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Review -- The Sultan's Tent (long)

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  • Craig Apr 25, 2005 11:46 AM
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Although we greatly appreciated (and will make use of) all the great suggestions we got from the chowhounds regarding restaurants in the King & Sherbourne area, my wife and I, being impulsive as usual, decided to have our ‘moving in celebration dinner’ on Sunday night when most of the suggested locations were closed. Thus we ended up at the Sultan’s Tent (49 Front St. E.), a former Moroccan-styled tourist trap that re-opened about a year-and-a-half ago with a new design and more upscale cuisine. Although it received a reasonably positive review on Toronto.com, we did not, unfortunately, have the same experience.

The place looks great – we entered through the Café Maroc, an a-la-carte option for those who don’t want the whole experience, and were ushered into the back to the restaurant proper. The décor is over-the-top, but fun rather than tacky. The room is divided into six or seven ‘tents’ complete with translucent curtains, heavily cushioned chairs and benches, and maroon-feathered camel lamps. When we arrived we were the only ones in our particular tent, and although more parties arrived later it’s clear that Sunday is not one of their more popular evenings.

The Sultan’s Tent offers a compulsory four-course meal (starting at $39.93, and dubbed the “Sultan’s Feast”), with a great deal of available customization for the appetizers and mains (some at additional cost). Our waitress, very pleasant and attentive throughout the evening, offered her suggestions for drinks and courses, and we took advantage of many of them.

We both started the evening with drinks featuring pomegranate juice, a specialty of the house. Mine was pomegranate juice mixed with sparkling wine – good and sweet, a nice start to the meal. My wife had a pomegranate martini, which she also enjoyed (I tried it, but I can’t really comment on it, not being much of a martini person in general).

We ordered both the bowl of olives and the harira for our first course. The harira, a lentil and chickpea soup, was excellent – thick, strongly spiced with coriander and turmeric, and with some kind of crunchy topping that gave it a bit more texture. The olives were … olives, although they had some dried peppers on them that gave them a bit of a kick.

For our second course, we went with B’Stila, a pastry filled with chicken, eggs, onions, almonds, and spices, and Calamari Shermoula, a whole grilled calamari stuffed with shrimp and date mousse with a ‘shermoula’ sauce on top. The B’Stila pastry was nice and light and flakey, and the filling was tasty, if a bit bland. We both found that the texture became a bit of a problem after the first few bites – too much like eating canned tuna. The calamari was badly cooked – mostly soft in the middle and extremely rubbery on the ends. The mousse was tasty, but the sauce was a little overpowering (strong cumin flavours).

The main course was, unfortunately, the most disappointing. My wife had the salmon shermoula, which was nice and flaky, but again I didn’t enjoy the sauce (she did). I ordered the rack of lamb, which was actually the high point of the meal – perfectly tender, cooked medium rare as requested. Unfortunately, the sides were a complete bust, and somewhat ruined it for both of us – my Moroccan potatoes were overcooked and chewy, and the Moroccan root vegetables were mushy and cold when they arrived. And, although this isn’t something I’m usually very concerned with, the presentation wasn’t particularly attractive either.

The meal ended with Moroccan mint tea poured at the table (very sweet and pleasant), and a dessert plate – two ‘traditionally made Moroccan cookies’ which tasted like they’d just come out of a package, and two fresh orange slices with sugar and cinnamon (Latshin), which were fine but not particularly memorable.

Service was generally good, and our waitress was very knowledgeable, although our other server seemed inexperienced (leaving certain things on the table for the entire meal, for example, and taking my plate away well before my wife had finished). The belly dancing performance was fun, although I’m pretty sure they tone it down for Sunday nights (only one dancer). But we had a good laugh when some folks from neighbouring tables got up and tried some of the moves. We will definitely try some of the chowhounds’ other suggestions in the future, however, rather than going back to the Sultan’s Tent.

Dinner for 2, including drinks, a half litre of wine, the Sultan’s Feast (with a few additional-charge items), tax, and a 20% tip came to about $200.

- Craig

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  1. We've been to the Cafe Maroc, dined a la carte and had a great time. We weren't interested in the dancing and having to order the set meal didn't appeal to us, either. It's nice they have two "dining" areas. We'd go back to the Cafe side of it.

    1. I had dined at the tent almost a month ago, same pre- fix, better experience.We did meet the chef that night and were very impressed with his passion for food. He was a veteran of The Royal York's Epic(wow , great brunch!) and was involved with the first year of the Distillery Districts operation (I feel sorry for those poor fellas , dealing with those owners).The service was great that night, I love the bar with the bidet , and the Cafe is very charming.I will definately return.

      1. I had dined at the tent almost a month ago, same pre- fix, better experience.We did meet the chef that night and were very impressed with his passion for food. He was a veteran of The Royal York's Epic(wow , great brunch!) and was involved with the first year of the Distillery Districts operation (I feel sorry for those poor fellas , dealing with those owners).The service was great that night, I love the bar with the bidet , and the Cafe is very charming.I will definately return.

        1. Had dinner at Sultans tent for the first time on Tuseday night.

          The space and furnishings were very nice and comfortable. 8/10

          The service was very informative, knowledgeable and overall pleasant. 9/10

          The wine list was slightly above average. More old world with an eye towards France 6.5/10

          The food was quite good after all. The majority of the group quite enjoyed the entire meal and agreed that the apps were quite special themselves. For apps we had the maftouli, crab cakes, couscous, shrimp. And lamb, steak, lamb wallet, and ribs for dinner. 8/10

          Entertainment-not really my cup of tea. However the crowd did enjoy it and it is unique. 8/10

          Certainly a worthwhile dining choice and an interesting option for large groups as they have a very nice room/setup in the rear.

          1. I pass by this place all the time on my walk to St. Lawrence, and have always been intrigued.

            Really wish I could order a la carte and still watch some bellydancing, though.