Geary Av­enue and its star at­trac­tion Par­al­lel are what Ossington was just 10 short years ago

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Joanne Kates tries nou­velle Is­raeli on a street many think is the next big thing

Let me tell you about the next Ossington restau­rant strip. Geary Av­enue is what Ossington was 10 years ago: A gritty, unloved strip of town, un­known and not very nice, small scale industrial with cheap rent to at­tract small new restau­rants.

Geary is home to a col­lec­tion of auto re­pair shops and it’s just start­ing to burst into hip­ster resto bloom. There are two craft beer bars, Blood Broth­ers and The Greater Good. That’s where you rub shoul­ders with uber hip­sters while wait­ing for your ta­ble at Par­al­lel, the new­est, hottest and most won­der­ful Is­raeli restau­rant in town. ’Cause of course they don’t take reser­va­tions.

While up­town they’re still ab­sorb­ing grease into every pore at Jerusalem, here in the new su­per­cool west end, Par­al­lel is dish­ing Is­raeli nou­velle.

The room, with past lives as a Por­tuguese restau­rant and a stor­age space, has for its cen­tre­piece a huge 2,000-pound stone grinder to turn sesame seeds into tahini, the mother sauce of Is­raeli cook­ing.

As evening turns to night and the room dark­ens, a vi­o­let light shin­ing on this be­he­moth turns it more into art­work than ma­chine. On the west wall, pro­jected films show bet­ter in the dark, be­come more haunt­ing.

Big sassy flavours gov­ern every item. They’ve left the charred bits on the fire roasted egg­plant, served ooz­ing and smoky with mint, scal­lions, co­rian­der, all topped with bright pink rib­bons of house-made tahini with beets, all to be spread on their grill-kissed thick, dense chal­lah. The fab­u­lous fried cauliflower is strewn with herbs from the herb gar­den above the restau­rant’s bath­room and dot­ted with slightly psy­che­delic yel­low (turmeric aîoli) and fuch­sia (beet tahini). Just as the gi­ant tahini stones dom­i­nate the vis­ual aes­thetic of the restau­rant, tahini is the theme run­ning through the food. The creamy/sweet beet tahini ap­pears again atop jazzy house salad of kale with wal­nuts, sweet potato, goat cheese, scal­lions, mint and chewy lit­tle black lentils.

The Is­raeli cook­books of Yo­tam Ot­tolenghi have taken the town by storm, but to my palate if you put the Ot­tolenghi flavours up against Par­al­lel, the Toronto boys would win hands down. Their flavours are big­ger, bolder, their ex­e­cu­tion sim­pler — and eas­ier to cook. But the Par­al­lel boys weren’t al­ways Toron­to­nian. The resto is owned by three Is­raeli-Cana­dian broth­ers, Alon, Guy and Aharon Oz­ery. They started a lit­tle bak­ery (Oz­ery bak­ery) in 1996 and it’s done ex­tremely well and ex­panded.

Their taste buds rock. No­body in town does shawarma as well as they do. It’s long-cooked lamb shank, so ten­der and moist it’s erotic, with po­lenta made from puréed fresh corn and red pep­pers with smoked pa­prika, brus­sels sprouts and deep rich lamb stock. But their foun­da­tion re­mains tahini, which some call sesame but­ter. The broth­ers pul­ver­ize Ethiopian sesame seeds with the huge stones, add lemon juice and shazam, the mother sauce! Made pi­quant with lab­neh, it ap­pears in their won­der­ful fish shawarma made with crispy grouper and toma­toes zinged with sumac.

For dessert, tahini morphs into their jus­ti­fi­ably adored house-made halva with var­i­ous top­pings. I am fond of salted choco­late on the halva, or caramelized pis­ta­chios.

But who is not fond of salted dark choco­late … or caramelized pis­ta­chios? Or deeply creamy nutty tahini? Par­al­lel dishes dream-food, every sin­gle plate of it.

Clock­wise from left: Par­al­lel’s stylish ex­te­rior, wa­ter­melon salad topped with fresh herbs, halva with var­i­ous top­pings

JOANNE KATES Joanne Kates trained at the Ecole Cor­don Bleu de Cui­sine in Paris. She has writ­ten articles for nu­mer­ous pub­li­ca­tions, in­clud­ing the New York Times, Ma­clean’s and Chate­laine.

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