In our ongoing series The Reveal, we go behind closed doors and introduce you to the people and food of the city’s newest restaurants and undiscovered places.
This week, we enter Portland Variety.
The Gist: Spanish food, tapas and pintxos are all extremely popular trends right now. But many are doing versions of, melding together cuisines and using it as a way to jump on the trend.
Owner Milton Nunes has been planning a Spanish tapas place for years (Milton inspired William Tavares (original owner) to open Salt Wine Bar) and having traveled in Spain, and being Portuguese, well, this is just his kind of food.
After securing the former KiWe spot a year and a half ago, he worked at finding a chef who would be able to execute his menu. Then he went to gutting the place. The result is one of the best Spanish restaurants in the city.
Grub: Because Portland Variety is open from very early to very late, there are a number of options:
During breakfast hours, grab-and-go pastries are ready for those who want to eat on the run, as well as the soon to come breakfasts- ooh, breakfast sandwiches include Baby Shrimp Salad Croissant ($5.85), and there’s a House Smoked Trout Dill Cream Cheese Omelette/Scramble ($12).
Lunch will be a condensed version of the dinner menu, with the addition of a few sandwiches and salads.
Starting at 5pm, select from dinner in the dining room or patio, or partake in the tapas bar and pintxos (small snacks) made a la minute, with some menu items available, as well as bites exclusive to the front.
Libations: The focused list features everything from refreshing (The Royal Garden ($14) Tito’s vodka, lime, basil and fresh cucumber) to deep and bold (Smoking Gun ($14) pecan-infused Crown Royal Maple Rye Whiskey, maple syrup and bitters, served over an XL ice cube in a Maplewood smoked glass). p.s. Get your coffee here – the swanky (costly) Modbar Modular Espresso System is like no other.
‘Hood: King West
Deets: With room for 75 in the dining room, 15-20 standing room in the front, and a roomy patio for up to 75, there is more than enough room for you and all of your friends. And the people-watching is phenomenal - from the dining room or patio, just watch as the dapper crowds whizz by.
They are currently expanding the second floor to include another kitchen.
Fixtures & Fittings: Milton went through and removed all the old equipment, fixtures andgarbage – all 2,400 sq. ft of it., locking the door for about three weeks straight - mapping out the place, configuring spaces and designing it to be utilized differently from front to back (the only remaining fixture is the kitchen in the middle). He worked with designer Marc Kyriacou, Principal of MarcKyr Inc., whose designs can be found at many restos around the city including Volos, Fancy Franks and Rogers CentreBar. The amber banquette lining the back wall is particularly striking.
Off the Menu: The most important thing to know about the food is that the vibrant flavours jump off the plate. A zesty Fish Crudo ($19) with citrus, chili, mango, coriander and plantain chips stuns. Simple sure, but difficult to get so right. Jambon Iberico pan con tomate ($20/$40) is magical. The simple combination of ham and tomato on toast is so sophisticated, you’ll be immediately transported to the Spanish coast. Warm Cod Brandade ($12) is creamy with a slightly spicy finish, and the ideal balance of cod and potato. Baby Eggplant Byaldi Confit ($9), topped with cinnamon, features soft, silky caramelized onions. Chickpeas ($9) with harissa, saffron, sweet potato and zucchini, has that bite that only dried, not canned, chickpeas can deliver. Served with homemade sourdough, it’s almost a complete meal on its own.
Grilled Octopus ($24) with Iberico chorizo,smoked tomato, olive oil and grilled lemon is tender, smoky and spicy perfection. Crispy Seared Cornish Hen($15/$25) with homemade piri piri is sublime – moist meat, crisped skin and a hot sauce that has real depth of flavour. Move over roast chicken! Beignets ($8) with a chocolate sauce from an award-winning recipe, and piping hot custard inside, outdoes most in the city. Light, yet deeply satisfying, you simply must save room for dessert.
How Cool is This?! Milton makes the breads for dinner service (and one day soon, for the sandwiches too)! And there’s a lovely little herb garden on the roof for chef to use.
FOH: Manger Taavo Kuutan
Head Honcho: Milton Nunes (of Le Gourmand, which is in the works of being his again)
Visiting Hours: Mon - Wed: 7:00am - 11:00pm
Thu - Sat: 7:00 am - 1:00 am
Sun: 8:00 am - 3:00 pm
Lunch begins at 12, dinner at 5.
(Both brunch on weekends and lunch, to start the first weekend of September).
Map It: 587 King St. W. (at Portland)
Phone It In: (416) 368-5151
Check out our Facebook page for all the photos.