THE MASK (566 Church, at Wellesley, 416-963-9299) Complete meals for $50 per person ($20 at brunch), including all taxes, tip and a 'tini. Average main $20/$10. Open Monday to Friday 4 pm to 2 am. Brunch Saturday and Sunday 10:30 am to 4 pm, dinner and bar till 2 am. Licensed. Access; barrier-free, washrooms in basement. Rating: NN Rating: NN
Chilling at a curbside table in the front window of the Mask, you can't help but contrast the resto's current incarnation as the village's swankest swilling station with its former days as the Devon, an appallingly bleak Canadian Chinese eatery that also happened, unfathomably, to be the cruisiest spot in town, oh, circa 1966.
Gone are the furtive looks, the formica counters and the sweet 'n' sour chicken balls. In their place, sleek art deco ocean-liner decor. And though it's the cocktail hour, we're the only two swells in the joint.
Enough for a threesome, Mask's combo platter ($8.95) comes on a divided Japanese dish, its different compartments holding yogurt thick with diced cucumber, nutty hummus, garlicky eggplant purée and puzzlingly hot-from-the-oven grape leaves stuffed with creamy bulgur.
Our server, who doubles as bartender (make that mixologist), suggests we order flatbread ($3.95) to go with it. We splurge and add garlic ($1). The four large tortilla-like discs arrive sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds, but there's no sign of the promised bulb. The grilled half lemon served on the side gives a pleasant kick to the mezes, but we can't help but wonder how we were supposed to eat them if we hadn't ordered bread. Spoons?
A fatty veal chop ($19.95) comes decorated with an upright sprig of rosemary that's so large you could hang Christmas ornaments on it. Accompanying mash are over-processed, but a few grilled slices of zucchini and bell pepper pass muster.
Whoever invented the vegetarian lentil walnut burger (an exorbitant $14.95) should be forced to eat it. Literally a mess, this so-called patty squeezes out of its toasted challah wrapper and ends up on your expensive shirt and not in your mouth. Why not serve it as a fabulously nutty terrine and charge $6.95?
And throw in the flatbread for free.