Toronto’s halal options have evolved exponentially in the last few years. What began as the exclusive realm of Indian/Pakistani and Middle Eastern choices (which will always remain staples) have slowly been evolving to cater to the developing tastes of the halal consumer. Comparing Toronto’s halal choices to those of other world class cities makes one realize the true variety and unique choices which we have in this city. Even in a place like London, England, one may find it difficult to replicate the diversity of offerings which we have here. It all changed for me about 20 years ago when I realized, there were Chinese Hakka restaurants serving halal (please exercise your own high level of discretion regarding halal standards in these and any other establishments).
Then came Restoran Malaysia and Affy’s Premium Grill. Things were changing one establishment at a time, and with the success of each new entrant into the market targeting a new uncharted food genre, many replicas started popping up. Most recently we’ve seen the era of halal gourmet style burger establishments, and Southern Barbeque rib style joints multiplying and taking over growth. Great for our taste buds but maybe not so much for our cholesterol levels.
The latest phase which is now gaining popularity is the halal desert cafe. There are now several in the GTA and their standards have varied. It has been a much welcomed development though. Coffee, tea and sweets are an integral part of pretty much every muslim culture. Coffee and tea and their accompaniments are the social lubricant for many muslims societies even today and this influence goes back many centuries to the Ottoman Coffee houses of Europe and beyond.
Today we have a variety of places targeting that dessert and tea experience with some even offering savory options in addition.
My best experience so far in one of these establishments has been at à la Crêpes in Scarborough. I tend to use one of Toronto’s original and most successful mainstream dessert Cafe’s, Cafe Demetrie as the benchmark in terms of atmosphere, setup, food quality, presentation and taste. Few can rival this chain, but I have to say things are getting closer.
À la Crêpes has a great setup for socializing and having some coffee, tea or desert. The seating, and setup creates a great atmosphere with both tables, bench seating and couches, and the food actually doesn’t fall short of expectations either.
As their name suggests, they specialize in Crêpes, both savory and sweet. I have tried both and have always been more than satisfied with the flavor, portions and quality of food here.
My favorite here is the Moroccan Lamb Burger Crepe. It is a 6 oz lamb burger wrapped in a crepe, and served with red pepper hummus and spinach. This is the juiciest, most succulent (lamb) burger I have tasted so far in the GTA, served with mint chutney style sauce with fries, it is a unique combination of flavors. I haven’t really tried much else here in terms of savory crepes because it has been so good.
Beyond this they have a wide variety of dessert options including waffles, crepes, cakes and ice creams. I have sampled numerous offerings including the molten lava cake which was exceptional, even though I only managed to salvage about three bites of it from the others on my table.
In a nutshell, à la Crêpes provides consistent high quality sweet and savory options in a beautiful cafe setting ideal for socializing and enjoying some unique halal food. The owner is friendly and looking to ensure his standards are met and customers leave satisfied. Also, if you are a tea aficionado, à la Crêpes has about 20 varieties of high quality offerings and well versed staff to help you make the right choice.