What’s on the menu at the Haifa Room, an Ossington restaurant serving creative takes on Palestinian and Israeli dishes

What’s on the menu at the Haifa Room, an Ossington restaurant serving creative takes on Palestinian and Israeli dishes

More New Restaurants

Name: The Haifa Room
Contact: 224 Ossington Ave., thehaifaroom.com, @thehaifaroom
Neighbourhood: Trinity Bellwoods
Previously: Schmaltz Appetizing
Owners: Waseem Dabdoub, Joseph Eastwood, Fadi Hakim
Chef: Jason Hemi
Seating: 27
Accessibility: Not accessible

The food

The Haifa Room started as a takeaway window during the pandemic, serving things like falafel and sabich. That window is still open for lunch, but a full-fledged restaurant was always part of the plan. The owners and chef, all close friends, collaborated on a tight menu that draws on their Palestinian and Israeli backgrounds. But here, everyone co-exists peacefully… mostly. “Do we fight? Sure. We fight about glassware,” says Dabdoub. Small plates meant for sharing and snacking feature heavily—think deep-fried halloumi sticks with a harissa-labneh dipping sauce, or lamb kibbeh “torpedos” with sumac-yogurt dip. A few hearty mains and desserts round out the selection, like the meltingly tender, shawarma-spiced boneless lamb shoulder, or a vegan stuffed eggplant.

Cabbage, turnip, and celery pickled in a vibrant turmeric-chili brine. $4.


This absolute unit is a schnitzel-fried pita. Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like. At the takeout window, you can request it for your sandwich—it’s extra sturdy—or order it dine-in for munching and dipping. $3.50.


Hemi tested a lot of halloumi before finding this one from Stratford’s Monforte Dairy. Made with water buffalo milk, it’s much less salty than your average variety. Here, it’s schnitzel-fried and served with a pretty pink al ras dipping sauce of harissa, labneh, honey, lemon and tomato. $11.


The “torpedos,” or lamb kibbeh, are a triumph of spice and texture. A shell of ground lamb and bulgur is stuffed with more ground lamb, coriander, and spices (heavy on the mustard seed) before getting deep-fried and served with sumac yogurt dip. $12.


The hummus starts with what Hemi calls “garlic juice”: whole heads of garlic, peel and all, are blended with lemon and strained. That goes into his house-made tahini, which is then blended with cooked, peeled chickpeas aerated with ice cubes for a light, fluffy texture. The add-ons are seasonal: here, it’s finished with heirloom carrots, seeded dukkah, fresh dill and olive oil ($9). On the side, grilled pita from Thornhill favourite Sababa Foods ($1.50).


Here we have roasted potatoes drizzled with honey butter harissa on a cloud of toum. A play on Buffalo sauce, the harissa lends a subtle, sweet heat. $9.


Whole, deep-fried smelt, served in an empty kosher pickles can, come with a side of toum (whipped garlic sauce). $12.


The makings of a falafel sandwich. It took them close to 60 tries before they got the falafel exactly how they wanted it.


And the finished falafel pita. A grilled and steamed Sababa pita is filled with house-made falafel, red cabbage, pickles, onion, tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley, tahini, zhug and a pickled pepper. $11.


On the right, a falafel sandwich, and on the left, a sabich. For it, fried eggplant is stuffed into a schnitzel-fried pita and drizzled with house-made amba. Both are available at the takeout window. $11 each. ($13 if you level-up with a schnitzel-fried pita.)


Here’s a closer look at that sabich.


One of the larger main dishes, a halved eggplant is stuffed with, well, more eggplant, along with bulgur, smoked paprika, pine nuts and preserved lemon. It’s topped with slivers of preserved lemon and parsley, and drizzled with tahini. It’s a hearty vegan option if meat is not your thing. $17.


Shawarma spices lend this beautifully tender boneless lamb shoulder a bit of energizing heat. Cooked sous-vide and roasted to order, it’s served on harissa tahini, sumac yogurt and toum, with slices of delicata squash and pita on the side. $27.


Chef Hemi’s favourite dessert from when he lived in Jaffa, the delicate, floral knafeh has a layer of whipped ricotta sandwiched between kataifi, or shredded phyllo, soaked in saffron syrup. It’s served with preserved lemon curd and topped with pistachios and sorrel leaves. $10.


The takeout window, which serves things like their notoriously tasty falafel, is open for lunch.


Left to right: chef Jason Hemi, Waseem Dabdoub and Joseph Eastwood.
The drinks

There’s a small wine list, including two labels from Israel; Pilsner Urquell and a couple of brews from Blood Brothers; and a cocktail menu made up of classics and some playful novelties. Notable is the Haifa Room’s answer to a gin and tonic: the Grapes of Bay is a refreshing concoction that incorporates muddled grapes and sage. If you want bubbles over booze, there’s sparkling water from local producer Lark.

The Grapes of Bay is a play on a gin and tonic: it’s your classic G&T with the additions of lime, muddled purple grapes, simple syrup and sage. $16.


The boozy, aromatic Figues Dizmur is a blend of fig-infused gin and dry vermouth garnished with a blue cheese-stuffed olive. $16.


The Nice Driveway is a blend of tequila, agave and Lark ginger sour. It’s a tart take on a ginger beer. $17.
The space

The gorgeous heritage building, complete with vaulted ceilings and exposed brick, lends the space a cozy, lived-in feel. Counter-height bar seats are cozier than your usual towering perches, and big windows lining two walls let in plenty of light—and in the evening hours, the infectious buzz of the neighbourhood.