Mideastro, in Toronto's Yorkville area.
Mideastro appears to be hedging its bets. Based in Toronto’s Yorkville area (there’s a second location in Thornhill, north of the city), the restaurant has garnered solid reviews for its upscale Middle Eastern fare. But the vast bulk of the menu is Italian, which, by all accounts, is mediocre. Toronto needs another Italian restaurant like a frog needs a bowling ball.
Stick to the Middle Eastern dishes and you’ll dine well. Baladi eggplant is smoky grilled-eggplant flesh, topped with tomato salsa, Israeli feta, herb tahini and wild oregano roasted garlic.
The kofta is a standout. Juicy meatballs of ground lamb and beef are nestled in a grilled-tomato and eggplant stew, and served in a skillet, topped with a sheet of fresh focaccia, which the waiter cuts off and sets aside, to be dipped in the stew. On the side, cumin-scented orzo.
To finish, there’s kataiv (shredded phyllo pastry), layered with spiced mascarpone, fresh figs and pistachios, and baked, until the whole turns pillow-soft. A knockout.
The room is spacious and dark-ish, with dark, hard finishes and up-to-date accents. Modern, yes, but also empty. Let’s see if Yorkville embraces it.
Also in a Middle Eastern vein is Dr. Laffa. Tucked away in the Steeles/Dufferin area, in Toronto’s north end, the casual diner specializes in laffa, an Iraqi flatbread baked in an oven called a taboon. Laffa, it turns out, is similar to naan, but crispier around the edges. It arrives hot from the taboon and quickly disappears. The perfect accompaniment are the eggs shakshuka, cooked in a skillet with tomatoes, peppers and spices, and served, in the same skillet, with merguez lamb sausage.
Skip the too-sweet, leaden baklava.
Bright, casual and cheerful, the place buzzes with activity.