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Keriwa Cafe

Posted by Staff / Listed on November 15, 2011 / review policy

Keriwa Cafe TorontoKeriwa 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.

Keriwa CafeThe 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 CafeKeriwa 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.

Keriwa CafeThere 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.

Keriwa CafeWe 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.

Keriwa CafeWhen 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.

Keriwa CafeThe 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.

Keriwa CafeI'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.

Keriwa CafeWriting and photos by Carli Vierke



John Stamos / November 15, 2011 at 05:42 pm
I think you missed the point. If you wanted classic eggs benedict or a "brunchier" brunch (you wrote that seriously?) you should have gone to The Drake. This place is supposed to be different.
The ghost of Dennis Wilson / November 16, 2011 at 07:37 am
Still playing drums with the Beach Boys?
koochy / November 16, 2011 at 08:55 am
terrific pictures!
porker / November 16, 2011 at 06:06 pm
What is the bacon like?
Ray / November 23, 2011 at 01:04 pm
This review is sort of offensive. And by sort of, I mean very.

Consider this: "Remember Pemmican, the loaf of dried meat, fat, and fruit we learned about in Social Studies 8?"

Aboriginal cultures are not just something you've read about in a textbook. People still eat pemmican. Stop assuming your audience (aka "we") are not aboriginal, or are not familiar with aboriginal cuisine.
hannah / December 16, 2011 at 11:39 pm
This review is racist. Really, it's full of cliches and assumes the reader is not aboriginal ("we"). And it is terrible that you won't go back until there is bannock- it's really not fair for you to reduce aboriginal culture's cuisine to your demands.
I agree- you should go to the Drake next time.
Elle / January 4, 2012 at 12:36 pm
thank you ray and hannah. my thoughts exactly.
jane / February 14, 2012 at 11:58 pm
i also didn't realize that "feathered light fixtures" and "patterned motifs" are deeply engrained elements of aboriginal culture. i guess i didn't learn that in social studies class. i'm planning on trying the evening menu next week.
Raphael / March 16, 2012 at 02:34 pm
Alright, let's set the race/culture/prejudice card aside and talk about food, which I still believe is at the heart of this review.

I went there a couple weeks back for brunch and had the duck confit with cinnamon bread pudding, and it may be my favourite duck dish in the city. My partner had the smoked white fish, the portion was a little small, but it was full of flavour.

They're doing things right, IMHO, quality ingredients, sweet savory pairings, pastries, whatever. Caesars were a little overpriced, but whaddayagonnado?

Also, I too like my brunch brunchier, and thought the statement was a great way to end this review, so suck it Stamos.
Danielle / May 8, 2012 at 05:59 pm
How come it always comes down to race on BlogTO

Also, question in all honesty, how many people who claim to be native are just like one eighteenth?

That aside, the food looks awesome
Golnar / January 21, 2013 at 01:19 pm
Good God! Who died and made this place Best of 2012! Was there bribery involved? Sigh ...

We decided to book this for a girl's night out for a 9pm seating, meaning the dinner rush would likely have died off a bit at least part way through our service but it hadn't.

Immediately upon getting seated, we ordered a glass of vino and two cocktails, mine, the Parkdalian tasted a bit like medicine - gross. Anyway, not entirely sure why but it took them 45 minutes just to bring our drinks and not because they realized that our drinks were well overdue but rather because, and note this would be our 1st polite attempt, we flagged to the waitress that desperate in need of our bevies, they were no where to be found. She apologized and brought them over.

Bad first impression, we ordered the cheese plate, something like $5 for a half ounce or something complicated, who knows what a half ounce of cheese looks like?!? And I think some pork belly dish. To avoid any further waste of time we also ordered our entrees, one of us had the Dumplings and the rest of us had some bison dish. Surprise! No appetizers arrived and again we had to flag this and only then did the waitress apologize about losing the ticket or something ... what? Come and ask and we'll tell you again what we ordered.

The cheese was delicious but then again I think St. Lawrence Market has good cheese too ;) And the pork belly or whatever else it is that we ordered left me thinking that it was super fatty and gross ... a good chef can mask the fat with deliciousness and this wasn't the case.

Fairly disappointed at portion size we were already making plans about going to McDonald's, and our entrees arrived. The bison dish was mooshed up slimely and what I would call sort of like ground beef in sheppard's pie and came in a ravioli (no mention of that ravioli) with an overbearing amount of ingredients and what I would called an episode of Iron Chef or Chopped with secret random ingredients gone wrong. The duck dumplings according to my friend were good but really the portion was ridic! Two dumplings in a bowl the size of one similar to miso soup at a Sushi restaurant? Hello McDonald's!

Aside from the dumplings, everything we ordered came with some berry jam and okay maybe this is the aboriginal way but really does it have to be on absolutely everything?!? FML!

Out of principle I didn't want to order dessert but my friend's insisted that we had already sunk this much time into it and that they were still hungry and that dessert would have to be part of the night ... so we ordered two desserts - something similar to an apple pie and a wild rice pudding + coffee.

The coffee arrived immediately - was good but the dessert ... the waitress came and asked "how was dessert" ... are you kidding? What dessert!!!!

I had asked for the chef / owner but she was so frazzled she left that unattended and took care of dessert and the first round of drinks for us and despite that we each spent $60 - which I don't think is acceptable for service or food of this quality. To top it off the kitchen was chatting and preoccupied slacking off vs. attending to the food tickets.

I highly discourage anyone from going here and am disappointed. I don't know if it was just us that got nailed with bad food and horrible service but to give some cred ... the dessert was the best part ... so maybe if you wanna give this a try you go for dessert - the wild rice pudding was delicious.

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