Lisa Marie is the newly opened Queen West restaurant from Toronto's pop-up king, Matt Basile. The new restaurant does double duty as a permanent address to find his always inventive dishes and operating as a production kitchen for his food truck, Priscilla.
I remember seeing Basile present a spaghetti sandwich at his first Toronto Underground Market sample day (he didn't make the cut his first attempt btw). I thought the carb-loaded concoction sounded ridiculous... now less than two years later he's the one laughing. He's seen plenty of success with a string of pop-ups, a food truck, TV series and now this new restaurant.
Inside it's bright, airy and appropriately rock n roll themed. In the back there's a butcher's display case full of marinated raw meats for takeaway and a wall of homespun canned goods. Upfront, an oversized Elvis looks over the dining room full of industrial furnishings and high-top tables.
Keeping true to the street food style that Basile's triumphed all along, the new resto features a Cicchetti menu stocked with tapas-like snacks that are anything but delicate.
Deep Fried Pizza ($7) topped with smoked duck, chicharron, hoisin and slaws evokes oohs and ahs as it arrives at the table. I make a mess trying to eat one, but the combo of bold flavours, succulent meat and crunchy fried textures are worth it.
Following that, the Pork Belly Cheese Thang ($5) is served on a soft havarti frico and topped with cilantro tomato salsa and chili basil aioli. It's not unlike the Captain Belly sandwich I've tried from the truck, but without the bread, the sweet braised pork belly takes the centre stage it deserves.
The Turkey Wing (1 for $6 or 2 for $10) is a massive meaty wing that falls off the bone with little effort. Served with a choice of hoisin chili sauce or buffalo style that each benefits from the extra surface area of crisped turkey skin slathered with sauce.
The Smoked Board (market price) is offered Tuesday, Friday and Sunday only. It's a chance to sample an ever-changing array of house smoked meats, which on this visit includes, tequila cured salmon, lambs neck, Cornish hen, beef heart and sliced chicken. I could use some sort of mustard or condiment, but without I'm left to rely on the accompanying mixed pickles to brighten up all that meat.
The best thing about this new bricks and mortar destination? The bar! Finally these fun plates can make friends with cocktails like the Aperol Spritz ($11) or Malocchio Sour ($12).
Lisa Marie is currently open for dinner and drinks with a daytime menu similar to the food truck offerings is set to launch in the near future.
Photos by Jesse Milns