Location: 1881 Steeles Avenue West, North York
My dining companion and I visited Kavkaz at lunch, and like a lot of the obscure restaurants I’ve been visiting for this blog, the place was almost entirely deserted (a couple of people eventually showed up, but it was mostly a big, empty restaurant).
I’m glad places like this can survive, even if I’m not sure how. And I’m especially glad in the case of Kavkaz, because the food was great.
Almost immediately after sitting down, we were brought a bread basket with warm flatbread, and a bowl with sauerkraut and sliced pickles. I’m not sure how these three things were meant to be combined (if at all), but they were tasty.
Up next was bughlama, a stew with fork-tender pieces of lamb, a very pronounced lemony zing, and fresh pops of herbiness from the abundant cilantro (or maybe not cilantro? It tasted like cilantro, but had a heartier texture and appearance. I don’t know; I’m pretty terrible at identifying herbs). The quality of the lamb was great, and the tartness from the lemon really made it stand out.
Our last dish was the lulya kabab, which I liked even better. Featuring a mix of ground lamb and beef, this tasted very similar to the kababs you can get from Afghan joints all around the city. It was tender and perfectly cooked, and was nicely complimented by the sweet and spicy sauce that came on the side.
It came with a side of potatoes that almost looked like thickly-cut chips. The slices were creamy and perfectly cooked, with a nice hit of flavour from garlic and dill. I wish they had been a little bit crispy, but they were otherwise pretty great.
Location: 489 King Street West, Toronto
Add “boxty” to the list of things I hadn’t even heard of before starting this blog (and in case you’re a member of the “what the hell is boxty?” club, as I was until recently, it’s an Irish take on the potato pancake).
Fynn’s has a couple of boxtys (boxties?) on the menu; I went with the Dublin steak and mushroom boxty.
The boxty was actually much closer in consistency to bread than I was expecting — it had a chewy, bready texture that was more like naan than a traditional potato pancake. It was unexpected, but it worked quite well with the stew inside.
As for the steak and mushroom stew, it was true to its name and crammed with mushrooms and chunks of beef. The beef was slightly on the tough side, and there was one spice that I couldn’t quite put my finger on that was a bit overpowering, but for the most part it was tasty and satisfying.
Location: 3900 Grand Park Drive, Mississauga
I’ve actually been to Nader’s once before, for my burger blog. It probably wasn’t fair for me to judge this place based on their hamburger, so here I am, ordering something that’s much more in their wheelhouse: lamb shank tagine with couscous.
It’s a fairly hearty stew, with the aforementioned lamb shank submerged in a saucy mix of potatoes, chick peas, carrots, and some kind of zucchini-esque vegetable, among other things.
It was fine, I guess. It was kind of watery and a bit one-note salty, but I basically enjoyed it. I think I’ve mentioned how much I love lamb on this blog, and the lamb here — though a bit dry — was quite tasty, as usual.
It’s just… the overall flavour of the dish never really pops. You know that thing that happens when you’re eating a great meal, and every mouthful seems to reveal something new? It was pretty much the opposite here. The first bite told me everything I needed to know, and every bite after that was more or less exactly the same.
But again, it wasn’t bad. It was just ho-hum.
Between this and the burger, I think it’s safe to say that Nader’s isn’t exactly my new favourite restaurant.
Location: 200 Main Street South, Newmarket
I don’t think I’ve ever had an easier time figuring out what to order at a restaurant; I mean, it’s right there in the name. The only question was which goulash to order — they have three different types, so I asked the waitress and was informed that the goulash of choice is beef.
It comes with a small bowl of soup to start, which in this case was a creamy, garlickly cauliflower soup that I quite enjoyed.
I also really enjoyed the goulash, which was absolutely crammed with fork-tender chunks of beef, not to mention the abundant cubes of potato and the pleasantly chewy dumplings, all in an intensely rich sauce. It’s clearly designed to be shared; it even comes with a ladle to dole it out into the provided bowls. I made the mistake of polishing it off by myself, and spent the rest of the evening clutching my stomach and questioning the way I live my life.
My only complaint (aside from the aforementioned stomach-clutching) is that it had one spice that I couldn’t quite put my finger on that gave the dish a vaguely medicinal twang. I was mostly able to ignore it, but it was the one sour note in an otherwise stellar dish.
Location: 195 Roncevalles Avenue, Toronto
Like Cho Dang Soon Tofu, this is a place that I’ve not only visited before, but actually written about on another blog. But hey, if it’s good, it’s good.
A lot of the food here is actually Hungarian — given the restaurant’s name, I figured I’d order off the “Polish Classics” section of the menu. I went with the Hunter’s Stew, which is described on the menu as “slow cooked sauerkraut with slices of sausage and pork, served with rye bread.”
We started, however, with the cheddar and potato pierogies; they were pretty much pierogi perfection, with a tender, perfectly chewy exterior encasing a deliciously creamy potato filling. The little cup of golden caramelized onions easily puts them over-the-top.
The stew, on the other hand, was probably the weakest thing I’ve had at Cafe Polonez. Not that it was particularly bad; it was actually quite tasty. But even with the chunks of sausage and pork, it was essentially just a big plate of sauerkraut with some added richness from being cooked with the meat. It would make for an amazing side dish, but as a main meal it gets a bit monotonous.
Location: 5130 Dundas Street West, Etobicoke
If the whole point of this blog is to try new things, then I’m failing pretty miserably with this entry; not only have I been to Cho Dang Soon Tofu several times before, I’ve even written about it for another blog.
Still, I haven’t written about the restaurant’s namesake dish: an intensely flavourful, bubbling hot stew that I can’t get enough of.
Like any Korean restaurant worth its salt, the meal starts with a generous selection of banchan — essentially a variety of small appetizers. My favourite here are the crispy, addictively salty fried sardines, but the silky cubes of soft tofu (made in house) with a little bowl of sesame- and green-onion-infused soy sauce for dipping are also quite memorable, as is the obligatory (and delcious) kimchi.
But of course, the reason to come here is that delicious, piping-hot stew. I got mine with pork, though several other options are available. It’s spicy, flavourful, and seriously hearty — aside from the aforementioned pork, its absolutely suffused with the restaurant’s creamy house-made tofu, not to mention the egg that you crack into the bowl yourself, and the generous bowl of purple rice that accompanies the stew (made that distinctive colour by mixing black rice in with the white).
The best part? All that food? Eight bucks. Yeah, it’s a deal.