In Yemen, lunch is considered the most important meal of the day. The Toronto Food Blog has enjoyed a few Yemeni lunches recently at the newly-opened Camel Restaurant (675 Danforth Ave). “About as authentic a dining experience as you’ll find outside of Sana’a,” I’m told by a table full of students eating beside me, as we all bob our heads to the music of Ahmed Alshaiba covering “Smooth Criminal” on the Oud.
It’s recommended that we try a bowl of Fasha, arguably Yemen’s national dish. This lamb stew is presented boiling hot in a stone pot, absolutely loaded with meat & fenugreek. It’s served with a sidecar of fresh-baked Malawach flatbread. Chef/owner Ali Nasser tells me to use the crispy bread as a utensil. He and his cousins brought their love for cooking and their entrepreneurial spirit with them when they emigrated from Yemen just a few years ago. They’ve created something very regional and very special right in the heart of #greektown
On our next visit we try the Chicken Mandi, another extremely popular Yemeni/Gulf dish. Now this has to be my absolute favourite kind of quarter-chicken dinner. Dark meat is marinated overnight and then baked until it literally falls off the bone. Served with salad and the most perfect Mejara (rice w/ carrot & fried onion), this is as good a #lunchunder10bucks as you’ll find anywhere in town.
Aqdah, meaning “knot” in Arabic, is an aptly-named Yemeni stew that tries to tie all of the ingredients and flavours together. Camel’s version is full of diced veggies (potato, zucchini, peas), pulled chicken, cumin & turmeric.
The dining room at Camel seems to have become somewhat of meeting place for Gulf students, hungry for the tastes of back home. I am always welcomed with warm smiles, a bowl of lamb broth, and a plethora of enthusiastic menu recommendations.
It’s nice to see such a vibrant and distinctly regional restaurant open-up on this stretch of the Danforth. In fact, that’s what makes #danforth so great.
Happy New Year, everyone, and good luck in 2020 to all the young restaurateurs who’ve got a good thing going.