Empire Grill, Scarborough Scores Another Halal Restaurant
By Mubeen and Zakir
When I first saw the flyer for Empire Grill, I was a little uncertain of what to expect from them. Curious as to which cuisine they served, I did what any experienced (self-proclaimed) foodie would do, I went to check Halal Foodie’s new Halal Directory… only to find nothing there. Realizing that we’d be the ones to let other people know about our experience at the restaurant, my comrade and I made plans to pay them a visit.
Situated on the south-east corner of Markham and Ellesmere, Empire Grill’s entrance sits on Ellesmere and they share a parking lot with the neighbouring Masjid Al-Jannah, on the rear side. The establishment is two weeks new and sits beside a PizzaNova on the corner of the facility. Although its vibrant sign was hard to miss, even as we walked towards the restaurant and observed the simply decorated exterior, we still weren’t sure what to expect inside. Once we stepped in though, we felt a familiarity to other establishments we’ve dined at before.
Greeted by the owner hovering near the front desk, we took to our seats and observed the scene. The cozy venue can seat about 40 diners, with booths lined up along the walls, all under warm, ambient lighting. As we adjusted our eyes to the dim scene, we noticed that it was modestly decorated and made for a friendly and sociable experience. It was evident that Empire Grill was inspired by venues the likes of Affy’s and Crave Grill House, and when we started to read our menus we were reassured of their inspiration. Pastas, steaks, and gourmet pizza highlighted the menu, with varying choices of appetizers and salads. Despite the seeming influence, Empire Grill’s offerings are slightly unique. But unique enough to set them apart? We’ll have to see how they settle into their new business to find out!
A few minutes later, the owner, Siddique came to greet us and helped us through the menu. Friendly and charismatic, he highlighted the T-bone steak, BBQ ribs, and churrasco amongst other sandwiches and appetizers. Though we don’t usually eat steaks and ribs, we decided to order one of each upon his recommendation, as well as a gourmet pizza. Although the venue was empty, it took some time for our orders to come but, once it arrived, our eyes widened.
Our 12” 3-topping gourmet pizza ($10) looked delicious, its wafting aroma aroused our interest instantly. With a thin, crispy bottom, soft and chewy dough and oozing cheese seasoned with the Chef’s ‘secret’ combination of herbs, its texture was on-point and definitely better than your typical take-out. We opted for salami, roasted peppers and sundried tomatoes and thoroughly enjoyed every bite. The best part was being able to take home the leftovers, and looking forward to eating the rest the next day.
When Chef Siddique told me that the ribs would be worth the choice, he wasn’t kidding. An enourmous portion of BBQ ribs ($23) sat on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes and sautéed vegetables. The dish was completed by a coating of bbq sauce. I needed to request more sauce to finish the meal though, as it was a considerable amount of meat. It was a little tougher than I enjoy, however, it was flavourful and abundant none-the-less. The mashed potatoes stood out as well, with a hint of sweet and sour flavour. If only the dish came with a little more of the sides, it would have been a great meal. Nonetheless, I was pleased.
Zakir ordered the T-bone steak ($15), which came glazed with bbq sauce and was accompanied by mashed potatoes & gravy and sautéed vegetables. Asking for the steak to be well done left it chewier than his preference (he should have ordered it medium-well), although expressed it was still quite tasty and delicious. The mashed potatoes were highlighted by the gravy as they were quite flavourful, and the sautéed vegetables were soft and succulent. Though his jaw wasn’t used to this much chewing, he did enjoy the meal and would return again.
At the end, we were offered their complimentary tea and spoke to the owner for a little longer. He used to operate a South-Asian restaurant and over time decided to let it go, along with his grocery store, to open Empire Grill. He expressed his excitement to venture into this world and was looking forward to what the future holds. Open to comments and suggestions, he understood that it would be a work in progress. Noting that their service would need some improvement and that they should add a little more décor, they are still improving in different areas. However, this establishment is worth a visit and we would visit again to explore the rest of their menu.
Until then, we look forward to hearing your feedback.
Your Friendly Neighbourfood bloggers,
Cookie Mobster and Super Z
(Mubeen and Zakir)
Meat Source: Both chicken and beef are purchased from Madinah Halal, hand slaughtered halal sources.
2201 Ellesmere Road