Discover Armenian food and incredible cocktails at this Summerhill gem

Taline, a new(ish) spot in Toronto's Summerhill hood, is a love letter to Armenia dreamed up by three brothers. Plus, their cocktail program was sprinkled with magic from a Netflix-famous bartender.

Taline Toronto | A spread of fish, Ontario lamb and orange wine inside Taline's dining room

Taline: The vibe

The first thing that strikes me as I head to Taline is that I never come to the Summerhill neighbourhood. The second thing that strikes me as I enter the restaurant is how many people are here — on a Tuesday! For a city that is still awakening from a rough few years, it's a rare and beautiful thing to see a dining room so lively this early in the week. Perhaps Summerhill is where everyone has been hiding out?

Taline opened earlier this year, but its popularity hasn't waned. Named after chef Sebouh Yacoubian's late mother, the restaurant is an homage to the Armenian cooking he and his brothers Saro and Serouj (who also work at the restaurant) grew up with.

The dining room, split over two floors, is decorated with artwork by Toronto-based husband and wife duo, Karagusi. The clean and simple design belies the many personal touches added to honour the restaurant's namesake. Amongst the neutral tones, exposed brick and leather banquettes, keep your eyes peeled for a puzzle artwork whose interlocking T’s and S’s symbolize Taline and her three sons.

Head upstairs, past the black and white photographs of the Yacoubian family, and the vibes are similar — only with more of an indoor-outdoor vibe. The private dining room, which also houses overflow guests like myself, is home to a seven-foot olive tree, plus stained-glass windows and a beautiful skylight above. There's also a wine cellar filled with delicious expressions from notable and lesser-known world wine regions. 

Taline: What's on the menu

Prior to opening Taline, Sebouh Yacoubian was the head chef at Ossington's Mamakas Taverna.  Inspired by his mother's cooking, Yacoubian wanted to share Armenian food with the people of Toronto. Aware that this might be many diners' first foray into the cuisine, the team is well-versed in walking guests through the menu items. 

There's plenty of Lebanese influence, seen in dips made from feta and fermented cheese, as well as the babaghanoush, labneh and hummus. Everything on the menu at Taline is made from scratch and many of chef Yacoubian's dishes utilize traditional Armenian techniques. Taline also sources Armenian food like rehan (purple basil), cantaloupe leaves and oortz (wild mountain thyme).

My favourite dish is the fall-off-the-bone tender vochkhar; Ontario-raised lamb chops, butchered in-house and adorned with Ras El-Hanout and thyme, served with a side of jajekh (Armenia’s version of tzatziki) and bulgur salad. 

Taline: What to drink

Fans of Netflix's Drink Masters will be pleased to learn that one of the show's contestants had a hand in crafting Taline's cocktail program. Tao Zrafi, the Tunisian-born finalist known for his penchant for milk punches and eclectic hats, collaborated on the flavourful list of cocktails on offer. "His familiarity with Middle Eastern flavours really helped us capture the essence of Taline,” says chef Sebouh.

All of the drinks I try are inventive and delicious, and peppered with Armenian staple flavours and ingredients — including apricot, the national fruit. But the one that really stops me in my tracks is the Anjar. Creamy and delicious, the cocktail blends pineapple rum, coconut and pandan (a tropical plant), jasmine and egg white for a fun spin on a piña colada. Unique ingredients like Armenian brandy, hojicha tea, cardamom and harissa syrup take Taline's cocktail program up a notch beyond the average classic cocktail riffs to a show-stopping level.  

Diners can also order hard-to-find Lebanese and Armenian wines by the bottle and glass, which beverage manager Saro Yacoubian was keen to make available. One thing's for sure — even the most well-travelled palates will find plenty of culinary adventures to dive into at Taline.  

Dinner and drinks for two: around $160 before tax and tip