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.

Country 086 – Togo (Naija Jollof)

Naija JollofLocation: 7215 Goreway Drive, Mississauga (in the Westwood Square Mall food court)
Website: https://www.instagram.com/naijajolloftoronto/

The food court at the newly-renovated Westwood Square Mall has clearly not been a particularly big hit; huge swathes of the restaurant space has yet to be filled, and when I showed up at around noon on a weekday, the place was mostly empty.

Naija Jollof, a restaurant specializing in African eats, was the only place that seemed to be doing okay.  Which suited me just fine, since that’s what I came for.  Bonus: no issues finding a seat.

Naija Jollof

I tried to order the daily special, Togo, which is described as “plantain pottage with spinach & broken pieces of fish.”  I was told that they didn’t actually have this, but that they could substitute it with something similar.  When I asked what the substitute dish was called, the surly woman behind the counter gave a one word answer of “spinach” in a tone that implied follow-up questions wouldn’t be appreciated.

So I have no idea what the dish I ordered was called, or if it’s actually from Togo.  Based on some Googling I think it might be a dish called gboma dessi, but that looks considerably saucier than what I had, so I’m not sure.

Whatever it was, it kind of reminded me of collard greens, but with big chunks of beef instead of bacon.

Naija Jollof

It was pretty good — it’s salty, tangy, and a little bit spicy, with a texture that’s well cooked but still has a bit of bite to it, and a deep spinach flavour.  It contrasts quite nicely with the sweet, creamy plantain.  It’s a tasty combo.

The chunks of beef, on the other hand, weren’t great (they might have been goat, but the very mild flavour makes me think beef).  There was a huge chunk on top that I believe was tripe; it was inedible.  And when I say it was inedible, I mean that in the most fundamental sense of the word.  I couldn’t put a fork through it or bite into it.  It was like rubber.

Naija Jollof

There was, however, another piece that was much better.  It was still fairly tough, but I was able to eat it, so it had that going for it (there was also a third piece that appeared to be entirely sinew and veins.  It was just as bite-resistant and rubbery as the tripe.  The less said about that one, the better).

Thankfully, the spinach was tasty enough on its own that the shoddy beef didn’t feel like a huge issue.