Showing posts with label Blintzes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Blintzes. Show all posts

Old Avenue Restaurant and Bakery (Toronto)

What’s old – er… excuse me, vintage – seems to be in demand lately. The era of a simpler life, less demands, better quality, whatever. We yearn for it. Stepping into Old Avenue Restaurant and Bakery, these vintage elements scream at you from the walls. It’s designed to look like it’s been operating forever, not newly opened in late 2022.

Their menu offers a variety of dishes from the Southern Caucasus region - modern day Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan. It’s a lengthy proposal with so many delicious sounding dishes that it will take several visits for me to try everything I want. That is, if I can stop ordering items I’ve already found tasty.

A post-university trip took me around Europe for a month and it was along the Austrian borders I was introduced to goulash, a fragrant spiced beef and vegetable soup that was so comforting. The goulash in North America is different, usually a thicker stew-like consistency and while stocked with meat and potatoes there’s generally little spice.

Seeing borscht ($8) described on Old Avenue’s menu, the ingredients instantly reminded me of the goulash of Austria: beef, tomatoes, cabbage, onions, potatoes, carrots, greens, and a touch of beets. Served in a covered claypot, the soup arrived piping hot and once the lid was removed, I was greeted with the European aroma. The broth was teeming with umami without the acidy of the tomatoes and filled with chunks of tender beef and finely sliced vegetables that blended wonderfully.

Old Avenue’s blintzes with meat ($10 for 2 pieces) arrived with a spectacular golden crust, adding a bit of crunch to the otherwise soft and delicate crepes. The mixture of finely ground beef and onion inside was perfectly seasoned creating flavour without being overly fussy or salty.

In fact, anything wrapped at Old Avenue is a hit. Their Azerbaijan style lula wrap ($20) reminded me of a burger, donair, and burrito all mixed into one. Ground beef and lamb were formed into kebabs and grilled then combined with thinly sliced tomatoes, pickles, onion, and mayo in a chewy wrap that got a lovely toasting just like the blintzes.

My error was taking the paper off the wrap as the thin creamy sauce simply wanted to gush out of the wrap on the first bite. A bit of messiness aside, the lula wrap was delicious – its heartiness balanced out by the acid of the garlicky pickles. The fries were equally impressive, uber crispy on the outside and fluffy inside. They were also perfect for dipping into the saucy wrap – next time I’ll even stuff a couple inside to create a dish like a gyro.

After all the meaty dishes, we were glad the kitchen sent out some pumpkin manti ($14 for 4 pieces) that were mistakenly mixed with the meat version we had ordered. Personally, I preferred the pumpkin; the squash made into a puree with some strands left in for texture that went nicely with the thin chewy dumpling wrapper. Conversely, the beef and onion version were too dense, the filling forming a meatball rather than loose like the blintzes.

Served with a slightly spicy salsa, the condiment added a pop of flavour and freshness that awoken the manti. Still, I couldn’t help smearing more sauce from the other dishes (like the garlicky humus that comes with the complimentary hot bread or the ricotta-like spread from the khachapuri lobiani) to give the manti even more flavour. My recommendation: don’t give back any of the house-made sauces as they are wonderful across the dishes.

The Georgian khachapuri lobiani ($24) wouldn’t be a dish I’d order again. While I enjoyed the buttery thin bread surrounding the “pie”, the mashed red kidney bean filling was too dry, too dense, and lacked flavour. The menu describes the beans as being mixed with onion, seasoning, and “special” cheese, but all I could taste was beans and maybe a hint of cumin. In the end, there wasn’t much flavour, and the only cheese was the small dollop of the ricotta-like spread that arrived with the gigantic pie.

I tried to salvage the dish by loading it with the salsa, garlic hummus and the mayo from the lula wrap. While it improved the flavours a bit, I still couldn’t get through a full slice of the khachapuri lobiani. Still, don’t let me stop you from trying this Georgian dish, just order it with a large table as one slice is more than enough.

Having had a lovely dinner at Old Avenue, I decided to go back for brunch. The Turkish breakfast ($40 for two people) sounded like an amazing spread but turned out to be a mishmash of cheeses (run of the mill cheddar, smoked gouda, Swiss, cottage, goat cheese, and feta), chopped vegetables, olives, and condiments. It’s not overly exciting and oddly served with a cheese pede when there’s already so much dairy.

The scrambled eggs and Turkish sausage, also meant to serve two people, consisted of literally two eggs and a handful of cut sausage medallions that was hardly enough for a duo. For my tastes, I’d rather Old Avenue should remove some of the cheeses and serve more of the hot items.

Still, the Turkish breakfast was a cost-effective option as it also included a large pot of Turkish tea served in gorgeous ornate cups.

Normally, a restaurant omelette is large and fluffy. The Old Avenue omelet ($15) was thin like a crepe and filled with tons of vegetables and herbs creating a light and refreshing dish. Still, I could have done without the tarte vinegar drizzled over the top and found it needed a richer element to give the eggs interest. Luckily, there was plenty of feta and goat cheese from the Turkish breakfast I could add to the omelette.

So maybe a Southern Caucasus breakfast is not my thing. Nevertheless, I love the atmosphere at Old Avenue Restaurant and Bakery: warm, inviting, and the real tapered candles gives the restaurant an almost romantic feeling if the dining room wasn’t so eccentric. 

After dining in so many minimalist dining rooms, the blast-from-the-past kitschy items adorning the walls is a welcomed change.

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 1923 Avenue Road

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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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