Country 031 – Austria (The Musket)

musket
Location
: 40 Advance Road, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.musketrestaurant.com/

I can’t say I know too much about Austria, though they did give the world the gift of Arnold Schwarzenegger — so clearly, it’s a country worth knowing about.

The obvious order at The Musket is probably the schnitzel, but I decided to go a bit off the beaten path, and ordered the leberkase (without particularly knowing what it even was).

This turned out not be a particularly adventurous choice — leberkase is a mix of corned beef, pork, bacon and onions, which is ground into a fine paste and baked in a pan.  It resembled, more than anything else, a really big, flattened Vienna Sausage patty.  Served with a perfectly cooked fried egg on top and with a side of home fries, it was more classic comfort food than adventurous eating.

I quite enjoyed it, but then Vienna Sausage and eggs was a staple when I was growing up, so it definitely brought back some warm, fuzzy childhood memories.  The fried egg compliments the salty leberkase quite well, and the home fries help round things out (I question their Austrian authenticity, but hey, if it works it works).

Country 025 – United Kingdom (House on Parliament)

house
Location
: 454 Parliament Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.houseonparliament.com/

I remember, as a kid, scotch eggs were a special treat that I always looked forward to.  But I haven’t had one in many, many years, and I’m not sure why.  It’s one of those dishes where it’s pretty much impossible to go wrong.  Take an egg, ensconce it in delicious sausage, cover it in breading and then deep fry it?  You’d have to work pretty hard to mess that up.

House on Parliament does not mess it up.

First, there’s the perfect egg, hard boiled but not overcooked, with a creamy — not crumbly — yolk.  It’s surrounded by a really tasty sausage (wild boar, pheasant and cognac) that has an almost pate-like richness of flavour that suits the dish perfectly.  The fried breadcrumb layer is light and crispy, and just in case it’s not quite indulgent enough for you yet, they top the whole thing with a generous helping of rich, creamy hollandaise sauce.

It comes with a side of delightfully crispy homefries that were a touch underdone in the middle, but otherwise very close to perfect.

The restaurant was absolutely packed — we were able to get seated right away at just after 11:30 on a Sunday, but by the time we left the entrance was crammed with hungry diners waiting to get their brunch on.  Eating the food, it’s easy enough to see why.

Country 018 – United States of America (Descendant Detroit Style Pizza)

descendant
Location
: 1168 Queen Street East, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.facebook.com/descendantpizza

Of all the regional American styles of pizza — New York, Chicago, California, etc. — Detroit is probably the least known.  You’d be forgiven for not even realizing that they have their own style of pizza.  But thanks to Descendant, the pizza-curious can sample it without having to actually go to Detroit (because let’s face it, no one wants to go to Detroit).

For the unaware, a Detroit style pizza is essentially a deep dish pizza cooked in a square pan, with a post-bake application of tomato sauce on top of the cheese.

Descendant keeps things simple, with a menu devoted to pizza and nothing but pizza.  The tiny, open kitchen might have something to do with this — in fact, the whole restaurant is much smaller than you’d think, so expect to wait if you come during peak hours.

I tried a couple of pizzas: the Double Pep, which comes with two types of pepperoni above and beneath the cheese, and the Homenaje, which comes with “fresh chorizo, roasted jalepenos, lime pickled onions, sauce, cilantro sour cream, fresh cilantro.”

I’m not gonna lie: it tastes a lot like Pizza Hut.

The crust — grease-slicked and lightly crunchy on the outside, with a soft, bready interior — is Pizza Hut through and through.  There is, however, a ring of crunchy cheese around the edges  (a Detroit hallmark) that’s just as amazing as you’d hope it would be.

The Double Pep is especially Pizza Hut-esque — the quality of the sauce and pepperoni are obviously much higher, but if I tried it blind I’d probably just think that Pizza Hut was having a particularly good day.

The Homnaje was the better of the two pies; with its unique and distinctive flavours, it stands apart from its fast food brethren.  The zippier flavours here help to cut the richness of the heavy pizza, and make this a more balanced pie.  Pickled onions and sour cream seem like odd toppings, but they work surprisingly well.

Descendant Detroit Style Pizza - the restaurant Descendant Detroit Style Pizza - the pizza Descendant Detroit Style Pizza - the pizza Descendant Detroit Style Pizza - the pizza

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

Country 002 — Colombia (Las Delicias)

delicias
Location: 59 Dundas Street West, Mississauga
Website: None

Hidden away in a sketchy little plaza in Mississauga, Las Delicias is pretty much the very definition of a hole-in-the-wall restaurant.

The friendly proprietor quickly sussed out that it was my first time in the restaurant — and my first time eating Colombian food, period.  She recommended the Bandeja Paisa, a decadent smorgasbord that pretty much dares you to finish it (I did).

Clockwise on the picture above, starting at 12:00 – a fried egg, Colombian sausage, fried plantain, crispy pork belly, corn biscuit, and steak, all served atop white rice and beans, with an addictively spicy bowl of hot sauce served on the side.

Nothing here was particularly great — in fact, I suspect that almost all of it is probably better served elsewhere.  The pork belly was tough, and bordering on leathery.  The corn biscuit was almost rock hard. The steak was overcooked and chewy.  The plantain was soggy.

And yet I enjoyed it more than you’d think.  Everything taken together, and topped with that great hot sauce, added up to something surprisingly satisfying.

The sausage — which had an odd, yellow colour on the inside and a unique texture — was a highlight.  And it’s hard to mess up a fried egg.  The beans, too, were quite good — kind of like a less dense refried beans.

I was disappointed at first, but the dish slowly won me over.  It was a huge amount of food and I cleaned the plate.  Of course, that probably speaks to my gluttony just as much as it does to the quality of the food, but still.  I enjoyed it.

Las Delicias Las Delicias