Rose City Kitchen (RCK) in downtown Toronto serves up Mediterranean inspired fare for the on-the-go urbanite. It is the brainchild of food truck entrepreneur Shontelle Pinch, Tandoori restaurant franchise creator Nipun Sharma and their investors. “RCK’s mission,” Pinch said when it opened, “is to change the way you experience the delightful cuisine of the Mediterranean region.”
I would say they’ve succeeded. The wares at RCK are quite good and were served up fairly quickly. The Canuck in me longed to try their variation on the quintessential Canadian dish: poutine. While crisp fries drizzled with hummus, tabbouleh, fried carrots, aioli and shredded halloumi sounded incredible, I opted for the Egyptian box meal instead. It comes with rice, eggplant, red onions, chickpeas, cabbage, dates, lemon juice and garlic oil. An additional protein is offered for a nominal charge; I asked for halloumi cheese, but since they were out, I chose the chicken. The Egyptian was amazing and extremely tasty for the most part, although the rice in the Egyptian was a little chewy.
All box meals, including the Egyptian box meal I had, are $8.85 without any protein. Prices for meals at Rose City Kitchen range from $3.50 for a Moroccan salad up to nearly $9 for their box meals, with an additional $2 added for a protein of your choice. Smaller portions or snacks, like falafel balls, can be had for 55 cents a piece (or $3 for a half dozen, $5 for a dozen), or you can munch on a pita for a mere loonie.
For the health-conscious consumer, this diet is low in saturated fat and high in monounsaturated fat and dietary fibre. Olive oil, fresh herbs and vegetables, dairy and seafood (and chicken and beef to a lesser extent) make healthy eating truly palatable . The act of eating and drinking also takes on a profound social and cultural component in this region—a bonafide way of life that we could take heed of in our hectic western lifestyles.
RCK is named after Petra, the rose-coloured stone city along the Mediterranean coast on the southwest corner of modern-day Jordan. It’s been called “a splendid synthesis of the hand of God and man’s genius” by Queen Noor of Jordan. A hub within the international spice trade for hundreds of years, it was once the capital city of the Nabataean trading empire. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985 and a Jordanian National Park since 1993.
Dominated by a large black and white, Ansel Adams-esque photo of Petra on one wall, the décor is fairly sparse yet functional. Large windows bracket two walls, letting in plenty of natural light. It also serves to create an airy feel in a small, potentially claustrophobic space. A glass wall just beyond the front door has a giant emblazoned rose, with a short explanation regarding the origin of the restaurant’s name. The walls are painted red and white, and a half dozen high tables and metal stools cater to dine-in customers.
Lehel, Susan and Jasmine are a few such customers. Working close by, they come here for lunch regularly. “I always get the original [the RCK Original box meal],” offers Jasmine, “as it has lettuce, fries and sauces.” Her co-worker Lehel likes the reasonable prices; “and it’s very healthy. It beats having burgers or something like that.”
Rose City Kitchen has two locations serving the GTA; one at 406 Queen St. W. (just west of Spadina) and the other at 36 Toronto Street (two blocks east of Yonge at the corner of Adelaide and Toronto Sts). The first has been open a couple of years, while the latter location opened last March. They also offer delivery (by phone or on their website) and catering upon request. Azik, one of the proprietors at RCK, sums it up best: “[Our food] is not marketed as health food, but it is a good healthy alternative.”