No need to travel 10,000 kilometres to feast on incredible Middle Eastern fare. Just take a trip to Toronto, where there’s a slew of superb Middle Eastern restaurants across the city: from hidden gems in grocery stores to elegant eateries inside museums. Start the culinary journey with these ten must-try spots.
This 45-seater funky eatery in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood serves to-die-for Israeli and Sephardic comfort cuisine. Hungry hordes flock to Fat Pasha to chow down on delicacies like smoked salmon latkes, lamb burger pita, hummus and spreads, lamb shawarma, and Israeli cheesecake. Ambitious eaters should attempt the colossal cauliflower that’s roasted and generously coated with tahini sauce, pomegranates, pine nuts and other delicious ingredients.
At Parallel, tahini is at the centre of the universe. Located in Toronto’s west end, this family-run Middle Eastern café and tahini factory cold-presses sesame paste, creating unique flavours, such as “smoky” and “beet.” Tahini makes cameos across the menu, appearing in smoothies, truffle hummus, salad dressings, and as a sauce that’s smothered on the lamb and beef kebab pita. Rumour has it that the herb falafel with tahini is the bomb diggity.
Dine like a Damascene king at Roman Zaman, located on the outskirts of Toronto. Summoning old world tradition, this elegant restaurant serves superb Damascene delicacies on copper cutlery, supping like Syrian nobility. The shish tawook is particularly divine – two meaty skewers of chicken, marinated in spices and charcoaled until tender. End with a tea service steeped in tradition, as the brew arrives in a little copper tea pot.
Maha's Fine Egyptian Cuisine
Tired of the usual breakfast fare? For a unique brunch experience, join the long line at Maha’s to sup on real deal Cairo cuisine. The menu is full of dishes with cheeky references to the city, like the “Cairo Classic” with foole (a traditional Egyptian breakfast dish made of fava beans) or the Pharaoh’s Po’ Boy, a pita stuffed with deep-fried shrimp and drizzled with homemade tahini and tomeya. Make sure to come hungry – the portion sizes are mammoth.
Tabule Middle Eastern Cuisine
Tabule has been a Toronto fave for fine Middle Eastern fare since the first location in Davisville opened in 2005. Now, the Tabule family includes four restaurants across the city, with Souk Tabule in Riverside being especially popular among eastside city dwellers for its hip, exotic cocktails and mouth-watering menu items from the original restaurant, like Chef Rony’s famous falafels, fattüish salad and award-winning hummus. FYI: it’s BYOB with no corkage fee on Mondays and Tuesdays.
For an elegant and thoughtful meal, venture to the Aga Khan Museum and dine at Diwan – an upscale Mark McEwan restaurant that features a mixed bag of Middle Eastern, North African and South Asian cuisine. Although the portions are small, the flavours are mighty and authentic: diners talk up the sweet pea falafel, braised lamb shank, crisp manakeesh and swoon-worthy desserts. FYI: the restaurant’s interior is an Instagrammer’s dream – inspired by a luxurious 19th-century Syrian home, the walls are adorned with wood panels that were hand-carved and painted in Damascus in 1799. There’s also a lovely patio that overlooks the gardens of the Aga Khan Park.
Mustafa Turkish Pizza
It’s worth the trek to Mustafa in North York to feast on Turkish-style pizza. Here, long, thin flat bread is sprinkled with spiced minced meat, pepperoni, tomatoes, onions, peppers, herbs, feta and other delicious toppings, and then sliced and served in a basket. Snag a booth in the cave-like setting, and if your appetite allows it, chow down on other Turkish delicacies like Iskender (thinly cut strips of meat slathered in sauce and served with pita and yogurt) or sarma (a pistachio pastry).
Paramount Fine Foods
Paramount Fine Foods has 60-something restaurants across Canada, but it’s also a Toronto staple. And for good reason: the chain started with one restaurant in Mississauga and flew in top chefs to develop a menu of phenomenal Lebanese fare. Walking in the front door, inhale the heavenly aroma of fresh bread baking in a wood-burning oven, charcoal barbecued meats and handmade sweets. The za’atar and cheese manakeesh and spicy shish tawook with lots of garlic sauce is LIFE.
This cozy Persian eatery in Little Italy has an impressive menu of Iranian and other Middle Eastern goodies, but many diners flock to The Pomegranate for the fesenjan – a stew made with ground walnuts and pomegranate that comes with chicken or vegetables. Other patrons have been “blown away” by the braised lamb shank that’s “fall-off-the-bone tender” or the kashk-e bademjan – a dip of charred eggplant, Persian whey, sautéed garlic and walnuts topped with caramelized onion.
Ghadir Meat and Restaurant
Don’t be fooled by the no-frills strip mall setting: Ghadir Meat and Restaurant in Scarborough serves some of Toronto’s best Middle Eastern food. Famished foodies flock to this one-stop grocery store, butcher shop and eatery to feast on Lebanese-style shawarma marinated in spices, stacked up in a cone, and slow-cooked on a spit. Others swear by the whole barbecue chicken platter for $14.99 and the manakeesh – dough topped with za’atar and cheese and baked in a stone oven.