Although we greatly appreciated (and will make use of) all the great suggestions we got from the chowhounds regarding restaurants in the King & Sherbourne area, my wife and I, being impulsive as usual, decided to have our moving in celebration dinner on Sunday night when most of the suggested locations were closed. Thus we ended up at the Sultans Tent (49 Front St. E.), a former Moroccan-styled tourist trap that re-opened about a year-and-a-half ago with a new design and more upscale cuisine. Although it received a reasonably positive review on Toronto.com, we did not, unfortunately, have the same experience.
The place looks great we entered through the Café Maroc, an a-la-carte option for those who dont want the whole experience, and were ushered into the back to the restaurant proper. The décor is over-the-top, but fun rather than tacky. The room is divided into six or seven tents complete with translucent curtains, heavily cushioned chairs and benches, and maroon-feathered camel lamps. When we arrived we were the only ones in our particular tent, and although more parties arrived later its clear that Sunday is not one of their more popular evenings.
The Sultans Tent offers a compulsory four-course meal (starting at $39.93, and dubbed the Sultans Feast), with a great deal of available customization for the appetizers and mains (some at additional cost). Our waitress, very pleasant and attentive throughout the evening, offered her suggestions for drinks and courses, and we took advantage of many of them.
We both started the evening with drinks featuring pomegranate juice, a specialty of the house. Mine was pomegranate juice mixed with sparkling wine good and sweet, a nice start to the meal. My wife had a pomegranate martini, which she also enjoyed (I tried it, but I cant really comment on it, not being much of a martini person in general).
We ordered both the bowl of olives and the harira for our first course. The harira, a lentil and chickpea soup, was excellent thick, strongly spiced with coriander and turmeric, and with some kind of crunchy topping that gave it a bit more texture. The olives were olives, although they had some dried peppers on them that gave them a bit of a kick.
For our second course, we went with BStila, a pastry filled with chicken, eggs, onions, almonds, and spices, and Calamari Shermoula, a whole grilled calamari stuffed with shrimp and date mousse with a shermoula sauce on top. The BStila pastry was nice and light and flakey, and the filling was tasty, if a bit bland. We both found that the texture became a bit of a problem after the first few bites too much like eating canned tuna. The calamari was badly cooked mostly soft in the middle and extremely rubbery on the ends. The mousse was tasty, but the sauce was a little overpowering (strong cumin flavours).
The main course was, unfortunately, the most disappointing. My wife had the salmon shermoula, which was nice and flaky, but again I didnt enjoy the sauce (she did). I ordered the rack of lamb, which was actually the high point of the meal perfectly tender, cooked medium rare as requested. Unfortunately, the sides were a complete bust, and somewhat ruined it for both of us my Moroccan potatoes were overcooked and chewy, and the Moroccan root vegetables were mushy and cold when they arrived. And, although this isnt something Im usually very concerned with, the presentation wasnt particularly attractive either.
The meal ended with Moroccan mint tea poured at the table (very sweet and pleasant), and a dessert plate two traditionally made Moroccan cookies which tasted like theyd just come out of a package, and two fresh orange slices with sugar and cinnamon (Latshin), which were fine but not particularly memorable.
Service was generally good, and our waitress was very knowledgeable, although our other server seemed inexperienced (leaving certain things on the table for the entire meal, for example, and taking my plate away well before my wife had finished). The belly dancing performance was fun, although Im pretty sure they tone it down for Sunday nights (only one dancer). But we had a good laugh when some folks from neighbouring tables got up and tried some of the moves. We will definitely try some of the chowhounds other suggestions in the future, however, rather than going back to the Sultans Tent.
Dinner for 2, including drinks, a half litre of wine, the Sultans Feast (with a few additional-charge items), tax, and a 20% tip came to about $200.
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