Jewish soul food
Located in what feels a little like cottage country with tall trees and small bungalow-style homes on the northern outskirts of Toronto's Annex, Fat Pasha has become a dining destination for nearby University of Toronto students and faculty, business people, prominent artists and foodies from all over the city. With a cheerful spirit about the atmosphere and lofty layout, this one-of-a-kind Dupont Street gem features Jewish soul food with a serene Middle Eastern ambiance. Although Fat Pasha sits on the corner of a busy intersection (steps east of the Bathurst subway line) this restaurant promises a serene dining experience that feels much more like you're vacationing on the Sea of Galilee than grabbing a bite to eat in the city. Fat Pasha is the brainchild of Chef Anthony Rose and business partner Robert Wilder.
Quaint and cozy
With light neutrals, splashes of blue and black and subtle reflections or passing shadows, it appears as if the bar stools, hard maple tables and deep booths are floating above the hardwood floors for miles throughout the 45-seater restaurant. Well-placed mirrors give the illusion that Fat Pasha is more grandiose in size than it actually is. The walls are painted a cooler shade of white, one of which features an elegant yet whimsical silhouette-style mural by artist Jeff Blackburn. It seems to tell a mythological tale of Fat Pasha who only exists in fantasy world. Another wall is adorned with framed drawings and sketches of blackbirds by various talented artists and a couple Grateful Dead and Phish prints. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the design of this restaurant is the white marble L-shaped bar that has enough room for guests to sit on either side as well as side by side for a cozy dining experience if you happen to drop in on a particularly busy night.
Easy breezy Middle Eastern air with the salty fresh mist of the Mediterranean is the vibe that flows throughout Fat Pasha. The lights are dim for dinner and the music is rosy. A sun setting on a clear day will cast a golden glow over the entire marble bar, like candles ablaze on a white frosted birthday cake. Fat Pasha is an ideal restaurant for special occasions and intimate celebrations: graduations, engagement parties and wedding anniversaries to name a few. The dress code at Fat Pasha is casual dress; you are welcome to wear your shiny new heals or mucked up converse sneakers. Fat Pasha welcomes you with open arms.
A feast for a king
Start with a plate of falafel and keep eating. From the latke platter to the roasted cauliflower dish, Fat Pasha's one-page menu strikes a fine balance of texture and taste featuring Israeli and Sephardic cuisine. Here, you'll find hot and sour pickles, seared scallops, black truffle and rare ingredients like halloumi, black lime and ras el hanout (a North African blend of over a dozen spices including cardamom, cumin, ginger and dry tumeric). Menu items range in price from $7 for a plate of Yukon gold French fries to $37 for the 16 oz ribeye steak.
The fattoush salad is a great way to begin your culinary journey at Fat Pasha. Chopped greens infused with za'atar pita chips, halloumi, robust olives, chunks of cheese, juicy goji berries and other crunchy in-season vegetables make it zesty, hearty, satisfying to the taste buds and an overall gastronomical delight. If you're dying to sample a few items on the menu, which will no doubt be the case, rest assured the fattoush salad comes in a giant silver bowl with two large spoons for serving. It's a perfect option for communal style dining with up to four dinner companions.
Health conscience cuisine
Swimming in a light honey brown butter sauce, and barely visible under a crunchy rutabaga and sweet apple slaw, Fat Pasha's chicken schnitzel is a feast for the calorie conscience king, or someone who simply craves a dish that is perfectly tender, deliciously crispy and won't weigh you down. Unlike most schnitzel dinners that are heavy and will make you feel stuffed after only three bites, there's a lightness to this dish that will fill your belly, but not make you so full that you can't handle the final question from your server: Would you like dessert?
Dessert worth digging into
Even if you're not a dessert person, you will be tempted to try one of Fat Pasha's four dessert options that drip, flake, crumble and ooze from plate to fork and into your mouth where you'll want to savour the creamy sweetness on your tongue for as long as your stomach will let you. The massive square of sticky date cake comes drowning in brown butter caramel and a candied lemon ricotta that has such an angelic flavouring that your taste buds will be fantasizing for weeks to come. Doggy bags are available if, for the sake of your waist, your sweet tooth must resist the urge for one more bite.
Dare to drink
Fat Pasha's drink menu features some of the most unique cocktail names in Toronto including smoke on the water, punch and Judy and gin ginger fizz. The bad luck and trouble drink concoction features cana brava rum, rooibos, dry curaco, nonino and paychaud's bitters. For the less daring, the bar offers a fine selection of red, white, rose and sparkling wines, including Norm Hardie and 13th Street that can be ordered by the glass, half litre or bottle. You can also order draft, bottled and canned beer with familiar names like Steam Whistle or rare brands like Saint of Circumstance and Spearhead Moroccan Brown, a unique brown ale made with dates, figs, raisins and a dash of cinnamon. The menu also features arak, a Middle Eastern liqueur that comes in a variety of flavours. Arak makes for a great party shot, and you can even buy the kitchen a round as a tip for $16.
A special occasion
The staff at Fat Pasha are warm, friendly and accommodating, even for last minute drop-ins during rush hour around 5 pm when the restaurant opens for its dinner crowd. Although reservations are recommended most nights of the week as evenings get busy here, Fat Pasha's small team of upbeat yet professional servers will do their best to seat you and immediately make you feel as if dining there was the best decision you've made all week. While service is quick and efficient, you and your dinner companions won't feel pressured to eat like a flock of hungry seagulls after one French fry on the beach. Everything about dining out at Fat Pasha feels like a special occasion even if you're just taking yourself out for a quick or leisurely bite to eat midday or in the evening.
Something for everyone
Despite the large portions at this restaurant, every item on the menu is a healthy well-balanced option of light flavours and crunchy textures. You won't leave feeling stuffed, nor will you be unsatisfied. If anything, Fat Pasha delivers value for your money and a unique Dupont Street dining experience to be remembered for a long time to come. It's the type of place you can go to catch up with friends for a casual drink and apps or make it your family's midway meeting spot for special affairs. While there isn't a special menu for little ones, they're sure to enjoy a few dishes, too.