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Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Queen Pita (c.f. Ghazale)

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Queen Pita (c.f. Ghazale)

divirtual | Dec 4, 2003 01:54 PM

I have to say that the best falafel I've ever head is made in Westwood Village, just south of UCLA. (This is obviously a personal taste issue rather than an authenticity issue, because I've actually had falafel when I visted Israel).

Queen Pita (which is on Queen Street East, just east of Leslie Street), has been getting a lot of attention recently because Joe Fiorito wrote it up in the Toronto Star. (See the link below, while it lasts). There's also a writeup in the East Toronto Commmunities newspaper at http://www.etcnews.ca/diners_delight/... .

The Toronto Star story focuses on the chef, rather than the food. He's cooked for royalty, fed 7000 people in a sitting, and when dressed in his chef whites, obviously looks like a hotel chef. This is to say that he's way overqualified to be running a neighbourhood fast food joint that seats 25 in a squeeze.

I've had my share of falafel in Toronto. For a long time, my favourite was Aida's. (I prefer the branch on Bloor Street over the one in the Beach). When I'm shopping for CDs on Yonge Street north of Dundas, the falafel shops there are convenient. Over the last few years, though, I've been going to Ghazale, which is on Bloor Street east of Bathurst -- in a long room next to the cinema. This has become my favourite, especially when it's warm enough to bike over. I like to order the falafel and get a can of mango nectar to go with it. To say that this place is downscale is an understatement, because it's really a take out. If you're lucky, you can snag one of the three seats.

This is the frame in which I went to Queen Pita. I actually went over with my wife for lunch. The brief assessment: the food is carefully prepared, and the flavours are light and distinct. Thus, the hand of a skilled chef can be observed. Somehow, though, I still prefer the falafel at Ghazale, which is heavier or "meatier".

We both ordered the lentil soup -- which isn't like the thick brown soup that I would get at a Jewish deli, but instead a brothy yellow. The lemon flavour comes through in the aftertaste, as a bit of a surprise. The serving was a bit strange, as the soup came on styrofoam cups on a plate. I ordered the falafel sandwich ($3.99). The falafels were crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, as expected, although the crust was lightly coloured (which suggest cooking in clean oil!) My wife ordered the hummus and shawarma special of the day ($5.99). This was served with the hummus as the base on the plate, chicken meat on top, and a centre of parsley salad. The hummus was light (like a mayonnaise, rather than peanut butter). My wife said that she thinks she might have liked the beef better than the chicken.

So, is the food good at Queen Pita? Yes. Would I travel cross town to have it? Probably not, but I live not too far away, so it's a good possibility that I'll try it again. The next-nearest falafel place is Aida's in the Beach.

I think that the things that is unique about Queen Pita is that it's really unusual for Leslieville. The waitress offered us a menu to take home, and I said "no thanks, I think I've got it memorized". She said that she had tried everything on the menu, but was still working on pronunciations. She was really friendly, but it would be hard to find a more "Canadian" small-town Ontario girl than her. And I think that she's pretty indicative of the neighbourhood. (I also noted a TTC driver that came by and asked for "the usual", so it's becoming a standard neighbourhood place).

I asked my wife what she thought about the place, since we had spent about the same as it would cost for the lunch buffet at Skylark (an Indian restaurant on Gerrard, in Little India). She said that she prefers the Indian food.

Link: http://www.thestar.ca/NASApp/cs/Conte...

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