MITZI'S SISTER (1600 Queen West, at Sorauren, 416-588-1100) Parkdale's most popular brunch spot spawns a sibling with an expanded deluxe spoon menu and late hours. Progeny welcome. Complete meals for $25 per person ($17 at lunch), including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine. Open for dinner Tuesday to Saturday 4 to 10 pm, bar menu 10 pm to midnight Thursday to Friday, to 1 am Saturday, and for brunch Saturday and Sunday 11 am to 4 pm. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Brunch rating: NNN; dinner rating: NN Rating: NNN
Who decided that every dish served in a restaurant on Sunday at noon should come with a garnish of unripe strawberry, sliced orange and a wedge of melon? The same authority who once declared that mealtime mains should be embellished with a sprig of curly parsley? Mitzi's Sister gooses its garnishes by adding a pair of chive stalk antennae that makes every plate resemble some fruity lobster. Does anybody eat this stuff?
Well, yes, they do, judging by the number of strollers parked next to the heavy tub chairs and red-covered tables that look like they came straight off the Ponderosa (the Lorne Greene version). While a few lumpy couches remain in the long room's storefront window, someone's wisely 86ed the pool table that formerly sat right in the line of fire of diners.
Still, no one's come to this annex of an insanely popular weekend eatery on Sorauren to admire the damask. Instead, they're scarfing down huge last-all-day meals like 7-inch oatmeal pancakes dripping with house-made rum 'n' pineapple syrup, perfectly poached eggs atop cornmeal polenta sauced with Asiago-onion cream or fluffy four-egg omelettes wrapped around chicken and mango chutney (all $9.95).
Brekkies arrive sided with home fries doused in secret spices the staff are forbidden to reveal (my guess: paprika, cayenne and/or cumin).
A week later, avant DJ Greg Clow tags along to see how this Mitzi does dinner (the other Mitzi closes before supper). As Clow tries to decipher the menu, written in blotchy ballpoint pen on a piece of stain-smeared foolscap (it's been printed since), I attempt to identify the singer caterwauling on the CD player. Neil Young? Ryan Adams? Starsailor?
"I don't listen to music with vocals," says Clow, not listening.
Bypassing Sis's pub grub -- corn chips dusted with Iranian lime salt and dipped into guac ($4.50), poutine swimming in miso gravy ($7.25) -- we split pumpkin gnocchi ($7.50). Next to a mess o' mesclun in vinegary Thousand-Island-style dressing, a good count of mashed-pumpkin-pulp pillows loiter in an incongruous chipotle cream studded with sun-dried tomatoes that might as well be called Memories of WTF.
A juicy if thin fillet, grilled chicken breast ($13) finds boneless bird scattered with wimpy strawberry-and- pineapple salsa, sides of randomly chopped (macheted?) carrots, sugary snap peas and basic basmati, more mesclun and -- wait for it -- garnish.
Equally honoured, steak-frites ($15) features a 10-ounce strip loin grilled alongside strips of multicoloured peppers and zucchini. Though it's properly cooked, the beef needs a bit of fat to enhance the flavours, and the skinny, nicely coloured spuds have spent about 30 seconds too long in the deep-fryer.
Haven't we all?