PAR­CAE

Richmond Hill Post - - Food -

348 Ade­laide St. W. $90 Din­ner for two I am try­ing to fig­ure out how Par­cae might sur­vive past the next 10 min­utes. How could any­one with a soupçon of busi­ness sense open a restau­rant with an un­pro­nounce­able name, in an eentsy ho­tel no­body’s heard of in a dis­mal stretch of Ade­laide Street West, down badly lit stairs in a dark base­ment? It’s a joke, right? Or a cau­tion­ary tale of how not to open a restau­rant.

The co­nun­drum here is that I love the food at Par­cae, the ser­vice is charm­ing, and it de­serves to sur­vive. What, says the waiter, you don’t like the risotto? I’ll take it off your bill. Okay, now we know who we’re deal­ing with. Th­ese peo­ple are be­yond nice.

The food is sup­posed to be Québé­cois, which in it­self is pretty in­ter­est­ing given the paucity of cul­tural in­flu­ences from our nextdoor neigh­bours. Both the chefs are from Mon­treal and worked at the es­timable Ca­bane à Su­cre there. But most of the food is more Ital­ian than Québé­cois, but nonethe­less de­li­cious.

One of my all-time fave foods, usu­ally only en­joyed in Rome, is car­ciofi alla giu­dia. This is a deep­fried whole ar­ti­choke, named for my peo­ple be­cause it orig­i­nated in the Ro­man ghetto. And what could be bet­ter than this crispy ar­ti­choke scented with lemon, its flavour deep­ened with bot­targa (salted cured red mul­let roe)? Or big fat ravi­oli of nut­meg-tinged duck with brulee’d mascarpone, toasted hazenuts and tomato sauce like a cloud you in­hale? This is Québé­cois the duck with nut­meg chan­nel­ing tourtiere. Or per­fectly steamed clams in a deep strong tomato bath with white beans and lit­tle ba­tons of crispy guan­ciale (cured pork cheek)?

I’m not too sure how Québé­cois Hong Kong chicken or fried quails are, but both meet Toronto’s ap­par­ently in­fi­nite de­sire for things deep-fried. The deep fried chicken foot (!!) comes with crispy chicken skin and sweet-spiced chicken sausage on but­ter­nut squash puree. Su­per-crispy deep fried quail riffs nicely on southern fried chicken with BBQ sauce, though I fail to see the point of house-made Won­der­bread. Maybe some honey but­ter might have changed my mind.

Din­ner fin­ishes with a grand Québé­cois flour­ish, rem­i­nis­cent of the ma­son jar oeu­vre of Au Pied de Co­chon. Hot from the oven bread pud­ding, rich and fab­u­lously gooey, sits un­der melt­ing vanilla ice cream, a molten river of cream now, and over maple syrup, Al­most erotic.

Will Par­cae sur­vive? Turn up the lights on the stairs, put some signs in the ho­tel lobby so peo­ple can find it, and maybe th­ese lovely cooks and servers will get the at­ten­tion they de­serve. JOANNE KATES

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