Weekend eating: April 12-13

Dinner Saturday night, brunch Sunday morning.


Saturday

Agave y Aguacate

35 Baldwin, at Henry, 647-748-6448, agave-y-aguacate.com, @AgaveyAguacate Celebrated for the now-defunct Kensington Market cantina that no less an authority than Anthony Bourdain called “some of the most amazing Mexican takeout north of the border – any border,” Francisco Alejandri resurfaces in Baldwin Village in the former home of the equally legendary Gaston’s. Anyone who ever stood in line for hours at the old one-man operation will appreciate the now speedy service. Tables and chairs, and forks, too! Best: returning favourites like chileajo, stir-fried fingerling spuds, pearl onions, green beans and chickpeas in garlicky guajillo pepper sauce and mild queso fresco cheese white fish ceviche verde with avocado, tomatillo and coriander pesto chile relleno, blistered poblano peppers stuffed with pineapple and puréed avocado, dressed with pickled onion and roasted garlic slow-poached veal ‘n’ pork meatballs in smoky chipotle gravy red pinto bean stew laced with fabulously fatty pork rind tiramisu-like lime charlotte with black Hawaiian lava salt. Complete dinners for $40 per person, including tax, tip and an imported beer. Average main $9. Open for dinner Saturday 5:30 to 11 pm. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: two steps at door, washrooms upstairs. Rating: NNNNN

District Oven

842 College, at Ossington, 416-901-7717, districtoven.com, @DistrictOvenTO The crew behind long-running Middle Eastern bistro 93 Harbord transform a ginormous Portuguese sports bar into a sexy chandelier-lit resto-lounge worthy of the slick King West strip. Best: from the large gas-burning oven that gives the resto its name, warm complimentary pits the size of soccer balls with za’atar-spiked olive oil cracker-thin Lebanese pizza topped with fresh figs, halloumi cheese and mint leaves juicy beef ‘n’ lamb kefta burgers garnished with arugula, fig jam and molten Brie, a basket of crisp Yukon Gold frites dusted with paprika and oregano on the side duck legs à la tagine with apples ‘n’ apricots baked cauliflower in sumac-scented chili oil over a creamy risotto of Israeli couscous to finish, poached pears with sour-cherry reduction. Complete dinners for $55 per person, including tax, tip and a glass of wine. Average main $20. Open for dinner Saturday 5:30 to 10:30 pm. Late-night menu till midnight bar to close. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNNN

Pukka

778 St Clair W, at Arlington, 416-342-1906, pukka.ca, @pukkatoronto Harsh Chawla and Derek Valleau’s stylish uptown bistro goes where few local Indian restos ever venture – upscale. A creative kitchen, smooth service and noise levels that allow for conversation make full houses the norm rather than the exception. Reservations essential most nights. Best: tapas-style starters like papri chat with puffed rice, ripe mango and Granny Smith apple dressed with pomegranate seeds in sweet yogurt dressing spicy south Indian fried Chicken 65 garnished with nasturtiums shareable mains like nutty butter chicken with wilted fenugreek leaves smoky lamb chop “lollipops” à la Vancouver’s Vikram Vij in minty cream sauce sides of French green beans with caramelized onion and shredded coconut baskets of buttery garlic naan and crisp whole wheat rotis to finish, sundae-like Eton Mess in pomegranate syrup and sweet lassi cream topped with rosewater-soaked meringue. Complete dinners for $60 per person, including tax, tip and a glass of wine. Average main $22. Open for dinner Saturday 5 to 10 pm. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNNN

Sunday

Bar Buca

75 Portland, at King W, 416-599-2822, barbuca.com, @barbucatoronto Despite its anonymous condo facade, former McEwan sous Rob Gentile and company’s casual all-day Italian caffe is the hottest thing to hit King West since the introduction of half-price wing night at the Wheat Sheaf. Attitude-free service and a value-packed carte make the inevitable lineup that much easier to stomach. Best: to start, an assortment of house-baked pastries including chocolate croissants and cannoli with candied citrus savoury mains like pizza-sized focaccia sandwiches stuffed with tender pink porchetta, apple mostardo and runny eggs ammazzafegato stew with skinny house-made liver sausage, barley-like faro, dehydrated porcini mushrooms, frazzled cavolo nero cabbage and a perfectly slow-poached free-range hen’s egg open-faced duck’s-egg-yolk omelettes tossed with butterflied rock shrimp and toasted pine nuts for the sweet tooth, cinnamon-scented pork-blood crepes with boozy poached figs in chocolate sauce and buffalo-milk crème anglaise crespelle, mini-stacks of semolina pancakes with lemony mascarpone, crumbled pistachios and grappa-fortified maple syrup. Complete brunches for $30 per person, including tax, tip and a glass of wine. Average main $14. Open for brunch Sunday 10 am to 4 pm. No reservations. Licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNNN

Red Sauce

50C Clinton, at College, 416-792-6002, redsaucetoronto.com, @RedSauceToronto Does what’s left of Little Italy really need another old-school Italian trat? It does when the results are this delicious, the one-time temple to gastronomy Acadia transformed into a budget-minded caffe that runs from late in the morning till even later at night. All that’s missing are checkered tablecloths and candles in Chianti bottles! Best: garlicky deep-fried pigs’ knuckle sandwich with simple tomato sauce, creamy fior di latte and fresh basil on crusty kaisers or sub-sized hoagies eggplant parmigiana platters sided with Buffalo-style cucumbers in hot sauce, peanuts and blue cheese, and spicy sautéed broccolini with roasted garlic cloves retro clams casino in Mornay sauce with bacon takeout-friendly house-made tagliatelle with all-beef meatballs to drink, boozy Popcorn Floats. Complete dinners for $35 per person (lunches $25), including tax, tip and a tall-boy of Old Milwaukee. Average main $12/$9. Open Sunday from 11 am to 2 am. No reservations. Licensed. Access: two-steps at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN

Skin + Bones

980 Queen E, at Carlaw, 416-524-5209, skinandbonesto.com, @skinandbonesto Lady Marmalade this ain’t. Though ex-Enoteca Sociale partner Daniel Clarke’s stylish Leslieville wine bar might look more at home on the King West bottle-service strip, its moderately priced à la carte Sunday brunch menu and supplementary all-you-can-eat buffet (buy any entree and get access to chef Tara Lee’s exceptional spread of house-cured charcuterie and house-baked pastries for an additional 3 bucks) fit this brunchiest of nabes like a glove. Bonus: kids five and under eat from the buffet for free! Warning: kids five and under eat from the buffet for free! Best: from the mains, gluten-free porchetta Bennys with sous-vide poached eggs in textbook hollandaise over cheesy polenta laced with kale fried chicken in buttermilk batter with Asian apple slaw sides of triple-cooked potato wedges with house-made ranch dressing from the kids’ menu, peanut butter ‘n’ jelly French toast from the buffet, house-baked cinnamon buns, cheese puffs and palmiers house-cured bresaola and fennel-flecked salami granola with high-fat yogurt and pears poached in syrup. Complete brunches for $30 per person, including tax, tip and a mimosa. Average main $15. Open for brunch Sunday 10 am to 2 pm. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNNN

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