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Ontario (inc. Toronto)

The New Bilan, Somali Restaurant. GO.

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The New Bilan, Somali Restaurant. GO.

John Manzo | Jun 27, 2005 10:07 AM

In Toronto until July 15 and was crazy hungry after Pride (AMAZING!!), so partner suggested a Somali place at Dundas and Jarvis (on Dundas, just east of Jarvis on south side of the street) called The New Bilan. We used to get lamb with rice from a Lebanese place in Calgary that had, for a short while before it closed, a Somali cook who did incredible stuff with meat and rice. Partner had been here in November, so we gave it a shot.

The decor is nonexistent, and there are no menues at Bilan. The server said, "we only have chicken stew, chicken steak, beef stew and goat." All come with rice and soup. We were eyeing the platter of rice and what appeared to be barbecued chicken that the two beefy fellows next to us were enjoying, but were informed that they had taken the last of it. I ordered chicken steak. "No. No good for you. Dry. I recommend chicken stew stew and goat." "How about all three?" "No. Too much food."

OK... what is that pink pitcher you brought out for the ladies over there? "Watermelon juice." A whole pitcher of watermelon juice? Ice cold watermelon juice on a hot day like this? One pitcher, please.

Scary bathrooms downstairs, wash hands, back upstairs for a little bowl of some very insipid looking soup.

Partner: "You're not going to like this." Always what he says when he knows I will love something. Oh. My. God. The most rich-in-flavour broth- it's goat broth with a few specks of veg but we both revel in it.

Next comes that pitcher of somewhat watered down but completely pure watermelon juice. 32 ounces. Never had that before. Tasted like watermelon. Delicious.

Our platter arrives. It's about 18 inches in diameter, looks to be a large pizza pan, and the entire thing is covered with long-grain rice done in biryani style, perfectly cooked and a little crispy. On top: on half is what looks a bit like brown stew chicken from a Trini place (my partner, who is in fact Trini, makes this beautifully), the other half is unmistakably goat and is not sauced but looks juicy enough. Two baseball sized, deep fried and bread-crumb-dusted sides were on the platter as well; these are cubed potato and green onion croquettes, and are very good.

We tuck in. It is heavenly. Loud flavours, cardomomom and probably sugar (a la brown stew chicken), onions and garlic, not spicy but with a generous ramekin of a sort of chutney with coconut, mango and scotch bonnet, it can be made so. We moaned as orgasmically as our environs would allow.

We're both big eaters, and arrived very hungry. We took home perhaps one-third of the order. Portions are more than huge; they are shocking.

SO we had sublime soup, a massive pitcher of watermelon juice (try that at Susur), lovely croquettes, perfect rice, and stunning meats, more than these two hungry Calgarians could finish.

The charge?

SIXTEEN dollars. SIXTEEN.

GO. Jarvis and Dundas.

GO.

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