When it comes to quality seafood, this city is far far behind. I can count on one hand — the number of restaurants where I’ve enjoyed quality coastal cuisine — and I raise a finger immediately for Maléna. Last night, I was lucky enough to sample from the new spring menu..
I had a wonderful experience when I visited Maléna last August, eating nearly every dish on the menu with a group of balkans that rejoiced after every bite. Having been only open for about a year, chef Doug Neigel and his team have been praised for bringing a level of sophistication and respect to Ionian cuisine that is rarely seen in this city. Sommelier Zinta Steprans shares this praise — managing a focused wine list that spans Italy, Greece and Canada and elegantly plays with the menu. Some ingredients come form the Mediterranean, some are local (Perth pork, cheeses), and much is ethically sourced.
“First and foremost it’s important for me to try and push sustainable whenever possible in sourcing our ingredients. I notice that people tend to go for what they’re comfortable with when ordering, and if we can offer sustainable alternatives whenever possible, I’m happy.” Chef Doug Neigel.
We started with a series of antipasto from the new spring menu. Above, a deconstructed take on Caesar salad, or Italian escabeche — layers of crispy pancetta, parmesan chips and garlic cream, sitting on split sardines. The sardines were cured in white and balsamic, and then marinated overnight in olive oil. Chef was inspired by the anchovy salad at L’unita when creating this dish. Sommelier Zinta chose the crisp and aromatic 2009 Sigalas ‘assyrtiko’ from Santorini to accompany the antipasto.
A dish that echoed with pure sea flavors — pieces of crisp sourdough toasts topped with pureed avocado, uni (sea urchin) from BC, and black salt. Once again, a great pairing with the Sigalas.
A medley of battered calamari, prawns, halibut cheeks and gigantes beans. What immediately stood out here was how soft and crunchy the batter was, without knocking you in the face with grease.
Mains on the menu include a sheep’s milk ricotta gnudi dish with braised rabbit, berkshire pork chop, and seared branzino with rapini. I had the whole grilled sea bream, lightly seasoned crispy skin with tender flesh underneath. Served alongside braised gigantes. I also enjoyed a glass of 2008 Pinot from Blue Mountain Estate (Okaganan falls, BC).
Three desserts (honey loukoumades not pictured because it disappeared too quickly) were served for the table to share, and once again the highlight for me was the lemon tart. Creamy lemon curd basketed in a thin phyllo shell, topped with marshmallow and served with lemon semifreddo.
In the upcoming months, a series of food workshops and wine programs will be launching. Keep an eye on their site for details.
120 Avenue Road, Toronto
Bits > Casually chronicling where I’m eating, and what I’m eating. If it’s interesting and if its tasty, it will be here.
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Written by Suresh Doss
Suresh Doss is the publisher of SpotlightToronto.com and Rickshawmag.com. Founder of the Food Truck Eats festival, Suresh has been a pioneer for the Street food movement in Toronto. In 2011, He was awarded the VQA Promoter’s Award for outstanding achievement in the Media category in the promotion of Ontario VQA Wines. Suresh is also the Global Editor for Whitecap’s StreetEats series of travel guides, which focuses on the best street food across North America.