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PEOPLES EATERY (307 Spadina, at Dundas West, 416-792-1784, peopleseatery.com, @peopleseatery) Complete dinners for $35 per person, including tax, tip and a 20-ounce pint of Sour Krautlager. Open daily 5 pm to 2 am. No reservations. Licensed. Access: two steps at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN
Fine dining is over.
How else to explain the popularity of restaurants that don't take reservations, where the music's so loud you can't hear yourself think let alone what anyone says, and the menu consists of bite-sized nibbles that wouldn't be out of place on some cocktail-party canapé tray?
Not so quietly launched in Chinatown five weeks ago by the team behind the permanently slammed 416 Snack Bar, Peoples Eatery checks all those boxes. Like his original menu at the 416, co-owner/chef Dustin Gallagher's card is a mashup of multiculti comfort food in bite-size form, in this case a collision of Cantonese and deli to reflect the ever-changing nabe. Didn't Ginsberg and Wong do something similar back in the 80s?
And so we get mini-medallions of cold chicken dressed à la Chinois with ginger-scallion relish ($6 for two), and a knish stuffed with caramelized cabbage, a traditional dollop of sour cream to finish ($5). Crostini-like bagel toasts come cautiously heaped with cured sablefish, sturgeon and tobiko flying-fish roe infused with green wasabi ($6 for two), while the compressed watermelon popsicles gilded with puréed avocado, crumbled feta and slivered Thai bird chilies - confusingly labelled "salad ($5 for three)" - have the makings of a signature dish.
A pair of meaty Katama Bay oysters show up deliciously steamed in yuzu ($6). A teensy fried tongue sandwich on a house-baked pretzel buns arrives garnished with pickles and hot dog mustard ($7), and four deep-fried cubes of tofu get drizzled General Tso-style with hoisin, lime and Sriracha ($4). It's hard to say no to chopped liver on toast, especially when it's augmented with seared foie gras ($9).
And isn't that NOW drinks columnist Sarah Parniak behind the bar?
Diminutive squares of coconut chiffon cake layered with sweet mango pudding, and poppy-seed tarts topped with Chantilly cream (both $4, all tax-inclusive and rarely more than two bites tops) would be less of a mess if management had bothered to give us forks.
But then, like fine dining and yesterday's daily paper, cutlery is so passé.