Showing posts with label shakhuka. Show all posts
Showing posts with label shakhuka. Show all posts

Cafe Landwer (Toronto)

To classify Café Landwer into a type of eatery is difficult. Their menu is as eclectic as Pickle Barrel’s, a mix of Arabic, German, and American dishes that don’t seem to go together, but somehow is listed on the same page. Moreover, the food options are so extensive that it hardly seems like a café. It’s not until you learn about their history, it starts to make sense.

The company first started as Landwer Coffee (named after owner Moshe Landwer) as a roasting facility and coffee bar in Berlin. As the Nazi began rising in power, Moshe decided to move his family to Tel Aviv, well before WW2 would stop them and here  the roasting facility was re-opened and grew in prominence until it was finally sold to a larger conglomerate in the 1980s. Seeing the potential of the brand, Federman & Son’s expanded it into a chain of casual restaurants in Israel, which eventually went global with locations in Canada and the USA. Hence, their menu has Middle Eastern and German elements, with Western dishes like burgers and pizza added to please all.

While you’re waiting for the mains, a hummus bowl is a great starter. The shawarma version ($14) starts with a base of thick silky hummus, drizzles on olive oil, and fills it with juicy chunks of chicken shawarma that’s incredibly flavourful.

The one topped with four small crisp falafels ($13) is just as good. Café Landwer’s creations are fluffy and moist and have a lovely green hue from the pulverized herbs mixed into it.

At first, we nursed the piece of fresh from the oven stone-baked bread since the hummus to bread ratio seemed off. Boy was it good, the hot steaming bread with the cool shawarma hummus, and a slice of pickle. We were essentially creating our own sandwiches. Once the bread was done, our server offered to bring another piece ($1). This could have easily been a meal for one.

Landwer’s famous schnitzel ($19) is good with the pork pounded thinnly, the bread crumb coating applied lightly, and cooked just long enough so that everything is still moist. It’d be even better with more salt as it was under seasoned and really needed a condiment. The ketchup accompanying the fries seemed off, my husband ended up using the tzatziki from my main, better than nothing.

Generally, it seems like Landwer under seasons their dishes. While the grilled salmon ($23) had a lovely citrusy za’atar crust, it didn’t have a speck of salt. Even the Landwer’s rice, despite incorporating caramelized onions, lentils, almonds, and being so richly hued was rather bland. In hindsight, I wish I would have just tried to flag down a server to bring us salt… it’s such a common spice that would have really made everything much tastier.

With that in mind, on a return visit I rolled the dice on having Mediterranean shakshuka ($15.95) instead. There was no way a cast iron pan of stewed tomatoes with chunks of feta would be bland. Thankfully, the bet paid off and it was indeed as full flavoured as I hoped, the tomatoes nice and thick with some onion and big chunks of eggplant. My only mistake was asking for the eggs done medium, they arrived rock hard so there was no runny yolk to dip the hot pita into. Note to self: always get the underdone since the hot pan will continue to cook them.

A bit of pita was the tomato sauce topped with nutty tahini or the cool creamy lebnah was even better. I can see why Landwer’s brunch menu is so popular as this is where the mains shine. It only puzzles me why people bother to wait for a table when there’s an all-day breakfast section on their dinner menu - I’d happily have brunch for dinner any day. When the sun starts to go down, why not tuck into a hot pan of tomatoes and eggs with a fluffy yeasty warm pita? Sweet dreams, indeed.

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 1912 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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