Local Kitchen & Wine Bar
The Local Kitchen & Wine Bar is the first of what I suspect to be many interesting restaurants popping up on the western edge of Parkdale. Open for about a year, this tiny dining destination which placed third on our list of the best restaurants to open in 2009 is still buzzing every night of the week, and with good reason.
Since there's extremely limited seating we arrive early. Smart idea. Minutes after taking our seats (shortly after 6:30), the entire restaurant, bar area included, is full.
Gazing at the surroundings, we notice the interior is simple, rustic and warm. Milk crates attached to the wall beside the bar hold bottles of wine. Simple wooden, candlelit tables fill the room, and at ceiling level a clothes line is strewn with Parkdale-themed t-shirts.
Our friendly server in jeans and an I heart Parkdale t-shirt walks us through the night's specials, also displayed on a nearby chalkboard.
We begin by ordering a bottle of wine from a small, carefully selected wine list that includes options from Ontario and BC, as well as wines from southern Italy, a sentiment reflected in the food as well, described as locally sourced and Southern Italian-inspired.
There's also a daily cocktail special as well as a selection of beers. We order the Nero D'Avola-Shiraz ($38), which is rich and full-bodied, a great accompaniment to our first course comprising both the salumi and cheese plates.
The small salumi plate ($15 - top photo) arrives on a slab of tree trunk lined with parchment, and is great value for the price, with five different kinds of cured meats and plenty to split between the three of us.
The salumi is accompanied by a small plate of perfectly pickled, absolutely delicious asparagus. From the slightly spicy soppressata to the paper thin strips of prosciutto, this plate is definitely all it's cracked up to be.
The cheese plate ($16) features Ontario sheep's milk cheese, Quebec goat cheese and P.E.I. aged cheddar, local honey, a drizzle of maple syrup and a small sprinkle of spiced walnuts.
Our second course arrives in the form of two salads ($8). One selected from tonight's specials, a chicoria salad with guanciale vinaigrette ($8), is a small mound of bitter greens in a tangy vinaigrette, topped with crumbly bacon. I enjoy the salad, but I love my bitter greens. An acquired taste, this dish may be too bitter for some, and my dining companions find this to be so.
The second salad is a generous heap of crispy fresh asparagus topped with shavings of pecorino cheese, drizzled with a lemon basil vinaigrette, extremely simple, yet so tasty that one of my friends barely refrains from licking the plate.
Next comes the homemade pasta, the unanimous highlight of the meal. The gnocchi ($10) is smoked potato dumplings in a sauce of telleggio cheese and small strips of rapini. Light, fluffy, and melt-in-your-mouth, the smoky flavour is a perfect pair with the cheese and the slightly bitter rapini, though a little extra seasoning would make this dish even better.
The all around favourite, however, is the spinach tagliatelle with spring lamb ragu ($10). Homemade spinach noodles, cooked perfectly and sauced with a rich, deeply flavourful lamb ragu is pasta like you rarely find it.
The striploin ($16) pales in comparison to the pasta dishes. Our server informs us the steak will be prepared medium rare to rare, but it arrives closer to medium. The meat is a little dry and lacks flavour, but luckily saved by the accompanying tangy pickled onion.
Even though the restaurant is busy, there's just the right amount of time in between each course, and nothing seems rushed or delayed. We finish our meal with two featured desserts ($6), a tart lemon cheesecake topped with rhubarb preserve, and a tasty deconstructed cannoli filled with lemony ricotta cheese.
Parkdale is full of great places to eat during the daytime, but at night it's a different story. Aside from the recently opened OM and a few stand-bys, a good evening meal can be hard to come by in these parts, but the Local Kitchen & Wine Bar suggests that this strip of bars and antique stores has a transformation coming its way.
Writing by Meaghan Binstock. Photos by Taralyn Marshall.