Country 087 – Albania (Mak European Delicatessens)

Mak European DelicatessenLocation: 1335 Lawrence Avenue East, North York
Website: https://makdeli.com/

The burek at Mak European Delicatessens is shockingly heavy.  Based on the photos I saw online, I assumed it was going to be roughly the size of a large bagel.  The delightfully affordable price (six bucks!) also made me think it would be on the smaller side.  Instead, it was as big as a dinner plate and surprisingly substantial.

Mak European Delicatessen

Burek is a dish served throughout Eastern Europe (and beyond) in which phyllo pastry is stuffed with meat, cheese, or spinach.

Mak European Delicatessen

Mak European Delicatessens — an Eastern European supermarket with a small restaurant in the back — serves one of the GTA’s more well-regarded versions of this dish.  You can either buy them frozen to take home, or you can eat in the restaurant.

Mak European Delicatessen

It was really good.  I wish it had been a bit fresher — the would-be crispy phyllo pastry was mostly somewhat soggy, though the bottom remained quite crisp.

Mak European Delicatessen

The filling was what made it stand out.  The meat, in particular, was fantastic — it was juicy, nicely spiced, and quite tender.  It reminded me of a slightly milder version of a cevapi sausage, and worked really well with the phyllo pastry.

Mak European Delicatessen

The spinach was a bit more subtle in its flavour, but it was rich, cheesy, and enjoyable.

It’s not kidding around, however.  I had half of the spinach and half of the meat, and it was a meal.  The amount of filling is surprisingly generous, and the pastry is laden with grease.

Advertisements

Country 077 – Bosnia and Herzegovina (Sarajevo Grill & Meat)

Sarajevo Grill & MeatLocation: 225 The East Mall, Etobicoke
Websitehttps://www.facebook.com/pages/Sarajevo-Grill-and-Meat/1088266461319632

Sarajevo Grill & Meat is a bit odd; they have a few tables, but mainly, it’s a take-out joint and a little supermarket of sorts.  They have several shelves worth of Eastern European groceries, a butcher counter, some cakes and cookies, and a hot table with savoury pastries.

Sarajevo Grill & Meat

They also have a few meaty goodies you can eat in the restaurant, with their specialty being cevapi, an Eastern European sausage.

I ordered the large cevapi plate, which comes with a whole pile of little sausages on a plate-sized piece of flatbread called lepinja.

Sarajevo Grill & Meat

It’s not bad, but the cevapi at Royal Meats (which is about a five minute drive away) is better on pretty much every level.

The main issue here is that the sausages are over-salted and under-spiced, with a one-note salty flavour that gets a bit monotonous after a few mouthfuls.

Sarajevo Grill & Meat

They’re also extremely greasy.  This normally wouldn’t be an issue; there’s nothing sadder than a dried-out sausage.  But these go a little bit too far in the other direction.  It’s the type of dish where your mouth and lips immediately become slick with grease — a feeling that persists long after the meal is done.

It didn’t help that the lepinja (which was soft, fluffy, and a little bit chewy) was suffused with oil; some parts were downright mushy.

Sarajevo Grill & Meat

The dish came with a small container of a white substance that I’m pretty sure was just straight-up margarine or lard, just in case you want more grease to dip your greasy bread and your greasy sausages in.  It’s basically a heart attack waiting to happen.

Country 073 – Armenia (Mamajoun)

MamajounLocation: 209 Ellesmere Road, Toronto
Websitehttps://mamajoun.com/

Mamajoun is an Armenian pizzeria that specializes in lahmajoun, a tasty flatbread that’s traditionally topped with a mixture of ground beef and minced veggies.  It’s mostly a take-out place, though they do have a few small tables and a counter where you can sit.

You can get your lahmajoun on its own, or you can choose from various fillings; they wrap the whole thing up and stick it in a panini press to give it a nice crispiness on its exterior.

Mamajoun

I’ve been eating the Middle Eastern version of these (called lahm bi ajin — basically the exact same thing, but with a different name) for pretty much my entire life, but for some reason it’s never occurred to me to cram more stuff in there and eat it like a wrap.  And I have no idea why; it’s kind of ingenious.

Mamajoun

I chose to have mine filled with soujouk, which is a really tasty sausage that basically combines the intense flavour of a cured sausage with the texture of a fresh one.  You can also fill it with the usual assortment of olives, pickled goodies, and hot peppers that you’d expect from a Mediterranean wrap.

Mamajoun

It was quite tasty.  The lahmajoun itself had a nicely spiced meaty flavour, with a good contrast of fluffiness and crispiness on the flatbread.  The soujouk and the other fillings worked really well; between the vibrant sausage and the various vinegary pickles, it’s an absolute face-punch of flavour.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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