Ever notice how certain items crop up all of a sudden?
It starts out innocently enough, with a scattering across seemingly dissimilar menus, but then overnight, scads of cheese tea, fuwa fuwa (Japanese soufflé pancakes), and other menu items suddenly require your attention.
The Spotlight is a regular feature highlighting a dish or ingredient that’s taking over the city.
This week: Sardines.
You don’t have to dine at a Portuguese or seafood-centric resto to get your hands on this brain food. Rich in omega-3s and other nutrients, one of the world’s healthiest foods also happens to be mighty delicious in the right hands.
Check out the Toronto eateries offering their takes on this flavourful fish:
243 King St. E.
Head eastside for Chef Roberto Marotta’s Sarde ($19).
This Sicilian pasta brings together spaghetti, fresh sardines, wild Sicilian fennel, raisins, saffron, and toasted bread crumbs, delivering a fascinating flavour and texture combination you won’t soon forget.
571 Queen St. W.
Listed on the menu as Fried Sardine ($7), you might easily pass this dish by. But Portuguese sardines wrapped in potato, then stuffed with salsa verde? Definitely not-to-be-missed.
1251 Yonge St.
One of Rosedale’s oldest restaurants is known for their classic bistro fare. Grilled Sardines (lunch $12, dinner $11) marinated in red curry, lemongrass and coriander root paste, is an enticing departure from quintessential French flavours.
Ematei Japanese Restaurant
30 St Patrick St.
If you’re not paying attention, you’ll miss it. Set back from the sidewalk, this tiny authentic Japanese spot is still relatively unknown despite being owned and managed by the Takano family since 1989.
From curries and hot pots to ohitashio and sashimi, the menu is wide and varied with rarely seen dishes such as Shirasu Charhan ($9) - baby sardine fried rice.
Gale’s Snack Bar
539 Eastern Ave.
Cheap eats isn’t a big enough term. For decades, Gale’s Snack Bar has been the most inexpensive restaurant in Toronto.
Case in point: The Sardine Sandwich, prices at just $1.95.
190 University Ave., Third Floor
Momofuku’s “celebration of the hearth” destination offers five varieties of Corn Flatbread ($10-$17).
The griddled bread made with local K2 Milling cornmeal and hominy to try first? The one topped with marinated sardines, potato aioli, and parsley ($13), of course.
Madrina Bar Y Tapas
2 Trinity St.
The Distillery District’s newest resto offers whimsical and classic Catalan fare by acclaimed chef Ramon Simarro.
Peruse the All Day Tapas Menu and you’ll find Montaditos (think: tiny open-faced sandwiches) with Baby Sardines ($7/two pcs.) sundried tomatoes, and oregano. Paired with a glass of wine or sherry cocktail, you’ll be instantly transported to the Spanish seaside.
Ryus Noodle Bar
786 Broadview Ave.
Sardines come in an unexpected form at this unique ramen shop on Broadview.
Chef and owner Ryuichiro Takahashi’s distinctive broths are simmered for six to eight hours, and his secret sauce – which he says is difficult to make – of dried seafood (scallops, sardines) and seaweed - takes 24-48 hours.
Note: menu items, ingredients and prices subject to change.