Keriwa Café opened three months ago in Parkdale, bringing some Aboriginal flavour to the neighbourhood. The café marks Algonquin chef Aaron Joseph Bear Robe's first foray into the sphere of restaurant entrepreneurship. The former Splendido chef is big on local, organic and seasonal products in his kitchen, so my brunch companions and I are excited to try out his fare.
The menu's Aboriginal roots impart a general earthiness in all the dishes. Remember Pemmican, the loaf of dried meat, fat, and fruit we learned about in Social Studies 8? Well it's an appetizer on the evening menu. Sadly, no bannock to speak of, yet. For that, you'll need to go here.
The décor of the restaurant emulates the bill of fare. Streamlined and minimal in design, there are also deeply engrained elements of aboriginal culture throughout. The details, from the feathered light fixture to the patterned motif accenting the banquettes, pervade all aspects of the restaurant.
Keriwa Café is trying out their second brunch when I arrive with friends on a Sunday. Plenty of things look interesting on the menu like duck confit with cinnamon bread pudding ($16) and parsnip soup ($11), but we're not in an overly lunch-like mood, and are thus looking for more familiar breakfast options.
There are only two breakfasty offerings: Two eggs any style with Potatoes, Mustard Greens, and Keriwa bacon ($14), and Brown Butter Eggs Benedict with Red Fife Biscuit, Bacon and Greens ($15). My guests go straight for the benny, and I choose the Smoked Whitefish with Dill Crepe, Hen of the Woods, and Crème Fraiche ($14). During our meal, I notice nearly every other diner orders the Eggs Benedict. Go figure.
We begin with a basket of pastries and homemade preserves ($10), and tea to drink. The croissant is amazing — flakey, and buttery. The gluten-free black currant scone is surprisingly moist, but the vegan muffin is dry. We also can't confirm the ingredients with the server - she doesn't know, and the pastry chef isn't around to tell her. We guess apple, carrot and raisin.
When my crepe arrives, I discover that "hen of the woods" isn't a darling little woodland hen like I'd been imagining, but rather a type of mushroom. The crepe is delicate and the smoked fish is very, very strong - think campfire levels of smokiness. The crepe has a dollop of white caviar with a briny tang that blends perfectly with the dill in the crepe and the smoke of the whitefish. The mushrooms appear to be drizzled in maple syrup. Yum.
The eggs benedict, however, are a disappointment. Maybe it's our fault for craving the salty richness of hollandaise, but the brown butter sauce just doesn't cut it. It has no defining flavours or buttery taste, and the egg/biscuit combo can't carry the dish by its lonesome. A slight sense of dejection hangs over the table as we eat.
I'll be back to Keriwa to sample the evening menu, but until brunch gets brunchier - or bannock appears in the pastry basket - I'll have to remain a creature of habit. After all, Sunday brunch only comes once a week.
Writing and photos by Carli Vierke