Sunday, November 27, 2011

The County General

One of my favourite things to do in Toronto pre-blog was go to Oddfellows taco night. I was sad to hear that they closed. I was and am very happy with who's moved in to replace them (though I will miss that tangy black bean paste!).
The County General is right at the corner of Shaw and Queen, where the street is quiet enough that you aren't being pushed along, but still pulses with the anticipatory feeling Queen West embodies. It's lively. It's a long ass wait to get in. That's what you get late on a Friday at a place that doesn't take reservations- they know they don't need to.

It's a fun shape for a restaurant, long and narrow. There uses to be a skinny, all-encompassing communal table in the spots previous incarnation, but the General has move things in a more traditional direction, somehow squeezing many small square tables into the dining hall. There isn't much wiggle room. Ever yet en vogue wood is on everything, wood lining the ceiling, a wall of wood ends jutting out in a way that is both artistic and disconcerting. We sit at the bar, which somehow stretches nearly the full length while leaving room for tables. It's spacious enough to eat at, and it's nice to get to watch Steven make drinks (he's a familiar face from my days working at the Drake, but I did feel like we should have been ordering with a server and not him! He had his hands full making some really ballin' cocktails. They have house pickled cherries for the Manhattan's yes).
More and more often lately I've been feeling less meaty, and the menu, despite it's barbecue bent, is very accommodating. The deviled eggs ($1.50) were fiery little devils, served in a bowl so deep I wondered if they needed to be kept from escaping. There was some hot mustard in the yolk, and thank goodness they went easy on the mayo. It's too easy to get heavy handed with devilled eggs. The mustard tasted like Kozlicks to me, and I approve. There were shards of red onion and chive to add crunch and juice, and just a dash of paprika for effect. Nicely done!
There was a bit of a wait before all our party got together, so I also got some kimchi ($3.00) to nibble on. It was a plentiful bowl! The cabbage was strong, crisp just at the thickest part of the leaf. The rest was lightly cooked, spicy and tangy, but very salty. It was overpowering in that respect, and needed to be eaten slowly, in between bite of other things. There was too much salt, which is a shame. I usually adore kimchi.

Over salty kimchi is the only thing that didn't stand out in a meal of well-crafted and enjoyable country sandwiches. The menu was made up of southern inspired nosh, with distinctly Toronto twists. Take our strong vegetarian and vegan eaters, here represented with a very well put together 'meatball'. The white bean meatball sandwich ($10) was more decadent and authentic than I really expected. It resides somewhere between the taste profiles of an Italian fried sandwich, luscious and virgin tomato sauce adding the strongest flavour, with a hint of the old South, with a crisp and oil deep fried shell, and a thick slab of soft bread. Also, there were FOUR sizable nonmeatballs, the beans just firm enough in the centers to hold this bad boy together, and make for a hefty little meal. Served with a leafy salad of Boston lettuce.

Trevor has become a lover of the steamed bun, it would seem. When last we dined, he tried his first banh-mi, and I think it has made him a kind of convert. Again, here the General takes a southern dish - smoked pork belly ($10), and gives it a Toronto twist, incorporating our love of Asian food, maybe in homage to our big and bustling Chinatown. The barbecue rich pulled pork, dry smoked and grainy, is sandwiched in steamed bun sliders, chewy and floury, with the gummy skin steamed bread gets. Three kinds to enjoy, avocado, apply slaw, or spicy Korean kimchi.

Such height and grandeur! Are you catching my horrible puns today? Has anyone else here seen King of the Hill? Once upon a time, my sister was obsessed (many years ago, please friends, do not judge!). Here is a fried chicken thigh sandwich ($12). This little guy made up for his diameter in height, even taller than the tumbler of greasy, crunchy fries he came with. I like a fluffy and absorbent bun with greasy chicken! Made all the prettier with black and white sesame sparkles. I can't describe it more, because Jenn devoured it quickly, in a hard work induced famine.

This is a way I've never seen an apple pie ($5 + $3 a la mode), served wide and thin, the apples sliced thickly, stuck into the pastry with glutinous love. It seemed on the surface like a stuffed dessert pita bread, but seemed more robust in consumption. I was assured that is was incredibly delicious!
My darling, let's get married. I was gone with the wind when this sticky dark lover arrived on my plate, oozing salted caramel. What forbidden indulgences! What buttery topping! Oh love! I am very glad the cupcake ($3) was slightly larger than a thimble, because such richness and decadence can only be enjoyed in about two bites. Butter cream added height and was spiced in a way I am hard pressed to describe.

And addendum to this incredible meal: if you find a small yellow notebook detailing in ecstasies the delights of the county general, please call me. It's brand new, and I've lost it, alas.

The County General on Urbanspoon

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