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What’s on the menu at Miss Aida, a new Lebanese restaurant on Roncesvalles from the team at J’s Steak Frites

This time, there’s more than one main on the menu

By Liza Agrba| Photography by Joshua Best
What's on the menu at Miss Aida, a new Lebanese restaurant on Roncesvalles from the team at J's Steak Frites

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Name: Miss Aida Contact: 413 Roncesvalles Ave., missaida.ca, @missaidato
Neighbourhood: Roncesvalles Village Owners: Jad Sfeir and Tara Tang Chef: Mohamad Hazbawi (Laylak, Amal) Accessibility: Not fully accessible

Last May, husband-and-wife team Jad Sfeir and Tara Tang opened J’s Steak Frites, a charmingly unfussy bistro that serves just one main dish (steak frites, obviously). Miss Aida, named after Sfeir’s mother, is an homage to his Lebanese roots. “In Lebanon, there’s a chef in every family, and my mother is the chef in mine,” he says. But this restaurant, which has been in development for nearly four years, didn’t come together until the right chef (Aida not being available) came along. When Sfeir and Tang met Mohamad Hazbawi—who left Lebanon as a child, carrying a figurative suitcase of flavour memory with him—the project started to gain momentum.

Mohamad Hazbawi, Tara Tang and Jad Sfei, the chef and owners of Miss Aida, a Lebanese restaurant in Toronto
Left to right: chef Mohamad Hazbawi, Tara Tang and Jad Sfeir

Then it was about finding the right location. Roncesvalles presents an attractive duality for would-be restaurateurs: it’s both a tight-knit neighbourhood with loyal locals and a destination for out-of-town visitors. To add to the street’s selection of bars, Miss Aida plans to introduce a late-night menu complementing its already robust wine list.

The exterior of Miss Aida, a Lebanese restaurant on Roncesvalles Avenue in Toronto
The food

Hazbawi’s flavours are unmistakably Lebanese—fresh, vegetal and humming with the brightness of sumac, parsley and other aromatics ubiquitous in the region. His presentation is clean and deliberate: one dish is a curled tentacle of grilled octopus over neat cubes of beet, garnished with micro arugula and punctuated by negative space on the plate. When it comes to the menu, there’s no delineation between appetizers and mains. In true Lebanese fashion, it’s all meant to be eaten family style. Dessert, by Le Cordon Bleu–trained Tang, is freewheeling and creative, like a deconstructed take on baklawa (Lebanese baklava) with house-made pistachio ice cream.

A basket of bread and pita at Miss Aida's
The triangles are brought in from a local Lebanese bakery, but the perfectly puffy pita is made in house. $2 each

 

A plate of golden-brown cauliflower and pomegranate jewels at Miss Aida on Roncesvalles
Golden-brown florets of fried cauliflower are served on a puddle of lemon-and-tahini-based tarator sauce, garnished with pomegranate jewels, lemon zest, Maldon salt and sumac. $18

 

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A bowl of falafel and green chilies at Miss Aida on Roncesvalles
Fava beans, chickpeas, parsley and cilantro are among the ingredients in Miss Aida’s falafel. They’re drizzled with tarator and garnished with tomatoes, parsley and green chilies—sort of like a deconstructed falafel wrap. $14

 

What's on the menu at Miss Aida, a new Lebanese restaurant on Roncesvalles from the team at J's Steak Frites
The baked halloumi—Sfeir’s favourite dish—is glazed with fig jam and honey and served warm. It’s garnished with house-made za’atar and pomegranate seeds. $26

 

Miss Aida's kafta, made of a mix of lamb and beef, served with tarator
Here we have Miss Aida’s kafta, a seasoned blend of ground lamb, beef, parsley and onion, shaped into balls and grilled. They’re sprinkled with citrusy sumac and served with dollops of tarator. $28

 

Tender poached and grilled octopus, simply accented with garlic, lemon and olive oil, and served on cubed beetroot and creamy house-made hummus. Aim to get some of each component in one bite for maximum deliciousness. $26
Tender poached and grilled octopus, simply accented with garlic, lemon and olive oil and served on cubed beetroot and creamy house-made hummus. Aim to get some of every component in each bite for maximum deliciousness. $26

 

Miss Aida's knafeh
Here we have knafeh, a rosewater-flavoured combination of akkawi (a soft, unripened white cheese) and mozzarella, topped with semolina, drizzled with rosewater and orange blossom syrup and garnished with pistachios. Other versions of this dessert are topped with crispy phyllo, but “soft” knafeh is also popular in Lebanon. $16

 

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Miss Aida's take on baklawa
This is Tang’s take on baklawa, which normally comes in the form of a crunchy phyllo-layered triangle. This one is a phyllo tart shell topped with spongecake, phyllo, nuts, nashta (similar to clotted cream) and house-made pistachio ice cream. It’s all finished with rosewater and orange blossom syrup. $15
The drinks

Cocktails take cues from the Levantine region and are elevated with house-made touches, like a delectable chai syrup that underpins the bar’s take on an espresso martini. There are a couple of standard beer options, a tight by-the-glass menu and a roughly 30-label wine list, each of which includes options from Lebanon.

The Madagascar cocktail at Miss Aida on Roncesvalles
The Madagascar is a simple blend of vodka, Galliano and St-Germain. It’s a refreshing dessert tipple. $16

 

Miss Aida's Amerkheneh cocktail is an arak-based take on the Americano
A take on the Americano cocktail, the Amerkheneh features vermouth, Campari, Triple Sec and arak. $18

 

The Istanbul Martini, Miss Aida's take on the espresso martini
This is the Istanbul Martini. The base is Turkish coffee, batched every three days, shaken with bittersweet Amaro Nonino, bourbon, vodka, cardamom bitters and a punchy house-made chai syrup. $19
The space

At first glance, it’s not necessarily apparent that this is a Lebanese restaurant. The room leans minimalist and modern, with subtle accents that hint at the menu’s heritage—traditional Lebanese tile work, a three-arch mirror and a display of fezzes nestled among the glassware. Along the back wall, there’s a portrait of Miss Aida herself keeping careful watch over the dining room.

Inside Miss Aida, a Lebanese restaurant on Roncesvalles Avenue in Toronto
The bar at Miss Aida, a Lebanese restaurant in Toronto
A collection of fezes on display at Miss Aida, a Lebanese restaurant in Toronto
A view of the dining room at Miss Aida, a Lebanese restaurant in Toronto
Banquette seating at Miss Aida, a Lebanese restaurant on Roncesvalles Avenue in Toronto
What's on the menu at Miss Aida, a new Lebanese restaurant on Roncesvalles from the team at J's Steak Frites

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