and tender, and featured a rich butter sauce that I wanted to fill a pool with and swim in.  The fermented radishes did a great job of cutting through the indulgent sauce.

Taste of Iceland 2019

As for the dessert, the skyr — an Icelandic yogurt — was incredibly creamy, and was complimented perfectly by the slightly tart wild blueberry puree and the fragrant, licorice-infused meringue crisps.  The doughnuts were a bit too dense, but came with an intensely delicious caramel sauce that was so good it really didn’t matter.

Country 088 – Turkmenistan (Harmony Restaurant)

Harmony RestaurantLocation: 478 Dundas Street West, Toronto
Website: None

No, technically Harmony Restaurant doesn’t serve Turkmen cuisine (it specializes in northern Chinese fare), but they do serve an interesting bowl of lamb soup.  Turkmenistan consumes the second most lamb per capita in the world.  Close enough, I guess?

(Hey, you try doing this blog.  Good luck finding a Turkmen restaurant in Toronto.)

Harmony Restaurant

Harmony Restaurant’s specialty is a bowl of lamb soup with bread, which features chunks of tender lamb and chewy cubes of bread in a very lamby broth.

Harmony Restaurant

The presence of bread is odd at first, but it basically plays the same role as noodles in a noodle soup.  It’s not mushy at all; it’s chewy and starchy, and soaks up the flavour from the soup.  It’s surprisingly tasty.

The chunks of lamb are great.  They’re super tender, a little bit fatty, and packed with a deep, meaty flavour.

Harmony Restaurant

The broth, too, is absolutely crammed with that unmistakable lamb flavour.  If you don’t like lamb, this isn’t the dish for you.  It’s not subtle.

It also has a nice zippiness and a mild kick that ensures it never feels one-note rich.  It’s a tasty bowl of soup, especially once you add a few spoonfuls of the smoky chili oil.

Harmony Restaurant

I also tried a pork bun, which wasn’t quite as good as the soup.  The pork was well-seasoned and tender, but the bun itself was dense and dry.  It was basically like a big saltine.  It wasn’t great.

Country 076 – Antigua and Barbuda (Chubby’s Jamaican Kitchen)

Chubby's Jamaican KitchenLocation: 104 Portland Street, Toronto

No, technically Chubby’s doesn’t qualify as a restaurant from Antigua and Barbuda.  It’s Jamaican.  It’s right there in the name.

But there are a bunch of tiny Caribbean countries, and for the purposes of this blog, compromises are going to have to be made.  Jamaican cuisine is probably going to stand in for pretty much every country in that area, because Jamaican restaurants are everywhere.  The rest of the Caribbean?  Not so much.

Chubby's Jamaican Kitchen

Chubby’s is a bit of an odd one.  It’s a far cry from the typical hole-in-the-wall Jamaican place you’re expecting, with a twee, hipster-friendly dining room that looks like it’s been scientifically engineered for social media appeal (and indeed, if you look up the restaurant on Instagram, there are far more twenty-somethings taking selfies than pictures of the food).

I was worried that the food might be an afterthought, but I tried a couple of things and they were both great.

Chubby's Jamaican Kitchen

First up: the saltfish fritters, which are lightly crispy on the outside, with a chewy texture that’s reminiscent of glutinous rice.  True to its name it’s both salty and fishy, but not excessively so; it’s nicely balanced.  The strong flavours are complimented well by the mango-lime-papaya salsa, which is sweet and surprisingly spicy.

Chubby's Jamaican Kitchen

I also tried the curry goat, which features a generous amount of fall-off-the-bone tender meat in a fragrant curry sauce.  It comes with a side of rice and a small helping of sugary-sweet mango chutney.  The chutney seems way too sweet at first, but it kind of has the same appeal as eating cranberry sauce with turkey.  It grew on me.

Country 065 – Laos (Sabai Sabai)

Sabai Sabai
Location: 81 Bloor Street East, Toronto

I’m gonna admit that pretty much the only thing I know about Laos is that it’s where Hank Hill’s neighbour is from on King of the Hill.  I sort of figured that I’d be learning about all kinds of countries while doing this blog, but to be honest, not really (unless you consider eating a dish or two without context to be learning about a place, in which case, sure!  I’m learning a lot!).

But now I can tell you about a couple of Laotian dishes I had at Sabai Sabai, so I guess I know a tiny bit more than I did before.

Sabai Sabai

I started with the laap lao, which the menu describes as a minced pork salad, and the “most popular dish of Laos.”  Well, okay.  Sold.

I can see why it’s so popular in Laos (and elsewhere) — it’s delicious.  It’s a simple dish, with a bowl of ground pork accompanied by a plate of iceberg lettuce leaves for wrapping.  The pork absolutely pops with flavour — it’s addictively tangy and herby, and it’s almost impossible to stop eating.  The fresh crunchiness of the lettuce is a perfect accompaniment to the flavourful pork.  It’s great.

Sabai Sabai

My main was the mee kati (coconut noodles).  This was really tasty, though it was exceptionally awkward to eat.  It essentially comes deconstructed, with the plate consisting of a pile of dry noodles topped with crispy onions, a small bowl of sauce and chicken chunks, and an even smaller bowl of crushed hot peppers.

I wasn’t sure how to approach this.  Was I supposed to pour the sauce over the noodles?  The way the plate was arranged, it didn’t seem like it.  A bowl would have been more appropriate if this were the intention, plus there was a banana leaf on the plate, and if I poured sauce over the noodles, some of it would inevitably wind up under the leaf.  So… no pouring, I guess?

Sabai Sabai

But because the noodles were completely un-sauced, they all stuck together in one stubborn clump.   I eventually sprinkled the hot peppers onto the noodle clump, and then tore off chunks and dipped them into the sauce.  But I clearly over-dipped my first few clumps, because by the time I was about halfway finished with the noodles, the sauce was almost entirely depleted.  It wasn’t the best.

It tasted really good, though!  For all the awkwardness of actually eating it, that’s what really counts — the sauce was creamy, coconutty, rich, and delicious.  The crushed peppers gave it a mild kick, and the fried onions added some crispiness and a decent amount of flavour.  The chicken pieces tasted a bit leftovery, but all in all it was a tasty dish.  I just wish they’d drop the unwelcome pretension and serve it assembled in a bowl like normal people.

Country 058 – Ireland (Fynn’s of Temple Bar)

: 489 King Street West, Toronto

Add “boxty” to the list of things I hadn’t even heard of before starting this blog (and in case you’re a member of the “what the hell is boxty?” club, as I was until recently, it’s an Irish take on the potato pancake).

Fynn’s has a couple of boxtys (boxties?) on the menu; I went with the Dublin steak and mushroom boxty.

The boxty was actually much closer in consistency to bread than I was expecting — it had a chewy, bready texture that was more like naan than a traditional potato pancake.  It was unexpected, but it worked quite well with the stew inside.

As for the steak and mushroom stew, it was true to its name and crammed with mushrooms and chunks of beef.  The beef was slightly on the tough side, and there was one spice that I couldn’t quite put my finger on that was a bit overpowering, but for the most part it was tasty and satisfying.

Flynn's of Temple Bar - the outside Flynn's of Temple Bar - the boxty