First Look: Armenian food gets its turn in the spotlight at Mayrik on Bayview


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Image: Yvonne Tsui

Mayrik is an Armenian word “that is the cutest, cheekiest way to suck up to your mom”. It is also the name of Bayview’s new restaurant serving up Balkan and Caucasian cuisine with a focus on Armenian, Greek and Lebanese recipes. The restaurant is an homage to chef Seb Yacoubian’s mother, who passed away in a car accident.  

Chef Seb Yacoubian (formerly of Mamakas) and Aram Gabrielian (formerly of Tabule) make up the restaurant leadership team. “Restaurants are like one brain with two arms,” says Gabrielian referring to the importance of both back-of-house and front-of-house experience that the duo bring to their partnership.    


(IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI)

 

“We’re not here to shock the community, we’re here to bring some youthfulness — to bring a bit of downtown to uptown,” says Yacoubian. 

When the duo first decided to leave behind their days of working for others and work for themselves, Leaside wasn’t the obvious choice.  “Mayrik is about families so why not attract families,” referring to the neighbourhood makeup. 

The menu naturally encourages family-style dining, “to eat the way I ate at home – I want people to embrace the full culture,” says Yacoubian.    


(IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI)

 

Traditional Armenian cuisine features a lot of game and ancient grains and is a medley reflecting its history and geography both from being conquered by many European and Levantine empires and through places where Armenians have lived. “Armenian food is very open, it’s not spicy,” says Yacoubian. Indeed the cuisine uses a lot of familiar ingredients such as thyme, oregano, lemon, olive oil, za’atar and sumac which are common in Middle Eastern cuisines.

The menu is the result of tearing a few pages out of his mother’s recipe book tweaked to the chef’s liking, “how I think it should be.” Everything at Mayrik is made in-house because “our grandmothers never opened up things from cans.”


(IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI)

 

For the duo Mayrik is “not just another Middle Eastern, Mediterranean restaurant; we are an Eastern European restaurant,” says Yacoubian. 

The baba ghanoush, with dates and walnuts for added texture, is chunkier than what Toronto’s used to seeing. Sarma (which you may know as dolmades) is a dish that was never a favourite of Yacoubian’s, but his is a sort of deconstructed version, almost like stir-fried rice topped with garlic yogurt. “I like to think of it as our version of nachos” with the grape leaves serving as the chips.

There is also a fish of the day which recently has included red snapper and sea bass.

The cocktail menu is the brainchild of mixologist Luis Martinez who has created unique Eastern European-inspired cocktails with spirits such as Metaxa and Arak infused with syrups of rose water, baklava, and mulberry.


(IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI)

 

You can even try the “Grey Goose of Arak” – a 375mL bottle of Château Ksara Ksarak, which makes it an easily shareable bottle. Armenians like to open it up with a bit of water which gives it a creamy appearance and texture, which is known back home as “Lion’s Milk.” There’s also Dayaa Arak which also comes in a 375mL bottle and is distilled locally in Niagara.    

The wine list is also very Eastern European, featuring indigenous varietals such as xinomavro and assyrtiko though familiar varietals like vermentino and syrah are also on offer. Both are great ways to explore how terroir can yield some unique flavours.

And for dessert one has the difficult choice between a halva ice cream or baklava, but hopefully you’ll save room for both.

“I really hope my mom is looking down on me with pride,” says Yacoubian.

Mayrik, 1580 Bayview Ave., 416-483-0922


(IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI)

 


(IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI)

 


(IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI)

 

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Yvonne lives to eat. She’s known to her friends as the “Ask Alexa” for the best restaurants in cities all over North America. When she's not doing on-the-ground, scrappy PR for TouchBistro, she's a freelance food and drink writer and tells the origin stories, struggles, and successes of restaurateurs – veteran and new.

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