Lot St. is a Canadian restaurant, or so I'm told, but you won't find any peameal bacon here. Canadian food, at least to owner Tenny Bhutia, is an eclectic blend of cuisine from around the world, thanks to our multicultural fabric. The cozy new spot pays homage to the settlers that built this town, hence the name Lot Street, which was the original name of Queen Street up until the mid-19th century.
Bhutia's motto is Swank without breaking the bank. Her new 40-seat space is long and narrow, and features reclaimed wood and exposed brick. The most interesting element is the custom copper lighting bringing to life a mishmash of industrial-chic.
To say chef Aldo Pirela comes from Darwin Bistro on College St. would be a lie because where he really comes from is the world. Born and schooled in Venezuela, with Italian roots, Pirela has plied his trade in Rome and Madrid. He's also traveled across North Africa in search of new and exciting flavours to fill his memory plate. Clearly, his menu represents his upbringing and traveling experiences.
Before indulging, we just had to get our lips wet. Mixologist Julian Dawson is a seasoned vet having worked at numerous hotels across the U.S. before returning to Canada. Each crafted cocktail on his impeccable drink list features its own unique twist. Trust me, it's worth a visit for the drinks alone, which I'm told happens often. Dawson claims there are no vodka based drinks on the menu because not even he is good enough to make vodka interesting. Hogwash, this guy could probably turn water into wine.
We start with the mouth-watering Ceviche ($13, lead photo), made with fresh sole and marinated perfectly for three hours. At first bite, the cilantro punches you in the face. The dish is topped with Corn Nuts (a traditional topping in Peru) to add a nice crunch. However, I swiftly pushed them aside to focus on the delectable house-made plantain chips.
Next was the Chicken Lollipop ($8), which might swear me off eating chicken wings ever again. The Indian style chicken is coated and fried to perfection, then drizzled with a homemade spicy Bhangra sauce. I'm not super into spicy food but I still really enjoyed this dish thanks to its precise balancing act of sweet and tangy.
Hitting our stride, we decided to dabble with a three-set of Arancini ($8). Each rice ball perfectly presented and filled with its own variation, including pesto, mushroom, and naturally, a classic tomato sauce. Sadly, they were a tad dry but delicious nonetheless.
Next was Duck Confit ($23), coated with a thick berry reduction atop a delectable bed of mashed cassava. If you've never had cassava mash, you'll be soon saying good riddance to the potato kind since this version is firmer, earthier and much more flavourful. In fact, it was so good I almost forgot about the duck.
Onto the Okanagan Trout ($18). The presentation was so goddamn gorgeous I almost didn't want to fiddle with it. But once I did, I was thankful. The fresh catch was undeniably flakey and juicy, but the best part had to be the crispy skin. Hell, I would take a plate of just that. After the salivating stopped, I gladly dove into a sweet and delicate maple-glazed couscous.
Cheesecake is cheesecake, right? Wrong. What I discovered was something much more interesting than the standard fluff you'll find at pretty much any spot in the city. The flavours here went from sweet to tart to mysterious, thanks to a certain ingredient I couldn't place my tongue on; figuratively, of course. The chef refused to let me in on the secret and I'm fine with that, so long as he continues to feed me.
Writing by Toto Schillaci / Photos by Ike Ford