#tbt | The Time I Ate Around the World… in Toronto

By the way, friends, this is a repost of a post that I’d published on BuzzFeed last spring. 🙂 For those of you who haven’t seen it (or, perhaps, wish to revisit?!) – I hope you enjoy!


Hi, everyone! My name is Cindy, and I am a 19 year-old food fanatic living in Waterloo, Ontario.

I study Kinesiology at the University of Waterloo, and recently finished my first work term. Because I am in the co-op program, I alternate between four months of school and four months of work. From January to April, I worked full-time as a clinical assistant at the Toronto Health Centre in downtown Toronto. It was my first time living alone in a big city, and I was super excited to say goodbye to exams and studying - and start exploring the incredible food scene!PS: my food blog, The Flying Foodie, celebrated its third birthday a few months ago. What started out as a gallery for my oatmeal photos has blossomed into a site for restaurant reviews, stressed-student rants, yoga progress photos, and travel notes. Ask me about the time I lived in Kathmandu (Nepal), St-Eustache (Quebec, Canada), or Paris (France)!

I study Kinesiology at the University of Waterloo, and recently finished my first work term. Because I am in the co-op program, I alternate between four months of school and four months of work. From January to April, I worked full-time as a clinical assistant at the Toronto Health Centre in downtown Toronto. It was my first time living alone in a big city, and I was super excited to say goodbye to exams and studying – and start exploring the incredible food scene!

PS: my food blog, The Flying Foodie, celebrated its third birthday a few months ago. What started out as a gallery for my oatmeal photos has blossomed into a site for restaurant reviews, stressed-student rants, yoga progress photos, and travel notes. Ask me about the time I lived in Kathmandu (Nepal), St-Eustache (Quebec, Canada), or Paris (France)!

 

Good food for a good mood.

Most people would agree with me - there are few things more beautiful than a steaming, crispy stack of onion rings or a gooey molten chocolate cake. Food, however, can do more than cause us to salivate, or perhaps whip out a camera. As I discovered after three months of exploring Toronto’s incredibly diverse food scene, I realized that food is able to connect anyone with any culture.The challenge: visit the most authentic restaurants for cuisines that I have never tried before. As a Chinese girl from Coquitlam, British Columbia, I grew up with Chinese dishes and Korean food. For that reason, I tried to avoid those cuisines during my four-month stay in Toronto.

Most people would agree with me – there are few things more beautiful than a steaming, crispy stack of onion rings or a gooey molten chocolate cake. Food, however, can do more than cause us to salivate, or perhaps whip out a camera. As I discovered after three months of exploring Toronto’s incredibly diverse food scene, I realized that food is able to connect anyone with any culture.

The challenge: visit the most authentic restaurants for cuisines that I have never tried before. As a Chinese girl from Coquitlam, British Columbia, I grew up with Chinese dishes and Korean food. For that reason, I tried to avoid those cuisines during my four-month stay in Toronto.

5 simple rules:

1. Cafe or restaurant must be within 35 minutes (by streetcar) from the downtown core.2. Go to every cafe/restaurant by myself to fully enjoy the meal experience.3. No sponsorships, no paid reviews, etc.4. No judging the food by the customer service, the design of the restaurant, or any other external factors. Food is food.5. Food must be as authentic as possible!

1. Cafe or restaurant must be within 35 minutes (by streetcar) from the downtown core.

2. Go to every cafe/restaurant by myself to fully enjoy the meal experience.

3. No sponsorships, no paid reviews, etc.

4. No judging the food by the customer service, the design of the restaurant, or any other external factors. Food is food.

5. Food must be as authentic as possible!

Canada: Canoe Restaurant

One time, I asked an upper-year student and Torontonian what the best thing about Toronto was - in the winter. Without hesitation, her answer was "Winterlicious". Winterlicious is one of Toronto's culinary celebrations, where over 200 restaurants in the city offer reduced-price meals.Anyways, Canoe was one of the first restaurants that came to mind when I heard "reduced-price". Located on the 54th floor of the TD Centre tower, Canoe is renowned for its stunning views, innovative meals, and stylish restaurant design. Being the master procrastinator I am, I emailed Canoe the day before Winterlicious began, and was happily surprised when I was told that I could make a reservation for lunch the next day.My meal began with two types of fresh, seedy bread and a tasty mustard-like spread. For the appetizers, I was served a plate of foie gras with crispy shards and blackberry jam, and smoked cod rillettes with cornichons. The sweet, rich molasses crumbles on top added excellent contrast. For the main course, I had paccheri pasta with chili oil, fried capers (the best part!), fresh cheese, and braised greens. Of course, dessert was the most anticipated part, and it certainly did not disappoint. Creamy caramel mousse, vanilla creme, stewed Muskoka cranberries, and pumpkin seed brittle were the ideal contrast to the sugary date pudding.And yes, I ate all of this by myself. And finished it.

One time, I asked an upper-year student and Torontonian what the best thing about Toronto was – in the winter. Without hesitation, her answer was “Winterlicious”. Winterlicious is one of Toronto’s culinary celebrations, where over 200 restaurants in the city offer reduced-price meals.

Anyways, Canoe was one of the first restaurants that came to mind when I heard “reduced-price”. Located on the 54th floor of the TD Centre tower, Canoe is renowned for its stunning views, innovative meals, and stylish restaurant design. Being the master procrastinator I am, I emailed Canoe the day before Winterlicious began, and was happily surprised when I was told that I could make a reservation for lunch the next day.

My meal began with two types of fresh, seedy bread and a tasty mustard-like spread. For the appetizers, I was served a plate of foie gras with crispy shards and blackberry jam, and smoked cod rillettes with cornichons. The sweet, rich molasses crumbles on top added excellent contrast. For the main course, I had paccheri pasta with chili oil, fried capers (the best part!), fresh cheese, and braised greens. Of course, dessert was the most anticipated part, and it certainly did not disappoint. Creamy caramel mousse, vanilla creme, stewed Muskoka cranberries, and pumpkin seed brittle were the ideal contrast to the sugary date pudding.

And yes, I ate all of this by myself. And finished it.

Indigenous Canada: PowWow Café

A Pow wow (literally meaning "spiritual leader" in Narragansett), I learned, is a social gathering for numerous different American-Indian communities - a place to sing, dance, meet new friends, and honour their culture. Pow Wow Cafe is one of Toronto's few Indigenous restaurants. I thoroughly enjoyed this creative variation on eggs benedict, with two poached eggs, goat cheese, and dill topping a large slab of bannock, or frybread (fresh from the fryer). The richness of the cheese, egg yolk, and fried dough contrasted well with the fresh, tangy salad made with ingredients from the market.

A Pow wow (literally meaning “spiritual leader” in Narragansett), I learned, is a social gathering for numerous different American-Indian communities – a place to sing, dance, meet new friends, and honour their culture. Pow Wow Cafe is one of Toronto’s few Indigenous restaurants. I thoroughly enjoyed this creative variation on eggs benedict, with two poached eggs, goat cheese, and dill topping a large slab of bannock, or frybread (fresh from the fryer). The richness of the cheese, egg yolk, and fried dough contrasted well with the fresh, tangy salad made with ingredients from the market.

Latin America: Bloom

Since Winterlicious is a two-week event, I had time to visit a couple restaurants. Bloom, in Bloor West, was the second of the three. They serve Nuevo Latino cuisine, which is essentially a beautiful blend of Latin American and Spanish cuisine. I savoured their soup of the day, which was loaded with wild foraged mushrooms, roasted poblano peppers, and tiny chunks of potato. The main course was two charred corn fritters, chili jam, a mushroom and onion escabeche, and fresh greens topped with chopped tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. The corn fritters were unbelievable - hot, crispy, and so flavourful with the sweet chili jam. I wish there were more fritters. While I waited for my dessert of guava bread pudding with vanilla crème anglaise, I enjoyed a cup of tea with milk and cane sugar. The dessert was a lovely way to end the meal. Though I didn't detect any guava flavour, the golden-brown dessert was the perfect size, served warm, and just sweet enough.

Since Winterlicious is a two-week event, I had time to visit a couple restaurants. Bloom, in Bloor West, was the second of the three. They serve Nuevo Latino cuisine, which is essentially a beautiful blend of Latin American and Spanish cuisine. I savoured their soup of the day, which was loaded with wild foraged mushrooms, roasted poblano peppers, and tiny chunks of potato. The main course was two charred corn fritters, chili jam, a mushroom and onion escabeche, and fresh greens topped with chopped tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. The corn fritters were unbelievable – hot, crispy, and so flavourful with the sweet chili jam. I wish there were more fritters. While I waited for my dessert of guava bread pudding with vanilla crème anglaise, I enjoyed a cup of tea with milk and cane sugar. The dessert was a lovely way to end the meal. Though I didn’t detect any guava flavour, the golden-brown dessert was the perfect size, served warm, and just sweet enough.

Lebanon: Tabülè

Tabülè Middle Eastern Cuisine has four locations around Toronto, and each one is known for cozy Lebanese dishes, plenty of veggie options, and cultural flair.I’ve always been a huge eggplant lover, but this Eggplant Vegetarian Plate easily takes the cake for the best eggplant dish I’ve ever had. The eggplant was reminiscent of tempura, lightly crispy on the outside yet steaming hot and creamy inside. The tahini dressing was lemony, rich, and full of sesame flavour, while the müjaddara, or lentil-rice base, was hearty and flavourful.Dessert was just as impressive. The waitress recommended the custard, and I was eager to give it a try! On the side, I had two scoops of gelato (smaller than I’d expected): one vanilla halva, the other pistachio. The Künafa Ashta, the phyllo pastry layered with custard and topped with rosewater syrup, blew my mind. Warm, lightly-sweetened custard with tiny curds and a rich milky flavour, topped with crisp “threads” (like vermicelli noodles) and a honey-like syrup and crushed pistachios. This dessert was certainly one to remember. A must-try if you ever visit Tabülè!

Tabülè Middle Eastern Cuisine has four locations around Toronto, and each one is known for cozy Lebanese dishes, plenty of veggie options, and cultural flair.

I’ve always been a huge eggplant lover, but this Eggplant Vegetarian Plate easily takes the cake for the best eggplant dish I’ve ever had. The eggplant was reminiscent of tempura, lightly crispy on the outside yet steaming hot and creamy inside. The tahini dressing was lemony, rich, and full of sesame flavour, while the müjaddara, or lentil-rice base, was hearty and flavourful.

Dessert was just as impressive. The waitress recommended the custard, and I was eager to give it a try! On the side, I had two scoops of gelato (smaller than I’d expected): one vanilla halva, the other pistachio. The Künafa Ashta, the phyllo pastry layered with custard and topped with rosewater syrup, blew my mind. Warm, lightly-sweetened custard with tiny curds and a rich milky flavour, topped with crisp “threads” (like vermicelli noodles) and a honey-like syrup and crushed pistachios. This dessert was certainly one to remember. A must-try if you ever visit Tabülè!

Thailand: PAI

PAI, named after a village in Northern Thailand, was recommended to me by a coworker, and I was skeptical because I am pretty confident in my Thai-cooking skills. Upon arriving at the basement-esque restaurant, however, I realized I was in for a treat. The restaurant owners also manage Sukhothai and Sabai Sabai in Toronto.I ordered the green curry with chicken (other options include shrimp, beef, fish, pork, tofu, or vegetables), a hearty dish that contained bamboo shoots, kaffir lime leaves, basil, green pepper, and luscious coconut milk, and served with steamed jasmine rice. Although it was lunchtime, I was able to order from the dinner menu (Gaeng Kiaw Wan) and have the green curry served inside a coconut. My favourite part of the meal was scraping the coconut meat out of the coconut. One thing I do wish, however, was that the waiters and waitresses made daily dessert specials clear to everyone.Note: I went to PAI on a weekday afternoon, and it was packed; I didn’t get a table and sat at the bar. I can only imagine how busy it would be on weekends, or during the dinner rush. Make reservations accordingly, or come early!

PAI, named after a village in Northern Thailand, was recommended to me by a coworker, and I was skeptical because I am pretty confident in my Thai-cooking skills. Upon arriving at the basement-esque restaurant, however, I realized I was in for a treat. The restaurant owners also manage Sukhothai and Sabai Sabai in Toronto.

I ordered the green curry with chicken (other options include shrimp, beef, fish, pork, tofu, or vegetables), a hearty dish that contained bamboo shoots, kaffir lime leaves, basil, green pepper, and luscious coconut milk, and served with steamed jasmine rice. Although it was lunchtime, I was able to order from the dinner menu (Gaeng Kiaw Wan) and have the green curry served inside a coconut. My favourite part of the meal was scraping the coconut meat out of the coconut. One thing I do wish, however, was that the waiters and waitresses made daily dessert specials clear to everyone.

Note: I went to PAI on a weekday afternoon, and it was packed; I didn’t get a table and sat at the bar. I can only imagine how busy it would be on weekends, or during the dinner rush. Make reservations accordingly, or come early!

France: Too Many!

From watching French children's TV shows to taking French courses in university, there's something about the French language, culture, and food that attracts me unlike anything else. In fact, if I had to pick a favourite food (my least favourite question, EVER) - it would be chocolate almond croissants.During my time in Toronto, I was lucky to visit Chabrol after a trip to the Royal Ontario Museum. Chabrol, located in a lavish part of town known as Yorkville, was a teeny-tiny cafe that serves beautifully simplistic French cuisine. I enjoyed a gratin of escarole, celeriac, and savoury. A gratin is a dish topped with breadcrumbs and melted cheese, to create a lightly-browned crust. After my sizzling hot gratin had been devoured, I ordered the apple tart with calvados sabayon. The apple tarts at Chabrol are made fresh to order, using homemade puff pastry, and require 30 minutes of advance notice. I enjoyed every bite of the classic meal.Aside from Chabrol, I also enjoyed visiting Delysées, Nadège, The Tempered Room, Patisserie LaCigogne, Maman, and Thobors. Some of my favourite treats include chocolate praline croissants, coconut eclairs, pistachio eclairs, pistachio croissants, and a tiramisu white chocolate cake.Public Service Announcement: pistachio croissants from Delysées are out of this world. Stuffed to the brim with creamy, nutty pistachio filling, and perfectly “shatter-y” butter topping - it’s truly the best pistachio croissant I’ve had.

From watching French children’s TV shows to taking French courses in university, there’s something about the French language, culture, and food that attracts me unlike anything else. In fact, if I had to pick a favourite food (my least favourite question, EVER) – it would be chocolate almond croissants.

During my time in Toronto, I was lucky to visit Chabrol after a trip to the Royal Ontario Museum. Chabrol, located in a lavish part of town known as Yorkville, was a teeny-tiny cafe that serves beautifully simplistic French cuisine. I enjoyed a gratin of escarole, celeriac, and savoury. A gratin is a dish topped with breadcrumbs and melted cheese, to create a lightly-browned crust. After my sizzling hot gratin had been devoured, I ordered the apple tart with calvados sabayon. The apple tarts at Chabrol are made fresh to order, using homemade puff pastry, and require 30 minutes of advance notice. I enjoyed every bite of the classic meal.

Aside from Chabrol, I also enjoyed visiting DelyséesNadègeThe Tempered RoomPatisserie LaCigogneMaman, and Thobors. Some of my favourite treats include chocolate praline croissants, coconut eclairs, pistachio eclairs, pistachio croissants, and a tiramisu white chocolate cake.

Public Service Announcement: pistachio croissants from Delysées are out of this world. Stuffed to the brim with creamy, nutty pistachio filling, and perfectly “shatter-y” butter topping – it’s truly the best pistachio croissant I’ve had.

El Salvador: Latin American Emporium

Waterloo, where are your cheap authentic ethnic eats at? At the Latin American Emporium in the Kensington Market, I enjoyed some incredible Salvadorean food - a pupusa, horchata, and a fried plantain with creamy cheese. The tiny eatery is located in the back of a grocery store, and it is the most unassuming place that likely flies under the radar.What is a pupusa, you ask? It is a thick, handmade, corn tortilla stuffed with a savoury filling, and often served with tangy, slightly-spicy coleslaw. I love how the corn tortilla was chewy, yet melt-in-your-mouth. Horchata is a traditional drink made of rice milk, blended with sesame, cinnamon, vanilla, and cocoa powder (all my favourite ingredients in one incredible drink). Despite the plantain being a bit oily for my taste, you can’t really go wrong with an entire meal that costs less than $5.

Waterloo, where are your cheap authentic ethnic eats at? At the Latin American Emporium in the Kensington Market, I enjoyed some incredible Salvadorean food – a pupusahorchata, and a fried plantain with creamy cheese. The tiny eatery is located in the back of a grocery store, and it is the most unassuming place that likely flies under the radar.

What is a pupusa, you ask? It is a thick, handmade, corn tortilla stuffed with a savoury filling, and often served with tangy, slightly-spicy coleslaw. I love how the corn tortilla was chewy, yet melt-in-your-mouth. Horchata is a traditional drink made of rice milk, blended with sesame, cinnamon, vanilla, and cocoa powder (all my favourite ingredients in one incredible drink). Despite the plantain being a bit oily for my taste, you can’t really go wrong with an entire meal that costs less than $5.

Cuba: La Cubana

A Cuban brunch spot in Roncesvalles (with another location at Ossington), called La Cubana, serves up some mean baked eggs. I’m always hesitant of baked eggs, because, well, they’re baked eggs. It takes a 10-second google search, some good cheese, and a couple eggs to make a decent baked egg dish - fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised by the creative twist added to this brunch classic at La Cubana. The baked eggs were mixed with sofrito (a sauce with garlic, onions, paprika, and tomatoes in olive oil), yuca (also known as cassava, a root similar to sweet potatoes), queso fresco (creamy, un-aged white cheese), and topped with avocado. On the side, there were rice and beans, tostones (slices of plantain that have been fried two times, making them chewy and firm), and coleslaw. The mildly-spicy rice and beans were my favourite part, because they paired well with every other flavour, from the creamy queso to the yuca and crispy cabbage. Next time - donuts for dessert!

A Cuban brunch spot in Roncesvalles (with another location at Ossington), called La Cubana, serves up some mean baked eggs. I’m always hesitant of baked eggs, because, well, they’re baked eggs. It takes a 10-second google search, some good cheese, and a couple eggs to make a decent baked egg dish – fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised by the creative twist added to this brunch classic at La Cubana. The baked eggs were mixed with sofrito (a sauce with garlic, onions, paprika, and tomatoes in olive oil), yuca (also known as cassava, a root similar to sweet potatoes), queso fresco (creamy, un-aged white cheese), and topped with avocado. On the side, there were rice and beans, tostones (slices of plantain that have been fried two times, making them chewy and firm), and coleslaw. The mildly-spicy rice and beans were my favourite part, because they paired well with every other flavour, from the creamy queso to the yuca and crispy cabbage. Next time – donuts for dessert!

Finland: Karelia Kitchen

If I could skip class and go for brunch right now, Karelia Kitchen would be the place. I browsed their menu while sipping a Nordic fog, which was a fun twist on the London fog tea latte. I wanted the "Oka Grilled Cheese" made with milk bread, caramelized pear slices and lingonberry jam, but ultimately settled on the "Potato Pancake", which came with hot smoked trout, beet and horseradish cured gravlax, and a single poached duck egg. Friends, this was easily best gravlax I have ever had. Period. Sweet, tangy, and beautifully tender, no gravlax shall ever compare.For dessert, I was happy to order their famous carrot cake. You need to take a look at their Fika menu, which is full of cakes, cookies, tarts, and pies. It was tricky to choose the carrot cake, especially with things like "Buttermilk Sponge Cake with Almond Praline", "Saffron and Pistachio Coffee Cake", and "Flourless Chocolate and Almond Fudge Cake" on the menu, but the couple next to me wouldn't stop gushing about the carrot cake, so I had to try it for myself. They were right. Moist (sorry), with tangy and fresh cream cheese icing and a side of various fruit, I demolished the entire slice.

If I could skip class and go for brunch right now, Karelia Kitchen would be the place. I browsed their menu while sipping a Nordic fog, which was a fun twist on the London fog tea latte. I wanted the “Oka Grilled Cheese” made with milk bread, caramelized pear slices and lingonberry jam, but ultimately settled on the “Potato Pancake”, which came with hot smoked trout, beet and horseradish cured gravlax, and a single poached duck egg. Friends, this was easily best gravlax I have ever had. Period. Sweet, tangy, and beautifully tender, no gravlax shall ever compare.

For dessert, I was happy to order their famous carrot cake. You need to take a look at their Fika menu, which is full of cakes, cookies, tarts, and pies. It was tricky to choose the carrot cake, especially with things like “Buttermilk Sponge Cake with Almond Praline”, “Saffron and Pistachio Coffee Cake”, and “Flourless Chocolate and Almond Fudge Cake” on the menu, but the couple next to me wouldn’t stop gushing about the carrot cake, so I had to try it for myself. They were right. Moist (sorry), with tangy and fresh cream cheese icing and a side of various fruit, I demolished the entire slice.

India: Banjara, Mother India, Gandhi’s

Ah, Indian food. When I lived in Kathmandu, Nepal, palak paneer was my go-to meal. Savoury, rich spinach stew, studded with chewy chunks of paneer cheese, there's nothing to hate about it. In fact, saag paneer was one of my #1 favourite things about Toronto. I visited three Indian places:* Banjara (plate, with naan bread on the right): I loved their vegetarian platter, which came with curry-spiced rice, vegetable pakora, lentil dahl, palak paneer, rice pudding, and aloo gobi (cauliflower and potato curry). This came with generously-buttered naan, and the variety in this meal was a lovely surprise. I loved all of the flavours, particularly the palak paneer, which had extra onion. Would highly recommend Banjara to anyone looking for a different dinner experience.* Mother India (little photo in the middle, on the bottom): This roti from Mother India on Queen West was stuffed with pureed spinach, tender potatoes, and some chunks of paneer cheese. I had a big craving for Indian food after a patient told me about Mother India, and it needed to be satisfied! This roti was less spicy than the one from Gandhi's, and the dough more malleable.* Gandhi's (big photo on the left side): These rotis involved bigger chunks of paneer, less "filler" of potato, and brighter green spinach. The only downside was that the stew was a little salty for my taste. It was also a giant serving, which I demolished... and felt sick after.

Ah, Indian food. When I lived in Kathmandu, Nepal, palak paneer was my go-to meal. Savoury, rich spinach stew, studded with chewy chunks of paneer cheese, there’s nothing to hate about it. In fact, saag paneer was one of my #1 favourite things about Toronto. I visited three Indian places:

Banjara (plate, with naan bread on the right): I loved their vegetarian platter, which came with curry-spiced rice, vegetable pakora, lentil dahl, palak paneer, rice pudding, and aloo gobi(cauliflower and potato curry). This came with generously-buttered naan, and the variety in this meal was a lovely surprise. I loved all of the flavours, particularly the palak paneer, which had extra onion. Would highly recommend Banjara to anyone looking for a different dinner experience.

Mother India (little photo in the middle, on the bottom): This roti from Mother India on Queen West was stuffed with pureed spinach, tender potatoes, and some chunks of paneer cheese. I had a big craving for Indian food after a patient told me about Mother India, and it needed to be satisfied! This roti was less spicy than the one from Gandhi’s, and the dough more malleable.

Gandhi’s (big photo on the left side): These rotis involved bigger chunks of paneer, less “filler” of potato, and brighter green spinach. The only downside was that the stew was a little salty for my taste. It was also a giant serving, which I demolished… and felt sick after.

Venezuela: El Arepazo

El Arepazo is a surprisingly large Kensington Market eatery, dedicated to the arepa. Arepas, a staple of Venezuelan and Columbian cuisine, are round, gluten-free cornbread sandwiches. Fried or baked, they are sliced crosswise like a pita bread and stuffed generously with all kinds of vegetables, salsas, beans, hot sauce, cheese, and meats. My arepa, called "Veggie The Works", was stuffed to the max with avocado, tomato, crispy fried plantains, melted queso fresco, and black beans. The fried plantains were my favourite part, and I noticed that the queso tasted like halloumi. I had to eat this sandwich with a fork because it wouldn't stay up, and as I neared the end of the sandwich, there was at least 1/4 of an avocado smashed in there. It was a fantastic sandwich made with truly fresh ingredients, but next time I will add a sprinkle of salt and some hot sauce.

El Arepazo is a surprisingly large Kensington Market eatery, dedicated to the arepa. Arepas, a staple of Venezuelan and Columbian cuisine, are round, gluten-free cornbread sandwiches. Fried or baked, they are sliced crosswise like a pita bread and stuffed generously with all kinds of vegetables, salsas, beans, hot sauce, cheese, and meats. My arepa, called “Veggie The Works”, was stuffed to the max with avocado, tomato, crispy fried plantains, melted queso fresco, and black beans. The fried plantains were my favourite part, and I noticed that the queso tasted like halloumi. I had to eat this sandwich with a fork because it wouldn’t stay up, and as I neared the end of the sandwich, there was at least 1/4 of an avocado smashed in there. It was a fantastic sandwich made with truly fresh ingredients, but next time I will add a sprinkle of salt and some hot sauce.

Ethiopia: Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant

I am the least coordinated person in the world. Eating this, at Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant, was a struggle because my fingers have a hard time tearing, scooping, and wrapping. Throughout the meal, I wished for a fork and knife. Despite my lack of coordination, I loved the collard greens, split peas, lentils, chickpeas, and vegetables. The "base" of the meal is an injera, which is a flatbread from East Africa. It is made with sourdough and has a distinct sour flavour, paired with a foamy, sponge-like texture. It is a national dish in Ethiopia and Eritrea, and is commonly made of teff flour or wheat flour. It's hard to tell in these photos, but this meal was massive - and came with another injera (no toppings) on a different plate. Also, if you go with a friend, there is an option to get "enough for two", which involves an even bigger injera and more toppings.

I am the least coordinated person in the world. Eating this, at Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant, was a struggle because my fingers have a hard time tearing, scooping, and wrapping. Throughout the meal, I wished for a fork and knife. Despite my lack of coordination, I loved the collard greens, split peas, lentils, chickpeas, and vegetables. The “base” of the meal is an injera, which is a flatbread from East Africa. It is made with sourdough and has a distinct sour flavour, paired with a foamy, sponge-like texture. It is a national dish in Ethiopia and Eritrea, and is commonly made of teff flour or wheat flour. It’s hard to tell in these photos, but this meal was massive – and came with another injera (no toppings) on a different plate.

Also, if you go with a friend, there is an option to get “enough for two”, which involves an even bigger injera and more toppings.

Egypt: Maha’s

I know I said that I wouldn't judge the food based on anything other than the food itself, but you should probably know that I waited for an hour and a half for this meal. It was a sunny Sunday afternoon, and fellow brunchers were waiting outside. The clock moved super slowly, and I watched as diners took their sweet time and people behind me in the line-up walked away to get Pizza Pizza.You can probably guess that by the time I was seated, my expectations were sky-high. Maha's, however, did not disappoint. I didn't hesitate to order some Egyptian black tea and the Cairo Classic, a traditional breakfast dish with fava beans with tomatoes and onions, sliced hard-boiled egg, a falafel, a scoop of homemade feta cheese with tomato, balady bread (Egyptian flatbread, with two layers that can be torn), and salata baladi (Egyptian salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers). The foole, mashed fava bean stew, was spiced beautifully, and paired so well with the charred balady bread, crispy falafel, and fresh vegetable relish. Their menu is quite extensive, with all kinds of delicious dishes like date grilled cheese and vegan lentil soup.My only complaint, aside from the long wait? More falafel, please! Definitely one of the best I've ever had.

I know I said that I wouldn’t judge the food based on anything other than the food itself, but you should probably know that I waited for an hour and a half for this meal. It was a sunny Sunday afternoon, and fellow brunchers were waiting outside. The clock moved super slowly, and I watched as diners took their sweet time and people behind me in the line-up walked away to get Pizza Pizza.

You can probably guess that by the time I was seated, my expectations were sky-high. Maha’s, however, did not disappoint. I didn’t hesitate to order some Egyptian black tea and the Cairo Classic, a traditional breakfast dish with fava beans with tomatoes and onions, sliced hard-boiled egg, a falafel, a scoop of homemade feta cheese with tomato, baladybread (Egyptian flatbread, with two layers that can be torn), and salata baladi (Egyptian salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers). The foole, mashed fava bean stew, was spiced beautifully, and paired so well with the charred balady bread, crispy falafel, and fresh vegetable relish. Their menu is quite extensive, with all kinds of delicious dishes like date grilled cheese and vegan lentil soup.

My only complaint, aside from the long wait? More falafel, please! Definitely one of the best I’ve ever had.

Russia: The Tempered Room

кулебя́ка, or coulibiac, is a Russian puff pastry filled with salmon, rice/buckwheat, hard-boiled eggs, mushrooms, onions, and dill. At The Tempered Room, the coulibiac was given a special twist and filled with flaked trout instead of salmon, and quinoa instead of rice. There was also kale inside - not sure how authentic that is.Because I went a little crazy (it is a patisserie, after all), I bought lots of croissants and a tea latte, so I just ate half of the coulibiac. I thoroughly enjoyed each bite of this unique pastry, and thought all the flavours worked well together. The trout was cooked just-right, and the pastry crisp and buttery.

кулебя́ка, or coulibiac, is a Russian puff pastry filled with salmon, rice/buckwheat, hard-boiled eggs, mushrooms, onions, and dill. At The Tempered Room, the coulibiac was given a special twist and filled with flaked trout instead of salmon, and quinoa instead of rice. There was also kale inside – not sure how authentic that is.

Because I went a little crazy (it is a patisserie, after all), I bought lots of croissants and a tea latte, so I just ate half of the coulibiac. I thoroughly enjoyed each bite of this unique pastry, and thought all the flavours worked well together. The trout was cooked just-right, and the pastry crisp and buttery.

Philippines: Platito Filipino Soul Food

If there's one thing about Toronto that beats Vancouver and Waterloo by a mile, it's the existence of BlogTO. There are too many good things I could say about BlogTO, but perhaps my favourite thing is that BlogTO publishes annual lists: the 'Best Of' lists, which involve anything from shawarma shops to stationery stores. But that's not the point. BlogTO also creates little trailer-like videos that showcase new restaurants, and Platito Filipino Soul Food caught my eye right away.This is the ginataang hipon, which featured crispy fried shrimp (in the shell, which I wasn’t a big fan of), green beans, fried squash, coconut milk, and squash puree. After the entree, I couldn't control my excitement about the ube waffle. Ube, which I learned is pronounced 'oo-bay', is mashed purple yam. The waffle was topped with more ube ice cream and macapuno, which is a type of coconut with chewy, jelly-like strands. Online reviews were adamant about how the ube waffle was overrated and unexceptional, but I beg to differ. This dessert, as confirmed by my lovely food-loving coworker, was perfectly-cooked. It struck the balance between sweet and salty, creamy and chewy, hot and cold. It's meant for two people, but trust me, you won't want to share. I would sit in a car for 1.5 hours to drive back to Toronto for one of these.

If there’s one thing about Toronto that beats Vancouver and Waterloo by a mile, it’s the existence of BlogTO. There are too many good things I could say about BlogTO, but perhaps my favourite thing is that BlogTO publishes annual lists: the ‘Best Of’ lists, which involve anything from shawarma shops to stationery stores. But that’s not the point. BlogTO also creates little trailer-like videos that showcase new restaurants, and Platito Filipino Soul Foodcaught my eye right away.

This is the ginataang hipon, which featured crispy fried shrimp (in the shell, which I wasn’t a big fan of), green beans, fried squash, coconut milk, and squash puree. After the entree, I couldn’t control my excitement about the ube waffle. Ube, which I learned is pronounced ‘oo-bay’, is mashed purple yam. The waffle was topped with more ube ice cream and macapuno, which is a type of coconut with chewy, jelly-like strands. Online reviews were adamant about how the ube waffle was overrated and unexceptional, but I beg to differ. This dessert, as confirmed by my lovely food-loving coworker, was perfectly-cooked. It struck the balance between sweet and salty, creamy and chewy, hot and cold. It’s meant for two people, but trust me, you won’t want to share. I would sit in a car for 1.5 hours to drive back to Toronto for one of these.

Hungary: Eva’s Original Chimneys

Speaking of BlogTO, I also found out about Eva's Original Chimneys through their Facebook page. Located on Bloor and surprisingly cashless, Eva's Original Chimneys is super popular with locals and tourists. I visited mid-January, and the line was already extending out the door and onto Bloor. Known by most Torontonians as "donut cones", these treats are actually Kürtőskalács (Hungarian), or "Chimneys" in English. The dough itself is crispy on the outside, yet fluffy and tender inside. It was fun to twist the dough outwards, in a spiral, as I devoured the ice cream. This was a large serving and reminded me of a carnival, probably because of the generous sprinkle of cinnamon sugar with a touch of salt. I was sad to find people eating just half, and then throwing it out - don't do that! There's a big chocolate truffle ball at the bottom of the cone, serving as a plug so the soft serve doesn't drip through the apex of the cone.

Speaking of BlogTO, I also found out about Eva’s Original Chimneys through their Facebook page. Located on Bloor and surprisingly cashless, Eva’s Original Chimneys is super popular with locals and tourists. I visited mid-January, and the line was already extending out the door and onto Bloor. Known by most Torontonians as “donut cones”, these treats are actually Kürtőskalács (Hungarian), or “Chimneys” in English. The dough itself is crispy on the outside, yet fluffy and tender inside. It was fun to twist the dough outwards, in a spiral, as I devoured the ice cream. This was a large serving and reminded me of a carnival, probably because of the generous sprinkle of cinnamon sugar with a touch of salt. I was sad to find people eating just half, and then throwing it out – don’t do that! There’s a big chocolate truffle ball at the bottom of the cone, serving as a plug so the soft serve doesn’t drip through the apex of the cone.

Iran: Pomegranate Restaurant

This was the Fesenjaan from Pomegranate Restaurant on College Street. It was a smooth, rich stew of ground walnuts and pomegranate syrup, studded with boneless chicken breast and topped with pomegranate seeds and slivered almonds. With the stew, there was a "relish" made of chopped cucumbers and onion, basmati rice with a scoop of saffron rice, and lightly-dressed greens. I have never tasted a flavour quite like the stew, and loved how it blended sour and nutty flavours. This tasted great with the rice, but I wish there was more of the saffron rice.For dessert, I tried the ice cream topped with rosewater and rose petals, pomegranate, and more pistachios. The ice cream was a bit hard and too icy for my taste (I like my ice cream melty!), and the rose flavour was disappointing.

This was the Fesenjaan from Pomegranate Restaurant on College Street. It was a smooth, rich stew of ground walnuts and pomegranate syrup, studded with boneless chicken breast and topped with pomegranate seeds and slivered almonds. With the stew, there was a “relish” made of chopped cucumbers and onion, basmati rice with a scoop of saffron rice, and lightly-dressed greens. I have never tasted a flavour quite like the stew, and loved how it blended sour and nutty flavours. This tasted great with the rice, but I wish there was more of the saffron rice.

For dessert, I tried the ice cream topped with rosewater and rose petals, pomegranate, and more pistachios. The ice cream was a bit hard and too icy for my taste (I like my ice cream melty!), and the rose flavour was disappointing.

Portugal: Carousel Bakery

The St. Lawrence market is a must-see for anyone touring Toronto, and these custard tarts and probably the second most famous food to enjoy there (followed by the peameal sandwich). I thoroughly enjoyed this custard tart from Carousel Bakery, which was flaky and charred outside, yet tender and creamy inside. I would have eaten ten of these, and would highly recommend it.

The St. Lawrence market is a must-see for anyone touring Toronto, and these custard tarts and probably the second most famous food to enjoy there (followed by the peameal sandwich). I thoroughly enjoyed this custard tart from Carousel Bakery, which was flaky and charred outside, yet tender and creamy inside. I would have eaten ten of these, and would highly recommend it.

Japan: Tsujiri, Millie, Miku

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I never carry my wallet with me, and the reason is simple: I can't be trusted with money when there are ice cream stores near by. Tsujiri is a famous matcha ice cream store on University/Dundas, directly across the street from where I worked. The menu is loaded with a variety of drinks, sundaes, and small baked goods. I love their sundaes and have tried them all, and my favourites include the ones with cornflakes, red bean, shiratama (rice balls), and matcha chiffon cake. The sakura blossom cookie in the first picture was oddly salty, but paired well with the subtle sweetness of the matcha and vanilla. I always ordered the 50/50 vanilla swirled with matcha, but they recently swapped out the vanilla for hojicha, which is a type of Japanese green tea roasted over charcoal.Millie desserts are also delightfully Japanese with a twist. I adore their crepe cakes, which they are known for, but the black sesame gelato and coconut gelato will hit the spot for any gelato purist who loves unique flavours.Finally, Miku! Expanding from the Vancouver location and known for their upscale, contemporary sushi dishes, Miku was another one of my top spots for a Winterlicious meal. I enjoyed octopus tartare, flame-seared aburi sushi, and the tastiest ebi fritter. Overall, a fantastic meal with a classy twist.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I never carry my wallet with me, and the reason is simple: I can’t be trusted with money when there are ice cream stores near by. Tsujiri is a famous matcha ice cream store on University/Dundas, directly across the street from where I worked. The menu is loaded with a variety of drinks, sundaes, and small baked goods. I love their sundaes and have tried them all, and my favourites include the ones with cornflakes, red bean, shiratama (rice balls), and matcha chiffon cake. The sakura blossom cookie in the first picture was oddly salty, but paired well with the subtle sweetness of the matcha and vanilla. I always ordered the 50/50 vanilla swirled with matcha, but they recently swapped out the vanilla for hojicha, which is a type of Japanese green tea roasted over charcoal.

Millie desserts are also delightfully Japanese with a twist. I adore their crepe cakes, which they are known for, but the black sesame gelato and coconut gelato will hit the spot for any gelato purist who loves unique flavours.

Finally, Miku! Expanding from the Vancouver location and known for their upscale, contemporary sushi dishes, Miku was another one of my top spots for a Winterlicious meal. I enjoyed octopus tartare, flame-seared aburi sushi, and the tastiest ebi fritter. Overall, a fantastic meal with a classy twist.

Belgium: Petit Déjeuner

Ah, my first restaurant experience in Toronto! Described by Google to be a "brick-lined bistro serving Belgian-Canadian comfort food made with seasonal ingredients all day", Le Petit Déjeuner has plenty of weekly specials and an extensive, customizable menu. I was debating between two dishes, this one and the "Apple and Brie Panino" with slices of matsu apple, dijon and melted brie, but I think I made the right choice. These authentic Belgian waffles were airy and light, with subtle sweetness that paired well with the runny poached egg, sour coleslaw, and sharp, savoury salmon.

Ah, my first restaurant experience in Toronto! Described by Google to be a “brick-lined bistro serving Belgian-Canadian comfort food made with seasonal ingredients all day”, Le Petit Déjeuner has plenty of weekly specials and an extensive, customizable menu. I was debating between two dishes, this one and the “Apple and Brie Panino” with slices of matsu apple, dijon and melted brie, but I think I made the right choice. These authentic Belgian waffles were airy and light, with subtle sweetness that paired well with the runny poached egg, sour coleslaw, and sharp, savoury salmon.

Poland: Café Polonez

One patient at the Toronto Health Centre, a gentle Polish lady, always told me about how she cooks her own cabbage rolls and mixes up her own pierogies. I was super envious, but quickly realized that living in Toronto meant that I, too, could enjoy some incredible Polish food! Cafe Polonez in Roncesvalles is a homey, family-run establishment with quite an extensive menu. They have a different soup special for each day of the week, and are known for their famous pierogies.I've had pierogies before, and these were just as delicious, filled with cheddar and mushrooms. As usual, they reminded me of Chinese jiaozi or Nepalese momos. I loved the addition of sour cream, and the freshness of the pierogies was noticeable. My potato pancakes had the best crispy edges, and was not too salty. Of course, the cabbage roll was equally tasty. Mine was topped with a mushroom gravy, and filled with wild rice and minced mushrooms. The menu calls this dish Golabki nadziewane grzybami, w sosie grzybowym.

One patient at the Toronto Health Centre, a gentle Polish lady, always told me about how she cooks her own cabbage rolls and mixes up her own pierogies. I was super envious, but quickly realized that living in Toronto meant that I, too, could enjoy some incredible Polish food! Cafe Polonez in Roncesvalles is a homey, family-run establishment with quite an extensive menu. They have a different soup special for each day of the week, and are known for their famous pierogies.

I’ve had pierogies before, and these were just as delicious, filled with cheddar and mushrooms. As usual, they reminded me of Chinese jiaozi or Nepalese momos. I loved the addition of sour cream, and the freshness of the pierogies was noticeable. My potato pancakes had the best crispy edges, and was not too salty. Of course, the cabbage roll was equally tasty. Mine was topped with a mushroom gravy, and filled with wild rice and minced mushrooms. The menu calls this dish Golabki nadziewane grzybami, w sosie grzybowym.

Chile: Jumbo Empanadas

Empanadas, which originated in Spain or Portugal, are stuffed pastries that are baked or fried. The Spanish verb "empanar" means "to wrap, or to coat with bread". Empanadas are essentially a pocket of dough folded over stuffing, which may be cheese, meat, or vegetables. Jumbo Empanadas have great, CHEAP empanadas, cute Chilean pastries, and various other Chilean eats. I also tried a humita, which, as Wikipedia tells me, is a Native American dish from pre-Hispanic times, consisting of masa harina and corn, steamed or boiled in water. I loved the simplicity of the humita, which was fresh and sweet and tasted incredible with the acidic salsa.

Empanadas, which originated in Spain or Portugal, are stuffed pastries that are baked or fried. The Spanish verb “empanar” means “to wrap, or to coat with bread”. Empanadas are essentially a pocket of dough folded over stuffing, which may be cheese, meat, or vegetables. Jumbo Empanadas have great, CHEAP empanadas, cute Chilean pastries, and various other Chilean eats. I also tried a humita, which, as Wikipedia tells me, is a Native American dish from pre-Hispanic times, consisting of masa harina and corn, steamed or boiled in water. I loved the simplicity of the humita, which was fresh and sweet and tasted incredible with the acidic salsa.

Italy: Mattacchioni, G for Gelato

Gelato falls under a category called 'Cindy's Top 3 Biggest Weaknesses'. As in, if I see a gelato store, I'm going in and coming out with at least two scoops. This one, from G for Gelato, satisfied my craving during one long walk. I ordered two scoops here: one being the chocolate almond fudge, and another being pistachio-walnut. Sweet, chocolatey, and nutty flavours are the ideal match, in my opinion, so this cup of gelato nailed it.Mattachioni is a cozy spot known for authentic Neapolitan pizzas. I ordered the apollonia, which was topped with fresh mozzarella, basil, tomatoes, arugula, and fresh stracciatella. I learned that stracciatella is a creamy cheese produced by Italian buffalo milk. I enjoyed cannoli (Italian pastries, literally meaning "little tube") for the first time, and thought it was fantastic. The creamy filling was flavoured with lemon, and contrasted well with the bubbly, golden-brown fried shell.

Gelato falls under a category called ‘Cindy’s Top 3 Biggest Weaknesses’. As in, if I see a gelato store, I’m going in and coming out with at least two scoops. This one, from G for Gelato, satisfied my craving during one long walk. I ordered two scoops here: one being the chocolate almond fudge, and another being pistachio-walnut. Sweet, chocolatey, and nutty flavours are the ideal match, in my opinion, so this cup of gelato nailed it.

Mattachioni is a cozy spot known for authentic Neapolitan pizzas. I ordered the apollonia, which was topped with fresh mozzarella, basil, tomatoes, arugula, and fresh stracciatella. I learned that stracciatella is a creamy cheese produced by Italian buffalo milk. I enjoyed cannoli (Italian pastries, literally meaning “little tube”) for the first time, and thought it was fantastic. The creamy filling was flavoured with lemon, and contrasted well with the bubbly, golden-brown fried shell.

America: Sweet Olenka’s, Bakerbots, Barque Smokehouse

I ate my weight in gelato and ice cream during my time in Toronto with no regrets! Two of my top dessert places include Bakerbots and Sweet Olenka’s. At Sweet Olenka's, I devoured a scoop of chocolate Oreo ice cream, and a scoop of vegan salted caramel, which was made with coconut milk. Bakerbots, less than a block off Bloor, is a quiet, petite cafe known for creative ice cream flavours and freshly-baked cookies. It’s a DIY-sort of place, where you can choose your cookie and two scoops for the filling. I selected the caramelized peanut butter cookie, a scoop of totarn (ube, or purple yam) ice cream, and a scoop of cinnamon toast ice cream. With the chewy, crisp-at-the-edges peanut butter cookie and rich, flavourful ice cream, I have to admit that this is one of the Top 3 desserts I’ve ever tasted in my life.Another day, I enjoyed a phenomenal brunch at Barque Smokehouse, where I enjoyed cornbread topped with citrus-smoked salmon, two poached eggs, and BBQ hollandaise, the crispiest roast potatoes, and a kale salad with carrots, cabbage, and pear.

I ate my weight in gelato and ice cream during my time in Toronto with no regrets! Two of my top dessert places include Bakerbots and Sweet Olenka’s. At Sweet Olenka’s, I devoured a scoop of chocolate Oreo ice cream, and a scoop of vegan salted caramel, which was made with coconut milk. Bakerbots, less than a block off Bloor, is a quiet, petite cafe known for creative ice cream flavours and freshly-baked cookies. It’s a DIY-sort of place, where you can choose your cookie and two scoops for the filling. I selected the caramelized peanut butter cookie, a scoop of totarn (ube, or purple yam) ice cream, and a scoop of cinnamon toast ice cream. With the chewy, crisp-at-the-edges peanut butter cookie and rich, flavourful ice cream, I have to admit that this is one of the Top 3 desserts I’ve ever tasted in my life.

Another day, I enjoyed a phenomenal brunch at Barque Smokehouse, where I enjoyed cornbread topped with citrus-smoked salmon, two poached eggs, and BBQ hollandaise, the crispiest roast potatoes, and a kale salad with carrots, cabbage, and pear.

 

What will my next food adventure be?

My eat-around-the-world experience, although incomplete, gave me valuable insight into the rich and diverse culture of many countries I hadn’t considered before. I can’t wait to try cuisines from even more countries, including Sri Lanka, Haiti, Hawaii, and Romania…

 

Any thoughts? What are your favourite “unique” eats from around the world?

Fact: You can never have enough delicious food.

4 thoughts on “#tbt | The Time I Ate Around the World… in Toronto

  1. Hope all is well! Hope you keep sharing your work! I I wish you the all the best! Glad I came across your work! Hope your 2018 has been well so far! What made you want to write and share your work?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! 🙂 For me, blogging is more about keeping an online journal, accented with photos, that I can access any time, any where. Plus, I am a faster typer than writer !

      Like

  2. What an amazing foodsploration! Haha, I definitely need to do something like this when I go to L.A., or when I celebrate my birthday in SLO! I’m really excited for planning it out! Your empanadas, rice balls, vegetarian Indian platter, cornbread sandwich, vegan salted caramel ice cream, and Ethiopian injera feast look to die for! SO envious. Food goals.

    Liked by 1 person

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