Pisco, a contemporary Peruvian kitchen and bar, opened in June on Yonge Street north of Lawrence Avenue. The restaurant comes from brothers Giancarlo and Alessandro Colombaro and aims to introduce South American comfort foods to midtown diners looking to try native preparations of current trend-piquing foods like quinoa and ceviche.
The Colombaro brothers come from partly Peruvian heritage and have bonafide Toronto restaurant pedigree. They grew up working in their father's 28-year old eatery, the still thriving Gamberoni Restaurant just across the street.
The new dining room takes over the former site of Fratelli Trattoria, though the decor is still a work in progress with plans in place to replace the white-clothed tables with sleek new surfaces and to paint murals on select walls. The bar and front room now boast Machu Picchu-inspired canopies and bright patterned textiles are used sparingly throughout.
In the kitchen, Giancarlo and Chef Jason Koos prepare Peru's national dish, ceviche to order, by just barely marinating nugget-sized morsels of sashimi grade mahi mahi in lime juice. The plate is finished with a quenelle of earthy, sweet purple potato mash and a sprinkling of crunchy concha corn kernels. It tastes as vibrant as it looks.
I also sample two entrees; the Pisco Lomo Saltado ($23), a stir-fried mix of chopped beef tenderloin, red onions, tomato, cilantro and yellow amarillo pepper served over jasmine rice and potato wedges; and, the Anticucho de Corazon ($22), an ultra-lean, thickly sliced beef heart steak, grilled to medium rare and served over sweet corn purée and Yukon potato wedges.
Both mains are well cooked, the meat still pink at the centre and juicy. The prices are, however, somewhat tough to swallow given that these are based on traditionally, ultra-cheap, peasant foods. I know tenderloin isn't cheap, but I can't help but feel that neither dish is as indulgent or rich as I'd expect of the price tags. I could've gone for more - not portion size wise (that heart steak was enormous) but more fun, more experimentation, more chicharrón... seriously where's the pork on this menu?
At the bar, Chicha Morada ($6), a non-alcoholic brew of sweet purple corn, pineapple, cloves and cinnamon is served out of a large spigoted vessel. Pisco is available straight or in cocktails like the Pisco Sour ($10). The intent is to offer eight premium piscos once supply lines are sorted.
The restaurant is open daily for dinner from 5pm. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday lunch is offered from 11:30am to 3pm. Reservations are accepted.
Photos by Morris Lum