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Aug 21, 2013 06:19 PM

Chowfind: Pili Pili

My friend and I have missed Peponi Grill for years. That was the weird place in a non-descript office building near the Don Valley Parkway and Sheppard that served authentic East African (Ismaili) food. It was the only place that did it well, as far I can recall.

Well, I have found a replacement finally: Pili Pili. We started with samosas (three kinds, all great). Beautiful thin but substantial wrapper with detailed truly varied fillings. Very nice. Then, some mogo (cassava fries, dusted with speical East Afican spices). Oh yeah. That's the stuff. Think of the best thick French fries, but lighter, airier, fluffier. Served with three chutneys: tamarind, spicy, and the green refreshing one. Now we're having fun. Delicious deep-fried kebab balls are crusty on the outside and soft on the inside.

Then, the grilled meat, which features very prominently on the menu. Oh, the meat. So much meat! This is a fairly carnivorous cuisine, far as I can tell. Beef mishkaki is chunks of grilled beef that has been marinating for days. Beef shortribs (Korean cut) are really nice, too, marinated similarly to the mishkaki. Then, barbecued chicken breast is surprisingly moist. It's grilled with the bone and skin on, which delivers flavour and succulence.

This was a wonderful but almost vegetableless meal. Remember, their main business now is catering and take-out (grill-it-yourself-at-home). But, I think they might expand their menu as time goes on. They really just set up a month or two ago.

Our host, Zilu, the owner, is one of the nicest fellows you could meet. Truly passionate about delivering good, quality, simple, honest food. He will happily and pleasantly guide the uninitiated through his ancestral cuisine, and he is also a really friendly and knowledgable guy in general.

I will be interested in other Chowhounders' opinions on this wonderful place. It's at 1960 Lawrence Avenue East.

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  1. Between Pharmacy and Warden, across the street from Al Tanoor, where home of Toronto's best shawarma.

    What are Pili Pili's prices like?

    2 Replies
    1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

      Google Maps seems to want to place it near Taste of Beirut, but if it's across from Al Tanoor, that would put it closer to where Farhat is. Is it closer to Tower Drive or Lillian Drive?

      Also, I checked the menu and it lists Marinated Meats per pound. Are these raw meats that you'd have to bring home and cook? Or are these for immediate consumption?

      1. re: kwong

        Close enough. Near Beirut. Big sign, you can't miss it.
        The marinated meats are for cooking at home.

    2. Thanks for the writeup...sounds like a great find.

      Link to their menu:

      You mention that the two beefs (mishkaki, short ribs) were marinated similarly, and the linked menu seems to describe all the grilled meats being spiced or marinated with their "secret Pili Pili blend". Since you also tried the chicken, would you guess that the flavors/marinades were the same across the three grilled meats you tried?

      Also, how spicy was everything?


      1 Reply
      1. re: Deep Puddle

        The chicken seemed to have a different marinade.

        The food was not very spicy, to my surprise.

        The prices are very reasonable. $54 was our bill. Zuli initially tried to refuse a tip! (This only resulted in a bigger one).

      2. I saw Pili Pili open and thought that it was another sub-continental style massacre ground of ingredients. Either that or a Chinese place from one of Portugal's former African colonies. I was wrong. Essentally, it is Tanzanian BBQ. Very different - not even yoghurt in the marinades - and very nice.
        Thank you Fwagara.

        I went for supper. I had a selection from the menu. The best things were the chicken leg, samosas, cassava fries, chutneys and pickling and they were superb. Fine dining level control. No fear of too much heat; don't be put off by the chili pepper shown in the sign.