The Atlantic on Dundas West is dissimulated among a string of old school Portuguese sports bars. On a Thursday night it's completely full but myself and four friends manage to squeeze into a tiny booth to take in the sights and order some wine.
The decor is fisherman kitsch, if that's a genre, with scavenged paintings of ships and wooden everything.
Our server is friendly and helps us match wine with the menu's small selection of dishes. As we agree on our food choices, our group is moved to a larger table. We're thankful for the extra space when our dishes start to arrive - tapas-style shared dishes means an abundance of elbow room is required.
The menu is printed on strips of paper and refreshed daily. We order most of the day's offerings including the 3MF salad which comprises crickets and grub aioli. Dishes come one by one, accumulating rapidly in front of us.
First out is the boa bread ($4), three slices of grilled bread served with a velvety white bean spread and a soft bulb of roasted garlic. The winter salad ($6) follows with a subtle but tasty mix of crispy cabbage, buttery walnuts and sweet beets.
Next up is the salmon belly on creamy Dungeness crab risotto ($14). I'm not usually a fan of this fatty cut of salmon, but in this case the taste and texture are fitting. The risotto is deliciously chewy with generous morsels of crab meat smothered in rich sea urchin veloute.
The 3MF salad ($6) arrives inconspicuously, looking like any other beautifully-presented salad. Given the restaurant's dim lighting, the crickets are not immediately obvious. While some at our table are too intimidated to try, those of us who dare are smitten - the dish has an earthy taste, with fresh greens, lemony aioli and crispy crickets.
The chanterelle ragout ($10) is a crowd pleaser and disappears almost instantly. A comforting combination of bouncy fregola pasta and creamy gruyere, it's sprinkled with chewy wild mushrooms and topped with freshly grated cheese.
The seared Qualicum Bay scallops ($14 - top photo) are another favourite. The scallops are meaty and their smoky taste lends itself well to the accompanying Riesling-braised sauerkraut.
The haddock meuniere ($14) is not as well received. A rather bland filet served atop mashed potatoes, some mention that a variety of textures could have made this dish more exciting. The caramelized cauliflower soup ($6) also fails to impress. It's beautifully presented and relatively tasty, but pales in comparison to the other menu items.
As a finishing touch, we order both available desserts - a pumpkin mousse ($5 - photo above) and a dolce de leche crème brûlée ($7). Both are sweet, creamy concoctions that have us scraping the bowls with our spoons.
A combination of the small space and animated conversations have led us to interact with the restaurant's other diners. As we leave, both the patrons and the serving staff bid us farewell, a perfect ending to a memorable gastronomic experience.
The Atlantic is open from 7 p.m. 'til late, every day except for Sunday.
Writing and photos by Brigitte Noel.