Cataplana - classy Portuguese, same league as Chiado
There had been a confusion on the Summerlicious website, since straightened out. The lunch-dinner menus had been reversed, same mains and desserts, different starters. What I saw at lunch was sardines as a starter, which I love.
So we showed up, with my heart set on sardines and my not caring about anything else. We were told that sardines were only at supper. The soup was a creamed vegetable. I have never had a soup (non-fish) at a Portuguese restaurant that I liked, let alone a creamed soup. Portugal does not seem to have a soup culture. Then there was the green salad which was mesculan blah. Dessert was creme brulee which generally is a competent but omnipresent bore and Molotoff, a soft isle flottant like dish and not that interesting. So in pique and not wanting to lose two courses we left and went to Caju (Brazilian Portuguese). It was closed for lunch, only open for lunch on weekends. Decided to go back to Cataplana and deal with our embarasment (the Ms. much more). Same parking spot, same welcome, same table. We were happy that we did.
Me. Me: starters from the regular lunch menu, fried goat cheese on salad ($7.85), sardines ($7.25), idea of sharing the Ms.'s main and dessert Ms. green salad, fried skate, Molotoff
An extensive wine list. Had a glass of Portuguese red, something called Alancia ($6.50) which was very good and went beautifully with the food.
Very good black olives, olive oil and excellent bread came to the table.
The fried goat cheese was very good, came on a bed of mesculan salad with a generous olive oil dressing.
The sardine (fillets) could have been a main course elsewhere; beautifully presented, mounded on bits of red and yellow pepper and pineapple, covered with diced lightly sauted onion and garlic, again the generous olive oil dressing. Delicious if you like sardines.
I had a bit of the tomato rice bed from the Ms'. main and shared the dessert.
I had more than enough to eat and I felt as is I had been on a very tasty bit of an adventure.
The Ms. salad was mesculan with a few slices of tomato, large enough for two. The skate was a generous supper plate. The skate was on a large bed of rice which had been mixed into a crushed tomato sort of sauce, to which bits of basil had been added at the end. Very good.
The Molotoff was big enough for the two of us, served with a caramel mango sauce. Very nice, mercifully light.
The Ms. $20 lunch was really a big supper. It could made a nice lunch for the two of us particulary with one other starter.
I must rail about the mesculan crap epidemic, which has struck here virulently. I know why restaurants use mesculan. No washing, no work, easy to serve and people think that it is classy. But in Toronto the mesculan is fey crap and then it is usually doused with a clumsy salad dressing which is far to oily. (If the mesculan is good any dressing gilds the lily; if it is wimpish any dressing smothers it; salad dressings are an art here largely lost.) I can make excuses for mesculan in the winter (well, not really). But there is no excuse for mesculan in the summer. Earlier in the week I bought a box of 18 heavy heads of red oak leaf lettuce for $12, delicious, I kept on eating lettuce as if I were a rabbit; a box of 17lbs quite good tomatoes for $; 30lb bushels of red and orange peppers for $15.
Bsically, at this time of the year there is lots of salad stuff around that is delicious and cheap; cheaper then mesculan. I used to take my own bread to restaurtants (I don't anymore, dieting attempt, not better mannered. I am tempted to take my own salad stuff).
In the case of what we had at Cataplan, the mesculan detracted a great deal from the dish. You know, like a very good cook making sandwiches with the best ingredients but using Wonder bread.
The Ms. skate plate deserved a much better introduction, with more character, than mesculan.
The tomato slices I know came from photography tomatoes and were much more expensive than what I had bought.
My goat cheese with olive oil just screamed for something more substantial in taste and texture as a companion, anything, it didn't need to be bitter.
Let's start a mesculan boycott! I saw an open consumer revolt before, in Halifax. The standard house wine when I was there there was Donnini. I would see people ask apprehensively what the house wine is , and on being told Donnini would flat out refuse wine.
But to get back to the main idea, would we go back? You bet! We've been there before and will return. We like Cataplana a lot and prefer it to Chiado, although to be fair should add that Chiado is very good too.