Exotic Eats in Toronto

Toronto is generally recognized as one of the world’s most multicultural cities but, inexplicably, when most people talk about Toronto’s best “ethnic” food, they rarely stray beyond the usual suspects: Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Indian. There are so many other delectable options for exotic flavours; here are just a few.

You’re already willing to trade forks and knives for chopsticks, so why not ditch utensils altogether? Toronto boasts a number of Ethiopian restaurants, which substitute cutlery for injera, a type of sponge-like bread used to scoop up meat and vegetable dishes. There’s plenty for you to choose from, but we suggest Bloor and Ossington’s Nazareth, a lively spot with huge portions, a bar-like atmosphere and low prices. Chances are you’ll have to wait in line only to wait for service, but it’s popular for the right reason. 969 Bloor St. W., 416-535-0797.

Next time you have a craving for Chinese food, skip it and instead head to North York for some authentic Mongolian BBQ at Genghis Khan Mongolia Grill. The all-you-can-eat buffet includes the usual suspect Chinese-style dishes, but the DIY grill is the real star. Pick your ingredients and a chef will cook them on the giant, room-dominating grill, stir fry it all and hand it back. Gimmicky, but fun. 900 Don Mills Rd., 416-449-8228.

As the name suggests, Pravda Vodka Bar is mostly about the booze but, despite the lounge-y atmosphere and huge (70-bottle) selection of vodkas, the food is a big part of the restaurant’s charm. Large selections of caviars and seafood dishes are self-consciously extravagant, but also quite authentically Russian. Did we mention the vodka? 44 Wellington St. E., 416-863-5244.

Arepas — grilled gluten-free cornbread sandwiches — are a staple of the Venezuelan diet. As you can probably gather from the name, they’re also a staple of Queen West’s Arepa Café. Fillings range from the relatively mundane (ham and cheese) to the exotic (marinated octopus), and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Lighter than your average sandwich and nowhere near as dull. 490 Queen St. W., 416-362-4111.

While Middle Eastern food is mostly represented on Toronto’s streets by kebabs and falafel, Pomegranate Restaurant instead offers a menu full of Iranian staples: flavourful, spiced and aromatic stews. At only 40 seats, it’s a bit of a hidden treasure, but the renowned fall-off-the-bone lamb shank and lush, charming regional décor pretty much guarantee the need for a reservation. We warned you. 420 College Street, 416-921-7557.

Image courtesy of StudioGabe // Gabriel Li.

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