MALENA [NOW CLOSED]

416-964-0606    |    $25-34 entrees

Wanted to try something a little more refined for dinner with a few friends in the Av and Dav area. Came across Malena, sister resto to closeby l’Unita, serving up a fusion of Greek and Southern Italian fare. Here’s everyone’s take:

Food

The menu has a good balance of Greek and Italian, a good number of appetizer plates and nice balance of meat/fish/pasta in the mains. Something for everyone by the looks of it. 


Photo Credit: John Surfin, Post City

To start, 3/4 of the of the group ordered the arugula salad with roasted butternut squash, goat cheese and preserved quince. The consensus was ‘more squash please’, which meant both the salad could have used more of it and the concept was right. End of the day, it’s just some greens to start off the meal.

I started with fresh arancini over duck confit, with pieces of cold burrata, and pine nuts. This was my favourite dish of the night. Combined a bunch of things I wanted to eat, and really balanced temperature and texture well. I will say that I thought the duck confit could have been more tender and that the arancini were lacking the signature presence of melted cheese. I know there was something else on the plate (a green maybe?), but can’t remember for the life of me. It’s a variation on their usual arancini dish.

For the mains, we ordered gnocchi of the day with a pork and tomato ragu with parmesan to garnish. Ragu was tasty, but found the gnocchi a touch on the dense side. A good dish though.

Also ordered the roasted brick chicken with house mostarda in potato puree. My friend described the chicken as succulent and tender, with crispy-ish skin. The mostarda also add a some texture and a nice flavour complement to the potato puree. Dish was also served with an egg yolk that was cooked past runny. Not sure if the yolk was suppose to break and become the sauce or what. 

The market fish of the day was sea bass with a dill sauce, potatoes and grilled celery. The bass was perfectly flaky, and the classically paired sides worked as you’d expect.


Photo Credit: John Surfin, Post City

I ordered the squid ink tortellini (above) stuffed with lobster and mascarpone, topped with reduced brown butter and heirloom carrot sauce. Pasta was a perfect, thin, al dente encasing for the creamy lobster filling. I found the sauce added some richness, but I couldn’t pick out carrot. The panko on top each for crunch was a nice touch. The dish was definitely satisfying, but I think I wanted a hint of brightness or bitter to round it out.

Three of us ended with gelato. Pistachio was dead-on, but the dark chocolate was a little closer to milk for some at the table. I had the chocolate panna cotta with candied olives. The taste combination does work, but the panna cotta was more or less pudding texture and most pieces of the candied olives were too large, making some bites quite salty and unappetizing. 

Service and Ambience

We found the service pleasant, checked up on everything frequently, no glaring mistakes I can remember. 

The decor in the restaurant was very trendy, mixing tile, metal, wood, retro and modern all in one. If I started an upscale restaurant, it’d look pretty close to this.

An Aside…

I was recommended an online reservation service called DiningDateNight (bad name, I know) that lets you reserve at about 10-15 upscale restaurants across the city for $10, and in return gives you 30% off your final bill. We saved about $70 across the four us, which was awesome.
 

The Reco?

Overall, I understood what the meal should have been and think it almost got there. A few food slips here and there makes me a little hesitant to return for full price, but I’d try it again at a bargain.

Other reviews:
Globe and Mail    |Toronto Star

 Posted by: Jacob, Visited Nov 11, 2011

Malena on Urbanspoon