Tempus (508 Yonge, at Maitland, 416-929-8893) Complete dinners for $25 per person ($15 at lunch), including all taxes, tip and a domestic beer. Average main $12/$8. Open Sunday to Wednesday 11:30 am to 10 pm, Thursday to Saturday 11:30 am to 11 pm. Licensed. Access: barrier-free, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
It's a little confusing when you call Tempus, the two-year-old Persian bistro on the Yonge Street strip, and the person on the other end announces, "Darvish!"
The mystery's explained when owner Hommas Alexanian tells me that he and his wife/chef Aazam took over the failing resto a while back and named it for their recently sold resto in North York. Only they haven't gotten around to changing the heavy metal Tempus sign hanging over the narrow room's front window.
"Tempus, Darvish," he laughs, "what difference does it make as long as the food is good?"
And it is. We begin unconventionally with an order of sweet potato fries ($3.95). Skinny, perfectly cut and lightly salted, they could be the best in town, especially when paired with thickened yogurt mellowed with roasted shallot (mast-o-mosyr, $4.95).
Salads shine. A remarkably fresh batch of baby greens comes crumbled with blue cheese and splashed with a lovely mint vinaigrette, while the house mix finds mild feta, slivered almonds and pear tangled up in a fruity balsamic dressing (both $4.95).
We follow with fesenjoon ($10.95), the Iranian chicken stew famous for its addictively delicious sauce made of crushed walnuts and pomegranate. We upgrade it with basmati scented with saffron and barberry instead of plain rice.
A generous portion of lamb shank (baghali polo, $9.95) arrives alongside an equally impressive mound of basmati freckled with dill and tasty green favas.
Though Tempus, or whatever it's called, doesn't scale the culinary heights of the late 'n' lamented Elixir on Bloor West, this unusually stylish spot on Toronto's notoriously down-market main drag makes a tasty alternative to fast food.