Location: 8 Glen Watford Drive, Scarborough
Brunei is a tiny little country that’s effectively right in the middle of Malaysia. With a population of around 400,000, it’s not the smallest country in the world, but it’s still small enough that there are zero Bruneian restaurants in the GTA.
Their proximity to Malaysia means that their cuisine bears a lot of similarity to Malaysian food, so this is actually an easy one. There are a handful of Malaysian restaurants in the GTA, including One2Snacks, which is particularly well-regarded for having a tasty bowl of curry laksa.
Curry laksa is a seriously delicious curry-tinged noodle soup with a creamy richness thanks to coconut milk. It’s kind of similar to khao soi, but with a zingier, more spice-packed flavour.
The version at One2Snacks is an amazing deal — it’s about eight bucks, and comes in an enormous bowl that’s absolutely crammed with noodles (thick and thin), shrimp, chicken, tofu, and fish balls.
It doesn’t quite have the creamy vibrancy of the best bowls of laksa that I’ve had, but it’s quite satisfying nonetheless. The broth has enough depth and spice to be eminently slurpable, the noodles have a great texture, and the mix-ins are all tasty (the chicken has a mildly leftovery flavour, but everything else is great, particularly the tender fish balls).
It would have been nice if my first post-hiatus restaurant had been a little bit better than this, but then my pre-hiatus restaurant wasn’t great either. So I guess there’s a symmetry there.
And I won’t say that Moldova Restaurant was flat-out bad. The meal had its moments.
It started out uniquely enough — the bread basket came with a side of some kind of sweet, intensely garlicky salsa. It was interesting.
I started with the zamma — a Moldovan take on chicken noodle soup. Aside from the pronounced dill flavour, this tasted like it could have come out of a can. The hearty chunks of chicken and potato added some substance, but the flavour was just generic saltiness.
Next up was the chebureki, which the menu describes as a “fried meat pie.” This was fine. The thin pie shell was nice and crispy, and the sausagey filling was mild, but satisfying. I feel like it was missing something, but it was enjoyable enough.
Finally there was the mamaliga, which is essentially a Moldovan polenta. I like polenta, but I wasn’t crazy about this version. It was pretty tasteless (hence the sour cream and the feta cheese), and the texture was overly thick and gluey.
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: 2411 Yonge Street, Toronto
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: the name of this restaurant is probably going to make you cringe. It’s an unfortunate bit of frat-boy humour that belies the legitimately tasty food that can be found inside.
You’d also expect an authentic Vietnamese joint to be a bit more bare-bones in its decor; the best Vietnamese restaurants in the city tend to have an endearingly run-down vibe that’s a bit at odds with the slickly appointed dining room you’ll find here. Again: don’t judge this book by its cover.
I ordered the Fabulous Beef Noodle Soup, which the menu describes as being filled with a cornucopia of meats: “Rare eye round, well-done flank, soft tendon, tripe, and beef meatballs.”
You have the choice of a medium or large bowl; the medium is absolutely crammed with noodles and meat, so unless you have a particularly voracious appetite, it’ll do.
A bowl of pho like this lives and dies by its broth, and this one has one of the most richly flavourful broths that I’ve tried (but then I’ve had maybe ten bowls of pho in my entire life, so don’t get too impressed). Kicked up with a couple of spoons of chili sauce and a squeeze of lime, and you’ve got a really satisfying bowl of soup.
The noodles are perfectly cooked and abundant, and the variety of meats gives the dish an appealing mix of flavours and textures: there’s the tender combination of rare and well done beef, the distinctively chewy/crunchy bite of the tripe, the unctuous richness of the almost melt-in-your-mouth tendon, and the hearty meatballs. There wasn’t a weak link here, which was nice.