JH and I are visiting Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan at the end of August, so I was super excited to read that an Uzbek restaurant had opened in Toronto. We decided to take dad since we knew he had become more adventurous with eating (and food photography) after Slovenia. Tuesday is also JH’s birthday so it was a perfect chance to celebrate.
Taj Restaurant opened in the spring, and is located at 1698 Eglinton Avenue West. The owners and servers are incredibly humble, sincere and hospitable. The decor is really simple. From the moment they opened their doors to when we left, they were attentive and grateful for our business. We hardly had to wait for food, and even with the littlest wait for our last two dishes, they ended up giving us a complimentary salad. Our server constantly topped up our drinks, and took away our dirty dishes. What I loved most at the end was that they said thank you with a hand over their hearts. I had read this is a common gesture in Central Asia and this made me even more excited for our trip than ever.
Tea culture seemed to be the norm here, so we ordered the tea. Both tea and water came in these beautiful porcelain teapots and cups. The tea was pretty light, but I enjoyed it.
The menu honestly looked so good that I wanted to order everything. I wish my entire family was there so we could order a bunch more dishes.
Without really letting dad or JH decide, I ended up choosing the following dishes (with the complimentary salad noted below):
- Salad “Achichuk” (Normally $4.95) – This was a salad of tomatoes, thinly sliced cucumbers, red peppers, and purple onions tossed with herbs and spots of balsamic. The salad tasted really fresh, and the dressing was very simple and not too tart. We liked this a lot, besides the fact that it was complimentary. It just very vibrant and colourful.
- Manti ($10.99) – I really loved these, but as we know, dumplings are my food of choice. Manti are lamb dumplings served with sour cream and topped with really soft pumpkin. The skin reminded me of chinese soup dumplings – xiao long bao. I thought the dumpling was a delicious couple of bites. I could barely taste that the meat was lamb, and it was seasoned really well. I think JH liked other dishes more. Dad did not seem to have an opinion.
- Tandoor Samsa ($3.99 per piece) – We ordered two of these to split. These were baked pastries with minced meat, onions and herbs. They were served with a barbecue-like sauce. I expected the pastry to be crispier based on its description, but once again it was seasoned really well and was quite delicious.
- Tandoor Non ($3.99) – This is a clay oven baked bread that is circular with a flat middle covered with sesame seeds. I love warm bread. This bread was warm and fluffy. It was a huge portion and we could not finish it given the amount we ordered.
- Lagman ($9.95) – The noodles reminded me of a cross between udon and shanghai noodles. They tasted really fresh and home-made. The dish was served with a peppery sauce, red peppers, onions and long beans. JH and I both loved this, but I felt it was too small of a portion for its price.
- Uzbek Plov ($9.99) – I was most excited for this dish because I know we will be eating a bunch of plov in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. This dish is served on the weekends only. It is like a fried rice with lamb, carrots, raisins and chick peas. It was slightly oily, but still very good. The portion here was good, but a bit less still than I am used to with Chinese restaurants.
- Finally, the birthday boy – JH – asked what desserts were being offered. Our server said they had a homemade cake on offer (without an Uzbek name). We took a gamble and ordered a slice. It ended up being a coconut mille feuille-like pastry. The filling was almost meringue like. It was also very, very good. All we know is that it was called “cake”.
All in all, this was a really good experience, and I would definitely go back or even order delivery. They are a small shop, and I really wished the restaurant was more full when we went. They just seem like incredible people with good hearts, and we want nothing more than for them to succeed. JH asked whether they were family, and the owner just said they were all friends. As we were leaving, he said thank you again, with his hand over his heart. I melted a little bit, and I know for certain that I will fall in love with Central Asia. Just a few more weeks away and I can get out of here again. In the meantime, I was grateful for this experience with Taj.
Other little details:
- Parking – The restaurant is located in a nondescript plaza with limited parking. We got one of the last spots.
- There is no dress code.
- They played ethnic music. It was fast-paced and really vibrant. It kind of made me want to dance.
- The restaurant is bright with lights. The best natural light for photos was at our table right in front of the window. We took a six-seater despite being a group of three, just for the brighter setting.
- We showed up at 12:00PM when they opened without a reservation.
- They accept credit (even AMEX), cash or debit.
- They appear to be partnered with Just Eat.
- Social Media – Instagram