Kensington Kitchen [Mark]

124 Harbord St.
(416) 961-3404 

Closed Dec 2007

Located right at Harbord and Spadina, Kensington Kitchen is a cosy and warm restaurant that resembles a comfortable country kitchen. Small with less than ten tables, KK serves up Lebanese fare in a setting that I would categorize as casual fine dining. At first the name seems misleading since it’s not in Kensington market and not on Kensington Avenue (in the market).

I assumed it would be a bohemian cafe with artsy-fartsy hipsters who think they’re too cool to serve you (think Aunties and Uncles or Tequlla Bookworm) . I was surprised when I entered the restaurant since it looked so “adult” in the midsts of the U of T southern annex ghetto.

Kensington Kitchen has much character, with walls draped in Oriental rugs and cotton swatches, hand-beaded purses, old knick knacks, and traditional Middle Eastern art and photos of Lebanon. Food is full of intense flavour, big portions, $10-$15 price range. Offers many vegetarian meals.

Appetizers include such Lebanese favourites like stuffed vine leaves, fried eggplant and cauliflower, baba ghanouj, hummus, olives, pureed garlic potatoes, as well as warm whole wheat pita.

For our meals, Jerome and I both ordered the spicy sauteed eggplant with chunks of stewed tomatoes and tons of onions and chunks of garlic, very Jewish in style and texture and quite oily, but delicious and generous portions.

Beth had the scallops – she thought they were delicious and she liked that they came with a good serving of eggplant and sauteed spinach. No skimpy veggie servings! She though the prices were mid-range, not cheap, but worth it for what you get. She concluded that she would go back.

Daniel had the Lamb shank dish (with figs, raisins, eggplant); same as Aaron and Wendy. Very tasty, but could have had a little more punch to it?I expected the figs & raisins to flavour the dish a little more than it did. Seems as if it may have been cooked a little too long. It was, despite this, very good and I would order it again. The appetizer plate was spectacular, though and everything was ultra-flavourful.

Aaron has the Turkish-style braised lamb stuffed with raisins, eggplant, apricots, and figs. He thought it tasted a bit bland to be honest. The service was friendly though. Zam had the seafood Paella. He thought it was okay. He thought it was a little low on the flavour. He found the appetizer to be a prize winner amongst everyone. (a huge Mediterranean vegetarian plate) . It came with fried cauliflower, hummus, whole wheat pita, falafel, and other vegetarian dips was excellent! The platter was to die for. On a separate occasion he had their risotto, lamb burger, and braised lamb which he found very nice. He commented that he enjoyed their dishes and claimed at the time the lamb was halal but he was not sure about now.

Zam would definitely go there again. We all found the price range is okay .. not really expensive .. reasonable, but not cheap either. Wendy ordered the lamb with raisin and figs and she liked her dish, but she found the meat to be slightly dry. The flavours & brown rice & mint yogurt were really nice.

Average mains are $12-$14. The menu is very vegetarian-friendly like morroccan veggie stew with couscous (pure comfort) as well as some pasta dishes (angel hair pasta hold the seafood), and many other Lebanese vegetarian delights. Of the many places I’ve dined in Toronto, KK thankfully does not rip you off. Portions are big and worth the price.

Very student friendly yet can be the perfect place for a serious romantic date. This was a definitely a great place to celebrate my 32nd surprise birthday dinner . Rumour is that they have trouble handling large groups since it’s not a large space (we were 9 people and we were treated very well) . Hours are Mon-Thurs 11:30am-11pm and Fri – Sun 11:30am-11:30pm.

Mahar Restaurant and Sweets (post reno)

 1410 Gerrard Street
416-466-6241

Last winter I went on a blind date to Mahar and I thought the place was worse than McDonalds. What kind of person (but an idiot) would take someone to a fast food Indian place that specialized in desserts and offered dinner as a sidenote and most dishes were luke warm, and under $5. I am no snob but a dinner date should be in a somewhat nice place in a “non takeout” setting and where your date does not ditch you to serve other customers (they were a friend of the family and decided to serve other customers instead of hanging out with me).

CREEP.

Mahar used to be ugly and disgusting but this past 5-6 months, after a drastic renovation, it has undergone a rebirth, like many places in the Gerrard street neighbourhood. Mahar is now a real “sit down” North and South Indian restaurant with sweets but dinner is their main venture and sweets are now secondary. Decor is absolutely lovely. Totally tasteful and updated, the dirt and kitsch has disappeared, even the bathrooms are lovely!

Offers both North and South Indian favourites like veggie pakoras and samosa with yummy tamarind or coriander sauces, aloo gobi with thick chunks of cauliflower, “reddish” chana masala (as opposed to yellow-ish), malaki kofta (orgasmic), butter chicken, tandoori chicken, kabobs, chicken currys, chicken tikkas, mateer paneer, palak paneer, naan, and South Indian favourites like dosas, idly, sambaar (lentil soup), uthapam (fancy rice naan with onions), and delicious desserts like barfi, faluda and ras malai (milk balls in a sweet rosewater sugar milky syrup)

On my most recent visit to the newly renovated place, i went with three friends and we started the yummy buffet with some sambaar (thick lentil soup) with salad, then came the curried okra and potato (Aloo Bhindi), aloo gobi, palak paneer, mattar paneer, piping hot naan bread (hard to come by), chana masala with chunks of cardamom. For dessert, we had faluda (warm milk with rice noodles, tapioca and ice cream on top), ras malai , and barfi (condensed milk with lentil flour and tons of sugar), and freshly made warm rice pudding with raisins and cardamom.

Mahar is opened 7 days per week from 11:30am-10pm. Offers catering for all occasions, with a newly renovated banquet hall. Lunch buffet is $8.99 and dinner buffet is $10.99. Accepts all cards.

Brar Sweets and Vegetarian Restaurant

 199 Advance Boulevard Unit 12
905-799-1625

2646 Islington Ave
416 745 4449

755 Dundas Street West #A4
905-848- 3933

Located in the “other” Little India at Albion and Islington, Brar Sweets and Vegetarian Restaurant serves exclusively Indian and vegetarian fare. Eighty percent of the restaurant showcases traditional Indian squares (i.e sweets) which are colourful, dense, decadent squares made with condensed milk, tons of sugar, sometimes chick pea flour, and cream. These colourful treats are excellent but drink a lot of water after since they are very sweet and rich I’ve tried many before). The decorative tin foil covering these treats is edible so don’t worry.

Brar Sweets contains about 10-15 tables and decor is minimalist and cosy in classic beige with many mirrors. No kitschy artwork or photos. They specialize in sweets and thali dishes (thalis are one large plate with a sampling of many dishes), as well as takeout.

Some of the dishes they offer includes 3 types of cheese curries: Saag Paneer (cheese), a cheese curry with red/green peppers, and mattar paneer (curried peas and cheese) in a sweet tomato gravy. Other popular dishes include bengan bhartha (eggplant), daal (lentils), aloo gobi (cauliflower, potato, and onions), channa masala (chickpea curry), YUMMY kofta balls (dumplings in a thick and creamy yogourt curry). If you opt for the Thali dish, you may choose any salad and pick the pickled lemons and carrots, they’re excellent. You may also want to pick fresh Naan, Roti, or Pilau (rice) or all three. Food is to “die for” delicious, fresh, piping hot, and exploding with flavour, texture, and colour.

The sweets are colourful and decorative, that you do not want to eat them, just look in amazement.

Vegetarian samosas or Vegetarian pakoras are an excellent starter and are best hot (with tamarind or coriander sauce). Complete meals under $10 including all taxes. No need to tip, but highly recommended since service is always fast and courteous.

Dutch Dreams [by: Erin]

78 Vaughan Road
416 656-6959

 

This place was introduced to me by Mark (not Mark Aaron Polger) when we were in grade 9 and has been a Toronto landmark for almost twenty years. Ice cream is served the “dutch way” with whipped cream and fruit on top. They have awesome homemade ice cream (over fifty flavours), gigantic sundaes, (check out the baked Alaska!)… Truly an ice cream lover’s fantasy. Choosing what to order can be a difficult decision. You’ll go back again and again so you can try everything on the menu!

– Erin Toole

Hollywood Gelato

1640 Bayview Avenue
(a few blocks south of Eglinton – look for the duck on the bike).
416 544-9829

This place has over 20 delicious flavours of soft homemade Italian gelati. Fruit flavours include strawberry, raspberry, multi- berries, citrus, etc. Non-fruit flavours include coconut, pistachio, Mars, tiramisu, chocolate peanut butter… They all taste authentic and fresh. This is my preferred place to go for gelato – fewer flavours than La Paloma make it less overwhelming when deciding what you want, and the prices are a bit cheaper.

Reviewed by Erin Toole

Sicilian Ice Cream Company

710 College St.
416 531-7716

 

In the heart of Little Italy, The Sicilian Ice Cream Company has been serving delicious home-made ice cream, for close to 40 years. The ice cream comes in traditional Italian flavours, such as nocciola, zabaione and baccio as well as the “classics” (chocolate, vanilla). The ice creams are made with milk, with the exception of the Lemon Ice and Raspberry Ice, both of which are fat free and non-dairy. Try the tiramisu flavour, a delicious combination of Italy’s two most famous deserts!

– Erin Toole

Solferino

38 Wellington Street East
416 364 8478

Just opened last spring (2005), Solferino is another gelato place (yay!) with about 20 different flavours, and they keep adding new flavours! Everything is made fresh, on the premises (in the back) and the gelato you are eating was made either yesterday or today. They’ve got the classic flavours (most recently, I had Dulce de Leche, while my friend had Oreo…funny how those are considered “classics”…), and some more unusual flavours (guava, blackberry, lulo, guanabana (two south-American fruits)). Try the avocado flavour!
The owner is from Columbia, and she had 5 successful stores with the same name in Bogota before deciding to test it out here. So far, so good! Go try it!

-Erin Toole