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Restaurants

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

Discussion

11 Comments

Elizabeth / February 18, 2014 at 01:49 pm
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This place looks amazing. Can't wait to try it!
milo / February 18, 2014 at 03:29 pm
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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
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Sounds like a great place for some non-alcoholic beer. ;)
price / February 18, 2014 at 04:53 pm
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Looks pricey for the portion sizes...
TDotRome replying to a comment from Muna / February 18, 2014 at 09:44 pm
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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
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wow beautiful decor, can't wait to try it and make new memories.
aDawg / March 15, 2014 at 07:59 pm
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I only eat at places that soak their pork in bourbon! YUMMMO!!
Sonia Ferreira / May 4, 2014 at 08:12 pm
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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
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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
Tonia / August 18, 2014 at 09:17 am
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Very underwhelming. I really wanted to like this place, it's so beautifully styled and menu looked great. Lamb tangine was terrible, just a lot of gristly and super fatty lamb (meat was not cut properly at all!!) We had 7 different servers over meal. The worst part was cost of drinks!! $50 for a pitcher of sangria with about so much fruit and ice in it, there was only 3 drinks in the whole litre! All beverages VERY watered down and crazy expensive. Wine list not very good, and WAY over priced. Ultimately, it was $200 for 2 people, and I felt a big waste of money.
Erica / August 19, 2014 at 09:51 am
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I went to this restaurant last night with 3 girlfriends for a 7pm reservation. I thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere and was quite surprised by the large space that District Oven occupies. While there, we ordered the mixed meat grill plater to share, the vegetarian platter to share as well as the three cheese pizza. We all had a drink, I tried the sangria blanca while my girlfriends just had wine and pints. I'm of middle eastern decent so I was excited to see what this place had to offer but was a bit disappointed with the service above anything. The flavours of the food were quite good and I found a lot of it to be quite authentic using spices very signature to middle eastern culture. The waiter that we had did not let us know that there were any specials and seeing as it was our first time, it would have been helpful to get his recommendations. I also found there was a lot of overlap with different waiters asking up the same question. Sometimes it's nice to keep it simple and only have one person to refer to. It took about 20 minutes to get our drinks as they were sitting on the bar although once we ordered food it was quite quick to arrive to the table. Because we were sharing everything we asked prior to ordering how the portion sizing was for us to share and he said it's quite decent. Once our plates came, there were only 3 of everything. I don't expect the waiter to anticipate our appetite level but at the very least he could have warned us that everything came in threes on the plate. 2 breads also came to our table and I asked the waiter to bring 2 more to breads so we could all have one. We were almost done the dips about 20 minutes later when I asked her again because she had yet to bring them over. Finally our actual waiter came to check on us about 10 minutes later and I had to ask again. The one saving grace was when one of the chefs came over to give us one of the dishes and we asked him for hot sauce and he brought us a small platter with 4 different hot sauces on it and explained what each one was. That was highly appreciated and he was the only real person who provided a great experience for us. Once the table was clear we waited about another 20 minutes for our bill. Despite the good food I don't think either of us will be back to this restaurant but of course glad we tried!

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