Braving Scarberia: Turned Out Tasty
If anybody in the family needed stiches or a broken bone set, it was off to Scarborough. Mum’s a doctor there and she insisted her coworkers treat us. If we wanted to go out for dinner, we typically stuck to North York. A few weekends ago, I learned how much we’d been missing.
Matt, maybe the proudest Torontonian I know, suggested to a group of friends that we take a drive out to Scarborough on Friday night, just to hit up a few of his favourite spots. We rendezvoused at Yonge & Eglington and drove east, Matt unironically blasting Drake the whole way.
Our first stop was impromptu, but the perfect way to start any eating tour. Oysters. Scarborough, as it turns out, hosts the premier seafood supplier in Toronto. Diana’s Seafood, at Warden and Lawrence, supplies fresh fish to some of the city’s top restaurants. It also has an oyster bar.
I almost expected, read hoped for, a long shellfish counter with burly fishmongers shucking oysters to order. No such luck. Diana’s Oyster bar is made to look slick, with an overabundance of blue glass and faux leather. The menu boasted some tempting fresh grilled octopus and seafood paella, but we were only there for an appetizer.
We ordered a dozen oysters, picking three varieties to sample. It was a little on the pricey side, the dozen cost a little less than $40 all in. But, for fresh oysters, and the chance to sample a selection, it was well worth it.
The Acadian Golds from New Brunswick were my favourite, holding up nicely to a dose of fresh grated horseradish. I wish we hadn’t ordered the Fanny Bays from BC, which were far too big and required more chewing than any oyster should. Still, the cold bivalves were perfect for a sticky late-summer afternoon. We left Diana’s feeling properly hungry, it was time for something with a little more substance.
Deeper into Scarborough we came upon Matt’s next pick, ACR hot Roti and Doubles. The Trinidadian bakery, coloured all off-white, plastic red, and dark, processed green, screamed old school good. The bakery counter held a few trays of various unlabelled goodies and the menu above, complete with a strip of white tape adding 50 cents to each item, listed off the various kinds of roti available.
Matt and Ian got Dhalpuri, a significant quantity of Roti spread with spicy curried lentils, for all of $2.00. Katie and I got doubles, curry spiced chickpeas sandwiched in a sweet bun, and a nameless twirl of deep-fried spinach topped with more of the chickpea mix. We really broke the bank on that order: $3.75 each.
Wolfing down our orders on the curb overlooking a Lawrence avenue sunset my only complaint was that I felt like too much of a tourist at the bakery. A feeling that would only get worse as we headed off to a temple of Toronto Sri Lankan food, the Hopper Hut.
Turning into an unremarkable parking lot in the land of unremarkable parking lots, read Kennedy and Ellesmere, brings you to the Hopper Hut. Part takeout counter, part sit-down restaurant, all confusing, all delicious. If the never-closed door and endless line of hungry Sri Lankans aren’t evidence enough that good stuff happens at the Hopper Hut, then sit down in their dining room and order yourself a lamprai.
Lamprais, which have nothing to do with the eel-like fish and pie ingredient, are maybe the perfect example that the kid you knew in middle school who couldn’t stand different kinds of food touching, had it so, so wrong. Basically they’re rice, dahl, curried veggies, fried veggies, some kind of meat, and an egg all wrapped up in a banana leaf and baked. We got one with crab.
With curried eggplant, crispy fried potato, warm onion sambol, and stout grains of half-cracked rice the Lamprai involved just about every texture you can name. The crab, though the nominal centerpiece, was just one part of a fantastic combination. Lamprais are, as it turns out, an invention of the Dutch Burgers who colonized Sri Lanka. The dish feels, though, about as far from the rain-swept low contries as you can get.
Near painfully spicy, I was glad that Matt ordered two milk hoppers, a sweet bowl-shaped pastry vaguely resembling a crepe. Soft and sweet, they balanced out the Lamprai acting both as utensil and palate cleanser. Total cost for four of us, $20. Go here.
By this point, we were full. Near bursting. Matt pushed us on though, to Naan and Kabob, a sparse, chic Afghani fast-casual joint at Lawrence and Pharmacy. Though barely able to consume another bite, we relished the Chaplee Kabob. A fiery patty of grilled minced beef served with a simple salad and fresh sesame-topped naan for all of $9.00. Meat, especially Afghani Kabob, is pretty much my favourite desert.
From there we drove back into old Toronto, full, happy, and already missing Scarborough. God I wish I could drive.