Country 105 – Australia (Momofuku Noodle Bar)

Momofuku Noodle BarLocation: 190 University Avenue, Toronto
Website: https://noodlebar-toronto.momofuku.com/

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 104 – Guyana (Caribu West Indian Cuisine)

Caribu West Indian CuisineLocation: 3412 Weston Road, North York
Website: https://www.facebook.com/Caribu-West-Indian-Cuisine-331412717492992/

It’s not often that a dish really blows me away — but the pachownee at Caribu West Indian Cuisine did.  It’s an entirely offal-based dish, consisting of tripe, stomach, liver, and heart, and it was perfectly cooked to an almost improbable extent.

Caribu West Indian Cuisine

The liver and the heart had a nice meaty bite, but weren’t tough at all; everything else was amazingly tender.  Silky, even, which certainly isn’t a texture I’d normally associate with something like tripe.  I don’t know how they did it, but man, it was good.

It was also quite tasty, with a rich, curry-infused meatiness and none of the overt funkiness you might associate with offal.  It’s got a bit of a kick, which is amped up by the bottle of vinegary hot sauce they have on the table.

Caribu West Indian Cuisine

It comes with plain white rice and a bowl of dhal (creamy lentils) to make things a bit more interesting.

Ordering it was kinda funny.  The waitress looked at me with bemused skepticism and asked if I knew what the dish was.  “It’s a whole bunch of innards,” she explained.  She smiled when I confirmed that I still wanted it, as if I had passed some sort of test.

Caribu West Indian Cuisine

I also tried the chow mein with pepper shrimp, which was tasty enough, with a nice balance of savoury, sweet, and heat, and some very well prepared shrimp.  But the noodles were mushy and the veggies were undercooked; it definitely couldn’t hold a candle to the amazing pachownee.

Country 102 – Benin (Kejjis)

KejjisLocation: 5 McMurchy Avenue North, Brampton
Website: https://kejjis.com/

I think the meat pie is one those dishes that’s served in basically every part of the world.  From Jamaican patties to Argentinian empanadas to Cornish pasties (and beyond), it’s safe to say that wrapping meat in pastry is a universally beloved concept.

Kejjis

What’s not to love?  You’ve got tasty pastry and savoury ground meat, all delivered in a convenient hand-held package.  It’s great.

I recently tried African pepper soup and found it to be an acquired taste that I clearly haven’t acquired.  Well, the meat pies they serve at Kejjis are the complete opposite.  I could eat about a million of them.

Kejjis

The pastry shell is closer to an empanada than a Jamaican patty, with a slightly denser texture (perhaps a bit overly dense) and a lightly crispy exterior.  It’s decent enough, but it’s clearly just there as a vehicle for the meat; the meat-to-pastry ratio is something like like 10:1.

Kejjis

And that meat is absolutely fantastic — it’s tender and moist with no greasiness, and the flavour, oddly enough, reminded me a lot of an enhanced version of an American breakfast sausage (think: Jimmy Dean, Bob Evans, etc.).  It’s definitely not what I was expecting, but it was absolutely delicious.

Country 100 – Peru (King’s BBQ Chicken Restaurant)

King's BBQ Chicken RestaurantLocation: 572 Rogers Road, Toronto
Website: None

Despite the name, King’s BBQ Chicken Restaurant serves quite a bit more than just roasted bird — specifically, they specialize in chifa, a subset of Peruvian cuisine that gives Chinese food a South American twist.  Apparently it’s been a big deal in Peru since the 1920s, courtesy of a large influx of Chinese immigration in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

The most beloved example of chifa is probably lomo saltado, a stir-fried beef dish with the bizarre (and delightful) addition of french fries.

King's BBQ Chicken Restaurant

It’s odd.  It mostly tastes like any number of stir-fries; it’s sweet, savoury, and a little bit smoky from the blazing hot wok.  But then there’s the very generous amount of fries mixed in, which work surprisingly well.

King's BBQ Chicken Restaurant

It’s not something I would have guessed would be as delicious as it is, but it tastes kind of like the tasty love child between Chinese food and a plate of loaded fries.  It doesn’t need rice, because the starch is built right in.  It’s ingenious.

King's BBQ Chicken Restaurant

They don’t just serve chifu at King’s BBQ Chicken; it wouldn’t be a Peruvian restaurant without ceviche, Peru’s national dish and culinary claim to fame (it’s served in several countries, but it was invented in Peru).  The version here is quite tasty, with a nice acidic bite that doesn’t overwhelm, pops of spice from finely diced hot pepper, and a nice contrast in textures between the meaty fish and the crunchy onion.

King's BBQ Chicken Restaurant

And of course, you can’t go to a place with “BBQ Chicken” right in the name without trying the BBQ chicken.  It’s very good — it’s not as distinctive as the lomo saltado or the ceviche, but it’s a quality piece of chicken.  It’s nice and tender, and the seasoning is tasty.  It’s good stuff.

Country 099 – Liechtenstein (Little Bavaria)

Little BavariaLocation: 3222 Eglinton Avenue East, Scarborough
Website: http://www.littlebavaria.ca/

Mac and cheese is delicious.  That’s just a fact.  I think it’s fair to say that if you don’t like macaroni and cheese, you have faulty tastebuds and are generally wrong about the way you live your life.  All I can tell you is that you need to do better, and leave it at that.

It’s hard to put that much cheese into anything and for it not to be delicious.  But of course, as cheesy as mac and cheese is, it’s made with stuff like milk and flour to balance out the its cheesiness and to create a creamy, cheese-infused sauce.

Little Bavaria

But then there’s käsknöpfle, Liechtenstein’s national dish (Little Bavaria serves the German version, called käse spätzle; it’s the same dish with a different name).

Little Bavaria

Käsknöpfle is basically like mac and cheese if mac and cheese just wanted to cut straight to the point.  Milk?  Flour?  Sauce?  Nuts to that stuff, let’s just cram more cheese in there.  It’s intense.  Aside from the addition of sauteed onions, it’s basically just chewy pasta (spätzle, a short, chewy pasta that’s typically served as a side dish) and melty, sharply-flavoured cheese.

Little Bavaria

The version at Little Bavaria is absolutely delicious; it might also be one of the heaviest things I’ve ever eaten.  I could literally feel myself getting fuller with each mouthful.  The amount of cheese was profound, and the plate was basically swimming in oil when I was done.  It’s so good.

Country 097 – Guatemala (Maya)

MayaLocation: 918 Wilson Avenue, North York
Website: http://www.themayarestaurant.com/

The Latin breakfast I just had at Maya, a Guatemalan restaurant in North York, is one of the simpler meals I’ve had in a while.  It features two eggs, ground pork, refried beans, fried plantain, sour cream, and four corn tortillas.

It’s a pretty basic breakfast, but man, it’s so good.  Everything on the plate was impeccably prepared, and it all worked so well together.

Maya

The eggs?  Perfectly cooked, with a really satisfying gooey yolk.  The pork?  Also great; it kinda reminded me of the meat you might find inside an empanada.

The plantains were fairly standard for this type of cuisine, but they were so well cooked that it felt like they were something special — perfectly creamy, with a mildly sweet flavour that has a remarkable depth.  They’re so good.

Maya

The refried beans are nice and creamy, and the warm, fresh corn tortillas are the perfect complement to everything on the plate.

It’s also a scant eight bucks (which includes a coffee), so it’s delicious and it’s a great deal.

Country 095 – Oman (Jordan’s Shawarma)

Jordan's ShawarmaLocation: 2300 John Street, Thornhill
Website: https://www.facebook.com/JorShawarma/

Standard disclaimer: no, Jordan’s Shawarma is not an Omani restaurant.  Oman isn’t the tiniest country ever (with a population of just over four million, it’s the 125th most populous country in the world), but Omani restaurants in the GTA don’t exist.  A Google search for Omani cuisine in Toronto comes up with several results about Tim Hortons opening in that country, but zero restaurants in the city.

Jordan's Shawarma

Jordan’s Shawarma does, however, have lamb kebabs on their menu (which you can get in a rice bowl, a salad, or on fries).  According to my old friend Wikipedia, the kebab is a staple in Oman, so close enough.

Jordan's Shawarma

I got it in a rice bowl, and it was surprisingly good.  It was actually extremely similar to the last thing I tried for this blog, another kebab rice plate from Royal Mezgouf.  I quite enjoyed that one, but this was tastier in every regard.

Jordan's Shawarma

The kebab itself was absolutely fantastic, with a nice lamby flavour, delicious spicing, and a good amount of exterior texture from the grill.  It’s topped with the usual assortment of sauces — garlic, tahini, and hot sauce — and all three are on point.  It also has a healthy dollop of some kind of tzatziki-esque yogurt sauce, which was seriously delicious.

The rice is top notch as well, as is the zesty salad.

Jordan's Shawarma

I also tried the chicken shawarma; it wasn’t quite on the level of the kebab, but it was definitely above average, with tender, tasty meat and a decent amount of crispy bits.