Back off, get your own Geary!
Parellel Brothers: Experience meets Dedication
So enamoured am I by the neighbourhoods of our great city, though one is fast-becoming my favourite. It’s so charming in that ‘I found $20 on the street’ kind-of-way: the block of Geary Ave. between Dufferin and Dovercourt, still home to a large Portuguese community, is seeing a food renaissance. It is quickly becoming a destination for Toronto’s food and beverage lovers, flocking to the likes of The Greater Good Bar, which hosts the northern outpost of North of Brooklyn Pizzeria, and is one of the best craft beer bars in the city, then Blood Brothers Brewing, also putting out some of the best craft beer, as well as Famiglia Baldassarre, the Italian crafter featuring an extensive lunch service and freshly made take-out pasta, and finally, their neighbour, Dark Horse Espresso Bar. These are the new guard; you will also find some bustling neighbourhood favourites that have been around for a long time, still thriving.
MEATing Chefs is my love letter to the hospitality industry, and the friends who have accepted me as their own. I so respect the craft and artistry of transporting me somewhere else through food; Chef Tomer Markovitz takes me to Tel Aviv every time I walk into the bustling restaurant on this newly transforming stretch of Geary Ave, Parallel Brothers.
Picture your favourite food memory. Where are you? What are you eating? What is the environment like? For me, Parallel is Israel, but also North Africa and the Middle East, with Mediterranean touches. I spend way too much time there; the food is so good, it will likely change the entire scene in Toronto, and cause other restaurants to up their game.
For me, Parallel is Israel, but also North Africa and the Middle East, with Mediterranean touches. I spend way too much time there
I sat down with Tel Aviv-born Chef Markovitz for a chat. We learned a lot about each other, and the similarities of learning about food from our mothers and our Jewish grandmothers (his, from Libya). We both agree that there is not much better than memories of smells and tastes of growing up around amazing women. Our houses were social centres, with so many siblings (I have two sisters, he has three brothers); there were always people around who were being fed. No declining.
This kind of hospitality drove Tomer to become a chef, and show friendliness though food, to craft and stimulate the senses – his objective.
We discuss what to call Parallel’s food, a difficult task since the influences are so broad and Tomer wants to be respectful of all of the cultures represented. We could call it New Middle Eastern or New Mediterranean. It is the food of many regions and peoples, interpreted by one man’s vision, an intersection of cultures, presented on a plate.
“Seeing what people see, and how we think, act and move, growing up in the tumultuous 90s in Israel…we developed out of poverty, pain, managed to overcome, but we don’t know how to make it stop. I want to use food to bring people together, because it can. I don’t care what your background is, if I put food in front of you, I expect you to eat it, and we can sit down and talk.
This is about showing respect for one another, as humans; if I don’t even know you, how can I hate you? Let’s just eat good food and know one another. Good food, made proper, with respect and without compromise…that isn’t about politics.”
Top-quality ingredients are Parallel’s focus, and through dedication and technique, turned into creations that are making Torontonians instant fans.
And did I mention the tahini? The150-year-old Syrian stone press on site churns out raw tahini – used in every dish on the menu – and available to take home in plain, smoked and my favourite, beet.
I want to use food to bring people together, because it can. I don’t care what your background is, if I put food in front of you, I expect you to eat it, and we can sit down and talk.
Tomer pays special attention to where every ingredient comes from; often spending more than he has for the very best. That is some higher-level diligence. “Ingredients are everything, but how you treat them is more important,” he says. “Consistency is everything, it is how you elevate your food. Respect the ingredient.”
Legumes, vegetables and tahini are stars here, the land-based proteins almost an afterthought. Ninety per cent of the menu is vegetarian, but that isn’t the focus.
If you don’t eat the beautiful pillowy pita, you can enjoy an entirely gluten-free meal, which is less intentional, and more an expression of the food that is Parallel and Chef Markovitz.It is his homage to Israel, and the over 160 cuisines that have inspired his career.
Consistency is everything, it is how you elevate your food. Respect the ingredient.
In Toronto, you have neighbours from multicultural backgrounds, and distinct cultural neighbourhoods. In Israel, it is all mixed, and you have someone like Tomer, who is Italian-Libyan-Austrian-Hungarian, who grew up with people whose backgrounds are Yemenite, Polish, Moroccan, and more, which led to the arsenal expressed on Parallel’s menu.
It has been a long road for the 29-year-old, but we should be glad he landed on Geary. There is such passion in his food; everything needs to be perfect. This is the gold standard, and a memory you will carry forever. You no longer need to travel by plane to taste true Israeli food. Once you go, you will understand why I eat there at least once a week, if not 2-3 times. I think, by now, you trust me, and will take it upon yourself to say hello to Tomer. Bete’avon!