Location: 2943 Bloor Street West, Toronto
You wouldn’t necessarily think that South African cuisine would be all that difficult to find, but apparently it is. Outside of a catering company that opens for brunch on Sundays, Plan B appears to be the only restaurant in Toronto that specializes in South African eats.
That’s a lot of weight on its shoulders. They’re basically the ambassadors for South African cuisine for the entire GTA.
Thankfully, it’s quite tasty. Plan B specializes in braai, which is South African-style grilled meat. They also sell a variety of hamburgers (so a second visit for another blog might be in order), but I ordered the mixed braai platter, which comes with boerewors (a South African sausage), chicken, lamb (steak is also an option), and two sides.
Everything is very nicely grilled, with that great smoky flavour you only get from food that’s been cooked over a flame. And the meats are all quite good — in particular, the boerewors was seriously delicious. The texture was nice and tender while still being satisfyingly meaty, and the spicing was unique and tasty.
The chicken was fairly plain, but perfectly cooked. The lamb, however, was overly tough and almost impossible to cut into with the knife provided.
I ordered potato salad as well as pap and tomato chutney on the side. The potato salad was run-of-the-mill, but the pap (which is a South African version of polenta) really stands out. It’s a bit bland on its own, but once you pour some of the sweet tomato chutney on top, it comes alive.
Location: 1281 Bloor Street West, Toronto
I might be cheating with this one.
Okay, I’m definitely cheating with this one. The food they serve at Sugo isn’t Italian, per se; it’s Italian American. That’s actually a pretty huge distinction, but let’s face it — Vatican City is barely even a real country anyway. Certainly, there’s no such thing as Vatican City cuisine. So why shouldn’t I cheat a little bit?
Mostly, I was just looking for an excuse to check out Sugo, which I’ve been hearing nothing but good things about.
I’m glad I did — it’s as delicious as its reputation would lead you to believe.
The menu is pretty basic: three pastas, a few different sandwiches, and a handful of appetizers.
I tried a couple of the pastas, which were both saucy as hell and exploding with flavour. Certainly, “subtlety” is not a word in this restaurant’s vocabulary (that’s not a bad thing).
My favourite of the two was the rigatoni, which features a creamy pink sauce (a mix of tomato and alfredo) with a satisfyingly zingy flavour. I also tried the spaghetti with meat sauce, which has a meaty substance, but is lacking in the assertive flavour of the rigatoni.
And of course, you can’t come here without trying the baseball-sized meatball, which has a slightly mushy texture, but is otherwise quite good. It compliments both pastas quite nicely.
Location: 217 Geary Avenue, Toronto
I wasn’t sure which country this would fall under. Parallel’s website describes itself as “Middle-Eastern and Mediterranean,” which doesn’t exactly narrow things down. I ordered shakshuka, and Wikipedia lists Libya first in the list of countries where this dish is served. So sure, Libya it is.
Parallel is a new restaurant from the people behind Ozery Bakery (which sells some good stuff, FYI). They also make and sell their own tahini, which features heavily in most of the dishes on their menu. You can see the very impressive looking machine they use to crush the sesame seeds at the back of the restaurant.
I ordered the hammshuka, which is shakshuka that’s served on a bed of freshly-made hummus.
It was very, very good. The hummus was odd; not surprisingly, the tahini flavour was front-and-centre. The lemon was almost imperceptible, and if there was any garlic at all, I couldn’t taste it. It was subtle and unlike any hummus I’ve ever had, but it grew on me.
Better was the shakshuka (which, for the initiated, is a dish in which eggs are baked in a thick tomato sauce). It had a rich, garlicky flavour, and the eggs were cooked perfectly. It was topped with a very liberal amount of good-quality extra virgin olive oil — enough to give the dish EVOO’s distinctive nutty flavour.
I ordered it with roasted eggplant (other add-ons include goat cheese and roasted peppers), which turned out to be a wise choice. The eggplant was smoky and amazing, and complimented the shakshuka perfectly.