On a warm, sunny evening I was lucky to be invited to take part in a tasting held at Mata Petisco Bar. Mata, a South American petisqueria (shared plate dining) is the newest restaurant incarnation located at the former Keriwa Cafe space in Parkdale. This simply designed mid-sized restaurant nestled amongst the antique markets welcomed me with a sun- filled dining room and festive green tiled bar. So far we are off to a great start!
Now onto the food…
Amuse – Cheese Bread and Lobster Pastel This amuse bouche was a great way to get the taste buds buzzing. The cheese bread is light and fluffy with a mild cheese flavour but the lobster pastel was the star of this opening course. Buttery lobster filling inside a crispy, wonton-like shell melted in my mouth. A mild creamy cheese dip accompanied these apps to add more cheesy goodness.
Course 1 – Corvina Ceviche with Maple Candied Sweet Potato, Celery & Lime This refreshing ceviche was the perfect next course to counter the buttery goodness of the amuse bouche. The mild, saltwater South American corvina fish marinated in lime had a nice texture and was partnered well with the candied sweet potato and celery. As a South American restaurant I was expecting a little more heat from this dish. Adding some chili peppers could take this ceviche to the next level.
Course 2 – Smoked Crispy Chicken Hearts with Cauliflower Puree & Ancho Chili Oil Unfortunately, this course suffers from the same problem as the previous dish, a little extra heat would have added more dimension. The ancho chili oil was barely detectable. The chicken hearts were cooked inconsistently, some were done well and some were slightly overcooked making them too chewy. However, the arugula salad that accompanies this dish was seasoned perfectly and helped balance the deep fried chicken hearts.
Course 3 – Picanha Slider with Cachaça Caramelized Onions, House Made Catupiry Cheese, & Malagueta Pepper Aioli. My favourite dish of the night is the picanha slider…this morsel of deliciousness was cooked to a perfect medium and was so moist and flavourful. The tangy catupiry cheese added a nice umami to the richness of the slider. I could have definitely eaten a few more!
Course 4 – Grilled Octopus with Heart of Palm Puree, Raspberry & Balsamic Reduction & Taro Root Crisps Grilled octopus is becoming standard fare that is expected in Spanish and South American restaurant menus, so this course is no surprise. The grilled octopus was good but suffers from some inconsistent cooking as some pieces were a bit overcooked and chewy and again, was under seasoned. The puree and yummy taro root crisps added texture to this dish.
Course 5 – Beef Cheek Poutine with Cassava Frites, Fresh Curds, Scallions By course 5, I was starting to slow down but I was really looking forward to this dish. Seriously, who can say no to poutine?! I love that they switched it up by using cassava frites. In this dish, the frites were more similar to a tater tot and covered in rich pulled beef cheek. My only recommendation for this decadent dish is that it could have used more gravy and cheese curds. Otherwise, it should be on your must-try list.
Dessert – Avocado Crème Brulee To cap off the menu, was a very rich avocado crème brulee that is super creamy but not too sweet. For me, it was cross between a green tea and key lime crème brulee. It wasn’t a wow but a nice sweet treat to finish the night.
Drinks – Classic Lime Caipirinha, Pisco Sour Unfortunately, I can’t provide a review of the beverages as I’m one of those Asians that doesn’t metabolize alcohol well but from my tablemates’ comments, they enjoyed these strong, tasty concoctions especially the lime caipirinha which they said was very authentic.
Final Thoughts… The small-plate format at Mata is great for a fun-filled communal dining experience with friends and family and will feature seasonal menu items. As an added bonus, they will also carry local microbrews as part of their drinks menu.
Overall, this restaurant’s casual and welcoming dining atmosphere and tasty menu is worth the trek to Parkdale to sample all of its South American-inspired dishes.
Mata Petisco Bar 1690 Queen St. West Toronto, ON 647-691-0234
About our Guest Restaurant Reviewer Elaine