We're walking to a new restaurant on Adelaide and Spadina in Toronto, but its already stirring up a pronunciation rift between my partner and I. Is it Park-eh? Or Par-say?
Located inside the Templar Hotel, ironically, the name was chosen for its alleged simplicity. Regardless, it is an unforgettable name whose Roman origins tell a tale of fate regarding three witches who hold the threads of life. And in many respects, Parcae tries to wield the best food-fates for its diners.
As we're informed that the restaurant's name is pronounced "par-say," I glance around the room. It exudes a speakeasy vibe bolstered with strong features in an attempt to counteract any congestion the small space could create.
The 60-seat restaurant is adorned with vibrant wall-to-wall photographs by Matt Adams and features aesthetics dreamed up by Solid Design that integrate raw steel, hardwood fixtures, stone accents and fogged-out mirrors into the landscape.
Upstairs, there's an intimate bar and lounge area directed at the after-work crowd. I'm greeted by one of owners, Michael Motamedi, who some may recognize as a contestant on the second season of Master Chef Canada. While he placed sixth in the competition, his focus today is on curating great talent and offering an experience different from the everyday. He and his partners, Reza Abedi and Dan Gunam, have sourced talented chefs to helm Parcae's kitchen.
And if that unique pairing hasn't already piqued diners' interest, Parcae has another lure to draw in the crowds: its impeccable wine list. Motamedi boasts that none of the varietals they offer in the restaurant are available at the LCBO or liquor stores. If you're only dropping in for a quick after-work drink, one of the must-haves is the 2014 Pinot Noir by Blazon- Lodi (California); it's a sexy-smooth sip and pairs well with many of their meat-enriched dishes.
We begin our eating jaunt with the aptly named lamb brains. Dredged in seasoned flour and deep-fried, they arrive as large, ragged nuggets saddled with pickled cicoria and hedgehog mushrooms from Oregon. After biting through the crunchy surface, we lap up the luxurious interior, whose consistency is a cross between foie gras' creamy richness and the density of pâté.
So far, so good. But then the radish salad arrives and things take a bit of a setback. I'm trying to understand why the chef opts for the flavour combinations it presents, but I'm at a loss because my tastebuds are rejecting the dish. There are ample amounts of sour and bitter that make my mouth perk up, but the sweet component is sorely missed.
Then a single, large pulled duck ravioli arrives at the table. On paper, it reads well, but not so much in practice. The filling is convoluted. Interestingly, my dining partner enjoys the off-kilter pairing, but I don't like the duck and tomato sauce together. In fact, it reminds me of over-sauced pulled pork. The flavours are muddled and competing with one another. And the blanket of torched mascarpone on top, meant to unite everything, only seemed to further dampen my appetite for this dish. The silver lining was the texture of the crepe-thin pasta sheets; they were silky soft and a tell-tale sign that the chef is certainly showcasing the notable skills he had garnered during his time at Buca.
The last two dishes make up for the initial stumbles. One of their signature dishes arrives on the table -- braised octopus and roasted bone marrow. The octopus is supple and enlivened with a charred exterior. The fry bread is glistening with oil, but not at all greasy. It gets snapped in half and slathered with quivering jellies of marrow.
All eyes in the room follow the bountiful plate of meat that arrives at our table next. The porter house is a generous 20 ounces of bone-on veal, cooked to medium-rare. It's a glorious thing to devour and eat with pools of herbaceous cilantro salsa verde. Considering the obvious lack of vegetables on the plate, next time, I'd opt for a side of seasonal greens to balance out this carnivorous dish.
Before we're told what our dessert choices are, a reputation primer is given to us by our server. She says that Chef Awad is a pastry prodigy and that we are required to make room for sweets. Duly noted.
However, of the three we taste, only one rose to the top of the heap. The pouding chômeur is a sweet, syrupy, sticky pudding that dazzles. A comfort food of Quebec, it is layers of soft cake with sauce and clouds of whipped cream. But what tames this sugar-high beast of a dessert is the vanilla salt. This little addition elevates the pudding from its humble origins to sublime royalty.
Even though they're only about two months old, the team at Parcae has big plans to keep loyal customers returning and enticing new people to try their cuisine. They're always sourcing seasonal produce, so ask for specials (that evening, we also had fresh sea urchin and sweet baby scallops with a tangy persimmon paste). Also on the horizon are plans to open a salumeria within the restaurant to expand their support for sustainable nose-to-tail dining.
You can find unconventional flavour pairings as well as classics with a twist at Parcae. And while I wasn't a staunch supporter of everything I tried, I definitely appreciated Chefs Awad and Hassell's dynamism and desire to experiment with different textures and tastes. I'll be back for more.
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