The food at Paramount is pure comfort food: full of delicious, carby goodness, the kind that puts you into a food coma afterwards. And it’s also cheap.
Which is especially dangerous because, paired with the extremely long menu, it’s hard to pick which couple of things you want, and then you end up ordering far too much (because what’s one more thing when it’s only a few bucks more).
That’s exactly what happened this past week, when I was joined by the lovely Sarah B. Hood for lunch. I’ve been to Paramount a few times before and enjoyed the food each and every time. The restaurant is fairly large and also offers a take-away counter. I’d recommend trying to get a table in the airy and open upstairs loft, which overlooks the more crowded main floor of the restaurant.
The menu, as mentioned above, rambles at great length and I recommend that you go with a large group and try as many options as possible. On this specific occasion, Sarah and I decided to order a number of smaller dishes and split them all: hummus ($4.99), stuffed grape leaves ($5.99), a falafel sandwich ($4.99–an amazing deal), and two varieties of manakeesh, the spinach ($2.99) and the labneh with zaatar ($3.49). I also ordered the mango juice ($4.99) which was nicely refreshing and not overly sweet.
Two massive pieces of fresh puffed pita bread, still warm, were brought to the table along with our food. The pita bread had a welcome hint of sweetness, and is among the best I’ve had. The hummus had a wonderfully thick and creamy texture and leaned more towards the tahini (sesame paste) side of the flavour profile than the chickpea. The stuffed grape leaves (vegetarian – densely filled with rice, tomato, parsley and mint) were nice and lemony, and the grape leaf had a nice chew to it.
Manakeesh is like the Lebanese version of pizza–with dough acting as the base, and multitudes of potential toppings, it’s not surprising that there are over 20 variations available on Paramount’s menu. The labneh with zaatar was open-faced, with the dough smothered in the mild, creamy yogurt (the labneh) and a sprinkling of zaatar (a blend of herbs, including oregano, basil, savory, plus salt and sesame seeds). While it was good, the spinach manakeesh is my favourite; in fact, I have dreamt about this dish. It’s magic goodness is hidden within the dough triangle and not until you break it open do you see the thin layer of spinach and onions, speckled with sumac. The dough is slightly sweet, and there is a light, yet pervasive lemony taste to the dish.
The falafel sandwich (which I ordered mostly as an afterthought in case I was still hungry–hah!) was incredibly large, and could easily be a stand-alone meal for lunch. We ended up taking just a few bites, but what we had was delicious: the falafel wasn’t overly greasy, the turnips added a great crunch, and the acid from the pickles was nicely balanced. I ended up taking the rest home, and it capably withstood the few hours.
Now, if only I can convince this place to start buying me flowers, we’d have a long, wonderful future ahead of us.
Paramount Fine Foods
253 Yonge Street
Yonge Street, just south of Dundas Street