Location: 65 Duncan Street, Toronto
Shah’s Halal Food has a pretty straightforward menu; it’s basically just chicken, lamb, and falafel that you can either order on rice or as a wrap. Apparently it’s a chain with a whole bunch of locations in the States and the UK, and yeah, that checks out. It tastes like chain food.
Still, it’s not bad. I went with the lamb gyros, which comes absolutely crammed with lamb, veggies, black beans, chick peas, hummus, and three different sauces: white sauce, hot sauce, and green sauce.
The lamb itself is probably the weakest part of the sandwich; it comes out of a metal warming tray looking like the saddest, grayest cubes of meat that you’ve ever seen, and it has a spongey reconstituted meat flavour. It’s not great.
But the sandwich is so crammed with stuff that this is barely even an issue — I wish it were a bit spicier (it’s basically not spicy at all), but it’s zippy, crunchy, and flavourful, and the soft but substantial pita does a good job of holding it all together.
Location: 2340 Council Ring Road, Unit 104, Mississauga
The Arabic ice cream they’re serving at Pinochi is pretty fascinating; it’s made with mastic (which is actually the resin from a type of tree), and it has an unusual, ultra-chewy texture that’s surprisingly addictive.
If you’ve never had it before, however, it’s going to be a bit of a shock. It’s so incredibly dense and chewy that it’s pretty difficult to eat with a spoon (a fork and knife are probably advisable). It’s deeply springy, with an almost chewing-gum-like texture that eventually melts in your mouth. It’s very, very different from traditional ice cream, but once you get on its wavelength, it’s quite enjoyable.
Pinochi serves it rolled and then sliced, with a generous amount of crushed pistachios on its exterior, giving it a great nutty flavour. The mastic has its own flavour, too; Wikipedia describes it as tasting of pine and cedar, and yeah, that’s probably right. The taste is quite subtle, but it definitely adds its own unique personality.
Pistachio ice cream is a tried-and-true flavour, but between the taste and texture of the mastic, this one is very much its own thing, and it’s great.
Location: 2645 Liruma Road, Mississauga
Oaza Shawarma Plus is one of those local joints that doesn’t stand out in any particular way, but that’s still satisfying for what it is.
I got the chicken shawarma wrap, and it was pretty good. The chicken was entirely lacking in the crispy bits you’re hoping for from great shawarma, but aside from that it was juicy and plentiful. The sauces (hot sauce, garlic sauce, and tahini) were all tasty, and the proportion of sauce, chicken, and fresh veggies was just right.
Bonus: the wrap was nicely toasted in a sandwich press. I feel like unless you’re starting with some seriously fresh, delicious bread (and the pita here was of the bagged, store-bought variety), toasting will automatically enhance a shawarma wrap.
Do you need to get in your car and drive here immediately? No, absolutely not. But if you’re in the area, it’s a tasty enough wrap.
Cheese slice from Superpoint
Superpoint! It’s still great. This time I got a plain cheese slice, and it’s absolutely phenomenal — it’s got the perfect amount of gooey cheese, tasty sauce, and that nicely crispy/chewy thin crust. Pizzeria Badiali is right nearby also serving up top-notch slices, and I’m extremely envious of anyone who lives in the area because they’re both so good.
Mint Chocolate from Good Behaviour Ice Cream
Easily the weirdest scoop of mint chocolate chip ice cream I’ve ever had — it didn’t taste like mint or chocolate. If I had eaten this blind, I honestly don’t think I would have guessed mint. It tastes more like a mild key lime pie. It’s not bad, it’s just weird when you’re expecting mint. As for the chocolate, I’m of the opinion that standard chocolate chips are useless in ice cream. They have a nice crunch, but nothing else — frozen chocolate chips are too cold to properly melt in your mouth, so they basically just crumble into little bits that you can’t taste.
Falafel from Falafel Plus
If you have “falafel” right in the name of your restaurant, you’d better be able to back that up. I’m happy to say that Falafel Plus very much backs that up: the falafel here has a great balance between crispy exterior and fluffy interior, and it’s perfectly spiced, with a herby flavour that’s very satisfying. Clearly, I’m going to have to return and try a bunch more stuff, because they have a fairly extensive menu, and based on the falafel it’s probably all tasty.
Location: 821 Gerrard Street East, Toronto
Madame Levant is a brunch spot with an interesting gimmick; most of the menu consists of brunch classics “with a Levantine twist.”
Actually, maybe using the word “gimmick” to describe what they’re serving here is unfair. Based on the two dishes I tried, Madame Levant manages to combine brunch standbys and Middle Eastern ingredients in a way that feels completely organic.
First up was the Halawa Pancakes, which the menu describes as “GF flour blend pancakes served with orange blossom tahini maple syrup & topped with pistachios and ward (dried flower petals).”
Halawa — a sweet, tahini-based dessert — and pancakes turn out to be a great combo, and the floral notes you get from the orange blossom and flower petals complements it perfectly. I feel like I need all of my maple syrup to be infused with tahini from now on; it adds a richness and a mildly nutty flavour that really amps up its deliciousness.
The pancakes are gluten free, but aside from a slightly denser texture than the norm, they’re very good.
I also tried the Sujuk Scrambled: “beef sausages finished with pomegranate molasses, 3 soft scrambled eggs, with a side of hummus, pita, & olives.”
This one’s pretty basic, but when you’re dealing with good ingredients that are well prepared, sometimes simpler is better. The sausage is tasty and the eggs are nicely creamy. Hummus and eggs aren’t a combination that I would have thought of, but it works. Nothing here knocked my socks off, but it’s a solid dish.