Now Open: Babel Restaurant

(Cindy La)

TORONTO — Oliver & Bonacini Hospitality (O&B) has launched a new concept in Toronto at York Mills Shopping Centre. Babel Restaurant celebrates Mediterranean fare and live-fuel cooking and features a stylish dining room, bespoke bar, large private-dining space and a chef’s rail along the open kitchen.

Anthony Walsh, O&B’s corporate executive chef, led Babel’s culinary vision, paying tribute to the ingredients, flavours and culinary traditions of countries that border the Mediterranean Sea — including Greece, Morocco, Israel and Libya.

“Hearth-based cooking is at the heart of Babel,” says Walsh. “There’s no better sensation than walking into a restaurant where you can smell the smoke and see the flames. We’re excited to be able to share this sensory experience with our guests, all within a relaxed dining space.”

Babel’s daily kitchen operations will be run by chef de cuisine Aviv Moshe — a self-taught chef with experience cooking alongside Israeli celebrity chef Moshe Segev. Born in Montreal but raised in Tel Aviv, Israel, Moshe returned to Canada in 2013 and settled into Toronto’s culinary scene.

“My goal is to blow guests away with flavour — whether it’s a colourful and crunchy salad with a punchy vinaigrette or a slow-cooked charcoaled lamb shoulder oozing with warmth and spice,” says Moshe. “This type of cooking is home for me, so I am thrilled to be able to show off what I know the best.”

Babel’s menu features range of breads, dips and salads, as well as meat, seafood and vegetables. Sharable starters include roasted cauliflower with yoghurt, sunflower seeds and pomegranate ($18) and Lamb Meatball Bites with tahini, barberries, pine nuts and mint ($13). Main dishes from the hearth include an 8-oz beef-tenderloin kebab with rice, grain and ginger pilaf, greens and garlic tomatoes ($29); a B.C. black cod with beet tahini, heirloom carrots, herbed couscous and red grapes ($36); and stuffed eggplant with garlic béchamel, spinach and roasted peppers ($18).

The restaurant’s wine list leans heavily on Mediterranean varietals from France, Italy, Greece and Portugal, and features two whites and two reds on tap. Eight beers are offered on tap, as well as Tuborg and Mythos by the bottle as a nod to Mediterranean brewers. A mocktail menu offers eight non-alcoholic alternatives and a Turkish-coffee program is in development, as well as a custom Sloane tea blend.

The 134-seat space was designed by Toronto-based DesignAgency and features a thoughtful mix of modernism with cozy familiarity. A feature yellow-agate stone bar with an oversized, arched back bar is complete with smoked mirrors and custom black-metal shelving. Sculptural ribbed booths in velvet and distressed green leather provide an enveloping and intimate experience for diners. A 45-foot wall mural by Moss & Lam studio is reminiscent of historic cave paintings, executed in a modern style with black linework and textured detailing. Custom-designed arched windows with smoked seeded glass add to the overall mood of Babel’s space.

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