Daniel’s Dish | CAFE BAR PASTA
The premise of the column is simple; work with restaurants of all kinds in this amazing city to explore what they have to offer and what makes them unique. In a city like Toronto, the choices are sometimes daunting and the food reviews and critics can be snotty and too complicated for their own good. So why not keep this easy?
Drinks. Appetizer. Main Course. Dessert. All along with a bit of information about what makes them our choice for Daniel’s Dish and why you should try them right away!
CAFE BAR PASTA, 1588 Dundas Street West (416) 534-4794
Nestled in the heart of Little Portugal, amid a neighbourhood that is rejuvenating and rebranding itself with each day, is one of the most memorable restaurants I’ve visited in a long time. CAFE BAR PASTA, not your typical restaurant by any means, is a marriage of beautiful food, decor and service. Recently, I was delighted to join and sample dishes from their much-anticipated Fall menu. The first time I met the charismatic owner Tom Bielecki, whom swept Julio and I as we passed by and into the newly opened space to sample a drink on the marble bar top. I knew then and there that something special had been born in this labour of love; 3 years in the making.
Lord knows I’m a stickler for details, but Tom and Christine give me a run for my money! Not a single detail is overlooked in this stunning space. From the cork wall which allows art to interact with every guest (add to the wall after enjoying a beautiful bottle of wine hand selected by Master Sommelier John Szabo) to the stunning mural which wraps the room. And how could I forget the one of a kind MOMA chandelier nestled in the corner of the dinning room where Tom asked for Christine’s hand in marriage where her father’s office once stood.
I was wooed from the state of the art Pasta Machine Tom uses (which is the only one of its kind in North America presently), the beautiful private dinning room, to the history of the space being one of the first Hudson Bay’s trading posts. There’s more I could say about this space and its food, but I bet you Tom can do a better job. And once you read all about my experience with this stunning seasonal menu, something tells me you’ll be making a reservation ASAP!
One of my favourite things about CAFE BAR PASTA are their menus. Simplicity is key and their one pagers, albeit full of beautiful choices, are in fact complex and thought out well. Balance is key and shines through in their cocktail menu crafted by their incredibly talented Bar Manager, James Playford.
The bar is stocked with homemade syrups and layers of delicate flavours pair brilliantly with the food and flare. My must have cocktail on the menu would have to be the EZ Writer; the perfect balance of sweet and savoury to help warm you on a cool autumn day. Vanilla, honey, grapefruit and thyme play beautifully on the tongue and this, by my choice paired with bourbon, is what a classic cocktail should be. Strong, elegant, playful and … well, sexy.
Those of you looking for something a little stronger, why not try Julio’s choice of the Fall In Love? Not for those who don’t enjoy tequila, this cocktail is stiff but still balanced with floral and aromatic hints of lavender and apple.
I couldn’t choose which of the dishes I was going to devour once I got my hands on Chef Jay Scaife‘s fall menu. What to choose for the indecisive guest or for the adventurous type? Two Tartar is an absolute must; balanced yet again between delicate and decadent. Orata tartar is a mild manored fish tartar which has the refreshing lightness of sea salt and citrus. The fish buttery and textured, garnished with Ontario black radish frisee and puffed cappers.
On the opposing side of the plate sits an Ostrich tartar. Yes, Ostrich. Traditionally gamey, I have never seen it offered as a tartar. Garnished with mustard, toasted walnut and boar crisps…the exact opposite of its paired tartar. Decadent and full of flavour, laced with hints of black pepper and the earthiness that comes through in game meats, and classically finished with egg (a quail’s egg!). Between the two, my favourite for sure.
Being that I was feeling adventurous and was well into the concept of balance, the natural choice for my main course was The Ravioli. Stuffed with braised short rib and white truffle and garnished with burnt orange, this dish may sound simple but it is far from it. Vegetarians, avert your eyes… my favourite part of this dish is the table side finish of au jus and the beautiful bone marrow. Those of you who have never indulged in this decadence, it’s a healthy sized bone which is baked to the point where the marrow of the bone melts into a buttery liquid. I had to stop Julio from picking it up and slurping from it, which is actually the custom when enjoying this culinary classic. And I wouldn’t have scolded him for doing it…it was mouth-watering.
After two incredibly balanced courses, I was left wondering how I could complete an evening of complex simplicity. The only viable option, after assistance from our server, was the Plum and Wild Blueberry Panna Cotta. I’ve always been a dessert person but when too sweet, they can ruin a meal. Not this choice; garnished with fresh berries, I loved that the berries were sweeter then the panna cotta.
Secret You Should Know:
Don’t be fooled into thinking CAFE BAR PASTA is a one trick pony! As owner Christine told me,
“Contrary to popular belief, we are not an Italian restaurant. Pasta, pasta, pasta is the name of the game, some Italian inspiration of course, but we draw from the multicultural society that inspires us daily, whether at the market or in the community.”
I love that! With seasonal menus, an eye for detail and a passion for this industry, this latest Toronto hot spot embodies everything a restaurant should be.
Get out to CAFE BAR PASTA and try these new fall inspired dishes & drinks. And of course make sure to tweet @CAFEBARPASTA & @DoTheDaniel to tell us what you thought about your experience using #DanielsDish & #FASHIONIGHTS!
Photos: Julio Reyes