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What’s on the menu at Parallel Basta, Kensington Market’s 7,000-square-foot temple to tahini

It’s the brand-new sister spot to the Geary Avenue location

By Liza Agrba| Photography by Ryan Nangreaves
A spread of dishes at Parallel Basta
Top left is Parallel’s shakshuka, two eggs poached in a paprika-spiced tomato sauce with bell peppers, onions and garlic. Served with flatbread. $19

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Name: Parallel Basta Contact: 152 Augusta Ave., parallelbrothers.com, @parallel_basta
Neighbourhood: Kensington Market
Owners: Guy Ozery, Alon Ozery, Aharon Ozery, Shira Sverdlov Ozery, Hadas Ozery and George Grabsky Chef: George Grabsky   Six years ago, brothers Alon, Guy and Aharon Ozery opened the first location of Parallel on Geary Avenue. Tahini, made in-house on a massive stone mill, was the centre of its universe and the anchor of its menu, which included hummus bowls and other sesame-centric recipes. Its house-made products—more of that tahini and hummus, spice blends, and chocolate sesame spread, to name a few—eventually started showing up on the shelves of retailers across the city. Two years ago, after much fanfare, it became clear that the business had outgrown its original digs.

Parallel Basta's Alon Ozery, George Grabsky, Aharon Ozery, Shira Sverdlov, Michael Semidot and Guy Ozery
Left to right: Alon Ozery, George Grabsky, Aharon Ozery, Shira Sverdlov, Michael Semidot and Guy Ozery

The family started looking for a bigger space that could take over its commercial production and double as a second restaurant. They landed on a three-storey, 7,000-square-foot facility on Augusta Avenue. Just north of Dundas, Parallel Basta—named after the Arabic word for market stall—is slightly set off from Kensington’s main drag. It’s big enough to accommodate their current production needs and to give the business room to grow. Regulars can expect to see a wider range of menu offerings as well as a steadily growing retail footprint.

Jars of house-made tahini, preserved lemon and zhug, all for sale at Parallel Basta in Toronto
The food

The bright, herbaceous cuisine of the Mediterranean stretch of the Middle East is this menu’s driving force—though chef Grabsky, inspired by Kensington’s culinary diversity, integrates some Asian and Mexican influences. There are hummus bowls topped with chicken shawarma or fried eggplant pooled with golden olive oil, kaleidoscopic salads humming with mint and za’atar, and arais (pita stuffed with spiced beef) served like tacos and laced with zippy sumac. And that’s just for lunch. Weekend brunch brings shakshuka and decadent platters of salmon gravlax, and starting October 18, a mezze-style dinner menu will feature dishes cooked in a wood-fired oven.

The house flatbread at Parallel Basta comes with a ramekin of tahini, olive oil and grated tomato for dipping
The house flatbread—fermented for a minimum of 72 hours—is baked in the wood-fired oven and served with olive oil blitzed with a mixture of herbs like sage, rosemary and thyme. It comes with a little dish of tahini, olive oil and grated tomato for dipping or spreading. $8

 

Pita pockets stuffed with provolone and mozzarella, tomato and red onion, are grilled on the flat top and dipped in toasted sesame seeds
These pita pockets are stuffed with provolone, mozzarella, tomato and red onion, then grilled on the flat-top and dipped in toasted sesame seeds. They’re served with garlic sauce and matbucha (think spiced ketchup). It’s basically a next-level grilled cheese. $16

 

A bowl of hummus topped with chickpeas, parsley, lemon, chili, garlic, olive oil and schug
This is one of Parallel’s classic hummus bowls (which customers can also order topped with chicken shawarma, fried eggplant, or shrimp and calamari). This one’s a little more classic, topped with chickpeas, parsley, lemon, chili, garlic and schug (a green Yemeni hot sauce, also available by the jar). $18

 

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The fattoush salad at Parallel Basta in Toronto's Kensington Market
For the fattoush salad, a mix of chopped cucumber, tomato, radishes, bell pepper, red onion and mint comes on a bed of white tahini. It’s dressed with lemon and olive oil and topped with croutons and crushed, roasted almonds and chickpeas. Finally, it’s all finished with a sprinkle of za’atar. $21

 

Paralell Basta's smashed falafel sandwich
Here we have the smashed falafel sandwich. House-made flatbread is spread with herbaceous falafel batter and baked in the wood-fired oven, then topped with cabbage, carrot, tomato, onion and parsley and laced with tahini and amba (fermented mango) sauce. It’s served with punchy house pickles. $16

 

The arais
For the arais “taco,” pita is split, spread with spiced beef and cooked on the flat-top under a weight with beef tallow for extra flavour. It’s topped with a salad of parsley, white onion and sumac and finished with amba, tahini, more sumac and grated tomato. $17

 

Two skewers of picanha on a purée of parsnip and lima bean at Parallel Basta in Toronto
Here we have tender picanha (the rump cap of the cow, typically used in Brazilian churrasco), deeply spiced with Ethiopian paprika, onion and garlic and skewered with cherry tomatoes. The skewers are set on a purée of parsnip and lima beans blitzed with butter, Worcestershire and sherry vinegar and served with zippy pickled red onions and snow peas. $12
Shrimp and calamari confit served on roasted vegetables and house-made labneh at Parallel Basta
Here we have delectable shrimp and calamari confit, marinated in house-made chili crisp and cooked in the wood-fired oven. It’s served on roasted eggplant and pepper and house-made labneh and topped with crunchy green papaya and more chili crisp. $10

 

The roasted seafood salad at Parallel Basta is a mix of calamari, shrimp, and roasted bell peppers and tomatoes, on a bed of house-made labneh
From the dinner menu, this is the roasted seafood salad. Calamari, shrimp, and roasted bell peppers and tomatoes sit on a bed of creamy house-made labneh, garnished with a scattering of green onion. It’s dressed simply with olive oil and lemon and comes with a focaccia flute. $10

 

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Sea bream on a bed of msabaha at Parallel Basta, a restaurant in Toronto
Also from the dinner menu, delicate sea bream topped with charred grape leaves and snow peas sits on a pile of msabaha (which is like hummus but not quite—it’s blitzed chickpeas, tahini and smoky charred zucchini). $13

 

A spread of dishes at Parallel Basta
Top left is Parallel’s shakshuka: two eggs poached in a paprika-spiced tomato sauce with bell peppers, onions and garlic, served with flatbread. $19
The drinks

Pickles, ferments and infusions are a key part of the restaurant’s beverage menu. Gazoz (non-alcoholic drinks made with sparkling water and juice, extract or syrup) are a highlight here. There’s also drip and Turkish coffee, a selection of Genuine teas and—pending a liquor licence—cocktails that will incorporate the same house-made infusions.

The King Crimson, a non-alcoholic drink at Toronto's Parallel Basta
From the non-alcoholic gazoz menu, this is the delightfully named King Crimson. It blends a house shrub (strawberry, basil and sumac) with orange juice, lemon and sparkling water. It’s garnished with sumac, dehydrated orange and strawberry. $6

 

Parallel Basta's take on a gimlet is made with gin, split pea, green apple, honeydew cordial and serrano pepper
This take on a gimlet is made with house split pea, green apple and honeydew cordial with serrano pepper and gin. $15

 

An arak-based cocktail at Parallel Basta, a restaurant in Toronto's Kensington Market
For this anise-forward cocktail, arak is shaken with peach syrup, fresh mint and lemon. $15

 

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The caesar at Parallel Basta is made with tequila, fermented pineapple syrup and jalapeno bring
This is no ordinary caesar. Parallel’s tequila-based version is spiked with fermented pineapple syrup and pickled jalapeno brine. It’s rimmed with a mixture of Persian lime, za’atar and celery salt. $15
The space

It’s a big, bright room with high ceilings and a neutral colour palette—except for the rainbow of infusions and retail products that line the shelves. A small seating area is bookended by a counter and a fridge stocked with ready-to-eat meals, hummus and other goodies. At the back, there’s a bar with more seating, and behind it is Parallel’s open kitchen and commercial production space, where guests can get a look at the mill.

The main dining room at Toronto's Parallel Basta, a restaurant in Kensington Market
Guests sit at the bar inside Parallel Basta
A staff member at Parallel Basta labels jars of house-made tahini
A giant stone tahini mill at Toronto's Parallel Basta
Shelves at Parallel Basta are lined with jars of house-made tahini
Shelves at Parallel Basta are lined with jars of house-made spice blends for sale
Shelves at Parallel Basta in Toronto's Kensington Market are lined with cookbooks and bags of granola
The takeout window at Parallel Basta in Toronto's Kensington Market
Aharon Ozery passes an order out of the restaurant’s handy takeout window

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