Pili Pili on Lawrence East is where to go in Toronto for Tanzanian treats. Primarily a takeout driven destination for Tanzanians all across Toronto who know a thing of two about their ethnic cuisine, Pili Pili only officially opened their doors on June 1st but already they've amassed a loyal following.
Word of mouth has spread and the only complaints seem to be that the restaurant's mogo (fried, seasoned cassava root) is too addictive, and their Pili Pili AAA beef ribs (available by the pound - starting at $7.99) are too affordable.
Almost all of their meats, condiments and snacks, like the crack-tastic Hollywood Chevdo ($5) - a mix of kefir lime leaf and citrus seasoned kettle chips, almonds, cashews, peanuts, rice puffs, yellow dal, green chilies and golden raisins - are pre-packaged or vacuum sealed for take-out.
For those interested in eating in, there's a small circular table in the corner. The samosas ($1/each, $11/dozen) are as distinct from any I've ever tried - delicate wrapping stuffed with a dense but flavourful and juicy blend of either minced beef or chicken breast with green onion, coriander, lemon zest, green chilies and spices. Coming soon, I'm told, are samosas stuffed with jerk chicken, curry chicken, spinach and feta cheese.
The most unique and most exceptional menu offering is their kebabs ($.80/each, $9/dozen). Not skewered, not grilled, but balled and fried, the kebab's crispy exterior contrasts with a soft blend of minced meat that melts effortlessly onto your palate. They work perfectly with an accompanying dip of sweet tamarind sauce, a dab of coriander yoghurt or a plunge into the requisite mbuzi (a habanero and tomato water sauce that's used as frequently and liberally as salt and pepper). I could eat these all day.
Through sips of my Brio-esque Vimto soda my only decision was which bite to go for next. Would it be the saucy Korean short ribs ($10), or the smoky chicken leg quarters ($8) that were cooked in a scorching tandoor oven and then finished on the grill with signature Pili Pili sauce and dry spice blend?
Inevitably, I kept coming back to the tender morsels of mishkaki ($10) - marinated for up to three days, the skewered bite-sized pieces of striploin were like little nuggets of meaty heaven.
If it's too much of a hike to get over to Pili Pili on the reg, you might want to consider signing up for their tiffin program to get the food delivered to your home. For the time being, Pili Pili will be offering up free delivery for their 5-tiered pre-packed lunches. At $12 for veg and $13 for meat, the tiffin comes packed with an appetizer, two curries, rice, and bread (naan, chapatti, or whatever fits best with the meal).