Weekend eating: April 19-20

Dinner Saturday night, brunch Sunday morning.


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

Bar Isabel

797 College, at Shaw, 416-532-2222, barisabel.com, @barisabel797 Isabel? Bar Decibel, more like! Though ex-Black Hoof charcuterie king Grant van Gameren’s latest taverna looks like it stepped right out of the back streets of Barthelona, its acoustics recall the nearest bowling alley. A small price to pay for some of the most skilfully executed tapas around. Best: to start, devilled duck eggs dressed with shredded salt cod and morcilla blood sausage the mixed charcuterie platter – water-buffalo slinzega, pork jerky, hunter’s sausage and imported Iberico ham, say – with candied apple mostardo and warm sourdough sprinkled with sea salt southern-fried chicken over deep-fried eggplant drizzled in honey and chili flakes grilled hanger steak with blistered shishito peppers, grilled spring scallions in classic Romesco sauce on the side to finish, salted chocolate mousse splashed with buttery olive oil. Complete dinners for $55 per person, including, tax, tip and a glass of cava. Average tapa $11. Open for dinner Saturday 6 pm to 2 am. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: barrier-free, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNNN

Barrio Coreano

642 Bloor W, at Manning, 416-901-5188, playacabana.ca/locations/5/barrio-coreano, @barriocoreano After three tries at bat with Playa Cabana, owner/executive chef Dave Sidhu finally gets the formula right with this surprisingly unpretentious taqueria in Koreatown. Friendly, informed service, an innovative East-meets-Southwest carte and a Latin-accented playlist that fits the neon-lit room like a glove transform first-timers into repeat customers. Best: to start, what Sidhu calls “watermelon sashimi,” thin slices of melon dressed with kumquats, unseeded jalapeños, toasted pine nuts and a toss of pomegranate seeds in tart ponzu vinaigrette grilled calamari in smoky árbol chili sided with sweet ‘n’ salty pineapple kimchee salsa South Korean fried chicken tacos in sweet ‘n’ sour kampungki sauce on blue corn tortillas the built-to-share 32-ounce Cowboy aged rib-eye steak to finish, flourless chocolate cake in jars topped with green tea ice cream to drink, kimchee sours with Jack Daniel’s, fresh lime and pickle syrup. Complete dinners for $40 per person, including tax, tip and an imported beer. Open for dinner Saturday 5 to 11 pm. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: two steps at door, three steps to washrooms. Rating: NNNN



244 Jane, at Horshaw, 647-346-2267 Anyone remember when the Beaver had one of the better brunches on the west side? Those who do will fall head over heels for ex-owner Megan Whiten’s kitschy all-day café in deepest, darkest Baby Point. Decked out with enough Canadiana to stock a Muskoka time-share, the room’s not much more than a three-seat lunch counter and a few tables at the rear. The grub’s just as retro, with scrambled eggs sided with gargantuan Italian sausages and Whiten’s mom’s recipe for scalloped potatoes with roasted red peppers ($12) a particular crowd-pleaser. Quiche du jour – one time shredded brisket with havarti, another day smoked salmon, cream cheese and dill – gets served with organic greens in a classic red wine vinaigrette. Why, she even steams eggs on an espresso machine and stuffs them into grilled ciabatta along with thinly sliced peameal, tomato and cheddar (both $10) just like she did at the Beaver back in the good old days. Open for brunch Sunday 9 am to 3 pm. No reservations. Licensed. Access: one step at door, one step to washrooms. Rating: NNNN


1416 Gerrard E, at Hiawatha, 416-469-4444, thesiddhartha.com Though the original was shuttered more than a year ago after a fire, Siddhartha rises from the ashes phoenix-like in fancier new digs a few blocks west. Not only is Sid’s all-you-can-eat buffet as exemplary as ever, but it can now be enjoyed al fresco on the only licensed patio in Little India. Best: from the buffet, crisply fried samosas stuffed with potato, peas and mild peppers saag paneer swirled with yogurt biryani-style rice with garden peas and curry leaves stir-fried cabbage with turmeric and mustard seeds mashed eggplant and potato with chilies aloo gobi with curried cauliflower ‘n’ spuds super-moist tandoori chicken legs and thighs while they last to finish, rice pudding, mango ice cream and fresh fruit to drink, lime sodas. Complete buffet dinners for $25 per person (lunches $20), including tax, tip and a domestic lager. Average la carte main $10. Open for $10.99 Sunday lunch buffet 11:30 am to 3:30 pm. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN

La Societe

131 Bloor W, at Avenue Rd, 416-551-9929, lasociete.ca, @la_societe Charles Khabouth is downtown’s undisputed king of clubs, his Cube (né Ultra), Spice Route and Tattoo Rock Parlour among the most successful resto-lounges in town. Sadly, few go there for the food. That’s not the case with his and partner Danny Soberano’s newest party palace in Yorkville’s Colonnade. Sure, the clientele’s just as fabulous, darling, but the rest of us will appreciate chef James Olberg’s confident French classic carte, too. Best patio in the nabe? Best: when a glass of Veuve Clicquot champagne goes for $26, 16 bucks for a burger is a bargain, especially when it’s a substantial 8-ounce patty topped with aged white cheddar and pickle aioli sided with skinny sea-salted frites and house greens in a lemon vinaigrette those same fab fries with three dozen (!) steamed mussels in saffron-scented white wine, or 8 ounces of aged New York strip loin massive tureens of Lyonnaise-style onion soup spiked with cognac buttery mac ‘n’ cheese that’s more fromage than pasta to finish, profiteroles stuffed with house-made vanilla ice cream in chocolate sauce. Complete dinners for $75 per person (lunches/brunches $40), including tax, tip and a glass of wine. Average main $25/$18. Open for brunch Sunday 11 am to 3 pm. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNN

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