Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Kitchen: Sweet spot in Parkdale

Back in 2005, I took a Food Writing course at George Brown College and met bright, young chef, Olivia Bolano. She was, and still is, bursting with positive energy and I was thrilled to find out that she is the executive chef at newly opened (January 2008) hotspot, The Kitchen in Parkdale, a stone’s throw away from both the Gladstone and the Drake.

It’s so much fun knowing the chef at a restaurant and seeing how her personality comes through in the food (only Olivia could make Red Bull sorbet!). It’s the ultimate fusion menu with influences from Italian, Japanese, French, Spanish, and probably several other cuisines. Over the past two months I’ve been to the restaurant twice had the pleasure of sampling about half of the dishes. On one of the trips, I brought my friend and very talented photographer, Ayngelina Brogan, who skilfully took all the nice pictures you see here. The ones that aren’t so nice are mine.

It’s an all tapas menu, so they suggest you order 2 dishes per person and share. Between both visits, I tasted about 16 items in all and my favourites were the following:

Garden Maki
Asparagus and bell pepper roll in a panko crust served with wasabi yogurt. As far as the savoury items go, this was my absolute favourite. The panko crust was crispy, but not greasy, and the rice had just the right bite. So good.

Charcuterie Plate
Duck prosciutto, Serrano ham, chorizo and garnishes. This is the only place where I’ve ever seen duck prosciutto. Try it; you’ll love it. Along with the lovely, paper-thin Serrano ham and hearty chorizo.

Grilled Calamari
With double smoked bacon. When we were sharing this dish, I snagged a choice slice of the body meat and it was incredibly soft, tender and perfect. It couldn’t have been cooked better. Melts in your mouth.

Fried Calamari
This is honestly my favourite fried calamari in the entire city. If I’m not mistaken it’s breaded instead of battered making a peppery, crunchy crust around the yummy squid.

Beef Ribs
Slow cooked with an ancho b.b.q. sauce. This girl knows how to cook meat. These big, beef ribs fall off the bone and have just the right amount of sauce.

Banana and Jack
I’m not sure if this is the correct name of the dish because I forgot to write it down, but its well-deserved nickname is Banana Crack. This dish is based on a Filipino snack that consists of banana and jackfruit wrapped in a springroll wrapper and deep-fried. Olivia’s version is minus the jackfruit and plus some Jack Daniels and honey whipped cream. It. Is. To. Die. For. Order one per person because you will NOT want to share.

They had a crazy drink special on when I was there at the end of March where all drinks were $4 taxes in on Wednesdays. With the place gaining in popularity, they may not still offer it, but it couldn’t hurt to ask. In addition to dinner, they are open for both lunch and weekend brunch. I can’t wait to go.

I wish Olivia and The Kitchen great success and I hope you will try it. Know that the woman cooking for you at The Kitchen is one of the sweetest people around whose love of food shines through in everything on the menu.

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