Occupying the large 3-floor heritage space attached to Saks Fifth Avenue at Yonge and Richmond is Oliver & Bonacini‘s latest venture, Leña. The restaurant, which includes a main and lower dining room, 2 private rooms and a bar, is spearheaded by O&B’s corporate executive chef, Chef Anthony Walsh, and draws inspiration from South American cuisine. More specifically, Chef Walsh’s mother-in-law, Elena.
And there’s no denying, family plays a large role at Leña. Executive Chef Julie Marteleira, who helms the kitchen, attributes her unique palette and passion to her very own mother. The space itself, imagined by DesignAgency, exudes home-like warmth, with rich hues, inviting leather booths and warm golden light fixtures which enhance the existing art deco qualities of the heritage building. Old family photos dot the walls of the restaurant and guests can even hear Elena’s voice on the end of an old rotary phone located near the lower level bar.
The menu, which includes brunch, lunch, and dinner service, is also based on family tradition. Those who work in the area will appreciate Leña’s harvest table-styled breakfast spread which includes pastries like Medialunas, Alfajores, and Palmitos (all under $5), turned raw bar in the evenings. Those who play in the area will enjoy the weekend brunch, made up of dishes like Breakfast Empanadas ($17) with poached eggs and chimichurri; and the Seville Orange Crepes ($14) with ricotta, toasted almonds and vincotto.
Lunchtime brings a vast variety of dishes, from hearty and healthy plates like the 12 Vegetable Escabeche ($15) with milk mayonnaise, charred and raw vegetables, and tomatillo and coriander dressing; and the Brisket Burger ($19) to share plates like the crisp-on-the-outside, gooey-on-the-inside Smoked Jamon Croquetas ($12) served with housemade sherry aioli; Lala’s Patatas Bravas ($10); and Blistered Padron Peppers ($10) which are a Russian Roulette of spice.
The small share plates carry on through dinner, with an expanded selection of appetizers including Salt Cod Fritters ($10) which are homemade by Marteleira’s mother and Burrata ($19) made fresh by The Cheese Boutique with clementine, cornbread migas, and chicories.
As for entrees, well you can never go wrong with the Chef’s favourite. Marteleira swears by the Pollo Doña Aurora ($27), a Elena original recipe made with organic chicken, laurel, lemon & saffron braise, mushrooms and potato purée.
Other notable mains include the Lamb Salmuera ($47) with Alberta lamb chops, roasted sunchokes, goat cheese cream and mint; and the Ricotta Cannelloni ($22) with nutmeg, green pepper tomato sauce and idiazabal cheese.
The dessert menu is short but sweet with items like Orange & Almond Cake ($12), Chocolate & Dulce De Leche Tart ($13), Egg White Flan (12) and a selection of sorets and ice creams ($9). But our absolute favourite are the Churros ($12), housemade with egg whites for a batter that results in a churro so light and crisp, it almost tastes good for you.
For those privy to cocktails and drinks, the bar program, headed by Russell Morrison, features thoughtful concoctions like Leña ($16), a South American Old Fashioned with housemade charred cedar bourbon; and their take on a Pisco Sour, the Inca Revelación ($14). The bar list also includes a well-curated variety of Argentinian, Chilean and Spanish wines; and seven taps of local, craft and seasonal brews.
Leña is open Monday to Wednesday 7:30 am to 11:00 pm, Thursday to Friday 7:30 am to 12:00 am, Saturday 10:00 am to 12:00 am, and Sunday 10:00 am to 3:00 pm.
Will you be visiting Leña? Let Vv Magazine know in the comments below or tweet us @ViewtheVibe.