It was just two months ago when I enjoyed an exciting travel-centric email exchange with my dad. I promised him last year that I would carve out a moment for him to join me on a work trip in 2018 as he had patiently stayed home last winter as I took my mother to Langkawi and Bali, and sister to Taiwan and The Philippines.
So when I told my father I’d like him to join me on a luxurious tour of Morocco this Spring I think he may have fallen out of his chair with glee. As fate would have it, my birthday took place just two weeks before we’d be departing for Casablanca…and since my parents have a tradition of celebrating with me each year at a restaurant of my choosing…I thought a fine feast at Atlas Restaurant would be a perfect way to prepare ourselves for the fragrant aromas and tantalizing textures of Morocco.
Located just north of Yorkville on Dupont Street, Atlas Restaurant is a teeny-tiny restaurant with just twenty(ish) seats. The French-Moroccan concept is brought to you by the award winning culinary team behind Cava and Chabrol.
The restaurant’s Chef Doug Penfold fell in love with the sights and smells of Morocco after eating his way through Southern Spain and happening upon the towns and cities of Northern Morocco. He’s named Atlas after the epic mountain range which stretches from Tunisia to Morocco and his menu reflects the regional diversity of Moroccan food culture.
Moroccan cuisine is underrepresented in Toronto so it’s no wonder that Atlas’s elevated dishes and drinks recently landed it on Toronto Life’s Best New Restaurants 2018. Wag your finger down Chef Penfold’s Moroccan menu and you’ll find a mouth-watering list of shareable snacks; a few fresh salads; and hearty entrees that focus on the country’s ubiquitous tagine.
My dad and I amped ourselves up for our Moroccan adventure by spooning through a parade of pretty plates. Highlights include Eggplant Zaalouk & Jben scooped up with flaky flatbread, a sweet-meets salty salad featuring blood orange, fennel and olives, perfectly plump Beef Kefta, tender spiced chicken leg with creamed spinach, pine nuts and apricots, and a steaming tagine with tender goat, crunchy okra and sweet squash.
Eggplant Zaalouk & Jben | charcoal-grilled eggplant dip with tomato, cayenne, lemon, cilantro, fresh creamy cheese of buttermilk and thyme, flaky pan-fried flatbread
Blood Orange and Fennel Salad | mint, sun-dried black olives, roasted hazelnuts
Beef Kefta | aromatic beef meatball with pomegranate and mint
La Kama-Spiced Leg of Chicken | roasted boneless chicken leg with apricots, pine nuts, creamed spinach
Tagine of Roasted Goat | okra, chickpeas, squash
Roulade of Lavender and Sesame | blackberry puree, poached pears