Taking over the former Keriwa Café space is Mata Petisco Bar. It is so-named for the Atlantic Forest which extends along the coast of Brazil. The culinary group of 5 (Felipe Faccioli, Tulio Lessa, Patrick Fraser, Steve Fernandes and Sharath Dwarkanathan) behind Mata all met while working in various Toronto restaurants such as Chiado, Fishbar and Salt Wine Bar. The menu is seafood-centric and serves up South American cuisine.
Petisco, which means shared plates in Portuguese (the National language of Brazil), is akin to tapas, though it would be an error to label it as such. But it’s a good point of reference.
The décor is fun with cerveza signs along a boarded wall which leads to the bar and open kitchen towards the rear. It definitely has a bar-like feel to it, but with delicious food.
In the kitchen is former biologist-turned chef Felipe Faccioli, whose first stint out of completing the George Brown College Culinary Management Program was at Brazilian steakhouse Copacabana. His culinary career then took him to Chiado and its Iberian sister, Salt Wine Bar, where he would later meet and forge partnerships with the other 4 “chefes.”
Old Fashioneds and Manhattans are a dime-a-dozen, but find me a restaurant that makes a good Caipirinha (which is to Brazil what a Caesar is to Canada) or Pisco Sour and I might even stay for the food. Mata has both!
The menu doesn’t go unnoticed with offerings of yummy cheese bread and flaky Lobster Pastel that oozes creaminess. The smoked crispy chicken hearts served on a bed of cauliflower purée is a stand-out dish having a nice mesquite flavour to it and chicken hearts cooked to perfection. But the showstopper is definitely the beef cheek poutine made with cassava instead of potatoes which holds up much better to sauce (read: won’t be soggy). Mata’s version swaps a red wine reduction for gravy. Why can’t all poutine be made with cassava? It’s lower on the glycemic index and much lower in carbs than potatoes. Guilt-free eating does exist!
Other menu items include a ceviche that packs in just the right level of acidity without overwhelming the medleys of sweetness from the corn and sweet potato, as well as a juicy Picanha slider wedged between a sesame bun, Cachaça (a spirit distilled with sugarcane juice) caramelized onions, house made Catupiry cheese, and Malagueta pepper aioli. One of those bad boys and a cerveza is my perfect vision of summer.
If the summer heat isn’t already enough for you, you can spice things up with any of the three house-made hot sauces. A tad of the “mildest” one and your lips will be tingling for a good quarter of an hour.
The desserts may still need a bit of work as the avocado crème brûlée just doesn’t wow. However if you’re looking for a rich dessert you may have just met your maker: always a sucker for dulce de leche, the cheesecake with Sailor Jerry caramel definitely does wow.
Mata hopes to introduce brunch service in the coming months, but for now is dinner-service only. While the Brazilian soccer team may have disappointed us this year, the food at Mata won’t.
Will you be getting yourself cultured at Mata Petisco Bar for some South American cuisine? Let us know what you thought in the comments below or tweet us @ViewTheVibe.