416 703 4222 | $9-$32 sharing plates
Niagara Street Cafe occupied this same spot just off King West for years, but as of about a month ago, it was reborn as Edulis. What does Edulis mean you ask? It’s a type of porcini mushroom. Who knew? Learn something every day!
The new menu caught my eye, so I decided to bring eight friends to descend upon the restaurant and chow down. Here’s how it went.
Photo Credit: Facebook Page
The changing menu not only features some great shrooms, but offers an eclectic mix of Spanish, French, Italian and more that I’ve yet to find downtown. You’ll see things like paella, sweetbreads, foie gras torchon, lamb neck, ceviche and veal belly among other things, which really makes this menu stand out. Generally, I’m wary of too many cuisines on one menu, but everything just sounded so good.
We were graciously presented with a couple servings of this traditional ‘pintxos’ (spanish amuse-bouche/snack if you will) of olives stuffed with anchovies and spicy guindillo peppers (above). Very traditional salty, spicy, fishy combo with some bread to balance it out. Perfect little bites.
Had some fresh greens (above) to start off with. Not much to say here other than the menu reads ‘Soiled Reputation Greens’, which is just a reference to the name of the farm in Stratford where the greens come from. You won’t get any soil =P
Next up was the foie gras torchon with fresh oregon porcinis stacked with toasts and a pinenut vinaigrette (above). I stay away from foie personally, but my friends quite enjoyed the dish. Fresh, earthy, and nutty are words they uttered along with ‘mmm’. So far so good.
The next dish we ordered was the BC spot prawn ceviche with aji amarillo and cripsy corn. I was an idiot, and mistakenly deleted the picture of my favourite dish of the night. The juicy chunks of prawn were great, but the star was the really bright spicy peruvian chile pepper along the bottom of the plate that brought the dish to life. I’m also a sucker for corn nuts, so the cripsy corn was a great touch for taste and texture. Excellent dish.
Next up was the lamb neck with chickpeas (pieces and puree) and a simple carrot, onion and parsley salad (above). I quite enjoyed the lamb neck and the accompaniments. I’m not sure if it was too simple or I’m just being picky, but I feel like one more element (acid? extra seasoning of some kind?) could have made it just a bit better.
Then came the veal belly that many folks around the table quite enjoyed. I’d never had it before, but it’s like your pork belly texturally, but remove the bacon quotient from it. This dish was also clean, fresh, and straightforward.
A friend of mine wanted a healthy fish dish, so we got her the salmon cooked in cedar leaves with butter poached radishes, wheatberries and pea shoots. The preparation of the salmon was rare and you could really pick out the cedar flavour. That said, she was really hoping for crispy-seared skin on the top. Thought $24 for this portion size was also a tad pricey.
A new item on the menu that night was the soft shell crab ‘schnitzel’ with a fried egg and a bacon salsa verde…how can you not order that? All the combos made sense: deep fried, egg, bacon, seafood, fresh. The bacon flavour wasn’t quite as forward though, so if that’s what caught your attention on the menu, don’t expect tons of bacon. The portion overall is generous though, so you should get your fill of crab.
Another must order on the menu seemed to be the baby octopus paella for two. The chef clearly likes his Spanish food, and I’ve been longing for a great paella in Toronto to bring back memories of Valencia and Barcelona. Unfortunately, two critical things that make paella great were missing: (1) the soccarat and (2) perfectly cooked seafood (found the octopus to be chewy). The soccarat is the carmelized, crispy rice layer on the bottom that forms to give paella its trademark texture. It wasn’t there on arrival, so we let it sit for a while in the hopes it would develop - still no dice. Maybe it’s the pan or something, but it was disappointing for sure.
Next were the sweetbreads with porcini, asparagus and nettle-parsley pesto (above). I enjoyed the deep-woodsy green flavours in this, but found my sweetbreads chewier than I’d like. In my experience, great sweetbreads are juicy, tender, and taste reminiscent of a chicken’s dark meat. Didn’t quite get that here.
While the savoury part of the meal ended on a bit of sour note, I had faith some sweets could resurrect it. Our first order was baba au rhum. I’d never heard of it, but the description of fluffy, semi-rum-saturated cake with whipped cream was enough for me to order it. I’ve read reviews saying they didn’t ‘get it right’, but I really enjoyed it. Nice punchy, deep rum flavour with light cake and cream was just swell for me.
The last bites of the night were taken from a lemon tart with a brunoise of rhubarb and some crunchy crumble (above). Pastry was well done, lemon tart was clean and bright, and the little juicy rhubarb cubes and crumble provided the ideal textural mix for the topping.
Service and Ambience
I love how it feels to sit in this place. It’s homey, comfortable, and looks distinctly like a rustic french cafe/bistro. The polished stone tables give it a bit of class as well that you could say bridge into the somewhat less rustic food preparations.
Photo Credit: Facebook Page
I thought service was great. This was the night of the Union flood, so a lot of our party arrived sporadically late. Thankfully, our server had no problem explaining the menu items and concepts to everyone multiple times, and kept our courses coming out at a pleasant pace. I was also particularly pleased that upon our arrival, we were offered some wines by the glass that are usually only available by the bottle. I happily ordered a spicy Hungarian red on the server’s recommendation and thoroughly enjoyed it.
I think it needs to be said this menu is ambitious; the scope and depth of European cuisines presented here aren’t easy to pull off. The place is also just a month old, and with more feedback, I believe you’ll see more and more home run dishes being put out of the kitchen. While you might get a miss, you’re also sure to be wowed and I think that’s a real reason to come back. I sure will.
Posted by: Jacob, Visited June 1, 2012