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May 4, 2009 08:57 AM

Good veg middle eastern food? (Esp foul)

I've tried both Tabule and the Jerusalem and Mezzetta and I enjoy all three but looking for another place to try. I'd like a place that does most of the usual dishes well like fried eggplant, garlic tomatoes, tabbouleh salad, hummus, falafel, and so---but also come dishes that are a bit off that normal path. Any suggestions?

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  1. I just had a very good middle eastern dinner Friday night at Armenian Kitchen, and it was reasonably priced. It's in Toronto, on Victoria Park, west side, just north of Eglinton Ave East by maybe 1 or two lights, in a litle strip mall plaza. If you are out that way give it a try. I thought it was worth the trek from downtown.

    5 Replies
    1. re: cscanlon

      That's pretty close to me so I'll give it a try. Do you recall if they had foul?

      1. re: Ediblethoughts

        They do have foule..but just a warning...if you are looking for is very tacky and oldschool..don't think they renovated since the 70's..also if you have been to the other 3 in the city I think they are all better than Armenian kitchen..but I think this one is the is a lot cheaper in scarborough . I do have foule for breakfast at times at Arz bakery and fine can grocery shop and grab a coffee some foule and maneesh with some tables off to the side

        1. re: cynthias

          I went there once and enjoyed it very much. I got their chicken platter type dinner and everything on it tasted very fresh. I remember it had hummus and tabbouleh with it. I don't recall anything that was too different, although I wasn't exactly looking at that since my dining companion isn't very adventurous and we were sharing that night. They also had mahalabia for dessert which I thought was so delicious. It was my first time trying that so I don't know how authentic it was but I loved it.

      2. re: cscanlon

        I tried out Armenian Kitchen yesterday and the foul was my favourite part of the meal. Very inexpensive compared to Tabule and the Jerusalem. I'd say all dishes (except the fole---which I think was probably the best I've tried in Toronto) were better at T and J but still, I enjoyed everything. And I'm not terribly bothered by atmosphere. As long as it's reasonably clean, I'm good. And if I pay a little less because it doesn't look posh, then all the better!

      3. i had great middle eastern at Aladdin's Palace, out of the ways a bit at Vic Park /Steeles - search the board for my reviews.

        1. Aladdin's Palace is decent but doesn't offer any of the more "unusual" dishes, though they do have foul. I haven't been to Armenian Kitchen in a long time but as far as I can recall you won't find anything more interesting than the standard fare either.

          I've moaned and groaned about this for a long time to be honest. As a Middle Eastern mutt and foodie it frustrates me to no end that one can't get the more "unusual" dishes here in Toronto which are in fact not unusual at all overseas but rather standard fare.

          The only Middle Eastern cuisine where there's a lot of variety going around is Persian but you can't get stuff like tabbouleh and hummus at any self-respecting Persian establishment. You could try a place like Pomegranate as they have veg dishes like adas polo and mirza qasemi. Alborz also has a wide variety of veg starter options which you could order a few of, stuff like mast o khiar or kashk-e bademjan.

          Or maybe you want to venture out to try some Maghrebi food at Walima which serves Moroccan fare. They have hummus and zaalook (eggplant puree of sorts) along with some veg couscous amongst other things.

          I haven't found any of the "atypical" dishes for Levantine food in Toronto anywhere. Anyone a recommendation?

          15 Replies
          1. re: radiopolitic

            I have tried Pomegranate and I liked it--definitely not like anything I've had before. Just checked out the menu for Alborz and it looks very interesting. It's a bit far for me but I'm making a note of it. Same with Walima. Thanks for the recommendations.

            1. re: radiopolitic

              Just curious..what kind of "atypical dishes "are you all referring too for middle eastern food?

              1. re: cynthias

                A very good question. I'm interested in trying something beyond what has come to be the basic "staple" mid-east" fair but since I haven't tried them, I'm not sure what I'd like. What I really meant was veggie dishes beyond the set bunch I referred to in my original post. The menus at Alborz and Walima seemed to have some interesting ones that I think I'd like to try.

                1. re: cynthias

                  I could go on for ages so I'll keep it kind of brief.

                  Tunisian - salata mishwiyya, lablabi, 3ousban, etc

                  Palestinian - mansaf, maqlouba, sumagiyyeh etc.

                  Lebanese - The vast variation in kibbeh, samke harra, balila, laban immo etc.

                  Iraqi - biryani, all sorts of fish (one in particular where the fish is stood upright and cooked from the bottom, forget the name) and stew dishes, some very similar to Persian ones.

                  Yemeni - I forget the name of the dish, its a spiced fish baked in an stone oven, saltah, mandi etc.

                  Turkish - Yayla soup, gavurdagi, tuzda tavuk, tandir, hunkar begendi, wide variety of bean/fasuliye preparations etc.

                  Persian - morghe torsh, baghala ghatogh, torshe tareh, incredible rice variation, kufte tabrizi etc.

                  Kabsa and its varieties, any kishk dishes from around the Levant, Anatolia, Iran etc.
                  There's tons of stuff from Morocco and Egypt as well.

                  Middle Eastern food as a whole is actually extremely varied and complex with many dishes taking extended periods of time to prepare so I can understand why not a lot is made for the public here. Even if you travel to these countries as a tourist it can be really hard to find some of this stuff without knowing where to go. These lists could be much longer but the kind of stuff I grew up with at home both here and overseas is just stuff you generally don't find in restaurants here. I just wish there were a few more outlets to have some of this stuff in Toronto. I'm so bored with the hummus/kabob meals so I stick to making these types of things at home. I'm happy about Persian as you get more variety and now you can actually have dizi in Toronto which I'm super excited to try. Haven't had it since I was in Iran 4 years ago.

                  If you guys are interested in recipes and where to look for more interesting Middle Eastern food to make at home I can make some scholar/author/book recommendations.

                  1. re: radiopolitic

                    i recall seeing foul on the menus of somali and ethiopian restaurants in toronto - don't know if their version would be different from the 'middle eastern' foul you are seeking....

                    1. re: berbere

                      I've been to one Somali restaurant (I think the one on Parliament is Somalian--isn't it... trying to recall the name...) and several Ethiopian. I don't remember foul but then I wasn't expecting to find it in those places.

                      1. re: Ediblethoughts

                        Are there any restaurants serving leblebi? I make it at home every so often, but I'm not even aware of any Tunisian restos in the GTA, let alone one that serves this very hearty traditional winter breakfast dish. Even in Tunisia it was scarce, since we were there in late summer/early fall. Nobody there cares to eat that heavily in such hot temperatures.

                        I'd do nearly anything for a nice spicy Tunisian meal served with some killer hot harissa. What I wouldn't do a for a street cart or kiosk selling the Tunisian version of Banh Mi. It's spread with harissa and drizzled with olive oil, then stuffed with tuna, hard boiled egg, potatoes, preserved lemons, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, parsley and more. Yum!

                        1. re: 1sweetpea

                          You probably know about Djerba La Douce already but they do have some Tunisian items (I have no idea how authentic). The filling of the Brique appetizer is somewhat like the "Tunisian Banh Mi" you describe, although it is a pastry. I suspect the owner would talk Tunisian food with you...

                        2. re: Ediblethoughts


                          i've seen it at several ethiopian places and have been told my some african friends that foul is a sudanese dish - wonder if it is very different from the middle eastern one you are thinking of...anyone?

                          1. re: berbere

                            Looks like a neat Ethiopian place. Though I was visualizing dipping my pita into that foul... not injera!

                      2. re: radiopolitic

                        rediopolitic (or anyone else) -- do you have any reccomendations for good Persian restaurants in Toronto?

                        1. re: torontofoodiegirl

                          A Persian grandmas home :P haha

                          Aside from that if you're looking for non kabob Persian food Pomegranate is your best bet. If you want something cheap the fesenjan from Supermarket Tehran on Yonge north of Steeles makes a good cheap version for take home. If you go to Pomegranate's sister restaurant (Sheherzade Grill - they only have kabobs other than dizi though as far as entrees) right beside it they serve dizi which is a phenomenal dish (I haven't been here but have heard fantastic things). It comes in a clay pot with meat, veggies and chickpeas, you take a pestle like device and mash everything together and use its broth as a soup while you eat it with bread.

                          Kabob wise there are a few good places, Banu is definitely up there and they serve their kabobs on lavash (thin, soft bread, call it a relative of pita but better imho) so the juices of the meat soak into it and makes it delicious. Most other places serve their kabobs with a rice variant of some kind be it plain with saffron or an assortment of berries/nuts. Shomal its pretty good but I haven't been there in a long time and it looks like they redid their site. They have a couple of dishes I haven't eaten in a long time that are very regional to northern Iran from Gilan province. I'd check that out if you want some more unusual things. Shomal serves both a good variety of kabob and non kabob dishes so if you wanna bridge some gaps that is a good bet.

                          1. re: radiopolitic

                            Thanks radiopolitic. I'm definitely going to have to check out Persian sometime soon... Too bad it will be at a restaurant and not a grandmother's house!

                        2. re: radiopolitic

                          wow thanks everyone...I will look some of these up and try to find them! I think the most atypical for me that I tried but not vegetarian was the Kubbieney..I don't know how to spell it but is was like a lambtartar mixed with bulgur..basically raw kubbeh..pretty good but an aquired taste I'd say

                      3. re: radiopolitic

                        At Aladdin's Palace only combo plates are recommended, but they are strongly recommended. Cheap.
                        Marrakech , west of Wahlima has a limited menu but is good and probably better at this stage. Cheap, too.
                        See previous posts.

                      4. I think we got away from the "veg" part of the OP, or at least I'm not totally clear which of this galaxy of dishes are vegetarian and which aren't...if someone could summarize I would be very grateful. Foul I know is, so that's OK. :)

                        1 Reply
                        1. Momo's at Harbord and Robert Streets fed me all through my UofT years. Though they don't have anything really unusual, they do have foul. The vegetarian dishes are all pretty good, fresh veggies, etc. The place is cheap and has a really cute garden patio.

                          I also second the rec for Pomegranate!

                          Momo's Restaurant & Grocerteria
                          196 Robert St, Toronto, ON M5S2K7, CA

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: humuhumu

                            Thanks! Do you recall if the garden patio was smoke-free?

                            1. re: Ediblethoughts

                              I don't recall if there was a rule, but as per your other thread, it's mostly covered above by trellises and plants. I don't recall being bothered by smoking (and it usually bothers me a lot). BTW, the portions are quite large.

                              1. re: humuhumu

                                Have tuperware and not afraid to use it. If it's covered, it probably is pretty safe. I'll definitely arrange to go there--hopefully while the weather is still warm... well, warmish...

                            2. re: humuhumu

                              Almost went to Momo last night but luckily called ahead and found out their posted hours on the website (11am to 11pm) are 100% wrong! Lucky I called. Will try them on a week day I guess (when they stay open until 5:30----they were only open until 4:30 on Sundays).

                              1. re: Ediblethoughts

                                Scratch the above. Either I talked to a server who had no idea what she was talking about or I talked to someone at the OTHER Momo's! 11 to 11 are there hours. Tried it out and it was quite good--had the folle, falafel plate, grilled veg plate, lentil soup, spinach pie and sangria and baklava for dessert. Great folle! And the fried cauliflower was much better than what Tabule makes. The falafel were very good as were all the salad items and lentil soup. I wasn't as enthused about the sangria---not enough flavour or fruitiness for me. My least favourite part was the dessert---the baklava tasted stale to me. But all in all, a nice place to eat, esp. when the patio is non-smoking (when asked if the patio on Robert St. was non-smoking, I was told "sort of") which it was when we were there.