SARDINHA O REI DOS FRANGOS (942 Bloor West, at Delaware, 416-537-2772) Complete meals for $12 per person, including all taxes, tip and a pop. Average main $9. Open Monday to Saturday 9 am to 9 pm, Sunday 9 am to 7 pm. Unlicensed. Access: barrier free, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
When Sardinha opened in 2005, it hit the ground running. The combination of economical, robust Portuguese fare and a busy Bloorcourt (worst concocted neighbourhood name ever) location saw lineups from the get-go.
When new owner Chris Panagiotoglou took over six months ago, some may have wondered if a Greek would keep the Portuguese food faith, but Sardinha's more popular than ever.
Its success has come not from breaking new culinary ground but by executing churrasqueira with consistent professionalism. The corner shop is dominated by a serious, clean and efficient kitchen, the food is never tired from too much time in the steam tray and the hard-working women behind the counter practise an enjoyable style of tough-love service.
Bird is the word. A half-chicken dinner ($8.50) comes either from the grill or the rotisserie. The former has more flame-licked flavour, but the latter is moister. I'd go for the grilled with a generous helping of the not-too-hot hot sauce. Sides consist of variable combinations of rice, salad and those freaky little round potatoes that Sardinha dispatches at a rate of 1,500 kilos a week. Like all of Sardinha's meals, there's enough food here to put you into an after-dinner coma.
Seafood is well represented, and the sole is a standout. The small dinner ($6.50) sees the same combo of sides surrounding two moist, lemony fillets. A stronger piscine character can be found in the cod dinner ($11). The small paelha special ($7) with clams and sweet head-on shrimp is pure populist Mediterranean and a real deal.
Other items on the menu include baby back ribs, souvlaki, roast beef, moussaka and lasagna. For those further out in the northwest, Sardinha opens a new location at Weston Road and Lawrence in about two months.