This South African restaurant celebrates the spirit of braai
Plan B is at 2943A Bloor St West, Toronto
Suresh Doss: There are very few South African restaurants in the province. We have a significant South African community here but there are few places that celebrate the superbly diverse region.
Ismaila Alfa: I've visited South Africa many times and I know it's hard to define the cuisine.
Suresh Doss: This is one of the most diverse parts of the continent so it would be impossible to try and cover the vast influences in this region; European, Indian, East Asian, Malaysian and more. So I propose an introduction to South African cooking. At Plan B, you can expect to get a slice of one of the most popular cultural traditions of South Africa, which is celebrating braai.
Ismaila Alfa: Have you ever experienced braai in South Africa?
Suresh Doss: I had the privilege of travelling to SA about three years ago on a wine tour. I ended up in Stellenbosch, near Cape Town and the first real meal I had there was the braai. We were on this escarpment, overlooking vines in every direction, the mountains were silhouetted against the setting sun. The evening was around the corner. We had a group set up this very big pit, filled with charcoal and lit it up. And over the next hour people would bring various things and place it on the fire; various cuts of seasoned meats or stewed vegetables or bean dishes.
As the sun set, you had this wonderful, communal meal, course after course of whatever was ready to be consumed; a plethora of textures and dishes, with a common underpinning of charcoal flavour. It was a very convivial experience, which is what Haround and Shamiema are trying to celebrate in their small restaurant on Bloor West.
Ismaila Alfa: So what does the menu look like at Plan B?
Suresh Doss: I should preface, while there are a few vegetarian options, they are mostly sides. This is a place that celebrates grilled meat. And to that, there are a few things you should try. There's the boerewors — these are the most popular type of sausage you can get in South Africa. The literal translation is farm-style sausage. There are these small cylindrical shaped sausages that have a really striking coriander note. Shamiema makes them in house. She does the cooking. You can have the boerewors in a roll, like a hot dog, with onions and a relish.
You can also get it on a braai platter — this where you will have boerewors, along with a few other proteins that are cooked on charcoal. Marinated chicken for example, and the hugely popular lamb chops, which Shamiema marinated with garlic, rosemary and thyme.
If that sounds like too much, I suggest you check out the burgers.
Ismaila Alfa: I don't know how I'm going to fit the burgers in after I've eaten chicken and lamb chops but tell me about the burgers.
Suresh Doss: The two that I think that you should try are the Ford's burger, with the beet relish and the fried egg. It's really good and the Mr D's burger that Haroun mentioned. It's a very saucy burger, topped with onion rings. Those two stand out for me.
Ismaila Alfa: I understand that Plan B is about to celebrate two years in a few weeks. How are they handling the pandemic?
Suresh Doss: Haroun and Shamiema run a very small operation and it's a menu that is very unique to the city. But he has said to me on a few occasions that the community has been very supportive
"We had phone calls coming in from customers just saying, 'Please charge our credit card $200; we don't know when we will show up but to keep you going. Please make this charge.'"
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.