Maha's is one of the most talked about brunch spots to date. Even amongst the tidal wave of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean restaurants, they still manage to rise to the top and make the list. "Best Shakshuka in Toronto" and "Top 25 Soups in Toronto" by BlogTO, to name a few. Yet the restaurant is just over one year old.
No longer is Egyptian cuisine a foreign concept to Torontonians, as head chef Maha Barsoom and her family are trying to change that. How?
By cooking the way she cooks at home. Home is a feeling rather than a single place, and what makes my heart melt every time is the cozy, warm feeling of eating home-made food. And what's more, Barsoom is able to show just how different and flavourful Egyptian is.
Maha's cooking is influenced by Greek, Turkish and French, as they all occupied her home country Egypt at one point. What's most striking is that Barsoom makes her own Egyptian version of feta. If only I could take some home and sprinkle it like confetti on every dish possible to my stomach's content.
Recommended for first timers is the Cairo Classic platter ($12). If you haven't seen this on social media, you've probably been living inside an oyster shell. It's a medley of tomatoes, onions and perfectly seasoned fava beans swimming under a delicate layer of sliced boiled egg cradled around a falafel in the centre. On the other half of the plate is a dollop of their creamy home-made tomato feta and pieces of charred balady bread, an Eyptian pita-like flatbread. It comes with a small side dish of refreshing house greens.
The Basturma Scramble ($11) is also a delicious bet, if you're wondering about playing the dice correctly. This is far from your average scrambled eggs. It has thinly sliced cured beef mixed with fenugreek, garlic and Egyptian spices, sauteed in butter. And wow, it's incredibly savoury down to every last bite. It's also served with house greens and freshly charred balady bread, which serve as utensils to scoop up flavourful bites of the leftover sauce and scramble.
Other notable counterparts on the menu is Maha's award-winning vegan Lentil Soup ($9) that won Barsoom her first prize in a cooking contest when she first moved to Canada. And a Date Grilled Cheese ($12) featuring a unique blend of gouda, havarti, and swiss cheese for some much needed comfort food. For the java lovers, there's Honey and Cardamom latte and incredibly bold & dark Turkish coffee to satisfy your caffeine cravings.
I rarely ever frequented Leslieville (or anywhere past Riverdale), but Maha's gives a good reason why the east end of Toronto has the best kept secrets. It's such a delightful gem to the neighbourhood. The staff are fantastic and the food is simply outstanding. I felt like I left home only to be welcomed at another home.