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 (they serve the German version, called käse spätzle, at Little Bavaria; 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 098 – Montenegro (Somun Superstar)

Somun SuperstarLocation: 998 Kingston Road, Toronto
Website: http://www.somunsuperstar.com/

Hey, look at that — country 98.  I’m halfway through this thing!  And it only took a scant four years.  At this rate, I’ll be done sometime around 2023.  Slow and steady wins the race.

And as it turns out, I picked a good restaurant for a landmark post, because Somun Superstar is absolutely fantastic.  Easily one of the best places that I’ve tried for the blog so far.

As you’d guess from the name, Somun Superstar specializes in somun, a Bosnian flatbread that they bake fresh throughout the day in a wood-burning oven.

Somun Superstar

And in case you’re wondering why I’m writing about this for Montenegro instead of Bosnia — I’ve already written about Bosnia, where I ate a similar but infinitely inferior meal at Sarajevo Grill & Meat.  However, Montenegro is Bosnia’s neighbour; they share much of the same cuisine, including somun.

I’m so glad I decided to check this place out, because that somun?  Magical.  They serve it still slightly warm from the oven, and it has an amazing flavour and a delightful fluffy chewiness.

Somun Superstar

You could put anything in that bread and it would be delicious.  You could eat that bread alone and it would be delicious (and in fact I did exactly that — it was so good that I bought some to bring home).

But of course, they’re not going to put that level of care and skill into the bread and then whiff it on the filling.  I got the Loaded Cevapcici, which comes stuffed with cevapcici (an Eastern European sausage), kajmak (a slightly tart, ricotta-esque dairy product), avjar (a spread made from roasted red peppers), onion, pickles, and hot peppers.

Somun Superstar

It’s incredibly delicious.  Even aside from the bread, which, as mentioned, is magical, everything works so well together.  It’s creamy, vibrant, crunchy, and meaty.  It’s everything you want in a sandwich.  The cevapcici, in particular, is way above average, with a nice amount of seasoning and a great meaty flavour.  My only real complaint are the onions, which are abundant and somewhat overwhelming.  But then I’m a weirdo who hates raw onion, so that’s on me, not the sandwich.

Somun Superstar

I also tried the somun bread pudding.  I wasn’t planning on having dessert, but everything was so good that I figured it had to be done.  And yeah: it was just as good as the sandwich, with a silky, substantial creaminess and a thoroughly irresistible custardy flavour.  It was honestly one of the best slices of bread pudding I’ve ever had.

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.

Country 094 – Iraq (Royal Mezgouf)

Royal MezgoufLocation: 843 Kipling Avenue, Etobicoke
Website: https://mezgouf.com/

After having to get a bit creative with my last few restaurant choices, it’s nice to visit a place that’s actually serving the cuisine of the country I’m writing about.  Royal Mezgouf is an Iraqi restaurant.  I’m writing about Iraq.  How about that!

Royal Mezgouf

I didn’t, however, try the mezgouf (an Iraqi dish made with grilled carp) at Royal Mezgouf, which feels like a bizarre thing to do.  But it’s not on their take-out menu — you have to order a whole fish, which they charge by the pound, and it takes 60 to 90 minutes to prepare.

So I ordered the Iraqi kebab plate instead, which comes with a kebab, rice, and a salad for nine bucks.  If nothing else, it’s a great deal.

Royal Mezgouf

It’s also quite tasty.  The kebab is made with a beef/lamb blend, and it’s very nicely seasoned — the seasoning compliments the meaty flavour you get from the lamb and the beef, but doesn’t overwhelm it.  It’s also nice and juicy.  It’s topped with tahini sauce, garlic sauce, and hot sauce.  It’s very good.

Royal Mezgouf

The rice is surprisingly great.  It’s basically just the typical plain rice with vermicelli that you’ll find at a lot of Middle Eastern places, but it’s really well prepared, with a pleasant greasiness that enhances the flavour and texture.

The salad’s a bit bland, but the rice and the meat are both tasty enough that it really doesn’t matter.

Royal Mezgouf

I also tried the falafel, which were above average — they were a bit greasy, but were otherwise crispy, fluffy, and tasty.

Country 093 – San Marino (Speducci Mercatto)

Speducci MercattoLocation: 46 Milford Avenue, North York
Website: https://speducci.com/

San Marino is kinda like Vatican City, in that it’s a tiny little country that’s entirely within Italy’s borders (it is, however, considerably larger than Vatican City).  Along with Vatican City and Lesotho in South Africa, it is one of only three countries in the world that’s entirely surrounded by another country.

So there you go, there’s your obscure bit of geographic trivia for the day.  You’re welcome.

Speducci Mercatto

Obviously, San Marino’s cuisine is basically Italian cuisine; between that and Vatican City, I’ve had an excuse to go to three different Italian restaurants for this blog.

Speducci Mercatto is a snazzy little deli / Italian restaurant in the middle of an industrial area of North York.  If I hadn’t specifically read about it, there’s no way I would have discovered it myself.

Speducci Mercatto

They’re mostly known for the various Italian cured meats that they make in-house; you can buy them to go from the deli counter, or in the restaurant in a sandwich or a pizza.

I went with the prosciutto sandwich, which comes on its own (i.e. just prosciutto in a roll), though you can add various toppings for a small upcharge.  The waitress recommended bocconcini cheese, arugula, and tomato; even with the toppings, it came up to $13.50 for a very hefty sandwich, so it’s a great deal.

Speducci Mercatto

They cram a serious amount of meat into the sandwich.  It might have felt like an overwhelming amount of prosciutto, but it’s so incredibly delicious that this is never an issue.  The meat is super tender, the fat is silky, and the flavour is delightfully complex.  It’s definitely some of the best prosciutto I’ve ever had.

And the waitress was absolutely spot-on with the topping suggestions; the creamy cheese, the peppery arugula, and the fresh tomatoes all complimented the meat perfectly.  The bread was a typical Italian roll and nothing to get too excited about, but the prosciutto was so tasty that it really didn’t matter.