Oasis (294 College, at Spadina, 416-975-0845) Complete meals (three tapas, no dessert) for $23, including all taxes, tip and a pint. Average tapas $4.80. Open Sunday to Wednesday 5 pm to 1 am, Thursday to Saturday 5 pm to 2 am. Access: one step at the door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NN Rating: NN
Everybody was glad to hear Oasis was making a comeback. Don't Believe The Truth saw the Gallagher brothers return to form and.... Oh, sorry. Wrong Oasis.
The long-standing College Street drink- and snackateria had seen better days.
The room appeared unloved, and the menu had lapsed into senility. So when you need a makeover, who you gonna call? The Food Network's Restaurant Makeover reality show! Now, $30,000 and some dubious food suggestions later (foie gras lollipops, anyone?), the new Oasis is ready for its close-up.
The room is definitely new and improved, but the menu still offers what might charitably be described as an eclectic selection of tapas.
Butter bean, arugula and roasted garlic bruschetta ($5.25) arrives chilled, but its clean, simple flavour is welcome nonetheless. Too bad about the plain semi-toasted bread.
Thai coconut rice balls ($3.60), with their sticky sweet-and-sour sauce, are fun in a yummy bar-snackish way. Nearly inedible in a not yummy bar-snackish way are the chorizo empanadas ($3.60). How can a kitchen go so wrong and then come back with the intelligent and well-executed salt cod and potato cakes with garlic aíoli ($5.25)?
The shrimp baked in béchamel ($6.95) pop tenderly in the mouth, but the sauce is gluey. The chicken tagine ($6.95) is a homey bowl of cumin-tinged stew. Both the spinach with lemon and olive oil and the chili garlic green beans (both $3.60) are solidly ho-hum.
The TV makeover certainly hasn't hurt Oasis. By continuing with easy-going service, cheap pints and a broad selection of affordable food, Oasis shows that it knows all about reality.