So we spent last week moving... which meant that our kitchen was all packed away and we had to eat out. We visited a few favourites (Mother's Dumplings, Balkan Bistro, Le Paradis, and others) and did our fair share of hitting spots in the Little Italy area, where our new home is.
I'll start with the good news: Midi Bistro and the Fish House
Midi Bistro (McCaul, just south of Baldwin)
What a great little bistro! All dinner entrees are priced at $19.50, you can get a 2-course prix fixe for $24.50, or a 3-course prix fixe for $29.50. You have a choice of about a dozen apps, 8 mains, and 4 or 5 desserts (including house-made ice creams). Or else, they have a lighter fare menu, which has about a half-dozen choices and for which you can get a 3-course prix fixe for $22.50.
I ordered the lighter fare prix fixe, for which I got a green salad, vegetarian Moroccan-style couscous, and cinnamon ice cream. My partner ordered the 2-course prix fixe and opted for a walnut, prosciutto & goat cheese salad, and braised lamb shank as the main.
Great bread - a chewy multigrain.
We were both very happy with our salads. Perfect amount of salad dressing (shallot champagne) - enough to just lubricate the mastication of the greens, while not at all concealing the flavour of the greens. My partner’s lamb was lovely... nicely tender and the reduction was a good balance of sweet and savoury. His lamb was served with a nice selection of julienne root vegetables and haricots verts, sautéed in butter and herbs de Provence. Frites were nice and crisp, properly done in peanut oil. I knew that my Moroccan-style couscous was probably not the best example of the kitchen’s abilities when I was trying to decide what to order, and I wasn’t wrong with that assumption. While it was adequate, it was drier than I prefer (had it not been for the sautéed vegetables they threw on top of the mound of couscous, I wouldn’t have been able to eat as much as I did). They could have used more nuts and perhaps some dried limes, apricots, and olives – but maybe that’s just a preference thing. Anyway, I think it’s better to stick with the French bistro classics like confit de canard, steak frites, etc.
Fish House (College, west of Grace)
Lovely seafood sandwiches. For $5.99, the daily special was grilled grouper on a fresh ciabatta bun. They very liberally used a “Mrs. Dash” type seasoning on the fish, which was VERY garlicky. And while I LOVE garlic I would have preferred if they eased up on that stuff a bit so the real flavour of the fish would come out. But I quite enjoyed my sandwich, nonetheless. I’m eager to try their scallop, salmon, and other sandwiches. They also serve seafood soups and for those who are still following the Atkins Diet, they do grilled fish on salad.
The bad news: Sotto Voce and Vivoli
Both are tragically hip – all dressing and no substance. Not that I really expected anything different along College, but the only redeeming quality was the patio at each. Service was young and inexperienced (the server we had at Sotto Voce actually said, “if you hadn’t have asked, I wouldn’t have bothered” when we asked her to change our cutlery between courses). Food was WAY over priced for both quality and quantity ($13 for an antipasto “platter” that consisted of 3 types of generic cheeses x 4 small slices each, and 2 types of generic cured meats x 4 thin slices each). And after good honest food at places like Balkan Bistro and Mother’s Dumplings, it kinda makes you feel stupid for paying such exorbitant prices for lame food.
We also checked out Nova Era Bakery, the Golden Wheat Bakery, the Sicilian Sidewalk Café, and Cucina – none of which particularly wowed us. Anyone have any recommendations for good mom & pop shops along College (Bitondo’s, Regina’s, Grace Meats, and Centro del Formaggio are already on our list)?