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Posted on December 10, 2011 by in Yonge and Eglinton

5 stars

- What makes for a great neighbourhood restaurant? There are certain essential qualities that it must have: a friendly, knowledgeable staff, a charming host, great atmosphere and above all, fantastic food. Tabülé is unquestionably one of these restaurants. Serving amazing Middle Eastern cuisine, Tabülé is a midtown spot not to be missed.

Tabülé offers fresh, intensely flavoured dishes from start to finish. Over several visits, I have had the pleasure of trying about half the menu and have yet to come across a dish that wasn’t utterly delectable. Normally not a big fan of eggplant, I make exceptions here for the babaganüj, a gorgeous pureéd eggplant dip mixed with tahini, garlic and lemon juice. Additionally, the fried eggplant has great char on it and is finished with a lemon & garlic dressing that adds a bright note to the soft, creamy, rich starter. Not to be overlooked are the fresh, pungent tabülé and the labni which is a yogurt cheese mixed with a healthy dose of garlic and topped with zaatar. Finally, the hot cauliflower appetizer was recommended by the host who did not steer us in the wrong direction. Finished with Lebanese tahini, there were polite fights over who would get the last morsel.

Once you have gorged yourself on the hot and cold mezze (starters), it is time to move on the main event. There is always a fresh fish of the day, topped with the bright house lemon and garlic dressing. The grilled mains all come with heaping portions of rice with crispy onions for texture as well as grilled peppers, onions and zucchini. The kefta is certainly a popular option and a tasty one at that. Consider them Lebanese meatballs, made with a mix of ground lamb and beef, tomatoes, onions, parsley, garlic and lemon juice. Always perfectly cooked, they are steaming hot upon arrival at the table, a little bit pink inside. Also fabulous is the charcoal-broiled shrimp that have been marinated in Middle Eastern spices. Spicy and succulent, they are even slightly better with the squeeze of lemon that accompanies this particular dish. You will not want to share them with your dining companions.

While you are thoroughly enjoying your food, take some time to look around and drink in the atmosphere. The restaurant itself is cozy without feeling claustrophobic and the dining room is host to just about every demographic in Toronto. You will see couples on dates, families, birthday celebrations, even bachelorette parties. On Saturday night, people wait patiently at the bar for a table and are entertained by the belly dancing show at 9pm. Though a little calmer during lunch, Tabülé certainly does not lack atmosphere. Upon return visits, you will notice that you see the same wait staff over and over again – a good sign in a turbulent industry. Hospitality is the name of the game here, and it is done expertly.

Should you have room for dessert (and if you don’t, just loosen your belt a little. It’s worth it), check out the künafa ashta. Lebanese custard is topped with super fine shreds of phyllo pastry, pistachios and rose water syrup. Light and not overly sweet, this dish is a superb way to end a meal and is a paradigm of why Tabülé’s menu is so successful: it combines many elements in a balanced, seamless dish. It is at once creamy, crunchy, a bit tart, a bit sweet and is highly aromatic.

Like the final course of the evening, all the dishes at Tabülé balance flavor and texture and, because of this, the food is elevated beyond the ingredients. Pop in for a meal, or have one delivered to you: either way, you enjoy a hearty, mouth-watering meal that will have you coming back for more.

– Carolyn

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