Meaty Sandwiches at German Doner Kebab

German Doner Kebab
: 246 Queen Street West, Toronto

German Doner Kebab is a German chain with locations around the world that specializes in — surprise, surprise — doner kebab.

They have a few things on the menu, though it all revolves around the doner kebab, which is meat that’s cooked on a vertical rotating spit, shawarma-style.  They serve chicken, beef, or a mix of both.

I ordered the Original German Doner Kebab, which features a whole bunch of meat (chicken and beef, in my case), veggies and sauce on what they call toasted sesame waffle bread.

German Doner Kebab

It’s tasty enough, though the way the sandwich was constructed meant that there was a ton of meat on the bottom, veggies in the middle, and sauce on top.  I tried my best to alternate bites between the three sections so I’d get a variety of flavours, but it was basically impossible to get a mouthful with all three components.

The sandwich comes as it comes, so I wasn’t told anything about the sauces or any of the toppings, but according to the website they have three sauces: signature spicy sauce, signature garlic sauce, and signature yogurt sauce.  I wish it were spicier, but otherwise the sauces were quite tasty: they were sweet, garlicky, and a little bit tangy.  They would have done a great job of balancing out the saltiness of the meat, but unfortunately there was a voluminous layer of veggies between the meat and the sauce, so I didn’t get any mouthfuls with both.

German Doner Kebab

Because yeah, the meat was very salty.  The level of seasoning was so intense that it entirely overwhelmed the flavour of the meat; I tried a bunch on its own (as you can see from the picture, a decent amount had tumbled out of the sandwich before they even brought it to me), and none of it particularly tasted like chicken or beef — it just tasted like generic, salty meat.  I literally couldn’t tell any of it apart.  They might have accidentally given me one or the other instead of a mix, but the fact that I couldn’t figure out what any of it was supposed to be is… odd.

Still, it was tasty enough; there were no off or gamy flavours here, so it certainly wasn’t unpleasant to eat.  That’s not to mention the bread, which was nicely toasted, with a satisfying exterior crunch and fluffy interior that (mostly) held together despite how messy the sandwich was.

It’s hard to wholeheartedly recommend this place when Otto’s Berlin Doner is serving a very similar sandwich that’s much, much better.  But if you’re in the area and you’re looking for a hearty, quick meal, you could definitely do worse.

A Solid Wrap at Shah’s Halal Food

Shah's Halal Food
: 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.

Shah's Halal 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.

Shah's Halal Food

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.

Brunch with a Twist at Madame Levant

Madame LevantLocation: 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.

Madame Levant

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.

Madame Levant

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.

A Top Notch Sandwich at Otto’s Berlin Doner

Otto's Berlin DonerLocation: 256 Augusta Avenue, Toronto

I tried Otto’s Berlin Doner around when it first opened and quite enjoyed it; I’m happy to report that not only has the place not missed a step, I think they’ve actually gotten better.  I just had the veal and lamb doner, and I was pretty blown away by how good it was.

Otto's Berlin Doner

Every element works so well — it’s got that great bread, which is delightfully crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, and it’s got the perfect balance between tasty meat and fresh veggies, with the sauces all complementing it so well.

You can choose between garlic, yogurt, and hot sauce — or you can do what I did and get all three, which is definitely what you should do because it’s a very tasty combo (the hot sauce isn’t hot at all, but it’s hard to complain when it’s all this tasty).

Otto's Berlin Doner

But it’s the veal and lamb that really makes the sandwich sing.  It’s super tender, with a great meaty flavour from the lamb and a punch of rosemary-tinged herbiness.  And it’s absolutely crammed with the crispy bits that make a sandwich like this so addictive.

I mean, look at this picture.  Look at the crispy bits.  That’s a thing of beauty.

Otto's Berlin Doner

You can also add feta cheese and/or fries to your sandwich for a buck a piece, and again, you should definitely do that.  The fries add more delightful savoury crispiness, and the feta brings creamy pops of saltiness that really rounds out the sandwich.

A Decent Falafel Sandwich at The Haifa Room

The Haifa RoomLocation: 224 Ossington Avenue, Toronto

The Haifa Room has been up and running for a bit more than a month, and while the dining room isn’t open quite yet, they do have a take-out window where you can get a variety of sandwiches.

I went with the falafel sandwich: “Falafel, tahina, hummus, z’hug, cucumber and tomato salad, marinated red cabbage, parsley, onions, and pickles.”

I asked them to hold the onion, but otherwise got it as is.

It’s a solid sandwich, though nothing about it particularly blew me away.  The falafel itself is crispy and flavourful, with a nice fluffy interior that’s almost creamy (it might have been a tad undercooked, but it was tasty regardless).  And the healthy amount of parsley they top it with is a nice touch, adding a herby punch that complements the falafel quite well.

The Haifa Room

None of the other toppings particularly stand out, however, and I missed the red pickled turnips that you typically find in a sandwich like this; there were copious amounts of tahini and hummus, and in the absence of something with some zip, it felt overly rich and a bit one-note in its flavour.  It did have pickle slices, but they weren’t assertive enough to add much of anything.

(The menu also says the sandwich is topped with z’hug, a herby Yemenite hot sauce, but I didn’t see or taste anything even remotely hot-sauce-like in the sandwich.)

The vaguely stale pita bread probably didn’t help, which came out of a bag and tasted like it came out of a bag.

I feel like I’m complaining a lot for something I actually quite enjoyed, but pretty much everything here is one small step away from being very good, so it’s easy to notice the flaws that are holding it back.