BIG CROW: Up north in midtown

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647 748 3287  |   Reasonably Priced Small, Large Plates  |   176 Dupont St W

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I’ve only ever given out two four-star reviews in this city. The most recent one was Anthony Rose’s Rose and Sons, a deeply satisfying, eclectic diner experience I’ve been raving about for months. Big Crow, an ‘up north’ inspired patio, recently opened just behind it, and I was fortunately invited to partake by a couple friends who’d already been and were craving seconds. Here’s how that went.

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Food

Before I get into food, let me take a couple sentences to say these guys serve ginger beer straight from Thomas Laverns C&D in Kensington Market - a huge plus if you love the unique burn of this particular beverage. Generally, you won’t find ginger beer outside of Caribbean restaurants or cocktail menus, so I happily had both a boozy version with rye and a big glass of it with ice afterwards.

As for the menu here, it’s broken out into starters (crow start), seconds (little crow) and platters that combine main proteins (big crow) with salads (eat crow). And there’s dessert, but I’ll touch on that later.

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The first and highest priority for one of my friends was to re-order the garlic bread with smoked mozzarella (above). It’s got pretty much everything you’re looking for: crunch, mushy garlic, and a buttery soft interior. I would have gone a little heavier on the mozzarella personally given it’s the first item listed, but I can understand not wanting to go overboard with this starter.

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Next up, skewered jerk chicken wings on pineapple slices. The jerk wings were pretty tasty, good heat level, and charred enough for that to become a significant part of the flavour profile. Found the pineapple and bread to be afterthoughts…so I piled them on top of each other, resulting in a combination that was thoroughly forgettable. 

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We also ordered the swordfish with mango salsa to get some fish into the meal. The more I think about this, the less I understand why it’s on the menu. I get that swordfish is forgiving on an open grill, but mangos and a thin piece of swordfish don’t fit the theme at all, and it seems like such a wasted opportunity to do a riff on cedar plank trout or a whole grilled fish.

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Then the meal got a whole lot better with the arrival of the ‘jw bird’. If you’re a connoisseur of roasted chicken, you may have heard of Jonathan Waxman’s iconic JW Chicken, now served at Barbuto in NY’s West Village. I’ve had that chicken and it’s something I’ll never forget, but this was pretty damn close.

Really juicy and tender, crisp exterior, and a different twist on the green sauce that I think contained pickles, capers, green onion, and possibly ginger (don’t quote me on these). Point is, this is a must-order dish.

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Another must-order are the baby back ribs with burst tomato pesto; we ordered a half-rack and they were gone pretty quickly after they arrived. The pesto on ribs thing is a small stroke of genius, a blatantly good idea you don’t quite comprehend until you eat them. Get these.

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Our last savoury items all arrived on one platter:a half rabbit with deliciously vinegary honey butter hot sauce (in front), grilled corn salad with queso fresco and chili mayo (left), cubanello peppers and eggplant (back) and a bag of ketchup chips (right).

Best things on the plate include the stand-out honey hot sauce, grilled rabbit, and corn salad (if only because grilled corn is undeniably a good idea every time).

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I’m not even sure the picture above needs describing, so I’ll keep it short. Dessert at Big Crow is one of three ice-cream sandwiches on brioche. We ordered all three (crunchy peanut butter and blueberry jam, smore with browned mellows on top, berry with lemon curd), and you can’t go wrong with any of them.

Just pick what feels right and indulge. You can probably take one down yourself without completely hating yourself.

Service and Ambience

Clearly, this is also a great place to hang out. It’s nicely tucked behind the restaurant, accessed through an alley on the right, and opens up into well-lit lines of picnic tables filled with smells of a big open grill.

One thing you should know is that it gets a bit buggy, mostly little fruit flies, so just know you’ll have to protect your food like you might if you were really outdoors up north.

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Despite not being open long, service here was friendly, well-timed and helpful throughout during a busy Saturday evening. As we closed our tab, we also had our bills split into four on a moment’s notice, which I’d say is an underrated convenience that you’ll find valuable when stuffed and in need of a swift exit.

The Reco?

One of the city’s better options for patio dining without a doubt, and sure to get much busier in the coming weeks. The concept rehashes familiar memories, creates new ones, and will leave you with cravings the next day. All reasons you should get here soon.

That said, the swordfish choice is still bugging me, and I can’t say I’d order everything again. Perhaps it’s a comparative bias, but next time I’m in the area, I’ll probably walk into Rose and Sons and beg for ginger beer and a table by the window.

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