Monasaba is a Yemeni restaurant specializing in mandi: a delicious and painstakingly-made traditional dish of rice and meat.
Originating in Yemen but eaten all over the Gulf, mandi is hard to find in Toronto.
Of the handful of restaurants that makes this dish in the city, Monasaba has gained a reputation as one of the best since first opening in 2015.
What first started as a hole-in-the-wall plaza spot down the road has grown through word of mouth to become a much larger, sleeker operation, just two minutes' drive from its original location.
Started by Mohamed Al-Showaiter and Wajdi Ohag, Monasaba has taken the complex mandi dish, traditionally slow roasted in a clay pit in the ground, and turned it into a modern process.
Half of this dish is its incredibly fragrant rice: head into the kitchen at any time and you'll find eight copper vats filled with basmati rice on the stove at a time.
What makes the rice so delicious is a secret, though turmeric and lots of butter are definitely involved once the rice is transferred to a massive pot.
A mix of caramelized onions, raisins, and slivered almonds add extra magic to this already aromatic creation.
Get your mandi with either Ontario lamb or chicken. Both options are butchered in-house, slow roasted in large ovens (rather than suspending them in a tandoor oven) for hours, and are fall-off-the-bone delicious.
The lamb comes in single or double portions ($21.95 or $39.95). You can get the chicken from quarter-size ($8.95) all the way up to an entire chicken ($27.95). Either way you go, the meat is juicy and incredibly tender.
Al-Showaiter and Ohag have also expanded the menu since moving into this more modern space. They've added an entire section of qolobat, or sides, like a diced beef dish ($11.95) with green onions tomatoes.
The kibdda ($12.95), or lamb liver, is a personal favourite.
Foul is served differently than I'm used to, where fava beans are mashed more thoroughly than intact versions I've seen before. It's an oily mixture that goes perfectly with fresh tandoori baked bread ($1.95).
Sabayah ($5.95) is a simple layered dough pie dessert made with white flour and eggs, fragrant black nigella seeds, and a drizzling of honey.
I recommend trying the nakie ($3.95), a simple juice in a plastic cup made from black raisins soaked in water for hours.