EXOTIC YET AUTHENTIC FLAVOURS OF THE WORLD CAN BE FOUND RIGHT HERE IN TORONTO. HERE, YOUR PASSPORT TO PALATE-PLEASING DISHES FROM SOUTH AMERICA, EUROPE, THE MIDDLE EAST AND BEYOND.
Fried chicken at Omaw
Omaw riffs on Southern American cooking like no other restaurant in the city. Inspired by Carolina cooking, chef Matt Blondin slings plates of aged wagyu with beef fat vinaigrette, baguettes topped with pickled mussels and creamed corn, and recently he’s been winning crowds with heaping plates of his signature buttermilk fried chicken.
88 Ossington Ave., Toronto. 416-477-5450; omaw.ca
Pastries at Lucullus Bakers & Roasters
Lucullus’ third outpost brings 26 years of European pastries and Chinese breads in a posh boutique setting in Markham. The selection varies daily but you can expect an assortment of stuffed croissants along with steamed baskets of dumplings, and of course the iconic bo lo bao (pineapple buns).
31 Elm St., 416-792-1886; 7750 Kennedy Rd., 905-513-1188; lucullusbakery.com
Octopus at Bar Isabel
Chef Grant van Gameren was cooking up whole octopus at his Spanish restaurant Bar Isabel long before cephalapod reached mainstream fame. It’s a dish he can’t remove from the menu, grilled tentacles swimming in a tomato sauce with chunks of chorizo and Israeli couscous. Once you’re done mopping up the bowl, finish with some basque cake.
797 College St., 416-532-2222; barisabel.com
Rabbit Stifado at Mamakas Taverna
Classic Greek cooking with a facelift is what Chris Kalisperas does best at Ossington hotspot Mamakas. One of the most popular dishes on the menu is the rabbit stifado. Kalisperas braises whole legs of rabbit in red wine, mirepoix, bay leaf, cinnamon and peppercorns for a few hours. It’s finished off in a pan with roast cippollini onions and parsley and served with a purée of local sunchokes.
80 Ossington Ave., 416-519-5996; mamakas.ca
Thali at Indian Street Food Company
A visit to Hemant Bhagwani’s midtown restaurant is a must if you want a true representation of street food prevalent in India’s many railways stations and roadside stalls. The rotating daily thali is a sublime experience, a mound of rice and freshly baked naan is served with a half a dozen dips and curries that take you on a flavour-packed trip of salty, tangy and spicy.
1701 Bayview Ave., 416-322-3270; indianstreetfoodco.com
BBQ-Glazed beef tongue at Diwan
At the Aga Khan Museum, where chef Mark McEwan has recently taken over the food and beverage services, tuck into a vibrant Middle Eastern-themed menu while enjoying sprawling views of the Aga Khan Park. The top sandwich on the menu sees cooked beef slathered in a barbecue reduction and served with an East African salsa and pepper aioli on sourdough.
Aga Khan Museum, 77 Wynford Dr., 416-646-4670; agakhanmuseum.org
Curry udon with shrimp tempura at Menami
This new Sanuki udon house is putting out some of the best Japanese noodle bowls in the city. Kagawa-style artisanal “big fat noodles” is what MeNami specializes in, hand cut with a soft, al dente bite, tossed in a variety of broths (there are 15 versions in total). The signature bowl is the curry udon, noodles drowning in a rich clear broth, topped with vegetable and shrimp tempura.
MeNami Japanese Udon House and Sake Bar, 5469 Yonge St., 416-229-6191; menami.ca
Torta Cubana at Torteria San Cosme
Ever since restaurateur Arturo Anhalt laid eyes on a former cafe space in Kensington Market, the owner of Milagro restaurant wanted to open a traditional Mexican torteria. Nearly everything on the menu is sourced from the market, tucked generously into soft breads called pan teleras. The crowd favourite is the Cubana: thick slices of smoked ham and chunks of adobo pork are bathed in gouda and coated to the rim with a chipotle sauce.
181 Baldwin St., 416-599-2855; sancosme.ca
Quail and Foie Gras at Scaramouche
Upscale French dining doesn’t get any better. Keith Froggett’s longstanding Scaramouche restaurant has set the standard for refined food and service in this city. They continue to entice diners night after night with dishes like the quail and foie gras. It’s a decadent dance of sweet and savoury notes with stuffed quail, double smoked bacon, and sauternes raisins drenched in foie gras jus.
1 Benvenuto Pl., 416-961-8011; scaramoucherestaurant.com
Maha’s Mind Blowing Chicken at Maha’s
A family-run Egyptian restaurant near Little India is redefining what it’s like to brunch in the city. Imported drawings and fixtures dress the tiny dining room with a menu that is all about flavour and getting your hands messy. The quintessential Maha dish is a messy tower of slow marinated chicken dripping in mayo and garlic sauce, covered with onions, tomatoes and parsley.
226 Greenwood Ave., 416-462-2703; mahasbrunch.com
Suresh Doss is a Toronto-based food and drink writer. You can follow him on Twitter @spotlightcity or Instagram @suresh.