PINKY’S AND THE BRAIN
Leemo Han is no stranger to restaurants. The restaurateur first made waves in Toronto with Swish by Han, a collaboration with his brother Leeto, followed by the popular Oddseoul. Leemo then stepped out on his own with Hanmoto, his Japanese snack bar on Dundas West. His latest solo project is Pinky’s Ca Phe, tucked away in a small space near College and Clinton.
“Vietnamese food in Toronto is a little simple,” Han says while reminiscing about restaurants dedicated to perfecting that one dish, like a joint that only served up pho ga (chicken pho) or grilled quail done over a spit.
“I don’t want to bastardize the food,” says Han. “It’s my take on it. There is no other restaurant where you can get a Vietnamese ceviche.”
His is a trio of yellowfin tuna, surf clams and scallops. Han doesn’t tone it done for those who shy away from the fishiness of fish sauce.
Other top dishes include the Spring Chicken, which sees a boned chicken stuffed with Portuguese smoked pork bacon, taro, carrots, peas and ground pork. The dish was inspired by Vietnamese spring rolls, except here the chicken — steamed, dried and fried — serves as the wrapper.
Meanwhile the So Fly Rice begins with conpoy (dried scallops), a premium ingredient in Asian cuisine. It’s soaked overnight, pulled into slivers and then topped with ikura salmon roe, julienned egg crepes and cilantro. A heavy dousing of fish sauce is strongly recommended.
The decor is inspired by ’ 70s Vietnam, referencing bars that American GIs would hang out at during the Vietnam War. The main dining area is adorned with floral bar stools, and potted plants dot the rooms.
A pinkish glow is cast across the space, thanks to neon signs beaming off the wall. Pinky’s is currently opened for dinner only, though there are plans to serve broken rice dishes for lunch, and a banh mi cart out front is in the works (Pinky’s Ca Phe, 53 Clinton St.).