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Blueberries and chocolate gelato
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Outside of Kensington Market, is there a food-friendlier neighbourhood to open a restaurant in than Leslieville?
Not only are you surrounded by the young and upwardly mobile, but you've also got some of the tastiest food shops in town on your doorstep, like Hooked, Sweet Bliss and Bobbette & Belle, not to mention the terrific weekly farmers' market at Eastern and Woodward. Small wonder that Danny Pantano launched his Glas wine bar here last summer.
And a small wonder it is, too. Some may remember the 20-seat storefront as Frankly, that way-cozy café that did a roaring brunch trade Saturday and Sunday but died the rest of the week. Enter Pantano, a George Brown chef-in-training who travelled to Italy for a three-month stage and ended up staying nine years. Glas is his first solo flight.
Tuesdays, alongside the à la carte sustainable steelhead salmon ($20) and the braised Olliffe short ribs ($22), Pantano offers his Green Glas Affair, a four-course $35 vegetarian prix fixe dedicated to seasonal produce.
"In Italy you work with whatever's in your backyard," says the Windsor-born chef. "You support the people around you. It's only logical we do the same thing here."
And so we get a fabulously rich late-summer vegan gazpacho fashioned from certified Local Food Plus heirloom tomatoes from Vickie's Veggies in Prince Edward County, finished with broccoli shoots, garlic-infused olive oil and a dusting of crushed red pepper flakes. The soup's since been replaced by an autumnal squash purée. He chars cauliflower florets and sends them out with steamed fingerlings, baby arugula and a syrupy smear of dried-cherry vinaigrette.
A $17 main on its lonesome, toasted Sardinian couscous comes swirled with sautéed kale and a classically straightforward smoked San Marzano tomato sauce, the nutty near-pasta sweetened with raisins soaked in Sauvignon Blanc and fresh ricotta from Bella Casara in Vaughan. A shaving of the same dairy's parmigiano and a few pine nuts complete the plate.
After the fireworks that preceded it, a simple final course of blueberries in lemon zest and a scoop of chocolate gelato supplied by Be Good of Regent Park can't help but disappoint, even if the artisanal Italian ice was delivered by tricycle. A more fitting lavender crème brûlée now takes its place.
Still, the spread's head and shoulders above what you'd get at most herbivore haunts. What prompted the all-veggie prix fixe?
"I dated a girl who was vegan, so I went to a lot of vegetarian restaurants," laughs Pantano. "The food wasn't that great. Twenty-five dollars for a stuffed onion? C'mon, I can do better than that!"
Tuesday to Saturday 5:30 pm to close. Weekend brunch 10:30 am to 2 pm. Closed Monday, holidays. Licensed. Reservations accepted. Access: one step at door, washrooms on same floor.