Country 050 – Canada (Halifax Donair)

donair
Location
: 295 Main Street East, Milton
Websitehttp://www.halifaxoriginaldonair.com/

It seems odd to be writing about Canada for this blog, but it is indeed one of the 196 countries on the list — so here we are.  Poutine probably would have been the obvious choice, but I figured this might be a bit more interesting.

After Germany and Turkey, this is actually my third time trying a version of donair (or doner) for this blog.  I really liked both of those, but this one might just be the best.

It’s pretty simple: spiced beef, cooked on a spit and thinly shaved, topped with tomato, onion, and a healthy dollop of sweet donair sauce.  It’s served in a pita that can just barely contain the almost comically large pile of meat.

There’s no classy way to eat this; it’s a delicious mess of contrasting textures, an absolute barrage of sweet and savoury flavours, and pretty much the purest example of comfort food that I can think of. There’s nothing delicate here; aside from the sheer mess factor (which is intense), the flavours are the opposite of subtle.  They’re a full-out assault; they’re grabbing you by the collar and screaming in your face.

It’s so good.

The beef itself is really nicely spiced — this particular style of donair was originally created by a Greek immigrant in Halifax, and tastes a lot like what you’d find in a gyro.  It’s tender and packed with flavour, and has an abundance of the crispy bits that you’re looking for in this sort of thing.  Combined with the chewy pita, it’s a delightful contrast of textures.

Then there’s the garlicky, sugary-sweet sauce — it seems insanely sweet at first.  And on most things, it would probably be overwhelmingly cloying. But here?  It totally works.  The sweet sauce and the very savoury meat mingle together and turn into something magical.  I don’t even know that I can explain why it works so well; it probably shouldn’t.  But it does.

The tomatoes and onions bring some freshness to the very heavy dish.  I’m normally not a fan of raw onions, but here they’re so thoroughly backgrounded by the wrap’s other assertive flavours that they pretty much just add a bit of crunch.

What a bummer this place is so far, though — Milton’s a bit of a drive.  But it’s totally worth it.

Country 041 – Serbia (Mississauga Serbian Food Festival)

serbia
Location
: 2520 Dixie Road, Mississauga
Websitehttp://www.msff.ca/

Well, they can’t all be winners.

It’s probably my own fault.  Impressed by the notion of roasting an entire bull on a spit, I decided to check this festival out.  I showed up at around 7:00, which was an hour before they were due to close. This is probably where I went wrong.

The bull on a spit was nowhere to be seen (it had clearly been carved up and disposed of by then) — a warming tray full of meat was all that remained.

I ordered a roast bull sandwich and went on my way.

There were a couple of fairly big issues here.  For one thing, I’m pretty sure the aforementioned warming tray wasn’t actually being warmed by anything, so the very fatty beef was lukewarm and congealed.  That wasn’t the best.

The other, more pressing issue was that the bun — which tasted like a variation on an Eastern European flatbread called lepinja — was cold, stale, and unyielding.  I’m sure it was okay at some point much earlier in its life, but by the time it got to me it was better suited to be a doorstop, or to weigh down documents on a very windy day, or as a chew toy for an overactive dog.

I took a couple of bites, then brought the remainder of the sandwich home, tossed the bun, warmed up the beef, and ate the rest in bread that was actually suitable for human consumption.

It was a fine sandwich, I guess.  It was a bit on the tough side, and there didn’t seem to be much to the spicing of the meat other than it being vaguely salty, but it was alright.

Mississauga Serbian Food Festival - the tent Mississauga Serbian Food Festival - the roast bull sandwich

Country 035 – Argentina (Jay’s Sandwiches of the World)

jay
Location
: 622 Bloor Street, Mississauga
Websitehttps://www.facebook.com/jayssandwichesoftheworld/

You’d think a place called “Jay’s Sandwiches of the World” would be a treasure trove for a blog like this, but I guess I’ve been at it a bit too long — I’ve already covered pretty much all of the countries that have been sandwichified by this restaurant (places like Italy, Cuba, and South Korea).

There was one sandwich, however, that was fair game: the lomito.  Depending on who you ask, it’s either a Chilean or Argentinian specialty  (Uruguay serves it as well).  The version served in Chile is typically made with pork, and Argentina’s version more commonly with beef (not surprising, given Argentina’s love of that particular meat).

Well, Jay serves beef, so Argentina it is.

This particular version is a steak sandwich with melty mozzarella, a fried egg, lettuce, tomato, and lomito sauce.

It’s apparently a beloved dish, so I’m going to assume that something went wrong in the translation — this one, at least, wasn’t particularly good.  There’s just not much to it; nothing stands out.

The steak, though nice and tender, is surprisingly flavourless.  The fried egg was overcooked, with a chalky yolk and rubbery white.  And though it’s hard to go wrong with melty cheese in a sandwich, the plasticky goo here makes me want to reconsider that.

As for the “lomito sauce,” I’m pretty sure it was just ketchup, mustard, and mayo.  The fresh, crusty-but-not-too-crusty bread was quite good, at least.

I guess it sounds like the sandwich was horrible?  It wasn’t horrible.  It wasn’t particularly good, mind you, but I ate the whole thing, and if you put another one in front of me, I’d probably eat it again.

I know, “it was food and I ate it” isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement.  I’ll just assume that the other sandwiches at this place are better, though it’s exceptionally unlikely that I’ll ever be back to find out.

Jay's Sandwiches of the World - the restaurant Jay's Sandwiches of the World - the Lomito

Country 021 – Italy (A3 Napoli)

a3
Location
: 589 College Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://a3napoli.com/

Given that A3 is a collaboration between Porchetta and Co.‘s  Nick auf der Mauer and Pizzeria Libretto‘s Rocco Agostino, you’d just sort of assume that it’s going to be really good.  And you would be correct.  You would be 100% correct.

The menu is an even split between crispy goodies coming out of their fryer and piping hot pizzas from their enormous, impressive 900 degree pizza oven (which is pretty much the centrepiece of the restaurant).

We started with the “Land” assortment of fried deliciousness, which came with decadently gooey arancini, flavour-packed meatballs, fried mozzarella that would put any mozzarella stick  to shame, and perfectly cooked slices of sweet potato.  It included a little cup of marinara for dipping, but everything was so tasty on its own that it was mostly superfluous.

They serve a sandwich that changes every couple of weeks, served on what is essentially an undressed pizza that’s folded over.  It was meatball when I went, but it’ll probably be something different by the time you read this.

First and foremost is that bread, which has an addictively chewy texture and just the right amount of char from the inferno-hot pizza oven.  Can I have all of my sandwiches in this bread?  Because I want all of my sandwiches in this bread.

The inside of the sandwich was a perfect mix of rich tomato sauce, creamy pesto, and peppery arugula.  That’s not to mention, of course, the toothsome and abundant meatballs.  If I had to come up with the top five meatball sandwiches I’ve had in my life, this one would probably be on there.

We finished with the Zeppoli — little cinnamon-and-sugar-dusted doughnuts that are essentially like the best Timbits you’ve ever had, which come with a heady chocolate hazelnut sauce for dipping.  That sauce, I should note, was so good that my dining companion was compelled to drink the remains.

A3 Napoli - the Land Fritti A3 Napoli - the Meatball Sandwich A3 Napoli - the Zeppoli

Country #020 – Israel (Sid’s Deli)

sids
Location
: 160 McCaul Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.sidsdeli.ca/

I know, I know — I’m cheating.  The type of deli that Sid’s is serving up is an American Jewish phenomenon, without much (if any) connection to Israel.  Sid’s should really fall under the United States on this blog, but since I’ve already covered that country, here we are.

Hey, if you don’t like it, start your own international-cuisine-themed blog.

The fact is, I couldn’t resist writing about this place.  There aren’t many things I enjoy more than a really good smoked meat or pastrami sandwich.  When a new deli opens in the city?  I’m all over that.

Sid’s menu features the usual assortment of deli classics; I went with a pastrami sandwich, and had it with a bowl of matzoh ball soup on the side.

I really wanted to like this — there’s a dearth of really great deli sandwiches in the GTA, and none that I know of in the downtown core (and no, Caplansky’s hasn’t qualified as anything better than okay in quite a stretch).   So I was crossing my fingers for greatness; alas, it wasn’t even good. It was catastrophically overseasoned.  Like, it was kind of insane how overseasoned it was.

The flavour was nothing but black pepper.  You could basically tell that there was a tasty piece of pastrami under there, but it was completely obscured under a deluge of overbearing spice.  You couldn’t take a bite without crunching down on whole peppercorns.  It was unpleasant.

It’s a damn shame, because the pastrami otherwise seems to be right where you want it to be.  I went with the hand-sliced option, which was cut into perfectly thick, yieldingly tender slices of fatty — but not too fatty — beef.  I had a bite or two where the fat was slightly unrendered and tough, however, for the most part it was perfectly cooked.

But this wasn’t pastrami — it was a pepper sandwich with meat.

It came with a small side of coleslaw, which wasn’t much better.  It tasted okay, but it was weirdly mushy.  The soup, at least, was quite good.  Despite my deli love, this was my first taste of matzoh ball soup, and yeah — I can see the appeal.  The matzoh ball essentially performs the same function as crumbling crackers into soup, only far more substantial and satisfying.  Aside from that, it was just an above average chicken soup.  Tasty stuff.

Sid's Deli - the restaurant Sid's Deli - the pastrami

Country 013 – Germany (Otto’s Berlin Doner)

otto
Location
: 256 Augusta Avenue, Toronto
Websitehttp://ottosdoner.com/

I don’t know if doner is the first dish that springs to mind when you think of German cuisine (it’s definitely a thing, though), but I was in Kensington Market, stumbled across this place, and thought: Yeah. Why not?

As it turns out, it was only the restaurant’s second day in existence, which is much sooner than I’d typically write about a place — but since the food and service were both quite good, I’m going to assume (or hope) that they’ve managed to avoid the kinks that can gum up a brand new restaurant.

The menu is fairly simple, with a few different types of German doner, along with currywurst (Bratwurst topped with a sweet curry sauce) and a handful of sides.  I went with the veal and lamb doner, because whenever I see lamb on a menu, I have a hard time saying no.

Packed with a generous amount of tasty, well seasoned meat that’s topped with a salad’s worth of fresh veggies (tomato, cucumber, lettuce, cabbage, and onions) and your choice of sauces (the man behind the register suggested yogurt and hot sauce), it’s probably not anything that anyone is going to get too excited over, but it’s a very good sandwich.

The bread is a highlight, and probably the most distinctive thing about it — it’s perfectly toasted,  with a great, crispy exterior, and a fresh, fluffy interior.  It’s much more substantial than the typical pita you’d get in a shawarma sandwich or a gyro, but it suits the doner perfectly.

The sauces probably should have been a bit more abundant (I got plenty of sauce-less mouthfuls), but aside from that it was a fine sandwich.  Mighty fine.

My dining companions tried the halloumi doner — which featured breaded and fried pieces of halloumi cheese in place of the of meat — and were both quite impressed.  I’ll have to try that one next time.

Otto's Berlin Doner - the restaurant Otto's Berlin Doner - the doner Otto's Berlin Doner - the doner

Country 007 – Mexico (Tenoch)

tenoch
Location
: 933 St. Clair Avenue West, Toronto
Websitehttp://tenochrestaurant.com/

I seem to be focusing disproportionately on Spanish-speaking countries so far.  This is completely unintentional; I’ll have to try to mix it up for the next few countries.  But first: Mexico.

I mostly wanted to try Tenoch to sample one of their tortas, a popular Mexican street food that basically entails cramming as much food as possible into a crusty roll.

We started, however, with the chorinachos, which finds delicious house-made tortilla chips layered with a crumbled, mild sausage (chorizo, I think), refried beans, sour cream, and enough melty cheese to feed a small family.  Though it was immediately apparent that we had over-ordered (this imposing pile of food is more than enough to feed two very hungry people on its own), these nachos were so good that we were happy to overindulge.

Two sauces were provided: the first was a bright green mix of seriously spicy hot peppers and avocado, and the second a creamy brown hot sauce that was one of the tastiest sauces I’ve had in quite a while.  It had a rich, smoky flavour and an addictively fiery spice-level.  It was amazing.

I asked the waitress what it was, because seriously: I want to eat this all the time on everything.  Sadly, the answer (the name of the pepper the sauce is made from) pretty much went in one ear and out the other. It was a lot of words, and it was Spanish, and I should have written it down but I didn’t, like an idiot.  Anyway, they make the sauce in the restaurant, so it’s not like I could have gone to the supermarket and picked up a bottle.

tenoch2a

Whatever that stuff was, it was profoundly delicious, and if you come here and they don’t give it to you, you need to ask for it.  That might be tough without knowing what it’s called, but trust me, make it happen.  You won’t regret it.

Next up was the main course: the Tenoch Torta, described on the menu as coming with “tomato, onion, beans, avocado, mayo, cheese, shredded roast chipotle pork, ham, milanesa, egg, pastrami, and wiener sausage.”

Yep, it’s all in there.  Everything.  Don’t even think about ordering this sandwich on your own.  My dining companion and I split one, and each half on its own was the size of one enormous sandwich.  When you first pick it up, the weight of it shocks you.  It’s gigantic.

It’s also delicious, if a bit overstuffed (shocking, right?).  There’s just so much food in there, and though it’s all tasty (the chipotle pulled pork stands out as a highlight), I think there’s probably a little bit too much stuff going on.

Just eating it was a challenge.  There’s only so wide that you can open your mouth, and even taking your biggest, most exaggerated Guy-Fieri-style bite, you’re not going to be able to cram it all in there.

Like the nachos, this would have been more than enough to feed two hungry people, and like with the nachos, I was very happy to overindulge.  This is top-shelf Mexican food.  I can’t wait to go back.

Tenoch - the nachos Tenoch - the Tenoch Torta