When you think of Greek food in Toronto, it’s likely that the first area that comes to mind is the Danforth. But one of my favourite Greek meals in Toronto came from Mamakas Taverna (@), located on the trendy Ossington strip between Queen and Dundas.
Mamakas, which translates to “mama”, is owner Thanos Tripi’s homage to his mother’s recipes and his favourite meals from his childhood. According to their website, the space is “meant to mimic an open market, the room is built of white concrete blocks creating an effect similar to the stucco seen throughout Greece. Mamakas is a nod to heritage, history and family memories”.
The minute I stepped into the 85-seat restaurant, I fell in love with its beautiful décor and warmth it exuberated. It has a bright and airy feel with the white walls and string of lights lining the ceiling, making it feel as though you’re dining outside in a courtyard.
Mamakas is open Tuesdays to Sundays for dinner from 5:30pm and brunch is served on Sundays from 11am to 3pm. Reservations for weekend dinners are an absolute must and they aren’t easy to come by. I had a tough time getting a reservation for a group of 6 on a weekend so we had to settle for eating at 5:30. By the time we left the restaurant, Mamakas was packed to the brim.
The menu consists of starters ($6-$16), two salads ($14-$18), a couple seafood dishes ($18-$20) including a whole grilled fish of the day at market price, meat dishes ($26-$30) and a couple sides. Many ingredients used in the dishes are imported from Greece, as is all their wine and beer. While their dishes are meant to be shared, it’s best to come with a group of 4 as we found it difficult sharing everything between six people since the portions were on the small side.
To start, we tried three of the four housemade dips at Mamakas. First up was the Tzatziki ($7). It was thick, rich and definitely one of the better tzatziki’s I’ve had. But at this price, it had better be! You don’t get a heck of a lot of dip for $7. Another we tried was the Melitzanosalata ($7), a delicious roasted eggplant dip. The favourite at the table was the Kopanisti ($7), a spicy red pepper and feta dip which packs quite the flavour punch!
After we polished off the dips, the Atherina – fried Mediterranean smelts & lemon ($10) arrived. The tiny smelts were fried and seasoned to perfection. They were incredibly addictive and would make for a great bar snack.
Up next was the Kroketes – potato croquettes, feta, leek, spicy Florina pepper sauce ($10) which comes with four per order. It was a solid croquette but I didn’t find it anything special – just a bite-sized fried potato ball.
You’ll notice that the dishes are beautifully plated at Mamakas. A perfect example of this is the Goat Tartare – goat, beet, Galotiri, chili & mint ($16). It was a dish that tasted as delicious as it looked. Don’t be scared off by the goat. It’s quite similar to beef tartare.
You can’t come to a Greek restaurant without ordering a Greek salad. The Horiatiki – vine ripe tomatoes, red onion, Dodonis feta, cucumber, olive tapenade, Cookstown oregano ($18) isn’t your average Greek salad…but I’m also quite certain I’ve never paid $18 before for a Greek salad. It came with a delicious olive tapenade and a large slab of feta which we crumbled onto the rest of the salad. One of our friends mentioned that he’s not normally a fan of Greek salad but loved this one.
Up next was the beautifully prepared Spanikopita – spinach & feta filled phyllo pie ($12). Prepared in a coil resembling a snail, the flakey and delicate phyllo layers encased a rich spinach filling. It’s a great sharing appetizer and everyone at the table really enjoyed it.
We also ordered the Halloumi – squash, apple, kohlrabi, pecan ($14). I love halloumi and this dish didn’t disappoint. It’s a very mild cheese that has a nice chewiness to it. The apple and kohlrabi provided lightness to the dish and I loved the addition of the pecan bits which added some crunch.
From the seafood section of the menu we ordered the Oktapodi – grilled octopus, Santorini fava, caper, pickled onion ($20). When it arrived at our table, I was a little shocked at how small the portion was considering the steep price tag of $20. The octopus itself was quite tender and well-seasoned but I didn’t care for the fava puree which I found quite gritty.
Thankfully, Mamakas redeemed itself with the Paidakia – grilled Ontario lamb chops, bulgar, tzatziki ($30) which was my favourite dish of the evening. The grilled lamb was cooked impeccably to a nice medium rare and the meat was incredibly tender. The meat was complemented perfectly with the rich tzatziki and the light, refreshing bulgar salad. A total home run!
The Stifado – beef cheek, parsley root, onion ($26) was another killer meat dish. Like the lamb, the beef cheeks were very tender and packed full of flavour. It’s such a great winter dish which will leave your stomach feeling warm and satisfied.
One of the side dishes we ordered was the Tiganites Patates – hand cut potatoes, feta, cured egg, Santorini tomatoes ($8). Given that all the dishes that arrived before this were on the small side, we were all surprised to see this large bowl of potatoes arrive at our table. It’s a good thing it was substantial in size since they were quite addictive.
For dessert, we shared the Galaktoboureko - caramelized phyllo, chocolate custard, pomegranate ($10). It was a very delicate and dainty dessert. It was certainly tasty but it was a comically tiny portion for $10! Not worth it, in my opinion.
On the other hand, the Acchladi - pear cake, Mahleppi cream, red wine caramel, Ontario poached pears ($10) is something I’d order again in a heartbeat. Sure, it might not look as pretty as the chocolate custard but this knocked it out of the park. We all loved the moist pear cake with the little bites of poached pears.
While there’s no shortage of Greek restaurants in the city, there definitely is a lack of memorable ones. Mamakas certainly doesn’t fit into that category. We had such a wonderful meal here and I wouldn’t hesitate to come back. Just be warned, the prices are quite steep for the portion size so your meal could cost a pretty penny if you want to leave full.
At a glance:
- Serving up delicious Greek dishes on Ossington (between Queen and Dundas)
- Open Tuesdays to Sundays for dinner from 5:30pm; Sunday brunch from 11am to 3pm
- Reservations highly recommended; not a tiny restaurant but it gets really busy!
- Loved the food but the prices are quite high considering the portion size
- Highlights: house-made dips, fried smelts, grilled lamb chops, beef cheeks, pear cake
Ratings (out of 5):
- Food: 4 stars
- Service: 3 stars
- Atmosphere: 4.5 stars