Vv Magazine’s Libby Roach gets the exclusive on Toronto’s newest Canadiana-inspired restaurant, Parlor Foods & Co.
About the only thing un-Canadian about this new restaurant on King West is the spelling of the name. Parlor Foods & Co. officially opens today (November 25), taking over the former home of Paese. Renovations kept Parlor to the same floorpan as the previous tenant, but the overall design is pretty different. The entry is lined with circular cedar cuts making it both welcoming, warm, and a signal of things to come. Strapped to the nines with barn board (all from one decommissioned barn in Collingwood), Parlor wanted to make the space visually different from the neighbouring restaurants — most of which haven’t changed their look since they first opened.
The ceiling at Parlor Foods is wrapped in decorative burlap sacks, and homey touches like the oversized cider jugs make for interesting lighting vessels. Communal tables add some height to the dining area, which can seat about 80-100 people. The design definitely echoes the menu, in what can only be described as ‘Hoser Chic’ — the food and wine lists are homage to everything in the Great White North. Bar choices are curated by the Grove’s former bartender, Japhet Bower, and are as wide and varied as our beautiful country. Wines are from Canada exclusively and priced reasonably, including Tawse on tap — both a chardonnay and Cab Sauv are poured by the glass (or gallon). Local beers dominate the taps and cocktails are custom creations showcasing our nation’s best ingredients — including some stellar prospects like the Beavertail, made with Lot 40 Whisky and smoked maple served in a smoking glass.
The food at Parlor is almost entirely made in-house, including the charcuterie ($18.00) plate. The lardo channels co-chef/co-owner Jason D’Anna’s half-Italian heritage, and pairs well with the cotechino rounds. Bread, also made in-house, comes slightly grilled and makes the perfect vehicle for a swirl of maple syrup.
At Parlor Foods, clever interpretations like the in-house-made cold smoked salmon Nicoise ($21.00) have pops of texture and colour in each bite. Olives and capers match well with skinned cherry tomatoes, cucumber ribbons, pickled beans, and a dash of crème fraiche.
The pickled plate ($6.00) brings seasonal and locally-sourced veggies taking a quick bath in brine, allowing them to hold their texture while elevating the flavours.
The “Horse and Bones” ($24.00) at Parlor is a feast for the eyes and stomach. Roasted bone marrow is blanketed by a generous portion of horse tartar. The raw diced horse meat has flecks of chopped onion and fresh herbs, and Jason’s partner in crime, co-chef and co-owner Brett Howson, suggests eating it layered on the accompanying garlic toast for a big meaty bite.
The beef short rib ($22.00) is another stunner — English cut with a massive bone in short rib, slathered in a sweet VQA demi-glaze resting on a white bean puree with chunky flashes of in-house smoked double bacon. Petals of pickled pearl onions add a tangy dimension and act as a vibrant garnish.
The mini mascarpone brûlée ($14.00) is the only misstep of the meal. An icewine poached pear circled with maple dust and rhubarb-berry drips holds the Parlor Foods & Co. version of brûlée, which unfortunately suffers from the “old salt instead of sugar” trick, resulting in a less-than-pleasant burnt crust.
“Parlor Scoops” ($5.00 per scoop) come in the traditional chocolate and vanilla renditions but skip the usual suspects and go for the ingenious sumac and corn flavour — it tastes just like Captain Crunch cereal. Other flavours like ice wine, pear, maple, and whiskey, add an adult component to the childhood favourite.
The cookie plate ($9.00), with chocolate chip and chocolate fudge cookies, is made by Pastry Chef Saveka Hariprashad, as are all the other desserts. Hariprashad has been part of Jason’s team for almost 10 years and her desserts are tasty Canadian-inspired goodies with her own twists, like the Nanaimo bar ($12.00) stuffed with apple inflected custard — both a seasonal element and Canadian locally-sourced ingredients are at play.
King West is due for a revamp and Parlor Foods & Co., along with its all-star team, are breathing new life into the long-suffering tourist trap block across from the TIFF Lightbox. Expect other classic Canadian comfort foods like tourtière to make an appearance, but don’t hold your breath for KD. A rotating chalkboard menu promises to mix things up, keeping the menu creative and focussed on paying respect to local and seasonal (including foraged) ingredients. While Canadian cuisine has been done in Toronto before (recently-shuttered Ursa, Keriwa Café), the menu at Parlor Foods & Co. is more welcoming and approachable — isn’t that what Canadians are known for best?
Open for lunch and dinner weekdays (closed Mondays). Brunch on Sundays until a forgiving 5pm.
What are you most excited to get your hands on from Parlor Foods? Let Vv Magazine know on your thoughts on “First Look: Parlor Foods & Co.” in the comments below or tweet us @ViewTheVibe.
For other newly opened Toronto restaurants, check out “New Toronto Restaurants: December Edition.“