The Middle East may be thousands of kilometres away, but the region’s vibrant and varied cultures and memorable cuisines are closer than you think. Enjoy exotic ambience and a wide range of sweet and savoury fare from Iran, Turkey, Lebanon and elsewhere at these 10 notable restaurants.
At this sophisticated restaurant—a longtime favourite on a strip packed with well-regarded eateries—chef Isam Kaisi uses fresh ingredients to create modern interpretations of classic Middle Eastern offerings, such as a signature lamb, shiraz and fig tagine. 93 Harbord St. 416-922-5914.
The very best of Turkish culinary traditions come together at Anatolia. Seafood, meat and vegetarian dishes are expertly spiced and accompanied by entertainment—on the first Friday of every month, guests enjoy a “Night of Istanbul” with live Turkish music, belly dancers and a fortune teller. 5112 Dundas St. W., 416-207-0596.
Experience the cosmopolitan culture of pre-revolutionary Tehran with authentic Iranian cuisine—the menu features more than a dozen exotic types of kebabs alone, as well as an elaborate drinks list. After dinner, wind down with some dessert or enjoy flavored shisha
on the patio. 777 Queen St. W., 416-777-2268.
This Mediterranean eatery offers arguably the best falafel in town. No matter what time of day you visit, it’s made fresh-to-order in the open kitchen. If you’re seeking something more than fried chickpeas, the lunch and dinner menu offers a further bounty of savoury options, as well as house-made Middle Eastern desserts. 450 Ossington Ave., 416-532-8698.
Serving Torontonians since 1971, this family-run restaurant was among the first to bring Cradle-of-Civilization comfort food to Canada’s largest city. Enjoy drinks on the patio at the Eglinton Avenue location, or live music and belly dancing at the Leslie Street location.
955 Eglinton Ave. W., 416-783-6494, 4777 Leslie St., 416-490-7888.
Markaz Café and Lounge
Skip the Entertainment District’s crowded bars and clubs and opt instead for a night of Middle East-style socializing. The charms of Cairo, Dubai, Istanbul and Lahore are evoked by this hip spot, where guests can unwind with a hookah and exotic teas and coffees on the rooftop patio. 222 Richmond St. W., 647-627-7597.
Mezza Lebanese Kitchen
This bona-fide Lebanese eatery in the west end offers an authentic taste of Beirut in such small bites as house-made hummus, kibbeh and taboule. Make sure to sample some arak,
a hard-hitting specialty wine drink, too. 769 The Queensway, 416-276-7662.
Whether you’re craving fresh-baked pita bread slathered in delectable hummus or shawarmas prepared with exotic spices, this busy downtown restaurant offers a classic Middle Eastern eating experience from start to finish. For dessert, choose from an array of baklavas from the bakery. 253 Yonge St., 416-366-3600.
Pomegranate and Sheherzade
These side-by-side sister restaurants offer flavourful Persian fare in Little Italy. Pomegranate stakes its reputation on its home-style Iranian dishes, while Sheherzade features a variety of bazaar-style options that are cooked over an open grill. Both locations sport traditional decor such as rugs, lanterns and paintings, plus Persian calligraphy on the walls. Pomegranate: 420 College St. 416-921-7557; Sheherzade: 422 College St. 416-929-9222.
Serving up some of the best hummus in town, Tabule offers varied takes on the classic, feel-good version of the dip, with additions such as pine nuts and meat. The traditional options like falafel, plus a comprehensive seafood menu, are every bit as popular as the belly dancer who performs on weekends. 2009 Yonge St., 416-483-3747.