Mildred's Temple Kitchen
Mildred's Temple Kitchen in Liberty Village is the offshoot of the highly regarded Mildred Pierce which operated on Sudbury Street for seventeen years before closing its doors. Having never been a customer at the original location, I had only heard of the place's fantastic food and loyal followers. Mildred's reputation seems to have followed her to the Hanna Avenue location, and my friends and I decide to see what one of the finer dining options in Liberty Village has to offer.
Mildred's interior is sleek and modern, with very high ceilings and a large open kitchen. The sweeping space with its industrial feel is still quite welcoming, but we select a seat on the small patio looking onto Hanna Avenue at the border of Liberty Village's North end.
Mildred's intriguing menu is segmented into categories: small mercies and big plates, raw, indulge, and burgs/dogs/'zza. References to 'gramma's recipes' and variations on dishes such as poutine and pizza suggest the chef's soft spot for classic comfort food with a gourmet twist.
On this very hot day the big plates seem too heavy, and instead we opt to try a number of smaller items which lend themselves well to sharing. We begin with the bread and olives ($3.50). Various types of crispy Thuet bread comes sided with a small dish of tasty white bean puree, topped with olive oil and a sprinkling of tiny olives.
Tonight's soup special is a fresh pea soup served cold ($6/cup). The bright green concoction arrives in a tea cup and saucer, a smooth puree with whole green peas and a sprig of parsley floating on top. The flavours of the peas, fresh herbs and citrus are bright and intense, and the soup is creamy but very light. Refreshing and impressively full of flavour, this is a great summer soup.
The next dish to arrive is the handmade ricotta gnudi with spinach ($13). The gnudi, dumplings similar to gnocchi but made with ricotta rather than potato, are light, fluffy and melt-in-your-mouth. Prepared in a delicious and simple garlic-infused sauce of olive oil, tomatoes and spinach, this may be my favourite dish of the night.
Gnocchi poutine ($14), a combination of two very different classics, is too intriguing to pass up. It arrives steaming in a small cast iron skillet, and looks so delicious we can barely wait for it to cool. Replacing the expected fries with potato gnocchi makes this dish even richer than usual, and the dumplings are topped with melting cheese curds and salty oxtail gravy complete with tender, fatty pieces of the meat. Light fare this is not, but it is pure comfort food.
Octopus with chorizo, paprika and tomato ($13) is nicely cooked and fairly tender, sided with crispy pieces of buttery grilled bread, but it is the tomato sauce that makes this dish.
From the 'Indulge' section of the menu, arancini with saffron, chorizo and manchego ($12) is a take on the Italian dish of bread-crumb coated, fried rice balls, but with a Spanish twist. It arrives in the form of one golden fried ball in a pool of spicy tomato sauce. The crispy shell is filled with fragrant rice, gooey cheese and sausage, and the spice of the sauce compliments the flavours well.
The final dish to arrive is the flatbread ($16). Homemade dough baked to order is topped with tangy goat cheese, caramelized onions, arugula, raw mushrooms and lemon zest. A thinner, crispier crust would have made this dish even better, but the combination of the goat cheese and caramelized onions is very tasty and the freshness of the arugula and mushrooms make this is a light, hot-weather-friendly pizza.
We finish our meal with Gramma's Ontario strawberries with shortcake ($9 - top photo). This simple classic is decently prepared, but a little dry and bland in flavour. I'm not convinced my grandmother would approve. Compared to the rest of the meal, the dessert falls short of our expectations.
A passion for food is very evident in the unique offerings at Mildred's Temple Kitchen. The creative dishes showcase fresh ingredients and unexpected flavour pairings while maintaining a sense of comfort food. My friends and I leave the restaurant discussing all the items we would like to try the next time we visit, a definite sign of a good dining experience.
Photos by Taralyn Marshall