This past Monday night, I had the privilege and pleasure to attend the grand opening event of Paramount Fine Foods at the Shops at Don Mills location. As per their post event wrap up sheet, this “Shops at Don Mills restaurant is one of 29 new Paramount locations to open this year. This is their second boutique style restaurant following their Yorkville location. Both are centered around sophisticated and modern finishings within a warm and inviting atmosphere. This new look and refined style will now be featured at all new Paramount Fine Foods restaurant locations moving forward.”
I was very excited to attend as I had actually never stepped into a Paramount Fine Foods restaurant before to try their Middle Eastern food. There are various locations all across the Greater Toronto Region already.
In addition to this momentous opening, the Toronto Raptors basketball front runner Jonas Valančiūnas was present to host the event and to partake in the ribbon-cutting ceremony. He was also joined by other notable community members and dignitaries such as Hon. John McCallum, Minister of Immigration, Refugees & Citizenships; Robert Oliphant, Member of Parliament for Don Valley West; Ahmed Hussen, Member of Parliament for York South – Weston; Councillor Jaye Robinson, Don Valley West – Ward 25; Councillor Jon Burnside, Don Valley West – Ward 26; Councillor Shelley Carroll, Don Valley East – Ward 33; Mohamad Fakih, President and CEO of Paramount Fine Foods; Nav Bhatia, Toronto Raptors Superfan; and Marty Martino, Down With Webster.
This was a tremendously impressive line-up of guests and I was very excited to see it all.
When I arrived at 6 p.m. (the event was slated to run from 6 to 8 p.m.), the entire restaurant was already packed with lots of people who had arrived and the restaurant was alive with energy and excitement. I signed in at the front desk before joining my friend Clarissa who had already arrived. There were so many guests and media personnel inside the restaurant ready for the event. The restaurant was designed and decorated beautifully and it was nice to know that all future locations of Paramount Fine Foods will also be designed in such a way..
There was a live DJ, DJ Low Key, who set the tone for the event by playing Top 40s songs mixed with modern Middle Eastern sounds. He was also accompanied by a live saxophone player. In addition to Middle Eastern food being showcased, there was Middle Eastern attire and culture demonstrated too. It was a very high-energy crowd and everyone was mingling.
We tried the first drink of the night, Namas-tea, a mocktail made with Persian saffron, Egyptian chamomile, dehydrated rose, local wildflower honey meyer lemon, bitter apricot, and citrus cloud. The servers in beautiful Middle Eastern gowns were handing these out. This was such a beautiful drink with flowers in it. I liked how refreshing it was yet sweet as you could really taste the wildflower honey in it. It was a really great drink that paired well with the food that was served!
We waited a while before we started trying some of the food samples since it was still early and no one had yet made a move on the food on the table. The food that was displayed came from their new menu but also included some Paramount Fine Foods classics and popular dishes.
First, we tried some of the manakeesh. A manakeesh is a “popular Levantine food consisting of dough topped with thyme, cheese, or ground meat”, and similar to pizza where you can have different toppings on it..
There were three types of manakeesh being served. First, I tried the one with beef and I liked how the dough of the manakeesh was so chewy and soft. The beef wasn’t overpowering at all.
The second one was a pizza and I loved how the cheese was so gooey!
The third one contained Za’atar, a classic topping, had thyme and sesame mixed with virgin olive oil. This one was really delicious and I understood why this topping is one of their most popular forms of manakeesh.
Then, we moved on to the main table where there was a huge assortment of food being displayed. Chef William certainly did an amazing job showcasing the favourites of what Paramount Fine Foods has to offer.
First, I tried the Hummus, a definite popular dish in any Middle Eastern establishment. This was presented in a small cute plastic container and layered with chick peas and greens. The hummus was so smooth and rich. It was delicious!
The Falafel was split into quarters so that everyone could get a taste of it. It was a mix of ground chick peas and vegetables fried in vegetable oil with a cherry tomato and some sauce. This was really good and the flavour was also rich.
The Tabliyeh Saj Chicken Shawarma that I tried was fabulous. The chicken shawarma contained shredded lettuce, pickles, and garlic sauce wrapped in a pita bread. This was part of their new menu items. (Tabliyeh Style means to serve on a wooden board.)
I adored the Grilled Shrimp! It was absolutely perfect in terms of tenderness, quality, and marination. I think everyone loved the shrimp and went back for more. The Shrimp Tower was done pretty quickly.
I’m not sure what the balls were called but I’ll refer them as “Fried Potato Balls”. These were balls which contained potato in them. I would have love to know what exactly this was.
The bite-sized portion of baklava was scrumptious! It was a tiny package of perfect sweetness that wasn’t too overwhelming and the pastry was nicely made. This was so good that I later went back for seconds!
After this brief snacking of food, the star of the night arrived! Toronto Raptors front runner Jonas Valančiūnas was in the house! He arrived through the front doors and all of a sudden, you could see so many people rushing towards him to try to get a picture. The crowd was intense! He was moving across the restaurant to get to the electronic basketball net that was situated at the corner of the restaurant to do an interview with CityTV. Everyone had their phones and cameras up to take pictures of him.
He then did some dunks with the TV anchor while blindfolded before moving back to the front entrance of the restaurant where he partook in the ribbon-cutting ceremony with the owners, Zaid Saoor and Alaa Sabbagh, and Minister of Immigration, Refugees & Citizenships, Hon. John McCallum.
After the commotion, fellow food blogger and friend, Anh, Clarissa, and I were able to get an individual photo with the tall basketball star. It was pretty cool! 🙂
After that, we continued trying out the rest of the food!
The Strawberry Juice and Mango Juice were to die for! The strawberry juice was so fresh and sweet while the mango juice tasted of sweet, ripe mangoes. I really enjoyed their juice!
The Tabbouleh Salad was also put into a small plastic container with a cute tiny fork and garnished with a stem of greenery. The tabbouleh was fresh and refreshing!
Next up, I tried the Moutabbal which was similar to the hummus in terms of consistency but it was made with grilled eggplant instead of chickpeas and topped with pomegranate seeds. It also had tahini sauce and virgin olive oil and was beautifully presented. This one tasted quite “smoky” but the pomegranate seeds helped to balance out the smoky flavour. I would say that I liked the hummus more than the moutabbal.
I also got a chance to try the beef version of the Tabliyah Saj Shawarma. This one was also great but I think the chicken version had more flavour and was packed with more ingredients. I would love to try more of this again though in order to fully taste and savour it. 🙂
By now, the crowd had died off significantly since the ribbon-cutting had finished, Jonas had settled down for some dinner himself (there was no pictures allowed while he was eating XD), and some of the media had left since the event was winding down. Before we left though, Clarissa and I went to the bar to ask to try the second drink of the night, “April Showers with May Flowers”. This was made with cucumber, key lime, dill, mint, cherry blossom, elderflower, co2, and edible flowers.
Clarissa and I had seen people with this drink all night long but hadn’t tried it yet so we were very grateful when the bartenders at the bar made these for us when we inquired about it. This drink was quite sour and was the perfect pick-me-up if you were feeling any sort of itis during the event. Since it contained dill and key lime, it really helped to open up your appetite for more food if you were up for it. It was also creatively presented. We both tried the edible flowers too and it was a good experience since it didn’t taste too flowery.
By 8 p.m., the staff started to prepare for their next event (the notice on their door stated that their private event would be running until 10 p.m. so they had another opening event lined up). We played around with the selfie screen by the door before we left and called it a night.
I was really grateful for Alessandra of Liquid Communications to invite me to this event so that I could help them promote the opening of Paramount Fine Foods at Shops at Don Mills. This was such a beautiful location with such amazing food that I know it will be very popular in the coming months. I can’t wait to try more of the food from Paramount Fine foods!
Thank you again for the opportunity to attend this event and for the meet-and-greet with Jonas Valančiūnas! Although I am not a big basketball or Raptors fan, it was a privilege to meet someone in the sports industry who is so well known and has many thousands of fans! There’s always something new to learn and to experience and I’m glad I got to do so here. 🙂
FTC Disclaimer: Although Liquid Communications invited me to a complimentary media event to showcase this restaurant, the opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of the companies.