Joanne Kates on the New T.O. Brunch: International
We could never Have imagined the sophistication, the variety and the ethnic super-spread of Toronto brunching. From farmhouse meats to vegan gone glam, from Aboriginal to Egyptian, Toronto ’17 is international brunch central.
Start brunch off right with the chef’s appetizer platter from Maha’s.
Egyptian eats: Maha’s Brunch
How is it that an unassuming 24 seater on Greenwood Avenue has captured so many hearts? Methinks it’s Maha Barsoom’s fault. She is the matriarch and head chef who, along with her daughter, son and a small army of cooks in the cramped kitchen, make Maha’s such a hot brunch destination.
Maha’s Egyptian cooking is what turned falafel et al from fast food into fine food. Her small falafels (homemade of course!) come as crisp half-spheres overflowing with perfect soft-boiled eggs in dreamy garlic mayo. With classic Middle Eastern chopped salad and cumin-spiked ungreasy home fries, this might be Toronto’s best brunch item. Maha’s grilled cheese is a dream sammy, butter-sautéed dates in melted Havarti, Swiss and Gouda on pressed grilled egg bread. Her basturma scramble is Egyptian heaven — thin-sliced cured beef with fenugreek and garlic in scrambled eggs. Even the classic foole is better in Maha’s deft hands: She stews the fava beans with tomato and onion and garnishes with hard-boiled egg, falafel, tomato-inflected feta and charred snazzy pita.
Chef’s justly famous lentil soup sells out early most days, so caveat emptor. Also beware the weekend lineups, for Maha’s is a poorly kept neighbourhood secret, and they don’t take reservations. One more caveat: do not leave without inhaling the hazelnut latte. The combo of strong espresso with hazelnut syrup in foamed milk and Nutella on top is pure Eros.
Maha’s Brunch, 226 Greenwood Ave., 416-462-2703
© Ryan Emberley
MIddleterranean: Bar Reyna
This Yorkvillian brunch boîte charms thanks to its roots as a patio. Literally. Live trees grow up through the roof, their trunks twined with little white lights. Lanterns hang from the ceiling, and the walls, both wooden and brick, soar. We recline on variegated pillows strewn on comfy banquettes and feel divinely decadent. They throw a ringer into brunch Benny-world, sitting it on a fat potato rosti, a layer of lightly pickled cabbage and long-roasted duck, with the hollandaise built on sexy brown butter. Their take on croque-madame is another rewrite — a fried egg on sourdough toast spiked with labneh (strained yogurt) and smoked salmon. This is what happened when bagels and cream cheese went Middle Eastern.
We all know that brunch is not for calorie counting, so full speed ahead, damn the torpedoes, and order one of Reyna’s variations of sweet frites. Go trad and have them with aïoli, or add some heat Spanish-style with the garnish of manchego, crumbled chorizo and chipotle aïoli. The frites themselves are thin shreds of yummy.
Bar Reyna, 158 Cumberland St., 647-748-4464
SHAKSHUKA & FOCACCIA
Eggs play the starring role in these eats by Karolyne Ellacott
The shakshuka at Aviv
Here, a spicy tomato and red pepper stew with Swiss chard backs up a pair of fried eggs.
328 Dupont St.
Poached egg and pork kofta are smothered in tomato date ragu and topped with chimichurri.
807 Gerrard St. E.
This new-to-Canada Israeli chain serves focaccia laden with eggs, tahini, labneh and salad.
9340 Bathurst St., Unit 1
Skip across the globe with these Tasty bites — KE
Fav Cafe's nasi goreng
Check out this name in the north for a roster of Asian favourites. Indonesia’s flavourful nasi goreng takes the cake for us.
280 West Beaver Creek Rd., Unit 31
This is brunch gone Indian. Order up the poached eggs on veg tikki smothered in butter chicken sauce. Oh, and there are masala fries to boot.
760 St. Clair Ave. W.
Sit on the charming back patio and get ready to rumble. The slow roast pork comes with poached egg, rice ’n’ beans, tostones and slaw. Yum.
392 Roncesvalles Ave.