Nestled on a quiet a quiet street at the corner of Avenue Road and Dupont St., you will instantly feel like you are about to encounter something special upon entering Atlas Restaurant’s space. Atlas Restaurant is offering Toronto patrons the best in finely curated Moroccan food by a team that goes beyond when it comes to haute couture cuisine, impeccable service and thoughtful dishes that will trigger moments within your own life’s history that will make you smile and encourage excitement for your burgeoning voyage with Atlas Restaurant.
Chef Doug maybe the humblest chef on the block when he speaks as to why he was chosen to represent Canada in Brazil as part of Canada’s 150th celebrations. “I feel passionate about my work and I wanted to feel like I was giving back in a different way in Brazil.” His training albeit in French cuisine with infusions of different styles, Chef Doug also drew inspiration for Atlas Restaurant’s menu from his journeys between Spain, the strait of Gibraltar, North Africa and Marrakesh.
The portrait he paints demonstrates his desire to challenge Torontonians away from their usual ‘comfort zones’ of French and Italian fare into the ‘unknown’ of Moroccan delights. It’s a gradual exposure experience and Chef Doug is excited to be your grounded guide. I encourage you lean into the culinary journey he has mapped out in his menu design.
The quiet neighbourhood away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Toronto and a spit’s throw from Casa Loma and gorgeously listed churches, the location emanates style, elegance and a breath of history. As you dwell upon bites of your meal take a moment to breath in the muted soft furnishings, golden wall mosaic, wooden tables and glass lanterns in the Atlas space. Serene. Hopeful. Calming.
When the cocktails arrive I am delighted to be acquainted with an aperitif and also a sipping drink for my meal.
The Fino & Tonic can make for an excellent palate cleanser and refresher. It will help in taking the pressure off your day and oozes a dry, bright and salty taste. It illuminates a romantic relationship to the food that will follow while also speaking to its Spanish roots and its close proximity to Morocco.
The House Manhattan is the perfect ally when you need a dash of alcohol in between bites that will punctuate your meal. A boozy but yet thoughtful cocktail, the House Manhattan and its notes of a Dark House Rye (this spiced rum brings out the aromatic spices in the cuisine), Vermut Lustau, cardamom and angostura will lead you down the garden path.
We started off with the Flat Bread which is made from chickpea and cumin. Light, fresh, flakey and easily married to the jben that accompanies it to the table. A wonderful dish to warm up conversations with friends and family.
The Beet Salad was next. Including of roasted beets, yogurt, celery leaf, chives and preserved lemon – it’s a dish that stands on its own. Perfect to be tucked away for a snack and a quick pint on the way out for an evening. The yogurt is hung over night so half the liquid drains off. The residue that is left makes for the plate. Genius.
The Beef Kefta is priced at a meagre $5. I encourage you to order 3 pieces of this giant. Use a dash of the jben to take some of the spice off or eat the Beef Kefta on its own. Served medium rare, it is flavourful and unique. It makes the pomegranate seeds strewn across the plate courtesy in its royal presence.
The idea of feasting emanates throughout each plate that was brought out. Small, creative portraiture dishes that encourage reflection are evident.
The Brimat, provides an ode to Chef Doug’s favourite – mushrooms. Perhaps not a dish you would order the Brimat oozes, mushrooms, phyllo pastry and green harissa. The simplicity of the phyllo pastry explodes when you cut into it. The mushrooms dipped into the green harissa reminds us that not all is what it seems upon first glance of this plate.
The Whole-Roasted Quail is a force to be reckoned with. The beautifully tied and snap worthy quail is attended by a walnut farce and fig sauce. The chest plate of the bird is delicately removed and stuffed with parsley, cream, roasted walnut and ground chicken. You can easily slice right through the bird without issue. As the heat rises off the bird, you may feel inclined to dab into the fig and its accompanying sauce. The preserved lemon leaps the fig into your mouth with ease. As morsels of quail follow – be ready for your knees to shake and perhaps tears to fall onto the glistening white plate. This can be your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner with friends as you savour and delight over Atlas’ other food pairings.
I encourage you to pair a gorgeous glass of wine with your plates. The well educated staff can make wonderful recommendations based on their cohesive wine cellar that sits above the kitchen in full view.
Next came the heavy weight, the Tagine of Agadir-Style Whitefish. Whitefish served with green olives, preserved lemon, sundried tomato and zucchini. As Beyonce would say, this is a full ‘slay’. You may feel the urge to gaze – once the presentation of the meal has been revealed. Housed in a traditional Tajine, the dish is visually stunning with its deep greens, reds, milky white of the cod and supple potatoes to greet you.
The plate houses cod, sun dried tomatoes, parsley, lemon – each element illuminates the plate. The base is house made and contains a mix of the richest of spices including, onions, sweet paprika, saffron, garlic, preserved lemon, fresh lemon and parsley to name a few. It can be eaten as a stew with friends and a few signature drinks. The dish is next level in quality, design and execution. It will humble you.
Lastly, the Roulade of Lavender & Sesame includes of blackberry purée and poached pears. The perfect light and delicious dessert that will you feel like you found a quiet spot away from the heat of the summer in a cool room in Morocco with a dear friend to have a conversation with. A satisfying end to a gorgeous meal.
Atlas Restaurant is a must to have a meal with before summer’s end. Not only will you leave their property feeling satiated and giddy from an exceptional chef’s table type rendezvous. But you will feel the humble and true artistic vision of Chef Doug and his team as they carve out a memorable nod to diversity, exquisite food and impeccable service that you will be sure to want to lean into with them again.