North America’s first museum dedicated to Islamic art and culture, The Aga Khan Museum opened its doors in Toronto in 2014, offering visitors a window into worlds unknown or unfamiliar: the artistic, intellectual, and scientific contributions of Muslim civilizations to world heritage across the centuries. Created as a pillar for global pluralism, the Museum’s permanent collection of more than 1,000 artefacts includes masterpieces that reflect a broad range of artistic styles and materials, including portraits, textiles, miniatures, manuscripts, ceramics, tiles, medical texts, books and musical instruments that represent more than ten centuries of human history from a geographic area stretching from Spain, Sicily, Africa, the Balkans, Central Asia, China, India, and Southeast Asia.
Tucked away on a bright sunny corner of the museum's main floor is Diwan, which means 'spiritual room', the museum's elegant and refined restaurant, handsomely decorated with original panels from an 18th-century Damascus Mosque bought at auction in London by the Aga Khan. Few museums offer as beautiful a dining space as the one at this museum. Having taken over the restaurant and catering services from chef Patrick Riley just over a year ago, chef Mark McEwan and chef de cuisine John Kovac offer a menu inspired by Middle East, North African and Indian cuisine with appetizers such as Red Lentil Soup, Sweet Onion Bahji with tamarind chutney and Kibbeh Batata, a mushroom stuffed potato kibbeh with barley, minted sweet pea tabbouleh and Gorgonzola yogurt. A limited selection of entrées feature a Chicken Shawarma Salad, Harissa Glazed Salmon with asparagus, fennel purée and sun choke crisps, and a very interesting cumin-scented vegetarian Beetroot Burger made with beet and chickpea served with a dill mustard yogurt and mountain of frites.
Diwan lunch menu
Blood Orange Prosecco with Blood Orange Tea, Gin and Prosecco
Red Lentil Soup
Heirloom and Watermelon Salad with mint, basil, feta and pomegranate molasses
Beetroot Burger with beet and chickpea patty with dill mustard yogurt, onion, pickle, relish and tomato on a brioche bun served with frites
Warm Beet Salad with Goat Cheese-Filled Phyllo Purse
Recipe courtesy of Chef Mark McEwan
9 oz fresh goat cheese
1 tsp minced sage
1 tbsp minced parsley
Pinch of minced rosemary
Salt and pepper
16 oz phyllo pastry
3 tbsp butter, melted
20 - 24 mixed young beets: candy cane, golden, red cylinder, white etc.
18 pieces oven-dried tomato
1 handful per person arugula or red leaf lettuce
Preheat oven to 425°F. Place the mixed beets in a roasting pan large enough to accommodate them in a single layer. Add 2 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper, and toss well until evenly coated. Place on the lower rack of the oven for 45 mins. After 15 mins, turn the beets and lower the temperature to 350°F. Remove from oven, cool to room temp and peel.
Combine 6 tbsp maple syrup, 1/3 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup white wine vinegar, 3 tbsp walnut oil and salt and pepper. Whisk all ingredients together. This recipes makes 1 cup, however only 1/2 cup is required for the Beet Salad.
Preheat oven to 350°F. In a bowl mash the goat cheese with the sage, 1 tsp of the parsley, and the rosemary, and season lightly. Working quickly, cut the phyllo into six 9-by-12-inch sheets and stack them under a damp kitchen towel. Remove one sheet and brush it with melted butter, top with a second sheet, brush again with butter, and then do the same with a third sheet. Cut the three-ply sheet lengthwise into strips about 3 inches wide. Return two three-ply strips to rest under the damp towel.
Arrange one three-ply strip so that it faces away from you. Place a heaping tablespoonful of seasoned goat cheese towards the left hand side of the strip, about 1/2 inch in from the edges.
Fold the right comer up at a 45-degree angle to cover the cheese. Then flip the cheese envelope upward so that the bottom of the strip is straight again. Continue folding until the cheese is completely scaled in a triangular package. Place the package flap side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat to make five more packages. Brush the cheese purses with melted butter, sprinkle with the remaining parsley, and bake until golden, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut the beets into segments, then toss them with half the vinaigrette and arrange on a large platter. Scatter tomatoes and lettuce over the beets and then finish with the cheese purses. Serve with the extra dressing on the side.