Exploring strip malls and hole-in-the-wall restaurants in search of the city's best international food

Friday, March 29, 2013

Tavoos: An excellent new Persian restaurant is now open on College Street

Residents of Dufferin Grove/Brockton Village were excited on Good Friday to discover that the long renovated space at 1120 College Street at Dufferin is now open. Turns out it's the home of Tavoos, a Persian restaurant from the same owners as Pomegranate and Sheherzade at College & Bathurst. The restaurant's full name is Takht-e Tavoos, which means Peacock Throne, a reference to historic Persian rulers. 

photo of Tavoos restaurant, exterior shot 
photo of sign outside Tavoos restaurant

A full year of renovations in this former bakery space have paid off. The room is ornately decorated with eye-catching Middle Eastern rugs, pottery and murals. You can choose between traditional Persian seating and regular tables and chairs. Pre-revolutionary Persian pop music floats through the air. 

So far Tavoos is only open for breakfast and lunch, but there are plans to expand to dinner later on. Tavoos's menu is different than Pomegranate, with a fusion feel and a focus on brunch items.

photo of Tavoos inside 
photo of artwork at Tavoos 
photo of the floor booth at Tavoos restaurant 

The knowledgable waitress explains the traditional way of eating dizi sangi, a clay pot stew made of lamb shank, chick peas and white beans, to one of the first diners. You take the pieces of meat out of the stew and soak up the remaining broth with pieces of the flatbread; then you use the remaining bread to scoop up the meat and beans. Other specialities include haleem—a bowl of spiced wheatberry porridge—and kalleh pacheh, a Persian soup made from sheep head and hooves.

photo of the menu
Open image in new tab to see the full-sized menu.

I opted for one of the breakfast dishes, the Tavoos Soltani Special. It was a sort of omelette with two sunnyside up eggs served on top of wonderfully crispy spiced potato chunks. The perfectly prepared plate comes with two pieces of puffy, fresh flatbread, olives, tiny grilled tomatoes, pieces of creamy, rich feta and walnuts. The olives were a surprising treat, as they were coated with a sweet pomegranate and walnut paste. 

photo of tea 
photo of Persian breakfast 

It's a strong start for Tavoos, and with curious passerbys popping their heads in regularly to check out the space, it seems destined to do well here in this up-and-coming neighbourhood. I look forward to trying more dishes as the menu expands. 

Tavoos is located at 1120 College Street near Dufferin in Toronto. Telelphone: 647 352 7322. The restaurant currently opens at 10am and closes in the mid-afternoon. Tavoos is closed on Easter Sunday and Monday. 

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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Falafel frenzy: Dr. Laffa fans flock to the restaurant's new location

Toronto is in love with Dr. Laffa. Converts have been frequenting Dr. Laffa's Magnetic Drive location, buried deep inside a bleak industrial park near the 407, for a few years now to eat amazing Iraqi-Israeli food. The world-class falafels and shawarmas are served inside a stretchy, fresh bread (laffa) baked on site in a clay oven. 

A few months ago word got out that Dr. Laffa was opening up a new location south of the 401 and Toronto's Jewish community—as well as the city's food writers—have been salivating with anticipation. The wait is now over, as Dr. Laffa On The Go opened Wednesday at 3023 Bathurst just south of Lawrence. 

I visited the day after the opening and the place was a mad house. The small shop was crammed with people lining up to place their orders. It was a mosh pit of screaming toddlers, patient teens and religious Jews wearing kippahs and black hats. The location is mostly take-out, although there are a few stools at the edge where you can eat.

A staffer struggled to make his way through the chaos with a giant vat of laffa dough. By 8:30 the cashier announced they were—gasp—out of shawarma. It took a half hour to get to the cash and another 15 minutes or so to get our food, but no one was complaining.

"We're happy there's a Dr. Laffa in the neighbourhood so we don't have to schlep up north anymore," says Miriam Rosenberg, a dentist who lives in the neighbourhood. "The food is fresh and it's interesting, because it's Israeli food with an Iraqi spin. It has a different flavour and I like it better than regular Israeli food."

There is no question the food is worth the wait. The chicken pieces in the shawarma are juicy yet crispy around the edges. Sabich is an addictive, oversized sandwich filled with an impossible amount of goodness: smokey roasted eggplant, a boiled egg, hummus, lettuce and falafel balls. Each giant sandwich is wrapped in the chewy, elastic laffa bread, which isn't quite like any other bread I've tasted. You can buy pieces of this excellent bread on it's own, steaming and fresh from the oven.

Dr. Laffa will be closed next week for Passover. The restaurant is closed Saturdays for the sabbath, although this location will be open after sundown this Saturday, from 9pm til midnight.

Dr. Laffa is located at 3023 Bathurst just south of Lawrence. Tel 647 352 9000 or 647 352 9001. Hours are Sunday to Thursday 11am to 10pm; Fridays 11am to 4pm.

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