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Dr. Laffa needs to requalify

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After all the hoopla, I went to the new Bathurst -Stormont location.
I looked around , remembered the past , and couldn't bring myself to spend the money. Essentially talentless and overpriced. Same story , but worse.
The laffa, that of the insipid flour , is now baked in a conveyor belt oven not a tanoor. No sesame , no nothing. The Wonderbread of laffas, good to wipe tables with. Same style of salads as on Magnetic - talentless preparation of the cheapest ingredients, but palatable, Black falafels. And they were busy!
They would fail in Israel; in Toronto - amaaaa

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  1. Vinnie..a little mellow-dramatic. $7.00 for a massive, very tasty falafel, with about 10 different toppings to choose from. The lafa still has a very nice, chewy texture. Ate many, way worse, all over Israel last March.

    1. Now tell us what you really think, Vinnie.

      1. What part of town is Israel in?

        1. Hahaha!

          "good to wipe tables with"

          Genius.

          1. Me too. But for what I get out of CH, and even though I think that I am right , I didn't want any risk of a defamation action.
            I had had erred initially anyway, I should have written, "I thin k that Dr. Laffa is a charlatan" This is what I meant.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

              uh i went there like 2 weeks ago and it was absolutely delicious
              i've also put a number of friends on to it in the past couple years and they also love it

              i don't know what you're talking about, it's still the best thing of its kind available in toronto, dude

              1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                You're probably safe - but fair enough!

              2. Wait, am I reading this correctly in that you didn't actually eat there? You walked in, made assumptions about the place... and then made a post on Chowhound about it?

                2 Replies
                1. re: ramenramen

                  This is how I read this post.

                  1. re: ramenramen

                    Agreed that the post is confusing.

                    Vinnie Vidimangi, did you eat at the new location or just observe the food?

                  2. They need to put up some hours, I asked them on Twitter but got no answer, and when I went there they were closed

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: bbbradk

                      They list their hours on Twitter all the time

                      1. re: bbbradk

                        Their hours are also listed on their website...you checked twitter but not their website? Anyway, hours are:

                        Sunday to Thursday
                        11 am to 10 pm
                        -----------
                        Friday
                        11 am to 3 pm
                        -----------
                        Saturday
                        Closed

                        I just had a shawarma from there, btw, and I thought it was great. Glad I took the guy's recommendation to get it with the sour mango sauce (I forget the actual name of the sauce, but that's how it was described to me).

                        1. re: Strongbad789

                          I'm going to try and go tomorrow. If I get there, I'll report back on my experience.

                          1. re: kwass

                            In my mind, what was special about Dr. Laffa was the almost smokey flavour of the laffa right out of the taboon. If they don't use one at this location, I don't think it will be anywhere near as good as the original location (the industrial building with the loading dock). I'll give it a try anyway.

                          2. re: Strongbad789

                            I should also mention that I got a shawarma and a takeout order of hummus (which came with one laffa) and those two things fed me for all of Sunday (and I still have about a quarter of the shawarma and about two-thirds of the hummus left). I'm not a huge eater, but I still think that this was good value for money (about $20 for both with tax) on top of being very tasty.

                        2. Went to Dr Laffa's today for lunch. I was going to get the shawarma, but for some reason the falafel was calling my name. It was fantastic! And the laffa...well I don't care if it's made on a conveyer belt or in the proper oven, because it was off the hook...doughy, incredibly soft, and delicious! I could go and just order the laffa and be very happy!

                          10 Replies
                          1. re: kwass

                            Prima, the point I was trying to make was that the laffa are so good, I'd be happy to make a meal of them :)

                            1. re: kwass

                              :-) I don't disagree with your point, kwass.

                              Taking into account that an also generous falafel at To-vli has 760 calories and weighs in at 520 grams http://www.thestar.com/life/health_we..., 3/4 laffa sandwich plus a couple tbsp is a lot less than your average Chowhound eats in a day. I'd guess 3/4 laffa sandwich, depending on the filling and the salads, would be in the 600-900 calorie range, and a couple tbsp hummus and some laffa might weigh in at 200 calories.

                              Part of my earlier reply came across as too personal.Telling the Board that one can live off 3/4 shawarma and a small amount of hummus/day is also personal. The reason I made my comment, was that I wouldn't want a more typical Hound with a regular 2000-2500+ calorie/day appetite to think 3/4 shawarma would keep them satisfied all day long. 3/4 laffa sandwich/1000 calories might keep most Hounds satisfied for lunch.

                              I can easily finish a whole shawarma in a laffa, and share some salads and appetizers for lunch. I might want to take a nap, and half a shawarma is probably a healthier portion. I thought the prices and serving sizes of shawarma and falafel at Dr. Laffa were similar to what I've ordered at other kosher restaurants around Toronto.

                              1. re: prima

                                I think we're totally on the same page. 3 or 4 laffa wouldn't necessarily satisfy my physically. I just meant that they were so good, I'd be happy to go and eat nothing but laffa :)

                                1. re: kwass

                                  ps... my initial reply was re: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8989... , not your laffa post! I didn't realize until now that you thought I was responding to what you wrote! Sorry for any confusion. ;-)

                                2. re: prima

                                  Hmmm...although I don't see any earlier comment responding to me, I'm guessing by what you wrote here that you wrote a response to my comment and it was deleted.

                                  Although judging from the tone of this post and what you mention about your earlier post you seem to have taken affront to what I wrote earlier, it was true. I'm sorry if you didn't like it.

                                  I would also be incredibly surprised if a laffa shawarma was only about 1,000 calories in its entirety (no way that thing only weighed 560 grams...I'd guess closer to 800 or 900 and maybe 1,500 calories), and I would also be surprised if 1/3 of a takeout container of hummus (substantially more than "a couple tbsp", if you've seen the size of their takeout containers) as well as the extra laffa that came with the hummus would only be another 200 calories, but again, I don't really see the point of debating this. Those were the facts.

                                  1. re: Strongbad789

                                    I'm saying 3/4 shawarma in a laffa plus hummus and more laffa would likely be 1000 calories. Perhaps 1200 or even 1400 calories. I would think one Dr Laffa shawarma in a laffa is around 1200 calories, in my experience. I asked the Toronto Star to analyze the shawarma in The Dish a few months ago, but they haven't analyzed it yet.

                                    I didn't write that what you wrote wasn't true. What I had written was that you don't eat much and/or have fantastic willpower.

                                    You're right, there's no point in debating this. Cheers.

                                    1. re: prima

                                      I don't eat much it's true...not sure about the willpower. Just for fun I weighed the falafel laffa that I just got for lunch, and it came to 1084 grams, or almost two and a half pounds. If anyone can eat an entire one of those at one meal, hats off to them (although frankly I would hope for their sake that they're not doing it every day).

                                      1. re: Strongbad789

                                        I recall not being able to eat my entire Shawarma at the other location...

                                        1. re: justxpete

                                          Seriously? I can easily put away one of their shawarmas.

                                          On Monday I had 1 shawarma and half a sabich. Not that difficult.

                                          They're large but they're not that big.

                                          1. re: radiopolitic

                                            As I said, hats off to you (although if you don't consider a 2.5lb shawarma that big, I'd like to see what you do consider big).

                            2. "The Wonderbread of laffas, good to wipe tables with."

                              So you know how bad they are without trying?? Huh??

                              DT

                              1. Reply to y'all

                                I was not going to post further about Dr Laffa until I saw what they were doing with the laffa. A new low in the downward spiral, and they do call themselves Dr. Laffa. That's my opinion , and it comes from knowing what laffa can be like. So I started this thread.

                                I have enough experience with and know enough about Lebanese style cooking- and Dr Laffa offers a variant thereof - or rather a shadow thereof - that I have a pretty good idea of what the food at a place like Dr. Laffa is going to be like by looking at it. In any event, I had gone to the north location three times before I went to Bathurst Street . Bathurst food was more of the same by appearance.

                                So I spared myself and just looked mostly. But I did get a laffa -$2- . I had a couple pieces and threw the rest away.
                                I had a good idea of what I was going to get when I saw it in come of teh conveyor belt but I was attracted to the horror of it like a moth is to a flame.

                                So here goes
                                justsayn . You asked what part of town is Israel is in. DL holds itself out to be a bit of Israel in Toronto. It should be held to an Israeli standard. And since it is so expensive, to a high Israeli standard. DL would probably fail in Israel because of its low standard. I have been in Israel long enough and I gravitate to Arab and non European Jewish places. I also have a fair bit of experience in Detroit , (with its large Lebanese community and many Lebanese restaurants) from years ago. One doesn't learn much in Toronto - al least little good. (Even Montreal is disappointing)

                                robb- $7 for a falafel is too much , even kosher and particularly objectionable because all the ingredients are cheap and bad. Bulk is easy to achieve cheaply. DL should be happy with $4.50 max. A much better product would cost DL very little more. All that is needed is talent.

                                robb, disgusti, kwass, kwas- "doughy, incredibly soft" is a description of Wonderbread not any "laffa" that I have had in Israel or in an Indo -Pakistani or Iraqui place. (The technique is the same. )
                                The DL Laffa is not at the bottom of the range ; it is in it own category of bad. I have never seen conveyor belt laffa before. But the conveyor belt oven makes the bread easier and cheaper to make ( once you get over teh cost of teh oven but this is easily done by the saving in labour. It takes out the necessity of talent and judgement. Because the laffa is soft it is flexible and easy to work with. All important considerations except in my mouth. Not that the laffa was much good to begin with even when DL was in teh industrial unit. First, the flour is wrong.

                                Surely with a conveyor belt, it is easy to sprinkle a little zatar or sesame on it before baking, but this is not done.
                                The laffa is undercooked - and I can only think because of reasons of expediency.

                                As I have written, I pitched most of mine. But for every girl there is a boy, so those who like it are entitled.

                                strongbad. You are so right. You are not a huge eater. The mango sauce (amba) is far too coarse and strong.

                                I was looking forward to replying to some other posts as well, but to my regret they where deleted, probably because they were ad hominem.

                                Yongeman .What I really think. I repeat the specific criticisms. In general. The place is contumacious and exploitative of customers. But many like it. Why? Perhaps because DL doesn't have any real competition to which it can be compared. But many of its customers have either lived or visited Israel and should know better. (Albeit there has been a decline in DL's sort of food in Israel over the years, and one must seek out particular places for something really good, and they tend to be Arab and not kosher - therefore non -starters for many.
                                Perhaps because this is Toronto. and things work backwards for the restaurant business here. Amaaazing.

                                17 Replies
                                1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                                  Vinnie Vidimangi, thank you for confirming your fears and trying the namesake laffa. That's more than I would have done if I saw a once proper food prep technique shelved for expediency's sake.

                                  As for everyone else, since when has a factory-made (conveyor belt) bread ever been better than man-made?

                                  1. re: Googs

                                    Hardly the point.

                                    Where does it say that one still can't be really good??

                                    I look at Vin like this, if he says something is worth checking out, mark it down, it is. However, Vin comes across as someone that thinks anything that isn't awesome isn't worthy of a dogs dinner.
                                    So really, really good is just plain awful.

                                    DT

                                    1. re: Googs

                                      Just to play the devil's advocate, I'd say better quality factory-made is often better than some bakeries' man-made/home-made. There's a lot of crappy baking out there. I find a lot of bread and other baked goods sold at Farmers' Markets is mediocre at best.

                                      I agree that the very best bakery-made hand-made breads will trump factory-made breads, but there's a lot of human-made breads being sold in TO that aren't very good, and aren't as good as the best factory- made breads.

                                      I'll have to try the new location's laffa.

                                      1. re: prima

                                        I agree with both Davwud and prima. While the laffa may not be authentic and missing something because it's not made in a tanoor, it's still really really delicious! Maybe the key is not expecting authenticity, and just appreciating a really good piece of "bread".

                                        1. re: kwass

                                          Look, I buy my breads at Montmartre Bakery even though Cliffside Hearth is equidistant to my home. I do so because my entire order at Montmartre costs the same as one loaf of bread at Cliffside. The quality is good enough. I don't kid myself into thinking the quality is the same.

                                          You call yourself "Laffa", you've already defined your identity. Live up to it.

                                          1. re: Googs

                                            Point taken :)

                                      2. re: Googs

                                        One of the Dr. Laffa guys made a big deal about the taboon that was given to him by his father. He shlepped it all the way from Machane Yehudah in Jersualem to TO. The only way to make authentic laffa is in a taboon - bla bla bla. Then a conveyor belt in the new location? I’m not saying that good bread/pita/laffa can’t come off a conveyor. In fact, my understanding is that many in the Middle East get their daily pita from shops that use conveyors.

                                        Read this from their website, written by the father:

                                        A LITTLE ABOUT OURSELVES:

                                        In 1951 we did an “ALIA“ from IRAQ. I had 10 teenager siblings. My father Sason, was a baker in Iraq at KAMBAR- ALI neighbourhood. He brought the original and traditional TABOON with him to ISRAEL. In Jerusalem we have established the first bakery of Iraqi laffas near MAHANE -YEHUDA market. The Baking tradition continued to exist and was extended throughout the hard work and professionalism of our family. It was passed from generation to generation. Today I gave my son Sasi and his partner Yoram the opportunity and blessing to continue and fulfill my roll. The laffa is original, rare and authentic, it is for everyone to explore. Now, nothing but wish you bon appetite!

                                        The taboon is part of the shtick. Moreover, I think it contributes to the laffa's quality.

                                        However, I’ll definitely try the laffa at the new location. And if it’s good, I’ll still pick up freshly baked laffa from (the south location of) DL when I need something like that because where else can you get freshly baked middle eastern bread (conveyor or not) without driving out to Scarborough.

                                        1. re: acd123

                                          Maybe he just couldn't afford to buy another one for the new restaurant, or maybe it had something to do with safety codes. They are in a pretty old strip mall...one that has a history of fires (read Pearl's and Haymishe)

                                          1. re: acd123

                                            Hold on a second - who says they're not using a taboon? According to this Wikipedia article - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tabun_oven - a taboon/tabun can be made out of metal.

                                            I was at the south location yesterday, and while I didn't look THAT closely, I couldn't see a conveyor belt being used. All I could see was the back of the metal oven.

                                            1. re: CarNut

                                              Wow...what a thread. I asked one of the owners about the laffas at the new location and he said they were not allowed to put in a taboon due to safety issues, the basement and age of the building.

                                              1. re: Pizza Lover

                                                I figured that was the reason. Like I said in an earlier post, it really is an old building, and there has been a history of fires in that building.

                                                1. re: kwass

                                                  I don't believe it.
                                                  Indo-pakistani restaurants in old run down buildings have tabouns - tanoors. It does cost more to satisfy fire code. And to install .Then there is convenience in locating the thing. To say nothing of convenience in production. Electrical ovens - which the existing apparatus is- are a lot easier and cheaper to install and to satisfy code.
                                                  Ever hear of a pizza place that touts conveyor belt
                                                  baking?

                                                  1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                                                    LOL

                                                    1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                                                      Dunno but the pita conveyor system at the new Marche Adonis turns out a nice product. Fun to watch, too!

                                                      1. re: Kagemusha

                                                        That's how pita is is usually done, not laffa. Laffa is a completely different kind of bread.
                                                        Casserole pots turn out quite good beef if the cook has talent, but it is hard defending it as roast beef.
                                                        Pita from an oven (taboon) is especially good if everything else is good. Consider also, conveyor belt pizza vs. hand formed, wood fired, artisanal blah blah pizza. Good laffa is made like the latter.

                                                        What style is Marche Adonis' pita? What does it look like? The crumb? Do they have whole wheat?
                                                        Does anyone know how it compares to Arz's?

                                                        P.S I just spoke with the people at Al Tanoor (home of the best shawarma in Toronto, Lawrence East.) They bake their own bread except pita.
                                                        The have never heard of laffa being made in a conveyor belt oven. Of course you can make flat bread that way, but it isn't laffa.
                                                        As for the requisite tanoor, only recently has there been introduced an electric tanoor, and they have no idea as to how good the bread is.
                                                        A gas tanoor needs a range hood, and here DL would have great problems in siting and expense. Range hoods are fantastically expensive and require maintenance. I don't know about electric tanoors.

                                                        1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                                                          FYI

                                                          A Range Hood isexpensive but it is an integral part of the bussiness especially if you are producing a specific product.

                                                          Gas tanoor requires Exhaust System - NFPA 96 which would cost aprox. $ 6 ooo

                                                          Electric Tanoor only requires only a Fume Hood which would cost aprox $ 3500

                                                          Not too bad if it would allow him to produce the product quality that everyone expects.. The payback would be very quick

                                                          1. re: itzi

                                                            $6000???? Try $60,000.

                                        2. Funny post.

                                          Isn't Vinnie the guy who introuduced CH to Dr. Laffa's way back when?

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: pakmode

                                            Now THAT would be hilarious!

                                            Almost as funny as Vinnnie's all encompassing restaurant review (remember, he has after all tasted the $2 conveyor belt lafa!)

                                            1. re: pakmode

                                              For the record, I was referring to Vinnie's original post, not the second one.

                                              Vinnie's posts have always made me laugh, and I appreciate his reviews as they are brutally honest. And he has seemed to discover more Chowfind's on here, then most others.

                                              He is a polarizing figure however, like Tim Tebow or shares of Blackberry, either you love his reviews or you hate them - and there's no in-between.

                                              1. re: pakmode

                                                Well, after all the noise and hype about this place, I finally went to the new one on Bathurst. Having never been to the original, I have nothing to compare it to, except other fallafels.

                                                Frankly, it was great. The staff were courteous and it's clear they are working out the kinks. I don't care if the Lafa came out of an authentic oven, or a conveyer belt. It was warm, chewy and was the perfect "holder" of all the goodies. The chick pea balls were hot and there was an abundance of veggy toppings.

                                                The thing that struck me the most was the price and the size! The price point is very reasonable, but I can't imagine how one average human being can eat the whole thing! It was huge and deite my best efforts, even I couldn't finish it.

                                                Let me assure you that i will be back as the chicken looked fantastic. Having been devoted for years to Sababa on Steeles, I will travel northvno more!!

                                            2. Reply to y'all # 2

                                              1. Radiopolitic-
                                              a) "Dr." in Hebrew as part of a business name means that the place is expert in the thing and specializes in it. Your point about the "Dr. Laffa" name is better than you think . (see also, eg., "He is a doctor of plumbing", etc.)

                                              But "Dr." in a name should not make one lose skepticism. For example, I had the speciality ("epynimous" (sp?) dish or something is the food writer term?) at Dr. Shakshuka in Jaffa. Amaaazing. It is not that anyone with half a palate could have made a better one, but rather that they were able to sell what they made to anyone more then once. But there were a lot of tourists in the place.

                                              DL's laffa is unacceptable. Unless you extoll as virtues the characteristics of Pizza Hut pizza crust.

                                              b) I know that you know your stuff but you didn't comment on the food. The absence of comment is a statement by itself. Your discretion is commendable, but don't be shy just because you are not Jewish. How would you rate the food?

                                              I long for the day when I can take you for laffa and grilled eggplant baladi (and more) at Angus in Haifa and salads and fish in Saraya in Akko. Maybe if you were to order at Saraya in Arabic I wouldn't be overcharged as a stupid American. Where would you take me?

                                              2a) Strongbad, the weight. DL puts about 250gm of meat into a laffa shawarma. But you responded to a comment about falafel, not shawarma.

                                              b) I dont't think that the falafel laffa weighs 2.5 lbs. After all , this is half of a 5 lb bag of potatoes or apples or two and a half blocks of butter. I would go out and buy a falafel laffa and weigh it but for the fact that I would have to go out and buy a falafel laffa. Which I won't like to the extent that I would object to every part of it. In any event, if I could suggest that you check your scales against things with a known weight. Perhaps blocks of butter, if you have butter in your kitchen. You may find yourself more relaxed about food.

                                              In any event a lot of the weight is in the laffa. It is an under- cooked wet bread (fluffy, soft and flexible- a practical wrapper). This heavy laffa doesn't get the place any brownie points.

                                              3. The reasons for the conveyor belt oven are most likely to be some or all of expediency, economy and don't give a shit. The catalyst may be the last one.

                                              Which brings to why I find DL particularly irritating. Too high prices and unnecessarily poor quality garnished with bullshit gives me that sucker feeling. There is nothing worse in Israel.

                                              4. Pakmode. Thank you for the compliment about my identifying "Chowfinds" Putting aside false modesty, I think that the first use of the word, from Jim Leff's time, was mine.

                                              If anyone wonders why I have time for this, I am home today still busy with the consequences of food poisoning suffered two days ago at one of Toronto's otherwise best restaurants.

                                              17 Replies
                                              1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                                                Vinnie: I mentioned the falafel laffa because that's the one I weighed, however I had the shawarma laffa earlier and it seemed to be about the same size to me.

                                                I use my scale all the time for weighing ingredients when brewing beer (and calibrate it for that purpose), and it's accurate.

                                                You seem to have a real grudge against the good doctor...it's too bad. He may not compare to places in Israel (or he may...I have no idea), but as someone aptly mentioned earlier, we aren't in Israel. All I know is that, for me, this is tasty food for a reasonable price.

                                                Hating a place because there's somewhere else (or even lots of other places) ten thousand kilometers away that are better is sort of silly, in my opinion.

                                                1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                                                  Thanks for sharing!

                                                  1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                                                    Hey Vinnie,
                                                    I haven't yet been to Dr. L. (I tried, on opening day, but too crowded for me), but I'm a regular at one of your other 'Chowfinds', namely, Al Tanoor on the Lawrence E. strip. As you said, one of the best shawarma-style sandwiches in the city. This family is also from Iraq, I believe, and the sandwich is served in a samoon bread, which sounds a lot like the laffa bread that's being discussed here. Also, the shawarma at Al Tanoor is only $2.99 served in a delicious samoon. Granted, it's considerably smaller, but really tasty. They put the chicken in first and last, with salad ingredients in the middle. Thanks for finding this one, VV.

                                                    1. re: Yongeman

                                                      Laffa and Samoon are no more alike than a bagel and a tortilla.
                                                      Laffa is more like Nan.

                                                      DT

                                                      1. re: Davwud

                                                        Ha! The laffa is like a tortilla, in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rMgJ8A...
                                                        but the samoon is more like an oval-shaped pita with pointy ends. Actually, the laffa in the video reminds me of the flat Turkish 'bread' for doner at Babos Donerpoint on Eglinton W.

                                                        1. re: Yongeman

                                                          If it's lavaş/lavash you're talking about (I haven't been to Babos for years, but IIRC, it was lavash they were using), it's Turkish for laffa. Might be some regional differences in texture and flavour, but same root.

                                                          1. re: prima

                                                            I think you'll find that lavash is an Armenian word borrowed into Turkish. the Turks call the long flat flour tortilla like bread dürüm.

                                                            1. re: shpeizmaven

                                                              All I'm saying is that laffa and lavash mean pretty much the same thing, regardless of whether the Turks have borrowed the word lavash from the Armenians or not. Which came first, cacik or tzaztiki? Lots of shared words throughout the former Ottoman Empire.

                                                      2. re: Yongeman

                                                        For the record, Al Tanoor has Laffa as well. You just have to ask them for it. I'm not sure when, or how, it's made - but they've had it in the past when I've asked.

                                                        1. re: pakmode

                                                          They just call it "Bread." I tried it and it's really good.

                                                          DT

                                                          1. re: pakmode

                                                            Yes, Al Tanoor bakes in a tanoor.
                                                            Next time I am there I will ask them to again explain the various Arabic words for bread.
                                                            Anyone wantto contribute?

                                                        2. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                                                          Vinnie your posts are always a source of great humor and excitement.

                                                          The (widely regarded and agreed upon) fact remains, regardless of who you wish to compare the current incarnation of Dr L to, that they make GOOD food. If you go there, eat a Schwarma Lafa and still tell me it is not a tasty treat (crisp, fresh veggies/salads, well seasoned hummus and tahina, meat with a fantastic crust on it), then I would be forced to reserve judgment on said taste buds!

                                                          1. re: Sadistick

                                                            I have to agree about VVM. Although I don't always agree with him, I ALWAYS have a good laugh when I read his posts.

                                                            I would love to get his take on Pinati in Jerusalem, and their relatively new outpost in Tel Aviv.

                                                          2. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                                                            Vinnie,

                                                            You're right that they wouldn't wouldn't hold a candle to what you can get in Israel/Levant. There's definitely worse in Toronto though.

                                                            I did sort of enjoy the spicing on the shawarma meat but the filling of the sabich was a disappointment. Not to mention both had a lot of useless filler in them especially for that price. I probably won't be back. I keep meaning to check out al-Tanoor!

                                                            I'd love to go to those places and I'd prolly take you to all my Palestinian friends' grandma's houses for some home cooked deliciousness :)

                                                            1. re: radiopolitic

                                                              Come on, where are you/your family from? I want to know just to know your cooking culture.

                                                              If I remember right , the spicing for the DL shawarma is a bit of curry. Such spicing is so ordinary, easy and cheap that it is an expedient.

                                                              I ask them at al Tanoornot to put in lettuce, but to load up with all the salads to the right of the lettuce (from the front) more then they would put in otherwise . No tahina or other sauces on the chicken but yes to amba. A spot of heat in one place on the bread.

                                                              1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                                                                I'm a mutt.

                                                                Family is Turkish, Kurdish, Azeri, Nogay, Persian, Greek and Albanian.

                                                                1. re: radiopolitic

                                                                  I want to meet your family all of them- individually and collectively -for supper - or for any oteh rmeal that they choose.

                                                                  With what "old" country would you say your family is most associated?

                                                                  I commend to you , Paula Wolfert, The Cooking of teh Eastern Mediterranean. A favourite.

                                                          3. So, my wife and I, who both used to live in Jordan, and visited Israel a few times (more than a few for her), just got back from the original Dr. Laffa.

                                                            Like many posting here, when I read the OP, I thought that Vinnie's was a bit over the top. I tried Dr. Laffa a year ago, or so, and found that it was good - definitely one of the better places in the city, and was looking forward to going back. (But I live at Greenwood, so I'm not up there very often.)

                                                            Anyway - we both found it thoroughly ordinary, and I found it to be distinctly less ... distinct than a year ago. Despite all the fuss about their oven, and the fact that I could smell charcoal in the air, I definitely couldn't taste it on the bread. The bread was a functional serving dish for the falafel, which was pretty good, but I couldn't say much more in favour of it than that it was also big. It wouldn't hold a candle to the better bread I had in Jordan, or Israel. (Also, as I remember it, it wouldn't hold a candle to the bread I had there last year.) It was fine, but it was bland, and generally lacking in personality.

                                                            Similarly, it's not really fair comparing the veggies here in any season other than high summer to the veggies in the Levant, which get little water, but brilliant and relentless sunshine for 10 months of the year, but even the sauces, etc., were ... fine. Again, they were adequate, and they were abundant, but I couldn't come up with much more to say about them. The service was better than a year ago, but the food was definitely not. It was a big serving, and a reasonable price for its size, but the flavour and texture were both pretty ordinary.

                                                            Obviously they have a successful business, and don't have to please me, but I won't be planning to go back anytime soon. I agree with Vinnie - it was a disappointment. It used to be better, and got more popular, and less good.

                                                            I also agree with Vinnie - if I'm looking for this kind of food again (which I surely will be), I'll go to Al Tanoor.

                                                            8 Replies
                                                            1. re: trombasteve

                                                              I still like Dr Laffa, so I'm not necessarily aiming this comment @ them, but it is interesting how restaurants often deteriorate as they become more popular.

                                                              1. re: kwass

                                                                I sometimes wonder if they really do. I think once a place starts to establish itself and become popular the attention seems to switch from what they're doing really well to what they don't. Nothing has changed except the focus of reviews.

                                                                One thing that does seem consistent across the board and that's that they haven't been able to recreate the magic in the new Magnetic Dr place as they had in the old one.
                                                                That happens when a place outgrows it's original home.

                                                                DT

                                                                1. re: Davwud

                                                                  And cheapens its processes. Good business people put their profits back into the business.

                                                                  1. re: Davwud

                                                                    Interesting! And you're probably spot on with your assessment Davwud.

                                                                2. re: trombasteve

                                                                  Trombasteve: (What were you doing in Jordan? -just curiosity.)
                                                                  I think that the bigger difference is not in the vegetables, but in the herbs, and they are used in many more things than here, and generously. In Israel they are eye-opening wonderful, cheap. and available almost year round. A culinary epiphany. (Everything of one kind of herb that is on offer in a Toronto supermarket constitutes one bunch and at half the cost. Paradise.) Also good Arabic restaurants make salads all kinds of seasonal leaves that are unavailable here. The difference in quality in some vegetables is indeed dramatic- eg peppers, cucumbers; tomatoes never come from Mexico. Then there is the difference in cost for some vegetables, which enables them to be a regular ingredient- e.g. fennel, $5 a bulb here, NIS5 ($1.25-1.40 a kilo there.
                                                                  However a lot of the difference has to with Arab kitchens" knowing what to do with the ingredients. Occaisionally I have equivalent salad success in a Jewish restaurant. Eg in Haifa, Paul, (owner's name, not name of restaurant) who is Romanian, off Moiah St., and Jacko on Moriah, but I go to home base on Salonika downtown. Cheap too- would I recommend otherwise? Can't recommend anything in Afula yet.

                                                                  I don't know why chickpeas are so much better in Israel, even canned ones, which of course makes everything made from them better. The next time I try making something with chickpeas, I will roast them lightly first.

                                                                  Oh! khatzilim baladi (fn.)! Oh! hummus three ways! Oh! for 15 salads as an appetizer coming automatically with the main! I yearn for Zion! Or am I just a foul? No, I don't think that I have my stomach above my head!

                                                                  fn. Khatzilim baladi is grilled eggplant with tahina on top. Divine at Angus, Haifa, and elsewhere. Sounds simple, no?
                                                                  It is. Can be made well all over the world. All you need is a bit of talent and high standards.

                                                                  VVM

                                                                  1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                                                                    Sorry - I'm a bit late answering this. ;) I'm a musician, and I played in the Amman Symphony for a year. (And taught music at the Conservatory there.)

                                                                    Also, I dearly miss the huge bundles of amazingly fresh and delicious mint in all the stores in Jordan for about 35¢ CDN. Agreed about the many interesting seasonal herbs (and nuts!) that just aren't available, let alone the same here. I wouldn't say that I ate better there than here with all things considered, but certainly many of my favourites from there are irreplaceable here. Maybe I have unfairly high expectations for places like Dr. Laffa for this reason? (Al Tanoor was excellent, though. I just wish I lived closer, or had a car.)

                                                                    1. re: trombasteve

                                                                      Meat is better here and much cheaper. Grains and pulses are no problem if anyone is interested. Spices here are good as well for the most part. Herbs and vegetables are a big problem though.
                                                                      The biggest problem is a lack of talent and just plain caring enough to do a good job.

                                                                      Your expectations are not too high, particularly in a place such as Dr. Laffa where the owner-operator was born into the business.

                                                                    2. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                                                                      i make roasted chatzil israeli-style at my home. the only thing that would make it better would be if i roasted it over a wood or charcoal grill.
                                                                      like all israeli cooking, the ingredients are simple.

                                                                  2. You know what I like about the Laffa, is NO seeds since I can not eat them. I found it tasty and really good.

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: bsv

                                                                      I'm not sure what you're talking about. Seeds in what?

                                                                      1. re: kwass

                                                                        guessing bsv was talking about sesame seeds since VV mentioned sesame above.

                                                                    2. I went to the new location tonight and it was the first time I have been to any Dr. Laffa and first time I have had a falafel laffa before.

                                                                      I kept thinking about how Vinnie wasn't impressed but when I ate have my laffa (That is all I could manage to start) I was thinking to myself that it was very good. I don't know how good the place used to be (or the old location) but I would definitely go back and maybe it was better I didn't know how good it used to be :)