My favourite thing about living in Toronto is the multiculturalism. By welcoming individuals from a wide-variety of backgrounds, our city becomes a more vibrant, interesting and delicious place to live. In my Global Food in Toronto Series I’m travelling the globe by eating one local meal from every country in the world without leaving Toronto. This time I’m tasting Egyptian food in Toronto.
Egyptian Food in Toronto
Restaurant: Maha’s Brunch
Companion: My boyfriend, Mohamed
Menu: Shrimp Po Boy Sandwich. Stewed Fava Beans. Chicken Sandwich. Cumin Home Fries.
When I lived in Leslieville, Toronto, I would often walk down Greenwood Avenue on a weekend morning on my way to visit friends, take a yoga class or enjoy a coffee in the park. I would invariably see a long line outside of a little restaurant that had recently opened in a predominantly residential neighbourhood. I couldn’t wrap my mind around this crowd of people waiting upwards of an hour to get a table at Maha’s. When I realized it was a brunch restaurant featuring Egyptian food in Toronto, the flocks of foodies suddenly made sense.
I must admit, I was intrigued, especially when I saw that they served a cardamom & honey latte. I am an unabashed coffee lover, but also someone who simply can’t wait in long lines before said coffee. Luckily for me, I work unconventional hours and one sunny Thursday morning after a game of tennis with my boyfriend, I suggest we see if Maha’s was open. We were shocked to find we had the restaurant almost entirely to ourselves! Glorious. I knew from the moment I walked in the door that I would be ordering that cardamom & honey latte. Let me tell you, it was even better than you are imaging…I may have licked the cup. What can I say – my name is Lauren and I’m a coffee addict.
I immediately felt at home in the small, charming cafe. Whether it was the decor which featured unique pieces imported from Egypt or the bright sunshine that streamed through the window, I cannot say. Or maybe it was the little details like the the gallery of art from a Canadian-Egyptian artist or the music by a famous Egyptian singer, Umm Kulthum, that played softly in the background. It may have been the friendly service from the waitress, who recommended her favourite dishes and promptly brought us water with fresh mint and lemon. Certainly, as a strong advocate for tap water, I was impressed that they made an effort to serve this sophisticated and delicious water that would convert even an adamant bottle water drinker.
Whenever I try out a new restaurant, I am always caught between the choice of ordering a dish that showcases the best of a region’s food traditions and one that I’m certain I will enjoy. My goal in trying global cuisines is to experience new dishes and flavour combinations yet I fear wasting food and money on an experimental order gone wrong. This time, I was deciding between the Cairo Classic, a breakfast which featured foole (fava beans), taameia (falafel) and eggs, or the Pharaoh Poboy, a pita sandwich filled with fried shrimp with lime. My desire for fried shrimp won but, after reading that foole was a quintessential Egyptian street food, I ordered it on the side. The menu described the beans being slow cooked in large copper vats on the busy streets of Cairo and I wanted to be transported to the heart of this sensory scene. Mohamed meanwhile chose Maha’s Mind Blowing Chicken, a massive chopped chicken and tomato sandwich served with a side of cumin potatoes.
In this case, I definitely made the correct choice in following my cravings. I adored my shrimp and couldn’t help doing a happy dance as I chewed! The shrimp was perfectly crispy, roasting hot and accompanied by the most delicious mayo/tahini sauce. While I am not normally a fan of beans, I even enjoy my foole. Mohamed’s chicken was so well seasoned and incredibly filling. I loved that the menu featured halal meat as well as vegan and gluten-free choices making it easy for almost anyone to be satisfied. I would have loved to try the Date Grilled Cheese, the Arnabeet, an anise-flavoured, deep-fried cauliflower, or the Max, a smorgasbord of all the delicious menu items!
Were our choices the most authentically Egyptian dishes on the menu? I have no idea, but I know that Chef Barsoom (aka Maha herself) produces dishes filled with a love for food and for her Egyptian culture. With affordable prices, huge portions, exceptional service and a deep appreciation for good food, I am longer surprised that locals are flocking to Maha’s to try Egyptian food in Toronto.
Do you have a favourite, tucked away or hard to find, restaurant? Are you willing to share its name and location in the comments?!