Quinta opened in early July on a stretch of Dundas Street West, and brings a new take on Portuguese cuisine to an old Portuguese neighbourhood.
Inside the cream-coloured dining room, the decor is understated and elegant. The tables are not packed in too tight, so there's the luxury of spaciousness that's all too rare in many downtown establishments. Many of the materials are reclaimed; wood table tops, powder-coated metal cafe chairs, large scale vintage movie posters--despite this, the atmosphere is relaxed and unintimidating. I would bring family here and know that they would be just as comfortable as my trendy, urbanite friends.
Quinta is helmed by chef Leor Zimerman and front-of-house manager Nik Halkias, who met during a recent stint at Brassaii Restaurant and Lounge. Zimerman tells me that this is the dream--cooking the food that he wants to cook and applying classical French training and 12+ years professional experience to a style of cooking that tends to value simplicity.
The menu features no more than a dozen items plus daily specials. There are no descriptions, just a focused list of dishes and a welcoming staff ready to describe each one to you personally. The lack of formality is welcome, and sharing a plate or eating with your hands is encouraged.
In the dining room, I overhear Zimerman taking requests from diners; he is not above serving people what they want, and in fact relishes it. Though the menu is small, he tells me that he likes to introduce new flavours by occasionally slipping patrons an unexpected sample or amuse bouche. Before I've even ordered, I am surprised by a generous bowl of addictive and salty fried pork skins.
To start, I select the Little Fish ($7), deep-fried, battered smelts served alongside lightly-dressed greens and briney olives--a perfectly balanced dish.
The Pork and Clams ($18) arrives steaming hot and smells absolutely wonderful. Thick chunks of braised pork belly sit atop steamed clams in a stew-like bowl of potatoes, fava beans and broth. The accompanying bread is torn from a baguette (not sliced), and is intended to sop up the sauce.
For dessert, I try the Almond Tart ($7) filled with apricot jam and baked into a buttery crust (which isn't too sweet). The accompanying strawberry mint labneh mousse offers a subtle take on Mediterranean flavours.
Also of note is the bar menu, which offers an ample selection of wines, beers and cocktails, as well as more unusual offerings such as housemade ginger beer and "shrubs"--a drinking vinegar made from an apple cider vinegar base and sweetened with sugar and seasonal fruits--courtesy of bartender William Jordan.
The comfortable setting is perfect for a relaxed date but is also appropriate for a large group or family dinner. Quinta satisfies with well-prepared food and a generous spirit.
Photos by Jesse Milns