Lets talk about Style, Taste and Money. They are not always mutually exclusive.
The Style: Open the nondescript door at 59 Ossington, slip through the heavy velvet courtesy drapes that keep the cold winds out, and look around. Gorgeous crystal chandeliers illuminate the marble bar and the myriad of spirits from the worlds finest distilleries. Tufted booths invite relaxed dining. And as the eyes meander the length of the room, we are struck by a mural that covers the back wall. Intense and beautiful – interpret it as you will. The warmth of Pastiche is all-embracing.
I slide on to a bar stool and peruse the drinks menu. Hmm, the flavour profile of the “Pelon” is intriguing: Poblano Tequila, Creyente Mezcal, tamarind, pineapple, star anise bitters and corn husk. Mark, the head bartender, an ex-pat from Quebec City, impresses me with his extensive beverage program, and while there is not yet a printed menu, he informs me of the cost. To pair with the complex Pelon cocktail, black sea bass crudo with avocado puree, shaved radish and crostini. Nice.
Call me curious, I like to know who is behind the scenes: the background, the skill set. Ashkan Omidi, the young owner of this ultra charming spot is an unlikely Padron. A scholar and an intellectual, he will delight you with his wit and his thoughts on the psychology of “the restaurant.” Chef Stefan Skeene is a fearless culinarian who surfs the world, executing his dream dishes with pairings of unusual ingredients.
The Taste: The menu is indeed reflective of the name Pastiche (a copy of many arts put together as one). The concept is sharing-plates, and there is a spirit of generosity from the kitchen that will make anyone happy.
Reading the menu is a quick geographic adventure. The Herb and Buffalo Mozzarella Salad is a flavour-fresh sharing-plate of chopped herbs, braised beets, mint creme fraiche, with the surprise of Moroccan couscous. Papas Bravas delights the table. Cubed deep fried potatoes served with jalapeno salsa aioli is a must-try. Japanese eggplant, grilled and serve cold with stewed tomatoes, sweetly caramelized onions and a brisk parsley yogurt dip is a rendition that will find itself on my holiday buffet table. Moving right along to the other side of the globe, we taste Saffron Chicken Mahjouba, a pretty dish of layered Algerian crepes, stuffed with saffron scented stewed chicken, topped with ground turmeric and baby corn purée. One of my favorites, Duck Confit Egg Rolls served with plum sauce and shaved bitter green salad.
Among the larger dishes, the utterly fresh whole roasted rainbow trout set on a bed of chopped fresh tomato and parsley salad is a dish that’s worth the trek to 59 Ossington, as is the braised short ribs, which have been marinated and slow cooked for eight hours to shameless tenderness, then glissed with kumquat soy glaze and wearing a jaunty cap of torched chanterelle mushroom wafer.
And there are more delicious plates to fill our table: crispy half chicken comes topped with house made Piri Piri sauce and buttermilk dressing. Tamales are smothered in Osso Bucco braised in Pomodoro sauce, and topped with basil pesto.
Dessert? I wouldn’t miss it. To keep things simple, I could try Death In the Afternoon, sparkling wine with a choice of Arak, Sambucca, Pastis, Absinthe. But why choose simplicity when I can choose excess? Bittersweet Symphony can be served as a cocktail or combined with dessert. In the interests of science, I must have the combination: A generous pour of an exotic cocktail of Bourbon, Amaretto, Amareno Cherry, Maraschino, honey and bitter chocolate is set ablaze and poured over Banana Cake. WooHoo! That’s having your cake and drinking it too. Speechless, I hope for a tranquil ending, and it comes in the form of fresh mint tea.
The Money: Wines are $8 per glass, and cocktails are $15 each. Dishes range from $8-$18 for individual plates, and $29-$48 for sharables.
There is no sign. The number 59 is illuminated by an Art Deco lamp.
My Advice: GO RIGHT NOW while you can still get a seat at the table.
Pastiche, pasticherestaurant.com, 59 Ossington St., (647) 508-5959
Sara Waxman is an award-winning restaurant critic, best-selling cookbook author, food and travel journalist and has eaten her way through much of the free world for four decades, while writing about it in books, newspapers and magazines. She is the Editor in Chief of DINE and Destinations magazine.