The Gist: Dining in the modern, lower level of Parcae (pronounced "par-say" - the Roman tale of three witches that hold the thread of life. It is the meaning of fate) in the Templar Hotel makes you feel like you’re in another place, another world outside of Toronto.
The dark space is lifted with soft lighting and modern art, but never loses its sexy edge. Fascinating hand-crafted dishes, intriguing drinks and cocktails, and polished service make it one of the best restaurants in the city.
Grub: "All we’re doing is having fun," says Chef Hassell.
Everything is made and smoked in house. The limited space in the modern, white kitchen contains only fridges, no freezers, meaning everything comes in fresh. "We do our prep and then it’s gone at the end of the day," Hassell says. "My food is very simple. It's all about contrast of flavours and textures."
Chef Hassel who grew up in Montreal - his Mother’s from Puglia (Chef Joseph Awad is from Quebec) - says he is not doing a particular style of cuisine, but instead moving towards bold flavours geared towards our cold weather.
The seasonal menu will have items that change. Ingredients such as purple heirloom sweet potatoes that have an innate smokiness are grown specifically for Hassell. A small bar menu is in the works for upstairs.
Libations: Cocktails are elegant and sultry. Iluminati ($17) with Gordons Gin, sage lime cordial, green chartreuse, is topped with a thick, satiny lavender foam.
Bar Manager Kevin Harris created the Aphrodite ($15) for U.S. clients whose usual order was a Cosmopolitan. This more sophisticated version boasts Miguel Torres Pisco, Pama Pomegrante Liquor, lime juice, simple syrup, and egg whites.
'Hood: Entertainment District
Deets: The restaurant seats 50-65, with 30 in the upstairs bar area. There are two seats at the Chef’s Table in the kitchen.
Fixtures & Fittings: Plateware style was discussed by the whole team, but co-owner Reza Abedi choose each piece as well as the antique forks used throughout.
The abstract illuminated walls showcase sexy nudes from Toronto photographer/artist Matt Adams.
And the kitchen - "It’s tiny but I do love it," says Hassell. Being in the lower level without windows "alleviates us from everything. We can think about what we’re doing without distraction."
Off the Menu:
Artichokes ($10) It’s not often that you see artichokes on the menu. It’s even more rare that you see them done whole like this. Two honking-sized chokes get fried so that the outside is nice and crisp with a soft interior. A drop of lemon adds zing, while a sprinkling of red mullet bottarga from Gaspe adds a subtle, but alluring umami note. Artichoke dip? Puh-shaw. This is how you’ll want it from now on.
Nduja Ravioli ($15) Al dente UFO-shaped pasta filled with spicy, rich nduja sausage (made with pig heart fat and Italian chilis), bob in a delicate stracciatella (the interior of burrata) foam, and get topped with fresh baby basil leaves. Its complex flavours with juxtaposing textures will leave you intrigued and wanting more.
Clams ($15) A dashing rich tomato stew with cicerchie beans and guanciale sits deep in a bowl, graced with a board-length slice of toasted bread. Placed on top, three little neck clams loosened with chicken stock and tucked in with delicate strips of lardo. A winter must.
Romanesco ($16) If everyone had romanesco like this, it would be universally loved. Roasted to perfection, this ginormous pointed beauty is struck through with antique cutlery, lovingly paired with Hassell’s mother’s sumptuous sauce (secret ingredients include egg yolks and mustard powder) and scattered with thick cuts of guanciale.
Lamb Brains ($12) Don’t let the name scare you off. If you love sweetbreads, say hello to its tasty cousin. A base of pickled cicoria (chicory) is topped with deep-fried lamb brains, fitted with an upside-down hedgehog mushroom from Oregon, and finished with an acidic demi glace sauce to cut the fatness of the brain.
Octopus and Bone Marrow ($29) A hefty roasted bone marrow is festooned with braised octopus from the Adriatic, topped with smoked Maldon salt and baton of fried bread, and served with refined dollops of heirloom purple sweet puree. Oh so decadent and oh so good.
A classic Quebecois dessert, Pudding Chomeur ($8) - translation: "welfare pudding" - is made by Chef Awad (Au Pied de Cochon). It starts with housemade sponge cake with pure maple syrup, and finishes with to-die-for handmade vanilla ice cream and smoked vanilla Maldon salt, so that it’s not too sweet. Best dessert you’ll have this year.
How Cool is This?! Best seat in the house? The chef’s table (two seats only). Let Hassell and Awad cook up a storm for you with their blind tasting menus. "We do special things that no one else will see in restaurants. I’ll go as far as someone wants to go. If they want to do 30 courses, I’ll do 30 courses." 'Nuff said.
At the Stove: Chefs Danny Hassell & Joseph Awad
FOH: Simon Leblanc, Manager
Visiting Hours: Mon to Thurs 5pm – 12am
Fri & Sat 5pm – 2am
Map It: 348 Adelaide St W at Peter St. (in the main and lower level of The Templar Hotel)
Phone It In: (416) 398-5335
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