Location: 235 Dixon Road, Etobicoke
One thing I’ve discovered over the course of doing this blog: African countries are pretty great at making spicy fried rice. The restaurants that I’ve visited for Nigeria, Uganda, and now Somalia have all served delicious, spicy, and addictive fried rice.
Istar has a variety of Somalian specialties on their menu, though a Toronto Life article specifically referenced the goat and the rice, so that’s what I ordered.
It’s good, though the aforementioned spicy rice is the clear highlight. The plate comes with the rice, a generous portion of braised goat, potatoes, and salad.
Goat isn’t a meat you see on a whole lot of menus in this part of the world, which is a shame. It basically tastes like a slightly stronger version of lamb. It’s good.
Some of the pieces here were a bit on the tough side, but for the most part they were tender and flavourful. The spicing is surprisingly subtle (it tastes like it isn’t seasoned with much beyond salt and pepper, though I’m fairly certain that isn’t the case), but the goat itself is tasty enough that it’s barely an issue.
The potatoes were bland and the salad was pretty generic, but the goat and the rice were a winning combo.
Location: 5308 Dundas Street West, Etobicoke
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.
Location: 872 The Queensway, Etobicoke
No, this technically isn’t a North Korean restaurant — I think it’s safe to say that all Korean restaurants in Toronto (or any city, really) are South Korean. But I painstakingly researched how the cuisines in North and South Korea have diverged since their split in 1945, and I tried to order a dish that’s closest to what North Koreans actually eat.
Actually no, I didn’t do that at all; I just went to a Korean restaurant and ordered what looked good. Because I’m lazy, you see.
I ordered the Chaban Dolsot Bibimbap (it’s always a safe bet to order a dish that features the restaurant’s name). For the uninitiated, bibimbap is a dish in which plain rice is topped with various vegetables and meat, an egg, and is usually served with a tasty Korean hot sauce called gochujang on the side.
This particularly version is served in a piping hot stone bowl (which is where “dolsot” in the name comes from), which makes the rice along the edges delightfully crispy.
I’m generally a pretty big fan of this dish, and this might just be the best version of it that I’ve had. It has a really nice balance of flavours, and just the right amount of kick from the hot sauce. It’s one of those dishes where every bite is a little bit different. It’s pretty great.
Location: 483 Horner Avenue, Etobicoke
Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what to order for this blog; how do you distill a nation’s cuisine into one dish? I mean, you can’t. But it’s always nice to get something that can at least give a partial view of what a country’s food has to offer.
In the case of Myanmar, there doesn’t seem to be much debate over their national dish: it’s mohinga, Myanmar’s take on Asia’s ubiquitous noodle soup.
So, that’s easy. Mohinga it is.
Though Royal Myanmar’s version of this dish features noodles that are overcooked and somewhat mushy, and flavours that are more muted than you’d expect (for something that is ostensibly a fish soup, there is an odd lack of anything even resembling a seafood flavour), I still quite enjoyed this. It’s subtle, but a squirt of lime and a sprinkling from the jar of fiery-hot crushed chilis helps to kick it up several notches. It also has a nice garlicky hum, an added richness thanks to the sliced hard-boiled egg, and a vibrancy from the abundant fresh cilantro.
The broth has been thickened, but subtly so — some thickened Asian soups can be a bit gelatinous for my tastes, but here it’s just thick enough to to give it substance without going overboard.
It’s topped with crunchy chickpea fritters; it’s kind of like topping a soup with crackers, only with a million times more personality.
Location: 40 Advance Road, Toronto
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).
Location: 5130 Dundas Street West, Etobicoke
If the whole point of this blog is to try new things, then I’m failing pretty miserably with this entry; not only have I been to Cho Dang Soon Tofu several times before, I’ve even written about it for another blog.
Still, I haven’t written about the restaurant’s namesake dish: an intensely flavourful, bubbling hot stew that I can’t get enough of.
Like any Korean restaurant worth its salt, the meal starts with a generous selection of banchan — essentially a variety of small appetizers. My favourite here are the crispy, addictively salty fried sardines, but the silky cubes of soft tofu (made in house) with a little bowl of sesame- and green-onion-infused soy sauce for dipping are also quite memorable, as is the obligatory (and delcious) kimchi.
But of course, the reason to come here is that delicious, piping-hot stew. I got mine with pork, though several other options are available. It’s spicy, flavourful, and seriously hearty — aside from the aforementioned pork, its absolutely suffused with the restaurant’s creamy house-made tofu, not to mention the egg that you crack into the bowl yourself, and the generous bowl of purple rice that accompanies the stew (made that distinctive colour by mixing black rice in with the white).
The best part? All that food? Eight bucks. Yeah, it’s a deal.