Ever since I had truffle oil fries at the Toronto Christmas Market back in December, I developed a craving for it. Since my friend Anila and I had a show in Toronto, I wanted to satisfy that craving.
I didn’t want to hurt my bank account, so I looked for a truffle pasta dish that was under $20. I looked everywhere. I was about to give up on my truffle pasta hunt until I remembered about Cafe Landwer. On the menu, they had a truffle pasta dish that was $17! P-E-R-F-E-C-T. What was even better was the location of Cafe Landwer. Since our show was at Roy Thomson Hall, Cafe Landwer had a location that was super close.
It was located on University and Adelaide, nearby the Shangri-La Hotel. Located on the corner of the intersection, the outside has yellow lights, so you can’t miss it!
The history of Cafe Landwer is actually quite interesting. Founded by Moshe Landwer, the restaurant originated as a cafe in Berlin, Germany back in 1919. When WWII broke out, Mr. Landwer moved the cafe to Tel Aviv, Israel. In the early 2000s, the cafe became a chain throughout various locations in Israel. In 2017, it opened its first Canadian location in Toronto.
Cafe Landwer is a mix of Mediterranean and Italian cuisines, which one will notice by taking a glance at the menu. Also, there are vegan and gluten-free options. I wish I got a photo of the interior because it really had a European restaurant/cafe vibe going on. We also got sat in a vintage pub-style booth. The place did get packed quickly after our arrival too.
Enough about the restaurant itself….let’s get onto the food!
Anila and I started off with the Roasted Eggplant in Tahini ($11). Served in a cast iron skillet, roasted eggplants are covered with sesame seeds, lemon garlic dressing, green onions, and a huge slab of tahini on top. It is also accompanied with either white or multi-grain bread.
On the menu, this particular dish was marked as vegan. And judging by what’s in it, there didn’t seem to be a sign of any animal by-product used. When this dish arrived, it was still sizzling and the bread was hot. We had to wait for it too cool down before eating it.
The eggplant was nicely roasted; it wasn’t burnt to a crisp or anything. The inside was a good mush, if that makes any sense. All the flavours complemented each other but the tahini did overtake in taste a bit. That’s probably because there was so much of it. The tahini did taste like hummus to me, which I like, so I liked it. Also, if you eat the dish with the bread, the carbs from the bread help balance everything out. But be sure to eat the bread as fresh as possible!
Like I mentioned, I was craving truffle oil. I ordered the Roasted Mushrooms Cream pasta ($17). The great thing about the pastas at Cafe Landwer is that they are made fresh, and you can either choose your pasta: Campanelle or Fettuccine. If you want vegan or gluten-free, it’s an extra $1.50. Since I prefer fettuccine, I went with that.
On the menu, the dish is described as “Cream sauce with fresh mushrooms, garlic, parmesan, truffle oil and fresh thyme.” Now, if anyone knows me personally, they know have a big appetite. When the dish arrived, it looked quite small to me but it was a lot of fettuccine. The pasta noodles were cooked al dente, which I prefer. You definitely taste the truffle oil but it felt like the mushrooms were competing with it for taste. The truffle oil and mushrooms didn’t really complement each other but neither had the stronger taste. They kind of were just there with each other. It wasn’t a bad thing but it just was confusing my taste buds.
As I kept eating, I felt like something was missing from this dish. And that’s when I remembered about the parmesan in that I had with the truffle oil fries. This dish came with parmesan but I tasted none of it. I’m also used to restaurants asking if I wanted extra parmesan on top but that didn’t happen either. Had I tasted parmesan or had more on top, this dish would have been a great one. The parmesan definitely would have added some texture, since the entire dish was creamy and smooth. Did this dish fulfill my truffle oil craving? For the most part it did.
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Now, I have to tell you about Anila’s dish. It was hilarious. Since we had pancakes, doughnuts, and a sandwich herself earlier that day, she didn’t want something too filling. Well, she got the opposite! She ordered the Halloumi Shakshouka ($16.95). On the menu, it’s described as ”Shakshouka with halloumi cheese and spinach. With a breakfast side salad, labneh, tahini, with a choice of white or multigrain bread.”
When it arrived, we were both shocked at how much it comes with. It was a very generous portion size and definitely very filling. So, if you are hungry, this definitely will fill your stomach. Anila couldn’t finish it, so I ate the rest. The shakshouka was alright. It was missing some spice to it. It had too much tomato taste that having a little bit of spice would have added some depth. Also, I’ve never had halloumi cheese before. I’m not sure how much of a fan I am. My mind kept telling me that it was potato because that’s what it looked like but it wasn’t.
As the menu says, it comes with labneh and tahini. I assume this is for the bread that is served with it. The tahini was the same as the Roasted Eggplant appetizer we had. But the labneh is one you should definitely add to the shakshouka. It tastes like Greek yogurt. It was creamy and light in taste, adding layers to the shakshouka dish.
We both wanted a fancy drink prior to our show but nothing from the bar menu appealed to us. Instead, we went for the Landwer’s Famous Iced Tea ($5.50). It’s passionfruit brew with mixed berries and fresh fruit.
The drink does come with fresh fruit: small chunks of orange and green apple are found inside. It also comes with a cinnamon stick to add some spice. It was a delicious drink. Honestly, this is the best way to describe it: cold mulled wine. If you love mulled wine, this drink is for you.
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Would I go back to Cafe Landwer? Yes. Our meals weren’t terrible but they weren’t wow-worthy either. However, since it did start as a cafe, I do want to try one of the coffees. And while this first experience was alright, I do want to try one of the schnitzel dishes, since those have an asterisk next to them on the menu. The service was excellent, so that always gets a plus in my books. In conclusion: not bad first eat but I feel like it deserves a second chance.