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 103 – Ghana (Afro Continental Restaurant)

Afro Continental Restaurant
Location
: 849 Albion Road, Etobicoke
Website: https://www.afrocontinentalbargrill.com/

The last time I tried fufu (which is basically a much starchier version of mashed potatoes that’s generally made with cassava or plantain), I found it to be an acquired taste that I haven’t quite acquired.

Well, Afro Continental Restaurant serves a very fufu-like dish called diehuo, and it was absolutely delightful.

Afro Continental Restaurant

Diehuo is a Ghanaian specialty that the menu describes as “smooth white corn dough in sauce with goat meat, tripe, cow foot, and cow intestines.”

The diehuo itself was tasty enough, with a nice thick texture that isn’t overly starchy or gummy.  But it’s the “sauce” they serve it with (which is really more of a soup or a stew) that absolutely makes the dish.

Afro Continental Restaurant

It’s an absolute bonanza of flavours, with an addictive vibrancy and a decent amount of heat to keep things interesting.  It has a mildly slimy texture, but not in an unpleasant way — it reminded me of mulukhiyah, a really tasty Middle Eastern soup.

And with the exception of the tripe, which was leathery and inedible, all of the meats were tender and delicious (though I didn’t get any intestine).

Afro Continental Restaurant

It’s the type of dish that makes me really happy to be doing this blog, because it’s something I otherwise probably never would have tried, and it’s so good.

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.

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 090 – South Africa (Plan B Handmade Burgers, Boerewors and Braai)

Plan B Handmade Burgers, Boerewors and BraaiLocation: 2943 Bloor Street West, Toronto
Website: https://www.facebook.com/PlanBHandmadeburgers/

You wouldn’t necessarily think that South African cuisine would be all that difficult to find, but apparently it is.  Outside of a catering company that opens for brunch on Sundays, Plan B appears to be the only restaurant in Toronto that specializes in South African eats.

That’s a lot of weight on its shoulders.  They’re basically the ambassadors for South African cuisine for the entire GTA.

Plan B Handmade Burgers, Boerewors and Braai

Thankfully, it’s quite tasty.  Plan B specializes in braai, which is South African-style grilled meat.  They also sell a variety of hamburgers (so a second visit for another blog might be in order), but I ordered the mixed braai platter, which comes with boerewors (a South African sausage), chicken, lamb (steak is also an option), and two sides.

Plan B Handmade Burgers, Boerewors and Braai

Everything is very nicely grilled, with that great smoky flavour you only get from food that’s been cooked over a flame.  And the meats are all quite good — in particular, the boerewors was seriously delicious.  The texture was nice and tender while still being satisfyingly meaty, and the spicing was unique and tasty.

The chicken was fairly plain, but perfectly cooked.  The lamb, however, was overly tough and almost impossible to cut into with the knife provided.

Plan B Handmade Burgers, Boerewors and Braai

I ordered potato salad as well as pap and tomato chutney on the side.  The potato salad was run-of-the-mill, but the pap (which is a South African version of polenta) really stands out.  It’s a bit bland on its own, but once you pour some of the sweet tomato chutney on top, it comes alive.

Country 088 – Turkmenistan (Harmony Restaurant)

Harmony RestaurantLocation: 478 Dundas Street West, Toronto
Website: None

No, technically Harmony Restaurant doesn’t serve Turkmen cuisine (it specializes in northern Chinese fare), but they do serve an interesting bowl of lamb soup.  Turkmenistan consumes the second most lamb per capita in the world.  Close enough, I guess?

(Hey, you try doing this blog.  Good luck finding a Turkmen restaurant in Toronto.)

Harmony Restaurant

Harmony Restaurant’s specialty is a bowl of lamb soup with bread, which features chunks of tender lamb and chewy cubes of bread in a very lamby broth.

Harmony Restaurant

The presence of bread is odd at first, but it basically plays the same role as noodles in a noodle soup.  It’s not mushy at all; it’s chewy and starchy, and soaks up the flavour from the soup.  It’s surprisingly tasty.

The chunks of lamb are great.  They’re super tender, a little bit fatty, and packed with a deep, meaty flavour.

Harmony Restaurant

The broth, too, is absolutely crammed with that unmistakable lamb flavour.  If you don’t like lamb, this isn’t the dish for you.  It’s not subtle.

It also has a nice zippiness and a mild kick that ensures it never feels one-note rich.  It’s a tasty bowl of soup, especially once you add a few spoonfuls of the smoky chili oil.

Harmony Restaurant

I also tried a pork bun, which wasn’t quite as good as the soup.  The pork was well-seasoned and tender, but the bun itself was dense and dry.  It was basically like a big saltine.  It wasn’t great.

Country 085 – Ivory Coast (Golden Gate Restaurant)

Golden Gate RestaurantLocation: 2428 Islington Avenue, Etobicoke
Website: None

I’ve had a few dishes over the course of doing this blog that feel like acquired tastes that I haven’t yet acquired.  That was definitely the case with fufu, a very popular West African dish consisting of mashed cassava and plantain.

It’s… interesting.  It tastes a lot like a much starchier, gummier version of mashed potatoes.  It doesn’t have much flavour, but then I don’t think it’s meant to be eaten alone.

Golden Gate Restaurant

It’s traditionally served with soup (in the photos I’ve seen online, they’re served separately, but here it’s all in one bowl).  I got the peanut soup (something called “light soup” was also an option), which was rich, flavourful, and pleasantly spicy.

It’s an absolutely enormous portion, and I found myself getting sick of eating it long before it was done.  I actually quite liked the vibrant soup — the slightly elastic, gummy fufu, on the other hand, I wasn’t as sold on.

Golden Gate Restaurant

It comes with a few chunks of beef and fish, which weren’t great.  The beef was so incredibly tough that I could barely pierce it with a fork, and the fish was dry despite being submerged in soup.