Owner Fadi Smaidi named his restaurant after his daughter, an adorable little girl with a big smile just like her dad’s. Having grown up in his family’s restaurant in Montreal, Smaidi continues the tradition of making his own customers feel like family in the newly expanded space on 124th Street. Along with the revamped interior – it’s about twice the size of the original – he’s added an espresso and wine bar, pastries and a few surprises (look for the squash soup) as specials. But overall, it remains familiar, with nods to Smaidi’s Montreal roots, such as the always reliable smoked meat sandwich, and Lebanese favourites like the chicken shawarma and platters that see fresh salads paired with plentiful amounts of rice and meat. The zesty fattoush and crisp Greek salads are always reliable bets, while the tabouli, which combines parsley, tomatoes, onions and cracked wheat, is a refreshing change of pace. -Caroline Barlott
This family-run restaurant operated for five years on Whyte Avenue before relocating to 93rd Street and 34th Avenue. Not much has changed – most of the Persian delicacies from its old menu remain, with a few additions, including a beef kebob and lamb stew. The food is excellent – the portions huge, the ingredients exotic and the meals authentic. Highlights include chicken thighs served with zereshk polow, a saffron rice sprinkled with barberries, and the fesenjoon, a pomegranate stew full of hearty chunks of chicken. Every bite is just familiar enough that it doesn’t seem like you’re eating something out of your comfort zone – instead, it’s exotic versions of food you already love. -Sydnee Bryant 9314 34 Ave., 780-758-1005, sabzy.net
Honourable Mention: TZIN WINE AND TAPAS
The tiny interior is as full of character as the ever-changing menu in this wine bar that sees Spanish tapas paired with vino. Boldly painted red walls and brightly coloured drapes create a friendly vibe further enhanced by the open kitchen where you can see the busy cooks preparing tiny plates that are big on flavour. Case in point: The lamb meatballs. The mix of spices, including cumin, coriander, cinnamon and pepper, infuses the tender meat, while the tomato and pecorino give a salty and fresh finish. Many of the appetizers go well with a similar wine, but if you want to branch out, this is the place to try different vinos with different dishes; the pairings are listed on the menu. -C.B. 10115 104 St., 780-428-8946, tzin.ca
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