Onward to Beograd

I’ve been intending to continue documenting my travels to the Balkans and Turkey, but life has been busy. In my last post we were at Sofia, Bulgaria, and we were heading to Beograd (Belgrade), Serbia. We took an overnight train that was very old. We managed to get a private coach so that we could catch some shut eyes during the night. There were a few things that I had to prepare myself for the ride. I didn’t drink any water, to avoid having to use the bathroom. Bring food, because food is not offered on the train even though it’s a good 7 hour ride. If you are considering taking the train from Sofia to Beograd, you also have to be aware that at the boarders between Bulgaria and Serbia, the train operators change from Bulgarian to Serbians. At which point, they will come knocking on your door to verify your passport. I was very nervous when the Serbian boarder police took my passport and left with it. I wasn’t sure who he was, and why he needed to walk away with my passport. As I began to panic he returned with my passport.

Arriving at Beograd, we found ourselves on an old train platform. It was half past six, and we were exhausted. There was a weak wifi signal at the station (thankfully), and I was able to map out our airbnb location.

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I didn’t realize the walk was going to be very long with our heavy backpacks. We walked well over 45 mins on empty stomachs (because we didn’t eat the night before), barely any liquid, and lack of sleep.

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We made our way as quickly as we could to pick up the keys, and headed over to our apartment. We went through the front gate only to realize that I don’t know which apartment and which floor we are on! I walked up and down the building to no avail. The next best thing to do was try to call the landlady. I didn’t know how to use the pay phones in Serbia, so I walked into a convenient store to borrow a phone. The store owner wanted to charge us $5 USD for the phone call. I shocked that she would take advantage of lost travelers like that, but decided that we should pay her anyways because we were exhausted and there was no other way. The phone number didn’t go through. We were officially homeless.

We sat outside on the streets in front of a hotel, hoping that we could get a wifi connection so we can email the lady and hope that she would email back. We sat there and waited. The city was starting to stir and people were out walking their dogs. For a few people, I’m pretty sure we were their amusement for the day. Two foreign girls looking completely lost, sitting on the street with their backpacks. There were a few moments where I was convinced that we would be homeless for the next few days. Just as I started to panic, she emailed us back. We headed back to the building and finally found our apartment.

The place was a studio room with just a bed, a small kitchenette, a small bathroom with a shower. It was simple, well decorated and clean. We were pleased. At last, a hot shower and some food would be nice. R jumped into the shower and low and behold, the water was freezing. She was soaked in freezing water from head to toe. I emailed the landlady and she said that we had to turn on the heat in the apartment and wait half hour before the water warms up. Unfortunately, it was too late for R. We napped for what seemed like just a little while, and when we woke up it was 1pm already. I was starving. We set out to look for food. Having not eaten for at least 36 hours we were determined to feast. We walked around and realized that we were staying in a very quiet neighborhood, a bit away from city centre. Some nice bakeries and restaurants lined the street.

We decided on a retro looking restaurant called “Ime Restorana”. The decor felt like we were stepping back into an old Serbian home. There was little debate as to what we wanted to have, because we were so hungry we wanted to have everything.

We started with fresh corn bread. It was warm and tasty. The bread was a little dense and a little savoury. Very different from the typical french bread that we get in Toronto.

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We then had a mushroom with stuffed cheese and some sort of pork ham. It’s almost like bacon, but not as fatty. When we ordered this, we thought that the portions were going to be a lot smaller, and we didn’t realize that it would be served with rice. the mushrooms were essentially baked with the Serbian cheese (which resembles feta cheese in taste and texture). The mushroom was very juicy and the juice was absorbed into the rice. I’m assuming that the mushroom was made on the bed of rice so that the rice would pick up the flavour. The rice was like a balsamic rice. It’s a little harder than what I’m use to which is more along the lines of soft chewy Japanese rice.
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Next we had a Serbian pie. It was layers of pastry cheese. The pastry layers were crispy on the outside and soft and chewy with the cheese on the inside. Could you tell by now that we’ve over ordered?

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Next we had a simple tomato sauce pasta. There was a generous splash of olive oil. The tomato sauce was very light, and as you can see there were no bits of tomatoes in the pasta. It was just the tomato juice and olive oil. Very tasty and comforting after a long day.

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The protein came next. Chicken breast with herbs in a cream sauce. I personally wasn’t a fan of the cream sauce. I though that there was too much sauce on the chicken and the sauce was better served on the side. The cream sauce was savoury with generous amounts of herbs to balance off the creaminess.

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And did you know that Serbia actually grew it’s own grapes? I was delighted to find out that Serbia made it’s own wine. This wine had a dry finish to it. It had a grapefruit and citrus bouquet. It was pale straw in color with a slight green tinge. What you would expect from the cold climates of Serbia. After I got home, I read a bit more about Serbian wine, and learned that Serbia used to produce a lot more grapes. But during the war, people abandoned the vineyards and went to war. (War is bad, wine is good!) Before the war, in the 1970s Serbia had named 7 main wine regions with further sub region classifications. But now the industry is picking up again. You don’t get Serbian wine in Canada because it’s too expensive to ship. But if you ever get a chance to go to Serbia make sure you try out their wine.

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So now your probably wondering what the total damage is? Well it cost $3,240 Serbian dinar which is approximately $40 canadian! Isn’t that amazing? For such a delicious meal. The staff members spoke a bit of English and was extremely friendly. A lot of smiles, and came to check on the food. They did their best to explain what each dish was. Overall, a fabulous dining experience!

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Origin

After wine class on Tuesday, R and I was on the hunt for food.  We happened to be in the area and decided to give Origin a try.  The place was fairly busy for Tuesday late night.  The menu looked really interesting and it seems like I won’t be disappointed.

R decided to have the burger with Spanish fries. The burger was fairly tasty.  The burger bun was good, the bread was soft and went well with the meat.  The meat was a bit over cooked, and too dry.  I think it would have been better if the cheese was in the middle of the burger, so that when you bite into it it’s juicy and melts in your month.  Overall, this is just your average burger.

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Spanish fries.  We weren’t sure why this is called the Spanish fries.  It was essentially a poutine.  It had sausages, cheese, sour cream, tomato…etc. It had a bit of a spicy kick to it.  It was yummy, but nothing that wow-ed us.  I think we could’ve got something similar from Smoke’s.

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I decided on the sashimi tuna salad.  It was a bit spicy, sour and sweet with avocado, zucchini, seaweed, pepper, and rice cracker bits.  There was so much sauce in the salad, it overpowered EVERYTHING on the plate. I could not taste anything but the sauce. It was to a point where you can’t even tell you were eating tuna sashimi. It was VERY disappointing.

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Where: Origin
Location: Toronto, Ontario

What: Sashimi Tuna Salad, Spanish Fries, Burger
Verdict: Disappointing. Will not go back.

Origin Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Marcello’s

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to officially announce that a new Friday night tradition has formed. A perfect Friday nights includes: Ru, Me, Wine, Cheese, Meat and Seafood. This week we took the celebrations to Marcello’s in Vaughn. We got there around 7pm and the place was packed! We had to wait 1/2 hour to be seated, but the waiters were nice and I can see that they were doing their best to get people seated as soon as possible.

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The wine list wasn’t long nor impressive.  We picked a random Riesling from the list and went with it.  It was odd that they had the option of ordering a litre of wine?  Well, I’ve never ordered a litre of wine at a restaurant before, so that’s exactly what I did.  I ordered the litre.  I’ve been here before, and was thoroughly impressed by their grilled calamari. Olive oil, with a bit of pesto sauce and balsamic dressing.

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We also ordered a platter of antipasto to share.  Grilled veggies, olives, meat, cheese over a bed of greens.  Perfect for sharing over wine.

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Overall, we had a fantastic night.  Good food, okay wine, great company.

Where: Marcello’s Pizzeria
Location: Vaughn, Ontario

What: Anitpasto, Grilled Calamari
Verdict: The Grilled calamari never dissapoints.  Will be back to try to pasta next time.

Marcello's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Uptown Friday nights?

After a long week of dealing with sensors, Ru and I decided to go for dessert after work and then have dinner -yes in that exact reverse order.  Our dessert stop is at Dessert Kitchen.  They open at 6pm and we arrived right when they opened.  After studying the menu for a while we decided on the egg pudding and taste of ujiUji is actually a place in Kyoto.  Kyoto is known for their matcha, but it’s an odd reference because it’s based on the assumption that everyone knows that.

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The egg pudding was good.  It was just good.  There was no wow factor here except for the super cute presentation.

IMG_4651The Taste of Uji has red bean, mochi sago, coconut sauce and this matcha noodle.  The matcha noodle is very curious.  It tasted like noodles, but it’s not?  It’s not very chewy.. it actually doesn’t taste like anything at all.  Ru didn’t like it one bit.  The rest of the dish was okay, coconut sauce, mochi sago, and red bean was okay.  We ended up fishing out the noodles and ate the rest.

Name: Dessert Kitchen
Location: Markham, Toronto
What: Egg Pudding, Taste of Uji
Verdict: Won’t go back.

Dessert Kitchen on Urbanspoon

After the not so tasty dessert experience, we decided to look for something savory.  We decided to go to Alice Fazooli’s at the Richmond Hill location.  I always end up here for business lunches.

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I wasn’t too hungry so I decided to go with the cheese platter and wine.  The perfect combination of salami, prosciutto, olives, and cheese.  I was never a big cheese platter person but given my new infatuation with wine I’ve grown to like it.

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Ru went with a penne with gnocchi, and meat.  It was spicy and perfectly al dente.  Overall Alice Fazooli’s is good, old reliable.

Name: Alice Fazooli’s
Location: Richmond HIll, Toronto
What: Cheese platter, penne
Verdict: Delivered on expectation, no surprises here.

Alice Fazooli's on Urbanspoon

As a side note, if you are ever wondering how to have a good evening out in the Markham/ Richmond Hill area, you really only need one thing: good company.