Toronto’s newest Spanish restaurant: Patria

Patria is located on King St. West, between Spadina and Brant Street. You can’t see it from the street: you really have to know where you’re going, and wander down a strange alleyway/hoarding/construction area to the restaurant itself.

Sandy, Betty and I tried it out last night to celebrate Betty’s birthday. What a feast!

It offers Torontonians some proper tapas — small dishes to have with a drink — as well as larger dishes of food to share. We indulged in both.

We started with Sangria — harkening back to earlier days when we had pitchers of them at McGinnis Landing in Waterloo… many many years ago.

Sangria to start

We chose a number of starters from the menu:

First off, a plate of ham from Spanish acorn-eating pigs and a marvelous chorizo sausage:

Chorizo and ham etc.

The smoke flavour of the sausage was really delicious – it didn’t overwhelm, but it was warm, gave bite, and went so well with the fat in the sausage that we were all craving more.

Next came a couple of perfectly fresh and grilled sardines. No fishy smell or flavour, these were almost as sweet as smelt. Bonus: they had been boned, and there was dill in their bellies as well as the wonderful herb sauce along side of them.

Grilled sardines

While we were in a seafood vein, we also had some very tender slices of octopus served on fingerling potatoes, olive oil and smoky paprika swirling around the little islands of food.

Octopus on fingerling potatoes

Potatoes — in Quebec, you had poutine. Then poutine came to Ontario. In the same way that it has become a standard of sorts, with customization, patatas bravas are the ubiquitous Spanish bar food that bears the bar’s signature. Here is the delicious version at Patria:

Potatoes, Spanish style.

Break the egg yolk and spread it around, then eat. Oh yes.

About this time, we ran out of sangria: what to do, what to do? We ordered a bottle of wine, Muga Rioja, Reserva 2008. Rich, dark fruit, moderate tannins, chocolate, and some eucalyptus.

Muga Reserva 2008

It was about this time that our waiter returned to tell us that there was a problem with the paella we had ordered: the chef wasn’t happy with the way the rabbit was turning out — it was too tough. We were asked if we could be served the seafood paella instead and they’d comp us desserts by way of apology. How could we say no? We sighed and agreed.

And then we started eating the amazing dates with Manchego cheese and thin green pepper, rolled in some of the deliciously smoky Iberico bacon. Wowza. I’m not a date fan, but these really were amazing. The combination of date, cheese, and smoky bacon worked magically to create something that wasn’t appetizer or dessert or main course, but something that just stands on its own, and can claim its spot in the room at any time of day.

Dates stuffed with mantega cheese, wrapped in bacon

The meaty goodness of the wrapped dates served to introduce us to the awesome flank steak, which was the next item served. This really should be the signature dish of Patria — it was rich and tender, and the red pepper sauce that it laid upon was stellar — had those umami flavours that you really want accompanying beef, and was slightly sweet, due no doubt to the peppers, but also had a demiglace richness and depth of flavour that had us wishing we had spoons or bread to soak it all up.

Flank steak

One more dish remained! The paella. How would the seafood paella measure up?

First they brought the trivet for it. I think that this is the kind of thing that Lee Valley should be selling (although they have some pretty cool trivets already, the movable blocks on this one amp up the geek factor).

_MG_2516

The waiter returned with the paella pan, arranged the sticks and blocks to keep the pan from burning the table, and served us each a healthy helping of rice, mussels, scampis, shrimp, monkfish and cuttlefish. Delicious selection of seafood and lovely sweet green peas in their pods.

Seafood paella

It was a big dish. We couldn’t finish it (but we did pick all the seafood pieces off the rice and eat them). We knew we had dessert to come. We don’t usually order desserts at our birthday dinners: we’re more likely to choose a cheese plate (which we had eyed on the menu) or we’ve also been known to pick up pastries from an awesome Portuguese bakery on Dundas and then head back to Sandy’s to eat them.

Our desserts began arriving. Chocolate pudding surmounted with a small sugar globe filled with olive oil. This is a challenge greater than getting the caramel in the Caramilk. How did they do that?

Chocolate pudding with olive oil in a sugar bubble

Crack the sugar globe and release the fragrant oil on the pudding – you really must go experience this. They call it pudding. I call it ganache. It’s wickedly good, and best friends with the olive oil. So dark chocolate and olive oil — this is a health food, right? Well, until you pair it with the churros, which came with a little puddle of dulce de leche.

Churros

Dip a churro in the dulce and then into the chocolate pudding. For a non-dessert person? This is an awesome dessert combination.

Then the waiter brought the third dessert. Thin brittle wafers with a toffee/coffee ice cream in between… softly whipped cream, a couple of flower petals, and some tapenade (I love how olives go from appetizer to dessert).

Third dessert!

Did we want a coffee to finish the evening? Oh no, my dear, we’re really done. Toasted. Filled. No room for anything else. We walked back to Sandy’s, drank some water, then caught the TTC home in our respective directions.

Another excellent dinner night out.

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About pat

Visual thinker, first got interested in digital imagery in the early days of Omni magazine, back when it used to review what had happened at SIGGraph. I worked in the 3D software field for 23 years. Lifelong enjoyment of gardening grew over time; I was a Master Gardener (briefly) and had a vegetable and herb allotment garden in Toronto to grow vegetables, as well as perennial gardens at home. Gardening and enjoying fresh produce also raised my interest in cooking with really good local food. As more restaurants in Toronto are offering local fare, I enjoy dining out and sampling the visions the different chefs have.

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