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Just Opened: we review Agave y Aguacate, Fanny Chadwick’s and Liberty Belle Bistro

Mexican street food reborn in the market, a greasy spoon–less diner on Dupont, and Liberty Village’s latest bistro

Agave y Aguacate $30 Gourmet
214 Augusta Ave., 647-208-3091

Chef-owner Francisco Alejandri’s excellent food stall is the headliner in a shoestring–budget Latin American food court in Kensington Market. It consists of little more than a stainless steel prep table with a deep fryer, two induction burners, a small refrigerator, a toaster and a food processor. Alejandri, who wears a suave white Panama hat while he works, is an exceedingly good cook. He does a fantastic flank steak salad—the meat, sliced into thin strips, is tossed with tomatoes, red chilies, red onion, cilantro and lime juice, then garnished with house-fried tortilla chips. It makes for a brilliant lunch. The lime charlotte is better than most desserts you get in proper restaurants: the sweet-sour lime curd and Maria cookies are decadent but light with a squirt of lime juice and a drizzle of arbequina olive oil. Wait times can exceed 20 minutes but the trade-off is that the place is incredibly cheap. It would be thrilling to see what Alejandri would do with more space and a properly equipped kitchen. Closed Monday.


Fanny Chadwick’s star
268 Howland Ave., 416-944-1606

The strip of Dupont west of Casa Loma needed a welcoming neighbourhood place (the adjacent Indian Rice Factory has had the monopoly for decades), and Fanny Chadwick’s, a diner-bistro hybrid, will easily fill the void. The crowd is a mix of students, seniors and families (in a nearby booth, a father explains intellectual property law to his five- and seven-year-old boys, who are clad in karate uniforms). The food—diner-inspired, locally sourced fare at upscale prices (pan-seared fish and chips are $18)—is generally good, but editing would help some of the cluttered dishes shine. The gravlax salad, for example, features naturally raised, Ocean Wise–approved steelhead trout, but the delicate fish is masked by a deluge of horseradish vinaigrette and a grab bag of greens, croutons and pickled vegetables. A bowl of steamed clams, on the other hand, is pared down and delicious in a flavourful herbed vermouth sauce. The Rowe Farms corned beef is fall-apart tender and pairs perfectly with smoky, molasses-kissed baked beans. Forgo bland desserts, like a starchy sweet potato butter tart, in favour of a latte from the Elektra espresso machine. Closed Monday. Mains $16–$22.


Liberty Belle Bistro star
133 Jefferson Ave., 647-352-3553

Aidan Pascoe is brave: his debut restaurant is a traditional bistro in a city that needs another steak frites like it needs another pothole, and it’s in Liberty Village, the Bermuda Triangle of cooking (Brad Moore and Donna Dooher have mysteriously lost their mojos in the condo-and-chain-resto-filled area). With its saloon-style bar, the room is more Montana than Montparnasse, but it’s buzzing on a Thursday night—a credit to Pascoe’s attention to detail. Housemade pickles are crunchy and spicy; fresh ketchup tastes like tomatoes (instead of corn syrup). Appetizers are fine but cartoonishly large—three fried risotto balls are the size of bocce balls. Cornish hen is spatchcocked and seared to crisp up the skin. It would be perfect if the hen weren’t slightly over-salted and the potatoes slightly overcooked. As for the steak frites, the meat is well-seasoned but chewy and the frites are limp. Desserts shine: frangipane with tangy house-made sour cream ice cream is light and refreshing. The lone hostess handles all nine tables with charm. Closed Monday and Tuesday. Mains $16–$28.

(Images: Jess Baumung)

How we do it

These restaurants are recommended by our anonymous reviewers. Restaurant bills are paid by Toronto Life; reviews have no connection to advertising. Stars are awarded for food and wine quality, as well as presentation, service, atmosphere, ambition and originality. All of our restaurant reviews can be found at torontolife.com/restaurants/.

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  • Jessica

    I am sort of surprised to see Fanny Chadwick’s in the “just opened” (as well as Agave Y Aguacate)…not very new.

    Fanny Chadwick’s is a compendium of disappointments and wrong turns. Not very good or competent staff, not very “friendly” pricing, poor portion control.
    Went with another person whose entree was BURSTING at the seams of the plate. The plate could hardly contain the sheer magnitude of food. My “bangers and mash” on the other hand was two very small sausages and a thimble of mash.

    Ordered dessert. Was lucky to snag the last s’mores pot au creme. Table next to us ordered before and because their waitress didn’t put the order in before ours, they were denied.
    Dessert was actually the best part of the meal.

    Service is slow at times even rude and disorganized. The end note of a fairly hefty bill strikes a sour chord.

  • ACD

    Liberty Village is full of chain restos? Have you even walked around the neighbourhood? My office is in the neighbourhood and I can confirm that there are very few chain restaurants here

  • dramaqueen

    Not to mention Bistro Tournesol or Dish in your review of that particular stretch of Dupont – is to miss the point entirely about Fanny Chadwick’s. It is BECAUSE of Tournesol and Dish that Fanny’s is so disappointing . We are gloriously spoiled and we know it . Hopefully Fanny will get her act together for next seasons theatregoer’s – novelty is not enough in this neighbourhood .

  • Alexandra

    Went to A y A yesterday. I was their first customer of the day – but had to wait as Francisco had left to go buy vegetables. At least I know it was fresh! He made everything slowly (a little painful, actually) but the taste was intense. The tinga (chicken) tostada was great and the flank steak salad was sublime. But I honestly think some of the ingredients could be prepped ahead of time to save people from waiting so long in a tiny, crowded and very very hot place.

    And my prediction is that one day, when the line-up is too long and too many people are crowded into the space, that small open deep-fryer is going to cause some damage. There’s just too much going on in a too small space.

  • Meow Meow

    I’m not a fuss-budget, but while the Agave y Aguacate review sounds cool and I’m interested in experiencing it, the pic kinda grosses me out. He has beautiful hands and fingers, and I’m not suggesting that standards are not high, but his fingers look greasy, and what is he holding? TO Life, some additional editorial review of pics before publishing and please also include “comments” below all pics so there’s no confusion as to what’s going on…

  • rosie cohen

    What about that place down Dupont called HodgePodge. They definitely make the best lunch on the strip.

 

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