I have to admit that I have a love/hate relationship with Winterlicious. The food loving, restaurant hopping, wine swigging, lush… well, she loves it. The bitter server in me? Well, for her it may just be the longest 2 weeks ever. Needless to say, I was very happy to have the opportunity to pop on my ‘lush’ hat and trot off to Malena on a View the Vibe mission to sample their contribution to the 10th annual, Winterlicious.
Malena has been on my hit-list for quite some time and on arrival, I was so happy to finally get there! With it being minus-a-million degrees outside, the dark wood, warm greetings and splattering of tealights, quickly had us feeling cozy and welcome. Owner, David was quick to come and say hi and within 10 minutes of sitting down, he was pouring us the most perfect Pinot Noir to get us warmed up.
When it came to menu decisions, Nicki and I were as usual, on the same page. We both craved the braised rabbit with fried polenta and the Gnocchi Bolognese, so that worked out. The appetizers were a tad more of an issue… I wanted the ‘Arancini Di Miale’ (risotto balls with braised pork shoulder and roasted squash) and the Sardine Crostini. Nicki was craving the Winter salad… snorefest. David overheard our dilemma and was lovely enough to bring us one of each plate! And to my surprise, the winter salad proved to be both of our favourite. The perfect combination of grilled Radicchio, Ontario Beet Conserva and House Made Ricotta. The charred flavour brought an unexpected excitement to the dish and we happily cleaned the plate.
Next up… the Braised Rabbit and The Gnocchi Bolognese with braised Ontario Lamb. Oh where do I begin…! The rabbit dish reminded me of a homely roast dinner, in every good way. The meat was cooked perfectly, the polenta was to die for and although I’m not a fan of rapini, it really did mesh with the rest of the plate. Now, I have to mention that when both plates were brought to the table, I got a real hit of curry in my nose. I could smell it right away and it was driving me crazy as to where I would find this flavour in either of the two dishes. The rabbit was simple but delightful, but nothing to throw us off. Then came the gnocchi… tomato sauce with tons of braised lamb but something was different. There were surprise additions to the dish that gave it a whole new element. On inspection, we discovered a healthy use of dill and coriander… and maybe cumin?? We couldn’t be sure but what we did know was that they made this otherwise simple dish, truly unique and worldly. This is really where their talent lies… pleasant surprises in otherwise comfortable dishes. And when you eat out as much as we do, this is a big deal for us!
Thank you to David, Sam and Rob at L’Unita (we were treated to after-dinner drinks at the sister restaurant, just a few doors down), we’re so excited to enjoy dinner on your new patio in the summer!!!! ☺
Malena is located at 120 Avenue Road | Malena120.ca