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What’s on the menu at Laylak, a fancy new Lebanese restaurant in the Financial District

By Erin Hershberg| Photography by Joshua Best
What's on the menu at Laylak, a fancy new Lebanese restaurant in the Financial District

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Name: Laylak Contact: 25 Toronto St., 647-368-8838, laylak.ca, @laylak.toronto
Neighbourhood: Financial District Previously: Mirto Owners: Youssef Harb and Hashem Almasri Chef: Hazem Al Hamwi Accessibility: Washrooms on main floor; a few steps up to the main dining area   Laylak co-owner Youssef Harb, who immigrated to Canada from Lebanon in 1985, has had an eventful career in the entertainment business. For the past decade, he’s run a Mediterranean cruise company called Stars on Board that features Middle Eastern celebrity entertainers. (He also shoots a reality TV show, currently on its ninth season, that follows the talent during these cruises.) Though the concept of taking it easy seems foreign to Harb—he swears by power naps and claims to sleep only two hours a night—he sees Laylak (pronounced “lie-lack”) as a relaxing project and something of a homecoming.

Laylak
What's on the menu at Laylak, a fancy new Lebanese restaurant in the Financial District
Owners Youssef Harb (left) and Hashem Almasri
The food

The menu features traditional Lebanese dishes, each with a modern twist or a touch of fine-dining flair. Spreads—like muhammara, a dip of pulverized roasted red pepper, walnuts and pomegranate—are artfully plated, finished with rich olive oil and bright microgreens, and served alongside chef Hazem Al Hamwi’s pillowy pita. A highlight of the hot appetizers is the Laylak pasterma, a house-baked flatbread topped with local aged beef, heirloom tomatoes and mildly salty akkawi cheese. Mains include kibbeh safarjaleah, sweet-and-sour meatballs prepared with quince and pomegranate, and whole grilled branzino with some heat courtesy of urfa chilies.

What's on the menu at Laylak, a fancy new Lebanese restaurant in the Financial District
A selection of the house dips, served with pita, include muhammara, baba ghanouj, hummus and labneh bil toum ($17 each or $22 for a trio platter). The pita is made in-house daily and fermented for 24 hours before being baked

 

Laylak
Al Hawi’s signature hummus is prepared with rehydrated chickpeas that are boiled with olive oil. They’re then blended with olive oil, garlic, lemon and tahini, and plated with crisp, smoky chickpeas, olive oil and pine nuts. $17

 

What's on the menu at Laylak, a fancy new Lebanese restaurant in the Financial District
His labneh bil toum is rich and creamy version of the classic Lebanese dip. For it, yogurt is strained, folded with toum (a sauce of garlic, egg white, lemon juice and oil), mixed with dried mint and finished with cured tomatoes, olive oil, za’atar and fresh mint. $17

 

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Laylak
Fatteh makdous is an unctuous and smoky dish of fried eggplant stuffed with spiced minced beef and onion. It’s plated on top of garlic yogurt, a sweet-and-sour sauce of tomato and pomegranate molasses, and fried pita chips. $44

 

Laylak
Wild-caught branzino is deboned, butterflied, grilled in olive oil and salt, and served with a chili paste from the Tripoli region of Lebanon. The smoky and gently spicy paste is made from toasted coriander and cumin, rehydrated Aleppo peppers, tomatoes, and onions. $62

 

What's on the menu at Laylak, a fancy new Lebanese restaurant in the Financial District
Here we have the freekeh with beef cheek for two. The locally raised, seared and braised beef sits on a bed of smoky freekeh prepared in the style of risotto and dressed with tomatoes (cured in salt, sugar and za’atar), roasted almonds, micro mint and sorrel. $68

 

What's on the menu at Laylak, a fancy new Lebanese restaurant in the Financial District
The labneh cheesecake on kataifi (shredded phyllo) has an interesting depth of flavour from Al Hamwi’s addition of mastic, a slightly bitter plant resin used as a stabilizer. $12

 

Laylak
The Laylak Mille Feuille, the restaurant’s take on baklava, is a delicate tower of house-made phyllo crips, clotted cream, rosewater and orange blossom syrup, and crumbled pistachios. $26
The drinks

Mediterranean influences carry through to the bar menu. While the wine list covers heavy-hitter regions like France and Italy, sommelier Lorie O’Sullivan makes a point of highlighting Lebanese bottles. Her top pick is the 2020 Jeune Red by Chateau Musar, which confidently takes the place of Cabernet in the by-the-glass section. Bar manager Wei Zhou is also committed to telling the restaurant’s story through his drinks. His eponymous Laylak is a balanced cocktail with sour and sweet notes and hints of lavender, a plant native to the Mediterranean and Middle East. The gin-based beverage is finished with a sprinkling of butterfly pea powder that turns it light purple.

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What's on the menu at Laylak, a fancy new Lebanese restaurant in the Financial District
A selection of the wine currently on offer

 

Laylak
Here’s the Laylak, a gin-based, lavender-lifted drink. It gets its purple hue from butterfly pea flower. $19

 

What's on the menu at Laylak, a fancy new Lebanese restaurant in the Financial District
The Beirut Rose is a shaken rum-based cocktail. Its gentle floral notes, from freeze-dried rose petals and rose water, are balanced by the sweetness of cassis. $19

 

What's on the menu at Laylak, a fancy new Lebanese restaurant in the Financial District
The 1001 is a mysterious pitch-black vodka-based cocktail with licorice notes from Arak liqueur and sweetness from house fig syrup. $20

 

Laylak
A classic manhattan gets the smoke treatment. $19
The space

With high ceilings, elegant padded walls, pillowy ultrasuede banquette, custom floral light fixtures and colourful blown-glass bottles, the atmosphere at Laylak is like dining inside of Jeannie’s bottle.

What's on the menu at Laylak, a fancy new Lebanese restaurant in the Financial District
What's on the menu at Laylak, a fancy new Lebanese restaurant in the Financial District
Laylak
Laylak
Laylak
Laylak
Laylak
What's on the menu at Laylak, a fancy new Lebanese restaurant in the Financial District

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