daymi toronto


Daymi is a lively and bright, fast-casual spot in Parkdale proving that there's more to Arab food than falafel and shawarma.

"Most of our menu is quite new to people. They come in and we have to explain it to them," explains lawyer-turned-restaurateur Yasmine Ansari. "But it's fun because it's something new to them."

Born in Lebanon, into a family of "foodies," it's not hugely surprising that Ansari has taken it upon herself to offer Toronto a "new take on Arab food." 

DaymiThough she just moved to Canada a year ago, the idea for the restaurant "has been in the works for five years," she explains.

It began, she adds, with her parent's vision to showcase the foods the family eats at home.

daymi toronto

Guided by Ansari's energy and animated approach to décor, it's morphed into a modern restaurant where the menu reads like a best-case scenario of the Ansari weekly meal plan.

Having lived abroad for several years, Ansari's own nostalgia for the flavours of home have also influenced the direction of her new venture, which opened in early March.

"With Middle Eastern food, it's always either shawarma or falafel that you can get. You can never really get what we actually eat. That's the gap we were trying to fill."

daymi torontoSo, while the restaurant's look may be non-traditional, "our food is very traditional. Nothing is changed," she adds. "All the recipes are purely from my mom's cookbooks."

Each is made in-house from a combination of fresh finds and imported goods. The authentic flavours, adds Ansari, are possible thanks to hard-to-find ingredients brought in from Syria, Lebanon, and more.

Mom, it seems, is a proficient cook with a mountain of recipes for eaters of every ilk — from carnivores to strict vegans. Starters at Daymi are entirely plant-based, while meats are thrown into the mix on a generous list of mains.

daymi torontoAlready a favourite among customers, Harak Osbao ($10) is an appetizer that's been given a Daymi-style glow-up.

A dish that could, in the wrong hands, look exactly like lentil stew sounds, this one leans on fried onions and jewel-toned pomegranate arils for aroma and appearance beyond what you'd expect.

Rich with a tangy backbone of pomegranate molasses, this is a humble option the vegans in the room will have to share.

daymi torontoProfoundly smoky, earthy and thick, Mutabbal ($9) is a roasted eggplant dip quietly flavoured with tahini, garlic and lemon.

Whereas some restaurants begin the process of making this dish by opening a can, at Daymi, fresh eggplant is roasted until profoundly scorched and heavily scented by smoke and the heat of the fire.

Simple? By some standards. But it's a perfect example of the kitchen's commitment to scratch cooking.

daymi torontoA dish that Ansari describe as being "like shawarma," due to its convenience, Arayes ($21) is an entirely more elegant experience than the monolithic crowd-pleasers Toronto knows and loves.

Presented in a takeout box, the simple combo of crisped pita stuffed with house-made beef kafta can be shared among many, inhaled solo, or snacked on over chummy heart-to-hearts.

daymi torontoPickled cucumbers and a yogurt dip enriched with tahini, paprika-stained oil and fried pine nuts add both pep and richness to the crispy, aromatic, herby order.

daymi torontoOne of Ansari's personal favourites, Shrimp Sayadieh ($24) is a dish one could imagine being presented by the flattering glow of candlelight, beside a zesty glass of rosé.

The presentation is more casual at Daymi, but this turmeric-tinged, shrimp-topped rice with almonds and onions is satisfying and sophisticated, no matter how its served.

daymi torontoA waterfall of tahini sauce, with lemon and parsley, elevates every seafood-scented bite.

In recreating Saudi Arabia's national dish, Kabsa Chicken ($23), Ansari brings her own (and mom's) priceless personal experience to every step. "I Facetime mom every day, asking questions," she admits, smiling.

daymi torontoRather than cook the rice and meat together, as is more traditional, the team at Daymi marinate chicken then roast it until it's the colour of lacquered mahogany.

It's a strategic move that ends with a wildly photogenic quarter chicken posing atop a bed of spiced rice that's cooked with carrot, onion and tomato sauce, then crowned with sweet raisins.

daymi torontoThe accompanying dakkous sauce ("it's Arab salsa," laughs Ansari), is the fresh, zingy cast member in this scene-stealing dish.

A small number of desserts includes dreamily creamy Rice Pudding ($8) flashing the traditional flavours of orange blossom water and pistachio.

Though it's a dish that demands that its cook dedicate hours to its creation, it's one Ansari had to have on her inaugural menu.daymi torontoAt Daymi, respect for tradition means showing off its appeal to a new generation. With plans to bring in live music, DJs, and community events, Ansari hopes Daymi will, over time, become more than a restaurant.

"A lot of Middle Eastern restaurants are very on the nose, in design, the music," explains Ansari. "I'm trying to bring something fresh and modern. It's kind of a restaurant/social space we want to create."

Yes, you can get falafel at Daymi. But under Ansari's direction, there's plenty more to discover.

DaymiDaymi is located at 1376 Queen Street West.

Photos by

Fareen Karim

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