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Celebrity food critic Keith Lee blown away by Toronto visit

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Celebrity food critic Keith Lee said he was blown away by Toronto, handing a rich ranking to its culinary creators, as the first international stop of his latest food tour.

“Toronto might be one of the top three places we’ve been to on this food tour,” Lee declared in a video posted on Sunday as he departed the city.

Lee, a Las Vegas-based food reviewer who has more than 16 million followers on TikTok, ventured to Toronto on his FamiLee Food Tour, after visiting Arizona, Indianapolis and Hawaii. They spent over a week in Toronto driving across the city and its suburbs, unleashing the “Keith Lee Effect” on local businesses.

After each of Lee’s visits, lines looped outside of the institutions he sprinkled his praise on. Wait times doubled for a shawarma spot in Scarborough while a tiny bakery in Ajax had to shutdown just to prepare for the weekend rush, and a pizza spot downtown had to take a day to restock their depleted supply.

“For this to be the first international food stop, I did not expect this reception, my mind was blown,” Lee said as he summarized his stay in Toronto, and the boom in business he left in his wake.

In the span of just over a week, Lee reviewed seven restaurants in the city. Here's a look at how he ranked them:

Food critic Keith lee visits Toronto, ranking it among the top three on his latest food tour.

Sumaq Iraqi Charcoal Grill

To launch the Toronto leg of Lee’s food tour, he started at a shawarma spot in Scarborough, Ont.

For overall taste, Lee ranked the chicken shawarma an 8.2 out of 10 and the veal an 8.4 out of 10, favouring the single proteins over the mix of veal and shawarma wrapped in one.

“I feel like this is going to be one of our most interesting food tours yet,” Lee said.

Biscuits to Baskets

Next, Lee headed to what he called a “super Canadian” bakery located in a backyard shed in Ajax, Ont.

While Lee said that sweets aren’t in his wheel house, he gave the Korean sponge toffee latte an eight out of 10. “That’s unique. It’s real good,” Lee said.

He ranked the carrot cake with cream cheese icing a seven and the banana loaf a 7.2 out of 10. 

“We’re definitely all in shock, overwhelmed, but we’re really excited to see what comes of it,” Victoria Fliegel, Biscuits to Baskets shop manager, previously told CP24.

Afro’s Pizza

For his lone stop in downtown Toronto, Lee visited a “very, very tiny” pizza shop, starting with a mac and cheese that acquired a glowing 8.5 out of 10.

Lee handed a pepperoni pizza with hot honey and pickled jalapeno a 9 out of 10 while a samosa pizza got a 7.5 out of 10.

Lee left a $3,000 tip and another $1,000 for Afro's Pizza to hand out free slices for the rest of the night.

“Once he left, we gave away free pizza to people for three hours,” owner Rodney Best told CP24 last week. 

Sisters and Co.

Lee, a self-proclaimed eggs benedict connoisseur, ranked this restaurant’s take on the classic breakfast dish a 7.7 out of 10.

For the waffles, dipped in a blueberry compote, with a zesty, soft buttery texture, Lee elevated his ranking to a nine out of 10 for the brunch spot with locations in Toronto and Markham, Ont. 

Tasting a dense stack of earl gray pancakes, Lee claimed he couldn’t taste the notes of tea, but deemed the taste “still really good,” giving it an 8.5 out of 10.

Old Nassau

This Bahamian treasure snagged the highest ranking on Lee’s list in Toronto.

“In my opinion, this [line] should be out the door. This is the best food we’ve had since we’ve been here,” Lee said.

For his first dish from the Bahamas, Lee took a dense, buttery pancake, spreading guava butter and fried snapper on it, and giving it a 9.6 out of 10. “I’d wait two hours for this,” Lee said.

The fried chicken didn’t quite reach the same level of awe, receiving a more generic 7 out of 10.

No 1. Jerk

On the opposite side of the scale, Lee’s first and last Jamaican stop took the lowest ranking on his Toronto trip.

The visit took off to an odd start with an employee admitting she was hungover and initially messed up Lee’s order. After noting the customer service blip, Lee gave the Jerk chicken sandwich a 6.5 out of 10, the curried goat a 7.5 out of 10, and the oxtail with rice and peas a 6.5 out of 10.

The jerk spot responded to Lee’s review with an apology on Instagram from the owner who explained he was out of town and pledged to personally serve the critic next time he’s in town.

Sahan Restaurant

Lee tasted a traditional Somali dish, goat and rice, and gave it an 8.2 out of 10, acknowledging that it might not be everyone’s cup of tea.

The beef stew, which Lee claimed tasted “like pot pie” got a sturdy 8 out of 10 while he ranked the milk cake an 8.5 out of 10 for taste, but a 3.5 for texture.  

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