Country 087 – Albania (Mak European Delicatessens)

Mak European DelicatessenLocation: 1335 Lawrence Avenue East, North York
Website: https://makdeli.com/

The burek at Mak European Delicatessens is shockingly heavy.  Based on the photos I saw online, I assumed it was going to be roughly the size of a large bagel.  The delightfully affordable price (six bucks!) also made me think it would be on the smaller side.  Instead, it was as big as a dinner plate and surprisingly substantial.

Mak European Delicatessen

Burek is a dish served throughout Eastern Europe (and beyond) in which phyllo pastry is stuffed with meat, cheese, or spinach.

Mak European Delicatessen

Mak European Delicatessens — an Eastern European supermarket with a small restaurant in the back — serves one of the GTA’s more well-regarded versions of this dish.  You can either buy them frozen to take home, or you can eat in the restaurant.

Mak European Delicatessen

It was really good.  I wish it had been a bit fresher — the would-be crispy phyllo pastry was mostly somewhat soggy, though the bottom remained quite crisp.

Mak European Delicatessen

The filling was what made it stand out.  The meat, in particular, was fantastic — it was juicy, nicely spiced, and quite tender.  It reminded me of a slightly milder version of a cevapi sausage, and worked really well with the phyllo pastry.

Mak European Delicatessen

The spinach was a bit more subtle in its flavour, but it was rich, cheesy, and enjoyable.

It’s not kidding around, however.  I had half of the spinach and half of the meat, and it was a meal.  The amount of filling is surprisingly generous, and the pastry is laden with grease.

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Country 084 – Vatican City (Sugo)

SugoLocation: 1281 Bloor Street West, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.sugotoronto.com/

I might be cheating with this one.

Okay, I’m definitely cheating with this one.  The food they serve at Sugo isn’t Italian, per se; it’s Italian American.  That’s actually a pretty huge distinction, but let’s face it — Vatican City is barely even a real country anyway.  Certainly, there’s no such thing as Vatican City cuisine.  So why shouldn’t I cheat a little bit?

Sugo

Mostly, I was just looking for an excuse to check out Sugo, which I’ve been hearing nothing but good things about.

I’m glad I did — it’s as delicious as its reputation would lead you to believe.

Sugo

The menu is pretty basic: three pastas, a few different sandwiches, and a handful of appetizers.

I tried a couple of the pastas, which were both saucy as hell and exploding with flavour.  Certainly, “subtlety” is not a word in this restaurant’s vocabulary (that’s not a bad thing).

Sugo

My favourite of the two was the rigatoni, which features a creamy pink sauce (a mix between tomato and alfredo) with a satisfyingly zingy flavour.  I also tried the spaghetti with meat sauce, which has a meaty substance, but is lacking in the assertive flavour of the rigatoni.

Sugo

And of course, you can’t come here without trying the baseball-sized meatball, which has a slightly mushy texture, but is otherwise quite good.  It compliments both pastas quite nicely.

Country 044 – Lebanon (Acacia Fine Foods)

acacia
Location
: 1170 Burnhamthorpe Road West, Mississauga
Websitehttp://www.acaciafinefoodsmississauga.com/

Thanks, Twitter — or more specifically, thanks, Suresh Doss (for the unaware, Doss has become the GTA’s go-to guy for recommendations on ethnic joints like this one).  I visited this place entirely thanks to this tweet, and I’m really glad that I did.

It’s a big place, and was almost completely empty when I showed up at around 12:30 on a Sunday (which, as will soon become clear, I think is a travesty).  I ordered the arayess, which I had never even heard of before, let alone tried.

It was amazing.  It’s ridiculously simple — it’s essentially just a fairly thin layer of spiced ground beef sandwiched inside a piece of pita bread.  It’s grilled over charcoal, which gives it a nice exterior char without making the bread overly crispy or crackly.

Whatever they’ve spiced the beef with tastes so good, and the juices soak into the bread so that the whole thing becomes an irresistible medley of beefy, perfectly spiced flavour.  It comes with two sauces for dipping — tahini and garlic — and while they’re both quite tasty, it was the garlic sauce that really got me all hot and bothered.  It was pretty much the standard thick white sauce that you get at most shawarma joints, but something about it made me want to grab a spoon and eat it straight-up from the container like pudding.

They gave us a couple of pieces of puffy, fresh-from-the-oven pita bread, and by the end of the meal I was tearing pieces off and dipping them straight into that amazing garlic sauce.

You can choose between fries, rice, or salad — since the tweet that brought me here specifically mentioned the rice, that’s what I got.

The rice, like everything else, was not kidding around.  Great flavour, and it complimented everything else perfectly.

I should also mention that my dining companion got the chicken and beef shawarma plate, and based only on the couple of mouthfuls I had, it seemed like some seriously top-shelf shawarma (I actually enjoyed it so much that I returned a few days later to try a chicken shawarma sandwich — it was quite good, though it was missing the crispy bits that made the shawarma on the first day so amazing).

I’m really not sure why the place was so empty — I’ve been doing this blog for almost a couple of years now, and this was easily one of the best meals I’ve had so far.  It was so good.

Acacia Fine Foods - the arayes Acacia Fine Foods - the chicken shawarma