If you’ve taken an evening stroll through Toronto’s midtown, you’ve probably heard the sounds of laughter and music coming from the fine dining Armenian restaurant, Taline. This bold and boisterous establishment is the creation of Chef Sebouh AKA Seb (former head chef of Mamakas) and his brothers Saro and Serouj. Fueled by the memory of Seb’s late mother (who the restaurant is named after), stepping into Taline is like an invitation into the family home — warm, welcoming and memorable.
The restaurant itself is a much needed addition to Toronto’s midtown. Taline offers a unique culinary experience represented through Lebanese-inspired Armenian food. On the menu you’ll find a variety of traditional dishes from tabule, babaganoush and the fan-favourite kaghamp — a braised cabbage cooked to perfection. Everything from the dishes to drinks, music and ambience carry the essence of Taline’s legacy. One can only describe dining at Taline as an immersion into the world of Armenian culture and traditions. Chef Seb and his team aim high each and every day to fulfill their dream of becoming the first Armenian restaurant in Canada’s Michelin Guide. Suffice to say, that dream is well within reach. Read on to learn more about Taline in our interview with Chef Seb.
Taline’s guiding principles
The phrase “what would mom do?” guides Seb in fostering the growth and success of Taline. Nothing is done without purpose and without “approval” from mom. Everything is done in-house — if the team can’t cook something from scratch, they will figure out a way. Seb’s mother loved making fresh food whether it was bread or yogurt — the option isn’t to resort to store-bought goods. For Seb, emulating his mother’s teachings and practices is what makes Taline so special.
Taline’s passion shines through
“Mom was everything — she was so determined and passionate. I also got this drive from my dad — a self-determined, self-made, hard worker,” says Seb. Despite being told by many that his life and career would be an uphill battle, Seb persevered. “I’ve got a lot to prove to myself, and I prove it every day.”
Sitting atop a shelf in the back kitchen is Seb’s mother’s cookbook. This book is the biggest reference point for each member of Taline’s staff: “Our culture deserves to be on the world stage and mom’s teachings are going to help us get there,” says Seb.
Defining Taline in Toronto’s food scene
It’s no secret that the stretch between Rosedale and Davisville is tough culinary destination. Long-standing restaurants like Sorrel and Terroni have earned their place in the neighbourhood of generational family homes. “I specifically chose this area because it’s full of families,” says Seb. “I want my guests to find their home here and join us not every six months, but weekly.” Seb prides himself on creating personalized experiences for his guests, where he not only knows them by name but by what they order.
“If I had to pick a favourite dish, I don’t know if I have one” Seb quickly hollered to his staff to ask what their favourite was, and everyone said something different. “I think the way our team can see themselves in different dishes is what makes our dynamic so special,” says Seb. When visiting Taline, it’s clear that Seb infuses his personality into every bite. “I speak through my food — it’s big and bold.”
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Growing the family business
“Taline is the starting point to where I want to be,” says Seb. “My mother loved baked goods, so a bakery is something I’d look to next.” Seb also mentions a cocktail bar, kebob truck and various pop-ups as other future options. “People think Armenian/Lebanese food — they think shawarma,” mentions Seb. “Believe me, I’ll give you the best shawarma you’ve ever had.” Seb goes on to mention that the current iteration of Taline can never be replaced or replicated. Taline stands as a singular experience that has purpose and meaning — where his mother’s legacy can carry on.
A message to the Michelin Guide
“Taline is an homage to my mom — everything is real: the food, the wine and so on. We don’t hide behind closed doors, we do everything to make mom proud,” says Seb. “Our ethos is when you walk into Taline’s home, nobody ever leaves sad or hungry.”
Seb hopes that one day the Michelin Guide will recognize Taline for it’s culinary prowess and uniqueness. This self-proclaimed troublemaker is here to disrupt Toronto by bringing dynamic dishes and eclectic ambience to a very competitive food scene. It’s clear that Seb and his team’s mission to put themselves on the map is already written in the stars. Looking to experience an evening at Taline? You can make a reservation here.