Country 071 – Ecuador (Comedor Popular Ecuatoriano)

Comedor Popular EcuatorianoLocation9 Milvan Drive, North York
Website: None

Though I’ve already written about a restaurant in the Plaza Latina food court, another visit was probably inevitable.  That place is an absolute treasure trove of Latin American food.

This time, I visited an Ecuadorian restaurant called Comedor Popular Ecuatoriano.  I wasn’t sure what to order; the woman behind the counter recommended a dish that came with a hearty soup and churrasco, an Ecuadorian take on steak and eggs.

Comedor Popular Ecuatoriano

The soup came out first, and it was really, really good.  I didn’t see it on the menu, but I’m pretty sure this was sancocho.  I had this particular soup at a restaurant called Mi Tierra, but this one was clearly the superior version.  The broth had a really satisfying chicken-infused flavour, with a nice hit of cilantro and a zestiness that kept me coming back for more.

Comedor Popular Ecuatoriano

It was also seriously hearty, with huge chunks of cassava, carrots, plantains, beef, and corn.  This alone would have been a satisfying lunch.

But of course, there was still the main meal: a huge plate piled high with steak, rice, fries, two fried eggs, and a salad.  If you’ve got a big appetite, this is your place.

Comedor Popular Ecuatoriano

Oddly, I really enjoyed this even though most of the individual components weren’t all that great.  The steak was tough, the fries were run-of-the-mill, and the rice was fairly bland.  But once I started eating it all together, it coalesced into something surprisingly tasty.  The perfectly runny yolks on the two eggs essentially becomes a sauce that improves everything; if you get a little bit of multiple elements in each mouthful, it’s delicious.

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Country 064 – Libya (Parallel)

ParallelLocation: 217 Geary Avenue, Toronto
Websitehttps://parallelbrothers.com/

I wasn’t sure which country this would fall under.  Parallel’s website describes itself as “Middle-Eastern and Mediterranean,” which doesn’t exactly narrow things down.  I ordered shakshuka, and Wikipedia lists Libya first in the list of countries where this dish is served.  So sure, Libya it is.

Parallel

Parallel is a new restaurant from the people behind Ozery Bakery (which sells some good stuff, FYI).  They also make and sell their own tahini, which features heavily in most of the dishes on their menu.  You can see the very impressive looking machine they use to crush the sesame seeds at the back of the restaurant.

Parallel

I ordered the hammshuka, which is shakshuka that’s served on a bed of freshly-made hummus.

It was very, very good.  The hummus was odd; not surprisingly, the tahini flavour was front-and-centre.  The lemon was almost imperceptible, and if there was any garlic at all, I couldn’t taste it.  It was subtle and unlike any hummus I’ve ever had, but it grew on me.

Parallel

Better was the shakshuka (which, for the initiated, is a dish in which eggs are baked in a thick tomato sauce).  It had a rich, garlicky flavour, and the eggs were cooked perfectly.  It was topped with a very liberal amount of good-quality extra virgin olive oil — enough to give the dish EVOO’s distinctive nutty flavour.

I ordered it with roasted eggplant (other add-ons include goat cheese and roasted peppers), which turned out to be a wise choice.  The eggplant was smoky and amazing, and complimented the shakshuka perfectly.

Country 047 – Portugal (Nova Bakery & Pastry)

nova
Location
: 3635 Cawthra Road, Mississauga
Websitehttp://www.novabakery.ca/

I really like egg tarts — in theory.  They’re actually a lot like millefeuille, in that they should be amazing but very rarely are thanks to the ravages of time.  That crispy, flaky crust?  Maybe I’ve just been exceedingly unlucky in a lifetime of eating egg tarts, but I don’t think I’ve ever had one where the crust wasn’t soggy to a certain extent.

I wanted the one from Nova to be different, but right on the first bite — when I struggled to get my teeth through the once-crispy, now-chewy crust — I knew it was game over.

Still, the custardy filling was satisfying enough to make this worth eating regardless.  Amazingly creamy, dense but not too dense, and with a mild lemony zip to cut through the richness, it was probably one of the better egg tarts I’ve had.

I’d be more upset about the sodden crust, but since I’ve literally never had one of these things where the crust was perfect, I’m just going to assume that’s a pipe dream.  I’d either have to go to a bakery where they sell so many egg tarts that they’re constantly pumping out new ones (i.e. fly to Portugal), or I’d have to camp outside of a bakery and grab one the minute they open.

I don’t think either option is going to happen any time soon, so soggy crust it is.

Country 035 – Argentina (Jay’s Sandwiches of the World)

jay
Location
: 622 Bloor Street, Mississauga
Websitehttps://www.facebook.com/jayssandwichesoftheworld/

You’d think a place called “Jay’s Sandwiches of the World” would be a treasure trove for a blog like this, but I guess I’ve been at it a bit too long — I’ve already covered pretty much all of the countries that have been sandwichified by this restaurant (places like Italy, Cuba, and South Korea).

There was one sandwich, however, that was fair game: the lomito.  Depending on who you ask, it’s either a Chilean or Argentinian specialty  (Uruguay serves it as well).  The version served in Chile is typically made with pork, and Argentina’s version more commonly with beef (not surprising, given Argentina’s love of that particular meat).

Well, Jay serves beef, so Argentina it is.

This particular version is a steak sandwich with melty mozzarella, a fried egg, lettuce, tomato, and lomito sauce.

It’s apparently a beloved dish, so I’m going to assume that something went wrong in the translation — this one, at least, wasn’t particularly good.  There’s just not much to it; nothing stands out.

The steak, though nice and tender, is surprisingly flavourless.  The fried egg was overcooked, with a chalky yolk and rubbery white.  And though it’s hard to go wrong with melty cheese in a sandwich, the plasticky goo here makes me want to reconsider that.

As for the “lomito sauce,” I’m pretty sure it was just ketchup, mustard, and mayo.  The fresh, crusty-but-not-too-crusty bread was quite good, at least.

I guess it sounds like the sandwich was horrible?  It wasn’t horrible.  It wasn’t particularly good, mind you, but I ate the whole thing, and if you put another one in front of me, I’d probably eat it again.

I know, “it was food and I ate it” isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement.  I’ll just assume that the other sandwiches at this place are better, though it’s exceptionally unlikely that I’ll ever be back to find out.

Jay's Sandwiches of the World - the restaurant Jay's Sandwiches of the World - the Lomito

Country 031 – Austria (The Musket)

musket
Location
: 40 Advance Road, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.musketrestaurant.com/

I can’t say I know too much about Austria, though they did give the world the gift of Arnold Schwarzenegger — so clearly, it’s a country worth knowing about.

The obvious order at The Musket is probably the schnitzel, but I decided to go a bit off the beaten path, and ordered the leberkase (without particularly knowing what it even was).

This turned out not be a particularly adventurous choice — leberkase is a mix of corned beef, pork, bacon and onions, which is ground into a fine paste and baked in a pan.  It resembled, more than anything else, a really big, flattened Vienna Sausage patty.  Served with a perfectly cooked fried egg on top and with a side of home fries, it was more classic comfort food than adventurous eating.

I quite enjoyed it, but then Vienna Sausage and eggs was a staple when I was growing up, so it definitely brought back some warm, fuzzy childhood memories.  The fried egg compliments the salty leberkase quite well, and the home fries help round things out (I question their Austrian authenticity, but hey, if it works it works).

Country 030 – New Zealand (Hemingway’s)

newzealand
Location
: 142 Cumberland Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://hemingways.to/

Quick: name three dishes that come to mind when you think of food from New Zealand.

Yeah, me neither.

Suffice it to say, whatever New Zealand is known for, it’s probably not food (other than, of course, the ubiquitous New Zealand lamb).

Hemingway’s seems to be one of the only restaurants in the city representing Kiwi cuisine, with that representation being loose at best — its menu is dedicated almost entirely to generic pub staples like nachos, chicken wings, and burgers.  The brunch menu, however, does have one dish of interest: the New Zealand Bacon and Egg Pie, which is described as “a New Zealand favourite.”

The pie is filled with bacon, eggs, onion, and peas, and wrapped in a flaky puff pastry crust.  It reminded me a lot of the pies from the Pie Commission — but those pies are always delicious, so it’s like a bizzaro-world version of the Pie Commission, where the Pie Commission is lousy.

Yeah, it’s not great, unfortunately.  The pie has two separate layers — a bottom layer of meat, and a top layer of egg.  The egg is disastrously overcooked, with a rubbery white and a chalky, desiccated yolk.  That alone is enough to sink the pie, but even the meat layer is underwhelming.  Despite being crammed with bacon, the flavour is muddled, underseasoned and bland.  It also had an underlying funkiness that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.  It’s kind of unpleasant.

The crust was quite nice, though, with a good balance between substance and flakiness.  It made an amiable attempt to save the pie, but alas, it was DOA.

Hemingway's - the New Zealand Bacon and Egg Pie Hemingway's - the New Zealand Bacon and Egg Pie

Country 025 – United Kingdom (House on Parliament)

house
Location
: 454 Parliament Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.houseonparliament.com/

I remember, as a kid, scotch eggs were a special treat that I always looked forward to.  But I haven’t had one in many, many years, and I’m not sure why.  It’s one of those dishes where it’s pretty much impossible to go wrong.  Take an egg, ensconce it in delicious sausage, cover it in breading and then deep fry it?  You’d have to work pretty hard to mess that up.

House on Parliament does not mess it up.

First, there’s the perfect egg, hard boiled but not overcooked, with a creamy — not crumbly — yolk.  It’s surrounded by a really tasty sausage (wild boar, pheasant and cognac) that has an almost pate-like richness of flavour that suits the dish perfectly.  The fried breadcrumb layer is light and crispy, and just in case it’s not quite indulgent enough for you yet, they top the whole thing with a generous helping of rich, creamy hollandaise sauce.

It comes with a side of delightfully crispy homefries that were a touch underdone in the middle, but otherwise very close to perfect.

The restaurant was absolutely packed — we were able to get seated right away at just after 11:30 on a Sunday, but by the time we left the entrance was crammed with hungry diners waiting to get their brunch on.  Eating the food, it’s easy enough to see why.