District Oven
842 College St.
416-901-7717416-901-7717 

Owner Isam Kaisi proudly calls his food Middleterranean – a term he claims as his own. And the entire menu at District Oven is based on this concept, the combination of Middle Eastern and southern Mediterranean food that presents a modern fusion of both flavour and culture. So we knew we had to check it out. 

Essentially, Kaisi’s idea is to maintain the use of traditional Middle Eastern spices and tastes while instilling a touch of Mediterranean influence to each dish. Not simply satisfied with reaching a perfect blend, however, Kaisi also spends a great deal of time focusing on the form as well. Take, for example, District Oven’s Shawarma option. You won’t find yourself face to face with the classic street food, but instead you’ll enjoy a tightly wound appetizer called the spicy Shawarma cigar. It has all the Middle Eastern flavours you’d expect to find but served bite-size in a tapas style.

The flat bread/pizza options are a further example of what District Oven has to offer. Of the six choices on the menu, only one actually comes with sauce (and it includes Harissa). These delicious and sharable selections include everything from figs and Halloumi cheese to beef, onions, and pomegranate molasses. They’re light, tasty, and a great way to involve the whole table. Not only that, they offer a combination of flavours too often ignored in Western food.

District Oven offers a variety of vegetarian options, including several salad and pasta selection,s but we’ve got to give credit where credit is due, and here, it’s the meat. We only tried one, but one was enough. Especially considering it was the 8oz tenderloin served with a blue cheese poutine, and covered with Arak sour cherry sauce. The strong Arak flavour maintains the Middle Eastern dominance in your mouth but there’s obviously something familiar about the whole dish – this is more like District Oven’s attempt at Middletercanadian.

Perhaps living up to its name, there’s a warm vibe inside District Oven despite its large size (seating is nearly 150). The wooden harvest tables blend with the bright red chairs, the decorative tin ceiling and chandeliers somehow manage to seem at home above the plush booths. Indeed, the entire space seems perfect for either a large group dinner or a private date. The feeling is definitely modern, but comfortably so. In fact, we’d feel good heading here any day of the week or occasion, and we suspect you will too. 

#LYNL | (Live Your Notable Life)

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