Spanish

The Dish

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Review: Portland Variety is a low-key surprise on clubby King West

(Image: Jackie Pal)

(Image: Jackie Pal)

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Portland Variety 2 star½
587 King St. W., 416-368-5151

This serene new tapas bar is a delightfully low-key surprise in the middle of the King West fracas. (Imagine the also-good Patria just up the street but without the ostentation and slavish devotion to Iberian purity.) Though you wouldn’t know it on first glance. The pristine white-on-gray room is decked out in neighbourhood-appropriate tufted leather banquettes and marble, and the servers sport hokey gingham shirts bound in old-timey suspenders, but beneath the trendy veneer is a refreshingly simple and down-to-earth Spanish(ish) menu.

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The Dish

New Reviews

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Review: photogenic feats and flavour flops at Bero in Leslieville

Review: Bero

(Image: Renée Suen)

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Bero 1 star
889 Queen St. E., 416-477-3393

Chef Matt Kantor has graduated from pop-up dining series to a permanent home: a 30-seat corner spot decorated on a budget, with overstuffed chairs and vases of droopy mums. Bookish couples from the area don’t seem to care—they’re relieved that they have another option for a Friday date without the kids. Kantor is a devotee of modern Spanish cooking, in particular the technical wizardry of Ferran Adrià, so a salad includes mushy marshmallows flavoured with tomato, a tough tube of squid is dyed with beet juice to resemble a chili pepper, and every dish is a fussy composition of rectangles, cylinders and smears.

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The Dish

Features

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Critic: two boisterous new tapas bars that have Torontonians eating dinner at midnight

Critic: The Reign of Spain

The whole grilled octopus at Bar Isabel is a feat of slow cooking and flash-grilling

Carmen Two Stars ½
922 Queen St. W.,
416-535-0404

Bar IsabelThree Stars
797 College St.,
416-532-2222


Padrón are the witches’ fingers of peppers—gnarled, pointy and green—and one in 10 is hellishly hot. In Spain’s tapas bars, they’re pan-seared until black and blistered, then sprinkled with sea salt. At Patria, the relentlessly glitzy Spanish restaurant that opened on King West last year, I watched a quartet of women with feathery weaves gingerly bite into their peppers, as if on an episode of Fear Factor, and relax when they proved safe. You eat them as a dare, and that’s part of the fun.

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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Carmen, a new Spanish restaurant on Queen West from the owners of Torito

Introducing: Carmen
Name: Carmen
Neighbourhood: Trinity-Bellwoods
Contact info: 922 Queen St. W., 416-535-0404, carmensayz.com, @carmensayz
Owners: Veronica Carmen Laudes and Luis Valenzuela, both of Kensington Market’s Torito
Chef: Luis Valenzuela

The food: Traditional Spanish tapas like patatas bravas ($7) as well as more modern creations like little bites of puréed avocado wrapped in jicama ($6).

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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Dyne, the Iberian-Asian restaurant that took over from Maléna

Introducing: Dyne

(Image: Megan Leahy)

Last weekend, Richard Andino, a chef with 22 years experience in Toronto’s restaurant scene, opened Dyne in Maléna’s old space at Av and Dav. His menu draws from the cuisine of Spain, Portugal and the Philippines, but the item that’s gotten the most attention to date is the over-the-top Chef’s Last Meal ($325), which comes with a 34-ounce bone-in rib-eye, fingerling and bone marrow mash, chili-garlic egg rice, butter poached lobster and two pieces of foie gras, an ingredient Andino heartily endorses. 

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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Patria, the new King West spot for traditional Spanish food from Charles Khabouth and Hanif Harji

Introducing: Patria

(Image: Gizelle Lau)

Patria is the latest collaboration between Hanif Harji and Charles Khabouth, the pair who opened Weslodge this summer (Patria is located just down the alleyway). The concept: authentic Spanish food—a cuisine they point out is notably underrepresented in Toronto—with plenty of imported products and wine. While the food may be rustic, the Commute Home–designed room is anything but, with three edgy portraits of a Spanish woman at the entrance and, along a wall, a row of stamped meat cleavers that spell out “full stomach, happy heart” in Spanish. Most eye-catching of all is the giant rose-and-diamond cross-stitch art installation covering an image of a flamenco dancer, which took 485 hours and 17,109 stitches to make (all documented in this time-lapse video).

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The Dish

Drinks

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Nine wines to build an unbeatable cellar, chosen by our critic David Lawrason

I recently spent an evening with my cousin pouring over-the-hill wine down the sink, about 10 bottles in all. We tasted each one first. The New World reds were cooked into a raisiny, composty glop. The higher-acid Euro and Canadian wines, including a cheap 1981 Bordeaux, were dried out. I pronounced them all deceased. The cull cleared my cousin’s wine rack of special occasion bottles she’d been given over the years. Being sentimental, she couldn’t bear to drink them, even though most were under $20 and never meant to age. There is no sure-fire formula for selecting age-worthy wines. However, buying more expensive and concentrated wines will help—the more full bodied a wine, the longer it will keep. That means caber­net sauvignon and its Bordeaux-style blends, syrah and its Rhône family and many native varieties from Italy, Spain and Portugal are good bets. Your job is to be adventurous and willing to open them. Wine is made to be enjoyed, not hoarded.

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The Informer

Events

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Today in Toronto: Hispanic Fiesta

Hispanic Fiesta Spanish-speaking Toronto’s big, dance-filled blast comes complete with food, arts and crafts, and more than 300 performers channelling some 20 countries in Europe and the Americas. Find out more »

The Goods

Stores

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Spanish mega-retailer Massimo Dutti is coming to the Eaton Centre

A look from the brand’s fall 2012 campaign (Image: Massimo Dutti)

Ladies and gents looking for urban professional attire can now add Spanish retailer Massimo Dutti (owned by the same parent company as fast-fashion clothier Zara) to their list. The brand has stores in over 50 countries and is set to launch a trio of North American outposts this fall, including a store in the Eaton Centre that will open August 30 (the other two stores will be located in New York and Washington D.C.). Massimo Dutti produces men’s, women’s and children’s attire at a price point a bit higher than Zara (women’s jackets start at around $155, men’s shirts around $85), and it’s known for its tailored garments and made-to-order shoes.

The Dish

Food Events

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Weekly Eater: Toronto food events for July 2 to July 8

Farmer’s market season has arrived (Image: Kevin Ho)

Monday, July 2

  • 86’D With Ivy Knight: Check out a double bill at the at the Drake Lounge. First, a throw-down for the ultimate hangover cure: the Bloody Mary versus the Caesar. Second, a watermelon-eating contest. The Drake, 1150 Queen St. W., 416-531-5042. Find out more »
  • Piola’s Monday Night Mixer: A weekly aperitivo italiano with cocktail and beer specials and complimentary snacks. 1165 Queen St. W., 416-477-4652. Find out more »

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The Dish

People

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Q&A with Andoni Luis Aduriz, head chef and owner of Spain’s famed Mugaritz

Andoni Luis Aduriz (Image: Renée Suen)

Widely hailed as one of Ferran Adrià’s most talented protégés, Andoni Luis Aduriz, chef and owner of Mugaritz, on the southern outskirts of San Sebastián, Spain, is at the forefront of some of the culinary world’s most innovative techniques and dishes. He also runs the third-best restaurant in the world. Mugaritz serves avant-garde cuisine that often upends traditional understandings of food, and is heralded by chefs and culinary enthusiasts worldwide. Diners are told to expect the unexpected—from edible stones to chocolate nails—and interact with ingredients sourced from varied and unusual suppliers in an unfamiliar way. Aduriz stopped by Toronto recently to promote his new cookbook, Mugaritz: A Natural Science of Cooking, which was released last month. We had a chance to speak with the chef about the cost of being original, his inspirations and motivations and the impact that awards and recognition have had on his success.

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The Dish

Restaurants

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Charles Khabouth and Hanif Harji to host Spanish pop-up at Storys this week

This is what the Storys building looked like as Soho House (Image: Gizelle Lau)

Last fall, Charles Khabouth (La Société, Cube) and Hanif Harji (ex-Kultura, Nyood) promised to combine their restaurateuring powers and start up a new culinary venture or three. One place, Storys, housed in the four-level complex on Duncan Street which hosted Grey Goose Soho House during TIFF, is something of a blank slate at the moment, but will eventually include a restaurant and cocktail bar, along with copious event space. For the next three days, however, Khabouth and Harji, along with chef Stuart Cameron, are hosting a three-day pop-up in the building, where they’ll be serving “an exquisite selection of innovative dishes that expand on Spain’s uncomplicated approach to fresh, seasonal, savoury food.” The tapas menu will include jamón ibérico, and there will be plenty of wine and cocktails as well. Seating is first-come, first-served, and we’d expect lineups. The pair’s other new ventures—Spanish restaurant Patria and “modern saloon” Weslodge, both on King West—are slated to open this summer. [Storysbuilding.com]

The Dish

Restaurants

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Canadian restaurants fail to place in the S. Pellegrino Top 50—again

The triumphant Noma crew, with bearded chef René Redzepi in the middle (Image: World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2012 sponsored by S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna)

Let the ritual speculation and recrimination commence. Once again, no restaurants from Canada made it to the list of the world’s 50 best restaurants, as compiled by Restaurant magazine (and sponsored, conspicuously, by S. Pellegrino). And just like last year—but unlike 2010—no Canadian restaurants made it to the consolation prize list of numbers 51-100. Is it because Canadian cooking is insufficiently ambitious? Perhaps there’s too much plaid and reclaimed wood in our dining rooms. Or maybe the 800+ judges just aren’t familiar enough with this country’s food? Or perhaps—to get all conspiracy-theory on this—the top end Canadian restaurants don’t serve enough S. Pellegrino (yes, some Canadian chefs offer this as a reason for this country’s absence on the annual list).

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The Dish

Restaurants

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Secrets of the Secret Pickle Supper Club revealed in new documentary


The Secret Pickle Supper Club is now a lot less, well, secret, thanks to a new mini-documentary. The two-year-old club got started when host Alexa Clark had a “numerically important” birthday and asked her friend, chef Matt Kantor to experiment with different foods for the shindig. The guests couldn’t stop tweeting while eating, and the online foodie universe soon picked up on the party, demanding invites. The idea for a roving supper club with new themes and tasting menus each time around was born, with guests encouraged to snap photos or blog about the eats. For those not terribly keen on pickles themselves, not to worry: the name, apparently, comes from a party tradition born of Clark’s crush on the Bick’s Pickles alien. Kantor’s cooking, meanwhile, is set to get a permanent home on Dundas West in his new Spanish restaurant Bakio.

The Dish

Restaurants

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Hanif Harji and Charles Khabouth plot to take over King West

Charles Khabouth at his newest restaurant, La Société (Image: Gizelle Lau)

A few months back, we reported that restaurateur and nightlife impresario Charles Khabouth was planning to open two new restaurants on King Street West. Over the weekend, we found out that Khabouth has partnered with Hanif Harji to make a run on the neighbourhood with a handful of projects.

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