Weekend eating: May 24-25

Dinner Saturday night, brunch Sunday morning.


Saturday

Amsterdam BrewHouse

245 Queens Quay W, at Lower Simcoe, 416-504-1020, amsterdambrewhouse.com, @AmsterdamBH With its 350-seat patio right on the lake at Harbourfront, this cavernous warehouse should be a tourist trap. Instead, it’s a gastro-pub worthy of those of us who actually live here. An unexpectedly competent kitchen, quick service and great optics will make us return, but only when they can the annoying AM top-40 muzak they insist on inflicting on customers. Best: thin-crusted pizzas dressed with house-made beerwurst sausage, roasted garlic and wild mushrooms drizzled with a syrupy stout reduction hefty house-ground brisket burgers with bacon, cheddar and beer-battered onion rings sided with sweet potato frites to finish, root beer floats with vanilla bean ice cream and deep-fried Oreo cookies. Complete dinners for $45 per person (lunches $35), including tax, tip and a house-brewed beer. Average main $18. Open for dinner Saturday 5 pm to 2 am. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNN

Campagnolo

832 Dundas W, at Euclid, 416-364-4785, campagnolotoronto.com, @Campagnolo_ Housed in an abandoned Coffee Time franchise, former Four chef de cuisine Craig Harding and partner Alexandra Hutchison’s way-casual 66-seat bistro plus 30-seat patio brings Mediterranean glam to this otherwise charmingly dumpy strip. Don’t have a reservation for one of the hottest joints du jour? Since they only book half the room, your chances of scoring a walk-in are 50-50. Best: to start, baskets of house-baked baguette and all-air gougères with whipped butter starters like fresh burrata with roasted olive-oil-soaked grapes on the vine roasted bone marrow with shredded oxtail and plum marmalade substantial mains like house-made tagliatelle Bolognese tossed with minced veal and duck liver Spaghetti all’Amatriciana laced with dried pork-cheek guanciale and sharp pecorino cheese Norwegian ocean trout over smoked cauliflower purée, sautéed bitter rapini and mild-mannered espelette peppers to conclude, espresso meringue finished with salted caramel sauce. Complete dinners for $55 per person, including tax, tip and a cocktail. Average main $24. Open for dinner Saturday 6 pm to midnight. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNN

Weslodge Saloon

480 King W, at Brant, 416-274-8766, weslodge.com Furnished with enough stuffed wildlife to stock a taxidermy shop, club kings Hanif Harji and Charles Khabouth’s steampunk hunting lodge puts the focus on the kitchen for a change. Ex L’Unita chef Stuart Cameron delivers a comfort food carte that’s as stylish as the surroundings. Best: to start, roughly chopped bison tartare finished with red Thai chilies and powdered foie gras a salad of slivered green beans and shaved fennel dressed with both roasted and raw Jerusalem artichokes the house burger – 7 hand-ground ounces of naturally raised Cumbrae brisket, chuck ‘n’ rib-eye on a house-baked bun layered with pickled onion, spicy tomatillo relish and salty Taleggio cheese, a heap of chunky fries and kitchen’s-own ketchup on the side at brunch, generously truffled scrambled eggs over puff pastry and grilled asparagus, sided with house-cured duck bacon and fingerling potatoes fried in duck fat to conclude, “instant” chocolate mousse cake spray-painted with dark chocolate and garnished with dehydrated raspberries. Complete dinners for $55 per person (lunches/brunches $35) including tax, tip and a glass of wine. Average main $24/$18. Open for dinner Saturday 5:30 to 11 pm, bar to close. Licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNN

Sunday

Beast

96 Tecumseth, at Whitaker, 647-352-6000, thebeastrestaurant.com, @BeastRestaurant We weren’t terribly impressed with this snout-to-tail bistro’s brunch three years ago, but a recent revisit suggests that owners/chefs Scott and Rachelle Vivian are currently firing on all cylinders. Who else would have the audacity to send out a starter of gnocchi dressed with shredded beef cheeks and squeaky cheese curds in demiglace, the lot dolloped with crème fraîche ($10), or pair a frittata-like hash of corned-beef tongue (!) with buttermilk biscuits? They brilliantly plate crisply fried pigs’ ears over scrambled eggs and kimchee (both $12 with home fries) and top French challah toast with whipped cream, duck confit and house-made cranberry moustarda ($13). Their bacon brisket cheeseburger arrives alongside a mountain of greasy-good onion rings. But not everyone can handle the Beastwich (both $14, the latter with spuds), a great whack of southern-fried chicken thighs layered with pimento-studded cheese, house pickles and one of them them thar runny fried eggs. Eat your heart out, Micky D’s! Open for brunch Sunday 10 am to 3 pm. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washroom on same floor. Rating: NNNNN

Café Fiorentina

236 Danforth, at Playter, 416-855-4240, cafefiorentina.com, @CafeFiorentina Take two classically trained French chefs – Tina Leckie (Celestin) and Alex Chong (Didier) – and set them free in an all-day café-slash-bake-shop and get one of the Danforth’s tastiest alternatives to flaming saganaki. Counter service and a few scattered tables add to the casual vibe. Sous-vide takeout dinners, too. Best: from a constantly shifting lineup, sandwiches on house-baked yeast-free sourdough layered with seared rare steak, gooey Gruyère and pickled wild mushrooms house-cured Berkshire pork belly and puréed kimchee soups like duck broth with pastina creamy potato with leek soufflé-like quiches du jour, one day portobello mushroom with Brie, the next caramelized onion with Stilton house-cured charcuterie paired with local cheese a take on eggs Benny with poached duck eggs in lemony hollandaise over pickled beets and Georgian Bay whitefish on toasted pains au lait whole flourless chocolate cakes. Complete brunches/lunches for $25 per person, including, tax, tip and an iced tea. Average main $12. Open for brunch Sunday 10 am to 3 pm. No reservations. Unlicensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNNN

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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