You know you are a connoisseur of Middle-Eastern cuisine when you can taste and differentiate between Souvlaki, Gyro, Doner Kebap, Kafta Kebab, Shish Tawook and Shawarma, and trace these to the lands they originate from. As well, you need to be able to clearly discern between Hummus, Baba Ghanoush, Tahina and Tzatziki, as well as their places of origin. Here is a ready primer that you may potentially find useful:
- Souvlaki and Shish Tawook are in essence, flame grilled Chicken kebabs with their origins in Greece and Lebanon/Syria respectively.
- Gyro, Shawarma, Kafta and Doner Kebap is pork (Gyro) or ground beef and lamb or chicken (Shawarma, Kafta and Doner Kebap), grilled on a vertical rotisserie and served fresh off the grill, usually accompanied by pita or lafa bread and a combo of hummus, tahini and baba ghanoush or tzatziki sauces. Gyro derives its origins in Greece, Shawarma in Lebanon/Egypt/Israel while the Doner Kebap comes from Turkey. Incidentally, these are also usually served in fast food restaurants as an eponymous sandwich within a pita pocket garnished with herbs, spices and sauces, for a light meal.
- Hummus, Baba Ghanoush, Tahina and Tzaziki are sauces/sides used for the meats and sandwiches listed above. Hummus comprises ground garbanzo beans in olive oil with Middle-Eastern spices while Tahina (or Tahini)is ground sesame seed in olive oil with spices added for flavor, with their origins in the Middle-East. Baba Ghanoush comprises baked or broiled eggplant mashed and mixed with assorted seasonings, again with origins in the Middle-East.Tzatziki, tzadziki, or tsatsiki is a Greek meze or appetizer, also used as a sauce for souvlaki and gyros. Tzatziki is made of strained yoghurt — in Greece and Turkey usually sheep's-milk or goat's-milk yoghurt — to which are added cucumbers (either pureed and strained or seeded and finely diced), garlic, salt, cracked black pepper and usually olive oil, dill, sometimes lime juice and parsley, or mint.
So I am understandably fastidious re: the quality of the Mediterranean/Middle Eastern adventures I embark on, and often surprise the owners of these establishments with my demands for the perfectly rendered and extravagantly embellished Shawarma or the most tantalizing Mazaa platter that they did not often design into their menus!:-)
I love to seek and try out new Mediterranean/Middle Eastern establishments across North America, but will candidly admit that I have yet to sample a culinary adventure that excels the one offered by the Jerusalem in Toronto.
What brings me back for more:
The Jerusalem in Toronto is one of the finest establishments I have sampled in Toronto in the two years I have lived there. The establishment with two branches, was founded many years ago by a Druze (a secret/mystical religious sect with origins in the erstwhile Palestine that is an offshoot of Islam who bear allegiance to Israel) family from Israel.
The ambiance is reminiscent of the Negev desert of Israel (where I have had the privilege of camping out like a Bedouin), is frequented largely by the discerning Jewish population of Toronto as well as folks that seek an authentic taste of home cooked Mediterranean/Middle Eastern cuisine.
The menu that offers a la carte lunch specials and a la carte dinner (including packages for families of two or four), is an epicure’s delight and offers authentic Mediterranean/Middle Eastern flavors, spices and condiments as well as some innovative items that are reminiscent of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Beirut and Cairo.
My Favorites:Hors d’oeuvres:
- Lentil soup: their signature soup (see photo below) prepared daily from selected red lentils and fresh ingredients is the right choice to embark upon this sensual adventure!
- Mazaa Platter: offers a mouth watering combo of hummos, baba ghanoush, falafel, tahina, Middle Eastern salad and mixed pickles (see photo below) and is best enjoyed with their house pita served piping hot off the oven.
- Tabouleh Salad: a favorite of mine, comprising finely chopped parsley, tomato and onion, mixed with cracked, bulgar wheat and served with fresh mint, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil (see photo below).
- Shish Kabab (Beef or Lamb): choice cuts of fresh Ontario lamb or tender pieces of filet mignon, lightly seasoned with their home recipes and grilled to your choice.
- Shish Tawook: succulent pieces of chicken breast marinated in a specially prepared secret sauce that will indulge your taste buds for sure!
- Kafta Kebab: juicy blend of minced Ontario lamb and lean beef mixed with onions, parsley, garlic and select spices and grilled to sublime perfection, on their rotisserie.
- Lamb Chops: rich, charbroiled Ontario lamb chops, lightly seasoned and extremely tender, and highly recommended.
- Middle-Eastern Dessert Platter: delivering a tempting assortment of middle-eastern delicacies, including many kinds of baklava and pastries filled with nuts and topped with honey syrup, that will serve to consummate your memorable Middle-Eastern adventure at this incredible establishment.
- Rice Pudding: an absolutely delightful creamy pudding mixed with raisings topped with nuts and cinnamon to melt in your mouth and warm the cockles of your heart!
This adventure in Toronto, Canada begins at: Jerusalem Restaurant - two locations in Toronto as below:4777 Leslie Street, North York, ON M2J 2K8. Tel # (416) 490-7888. Click here for the Google Map and Directions.955 Eglinton Avenue West, York, ON M6C 2C4. Tel # (416) 783-6494. Click here for the Google Map and Directions.