Category Archives: Restaurant

Happy or Hungry Eats the World: Paracas Peruvian Restaurant (Peru)

I am on a mission to eat an authentic dish from every country in the world, right here in Toronto. You can find all past recaps here.

My 21st country is Peru!

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I have never eaten Peruvian food before, so I was looking forward to it. Evan and I went to Paracas Peruvian Restaurant (Paracas is the capital of the Paracas District in the Ica Region in Peru) on St Clair W with Dawn, Mark, Emily and Corey before we did Escape Casa Loma.

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I asked Evan to take a picture of us girls and this is what I got.

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Not quite.

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Better.

St Clair W seems to be the Peruvian hot spot of the city — there were three Peru restaurants to choose from and Paracas was actually our last choice. I first tried to make reservations at El Fogon (which has amazing reviews) and Dona Luz, but unfortunately both were closed early that Sunday due to the holidays. So Paracas it was, and I was worried it was going to be a let down because of some iffy reviews, but let me tell you, we had an AMAZING experience. It could not have been any better.

We ordered a ton between the six of us and everything we tried was delicious. Most of us (not preggers) started with the pisco sour, Peru’s national drink made with pisco (it’s an alcohol), lemon, and egg white (for the frothiness).

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I am actually familiar with pisco sours as our friend Ian has a Peruvian aunt and has made pisco sours for us at the cottage before. They are goooood. I really like.

Appetizer-wise I felt sure that I would get the ceviche, a seafood dish popular along the coast of Latin America. It is apparently part of Peru’s national heritage and they even have a holiday dedicated to it. It’s basically chunks of raw fish in citrus. Another well known Peruvian appetizer caught my eye though, anticuchos, or grilled skewers of beef heart. I’m not sure I’ll have the chance to eat that again, so…you only live once.

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I had no idea how I was going to like it, but it was quite good. The texture was slightly different from most beef cuts, but I enjoyed it. Evan did too. We were the only two who would try it, haha. The potatoes it came with were also good.

I tried some of Dawn and Mark’s Papas Rellenas, potato stuffed with meat. The most popular croquettes in Peru!

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Delicious! I loved the addition of cilantro to the dishes. If you you plan to go here and you don’t like cilantro, make sure you request your dish cilantro-free. I loved it though. So fresh.

I also had some of Emily and Corey’s grilled calamari.

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Really good.

I was absolutely in love with my main dish. I got the Lomo Beef Saltado, a traditional Peruvian dish. It’s stir fry beef with onions, green onions, tomatoes, and fries, served with rice. You know I only wanted it because of the fries AND rice (and note the cilantro, though not listed).

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I loved it so, so much. Every bite was heaven. I wanted that dish to go on forever.

Evan ordered the Tacu Tacu, another traditional Peruvian recipe — Biftek served with olive oil creole sauce, with rice and beans.

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Evan is a rice and bean connoisseur and he approved. I do think he had some meal envy about my dish though.

All the salads that came with our meals had oil and vinegar dressing and tasted just like my Nana’s! I loved!

Peru is big on seafood, so Dawn and Mark got a giant seafood platter for two, and Corey got the same, but for one.

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I tried some of this and everything was fresh and tasty (I feel like I say the word ‘delicious’ too much, I need to switch it up).

Emily went with the Parillda de Criolla, grilled short ribs, spanish chorizos, and lamb with salad.

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Hers was really good also. We were all absolutely raving about our experience afterwards. We’re still talking about how good it was. One of the best meals I’ve had since I started eating the world, and that says a lot ’cause there’s been some really great ones!

Shout out to our awesome server, who I think might be the owner as well.

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We love Peru!

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Happy or Hungry Eats the World: Sofra Istanbul (Turkey)

If you missed it, I am on a mission to eat authentic food from every country in the world, right here in Toronto! You can find all past recaps here.

Today, we eat Turkey. The country, not the bird.turkey

Man, I really need to eat some big countries, like Russia, China, and the US and Canada, so I can purple that map up.

Anyway, for Turkey Evan and I went to a cute family-run authentic Turkish restaurant at Steeles and Highway 400 called Sofra Istanbul. Evan actually took me there last year and I remember absolutely LOVING it. The inside is understated and reminds me a bit of a diner or a coffee shop, but the food is delicious and the portions are HUGE.

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(my beef saute from last time)

Sofra Istanbul is a kebab/kabob house but they do also have a list of traditional Turkish dishes on the menu. I was after those because as I have noticed as I’ve been eating the world, kabobs are everywhere. Many of the countries in that area I’ve already eaten are big on kabobs: Iran, Afghanistan, Greece. I love a good meat stick, but I want new things. Luckily Sofra Istanbul had an entire non-kabob section (their kabob’s did look delicious though).

I think what I was most surprised about is Turkey actually borders Georgia, which I have already eaten, but the food was very different, as far as I could tell. You can read all about Turkish cuisine here if you’re interested.

We started with a green salad, which I am pretty sure is not specific to Turkey and probably just a restaurant thing, but either way it was a good green salad.

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Mostly because of the dressing, which they do make in-house. I am not sure how to describe it, garlicky and herby and a little yogurty maybe? It was wonderful.

For an appetizer we went for the Turkish cigar rolls, a popular Turkish treat! Feta cheese with parsley, herbs and spices deep fried in phyllo dough.

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I already know I am going to be a fan of any sort of cheese wrapped in any sort of carb, so it was no surprise that I loved these. I had a bit of salad dressing left over and they were really good dipped in that as well!

Evan and I both really badly wanted to try the manti, which are basically little dumplings filled with lamb or ground beef (or a mix), and sometimes known as Turkish ravioli. Unfortunately Sofra Istanbul was out of them when we were there, so no manti for us. It was disappointing and we may have to go back for them sometime, but instead we ordered the Iskender kebap. Shaved beef/lamb mix with a warm tomato sauce and melted sheep butter, served over a bed of Turkish bread and with yogurt (very popular in Middle Eastern countries).

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It was very good. Very, very good. I don’t love lamb on its own but I find it much more appetizing when it’s mixed with beef. Iskender is apparently one of the most famous meat foods in northwest Turkey. I loved the bread underneath the meat also.

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Eat all the meat!

We also ordered a Turkish pizza (or pide), lahmacun (or lahmajun).

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The crust is very thin and crispy, and unlike traditional pizza there is no sauce or cheese (and usually sauce and cheese is my favourite part of pizza so I was a bit skeptical at first). The thin dough is topped with minced beef (or lamb, but beef in this case) and minced vegetables and herbs like onion, tomato and parsley, and then it is baked. It was SO GOOD.

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We couldn’t finish it all so we packed half of it up to bring home. I am excited for lunch today. Lahmacun is also popular in Armenia and Syria. If you ever have the chance to try it, go for it!

We finished our meal with Turkish black tea.

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It is called çay (pronounced Chai). Basically just black tea, but very popular throughout Turkey.

And stick a fork in Turkey, it is done! Another delicious eating experience for sure.

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Happy or Hungry Eats the World: Cafe Polonez (Poland)

If you missed it, I am on a mission to eat authentic food from every country in the world, right here in Toronto! You can find all past recaps here.

Today I am all about Poland.Print

Mmm, Polish food. I have been looking forward to an Eastern European country since I started this mission. Polish cuisine is very similar to Ukrainian cuisine, which I grew up eating thanks to my Ukrainian Nana. My Nana’s Ukrainian pierogies (recipe there!) are probably my favourite food of all time, and I also love Borscht and cabbage rolls, two other very common dishes in Poland (and Ukraine). Polish food is also heavily influenced by Russia, Germany, Belarus, etc. so I am excited I have all those countries left to eat!

For my Polish eating experience I went to Cafe Polonez, in the heart of Toronto’s Polish community on Roncesvalles, with my blog friends Michelle, Casey and Shanondoah (aka the bloggers and lagers). Toronto has quite a few authentic Polish restaurants, but all my research told me Cafe Polonez was the best.

I started with a Zywiec, a popular Polish beer.

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I quite liked it, and it’s available at our local LCBO, so I may have to buy that in the future…

Cafe Polonez has an extensive menu. Almost too extensive! I wanted to eat everything but I went in there knowing that there were several things I needed to try. Borscht was one of those things. It actually originated in the Ukraine (I will be eating it again when I do Ukraine, for sure) and both my Nana and my aunt make a delicious borscht. I was looking forward to the Polish version, and it was definitely not a let down.

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Borscht is basically beet soup with other vegetables such as cabbage, carrots, parsley root,onions, and sometimes potatoes and tomatoes. That picture is not doing it justice at all but it was seriously good. I felt like I could have gone on eating it forever.

Since Cafe Polonez has such a big menu, we decided to get the platter for four, as it included all the things we wanted to try. Like kopytka…

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Little Polish potato dumplings similar to gnocchi, covered with gravy. Deeeelicious.

Hunter’s stew…

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A traditional Polish dish of cooked sauerkraut with slices of sausage (kielbasa) and pork. It was pretty good, and I especially loved the little bits of meat in there.

And a giant platter with all the Polish things.

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Cabbage rolls (golabki), Polish sausage (kielbasa), schnitzel (under the mushrooms), pierogies, fresh beets, coleslaw, carrots, and fried cabbage. Everything was delicious, especially the pierogies.

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My only complaint is that there weren’t more pierogies. They were so good that I bought 12 additional pierogies (you can buy their fresh pierogies frozen for takeout) to bring home and we ate them the next night. My favourite kind were the ones filled with pork and the cheddar and potato. So good! The other highlights for me were the kopytka, schnitzel (though I would have been okay if it was slightly smaller) and the cabbage roll. Those were very similar to my Nana’s.

It was quite an amazing evening of eating and I think I am going to start having dreams about that Cafe Polonez, specifically the borscht and the pierogies.

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Happy or Hungry Eats the World: Pero (Ethiopia and Eritrea)

If you missed it, I am on a mission to eat authentic food from every country in the world, right here in Toronto! You can find all past recaps here.

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The two countries I am talking about today are Ethiopia and Eritrea.ethiopia

I am doing the two African countries together as the food is almost identical, which isn’t surprising as Ethiopia and Eritrea were the same country until the early 90s. I ate Ethiopian for the first time a couple of years ago, and I have to admit that I was surprised at how delicious and flavourful it was.

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I don’t know what I expected, but for two of the world’s poorest countries that are known for food shortages and malnutrition, Ethiopia and Eritrea sure do have delicious food.

Toronto has many Ethiopian restaurants, and most of them seem to be concentrated on the Danforth or Bloor Street West. I have been to Lalibela on Bloor before (where that above photo is from) and had a really great experience, and I have heard that Nazareth, also on Bloor, is really, really good and very inexpensive (but pretty small and very busy). For the official eating the world adventure I ended up going to Pero, also on Bloor West, with Evan and our friends Emily and Corey.

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I really enjoyed the atmosphere in there.

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We were sitting by a window at the front, and it felt like we were sitting in a tent.

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It was nearly empty on the evening we went (a Wednesday), so I think we got a lot of extra attention from our server, who was dressed in traditional Ethiopian garb (a white linen embroidered dress), and very knowledgeable. She would come by and chat with us often and did not mind answering our questions.

We definitely wanted to take part in the coffee ceremony, one of the biggest traditions in Ethiopian and Eritrean culture. An invitation to a coffee ceremony is considered a mark of friendship and respect, and is almost obligatory when hosting a visitor. It is apparently quite the ordeal and can take hours. I also read that less elaborate coffee ceremonies happen three times a day in most parts of Ethiopia.

First the coffee beans are roasted over hot coals, and once they are black and shiny they are brought over to the participants and the aromatic smoke is wafted towards them.

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The beans are pungent and smell almost like strong popcorn. I love coffee and after smelling those beans I have never wanted a cup of it more!

The beans are then taken away to be ground with a mortar and pestle, and then boiled in a jebena, a pot made of pottery with a large round base, a neck and a pouring spout. While our coffee was being prepared, we ate. We started with appetizers, but I am not sure either of the ones we ordered are something you would actually get in Ethiopia or Eritrea.

We started with the veggie roll, which was corn, lentils, onion and other veggies rolled up in injera.

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Injera is a spongy flatbread made of teff flour that is a staple in both Ethiopia and Eritrea. It actually serves as a utensil, as you pick up your food with it. The texture is weird at first, because when you look at it you think it would be similar to a tortilla but it is definitely softer and, well, spongier. I remember being a bit surprised the first time I tried it, and I think Evan, Emily and Corey were this time (none of them had tried Ethiopian before). It’s just different, but it grows on you. They all liked it. The flavour of those rolls was amazing.

We also ordered the E’kategha, which was crispy injera made into crackers, which came with some sort of lentil dip and spicy red berbere sauce (very popular in Ethiopia).

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I have tried looking up E’kategha but I think it is specific to Pero and not actually a name for an Ethiopian/Eritrean dish. I am not sure if they would actually make the injera into crackers there, or if they just did that here to westernize it.

Both appetizers were good, but our main dishes were the best!

In Ethiopia and Eritrea, meat and vegetable sauces and dishes are commonly put on top of the injera, which is then used to pinch the dishes to transfer them into your mouth. You do not use utensils. The four of us ordered two platters for two, with the intent on sharing all the vegetable dishes.

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Evan and I ordered the beef tibsi, chicken tibsi (tibsi is basically a simple meat or mushroom stew, sauteed or pan-fried), timitimo tsebhi (split lentil stew), split pea, and shero (chickpeas with berbere sauce), as well as the salad in the middle with an olive oil and vinegar-type dressing.

And our pals Emily and Corey…

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also got the beef tibsi and chicken tibsi, with mushroom tibsi, cabbage with carrot, and hamli (cooked collard greens with onions, green peppers, garlic and ginger).

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Everything was so full of flavour and so, so delicious. I mean it, everything. There was nothing we didn’t like. The chicken tibsi was seriously to die for and my favourite vegetable dishes were the mushrooms, lentils, and chickpeas. We polished off both of those platters, and by the end we were full and satisfied, but not in the gross I-just-ate-a-Big-Mac-and-I-feel-disgusting way. It was so good, and looking at it again right now I am really craving it!

Since you just tear off pieces of injera and scoop up your food with it (with your right hand, apparently you do not use your left in Ethiopia or Eritrea because your left hand is your bathroom hand), our hands were quite messy afterwards so our server brought a bowl of warm rosewater (with actual rose petals) for us to dip our hands into.

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And then our coffee was ready!

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I did not know this, but apparently it is rude to accept less than three cups of coffee during a coffee ceremony because the third cup is said to bestow a blessing. I think we all only had two. Whoops. It was very strong, and I really liked it.

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Because the coffee ceremony is so long and peeps get hangry, food is usually served alongside the coffee, traditionally popcorn!

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We shoved our faces with that until there was not a kernel left, as you do with popcorn (I can’t not do that with popcorn).

Our entire meal was a fantastic experience and I am glad we had Emily and Corey with us for it!

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It was tricky getting Evan to stop eating popcorn long enough to get a decent picture. I have several versions of the following:

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He kills me.

If you have an Ethiopian restaurant near you I highly recommend you check it out. That food is so, so good. BlogTO has an extensive list of the best Ethiopian restaurants in Toronto.

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Happy or Hungry Eats the World: Taste of the Danforth (Greece)

If you missed it, I am on a mission to eat authentic food from every country in the world, right here in Toronto! I have now created a handy map to show which countries I’ve eaten, the one I’m currently eating, and the ones left to eat.greece copy

I am a visual learner so I like to see what’s eaten and what is left. A lot of green is what is left… This is not exactly a quick project, but I am making some progress on the eating. You can find all past recaps here.

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My next eating the world adventure was Greece! This weekend was Taste of the Danforth, a Toronto street festival celebrating Greek food and culture.

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I love love love Greek food but I’ve never been to Taste of the Danforth before and I knew that was where I needed to go to truly eat Greece. It worked out that Eric was visiting while it was on, as he’s never been either, and we also got my friend Hannah to join us.

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Hannah missed the glasses memo.

Danforth Avenue in Toronto has been known for years for its many Greek restaurants. There are other types of restaurants along the street as well, more have popped up especially in recent years, but Greek is still the majority. Taste of the Danforth started 22 years ago when restaurant owners took their food to the streets as a group to entice visitors to the area. It became a thing and has turned into Canada’s largest and Toronto’s most popular street festival.

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Meaning it is crowded. It is very crowded. The entire street shuts down to traffic, and the restaurants line the streets with their food stands.

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Mostly Greek but there are some Italian and Asian stands around as well.

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You can essentially just eat your way down the street.

There are also various entertainment things happening along the street, like a live band every few blocks.

The food at Taste of the Danforth is pretty cheap, but it was so crowded that it felt like wading through a mosh pit, and I thought eating would be tricky because I would keep getting bumped. If someone knocked my gyro out of my hand I would not be happy about it. The lines for food were also very long. So when we happened across the Greek restaurant Pappa’s Grill we decided to try to get a spot on the patio, which we assumed would be impossible. It was PACKED. I still don’t exactly know how this happened, but we were able to score a table for four immediately. We got a prime location on the patio and it was absolutely perfect because we could sit and enjoy our food and drink beer and people watch like crazy.

Our table started with the spanakopita, the Greek spinach pie!

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Spinach, feta cheese, onion, and egg wrapped in phyllo pastry, usually eaten as a snack in Greece.

We also ordered the melanzano, a dip of baked eggplant with red onion and garlic.

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With fresh pita for dipping. In Greece I believe this dip is called melitzanosalata, but either way it’s delicious. This eating the world challenge has been opening me up to eggplant dips and I can’t get enough.

I also cannot get enough of chicken souvlaki. If I am ever at a Greek restaurant I cannot resist ordering the souvlaki.

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I just love that it comes with tzatziki (Greek sauce), rice, Greek salad AND potatoes. And those potatoes are usually my favourite kind, too. It was awesome.

So, good times at Taste of the Danforth. Crowded, yes, but also delicious and highly entertaining.

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And can you spot Eric in the above photo?

PS – I have also had really, really great Greek food at Colossus Greek Taverna in Mississauga.

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Happy or Hungry Eats the World: Georgia Restaurant (Georgia)

If you missed it, I am on a mission to eat authentic dishes from every country in the world, here in my own city of Toronto.

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You can find all recaps here. Today I am talking about Georgia!

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I’ll be honest. Until I started looking into eating Georgian cuisine I didn’t really know where Georgia was. I don’t even know the area I thought it was. But this is Georgia!

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Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is to east of the Black Sea and bordered by Russia, Turkey, Armenia, and Azerbaijan.

I had no idea what kind of cuisine I could expect from Georgia, but we kept driving by Georgia Restaurant (also a small banquet hall) at Finch and Dufferin and each time I would be more intrigued. Evan and I looked into it and it promised an authentic Georgian eating experience, so earlier this week we decided to hit it up.

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We brought Ian (Evan’s good friend and also our roommate) along for the ride. As many of the restaurants I have visited so far on this mission have been (Max’s, Anna Maria Trattoria, Pho Com Vietnam) Georgia Restaurant is very nondescript from the outside, but the inside is quite beautiful.

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More pictures on their website gallery. When we were there it was set up for a big Georgia church group and all the cold food was already out on the table waiting for them. Apparently a big meal like this is called a keipi or supra. It looked delicious and I was ready to just pretend I was a part of it so I could eat everything. We refrained and got our own table though. I noticed that every few places there was a plate of vegetables, typical salad vegetables, only not in salad form. So whole tomatoes, stalks of green onions, full peppers and radishes. I am not sure why they weren’t sliced, and after researching it a bit I am still not sure why. Like do they just eat the tomatoes whole like an apple? I wish I asked our server, who was fantastic and very knowledgeable about Georgian food (though he was Ukrainian!).

It was also quite interesting there when they started playing traditional Georgian music. I liked.

Anyway, the Georgian cuisine is specific to Georgia, but also contains influences from Europe, the Middle East and Western Asia. Each province of Georgia has its own culinary tradition, so the food can vary from province to province. I did some research beforehand so I already had an idea of what we should order, but with the help of our server we selected the most authentic Georgian dishes on the menu.

We started with fresh bread.

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Which was delicious, as fresh bread always is. Can’t go wrong there.

Most of the authentic Georgian supra-type items were in the appetizers section, so we just ordered a bunch of appetizers. Starting with Badrijani, eggplants and garlic with a walnut paste, topped with pomegranate seeds, and served cold. This was recommended to us by our server if we really wanted a traditional experience (and we did).

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Not my favourite, but not bad. The walnut paste had an almost hummus-like taste. It was definitely different though. I don’t think I have eaten anything similar to that before.

Next we ordered the Satsivi, chicken in walnut sauce (a lot of walnuts happening here), also served cold.

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And, interesting that it is served cold. It gave it kind of a chicken leftovers-from-the-fridge taste. I didn’t mind it, but both Evan and Ian vehemently disliked it. And I don’t think I have ever seen Evan eat something he didn’t like, so that is saying something. For Ian I think it was a texture thing, and also because it was served cold, and for Evan he said it gave him a bad aftertaste in his mouth. For me, it was okay. I do think I would have liked it better if it was served hot though.

Our next appetizer totally made up for it though. Khachapuri, which is a golden thin crust filled with a salty cheese. Basically cheese-filled bread.

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I knew I was going to love this and I was not let down, I LOVED this. We all loved it. But I mean, bread filled with cheese… You really can’t go wrong there. I was reading that in Georgia they prefer this to pizza.

Next we tried the Khinkali, Georgian dumplings filled with pork and beef.

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Our server very helpfully told us that these are traditionally served with coarse black pepper in Georgia, so we went to town with that. The dumplings were delicious, as dumplings always area. I’ve never met a dumpling I didn’t like. They were another favourite here.

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I would have been happy with ordering just the khachapuri and the khinkali, honestly. Both were the stand outs, hands down.

Our final dish was the Lobio, Georgian style red beans.

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Very good. They reminded me a little bit of Evan’s beans actually. But beans can’t compare to bread and cheese and dumplings, you know.

We originally planned on ordering an additional main dish, EACH! And then we got midway through all the appetizers and thought maybe we should just get one main dish to share…and then by the end we were all too full to even think about eating anything else, so it didn’t happen. We’d go back though, for sure.

So that is Georgia! Definitely a different and interesting eating experience, but it was a good one!

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