SAHARA (134 Dundas East, at Dalhousie, 416-203-2593) Complete meals for $10 per person, including tax, tip and a can of Canada Dry. Average main $8. Open daily 9:30 am to midnight. Unlicensed. Delivery. Access: barrier-free, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Because of Italian colonialism, the cuisine of the boot-shaped peninsula is a significant influence on those of nearby north and east Africa. That explains why spaghetti comes with nearly every dish at Sahara, a bare-bones Somali spot on desolate Dundas East popular with downtown cabbies and foodies on the cheap.
But Sahara's noodles are unlike those found in the basement rec rooms of Woodbridge. Instead of being ladled with tomato sauce and meatballs, they're given an Arabic twist with lemon, tomato and slightly sour coriander.
The kitchen's more than generous with them, too. My order of Mandy Chicken (an oven-roasted leg, thigh and partial breast kicked with garlic, lemon and coriander that's, despite its shockingly yellow food colouring, surprisingly tasty) weighs a whopping 3 pounds, two of them pasta. It's sided with buttery strips of roasted potato and carrot dusted with dried coriander, and an innocuous iceberg salad. The whole lot blows sky high with the addition of Sahara's incredibly incendiary pink hot sauce, which might best be described as ranch dressing from hell. Dynamite stuff.
If that sounds a trifle daunting, all of Sahara's dishes - including roasted goat shank Wasla (both $10) and chewy Beef Muscolo ($8), all of which come with a bowl of very good goat 'n' veggie potage - are also available sided with plain South Asian-style basmati rice tossed with raisins and cardamom pods.
But only a fool would bypass Foul ($5), a soothing soupy breakfast purée of fava beans, tomato, caramelized onion and garlic served with a squirt of fresh lemon - hot sauce if you dare - and grilled crepe-like injera or chapati.