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Oct 15, 2010 10:52 PM

The sad state of falafel in Toronto

(restarting this thread, minus the part of the post that caused the thread to be deleted)

Years ago, I used to enjoy the falafel at El Basha on Bloor. But then the owner, Tony, returned to Lebanon and there was a period when it was staffed by hired hands, and the food was horrible. Tony's ex and sons then took over the kitchen - they'd operated some sit-down Lebanese places previously - and the food became amazing again. The falafel balls were always large, with a crispy crust on the outside. The inside, while cooked, was deliciously moist and fragrant. The tahini sauce was perfectly balanced with garlic and lemon flavours. And I still try to recreate the hot sauce, which was obviously made, in part, with some kind of roasted chile. I have had falafel all over the world (though not in the Middle East) and so far none has surpassed this falafel when it was at its best.

Eventually, the landlord took over the premises, and the family moved the shop to Yonge Street, and it never got the business there that it used to have, and finally closed.

For a few years in the mid '00s there was a place on Queen West called Syriandipity, which was owned by a Syrian guy. Although the other components never made it up to El Basha's standards at its best, the falafel was its equal, in my opinion. The shawarma and meats were also great. Sadly, the owner had to leave the country and sold the restaurant, which passed to someone who didn't know how to make the food (and didn't care).

Since then, I've never had a good falafel in Toronto. But maybe I'm missing out on something. I'd love to hear there is great falafel somewhere in Toronto. So far, I haven't found anything south of Bloor, at least.

Aida's, now called Laila's, long ago stopped trying. That said, if you go when the Arab woman is making the food - sorry, I don't know her name, or which country she is from, but she is the only Arab person in the shop, the others are Iranian or Korean - the food can be really tasty. But when the owner (who is Iranian) is running the show, he really just does not pay attention and falafel or shish taouk get horribly overcooked as a result. My other gripe with them is they use powdered chile instead of making a hot sauce, which they always did, even back in the early days of Aida. (They've gone through several changes of owners, with a long period in the middle under the ownership of a Hyderabadi man). Also, they make really small falafel balls, although they do give three, rather than two, as in most places.

As for Ghazale, flavourless falafel balls, served with tasteless tomato and apparently unseasoned tahini. Anything with any flavour (tabboule, hummus) costs extra, so of course it's cheap. Price is their selling point, and since they have high turnover, I guess the food is going to be fairly fresh.

Based on comments on this site (including one on the previous incarnation of this thread), I want to try out King Falafel and Armenian Kitchen - here's hoping.

504 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S1Y3, CA

Armenian Kitchen
1646 Victoria Park Ave, Toronto, ON M4A, CA

Laila Restaurant
553 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S1Y6, CA

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    1. I hate to tell you, but for really good falafel, you need to go Little Jerusalem, which is way north of Bloor, in the Bathurst and Steeles area. My personal favourite is Sababa, which is on Steeles just east of Bathurst. It is not pretty but has the best, fresh falafels with a variety of salads to choose from and homemade pita bread. Virtually every strip mall in that area has a falafel restaurant and they are all good. It may not want to be what you hear but think about it like any other ethnic food in T.O: the best Greek? Danforth. Italian? Little Italy. Etc...

      390 Steeles W, Thornhill, ON L4J6X6, CA

      1. Akram's in Kensington. $2.99. Lots of options. Fried to order.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Herb

          I tried Akram's - didn't like the fallafel AT ALL - it was bland. But I'll be back to sample the other items on their steam table, and the people are wonderful!

        2. Definitely try King Falafel, at Bathurst/Eglinton. Ask for it to be fried fresh. They happily oblige.

          Other delicious falafel: Hakotel at Bathurst/Steeles and Tov-Li at Bathurst near Wilson.

          1 Reply
          1. re: magic

            Try Jerusalem on Eglinton West of Bathurst. The falafel balls are fresh and crunchy.

          2. I think Tov Li makes a really good one