Where to find your new favourite poutine, and more
What was once a nondescript entry vestibule in the Hudson’s Bay flagship store is now an opulent little art deco boîte where well-heeled shoppers and lunch diners with corporate cards gather ’round a stunning octagonal marble bar anchored by skyscraping brass lamps.
The place is priced to suit the clientele and setting (at the base of the glam Saks Fifth Avenue department store), but the expensive trip is one worth taking, with corporate exec chef Anthony Walsh conjuring a South American-inspired menu (featuring everything from breakfast to cocktails) that pays tribute to his mother-in-law.
At lunch, wild char ($17) comes fanned out in slices with a light, bright citrus-and-mint dressing. Jamón is available in slices hacked from a leg displayed on the back counter, or packed in delightful ravioli ($25) swimming in a deep-green butter with sautéed bitter escarole and Parm. Pollo Doña Aurora ($27), chicken braised to perfection with lemon and saffron, comes flanked by silky mashed potatoes. Get the churros (liberally portioned at $12) with spicy dipping chocolate for dessert.
176 Yonge, at Richmond, 416-507-3378, lenarestaurante.com
Once the Henhouse, this Dundas West bar has been gutted, then decked out with wood panelling and red accents before reopening as a sibling-run business. The bar’s on the other side of the room now – but you guys couldn’t put in beer taps?
The impressive bar food takes the sting out of being stuck with tall cans. Collard green poutine ($12) is a stroke of genius, with sweet onions, melted cheese, stewed greens and bacon recalling some lost eastern European comfort-food concoction.
Addictive fried brussels sprouts ($8) doused in malt vinegar and sea salt are good enough to convert my anti-sprout dining partner, even if the stank permeates the whole dining room. And the fried chicken ($18) is excellent: moist and flavourful, with a hint of spice to the batter, though they could go even heavier on the watermelon-wasabi syrup. (Never hide your light under a bushel.)
1532 Dundas West, at Sheridan, 289-339-9280, facebook.com/threehandstoronto
As long as a country exists, the probability that we’ll get a restaurant dedicated to its “street food” approaches 1. The latest tipping point is in Little Italy, where former Four Seasons New York chef Otman Haouzi does Moroccan eats in a spartan takeout shop with souk-style touches.
Classic tagines are on offer, of course (though you have to order them a whole day in advance – odd for a grab-and-go-style eatery), but the rest of the menu is devoted to sandwiches (all $8.95) and snacks. The winner, far and away, is the house-made beef and lamb merguez on a bun, topped with a zippy relish of tomato, onion and olive – a great lazy Tuesday dinner. A more subtle preserved lemon chicken sammy is tasty, but the filling doesn’t stand up to the super-thick bun it’s served on. The zaalook, a rich blend of roasted eggplant and tomato ($2.95), is savoury and satisfying, but don’t order it as a sandwich side – the purée comes with slices of bread. Extra bread. So much bread. Bread.
599 College, at Clinton, 416-536-9292, bsaha.ca