Fantastic fare at Figo (service not so much)
Plus the food at Parcae impresses (but the squirrelled-away location makes this hard to find)
295 Adelaide St. W. $100 Dinner for two If Charles Khabouth and his sidekick Hanif Harji aren’t the busiest guys in town, dunno who is. I can’t keep track of all their bars, clubs and restos. From Patria and Weslodge to Société and Byblos, throw in a few big clubs and these guys are making Oliver and Bonacini and Mark McEwan look petite.
The newest member of the Khabouth/Harji family is Figo on Adelaide Street West. It’s unfortunate that Figo is across the street from Hooters, that brand not being so appetizing (to some of us) across a plate glass window. Maybe some curtains? It’s a pretty room, light and curvy, the wine cupboard’s glass boxes the shape of church windows and a large tile arch framing the open kitchen.
My mom used to say that, if I couldn’t say something nice, I oughtn’t to say anything at all. Clearly she didn’t know she was raising a restaurant critic. So sorry Mom, but could some of the serving staff have migrated southward across the street? ’Cause their service skills range form mediocre to appalling, so we’re wondering if maybe they have other, ahem, attributes.
It starts with the maître d’, who, with the restaurant three quarters empty, seats us at a small round table in the middle of the throughway from kitchen to back room rather than a nice big table against the wall. Then there’s ordering the wine. Which of the reds is the fullest bodied? She doesn’t know. She consults her cheat sheet. She still isn’t sure.
But the food is fantastic. There is superb salad of creamy burrata with pressed cantaloupe and huckleberries. A suite of housemade ricotta apps with house-made crostoni and diverse garnishes. I favour the one with vin cotta (cooked down caramelized wine) and toasted pine nuts. Very authentic. There is impeccable raw sea bream jazzed with chili and basil. Fabulous thin-crust pizzas, of which the simply dubbed mushroom topping is just about mind-blowing in a town with too much great pizza. It’s cremini and maitake mushrooms with nicely caramelized onion, caciocavallo cheese, super-thin shaved potato, a big bouquet of raw watercress and the scent of truffle. Divine!
Of course the pasta is housemade. I like the tortelli, which are smallish ravioli stuffed with lemonspiked arugula and ricotta in butter sauce. They go great with salad of black kale with chilies and crispy garlic. What doesn’t go so great is having all the food delivered to the (smallish) table at once. The maître d’ walks by several times during our dinner but never pauses his perambulation either to check in with us or to notice how we’re being served. Pity.
We ask what the chocolate dessert is, and the server says there’s a quenelle on top. Which she defines as a mascarpone (pronounced like corn pone) football. Escoffier would be turning in his grave to hear the great gossamer dumpling of la grande cuisine française referred to as a football.
So we order the panna cotta. Yet a different server delivers that. This one is in such a hurry that as I ask her where the elderberry jelly is, she has already turned heel and hurried away. Thank goodness I can find the elderberry jelly all by myself. It’s a golden layer atop the panna cotta, itself a quivering fragile mass of cooked cream and elderberry jelly, a sophisticated not-too-sweet benediction on the Italianate splendour of the panna cotta.
But still they put a foot wrong. In a restaurant that’s still not so full, wouldn’t you think someone, anyone, might bid us farewell on departure? Not a chance. Is this a new meaning of hospitality?
Clockwise from left: the pretty room at Figo, the thin-crust mushroom pizza, Parcae’s sumptuous bread pudding