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At THR & Co. executive chef Curt Martin preps the charcuterie platter.
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The black squid ink spaghetti comes scattered with fish roe.
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Pizzas like the nettle are artful.
THR & CO. (97 Harbord, at Robert, 647-748-7199, thrandco.com, @thrandco) Complete dinners for $50 per person, including tax, tip and a glass of wine. Average main $21. Open for dinner Monday to Thursday 5 to 10 pm, Friday and Saturday 5 to 10:30 pm. Closed Sunday, holidays. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNN
THR & Co. ain't yer typical beanery.
There are genuinely welcoming servers at the door who guide you to your seat and thank you for coming when you leave. There are marble-topped tables and linen napkins and actual cutlery - no trendy finger food here. The music is at a volume that allows you to be heard when you say, "Isn't that Brenda Lee?" instead of "Skrillex?"
And then there are the two semi-circular banquettes in this Harbord Room spinoff's front window. Gorgeously upholstered in tufted red leather, they're unequivocally the best seats in the recently launched house, although they do make like farting whoopee cushions when you first sit on them.
Better yet, there's ex-Harbord Room sous and now THR executive chef Curt Martin's remarkably gimmick-free carte. Don't come looking for deep-fried tacos stuffed with offal meatballs here.
A round of Aperol spritzers ($7) gives way to Martin's charcuterie board ($14 small/$20 large). Slim slices of house-cured venison pepperoni rub shoulders with fatty mortadella, spicy chorizo, ruby-red bresaola, spreadable 'nduja and ambrosial foie gras mousse, a few quick-pickled quail eggs and baby fiddleheads scattered about for dramatic effect.
His deconstructed beef-heart tartare ($12) stops traffic, too, its deeply flavoured minced meat spun through with tangy olive relish and a shower of dehydrated duck yolk. But you'll need to spring for the bread basket (house-baked focaccia, bread sticks and flatbread crackers with very whipped butter laced with cream, $4) if you want anything to spread it on.
Martin takes advantage of the gas-fired pizza ovens left behind by former tenant Messis to turn out his own thin semolina-crusted pies, our favourite artfully dressed with locally foraged nettles, tissue-thin potato 'n' pancetta and a runny free-range farm egg ($14). Like most of the mains, pastas are available in two sizes, the pappardelle tossed with fresh garden peas and spring favas in a light lemony cream ($11/$17), the garlicky black squid ink spaghetti done aglio-e-olio-style with nicely charred squid and a swirl of orange bottarga fish roe ($13/$19).
We pair his gloriously braised Moroccan-inspired lamb's neck osso bucco mined with pine nut gremolata ($23) with its perfect foil, a side of roasted cauliflower dusted with sultanas, crushed pistachios and sumac ($6). And who are we to resist poppyseed lemon cake topped with toasted marshmallow brittle and buttermilk ice cream and sozzled with house-made limoncello ($9)? It all seems so very grown-up.
"We're a serious restaurant with serious food," says Martin. "But family-friendly, too. You can come in with a stroller and no one will stare."