Showing posts with label sticky toffee pudding. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sticky toffee pudding. Show all posts

Laylak Lebanese Cuisine (Toronto)

I’ve been on a health kick during the first half of 2023 in preparation for a milestone birthday. Exercising five days a week had become essential but watching the caloric intake was a big change as well. It was time to limit huge decadent meals … boy am I glad that’s over!

It’d be a shame to miss the Toronto Life Insider private tasting at Laylak Lebanese Restaurant. A special 10-course menu with a welcome cocktail and wine pairings ($173 inclusive of gratuities and taxes), we were treated to reduced portions of their favourite dishes so that we could try a bit of everything. That’s perfect as variety is ideal and their extensive menu has so many great sounding dishes that it’d be a shame to miss (the post includes their regular menu prices, which would be for a larger portion than pictured).

Maybe my stomach has shrunk, but I just wasn’t ready for SO much food! Starting with four generous portions of dips ($17 each or $22 for a trio) served with hot-from-the-oven puffy soft pitas:

  • The nutty mohamarah was the most unique made with smoky roasted red pepper and walnut.
  • Laylak’s hummus was thick and rich, perhaps a bit too thick as I would have like it thinned out with a bit of oil.
  • While labneh can sometimes be overly yoghurt like, I loved how they added some garlicky toum into it to create a savourer version of the sauce.
  • Of the four, the baba ghanoug was still my favourite containing enough tahini for flavour and richness without overpowering the roasted eggplant.

Normally, I find whole wedge salads to be a pain as you need to cut through the lettuce and the dressing saturated some bites but is non-existent in others. At Laylak, the refreshing apple cider vinaigrette in the fattoush salad ($22) coated the grilled baby romaine evenly and I loved how they ripped mint and tucked it into the layers to give an interesting pop to certain bites. Who would have thought I’d learn to love salads?

Since the dried sausage used in the sajuk pâté ($22) is so flavourful, the pot of spread was too much when a couple of bites would do. The spiciness of the sajuk was rich and evident, while the normally dry sausage was blended so it became very smooth. If anything, the dish could use some pickled vegetables to help counteract the heaviness of the paste.

As a pet owner, the kibbeh nayah ($26) reminded me of the canned food I feed my cat. The smooth and semi-crumbly texture of the raw lamb also didn’t help. I enjoyed the bites where I could spread it on the airy rice cracker and top it with a crisp radish, but once those crispy elements were finished, I just had to stop. Still, if you can get past the texture, the flavours of the nayah was tasty.

Give me the traditional fried kibbeh ($22) any day. Laylak’s was so good - moist, perfectly seasoned, had a great crispy crust, and an airy centre. The bulger to meat ratio was nicely balanced and the sauce a great pairing.

The halloumi ($26) seemed promising, the grilled cheese combined with watermelon and herbs was a great idea. Indeed, the sweet and salty flavours meshed well with the fresh elements, but the actual halloumi had cooled down too much becoming dry and chewy. This is a dish that needs to be served fresh and not to a crowd.  

Surprisingly, the chicken ($32) was my favourite of the two meat-based mains. The fowl was tender and while it wasn’t overly flavourful by itself, the accompanying harissa sauce packed a spicy punch. Sadly, the tenderloin ($37) was just dry and tasteless almost as if it had been sous vide and finished in the oven, so the moisture just infused in the meat evaporated. Like the chicken, the protein wasn’t seasoned enough so the dish relied heavily on the chimichurri, which incorporated too much vinegar making it pungent and harsh.

After so much food our table was stuffed to the brim. Hence, you’d think the last savoury dish would get little fanfare. Yet, of all the mains the sea bass ($62) was our favourite – wonderfully flaky with a slightly crisped skin. Adorned with a lot of herbs and fennel it was a refreshing finish.

Somehow, I also finished the date cake, a lovely dessert that’s like a denser sticky toffee pudding topped with salted caramel sauce and ice cream. Yes, it’s a sinfully good as it sounds. This would go so nicely with a cup of mint tea.  

While Laylak’s service was superb and the dining room beautiful, my only qualm with the long meal was the obtrusive base of their tables. The table leg is so wide that it takes up a lot of room making it difficult to get comfortable, especially if you want to cross your legs. Pretty to look at, but hardly hospitable.

Yet, hospitality is what Laylak wants to resonate with their customers. Chef Hazem Al Hamwi started the meal by inviting us to the restaurant but wanting us to feel like we’re dining at a home… a very ornate and opulent home no doubt. Consequently, I did feel the care Chef Hazem had put into curating the menu and the sommelier’s careful selection of wine that while young, when given a chance to breathe, did go well with the dishes. Welcome back extravagant delicious meals, it feels great to be home.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10

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How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 25 Toronto 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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