It was on a perfect, sunshine-filled Autumnal afternoon in November when I visited Toronto’s newest attraction, the Aga Khan Museum. The museum officially opened its doors on September 12, 2014 after a ribbon cutting by His Highness the Aga Khan and Stephen Harper (then Prime Minister of Canada). An inaugural concert was performed by the Silk Road Ensemble with acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma in the museum’s new auditorium. Following the events pomp and panache, Toronto’s who’s who welcomed the new cultural institution with glee.
Over the course of the past year I have witnessed a slew of inspired images from the museum’s visitors pop up on social media. It was clear that lovers of architecture, design, art and Arabia had found a new playground on home turf. But was there anything to eat?
Just before skipping into the museum’s entrance I couldn’t help but feel as though I was standing in front of an Egyptian sun temple (an homage to light courtesy of architect Fumihiko Maki). It was shortly after noon when a flicker of crimson flooded the museum’s entrance, blinding me for a brief moment before I spilled into the dinning room at Diwan.
Chef Mark McEwan’s new menu is inspired by the culinary traditions of the Middle East, North Africa and the Indian subcontinent. The restaurant’s elegant interior features 19th-century wooden panels hand-carved and painted in Damacscus while floor-to-ceiling windows overlook an intimate patio, offering a breathtaking view of the formal garden designed by Lebanese-Serbian landscape architect Vladimir Djurovic.
If you’re headed to the Aga Khan Museum for the first time may I suggest: upon arrival take a stroll through the ornate-meets-ancient collection before slipping into Diwan for a feast inspired by the flavours of Morocco, India, Egypt and beyond. It’s the ultimate multi-sensory jaunt for those keen on finding Arabian inspiration from pretty paintings to steaming plates.
1) Moroccan Wedge Salad | iceberg lettuce, carrots, peppers, grape tomatoes, pickled red onion, cilantro mint dressing, tamarind chutney, crispy daal
2) Lamb Kibbeh | toasted pine nuts, golden raisins, citrus tahini, shirazi salsa
3) Chermoula-Marinated Prawns | roasted heirloom carrots, avocado, labneh, orange-cumin vinaigrette
4) Crisp Manakeesh | braised beef short rib, pickled shallots, akkawi cheese, charred eggplant spread, pomegranate molasses
5) Grilled Beef Shish Kebab | brown zataar butter, chickpea puree, sticky saffron onions, roasted heirloom beets