Thursday, July 31, 2014Partly Cloudy 21°C

District Oven

Posted by Liora Ipsum / Profiled on February 18, 2014 / review policy

District Oven TorontoDistrict Oven, a new restaurant and lounge at College and Ossington, is finally open in the long vacant site that once housed the raucous Portuguese sports bar, Cervejaria. Now an upmarket Middle Eastern restaurant, the family run operation is helmed by chef and owner Isam Kaisi, who's also the proprietor of 93 Harbord.

Inspired by ferrane, the communal ovens of the Middle East, the 4,000 square foot spot aspires to serve as a gathering spot and is ready to accommodate large parties with tufted square booths, long harvest tables and groupings of lounge seating. The interior makes use of original tin ceilings and exposed brick walls adorned with vibrant paintings from Iranian-born Toronto artist Homeira Rezaei. Elements like liana vine chandeliers and raw-edged woodwork throughout add warmth to the cavernous room.

District OvenThe flaming stone oven is the heart of the restaurant and house-made flat breads and pitas are the foundation of the menu. Pitas arrive to the table as toasty, steam-filled balloons and as far as I'm concerned everything that follows is just an excuse to eat more bread.

District OvenThe menu complements the communal eating style. The bigger the party, the better the opportunity to sample from mezze like hummus ($7), house-pressed labaneh with zatar ($7) and skewered-grilled eggplant ($8) marinated with romesco, a nutty pepper sauce.

District OvenSpecial diets will find themselves well looked after, too. The meat here is Halal (Kosher can be done with notice) and the menu is pork-free. Vegetarians and gluten-sensitive eaters will appreciate comforting dishes like the quinoa lentil pilaf ($14) studded with sweet caramelized onions and topped with tahini and roasted almonds. Chopped village salad on the side is dressed with lemon and spiked heavily with parsley.

District OvenMeaty options get creative with a fig jam dressed kefta burger ($15) and an arak (anise) and sour cherry gastric smothered poutine served with an 8oz steak ($27). I try the well-executed Cornish hen ($19), a tender supreme with crispy, spice-infused skin. Earthy Jerusalem artichokes make the dish substantial, and a liberally applied green chili zhug (Israeli hot sauce) offers a lingering heat.

District OvenThe beer selection is currently limited, though there are plans brewing to install a 12-tap station. Best bets from the bar are the cocktails ($11) made with house syrups in flavours like fennel and chamomile. The District Margarita made with El Jimador Blanco Tequila, fig almond syrup and lime is like an Amaretto Sour without the sickly-sweetness -- I'm a fan.

District OvenDistrict Oven is currently open for dinner from 5:30pm on. Brunch featuring Middle Eastern staples like shakshouka plus western egg and potato options is to be launched in the coming weeks. Take out and private parties are welcome.

District OvenPhotos by Jesse Milns



Elizabeth / February 18, 2014 at 01:49 pm
This place looks amazing. Can't wait to try it!
milo / February 18, 2014 at 03:29 pm
Neat place! can't wait to try it.

Very happy they serve alcohol. I hate hate that paramount does not -- and it's not like someone who is strict will leave their Thorncliff ethnic enclave anyways.
Ted / February 18, 2014 at 04:20 pm
Sounds like a great place for some non-alcoholic beer. ;)
price / February 18, 2014 at 04:53 pm
Looks pricey for the portion sizes...
TDotRome replying to a comment from Muna / February 18, 2014 at 09:44 pm
Muna, ever think that it has to do with logistics, too? The bar is separate from the kitchen, so there isn't any cross-pollination. Having a pork kitchen and a non-pork kitchen would be disastrous. Don't even think they could just have pork-only cookware, that wouldn't work either.
Lucy / February 20, 2014 at 10:15 am
wow beautiful decor, can't wait to try it and make new memories.
aDawg / March 15, 2014 at 07:59 pm
I only eat at places that soak their pork in bourbon! YUMMMO!!
Sonia Ferreira / May 4, 2014 at 08:12 pm
Visited the restaurant a few weeks ago. Really enjoyed the food. Very flavourful. Great atmosphere. Reasonably priced. Will definitely return. I especially appreciated that the owners took their time in going around and asking for feedback.
مائده / May 24, 2014 at 01:42 am
I was there tonight with my best friend Wajdi & Rania , The service was so good

The food Taste Nice n soooooo good I dunno what else to say other than it was soooo delicious.

I met Owner of the restaurant He's so friendly, we even talk together, and i really enjoyed my time there , thx so much

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