1314 Queen St. W. $80 Dinner for two People are always asking me for the hot new restaurant. The, as if there’s one and they have to go to it in order to be cool, trendy, hip. It’s true, they do. There’s no point going to Zucca or Cava if you wannabe cool. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for gracious service and fabulous food, do it.
But if you’re normal, that’s not what you want. It’s just like me not wanting to look my age. Hair dye, Lululemon pants two sizes too small, laser this and Botox that — we’re all paddling down that great Egyptian River, denial, when it comes to who we really are. And it’s affecting where we eat. The illusion goes something like this: If I wear a lot of tight black clothes and dine at the hippest spot in downtown west, I can pretend not to be middle-aged from uptown. Hence Porzia. This place was tailor-made for aiding and abetting illusions.
It’s uber cool, it’s so trendy you’ll feel like a hipster just for walking in the door. It’s the darling of Parkdale, the Italian comfort food destination with a big dose of artistic chef syndrome. Which can be a good or bad thing.
It’s very good on the starters. Porzia’s tuna carpaccio is terrific buttery tuna dotted with yummy bone marrow–infused aïoli, crispy crunchy fried capers and egg yolk dots. Beet and carrot salad is also entertaining: Wonderful roasted beets and carrots with boutique mozzarella and agresto sauce (made from nuts and basil — like pesto but richer).
But then things go badly downhill. The chicken liver agnolotti, which are the darlings of Porzia fans (go figure), are tooplain chicken liver purée (yuck!) in unexciting little pasta rolls. The honey mushrooms are nice but their aged balsamic sauce is hohum. The octopus is a tad mealy, and we are unmoved by its peanut and apple sauce. Bone marrow with snails and gremolata is much better, a clever combo of the smooth (bone marrow), the earthy (snails) and the piquant (gremolata).
Dessert, however, exemplifies the problem of the hipster resto: Does the world really need eggplant mousse? Come on. Whipped eggplant with sugar and whipped cream? If the zeppole (doughnuts) with the mousse weren’t dry or the chocolate budino weren’t runny, we’d perhaps forgive the mousse. This is a case of a kitchen gone wild on ideology without minding the taste of things. JOANNE KATES