HOME > Chowhound > Ontario (inc. Toronto) >

OBSCURE OR RARE Cuisine in City of Toronto

Dean Tudor Nov 10, 2011 07:52 PM

I've been searching for new thrills...in restaurants...those with rare or obscure cuisines.

I know we have no Indonesian place in Toronto, except for the quarterly Rijstafel at Quince. There's an aboriginal restaurant in town. There's Tibetan and Napalese food here. At one time there was the city of Jerusalem food here. Filipino restos are rare.
Ethiopian, Somalian - a few. Mauritian has been here for over two decades.

Are there any other obscure or rare offerings of restaurants, on a regular basis (not a special one-off) ????

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. m
    Munch420 RE: Dean Tudor Nov 10, 2011 09:03 PM

    Filipino joints are definatly not rare.. there are so many places in scarborough( i know in some people's minds not toronto) and many major intersections intersecting with bathurst. (Bathurst and Steeles,Finch, Sheppard, Wilson, Lawrence, Eglinton, etc)

    1. l
      letrell RE: Dean Tudor Nov 11, 2011 04:01 AM

      I found a link that shows over 60 different ethnic restaurants in the GTA:

      1. h
        helenhelen RE: Dean Tudor Nov 17, 2011 10:13 PM

        ethiopian is definitely not rare.

        maybe cambodia and laotian food.. not too many of those, compared to other cuisines.
        a lot of african cuisines. rastafarian ital food. maybe european food like scandinavian? afghani food is not super comoon, though there are some restaurants. a lot of chinese cuisine that is not just cantonese, hakka, shanghainese, etc.. for example, the cuisine from northwestern china, or even some of what i tasted in yunnan province from other ethnic groups.

        4 Replies
        1. re: helenhelen
          smartygirl RE: helenhelen Nov 25, 2011 07:12 AM

          where do you get laotian food since vanipha lanna closed? would love some chang mei noodles!

          1. re: helenhelen
            timeo RE: helenhelen Dec 5, 2011 10:35 AM

            I haven't lived in Toronto for a while now, but my family used to go to a Yunnanese "Crossing the bridge" noodles place at the plaza east of Kennedy on Finch (the one with the Chung Hing Supermarket). Don't remember if they had other Yunnanese specials. Also, you can find Xinjiang cuisine at the plaza at Ferrier/Steeles. It's on the back side beside the food court. The chicken and noodles plate is delicious!

            1. re: timeo
              helenhelen RE: timeo Dec 7, 2011 11:24 AM

              what are these places called?

              1. re: helenhelen
                timeo RE: helenhelen Dec 7, 2011 11:35 AM

                Oh, I don't know. I can tell you that for the Yunnanese place, you enter the plaza that's at the NE corner of Milliken Blvd and Finch Ave. E. and it's in the main block of buildings, not the block with the HSBC or the medical building (the one that has multiple floors), but the single-storied building with the supermarket and the big Cantonese restaurant. To the left of the Cantonese restaurant, there's two entrances to the little shopping mall inside. Go through the left doors (they connect inside anyways, so it doesn't really matter). The restaurant should be on your left hand side almost immediately unless they've closed since I last went there (about 3 years ago).

                As for the Xinjiang place, which I'm more confident is still probably around, it's in the Taiwanese plaza on the NW corner of Ferrier St and Steeles Ave. E. just across from the Toronto border. It's not on the sides facing Ferrier or Steeles but the side facing the parking lot inside. Asian Legend is on one side while this place is on the other side beside the food court. You access it from the parking lot sidewalk not the indoor mall like you would the food court. There's also a fabulous Hunanese restaurant on the other side of that plaza facing Ferrier.

                Good luck finding them! :)

          2. biggreenmatt RE: Dean Tudor Nov 18, 2011 06:00 AM

            It kinda goes without saying (but I'll say it anyways) but the problem with "exotic" cuisines tends to be that there's a difference between having an exotic restaurant and a good exotic restaurant.

            For example, I'd KILL to have a decent Isaan (poor, rural, north-eastern Thai province) restaurant, but I'd settle for a decent Thai restaurant that doesn't rely on gluggy sauces and more than just vaguely resembles something you can get in Thailand.


            2 Replies
            1. re: biggreenmatt
              eyesVSstomach RE: biggreenmatt Nov 25, 2011 12:36 PM

              I've heard that Thai Bistro at yonge and sheppard is incredible, authentic Thai from a lot of different people. Haven't been yet personally...

              Thai Bistro
              5306 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M2N5P9, CA

              1. re: biggreenmatt
                ljamunds RE: biggreenmatt Dec 12, 2011 10:52 AM

                That one at Peter and Adelaide is pretty good. Their khao soi was outstanding, as were the squash fritters. I believe the restaurant is called Khao San Road, which is ironic seeing as that's the least Thai street in Thailand. :)

              2. foodyDudey RE: Dean Tudor Nov 18, 2011 06:12 AM

                Have you tried Goan and Konkani (Indian ) food ? There are a few places in Mississauga that serve it.

                Here are links to places I found, but have not yet tried:

                GALAXY RESTAURANT : http://galaxyrestaurant.ca/

                KONKAN DELIGHT: http://www.konkandelite.ca/

                And if you want something closer to Toronto, you can try the Indian food at Maroli on Bloor near Palmerston. www.maroli.ca

                All these regional cuisines I have mentioned above are very different from what most people expect when they think of Indian food, and they are not swimming in oil like the dishes from the north often are.

                After typing this I realised you mentioned "City of Toronto" so I'm not sure if you want to travel out to those first two...

                630 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6G1K7, CA

                6 Replies
                1. re: foodyDudey
                  Googs RE: foodyDudey Nov 20, 2011 07:56 AM

                  I'd KILL for a Goan restaurant in the heart of the city. Kill!

                  1. re: foodyDudey
                    helenhelen RE: foodyDudey Nov 25, 2011 01:42 AM

                    know of any good keralan places (that have keralan veg options)?

                    1. re: helenhelen
                      cheesegal RE: helenhelen Nov 29, 2011 09:50 PM

                      Aravind on the Danforth near Carlaw is a restaurant specialising in cuisine from Kerala, a province in India. I've really enjoyed it the few times I've been over the last year (opened about a year ago). The chef is an older man from that area, and his lovely son runs the front of the house. The food is really interesting - used to be only vegetarian and fish dishes, but they have started to include a few meat choices on the menu recently. Food pairs nicely with the Ontario wines they feature. Prices are a bit on the high side, but quality and service are exceptional. Worth a try!

                      1. re: cheesegal
                        jlunar RE: cheesegal Nov 30, 2011 07:08 AM

                        I think Aravind is on Dining Date Night too. I had seen them and wondered about them.

                        1. re: jlunar
                          foodyDudey RE: jlunar Nov 30, 2011 02:30 PM

                          What were you wondering that the reviews here and in the newspapers didn't clarify?

                          1. re: foodyDudey
                            jlunar RE: foodyDudey Dec 1, 2011 08:41 AM

                            More that I was browsing the restaurants on DDN and was like "Hmn.. Aravind, I have heard, but do not know anything about" vs "I couldn't find anything on them" is all. :)

                  2. prima RE: Dean Tudor Nov 18, 2011 08:02 AM

                    Hungarian has become increasingly rare (Country Style, Europe & Paprikash are some of the last Hungarian restos standing.)

                    German restaurants have become rare. Apart from The Musket and Little Bavaria in Scarborough (with a South Asian chef- not sure if it's still in business), I'm not aware of any other German options right now.

                    There are at least a half dozen, if not more, Ethiopian options in the Little Ethiopia stretch of the Danforth.

                    Despite our large Ukrainian population, Ukrainian restaurants are rare. Apart from Red Lion, I can't think of any. We also have a Lithuanian, Estonian and Latvian population, yet I'm not aware of any restaurants offering these Baltic cuisines. Russian restaurants are also relatively rare, apart from a few near Dufferin & Steeles. Has anyone dined at any of the Russian restaurants lately? Would you recommend any of them?

                    Moroccan & Tunisian is relatively rare in TO. Have you tried Djerba La Douce?

                    The FYROM Macedonian restaurants seem to have become extinct. The Danish restaurants in TO have become extinct, and I don't think anyone serves a smorgasbord in the GTA (have to head to Puslinch).And the last Swiss restaurant closed some time ago.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: prima
                      Munch420 RE: prima Nov 18, 2011 09:44 AM

                      When you say Paprikash do you mean Paprika Hungarian Restaurant on Bathurst St south of Wilson Ave?

                      1. re: Munch420
                        prima RE: Munch420 Nov 18, 2011 09:55 AM

                        Yep, that's what I meant ;-) Thanks for catching the error.

                        3450 Bathurst St, Toronto, ON M6A2C4, CA

                      2. re: prima
                        garfield RE: prima Nov 18, 2011 06:32 PM

                        Croissant Tree in Atrium on Bay does Chicken Paprikash once a week.

                        1. re: garfield
                          prima RE: garfield Nov 18, 2011 06:35 PM

                          good to know...which reminds me- croissant shops have become increasing rare over the last 20 years. I seem to remember a number of Maisons de Croissants downtown. Apart from the Croissant Tree in Atrium on Bay, and the one in Union Station, there are relatively few croissant shops (where croissant is part of the name, not including full patisseries like Rahier et al).

                          I should have also included the Coffee Mill in my Hungarian list- they also make a decent schnitzel & paprikash.

                          Coffee Mill
                          99 Yorkville, Toronto, ON M5R3K5, CA

                          1586 Bayview Ave, Toronto, ON M4G, CA

                          1. re: prima
                            Dean Tudor RE: prima Nov 18, 2011 09:30 PM

                            Thanks to everybody for contributing so far. Good stuff, keeps us aware of what is here and what is not here in Toronto.

                        2. re: prima
                          1sweetpea RE: prima Nov 25, 2011 10:01 AM

                          I quite enjoyed Djerba La Douce, though I was disappointed to see that the small menu contained a good handful of middle of road "Mediterranean" options. With so few items on the menu, I would have liked a broader selection of Tunisian dishes, rather than seafood pasta or crepes. My husband and I shared three dishes, one of which was a delicious vegetable pureed soup. We asked the owner to kick up the heat and he was all too happy to oblige. We enjoyed all three dishes, though I recall the other two being heavier on the olive oil than I would have liked. My only complaints are that service was painfully slow once the place started to fill up, and the bread offering was a not-so-fresh thick Greek-style pita, directly from the bag. Fresh, warmed bread would have made the meal a real treat. I would like to get back there one of these days, but being only an occasional visitor to Toronto means that my list of must-try restaurants is endless!

                        3. danionavenue RE: Dean Tudor Nov 19, 2011 06:21 AM

                          may not be exactly what you are looking for but there is a great restaurant I went to last week called The Hungary Thai in Kensington market. The owners are a couple which consists of one who is Hungarian and the other one is Thai. They serve both of their foods in their restaurant. It is one of kind IMO. They have a combo plate for 3 for $35. Good value as well.

                          Hungary Thai
                          196 Augusta Ave, Toronto, ON M5T2L6, CA

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: danionavenue
                            justsayn RE: danionavenue Nov 19, 2011 02:51 PM

                            I have tried both the pad thai and the schnitzel on 3 or 4 occassions over the years and have never had a great meal there. I would avoid personally unless you really want to eat on the patio people watching in the summer.

                            1. re: justsayn
                              piccola RE: justsayn Nov 19, 2011 05:30 PM

                              I've had similar experiences there. Which is sad, because I really want to like it!

                              1. re: justsayn
                                Vinnie Vidimangi RE: justsayn Nov 20, 2011 07:49 AM

                                A number of yars ago I had a schnitzel with Budapest ragout (chicken liver sauce essentially) I quite liked it. The rest was a bit clumsy. But try finding Budapest ragout elsewhere.

                              2. re: danionavenue
                                vorpal RE: danionavenue Nov 25, 2011 12:13 PM

                                No offense to you, but the food there is just horrible. Toronto has very little good Thai food, but this one is exceptional in how bad it is.

                                1. re: vorpal
                                  foodyDudey RE: vorpal Nov 25, 2011 12:27 PM

                                  But where else can you get red curry goulash? :-)

                              3. prima RE: Dean Tudor Nov 19, 2011 02:43 PM

                                Bulgarian. Black Sea Restaurant on the Danforth. Has anyone been? Not sure if it's more of a restaurant or more of a bar.


                                WELCOME TO THE NEW BULGARIAN RESTAURANT! 836B DANFORTH AVE. WELCOME C wide variety of food, beverages and high spirits!




                                4 Replies
                                1. re: prima
                                  foodyDudey RE: prima Nov 19, 2011 05:44 PM

                                  My guess is it's a bar, with some food to eat while you drink. And better visit before it burns up, they seem to like lighting fires on the bar. Just have a look here: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?se...

                                  1. re: foodyDudey
                                    Googs RE: foodyDudey Nov 20, 2011 08:01 AM

                                    Not exactly a Holy Great White moment, but it seems they're at risk of igniting a careless customer or two. They should probably stop that practice now before it shuts them down.

                                    1. re: Googs
                                      1sweetpea RE: Googs Nov 25, 2011 10:05 AM

                                      Has anyone eaten at the Black Sea Restaurant? I enjoyed much of the food I consumed in Bulgaria and am excited to learn about this restaurant in Toronto. In particular, I'm interested to hear if anyone's ordered the beef head specialty, tripe soup and lamb soup. Bulgarians are big on tripe. I ate a moussaka in Bulgaria that featured zucchini and tripe, though the blackboard failed to mention the tripe. Surprise!

                                      1. re: 1sweetpea
                                        prima RE: 1sweetpea Nov 25, 2011 11:31 AM

                                        Ha ha. I had some surprised trip when I ordered the "Polish-style meat soup" at the now-defunct Lviv!

                                        I haven't ordered anything at Black Sea, but I know Greek-style tripe soup (patsa) is also available at Zorba's, a couple blocks away from Black Sea.

                                        681 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4J1L2, CA

                                2. g
                                  garfield RE: Dean Tudor Nov 19, 2011 03:05 PM

                                  Uighur - I have never been but seen it mentioned on the boards.
                                  Somalian -New Bilan Restaurant 183 Dundas Street East.

                                  1. l
                                    looosia RE: Dean Tudor Nov 19, 2011 07:49 PM

                                    Not necessarily obscure, but not something a lot of people think of when eating Korean food is mandu/mandoo (or Korean "wontons" or dumplings). There's a few places in the Toronto area that specialize in making these hand-made Korean dumplings. The one my family often goes to is Man Doo Hyang in Mississauga:


                                    They do the usual Korean offerings such as Korean BBQ (they have the built-in stove in the tables) but their specialty is mandu.

                                    Man Doo Hyang
                                    6068 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M2M3W6, CA

                                    1. u
                                      uberathlete RE: Dean Tudor Nov 20, 2011 05:14 AM

                                      Well, native indian food is rare. Only place I know that does it or at least an interpretation of it is Keriwa Cafe.

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: uberathlete
                                        ingloriouseater RE: uberathlete Nov 25, 2011 03:08 AM

                                        and they dont' really do it...first nation's chef does not equal first nation's food

                                        1. re: ingloriouseater
                                          Googs RE: ingloriouseater Nov 26, 2011 04:48 PM

                                          What would constitute First Nations food to you, ingloriouseater?

                                          1. re: Googs
                                            ingloriouseater RE: Googs Nov 28, 2011 03:31 AM

                                            not a grilled bison steak for starters....wider variety of buffalo cuts and preparations, more local fresh water fish, more use of seeds, berries, smoke, game meats and fowls, wild rice....

                                            their current menu shows more promise in this area...i am still really p'd off after having paid close to $500 on 3 visits and really got nothing more than mediocre wine, earnest but dumb service and a couple of salads, a soup and bison steak....

                                            1. re: ingloriouseater
                                              Googs RE: ingloriouseater Dec 10, 2011 10:50 AM

                                              Hopefully once the place has stabilized, chef will become more experimental. Or would that be less since we're talking traditional here? I can completely understand offering a more broad-based menu while they're just getting up and running.

                                        2. re: uberathlete
                                          prima RE: uberathlete Nov 25, 2011 06:41 AM

                                          Bannock serves its newfangled, downtown Toronto, baked (instead of fried- which is how I've seen most bannock/frybread prepared in First Nations-run kitchens) take on bannock.

                                          Torontonians eat lots of First Nations foods- potatoes, corn, beans, squash, turkey, jalapenos, chocolate, and so on. Most cuisines would be pretty boring if the New World had never been "discovered". ;-)

                                        3. m
                                          megjp RE: Dean Tudor Nov 20, 2011 04:15 PM

                                          There's Persian on College near Bathurst, and up at Yonge & Steeles. There was a Laotian resto on St. Clair between Bathurst and Christie, but I think it's closed.

                                          To those who mention Scandinavian foods, Hillside Cafe carries prepared things (like Fazer chocolates) from a few countries in the area, besides doing to-order items and serving hot meals: http://www.blogto.com/cafes/hillside . The people are delightful, and the place is cozy and casual.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: megjp
                                            DDD RE: megjp Nov 20, 2011 05:46 PM

                                            Persian on College just west of Bathurst is the Pomegranate, was good last few times we went, but it's been a couple of years. The Yonge & Steeles area has Zaffron and Shomal (and perhaps a couple of others) - I have only been to Shomal and it was ok, nothing great.

                                            The Laotian on St. Clair near Christie, Vanipha Lanna is closed...I think they were related to the one that was in Kensington.

                                            As alluded to in the OP, Mauritian food has been on Roncesvalles/Dundas for quite some time (Blue Bay Cafe). They do a Creole Mauritian cuisine, feels like a mix of French, Indian and some African flavours. Quite tasty and good value. The samosa apps are killer with the spicy orange sauce, and the fish vinday is very moist and flavourful with a good level of spice, the chicken mine frire noodle dish is also worth a try.

                                            1. re: DDD
                                              ingloriouseater RE: DDD Nov 25, 2011 03:09 AM

                                              when is blue bay ever open...it seems so hit and miss....

                                              1. re: ingloriouseater
                                                DDD RE: ingloriouseater Nov 30, 2011 04:58 AM

                                                I think it's only open friday and saturday.

                                          2. h
                                            helenhelen RE: Dean Tudor Nov 29, 2011 08:36 PM

                                            have had delicious yemeni food in brooklyn.. would love to find a place that serves that cuisine here!

                                            1. mariecollins RE: Dean Tudor Nov 30, 2011 07:27 AM

                                              There is a Bangladeshi restaurant on Danforth near Victoria Park - Gharoa.

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: mariecollins
                                                hal2010 RE: mariecollins Dec 1, 2011 08:25 PM

                                                There's several on the strip between Main and Danforth. I like Anando. You walk in and they give you whatever they're serving that day. The Kacchi Beef Biryani is very good.

                                                1. re: hal2010
                                                  Googs RE: hal2010 Dec 3, 2011 09:55 AM

                                                  On what strip?

                                                  1. re: Googs
                                                    foodyDudey RE: Googs Dec 3, 2011 10:11 AM

                                                    The "Google it and get your answer in 2 seconds" strip.


                                                    1. re: Googs
                                                      hal2010 RE: Googs Dec 3, 2011 11:36 AM

                                                      Oops. Danforth Avenue between Main and Victoria Park. It's known as "Little Bangladesh"

                                                      1. re: hal2010
                                                        Googs RE: hal2010 Dec 3, 2011 11:40 AM

                                                        Ah. Now that makes sense.

                                                2. danionavenue RE: Dean Tudor Nov 30, 2011 12:04 PM

                                                  Arepiando is a Colombian restaurant with good arepas and salsa music is always on. I have also been to Sky Ranch, Argentinian. House specialties are good. Get reservations because some nights are packed.

                                                  1. c
                                                    currycue RE: newsrim Dec 2, 2011 11:53 AM

                                                    Would kill for a proper, authentic Spanish restaurant in town (Cava is alright but holy $$$!)

                                                    Danish Smorrebrod would be nice too.

                                                    A Belgian place that can make a proper Carbonnade / Stoverij (sorry Le Petit Dejeuner) with nice, crispy chunky frites.

                                                    Another proper Breton or Norman creperie (since La Brehandaise has sadly closed)

                                                    One of the first somewhat rare cuisines that come to mind is Czech (www.theprague.ca) and I can't recommend their Svickova enough now that the weather has turned cold.

                                                    6 Replies
                                                    1. re: currycue
                                                      1sweetpea RE: currycue Dec 9, 2011 03:30 AM

                                                      Currycue, I really enjoy Cava, but I wouldn't call it Spanish, although it's certainly aiming for it in some ways and with some offerings. Ditto for Torito. Plenty of the dishes bear little resemblance to tapas dishes one would find in Spain. Most of their tapas are larger than tapas should be. Since going to Spain in 1999, I've tried many restaurants in the GTA hoping to find something authentic or just close to authentic, but have not found such a place yet. I've largely enjoyed the foods sample during my searches, save for paella.

                                                      As for Breton-style crepes, I vaguely recall that Batifole has a few on the menu, though I have not sampled any and will not guess as to their quality. Batifole gets really mixed reviews on this board and I think they're warranted. The best term I could use to describe the offerings there is: uneven. There are hits and misses, but the misses are significant.

                                                      1. re: 1sweetpea
                                                        prima RE: 1sweetpea Dec 9, 2011 08:10 AM

                                                        I agree with what you're saying, 1sweetpea, but after trying a number of Spanish restaurants in ON, QC and NY, I'm not convinced "authentic", traditional tapas would or could taste as amazing in Toronto as they might taste in Spain.

                                                        In Spain, the traditional, authentic, simple stuff often tastes great. Our imported and domestic-but-shipped-for-a-week seafood can't compete, and neither can our hydroponic tomatoes and peppers.

                                                        In Toronto, the simple stuff tastes ok at best, and adding some Latin American influences and/or a contemporary twist may make what would have been an ok, Torontonian take on a traditonal tapa more interesting and more tasty.

                                                        I think paella is better made at home. I've been disappointed by most of the restaurant paellas I've ordered in Spain or anywhere else. That being said, Cava's contemporary paella looks like an interesting version. http://www.cavarestaurant.ca/menu.pdf Might have to give restaurant paella one more chance!

                                                        I've included the link for Pimenton in case anyone is looking for Spanish ingredients.

                                                        681 Mt Pleasant Rd, Toronto, ON M4S, CA

                                                        1. re: prima
                                                          1sweetpea RE: prima Dec 9, 2011 09:49 AM

                                                          I couldn't agree with you more on pretty much all points, Prima. My experiences in Spain mirror yours. Simple dishes can and do often taste incredible there, where they are fresh and use local ingredients. I love the concept of paella, though those I had in Spain suffered in one way or another. At the time, I chalked it up to my budgetary constraints as a backpacker, and trying to order stereotypical dishes in places that specialized in something other than paella.

                                                          Years ago, I had a few interesting dishes at Embrujo Flamenco on the Danforth. I'm not sure if it still exists. Casa Barcelona on Bloor West had a few winning tapas as well. I have never been to Segovia, though. Does it still exist?

                                                          Back to Cava and Torito, though. I enjoy both for their food and wine offerings and lively vibe. I would recommend both, but with the warning that they may be tapas bars, but they are not Spanish Tapas bars.

                                                          1. re: 1sweetpea
                                                            ingloriouseater RE: 1sweetpea Dec 9, 2011 10:35 AM

                                                            plus it is spain! local specialties always taste better when they are local...

                                                            1. re: 1sweetpea
                                                              pf9k RE: 1sweetpea Dec 10, 2011 03:24 PM

                                                              i believe that paella is one of the most over rated dishes on the planet

                                                              had it many times in Spain - never hit it

                                                              1. re: pf9k
                                                                currycue RE: pf9k Dec 12, 2011 10:44 AM

                                                                I'm totally with you on that! Saw so many half eaten portions left back at the market in Valencia when tourists realized that it's just a rice cook up.

                                                      Show Hidden Posts