Culinary Adventure in Toronto Part I (Or How to Eat like a Scheherazade)

Last week I was to meet an old friend for dinner. He said I could pick the restaurant and because I really wanted to try some place new, I spent hours researching restaurants in Toronto. I wanted to find a great place that served something unusual, something that was relatively new to me.

You see, I’ve been feeling more than a little restless lately; these past few months, I haven’t been traveling as much as I usually. One great way I’ve found to satisfy my wanderlust when I cannot afford to spend time traveling, is to try out a restaurant that serves food from some interesting part of the world. This ‘coping mechanism’ is particularly effective if the restaurant serves cuisine from a part of the world that I haven’t visited yet.

So I googled and yelped away and finally decided on a Persian restaurant called The Pomegranate. It is, oddly enough, situated in Little Italy. I rang the restaurant the next day and managed to get a dinner reservation for the same night.

The restaurant itself was cozy and the decor was somewhat cute. I have to be honest though, it wasn’t anywhere as nice as the review on blogto.com led me to believe. Some of the furnishings and fixtures were bordering on shabby and it wasn’t half as gorgeous or interesting as I expected it to be, given its Persian association. It reminded me a little bit of the scores of Indian restaurants I’ve seen, with kitschy Indian decor; in short it looked like it was trying far too hard to be what it thought westerners wanted it to be.

When the food arrived though, I forgot all about the decor. It was delicious! I should point out in no uncertain terms here, that I have never been to Iran, nor have I ever had ‘persian’ or Iranian food anywhere except in India. Also, I use the term ‘Persian’ to describe the food and the restaurant because this is how the restaurant owners have chosen to describe the place and the food. The term is fraught with political, cultural and historical connotations and tensions, but this post isn’t the place to go into all of this, and I am certainly not informed enough on the issues involved to wax eloquent on it, so I have decided to simply stick with the term that the restaurant owners have chosen.

Getting back to the food, I had the fesenjaan (they had a vegetarian version with mushrooms). It came with a generous serving of rice and salad (of course I didn’t touch the salad 😉 )

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Described as a stew of walnuts and pomegranate syrup, the fesenjaan was flavouful and creamy with a detectable but subdued nutty flavour. One of the reviews of the restaurant I came across described this dish as syrupy (and the menu hinted at this by describing it as a stew of pomegranate syrup) and I must admit I almost didn’t order it because of this, but in fact it wasn’t syrupy. It was delicately sweet and in terms of texture and consistency resembled a typical mughlai sauce/gravy (which of course entirely makes sense as mughlai food was deeply influenced by Persian cuisine). So it was more like a sweetened shahi paneer or butter chicken than it was like a syrup.

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In conclusion, I recommend the place. It’s cute, the servers are friendly, the food is good and the decor is pleasant and cosy enough- it’s just not breathtaking or as unique as it could be.

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