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Restaurants

Cava

Posted by Claire Sibonney / Listed on October 29, 2009 / review policy

Cava TorontoCava restaurant has been described as a culinary Mecca in midtown Toronto. Celebrated chef Chris McDonald and his co-chef and business partner Doug Penfold have apparently figured out the way to a real foodie's heart, and it's nowhere near a boneless skinless chicken breast.

Cava TorontoCava, named after the Catalonian sparkling wine, features a seasonal Iberian-inspired menu of small plates ($3.50-$19) with playful dishes such as caramel-chipotle popcorn, sardines two ways and adventurous delicacies such as beef cheeks, tripe and sweetbreads.

With an extensive and well-priced wine list, one of the city's first in-house cured meat programs and an exciting selection of Spanish cheeses, the restaurant remains a hidden gem, tucked in the corner of an outdoor plaza at Yonge and St. Clair.

Cava TorontoAfter an inaugural glass of cava, of course, my two dinner companions and I started off with the must-have plate of jamon iberico ($25). The indulgence was worth the cost for this rare black-hoofed, free-range and acorn-fed pig from the Spanish village of La Alberca. With its smooth, nutty flavor and melt-in-your mouth texture, this type of ham was only imported to Canada last year and ranks up there with white truffles and beluga caviar as one of the finest foods in the world.

Cava RestaurantNext up, my favourite dish of the meal was the crisp fried Japanese eggplant paired with a buttery queso fresco, honey and tangy tomatillo sauce. ($8.75) The dancing bonito flakes that garnished the dish were a surprise. What a heavenly combination.

Cava RestaurantThe octopus anticucho ($10.75) had a rustic barbecue flavor and was served with perfectly cooked lentils and a creamy, spicy romesco sauce that gave the dish a nice kick.

Cava TorontoThe Mediterranean cuttlefish and red wine stew ($15) was velvety and comforting. Served with fresh olive-oil-fried bread, my only complaint was that I wanted more of it to mop up the delicious black liquid.

Cava RestaurantTo finish off, we indulged in a cauliflower and kabocha squash tagine with medjool dates and Spanish saffron ($8.95) and a stew of rabbit and pork belly topped with a warm cabbage salad ($19). The fragrant tagine was light and moist. Each piece of cauliflower was just slightly caramelized around the edges. The squash was earthy and sweet and the dates added great flavour and a lovely textural contrast. The decadent rabbit and pork belly with sweet chestnuts put us over the top but it was well worth it to try this bold play on comfort food.

In hindsight, we may have ordered too much, but the choices were hard to make with such an eclectic menu. Will definitely need to save room next time for Cava's critically acclaimed sister sweetshop, Xococava, next door.

We did however end the meal with some divine chorizo chocolate truffles that magically found their way to our table. A genius sweet and savory combination that I never imagined would meet on my tongue.

Discussion

6 Comments

Angela / August 8, 2009 at 07:13 pm
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A great find. Wonderful menu, quality char, great wine. Can't wait to go back.
Rich / October 31, 2009 at 01:55 pm
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Doug Penfold.....one of the best young star chef in Toronto.....deserves more recognition....

great food....great place....

worth every penny

Rich
hjli / October 31, 2009 at 11:12 pm
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Weird coincidence. I was just there an hour ago for dinner. It was a good meal but surprisingly, I found Torito Tapas Bar in Kensington to be much better. (I ate there two weeks ago.) If I had to recommend tapas in Toronto to someone, I'd choose Torito over Cava easily.
Gastronomic gastroenterologist / November 1, 2009 at 09:57 pm
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Good review of an excellent restaurant. Comparing Torito with Cava is like comparing apples with oranges.

Cava is creative and top-notch. It sits well with the best innovative tapas restaurants in Barcelona and Madrid. Torito, on the other hand, does the traditional tapas fare very well.
sasa / November 19, 2013 at 10:40 am
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What monkey-troll gave it 2 stars...Great food many small delicious dishes to try.5 stars!And green P to park, right behind the corner.I do not visit places without parking.
Camille / March 23, 2014 at 11:30 am
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Bonjour,
I went to CAVA during their smørrebrød event. My husband being from Copenhagen, we wanted to get a taste of Denmark. We ordered smørrebrød and French South West cuisine (I am French Euro). Their food is excellent and the quality of their product very high. Wine was excellent... However, we did not have an excellent time. Strange. I am still trying to figure out why. The atmosphere maybe, not very interesting. The staff is knowledgeable but cold. The ambiance is a bit cold compared to their food selection « menu rustique ou authentique ». Something is missing. AS to the billing, the prices are very high, too high for tapas. Will not go back.

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