Showing posts with label labneh. Show all posts
Showing posts with label labneh. Show all posts

Amal for Lunch (Toronto)


Perched over Bloor Street, Amal’s dining room is an oasis of calm with coastal tones and lattice walls coaxing me to stay for a leisurely lunch. Indeed, if the timing allowed, I could lounge there for an entire afternoon - with no pressure to order and eat quickly, Amal gives you the luxury of time to relax and enjoy.

Everyone seems to start with a cold mezze sampler platter ($27), three large mounds of prettily adorned dips where we opted for baba ghanoush, garlic labneh, and the lesser-known muhammara. The later is a zesty concoction made from a base of fire-roasted red peppers spiked with spices and diced walnuts that creates a bit of texture.

The muhammara a stark contrast against the cool and creamy labneh where toum (a garlic sauce) and mint tones down the acidity of the yoghurt while giving it an extra boost of flavour. Still, I enjoyed the more traditional baba ghanoush the most where the roasted eggplant with thick and pronounced, just lightly seasoned with lemon and tahini.

While their skewer platter arrives with a thick hummus, I found the garlic labneh went perfectly with the chicken tawok ($22 for full platter, pictured in the post is an extra skewer added on for a lesser price). The morsels of grilled chicken breast were juicy with a faint herb and garlic finish, but the creamy labneh just gave it an extra burst of flavour, like a milder and creamier tzatziki.

Yet, what made us swoon was the beef tenderloin skewer ($24), the outer cubes cooked a perfect medium rare that seemed to cut like butter.  They were great on their own, with a sprinkle of the chopped grilled onions and parsley, or even with a smear of baba ghanoush. The kitchen should consider leaving space between the cubes of beef as I did find the inner cubes too rare, likely since they had less contact with the grill.

With a choice of rice or fries, our waiter smartly suggested the spuds since they’d be easier to share. The potato wedges were wonderfully hot and crispy but could use a bit more seasoning. Luckily, we had plenty of dip remaining to dunk the fries into.

I have a feeling that the front-of-the-house and kitchen are in close communications, customizing the experience to the diners. The pace of our meal was timed perfectly, with the main hitting the table just as we had slowed on the mezze and was focused more on wine and conversation instead. Beside us, a group of business diners, who were eating more ferociously, saw the procession of dishes speed up. At Amal, the diners seem to dictate the pace of the meal, which is merely a mark of great hospitality. 

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 131 Bloor Street West


Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
____________________________
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!


Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:



Constantine (Toronto)


Situated in the Anndore House, Constantine takes up much of the lower floor of the boutique hotel. It’s swanky and has a cool vibe, fitting into the Yorkville landscape perfectly. They offer a varied menu of Mediterranean dishes with Italian thrown in for good measure – from the owners of Campagnolo, La Palma, and Mercatto it’d be a shame if pasta and pizza didn’t make an appearance. Indeed, I had to order both tried and approved dishes, with some new tastes thrown in for good measure.

The grilled halloumi on panella ($11) is a little seen starter, the cheese resists completely melting and merely gets gooey when it’s licked with heat. I love the cheese's chewiness and its saltiness mellowed by the delicate soft panella (similar to polenta cake but made with chickpeas instead). With pickled chili for heat and a creamy labneh this was a great nibble to start on and would be work for cocktail parties.


Scoring seats at the “Chef’s table” I loved the way it’s set-up – two of the corners are split off in the middle so there is a sense of privacy. However, it’s a shame that none of the chefs bother to acknowledge the diners (even if they’re standing in front of you). While I understand they are servicing a large restaurant and can’t afford to have full conversations, even a quick hello or goodbye would be nice. At the very least, staff should refrain from calling these Chef’s Table seats and merely describe them as counter seating around the kitchen.


Just dress accordingly as it can get warm with the wood fire grill and pizza oven going; nothing a bottle of cold cava can’t fix! Hearing that many of their dishes are cooked (or at least finished) on the Argentinian inspired grill, we thought we should try these special dishes. Sadly, the they were also the most disappointing.

After visiting Tanto and seeing their set-up, I can only deduce it’s a poor decision to have the wood burn directly below the meat, rather than off to the side and cooking over smouldering embers (generally how a traditional asado is operated). The person manning the grill just couldn’t get the flame and timing right: the lamb ribs ($19) arrive overdone to the point the pomegranate molasses glaze turned into a candy crust and the meat was hard and chewy. To be fair, the cut of the ribs was also much too small and an uneven thickness. Even the cooling buttermilk dip could only add so much hydration.


Conversely, the fire roasted eggplant ($14) was underdone – the texture spongy and the insides still white from being raw. Having had some of the thinner end pieces, this dish could have been delicious if the eggplant was cooked longer and transformed into a soft creamy consistency. Mixed with garlic and herbs all the vegetables had great flavours, the generally mild shishito peppers a touch spicier at Constantine.   


While the cacio e pepe pizza ($16) was a little softer than expected (I can't help but recall that golden crispy crust from the zucchini pizza at La Palma), the chef certainly didn’t skimp on the cheese. A blend of three - chewy stracchino, creamy mozzarella, and salty pecorino – finished with a dash of black pepper, it’s a simple pie but allows you to really enjoy the warm chewy crust and dairy, with no tomato sauce.


The best dish of the evening was the spaghetti ($21). The fresh pasta extremely al dante (truthfully another 30 seconds in the water would have been my preference) and the olive oil sauce perfectly seasoned with caramelized garlic slices infusing it with flavour. I love how the sweet marinated Fogo Island shrimp was added quickly at the end for a few tosses, so they remained delicate and not overcooked. This was one dish we inhaled.  


After a carb-filled meal, the labneh mille-feuilles ($12) is a great light ending, even though it didn’t resemble the menu’s description. How it’s described: coffee, fig, and caramelized white chocolate. What I tasted: whipped cream, sweetened lebneh, flakey pastry, and slivers of fig throughout. While still good, I was really hoping for some coffee essence.


Overlooking the kitchen, I was disappointed to see the sheer number of plastic bags being tossed in the garbage (used to hold individual portions of the pasta, shrimp, rice, etc.). Considering the number of dishes that go out from the kitchen, I can only imagine how much waste gets generated and it made me feel guilty for even ordering the pasta. Having seen how other kitchens operate, competitors generally use plastic containers to hold large amounts of the ingredients and then simply spoon what’s required into the pan. Maybe some ingredients (like shrimp) require an element of precision, but surely for low cost ingredients, it really doesn’t matter. Personally, I’d rather have a spoonful less rice if it means being kinder to our environment. 

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 15 Charles Street East

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
____________________________
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!


Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:




Byblos (Toronto)

Byblos offers a vast selection of cuisines under the Eastern Mediterranean umbrella. Consisting of countries such as Greece, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, Israel and Cyprus, there is seafood from the Mediterranean Sea and a variety of spices creating flavourful dishes.

Their house labneh ($11) was rich and delightful, but too filling if you’re only a table of two. The strained yoghurt was impossibly smooth and decadent - you’d think you’re eating ice cream if it weren’t room temperature. Honey comingles with the olive oil so there’s a hint of sweetness against the pure oily sheen. As you dip the warm barbari, tasty on its own, the bread’s toasted grains gives the smooth topping a nutty bite.


Byblos Toronto: Lebneh

Widely written about, Byblos Turkish manti dumplings ($14) are nothing like the typical meat filled varieties from other cultures. These are delicate and bite sized – food for a princess - the mere smidge of smoked eggplant inside gives off such a powerful flavour that you’d swear there’s meat. Sitting in warmed yoghurt, the creamy sauce is further drizzled with molasses so the dish could be dessert if it weren’t for the hit of unexpected spiciness.


Byblos Toronto: Turkish dumpling

At first poke, the Spanish octopus ($19) seemed rubbery and overdone. Although its skin was a bit hard to permeate, upon chewing, the seafood was surprisingly meaty and tender. On the bottom, the urfa biber chili vinaigrette was tasty providing a light smokiness reminiscent of harissa and each tendril sat on a wedge of fingerling potato so as you cut through there’s a starchy surprise.


Byblos Toronto: Spanish octopus

The Persian rice ($24) was beautiful,the gorgeous yellow colour and the wafts of spices drew me close, beckoning me to eat spoon after spoon despite feeling full. With the decent amounts of small fried Laughing Bird shrimp and fried pieces of sujuk, a Turkish sausage that tastes like prosciutto, the rice is another filling but should be experienced dish.


Byblos Toronto: Persian rice

Joel, our server that evening, was laid back and attitude almost like he’s inviting you into his home. He cautioned that with a small table it’d be hard to share many dishes and would warn us if we ordered too much. However, his last push of asking if we wanted something to nibble on was really not required, as the resulting labneh excessive, disappointingly leaving us too full to enjoy Byblos raved about desserts. Note to self: always trust your first instincts.  



Byblos Toronto: gulab cocktail

Luckily, the virgin gulab ($6.25) was so tasty that it could be dessert… well … almost. The cocktail was refreshing and utterly enjoyable even without the rose infused vodka. Just be sure to stir well as the tart lemon juice sits on top and pomegranate syrup sinks to the bottom. The pieces of gulab (red rose) and rose water gives the drink an aromatic quality. What a wonderful concoction to ring in the warm weather, cheers!

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 11 Duncan Street

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
____________________________
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!


Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:



Byblos Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato