Prince of Egypt (closed end of 2007)

135 Danforth
416-463-2228

Prince of Egypt recently opened on the Danforth and Wendy and I avoided it for a long time. We were always curious to peek in to see but we were not gutsy enough to walk in. Probably because of our fond memories of the Schillings Cafe, the lovely place we used to go for brunch and decadent chocolate.

We decided to satisfy our curiosity by finally going. We immediately felt comfortable when we entered Prince of Egypt, a spacious, casual restaurant owned by Adam Soliman (he likes to be called president) and his father. Adam is a bubbly 25 year old, friendly, cute, and enthusiastic about his new restaurant on the Danforth he runs with his dad. His demeanour is genuine and very animated.

Menus are quite interesting as this place has re-used old menus and taped pieces of paper over top with their selection of delectable Middle Eastern dishes. Kudos for being creative with not throwing out old menus!

Despite the fabulous, fresh food and desserts, the decor is dreadful. Bright fabric adorns the restaurant, attachd to lamp-post type woodwork that looks cheaply designed and built. The tables in the large dining hall are covered in plastic tablecloth with kitschy designs.

I see too much styrofoam and I can’t help to think that this restaurant was designed on a very low budget. I must admit the whole experience was quite positive, despite the tacky and kitschy renovation. The decor looks authentic than any restaurant on Gerrard street (in Little India) but I want to emphasize that the food is to die for.

For our appetizers, Wendy and I order the eggplant dip with pita (babaganouj) and it is chunky and not too creamy like traditional Middle Eastern fare. Wendy orders an Akane tea, which resembles rosehip and tastes divine. For our mains, I order the hummus, tabouleh, and babagonouj pita sandwich, and although it’s not jammed packed with those three delicious ingrediants, it’s fresh and delicious. It comes with any salad of my choice so i choose the grilled veggie salad with grilled eggplant and pepper and other fresh veggies. Wendy orders the African meat pita sandwich with the ** salad which she loves. Both dishes are $11.95 and portion size is not overly huge, but not skimpy.

For dessert, we share the Egyptian rice pudding which is spicy and aromatic. It is made with rice, milk, sugar, coconut, and rose water. This is the second runner-up for rice pudding (1st goes to Indian rice pudding for its pistachios, cardamon, and nutmeg medley).

Other items include beef kebabs, Roasted chicken legs, Lamb shank, vegetarian lentil soup, grape leaves with rice and lamb, and funky designer salads that come with each meal.

For dessert, we ordered creamy rice pudding with coconut, milk, rice, and rosewater, house-baked baklava (both $2.50) with deep red akane tea ($1.25), that according to Wendy, tasted like rosehips. I ordered a Cinnamon tea with milk and cream. It resembled a spicy Indian tea (known as Chai to most).

Decor is kitschy and cheap, but the food is fabulous, fresh, healthy, large portions and there are many vegetarian (and even vegan) dishes.

Complete meals for $15 per person ($7 at lunch), including all taxes, tip, and an anise tea. Average mains are $6-$10. Open Monday to Wednesday 10:30 am to 9 pm, Thursday to Saturday 10:30 am to midnight, Sunday noon to 8 pm. Unlicensed. Accepts all cards.

Mezzetta Cafe Restaurant

681 St. Clair West
416-658-5687

 

I went out on a dinner date on a cold snowy Saturday night and we did not know where to go. St. Clair West did not resemble a street full of restaurants like the Danforth, The Annex, Queen West, or Yonge street. We wanted something with light healthy food with many veggie options. We were very happy when we stumbled upon Mezzetta, a middle eastern cafe located at St. Clair and Christie. Mezzetta is 2 level casual dining establishment, which has live jazz on Wednesday evenings. Dimly lit and cosy inside Mezzetta is filled with art that reminds you of a cosy living room.

For a cold Saturday night in late February, the place was crowded with locals from the Wynchwood Park and Hillcrest Village neighbourhoods. It felt like a local bar or bistro.

Mezzetta’s menu is simple. They only serve item in “tapas” format (i.e. appetizers). There are 50 items on the menu and they recommend choosing 10 items for $28.00 would feed 2 people comfortably. Well, they were right. We ordered 9 vegetarian items and one non-veggie item for my dinner date. In addition, we ordered 2 diet Cokes and an order of pita (40 cents) to go with our order of hummus, babagonoush, morroccan carrots with herbs and olive oil, sauteed eggplant cubes, beef dolmades (vine leaves), spanokopita )spinach and feta cheese in phyllo pastry), eggplant in a hot chili sauce, and an order of pickles and kalamata olives. It was nice to share so we could taste an assortment of many different dishes. For an appetizer, portions seems pretty large and I was happy since I am known for my large appetite. Service was extra friendly and food was served fast and with a smile. Most dishes are cold but some are hot (the menu indicates dishes that are not served cold). You can order dishes separately and I think they’re $2.95 but ten dishes are more than enough for 2 people.

Accepts all cards. Offers takes out and catering. Ambiance is perfect for a nice date, casual, but appropriate. Live music on Wednesday nights. Since it’s a small cafe, it can get crowded so reservations are strongly recommended.

Queen Mother Cafe [Mark Aaron]

208 Queen St. W.
Tel: (416) 598-4719
Mon-Sat 11:30am- 1:00am
Sun 12:00pm-12:00am

 

web site: www.queenmothercafe.ca

Located right at Queen near McCaul in the Queen West neighbourhood, I have always been curious to try this place out. With old wood furniture, high pressed tin ceilings, and beautifully restored, the Queen Mother Cafe serves Pan Asian (mostly Thai and Laosian cuisine) as well as some Mediterranean dishes and decadent desserts since 1978.

With a large, beautiful back terrace, and with three large dining areas, in a very dimlight romantic setting, the Queen Mother Cafe offers decadent desserts (locally made by Dufflet), and an array of Thai-Lao inspired dishes. For our dinner, we started with vegetarian cold rolls appetizers (fresh spring rolls filled with tofu, bean sprouts, cucumber, lettuce, vermicelli noodles, carrots, bell peppers, fresh mint and coriander, served with a hot and sweet peanut sauce) a bit liquidy in terms of the sauce, but a highly delicious start to our meal.

For our mains, Wendy ordered the seafood hot pot with a scallop, shrimp and calamari with green beans, cauliflower, bamboo shoots, bell peppers and fresh basil in a spicy Indian curry coconut sauce, served with steamed jasmine rice. Wendy found it very saucy, spicy, and wonderful.

I ordered the spicy vegetarian roti with fresh market vegetables, chickpeas and tofu in a spicy curry sauce, wrapped in a warm Indian Dahl roti, served with cucumber and cherry tomato salad, topped with raita dressing. I did not find it very saucy (more dry) but it was one of the best rotis i have had in a long time. Wendy ordered a sparkling water that was similar to San Pellegrino and I ordered the typical Diet Coke.

Service was exquisite and food presentation and taste was divine. There were not many vegetarian options but the waitress assured me that they were flexible and that they could make anything vegetarian. She also assured me that the peanut sauce was truly vegetarian. Mains are in the price range of $12-$15 and appetizers are $6-$9. Some appetizers include sticky rice steamed in a straw basket with a peanut sauce, edamame (steamed Japanese soybean snaps in a chili soy dipping sauce), nam jeun (three crispy spring rolls filled with a special vegetable mixture, served with hot and sweet peanut sauce ), dim sum quartet (wonton wrapped dim sum filled with chicken and shrimp and served in a soy sauce and garlic chili dipping sauce ), golden triangles (chicken, cumin, ginger, coriander, scallions and curry wrapped in a “samosa” like fashion with a curry and lemon yogourt sauce), and artichoke hummus. Salads includes an arugula walnut salad (YUMM), a mediterranean salad, and your typical plain “house” salad. Entrees include a smoked turkey chili, spinach and ricotta canneloni (super yummy), New Zealand lamb tenderloin, teriyaki salmon, and ping gai (grilled marinated boneless chicken with garlic, coriander, black peppercorns, served with a spicy lime coriander sauce and steamed rice ).

Noodle dishes include pad thai, bah me hang (fresh thin egg noodles stir-fried with bean sprouts, onions, celery, chopped peanuts, sauteed shrimp and golden sliced chicken in a spicy lime coriander sauce, topped with green onions and fresh coriander), and khao soy gai (a Laotian dish of chicken simmered with ginger, fresh Thai herbs, turmeric, curry and coconut milk, served on a bed of fresh bean sprouts, watercress and soft thin egg noodles, garnished with shallots, marinated bok choy and fresh coriander
).

Also serves a Sunday brunch. Some brunch items include a Montreal bagel (St. Viateur) with served plain or with cream cheese, hamburgers served with fries, crêpes with a savoury filling, served with home fries and salad, two eggs, served any way you like it, with home fries, double smoked side bacon and toasted authentic St Viateur Bagel from Montreal, served piping hot, omelete of the day served with home fries and side salad, quiche of the day (served with salad), and a St. Viateur bagel served with smoked salmon, cream cheese, red onions, lemon, and fresh dill (a taste of “Jewish and Montreal”)

Accepts all cards. Open Mon-Sat 11:30am- 1:00am and Sun 12:00pm-12:00am. Serves some brunch items (in addition to regular menu) on Sunday. A wonderful place to bring a date. Liquor License.

Ameer

 

Ameer serves traditional Lebanese cuisine in “Little Arabia” at the corner of Warden and Lawrence. I decided to try this place for lunch after previously sampling some very good baba ganoush and hummus from here. It turned out to be one of the best middle eastern meals I’ve eaten in (greater) Toronto.

The interior of the restaurant is something you would imagine of a middle eastern restaurant. Arabic decorations, white tile, clean with soft, traditional music playing in the background. The place was empty save for a group of women celebrating someone’s birthday. Our waiter was very friendly and accomodated my desire of having a side of chicken shwarma with my vegetarian platter. My choices for middle eastern fare are quite boring and I tend to stick to the usual falafel and dips. There’s just something I love about this combination of food that always seems to be the best choice on the menu. The platter was HUGE and came with large helpings of hummus, baba ganoush, five falafel balls that were crisped to perfection on the outside but soft and warm inside, mild garlic dip, several tasty grape leaves packed with rice and assorted spices, and a large basket of pita bread. Each of these parts of the meal including the stuffed grape leaves which I do not usually care for were delicious. The extra side of chicken shwarma was tender and tasty as well. The only problem was that there was too much food.

Armenian Kitchen

1646 Victoria Park
416.757.7722

A few blocks to the north of Armenian Kitchen, on Lawrence Ave. E between Pharmacy and Warden is what is known as “Little Arabia”. With tons of Arabic shops, bakeries and restaurants, some of who’s names are written only in Arabic, this area is truly unique and contains several well hidden gems. The Armenian Kitchen, by contrast caters to a more diverse clientele though still serving traditional and authentic middle eastern fare. Through all my searching for decent food to eat in Scarborough, the name of the Armenian Kitchen has come up the most.

For lunch, I settled on a typical vegetable platter with hummous, baba ghanoush, tabouleh salad, and labouneh – a thick, yogourt dip and pita. The hummous was smooth with tahina, the baba was creamy and garlicky but not overly so, and labouneh which I had never tried before was a wonderful addition. The pita bread was fresh, flat and soft and tabouleh salad was a good contrast to the dips.

Armenian Kitchen also does take out and I will surely be coming back here to take some dips up north.

Mystic Muffin

Mystic Muffin
113 Jarvis St.
(416) 941-1474

 

The main attraction of Mystic Muffin is actually its owner: Elias Makhoul. With a penchant for hilarious stories, and witty anecdotes, Elias puts a smile on each customer’s face as he expertly prepares a variety of sandwiches with a middle east flair.

Like “Salad King” (see Salad King review), the restaurant’s name has everything to with poor marketing and absolutely nothing to do with the food. Also like Salad King, you line up to place your order and can partake in some friendly banter. But that is where the similarities end.

Completely unlike Salad King, Mystic Muffin serves up a tasty falafel. Be sure to add some hummous, fried eggplant and even some potatoes to the mix for a well packed pita. There is also a good veggie combination platter to try. I recall one visit to Mystic Muffin when Elias was leaving to his native Lebanon for a vacation. He scooped out the remaining hummous and gave it to me to take home in a styrofoam container.

The ambience of Mystic Muffin is somewhat bleak so I would suggest taking your meal out; however you can also enjoy Elias’ good nature during your meal if you decide to stay.

St. Lawrence Market

Having benefited from working downtown for several years, I had the luxury of trying many different foodstuffs in the downtown core. One of the regular places I visited was the Toronto landmark St. Lawrence Market. The Market is renowned for the “Peameal Bacon Sandwich”. I’ve tried this once and did not particulary enjoy it’s plain, salty taste; so do not expect to see any reviews of the varying degrees of this sandwich below.

Usually bustling with tourists and downtown jobbers over lunch, St. Lawrence Market offers a wide variety of independently owned, fresh and almost homecooked food. Here is a sampling of some of my favourites:

Mustacio’s

My favourite, if not most fattening delight, is surely the famous veal sandwich restaurant located right beside the stairs on the lower level of the Market. Standing in the long but fast moving line, one should decide quickly on their order lest they be berated by one of the quick talking and acting servers. I usually fully load my sandwich with fried onions, mushrooms, hot peppers, tomato sauce, and, if that doesn’t sound like the end of a 30 waist, I top it off with my favourite part: a fried piece of eggplant. This is one of the better veal sandwiches in the city, and is comparable to the best: California Sandwiches. (See review of California Sandwiches).

Dina’s Deli

If you have a craving for some homecooked baklava or stuffed pepper this is the place to go. This friendly, family-owned counter located towards the northern side of the first floor of the market has fresh, eastern-european cuisine that smells and tastes like it was just cooked in your bubby’s (grandmother) kitchen. Breaded chicken breasts, roast chicken stuffed with rice, latkes with fried onions and sour cream, and moussaka are some of the favourites here. Prices are extremely reasonable.

Churrasco of St. Lawrence

While this version of the Portuguese style of churassco chicken does not compare to the St. Clair and Christie original, it still offers up several different good chickeny meals that are sure to fill your stomach and leave you satisified. For a quick and tasty lunch, the chicken on a bun sandwich is a tasty delight. Be aware, if you are eating with someone else, you only need to order one fries due to the borderline obscene portions that are provided. Churassco is located on the upper level just as you enter the northern, west doors.

Carousel Bakery

For a healthy, but tasty alternative check out Carousel Bakery, located on the upper level’s west side. If I am feeling particulary fat, I will check out the house salad which comes either with chicken, tomatoes, and cucumbers or in greek style. I usually substitute the cream dressing in the chicken salad for the oil and vinegar which comes with the greek salad. Carousel also offers delicious pre-made sandwiches including a roasted vegetable sandwich on foccacia. And yes, if you must know, Carousel also is renown for the Peameal bacon sandwich.

Yiannis Kitchen

The greek style restaurant on the lower level directly south of Mustacio’s has friendly staff and good gyro and souvlaki sandwiches. The sandwiches come with either a simple salad or fries. The sides aren’t so great but the actual sandwiches come stuffed and will drip all over you if you are not careful! Be sure to ask to add some chipotle or other hot sauce to your sandwich if you like it spicy.