Saturday, 6 September 2014

Fouad from Zero To Gourmet and Toronto's Fat Pasha restaurant


I had one of my biggest foodie highlights of 2014 last night! There is a brilliant home cook and food blogger here in Toronto named Fouad Makadsi. Around the time that the press release for season one of MasterChef Canada came out he began following me on Instragram (@bramdoublel). I began to follow him back and ever since I have become quite a fan of his work. To see his Instragram profile, look up his handle @iphouad. To check out his blog, visit www.zerotogourmet.com

The material on Food by Bram is typically very practical, every day food. Fouad's take on his dishes is quite a bit more inspired and creative. He doesn't simply throw a dinner or snack together. He makes works of art. I encourage you to see for yourself. Aside from being very skilled and creative, Fouad was born in Iraq and came to Canada as a young adult. His Middle Eastern roots give a particular edge and soul to his dishes. I have not yet tried any of his food, nor has he mine, but I really enjoyed his company and can confidently say that I have made a new friend. We are excited to do some collaborations in the kitchen together which we can both document and blog about. That will be very exciting!    


Fouad (left) and Myself
 
When we agreed to meet in person we thought it would be a good idea to both check out a restaurant that neither of us had been to before. He suggested a place called Fat Pasha, which is an Israeli/Middle Eastern restaurant on Dupont street. Their web-site shows a copy of their dinner menu (below). I'll admit that the layout of the menu isn't the easiest to follow, but that's where my complaints about the experience ends.


 

The servers at the restaurant were very nice and more than happy to help with deciphering the menu. I wish I could help to explain it to you but I'll be honest I don't remember exactly what the breakdown is. All I can recall is that the items are split into categories and most of the main items are printed in black and their accompaniments are printed in red.

I'm not quite sure if Fouad and I have similar tastes or if he is just really nice and permitting. He chose the restaurant and I ended up choosing about everything we ate and he agreed to it. Thanks, Fouad! lol. The portions at Fat Pasha are generous and everything they serve is meant to be shared, which makes for an interactive and more personable dining experience. 

We started out with tabouleh, only instead of the traditional parsley and mint they make their version with wilted rapini which is a bitter, wholesome member of the broccoli (cabbage) family. We also had warm pita bread served with labneh. The labneh was topped with za'atar spice and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Labneh is made by straining the whey liquid from yogurt for a day or two and then seasoning the thickened, creamy product. The result is very similar to cream cheese only remarkably healthier. I have a labneh recipe here on the blog that I recommend. 




For our second course we ordered one of their most popular dishes. It is roasted cauliflower topped with tahini, an herbaceous green sauce, pine nuts, fresh pomegranate and fried halloumi. The restaurant offers 1/2 or full head of cauliflower orders. Half was perfect for two people. Don't be fooled by the photo. It does kind of look a mess, but it was nothing short of delicious and it has haunted my palate ever since we tried it. If you get the chance to visit, definitely order this! For those who may not be familiar, halloumi is a Mediterranean cheese made from a blend of sheep, cow and goat's milk. It is salty and quite firm. What makes it particularly unique is that it can be grilled or fried and it will keep its shape without melting. Halloumi has made an appearance in a slow cooked vegetable dish here on the blog.




Our next course was cholesterol central but totally worth it. Fat Pasha does an Israeli spin on fried rice. It's rice seasoned with an array of spices, mixed with pistachio nuts and vermicelli then fried in schmaltz (clarified chicken fat) and topped with gribenes (crispy chicken skin). It was layered with several exciting flavours and textures. It was interesting and yummy. Unfortunately the photo doesn't do this dish much justice. Schmaltz has also been used here on the blog when I made matzo ball soup





For the final course we had the braised beef brisket with Aleppo corn salsa and pickled red onions. Brisket is located on the upper leg of a cow, above the front shank. It is a very tough piece of meat riddled with fibrous, connective tissue. I know that doesn't sound very appetizing but the beautiful trick to tough cuts of meat is to sear and braise them, which means to cook them slowly in gently simmering liquid for several hours. The slow cooking process breaks down and melts all of the tough parts of the meat and what's left is incredibly tender beef that requires no knife. A simple stroke of the fork will cause it to fall apart. It beats any seared or grilled sirloin steak you can dream of. I am a fool for a good braise! Another great part of a traditional braise is using the leftover liquid to reduce and thicken with a little starch to produce a mouth-watering and memorable gravy to serve with the meat. Fat Pasha uses the same method in their dish. The sweetness of the corn with the bright acidity of the pickled onions perfectly cuts through the richness of the brisket and gravy. A very well thought out, balanced dish.


  

   
The restaurant also offers an array of creative and interesting desserts but we simply had no room to try any of them. Maybe next time. I can't wait to go back to this place! It's easily one of my new favourite restaurants in the city. It's a very short walk from Dupont subway station making it very convenient and accessible. Most of Toronto's Middle Eastern food scene is found mostly in fast food falafel and shawarma venues. There aren't a lot of nice, sit-down-and-enjoy restaurants that specialize in the cuisine. That's what makes Fat Pasha so unique and special. It's always so nice to be pleasantly surprised by a new restaurant in your city. A big thank you to Fouad for picking this place. I give it my fully endorsed seal of recommendation and approval. 

Fat Pasha is located at:

414 Dupont Street
Toronto, ON
M5R 1V9

You can call to make a reservation at 647-340-6142.

Their web-site: www.fatpasha.com 

It is harvest season right now so there are a lot of great things in store for the blog in the near future you will not want to miss. You can also expect to see more of Fouad from Zero to Gourmet. Who knows what we will come up with when we join food blogger forces!

In the meantime, take care of yourselves and give everything your all!

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