Well due to a number of personal reasons (SOMEONE PLEASE HIRE ME, PLEASE) I have moved to the country that thankfully gave me citizenship (no thanks to you Saudi Arabia and the Philippines, but really I'm not going to lie about how incredibly easy it is to travel with a Canadian passport.) That isn't to say that there isn't anything about the Middle East for me to write about. Over 750,000 Canadians include Arab countries as part of their heritage with over 90,000 immigrants coming from Iran and over 20,000 coming from Turkey. These Canadians and immigrants practiced and brought their cultures with them from their home countries and today provide some of the diversity and vibrancy that make cities like Toronto (where I am right now), Montreal, and Ottawa great.
WARNING FOR ALL OF THOSE FASTING. THE REST OF THIS POST DISCUSSES FOOD. PROCEED WITH CAUTION.
One of the easiest and most accessible ways to experience this culture is through food. And I'm not talking about your late night doner kebab (it's basically shawarma's uglier beef cousin) stand. Places such as Paramount Fine Foods, which has been around in one form or another for fifteen years, serve up traditional cuisine, from appetizers to desserts, in a restaurant atmosphere. This particular establishment serves up Lebanese dishes and pastries. And it makes a killer shawarma.
Now I know you're probably disappointed and thought I should have ordered something like the shish tawouk or the kafta, but I picked the simple, humble shawarma because
it was cheaper I believe that it acts as a kind of test for Arab restaurants located outside of the Middle East i.e. if you can make a great shawarma then you'll probably make a good kebbeh. And it passed the test! The key part to a good shawarma is garlic sauce and my first bite definitely delivered a mouthful of garlic-y goodness. The chicken meat was moist and there were PICKLES! Another must have for a great shawarma.
I also ordered a lovely bowl of labnah, since I had my trusty bottle of anti-lactose intolerance with me and because every table receives two warm pieces of pita bread. If you go, eat up that bread quickly as it goes stale once it cools down.
And may I mention that there were two Filipino servers working there? Yes, I came to this restaurant expecting a taste of home, and little did I expect that I would find Filipino migrant (assuming that these waiters are migrants of course) labour as well. Oh the international Filipino migrant labour market, you sneaky devil you.
Anyways, bought a box of baklawa and proceeded to drop them on the floor of the subway so that was great. Meh. They were drier than the ones I can get back home ANYWAYS.
If you'd like to go yourself and you decide to eat at the Yonge location like I did, make sure you go before the lunch crowd fills it up. I went at around 11:30 and I was one of the only patrons there. Just after 12 it was already full!