Canadian Chef Mark McEwen is well known in Toronto’s culinary scene. He has a show on the Food Network, The Heat, and his restaurants in the city are often discussed amongst food lovers. As I consider myself one of those, I had been eager to visit one of his locations. During our recent visit to the Aga Khan Museum, I finally had my chance when our family was invited to dine at Diwan. The restaurant is located inside the beautiful museum. And oh, what a menu we found! As a restaurant within a museum dedicated to connecting cultures through art, Diwan offers an innovative approach to Middle Eastern, North African, and South Asian culinary traditions. We were pleased to hear that the restaurant’s new chef, Sri Lankan-born Shen Ousmand of the McEwan Group, has brought some of the flavours of Colombo (where Yashy was born) into the family-style dining menu.
At some restaurants, I find myself skipping over every dish until I reluctantly land on the burger or the pizza. At others, I lament that I won’t be able to try everything that appeals to me. Diwan is in the later category. Broken up into Snacks, Starters, and Mains, the dining options at Diwan present some difficult choices. Thankfully, we had an excellent waiter to guide us through the available dishes.
Disclosure : We were guests of the Aga Khan Museum but, as always, opinions are TOTALLY ours!
Snacks and Starters at Diwan
The snacks we started with were the Onion Bhaji and the Pani Puri. Similar in look and flavour to a pakora, the bhaji was recommended to us by both our waiter and the chef. We were thankful that they brought it to our attention. Yashy and I both loved it, and so did the kids, so it’s an ideal snack to order for the whole family. Yashy and I both loved the Pani Puri as well. The snack menu itself is a nice touch. Diwan offers patrons the chance to dine indoors or to head outside to enjoy the sun on their fantastic patio. Allowing visitors the opportunity to enjoy a cocktail and some mid afternoon nibbles after seeing the exhibits is a great feature of the museum.
When it was time to pick a couple starters, we struggled and once again relied on the sage advice of our server, who guided us to the Salmon Kibbeh Nayyeh. I was hoping he would pick that! The other enticing options were Short Rib and Hummus and the Mini Lamb Kofta, a favourite of mine whenever I dine at a Middle Eastern restaurant. The Salmon is a Middle Eastern version of salmon tartare and I would now like to see all salmon tartare served Middle Eastern style. Seasoned with lemon and mint, and served with a crispy pita spiced with zatar and sumac, I relished eating this dish.
We ordered the Sizzling Tikka Platter for the kids. It’s available as a chicken, shrimp, or mixed dish and does indeed come out sizzling. Our kids seem to be down on chicken these days, unless it’s served nugget style, so it was nice to give them this succulent, lightly seasoned dish that came served with lots of green, red, and yellow peppers, one of the few vegetables that our kids really enjoy.
We also ordered a side of Sumac fries for the table. Heavily spiced and very tasty, they came served with an spicy aioli that made the dish very flavourful.
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Mains at Diwan
For our entrees, we stuck gold. I ordered the Braised Lamb Shank, which contained a bounteous amount of meat that slid from the bone at the mere touch of my fork. The leg rests on top of a delicious hummus and lamb reduction and is topped with an eggplant relish. On the side rests a coconut kale sambol. I would have a hard time going back to this restaurant and ordering anything else. The chef informed us that the menu is seasonal, with the next iteration being revealed in July, but he assured me that the popular lamb shank would remain on the summer menu.
Yashy decided on the Biryani, one of her favorite dishes. This dish changes daily at Diwan. The version on this afternoon featured crisped onions, chicken, and cashews. It was great and if you are a fan of Biryani, this one will satiate any craving you may have for the popular dish.
I had no room for desert but the kids have become wise to restaurant dining. They shared the Chicken Tikka Platter, which is on the starter menu, allowing them to save room for the sweet options. The dessert was a type of sponge cake served with cream and raisins on top, and it didn’t last long.
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The Aga Khan museum is a beautiful structure. It’s also a great place to take families. Our kids love the arts and crafts sessions that take place between 12 and 4 pm on the Sundays. In the museum’s auditorium that afternoon, we caught an incredible show that featured three diverse groups of performers. It’s worth checking out their upcoming show schedule. That way, you can time a visit to Diwan with a performance or film while also checking out the exhibits.