Hamdi Restaurant sits in an Etobicoke plaza off Rexdale, surrounded by South Asian and Islamic clothing and grocery stores, travel agencies and bookshops – and has since 1996.
The halal restaurant is a mecca for East African and Somali cuisine in the business of serving dishes of goat, beef, chicken and fish which come with plenty of promise for leftovers.
The dining room mounted with TV screens doesn't concern itself with flashy decor but keeps it casual and practical. Considerable seating accommodates large groups or families sitting down for an informal meal.
The food is the focus, and it's exactly what's kept Hamdi in the neighbourhood for 25 years.
Each meat-driven dish comes with a choice of rice, spaghetti or chapati, some salad and a substantial amount of protein.
Beef stew ($16) is sauteed in a myriad of spices and vegetables and goes well with rice, which tastes of cinnamon or cardamom.
Chicken steak ($16) is pounded thin, seasoned and grilled until slightly charcoaled. We opt for a bowl of spaghetti to accompany this one. Called baasto in Somali, pasta made its way into the country during the Italian occupation in the 1880s.
I'm sure the tender steak tenderloin ($16) would taste good with nothing more than a sprinkle of salt, but the added flavour from the roasted peppers and onions does it one better.
The roasted goat ($17) is a personal front-runner, to my surprise since the particular meat can often be too gamey for my liking. That usual flavour is replaced with a milder, sweet one. There's also fried chicken ($16) though the four drumsticks were less crispy than preferred, each with only a very light coating and little crunch.
Fresh mango and grapefruit juices complete the experience and are both so good (in taste and consistency), it'd be hard to choose between the two.