The Aga Khan Museum is a complex devoted to Islamic Art. It is a cultural and religious complex showcasing one of the world’s top collections in this milieu.
The museum also happens to house a restaurant called Diwan, where the food is inspired by the Middle East, North Africa and the Indian Subcontinent. The restaurant has had growing pains, transformations in its short life and is now on its third executive chef. Mark McKewan is now in control and he has tried to offer dishes of traditional flavours and a modern flare in terms of ingredients and presentation, and bold flavours.
The restaurant is located at 77 Wynford Drive in the Don Mills area. It is a little difficult to find if you are not familiar with the area. The entrance on the right side once you enter the museum. The 65 seat space has an elegant interior with floor to ceiling windows that fill the restaurant with natural light and look out onto a lovely patio and garden. The restaurant features 19th-century wooden panels that are hand carved and painted. It evokes the luxury of a 19th-century private Syrian home. The views and ambiance are superb. The landscaped grounds are on seventeen acres.
The restaurant is open for lunch only on Tuesday to Sunday. In the beginning, they experimented with dinners but we’re not getting a large enough crowd to warrant them staying open. This could be because of the unusual location and the museum being closed in the evenings.
The food was decent, especially for a museum restaurant. I can’t think of another except possibly Frank at the AGO, but I have never been a fan of dining there. New York and Miami comes to mind when I think of museums with good restaurants, such as the MoMA or the Perez.
We started with some grilled octopus with chickpeas, olives, sweet peppers in an Aleppo pepper aioli. The dish had a lovely presentation and the octopus was tender with a nice char to it. The imam bayildi is a smoked eggplant with tahini yogurt, pine nuts and pomegranates served back in the tiny eggplants on a bed of couscous. Again a lovely presentation, but I would have preferred a little more spice. The sumac fries came with two dips, a garlic aioli and a tamarind ketchup.
Our main course of ricotta manti was quite good. It was a braised lamb ragout, with cheese filled dumplings with yogurt, dry mint and chili pepper oil, but it was not spicy at all. I recommend getting a side of naan bread to dip in the sauce. Another good dish was the aloo gobi. In India they make this cauliflower dish which is traditionally cut in small pieces or puréed, but here they serve it whole, with chaat masala potatoes,and sweet peas in a burnt onion raita.
We washed this down with two of their fruit juices. Mine was cactus, pear and lychee juice. I just added soda so it wouldn’t be too sweet. The other drink we tried was watermelon lemonade. I really couldn’t taste the watermelon at all.
There were 4 dessert choices, such as a panna cotta, some sort of cake and ice creams, but we were too full after this large lunch to indulge.
Our server was excellent – he was fast, efficient, friendly and helpful with suggestions as well as explaining some of the history of the beautiful decor to us.
The place was full on a Saturday lunch, so I suggest reservations on a weekend. I don’t think I would make a special trip here just for lunch, it isn’t a culinary experience, but I think it makes for a great afternoon if you combine it with a tour of the museum, which is the first of its kind in North America. The place is really an urban oasis and aesthetically pleasing, right in our great city of Toronto.
Weather permitting, I suggest lunch or a drink on the terrace.