CLOSED: Atlas (Toronto)

Having visited all the restaurants from Peer to Peer Hospitality Group (Cava, Chabrol, and Tanto), I’ve had some good meals … Atlas is no exception. Their recipes aren’t the same as traditional Moroccan dishes, rather gain inspiration from them based on Chef Doug Penfold’s experience while travelling. 

Take the short rib tagine ($55), it’s not heavily spiced so the flavours are somewhat muted and even the steam that escapes from the Le Creuset tagine isn’t overly aromatic. What you’re left with are short ribs that are tender and tastes of beef, and plump chanterelles filled with the cooking liquid. The dish is like a beef stew with more herbs rather than a traditional tagine with the bold colours and flavours that are synonymous with paprika and chili. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a tasty dish, but just seems bland if you’re expecting tagine.

Whatever oniony and herb cooking liquid that can be found at the bottom of the vessel should be spooned onto the couscous ($5), it’d be a shame to let that sauce go to waste. Laura, our waitress, also smartly suggested the bulgur salad ($10) as a side. The cool refreshing salad of mint, green onion, and crunchy radish was a great contrast with the meaty short rib.

Atlas does offer starters that incorporate stronger Middle Eastern flavours. The briouat ($15) is like a Moroccan cigar except stuffed with tons of savoury sautéed mushrooms before being wrapped tightly in phyllo pastry. Add a bit of herby harissa sauce and the briouat’s taste completely changes as the earthiness of the fungi mellows. Just be warned, it’s piping hot so try to restrain yourself from biting into the starter immediately. It’ll be difficult as it smells heavenly. 

When ordering the eggplant zaalouk and jben ($18) get an extra order of the chewy flaky flatbread, the single one you receive is not enough. You’ll want it on hand for the delicious dips: a warm creamy lightly grilled eggplant that’s well flavoured with tomato, lemon, cilantro, and a hit of cayenne; and a contrasting cold buttermilk cheese with flecks of thyme. Mix them together and it gets better. Get the extra flatbread, you won’t wait to wait for another to arrive.

For those who’ve visited Chabrol and have indulged in the heavenly apple tatin, Atlas’ version of the dessert is their m’hanncha ($12). The menu’s description doesn’t give the dish the recognition it deserves, making it sound like run-of-the-mill baklava. In reality, the phyllo stuffed with sweet all-spice almond paste is freshly baked, arriving hot and crispy, and releases a wonderful aroma at the table. The thick date syrup is separated, so you’re able to customize the dessert’s sweetness. If this is what French Moroccan inspired food tastes like, give me more!

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 18 Dupont Street 

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!

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