A quick search for Egyptian cuisine in Toronto will leave you with a handful of restaurants. Upon further research, these results turned out to be pretty inaccurate. With the city housing many Middle Eastern restaurants, flavours from various regions are lumped into that very category- Middle Eastern. This happens often with “ethnic” (read also, not Anglo-Saxon) cuisine. As a result, cuisines of various regions don’t necessarily get their fair share of shine. This isn’t necessarily the North American culture’s fault, as much as it is- these businesses are often started by immigrant families that more often than not, have to assimilate to some degree in order to make a living. That said, this is a can of worms I’ll deal with in another post, on another day. With four Egyptian establishments scattered throughout the GTA, there is only one notable restaurant that specializes in specifically Egyptian cuisine in Toronto as per my research; Maha’s Egyptian Brunch.
Maha’s is a family owned establishment tucked away in the east end of the city, named after their head chef and co-owner, Maha Barsoom. With food as a means to genuine connection and a family full of amazing cooks, Maha Barsoom, alongside her children, have created and curated the space that now houses some of the most flavourful brunch items I’ve ever had. I was able to sample a few of these items from their menu, and without hesitation, can say that I thoroughly enjoyed just about every mouthful. Each dish was packed with flavour, incredibly aromatic, and made up of a variety of textures. With colourful elements present in the plating of each dish, all of my senses were involved in the enjoyment of my brunch.
We opened Maha’s doors to our wonderful Greenwood and Gerrard neighbourhood on September 28th of 2014. We converted our space from what was once a kitchen and bath cabinet store, into a cozy restaurant of our own. One of the best ways to experience and get to know a country is through its food. At Maha’s we are proud to share our Egypt in a city as beautiful and diverse as Toronto. – Monika Wahba, Sous Chef & Daughter of Maha Barsoom
In addition to the hot teas and the chilled hibiscus drinks I’ve had here- which were all soothing and refreshing in their own right, the baklava is hands down some of the best baklavas I’ve had. Of course, I had to dive into the rest of the menu after being taste teased by the sweet goods at Maha’s.
On every street corner in the bustling streets of Cairo, you can find vendors serving foole out of large copper vats- a traditional breakfast dish consisting of fava beans and prepared in multiple variations. In the Cairo Classic, we mix tomatoes and onions into our perfectly seasoned fava beans. Enjoy them with a sliced boiled egg, a falafel, a dollop of our creamy home-made tomato feta, charred balady bread, and our salata balady.
I hate (I mean that) hard-boiled eggs. And so naturally, I didn’t even want to give this dish a try. I ordered this dish because my server insisted that this was one of the most filling, appetizing, and savoury items on the menu, and it helped that there was homemade tomato feta involved. I was told that the Cairo Classic was a great way for me to explore the various flavours on the menu, reflected in one dish. I. Was. Mind. Blown.
The falafel was perfectly crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside. The homemade feta was definitely an element of indulgence. It cut through the foole (stewed fava beans) seamlessly. So much so, that this interaction of flavours married all parts of this dish beautifully. The charred balady bread was a stunning addition that enabled the diner to mop up every bit of sauce off the plate.
Can I just take this moment to say that this is, so far, is the only place you will catch me eating hard-boiled eggs? I would highly recommend trying the Cairo Classic.
Thinly sliced cured beef with fenugreek, garlic, and Egyptian spices, sautéed in butter before being mixed into our three egg scramble- an incredibly savoury combination, unlike anything you’ve tasted before. This is served with our charred balady bread and our salata balady.
I can’t say that this dish was a home run on its own for me. As much as the fenugreek, garlic, and spices paired well with the cured beef, I personally prefer my eggs a bit moister. Without a side of foole, I would not have been able to enjoy this dish. That said, I don’t see myself ordering this again.
DATE GRILLED CHEESE
Juicy dates sautéed in butter before added to our three cheese blend of Gouda, Havarti and Swiss- stacked on egg bread, drizzled with honey, pressed and grilled to golden perfection, served with a side of our cumin home fries, salata balady or lentil soup.
I was pleasantly surprised with this grilled cheese. The bread itself was dense and soft all at once; think firm Tempurpedic pillow, but as a vehicle for a beautiful blend of cheeses, playfully paired with the sweetness of honey and buttery dates. On their own, the cumin homefries didn’t do it for me. But, paired with the unidentified dipping sauce they rose to the occasion.
PHARAOH’S PO’ BOY
This authentic Cairo street food has finally crossed borders. It is loaded with marinated, battered and deep-fried baby shrimp, stuffed in our mini pita, drizzled with homemade tehina and tomeya.
This is one of the greatest sandwiches has ever crossed my palate. The pita housing this goodness was fluffy and warm. The batter surrounding these marinated baby shrimp was as flavourful on its own as was the baby shrimp itself. If there is one thing that I abhor, it is battered food that is lackluster without its batter. The tehina and tomeya drizzled over this po’boy tasted like a garlicky dream with hints of truffle- though I can’t confirm that these were the ingredients in this sauce. I was simply told that it was reminiscent of a garlic mayo. In any case, I LOOOVED THIS SANDWICH.
I haven’t been able to stop raving about Maha’s since my first visit! They are easily one of my top 5 favourite brunch joints in the city. The fact that the customer service has been impeccable each visit, just adds to my love for this establishment. I would absolutely recommend it! Hit me up if your taste buds have been as tantalized as mine were, I’d love to hear (most of) your thoughts! Ha!