Mermaid Fish and Grill House
Mermaid Fish & Grill House surprised me when I walked through the front door. I wasn't sure what to expect, but a counter filled with fresh fish and seafood greeted me along with owner Hesham Abdelrehim.
Abdelrehim used to run a couple of falafel and shawarma joints downtown. He says they catered mainly to the late night crowd - and that makes sense, considering they were located at Queen and Dufferin and College and Bathurst, respectively.
But, he wanted to serve seafood. Abdelrehim, who's originally from Alexandria, Egypt, developed a passion for fishing before he moved to Canada. Now he gets to share that passion at his Scarborough-area, Mediterranean-style restaurant.
The small place is filled with blue-checkered table clothes and is dotted with photographs of Alexandria.
Much of Mermaid's fish and seafood is imported, however; Abdelrehim tell me he sources his white bass and trout from Ontario.
I head up to the counter to order. Each customer gets to choose their fish (priced per pound) as well as how they'd like it cooked: either baked, fried or barbecued.
I try a butterflied filet of sea bass barbecued Singari-style. It comes flavoured with cumin, lemon and garlic as well as red and yellow peppers and onions.
I also munch on hot shrimp which arrive straight from the grill and as I dig in, I dip piping hot pieces of pita into small bowls of hummus ($3.99), tahina ($2.99) and babaganoush ($3.99)
Each piece of fish comes served with rice and salad. This makes for a rather hearty and still somewhat healthy meal - at least if you choose from the barbecued or baked options.
But, along with grilling up pieces of fresh fish, Mermaid also serves English-style fish and chips. For a slight twist on this classic dish, each massive piece ($6.99 for basa, all the way up to $15.99 for haddock) has a layer of golden brown breading that's flecked with herbs.
Calamari and shrimp also visit the deep fryer at Mermaid. And Abdelrehim's calamari are my favourite part of the meal - the breading is light and the squid rings are huge and tender; they're not rubbery or chewy at all.
If you're not a fan of seafood, you can still eat at Mermaid. Abdelrehim has a few Halal meat options on his menu, including a chicken plate ($11.99) and beef kofta ($10.99). But, at this small Scarborough spot, fish really is the star.
Photos by Hector Vasquez.