1 of 4
2 of 4
3 of 4
4 of 4
FAT PASHA (414 Dupont, at Howland, 647-340-6142, fatpasha.com, @fatpasha) Complete dinners for $55 per person (lunches/brunches $40), including tax, tip and a cocktail. Average main $22/$15. Open for lunch Wednesday to Friday 11 am to 3 pm, dinner nightly from 5 pm. Weekend brunch 11 am to 3 pm. Closed some holidays. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: one step at door, one step to washrooms. Rating: NNNN
You can keep your dinosaur kale, massaged or otherwise. It's cauliflower that's the new veggie king!
In the last few weeks alone, we've seen the oft-ignored cauli' pop up everywhere. The Beech Tree on Kingston Road uses it with a Stilton-rich cream sauce on bruschetta. Over at Isam Kaisi's hip District Oven on College, the cabbage cousin's fashioned into steaks and served over creamy couscous risotto, while King West's Home of the Brave batters and deep-fries the flowerets like Buffalo chicken wings. It even shows up on tacos at Grand Electric.
But no one does cauliflower better than former Drake chef Anthony Rose's Fat Pasha.
There are audible gasps from the table next door when the whole roasted head arrives with an upright knife the size of a chainsaw stuck into it. Slathered with nutty tahini and drizzled with creamy labneh yogurt and a coriander pesto that recalls the Indian Rice Factory (which Fat Pasha replaced), it comes tossed with pomegranate seeds, pine nuts and cubes of tangy haloumi cheese ($18/$12 half) like some mutant main course, side dish and dessert.
Most start with the daily salatim platter, a rotating roster of seven salads and slaws, our favourites the blistered cherry tomatoes with garlic, the roasted eggplant in tahini and an unconventional tabbouleh made with rapini and chewy wheat berries ($22). Others opt for plates smeared with buttery hummus and dressed with slow-braised Moroccan-style lamb shoulder in spicy harissa powder ($15, both with grilled pita).
A great whack of flanken short ribs ($24) also get the slow-braise treatment, their tender fall-from-the-bone flesh countered with a heap of terrifically fresh spring peas in slivered mint and dill. Marinated in yogurt, harissa and mild Aleppo pepper, a chopped up 'n' roasted Cornish hen garnished with charred slices of orange ($25) could be spectacular tandoori chicken by way of Tel Aviv.
Shareable sides also impress. A Middle Eastern take on Cantonese fried rice strewn with meaty lentils, crushed pistachios and little bits of vermicelli turns up fabulously laced with chicken fat. Thick with pitted dates and apricots, chef's Israeli couscous (both $14) makes the perfect foil for his full-throttle mains.
Rose sticks to the classics for desserts, the pistachio-studded halvah with toasted almonds and caramelized date jam, and the custard-filled donuts topped with blueberry compote the best of the bunch (all $9). "Show some love to the chefs, buy the kitchen a round ($16)" suggests the almost illegible menu, although it doesn't specify a round of what.
Needless to say, the family friendly Pasha has been slammed from the get-go. The 50-seat is wall-to-wall foodies and their offspring within half an hour of the doors opening. And although the retro boomer muzak they play - Paul McCartney and Wings' Band On The Run one more time, anyone? - isn't up to Electric Mud or Playa Cabana levels, it still gets pretty loud, especially once the ankle-biters start caterwauling.
Nothing that a cauliflower won't make you forget.