Country 105 – Australia (Momofuku Noodle Bar)

Momofuku Noodle BarLocation: 190 University Avenue, Toronto
Website: https://noodlebar-toronto.momofuku.com/

Depending on who you ask, pavlova is either from Australia or New Zealand, and apparently the debate can get fairly heated.  In my case, it’s an easy decision: I’ve already written about New Zealand, so Australia it is.

Momofuku is probably an odd choice to represent Australia, but it turns out that pavlova is not an easy dessert to find.  I think the Noodle Bar is one of the few restaurants in the GTA to serve it — and even there, you’re not guaranteed to find it on the menu.

Momofuku Noodle Bar

Well, if you see it, order it; it’s delicious.

It’s a very simple dessert.  Traditionally, pavlova is just fruit, meringue, and whipped cream.  The version at Momofuku subs out the cream for lemon curd, which you’d think wouldn’t work — but it totally works (to be fair, this was my first time trying pavlova, so I have nothing to compare it to).

Momofuku Noodle Bar

The meringue is great — it’s lightly crispy on the outside, with a soft, slightly marshmallowy interior.  The fruit in this particular version is blood orange, which is sweet and slightly tart.  Combined with the lemon curd, it might have been too much of a citrusy bite, but the sweet meringue balances it out perfectly.  It’s delightful.

Country 100 – Peru (King’s BBQ Chicken Restaurant)

King's BBQ Chicken RestaurantLocation: 572 Rogers Road, Toronto
Website: None

Despite the name, King’s BBQ Chicken Restaurant serves quite a bit more than just roasted bird — specifically, they specialize in chifa, a subset of Peruvian cuisine that gives Chinese food a South American twist.  Apparently it’s been a big deal in Peru since the 1920s, courtesy of a large influx of Chinese immigration in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

The most beloved example of chifa is probably lomo saltado, a stir-fried beef dish with the bizarre (and delightful) addition of french fries.

King's BBQ Chicken Restaurant

It’s odd.  It mostly tastes like any number of stir-fries; it’s sweet, savoury, and a little bit smoky from the blazing hot wok.  But then there’s the very generous amount of fries mixed in, which work surprisingly well.

King's BBQ Chicken Restaurant

It’s not something I would have guessed would be as delicious as it is, but it tastes kind of like the tasty love child between Chinese food and a plate of loaded fries.  It doesn’t need rice, because the starch is built right in.  It’s ingenious.

King's BBQ Chicken Restaurant

They don’t just serve chifu at King’s BBQ Chicken; it wouldn’t be a Peruvian restaurant without ceviche, Peru’s national dish and culinary claim to fame (it’s served in several countries, but it was invented in Peru).  The version here is quite tasty, with a nice acidic bite that doesn’t overwhelm, pops of spice from finely diced hot pepper, and a nice contrast in textures between the meaty fish and the crunchy onion.

King's BBQ Chicken Restaurant

And of course, you can’t go to a place with “BBQ Chicken” right in the name without trying the BBQ chicken.  It’s very good — it’s not as distinctive as the lomo saltado or the ceviche, but it’s a quality piece of chicken.  It’s nice and tender, and the seasoning is tasty.  It’s good stuff.

Country 098 – Montenegro (Somun Superstar)

Somun SuperstarLocation: 998 Kingston Road, Toronto
Website: http://www.somunsuperstar.com/

Hey, look at that — country 98.  I’m halfway through this thing!  And it only took a scant four years.  At this rate, I’ll be done sometime around 2023.  Slow and steady wins the race.

And as it turns out, I picked a good restaurant for a landmark post, because Somun Superstar is absolutely fantastic.  Easily one of the best places that I’ve tried for the blog so far.

As you’d guess from the name, Somun Superstar specializes in somun, a Bosnian flatbread that they bake fresh throughout the day in a wood-burning oven.

Somun Superstar

And in case you’re wondering why I’m writing about this for Montenegro instead of Bosnia — I’ve already written about Bosnia, where I ate a similar but infinitely inferior meal at Sarajevo Grill & Meat.  However, Montenegro is Bosnia’s neighbour; they share much of the same cuisine, including somun.

I’m so glad I decided to check this place out, because that somun?  Magical.  They serve it still slightly warm from the oven, and it has an amazing flavour and a delightful fluffy chewiness.

Somun Superstar

You could put anything in that bread and it would be delicious.  You could eat that bread alone and it would be delicious (and in fact I did exactly that — it was so good that I bought some to bring home).

But of course, they’re not going to put that level of care and skill into the bread and then whiff it on the filling.  I got the Loaded Cevapcici, which comes stuffed with cevapcici (an Eastern European sausage), kajmak (a slightly tart, ricotta-esque dairy product), avjar (a spread made from roasted red peppers), onion, pickles, and hot peppers.

Somun Superstar

It’s incredibly delicious.  Even aside from the bread, which, as mentioned, is magical, everything works so well together.  It’s creamy, vibrant, crunchy, and meaty.  It’s everything you want in a sandwich.  The cevapcici, in particular, is way above average, with a nice amount of seasoning and a great meaty flavour.  My only real complaint are the onions, which are abundant and somewhat overwhelming.  But then I’m a weirdo who hates raw onion, so that’s on me, not the sandwich.

Somun Superstar

I also tried the somun bread pudding.  I wasn’t planning on having dessert, but everything was so good that I figured it had to be done.  And yeah: it was just as good as the sandwich, with a silky, substantial creaminess and a thoroughly irresistible custardy flavour.  It was honestly one of the best slices of bread pudding I’ve ever had.

Country 097 – Guatemala (Maya)

MayaLocation: 918 Wilson Avenue, North York
Website: http://www.themayarestaurant.com/

The Latin breakfast I just had at Maya, a Guatemalan restaurant in North York, is one of the simpler meals I’ve had in a while.  It features two eggs, ground pork, refried beans, fried plantain, sour cream, and four corn tortillas.

It’s a pretty basic breakfast, but man, it’s so good.  Everything on the plate was impeccably prepared, and it all worked so well together.

Maya

The eggs?  Perfectly cooked, with a really satisfying gooey yolk.  The pork?  Also great; it kinda reminded me of the meat you might find inside an empanada.

The plantains were fairly standard for this type of cuisine, but they were so well cooked that it felt like they were something special — perfectly creamy, with a mildly sweet flavour that has a remarkable depth.  They’re so good.

Maya

The refried beans are nice and creamy, and the warm, fresh corn tortillas are the perfect complement to everything on the plate.

It’s also a scant eight bucks (which includes a coffee), so it’s delicious and it’s a great deal.

Country 096 – Iceland (Taste of Iceland)

Taste of Iceland 2019Location: 350 King Street West, Toronto
Website: https://icelandnaturally.com/event/taste-iceland-toronto-2019/

There isn’t a single Icelandic restaurant in the GTA, so if you want a sampling of their cuisine, the annual Taste of Iceland — in which a chef from that European country is flown in to cook a five-course meal for the weekend — is your only option.

It’s not a bad option.  It’s certainly pricey — with tax and tip factored into the $76 per person price tag, I think it probably adds up to about the same as half a dozen typical meals I’ll eat for this blog.  But you get what you pay for, and aside from some surprisingly abysmal service at host restaurant Luma, it was a memorable meal.

Taste of Iceland 2019

My good friend Wikipedia notes that the most common foods in Iceland are lamb, dairy, and fish; all three were represented in this meal, with the courses consisting of cured leg of lamb, charred Arctic char, Atlantic cod, skyr mousse, and doughnuts.

The thinly-sliced cured lamb was really unique, with a mild funky flavour and nice pops of texture from the crispy little chips made from salsify, a parsnip-esque root vegetable.  The crumbles of smoked cheese were also a nice touch.

Taste of Iceland 2019

The two fish dishes were easily the highlight; both were amazingly well prepared and featured some seriously tasty accompaniments.  In particular, the Arctic char was almost ridiculously moist and tender, and featured a rich butter sauce that I wanted to fill a pool with and swim in.  The fermented radishes did a great job of cutting through the indulgent sauce.

Taste of Iceland 2019

As for the dessert, the skyr — an Icelandic yogurt — was incredibly creamy, and was complimented perfectly by the slightly tart wild blueberry puree and the fragrant, licorice-infused meringue crisps.  The doughnuts were a bit too dense, but came with an intensely delicious caramel sauce that was so good it really didn’t matter.

Country 094 – Iraq (Royal Mezgouf)

Royal MezgoufLocation: 843 Kipling Avenue, Etobicoke
Website: https://mezgouf.com/

After having to get a bit creative with my last few restaurant choices, it’s nice to visit a place that’s actually serving the cuisine of the country I’m writing about.  Royal Mezgouf is an Iraqi restaurant.  I’m writing about Iraq.  How about that!

Royal Mezgouf

I didn’t, however, try the mezgouf (an Iraqi dish made with grilled carp) at Royal Mezgouf, which feels like a bizarre thing to do.  But it’s not on their take-out menu — you have to order a whole fish, which they charge by the pound, and it takes 60 to 90 minutes to prepare.

So I ordered the Iraqi kebab plate instead, which comes with a kebab, rice, and a salad for nine bucks.  If nothing else, it’s a great deal.

Royal Mezgouf

It’s also quite tasty.  The kebab is made with a beef/lamb blend, and it’s very nicely seasoned — the seasoning compliments the meaty flavour you get from the lamb and the beef, but doesn’t overwhelm it.  It’s also nice and juicy.  It’s topped with tahini sauce, garlic sauce, and hot sauce.  It’s very good.

Royal Mezgouf

The rice is surprisingly great.  It’s basically just the typical plain rice with vermicelli that you’ll find at a lot of Middle Eastern places, but it’s really well prepared, with a pleasant greasiness that enhances the flavour and texture.

The salad’s a bit bland, but the rice and the meat are both tasty enough that it really doesn’t matter.

Royal Mezgouf

I also tried the falafel, which were above average — they were a bit greasy, but were otherwise crispy, fluffy, and tasty.

Country 093 – San Marino (Speducci Mercatto)

Speducci MercattoLocation: 46 Milford Avenue, North York
Website: https://speducci.com/

San Marino is kinda like Vatican City, in that it’s a tiny little country that’s entirely within Italy’s borders (it is, however, considerably larger than Vatican City).  Along with Vatican City and Lesotho in South Africa, it is one of only three countries in the world that’s entirely surrounded by another country.

So there you go, there’s your obscure bit of geographic trivia for the day.  You’re welcome.

Speducci Mercatto

Obviously, San Marino’s cuisine is basically Italian cuisine; between that and Vatican City, I’ve had an excuse to go to three different Italian restaurants for this blog.

Speducci Mercatto is a snazzy little deli / Italian restaurant in the middle of an industrial area of North York.  If I hadn’t specifically read about it, there’s no way I would have discovered it myself.

Speducci Mercatto

They’re mostly known for the various Italian cured meats that they make in-house; you can buy them to go from the deli counter, or in the restaurant in a sandwich or a pizza.

I went with the prosciutto sandwich, which comes on its own (i.e. just prosciutto in a roll), though you can add various toppings for a small upcharge.  The waitress recommended bocconcini cheese, arugula, and tomato; even with the toppings, it came up to $13.50 for a very hefty sandwich, so it’s a great deal.

Speducci Mercatto

They cram a serious amount of meat into the sandwich.  It might have felt like an overwhelming amount of prosciutto, but it’s so incredibly delicious that this is never an issue.  The meat is super tender, the fat is silky, and the flavour is delightfully complex.  It’s definitely some of the best prosciutto I’ve ever had.

And the waitress was absolutely spot-on with the topping suggestions; the creamy cheese, the peppery arugula, and the fresh tomatoes all complimented the meat perfectly.  The bread was a typical Italian roll and nothing to get too excited about, but the prosciutto was so tasty that it really didn’t matter.