[REVIEW] Mideastro Yorkville Toronto Restaurant Review
Open:Brunch, Lunch, Dinner
It isn’t easy finding restaurants in the city with a good variety of Passover friendly options. Believe me, after hours spent trying to make a decision last week (is that sad?), I finally made a reservation at Catch on St. Clair for Saturday night’s meal. Fortunately, we found out that a couple of unexpected family members were coming to town, and we wanted for them to join our plans. Unfortunately, by the time we knew about it, Catch didn’t have any more room for us to upgrade our table size. So, it was back to the drawing board. I spent a good hour and a half calling restaurants and looking at menus, and I wasn’t having any luck. And then of course, the man in the house just takes 1 minute to Google “Toronto Passover friendly restaurants” and bam! An old thread on Chowhound pops up that had been started as my inquiry last year. Duh. Well now finding a dinner reservation was his job, and from the suggestions made last year, he quickly decided on Mideastro, a nearby (thankfully) Israeli-Italian eatery with a second location in Thornhill. Well, it wasn’t exactly on my list of places to try, but after considering the convenient location, and the Passover-friendly menu, I was looking forward to our meal.
The room at Mideastro is clean and attractive, but screamed “outer GTA”. You know, well-kept, but maybe a little corporate, impersonal and lonely in some ways. I like the ample space between booths and tables, but I’m not so sure I’m a fan of the spacious booths themselves. I mean, our booth was so large that although the noise level in the restaurant seemed quite modest, I still had a hard time hearing my dining companion across the table. Space is not something you see anymore in downtown dining establishments, so admittedly, maybe I’m just not used to having to scoot myself two-abbey-bums-worth of space over just to sample my partner’s meal. Thankfully, even though the atmosphere was a little cold, the temperature in the room was quite pleasant. While we were sat away from front where most restaurants have troubles, I did note that the main door is supplemented by a second to potentially block the wind. And even if it were a little drafty, considering the space was only a little over half full on a Saturday, I would bet most seating preferences could usually be accommodated.
Service at Mideastro was also quite pleasant. Our server seemed very enthusiastic and charming, and was well versed on what would be appropriate choices and substitutions for Passover. Plates and cutlery were appropriately replenished, water glasses were refilled when necessary, and the matzah and accompaniments were brought out early to help temper our appetites. And thank goodness for that, because over the 2 hour and 20 minute meal, we experienced a few lengthy waiting periods for food. So I guess then bring on the matzah!
Well, considering how dry matzah can be, there was definitely a need for drinks. Going with the servers’ recommendation, I started with The Moroccan (Saffron, Clementine, Date Syrup, Citadelle, and Proscecco, $12.5). Unfortunately, after we all agreed that it tasted a little off, the bubbly was promptly replaced with The Jordanian (Vodka, Tamarind and Rosewater, $12.5). Aromatic, balanced, with a good level of restraint on the rosewater, it wasn’t anything remarkable, but it was definitely well enjoyed. Others at the table opted to order white wine from their fair-sized International list. While I’m not sure what the table ended up selecting or what it’s price point was, I did notice a few very affordable options around the $35/bottle mark. Obviously, I can’t vouch for the quality on that, but it was still worth noting in a restaurant where the mains are the same price.
Speaking of mains, the menu developed by Moroccan-Israeli chef, Benny Cohen reads as Israeli inspired, but with some Italian preparations and ingredients. It seems a little more refined and composed than any of the traditional dishes I had last year in Israel, but it also a little bit confused. For example, the “Portobello Sliders” are grilled portobello stuffed with burrata and herb pesto served on a warm quinoa, spinach and tomato salad drizzled with pomegranate and balsamic reduction. Wow- there’s a lot going on there that my head can’t even comprehend into a plausible dish. My goal was to order simply and hope for the best. Between the two of us, we tried:
Baladi Eggplant: Grilled Whole Eggplant, Tomato Heart Salsa, Israeli Feta, Wild Oregano, Roasted Garlic, and Herb Tahini ($11)
Personally, I wasn’t a big fan. Despite the ample roasting time, the eggplant was still too bitter to allow any other flavours in the dish to be appreciated. I mean, it completely masked the aromatic sweetness of the beautifully caramelized garlic cloves! If the chef isn’t already salting out some of that bitter juice, then maybe little more sweet salsa may help balance out the bitter pungency. I also thought that without any crunch-factor, the silky-soft eggplant was just too texturally mundane to get through all on my own. The dish really could have used a little crunchy accompaniment- perhaps some toasted bread spears for the non-Passover days. But for now, just bring on the matzah.
Lebanese Fatoush: Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Romaine, Grilled Onion, Fried Halloumi, Kalamatas & Tzatziki (Pita Omitted) ($14)
In Israel, this salad is light, bright and fresh, but I found this one heavy, and over-salted, even without the additional carbs. Having said that, I did appreciate the solid crunch of the fried halloumi, particularly in lou of the missing pita bread.
Tagine: Fish, White Wine, Saffron, Caper, Heirloom Tomato Sauce, with Sheep Yogurt Tzatziki and Grilled Vegetables ($36)
Mains were more successful all around. The generous portion of fish was perfectly cooked and nicely seasoned. I did, however, find the sauce unnecessarily rich, so much so that after a tiny spoonful, I felt my mouth nearly become water-resistant. I also thought the tomato to caper ratio was a little off, as the excess of capers made the sauce a little more acrid than bright.
Merguez : Lamb and Beef Moroccan Sausages, Carrot Salad, Chimichurri, Tahina, with Campfire Potatoes and Tzatziki ($30)
This was probably the best dish of the night. The sausages had a caramelized snappy exterior with a remarkably juicy bite. They were spicy, but not overwhelming, and nicely balanced by the fresh chimichurri, and aromatic tahini sauce. Thankfully, the portion of sausages were plentiful enough that I could forego carrot “salad”, which really just tasted like undercooked carrot cubes drowned in too much oil, as well as the slightly overcooked dry potatoes.
Nutella Parfait: Frozen Nutella Cream, Caramelized Bananas, Crème Anglaise, Salted Pecan Brittle, Tuile (Note- I didn’t eat the tuile) ($9)
This was a tasty dessert, but nothing mind blowing. It had the texture of a dense mousse, and a bold nutella flavour that was balanced by the luscious crème anglaise. My favourite aspect was the salty crunch of the pecan brittle, because combining sweet and salty is the best way to entice another bite. My only real disappointment were the bananas. I counted only 3 small slices in the mix, none of which tasted or felt caramelized at all. I mean, I’m down for sliced bananas with nutella any day, but I was just expecting a little more sophistication.
So between four people, for a 3 cocktails, 3 glasses of wine, refillable water, 4 apps, 4 mains, 1 dessert and a pot of mint tea, the bill came to $385 including tax and tip. Yes, the portions were pretty massive and thus, I can’t argue it wasn’t good quantity value, but the quality of our meal wasn’t amazing. There were certainly tasty moments, and the service was courteous and kind, but I still don’t think I would even re-pay $30 for the dish I most enjoyed, nevermind for all of the things I didn’t. Having said that, considering the convenience of Mideastro’s location, I’m definitely staying open to checking out their patio sometime for lunch. Another Passover dining adventure survived! Chag Pesach!