Chowfind : Dr. Laffa -Middle -Eastern Veg - Duferin and Finch
40 Magnetic Dr.
Finch and Dufferin
Sunday to Friday , 9.30 am to 7.00pm. They must close earlier on Friday during the early sunset seasons because they have
Badatz (!) kosher certification.
Veg with lots vegan because of the cooking culture rather than ideology.
A laffa is a middle-eastern flat bread which corresponds to an Indian naan. The "Dr." in Dr. Laffa means in Israeli English that the place specializes in the thing and claims to make it to a high level.
Iraqui style Israeli.
A taste from home .
Location: In the parking lot horseshoe of an industrial unit complex, Entrance therefrom.
Design. Pragmatic and practical. The back wall at the loading dock has been turned into a store front. Lots of parking in the horseshoe.
Decor and layout. You are in Israel. Big yellow and black mural of the Beitar Jerusalem footbal club logo; too complicated to go into Kuni Lemel on other wall. Open service area and ovens, a bunch of tables and chairs. Only a small part of the industrial unit is used for the restaurant . The rest is randomly littered with stuff.
Staff. Waitress is "Russian" and tries too hard.. Owner is Iraqui from Jerusalem.
Customers . All Israeli when I was there and only Hebrew was spoken. Staff speaks passable English.
Food. Hummus (three ways), falafel, shashuka (eggs in a tomato based sauce), sabih (eggplant , hard boiled egg and more, but remember, black egg), lots of "salads".
Specials, Tuesday Couscous ($10), Thursday-Friday Moroccan fish ($12).
Ambiance. Informal with a vengence.
I had the salad combo plate. Six - eight (I forget) "salads" on one plate, plus a blackened (authentic, I left it) hard boiled egg. I asked for one falafel ball as an extra, they put it on the plate. The plate came with a freshly made laffa with a choice of toppings. I specified zatar, a herb mixture.
The salads were freshly made and good. I don't know anything about Iraqui cooking, but I know a bit about Lebanese. I prefer Lebanese style. The laffa was good but I prefer laffa and pita made with a flour that is less white, without it being whole wheat. They make a whole wheat laffa as well; next time. The falafel is in a heavy style, I prefer a lighter falafel. These are not criticisms; I am only stating my tastes and describing the cooking.
Total cost : $6 including tax. Enough to eat for lunch.
A good chowish experience. I will be back .
I am told that they will soon be moving across the street and opening a meat restaurant (meaning , no dairy). I hope they don't ruin it by becoming complicated and expensive.
Moved hootz l' industrial units to big shiny restaurant across the street. Been three times to this location. First two times large disappointment. I complained and left the plateof food the second time. Third time I walked out after look- around. Food in new location is prepared so expediently that there is no issue whether its character is a style; undisputably way down from something which could have been better in the first place but was quite OK and good for here. Prices way up, some raised twice. No soul, no honour. This is what happens in galut.
No need to footnote me.
re: Vinnie Vidimangi
Agreed, the raffish, rickety, cheerfully chaotic ambiance of the original location, on a loading dock in an crummy industrial park, has been lost in transition to new, bigger, fancier digs across the street. Dr. Laffa now looks, disappointingly, like a normal restaurant. It has about five times the seatings. The place is clean. The serving staff is (somewhat) civil, if also somewhat disorganized. You can now get a free glass of water (previously, they insisted you buy bottled water. I guess someone informed them about Ontario rules and regulations.) Like VV and acd123 above, I miss the old days, which were just last summer, when the place opened. The old joint had idiosyncratic style to spare. Now it's not so much a-la-minute prep, but much more in-advance efficiency - as it has to be, I suppose, when you more than triple the size of the menu. I have before me a copy of the original limited menu from less than a year ago: about a dozen substantial appetizer-type dishes mainly from $6-8. The prices of almost almost all those items haven't changed - except that, at the old place, tax was included in the price (though, bewilderingly, that was never noted on the menu) and now it isn't, which means that, strictly speaking, prices of those items have risen about 13%. Standard nowadays, I regret to note. And if quality seems to have slipped, to me it's just a little slippage. The Israeli salad isn't up to much any more. But I was just there for lunch last week and the sabih sandwich wrapped in a fresh-baked laffa, which comes with three tasty side salads, is still solid (and huge. I defy anyone to finish it at one sitting. Best to take half home for lunch the next day.) What makes prices seem way up, I suspect, are the newer main dishes served mostly at dinner, which the old place didn't have on the menu. Those prices are substantially higher than similar dishes at other nearby Middle East restos - but then, kosher (which Dr. Laffa is) always seems to add 20% or so to restaurant bills. I'm still game for lunch at Dr. Laffa, but not so much dinner - I can do better for the same cuisine at dinner elsewhere. For those nostalgic for the old days of last summer: the same entertaining clientele at lunch. And the serving staff still makes hilarious mistakes on the almost-indecipherable bills (I suppose they're still not used to adding 13% HST, among other arithmetic foibles.) Make sure to check your bills. Soups listed at $3.99 have a habit of becoming $5.99.
So: Dr. Laffa, not the same as it was (alas), but still, not too shabby. And if you won't go back, they won't miss you. The place is usually jammed.
The heart of a place like this is the "salads" and bread. With the move they became, "don't give a shit", and obviously and deliberately so.
The soup that I had was childishly unpalatable, the shawarma was Polish.
Everything was expediently done.
The problem isn't that the menu is too large, but rather that the people preparing the food don't know how to cook or don't care. Or to be charitable, they are seeking to please their clientele by cooking mangikike.
There is the old menu and its pricing, the new menu with higher printed prices and now this same menu with the price of many items revised upwards significantly with a black marker. Perhaps you missed the revision.
I have had lots of bad cooking in Israel and good as well and I recognize not caring in the kitchen. I don't think that a place with the standard and style currently at Dr.Laffa would make it in Israel. But chacun a son gout , and the black BMW with the Dr. Laffa vanity plates proves it. Lots of places in Toronto do fine without my custom.
I kinda agree with VVM. I went last weekend and it was pretty mediocre. Certainly not terrible, but not worth the drive up from downtown. It was quite busy (we went Sunday lunch time), but we got a table quickly. The service was actually quite friendly - no beef there, but I was really looking forward to a solid Sabich, will have to wait for Tel Aviv in April...
The laffa wrapper, the filling and the sauce.
A sabich looks like a giant unfried spring roll. The wrapper is a flat bread about 14 inches across- a laffa. Laffa is cooked inside a tanoor (tandoor), a taboon (" wood fired (often) pizza oven") or on top of a heated dome. Dr. Laffa uses a tanoor. The filling is various "salads" supplemented as one wishes, often by a baked egg. There is a sauce, at request, of "amba" a curried mango pickle.
The laffa at the old place was good enough that I ate it eagerly, but bad enough that I regretted so doing later. The deficiencies in the dough were masked at first eating by the zatar or sesame topping and the bread was well cooked. Even though the zatar was mediocre. Almost any bread is pleasant when it is freshly baked.
Now the laffa at the new place. There is no longer the zatar or sesame topping. Leaving it out takes a real decision because such toppings are typical and a sign that the baker is trying to please. The bread is cooked less, sometimes still mushy in parts. Undercooking emphasizes the poor taste of the dough. All this speeds up production, avoids the problem of inadvertently overcooking and saves money. And there is now a sign that says a laffa is $2.00. The laffa is unacceptably bad and the worst laffa that I have ever had - tanoor , tandoor, taboon or dome. It is to laffa what Rakusen's is to matzo: hard to figure out something so simple can be so unpleasant..
The salads are unimaginative, use the cheapest ingredients and have a talentlessly simplistic dressing or marinade. Once they were mostly cabbage. The fried things are done a la Polannaise- overcooked dark brown and oily.
I don't like the style of the hummus. I don't know enough about hummus to say that it is inadequate, but I can say that only Israeli supermarket hummus is less pleasant to me .
Amba is so coarse and strong that I find it overwhelming and disgusting. It took
a couple of days to get rid of it when I inadvertently got it on my hands. I do understand that many like it. I am interested in learning how amba in this form came into Israeli cooking.
Quality has been deliberately lowered, prices have gone up, often twice, and there is the black BMW with the vanity plates parked outside. I felt that the operators think that I am the paradigm sucker- a stupid American.
re: Vinnie Vidimangi
It depends on what you mean by Israeli food. Israelis are from all over the world and you find their food in Israel. (I went to a wedding in Israel . The bridegroom was Indian and wore tzitzes outside, the women in his family wore saris and looked as if they had made Aliyah from Coxwell and Gerrard).
If you mean Ashkenazi, don't bother.
If you mean Lebanese style or influenced Arabic, this too is a problem notwithstanding the large Arab poluation in Toronto. I go to Aladdin's Palace, Victoria Park and Tempo for a veg (salads) combo plate or same with shawarma instead of labneh. Previous owners were from Lod , new owner is Sudanese, same food but has a nicer touch. Xenobia is Lebanese in Mississauga and is pretty good but became expensive (for my outlook on things. I had a big favourite for shawarma on Lawrence East , but he has become sloppy. and his cooked food was forget it. My Druze pizza place (zatar pizza!) was sold to an Indian and closed shortly thereafter.
As for Ashkenazied Arabic, it is just food and a disappointment. So Mo-Va-Me ( Turkish owned ) is a monument to their customer's undiscriminating taste
For Moroccan, Tagine closed, I lost touch with the Moroccan places on Danforth.
Ethiopian, I almost passed out as a reaction to the heat after my one visit to an Ethiopian restaurant (different kinds of mush) in 1987. I am sure that there are some good ones in Toronto according to their criteria and standard.
Russian, don't know and I am on a diet and am avoiding salt so won't be finding out.
Iraqui, Al Taboon where Tagine used to be on Lawrence east at Pharmacy. They had just started going when I was there in the summer. Their baker was inexperienced. Find out when the food comes out , it was 3 pm in the summer. No sabich I am told.
There are many excellent French restaurants in Israel. You name me one good one in Toronto.
The Egyptian place, Prince of Egypt , closed, but it wasn't very Egyptian.
One of the two best pitas that I have ever had comes from Arz Bakery on Lawrence and Pharmacy, even though they changed the flour a few years ago to make the pita more elastic. Whole wheat pita a treasure. Armenians from Lebannon.
For laffa , go to your favourite Pakistani or Indian place; they make their bread in a tandoor. I like Shai Karahi , particularly their home location on Lawrence and Markham.
However a recommendation from of an Indian or Pakistani place doesn't mean much except perhaps as to bread.
Arz does make a big thin pita, but it is a pita.
Recommedations would be appreciated.
For my recommendations in Israel, see the Middle East board and search by my CH name. Ramses (was recommended) in Haifa has closed. Same business problems re: customers as in Toronto.