Back in April, we told you about an upcoming Aboriginal-focused restaurant on Queen West. Last Wednesday, Keriwa Café threw open its doors to friendly and curious neighbours—like the chefs from nearby Parts and Labour—who stopped in to welcome the new kids on the block.
At Keriwa, owner and chef Aaron Joseph Bear Robe (Splendido, Eigensinn Farm, Haisai), along with sous-chef Dennis Tay (Splendido, also a breakdancer extraordinaire), showcases both Aboriginal-inspired food and Canadiana. Using seasonal ingredients from local producers like 100km Foods, Sovereign Farms and Hooked, Bear Robe creates dishes like smoked whitefish with red fife blini ($12), bison pemmican with Saskatoon berries and red fife fry bread ($14) and grilled bison tail on polenta with chanterelles ($26). The menu, unsurprisingly, will change monthly to reflect seasonal flavours and produce.
Behind the bar, Amos Pudsey and sommelier Doug Fulton (also the restaurant manager), both also previously of Splendido, bring their fine dining experience to the table. The cocktail menu features classic cocktails ($8–$11), playfully modified with names like The Streetcar, Parkdale Pusher, Montgomery’s Tavern and Old City Hall, a modern take on an old-fashioned. On tap: the Golden Horseshoe Lager and Green Tea Ale from Great Lakes, as well as a selection from Duggan’s Brewery and other Canadian craft breweries ($6–$7). Wines are all VQA at the moment, with offerings from Tawse, Closson Chase and Norman Hardie ($9–$13 by the glass). Beer and wine tastings, flights and pairings are all in the works.
The restaurant’s dining room is bright and warm, with elements that reflect Bear Robe’s philosophy of “keeping it playful” and bringing together old and new (the patterns from a traditional Aboriginal Pendleton blanket double as a trim in the banquettes). Above the door as you enter, a giant silver eagle feather—a sacred symbol of peace—with other, smaller eagle feathers dangling beneath welcomes patrons. On one wall, Bear Robe’s grandmother’s buckskin dress, over 70 years old, hangs in a frame. Two large art installations catch the eye: a repurposed piece of old wartime machinery from New York and another woodsy birch patchwork piece designed and pieced together by Bear Robe and his wife (and designer) Marta Floranska.
Keriwa Café, 1690 Queen St. W., 416-533-2552, keriwacafe.ca.