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I want to know the very INSTANT the doors open. Must, must, must try. Please help the hungry and desperate.


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  1. hey googs and happy new year!
    This is the first I've heard of Malena -- is it expected to be along the lines of L'Unita?

    1. It's open!
      Even has 'Sheep's Milk Feta' on the menu!

      1. This place came up on another thread about Greek restos in the city. Just curious - why the excitement, Googs? Are you a fan of one of the chefs or management? L'Unita? Or just keen to try an upscale Greek experience? Estufarian, have you been already? Is this where Costa Basque used to be or is it on the same block as L'Unita?

        134 Avenue Rd, Toronto, ON M5R2H6, CA

        7 Replies
        1. re: peppermint pate

          I saw the menu. Looking forward to trying the frito misto.

          1. re: peppermint pate

            I haven't been - drove past it last night (on Avenue road, where Pink Pearl used to be, a block from l'Unita), so looked it up.
            It looks Italian to me - perhaps a lighter version of l'Unita.
            Given that I was banished to Siberia at l'Unita - the food was competent, the service and ambiance less so (or maybe I've just grown out of tolerating incompetent servers).
            And the 'Junior Sous-Chef' (according to chef db) is now the 'chef'. No experience stated! Of course, everybody has to start somewhere - I'll just let others try this first.

            Pink Pearl Restaurant - Closed
            120 Avenue Rd, Toronto, ON M5R2H4, CA

            1. re: estufarian

              I don't mind being the first!

              134 Avenue Rd, Toronto, ON M5R2H6, CA

              1. re: estufarian

                Just checked out the menu online as well as their chefdb profile. Estufarian...the Junior Sous Chef is not the Chef??? You might want to check that again. The Chef has come over from L'Unita and is Doug Neigel. As for the menu; looks seafood heavy which is exactly what I think we need more of in Toronto. I see they are also a part of the Ocean Wise program which I think is very important and a big trend these days with young chefs. I love the touches of Greek and Italian, and other than the pasta section, the menu looks nicely balanced with ingredients and styles from both cultures. I think it's going to be a great idea and can't wait to try it. Will attempt to make my way over tomorrow night. Also, the wine list looks very interesting! At a quick glance, looks like everything old world with lots of odd white wines and interesting tastes from Greece, Spain and France as well as southern Italy. They also have a section just on Pinot Noir and a very nice Canadian list.

                134 Avenue Rd, Toronto, ON M5R2H6, CA

                1. re: The Macallan 18

                  And on chefdb he's shown as executive chef.
                  And he's also shown as still being at l"Unita.
                  Or maybe he's at both places at once.
                  The website shows him as Chef. And the l'Unita website shows him as Executive Chef - which 'usually' means he created the menu (rather than actually cooking there) - although it certainly could be interpreted as he's now the Chef at Malena, as well as Executive Chef for both L'Unita and catering.

                  134 Avenue Rd, Toronto, ON M5R2H6, CA

                  1. re: The Macallan 18

                    The menu looks like contemporary Mediterranean fusion, heavy on the Italian with a few Greek touches. NTTAWWT.


                    I got the feeling the chef used Italian words when they sounded better/more posh than the English or Greek counterparts (capretto instead of goat or katsika, polpette instead of meatball or keftede, risotto instead of pilafi, dolci instead of desserts or glyko). Interestingly, all the current mains are described in plain English.

                    Sometimes the descriptions are redundant, in the case of lemon avgolemono (avgolemono by definition contains lemon) and horta greens (horta is the Greek word for greens).

                    Sometimes the words chosen on the menu are used improperly. Baklava and Mandalato (aka nougat/torrone) are not biscuits or biscotti, since they are not baked twice. They aren't even cookies. Yet, they are served on a "biscotti plate".


                    I do hope that the food at Malena tastes good, and that the kitchen knows how to properly prepare quality fish and shellfish, regardless of the stylistic issues on the menu.

                    I'm also looking forward to trying the fritto misto, as well as the loukamades.

                2. re: peppermint pate

                  I'm a fan of the way the boys that run L'Unita do things. Simple and casual and yet somehow they deliver that sizzle, that elegant feel.

                  The Macallan 18, I look forward to your review of the new Italian on the block as I always do.

                  134 Avenue Rd, Toronto, ON M5R2H6, CA

                3. The menu looks good. Looking forward to trying it sometime.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: TOchowgal

                    So it's been open for a few weeks now. Any reports?

                    1. re: Flexitarian

                      Just noticed a mini review up on the Cookbook Store blog by Dr. Josh Josephson. I will report back next week after I try to head in for dinner. Also, recently checked out Origin and it was a major hit. I will report back with details after I dine at Malena and hopefully Rubywatchco early next week.

                  2. Hosted a dinner for 7 at Malena last night. Overall, it was a good experience, especially for Av & Dav.

                    Most of our party started with Ionian Mojitos- mint-infused ouzo mojitos, which were a refreshing change from a standard Mojito. Not too sweet, not too much ouzo, this was an interesting twist on a mojito.

                    The bread and olive oil brought to the table were top quality, and was replenished without asking. Our server was very attentive, and our water glasses were never empty throughout the dinner.

                    The grilled octopus served with tzatziki and a mint & couscous mixture was very good. Each order of octopus consisted of two 4 inch pieces of medium diameter, maybe 3/4 inch in diameter, which was on the small side for sharing, but a decent amount for one person. I certainly wouldn't mind paying more for a larger portion. Nicely charred and very tender. The octopus was my favourite savoury dish we ordered.

                    Our table had 2 orders of the fritto misto (calamari, spot prawns, and anchovies- which tasted like smelts), the bufula mozzarella agnolotti, the pork loin, and a spot prawn risotto. We also ordered sides of eggplant, fingerling potatoes, and roasted beets with greens.

                    Since soft shell crabs from the east coast are now in season, it was possible to have a softshell crab added to the fritto misto for $10 additional dollars. One of our orders of fritto misto came with a softshell crab. I also ordered the stone crab claw with chilled avgolemono.

                    The fritto misto was fried beautifully. There was a bit of cornmeal grittiness to the calamari, but it added some texture. The calamari was extremely tender, and fresh-tasting, and one of the better fried versions I've ordered in Toronto. The spot prawns and anchovy/smelts were fine, but didn't stand out as much as the calamari. The large fritto misto was a generous portion of seafood for $32, probably enough for 2 people to share. The small fritto misto which cost $16 would have been more than enough for me as a main dish.

                    I'm not sure that I would order the fritto misto again. Maybe Toronto is too far from the sea for this type of simple dish that requires extremely fresh seafood. Some extra lemon improved the fritto misto a little. I wasn't fond of the red pepper conserva sauce that accompanied the fritto misto.

                    The stone crab claw was a generous claw which came pre-cracked, which was suitable for one person. The crabmeat was very sweet. The avgolemono that came with the crab was more of an intense dill sauce than an egg lemon sauce. The consistency of the sauce was dense, similar to aioli, rather than the foamy consistency that I usually associate with a traditional avgolemono sauce.

                    The pork loin was extremely tender, and served with orzo. I tried a bite of the agnolotti, which were delicate and light. The roasted beets were fine, as were the potatoes. I really liked the way the eggplant was prepared, and would certainly order that again. The side dishes were large enough to share with the whole table, and the portions were more generous than the side dish portions at Nota Bene or Globe Earth.

                    The real surprise for me was how delicious the desserts were. In my experience, desserts tend to be a weak point in Greek/Greek-inspired restaurants. We ordered the chocolate cannoli, the loukamades with pistachios, honey, and cinnamon crema, and the lemon meringue phyllo cup with lemon semifreddo. I would order any of the desserts again. I'm not usually a cannoli person, but the semisweet chocolate with a hint of coffee filling was a nice twist. The loukamades were made fresh to order, and weren't syrup sponges like the versions sold in most bakeries. Much closer to the home-made version.

                    Our server was fantastic. Very friendly, extremely attentive. I would hope to be seated in his section next time I dine at Malena.

                    For this neighbourhood, the prices are reasonable. The prices are higher than any Greek restaurants in town, but the food was also higher quality and prepared carefully.

                    While the much of the menu uses Italian terms and vocabulary, the flavours that showed at our table were mostly Greek, apart from the cannoli and semifreddo. Maybe we mostly ordered the items that were more Greek. I will return again to sample more items on the menu.

                    The quality at Malena is similar the quality at L'Unita. It's a good option for upscale contemporary Greek in Toronto. A couple of the dishes reminded me of a contemporary restaurant I visited in Crete.

                    The restaurant was packed. The crowd was predominantly in their 30s and 40s, but there were several tables with guests in their 50s and 60s. I noticed several tables around us started talking to neighbouring tables, which seemed to add to a friendly vibe to the restaurant. The main floor of the restaurant is quite loud on a Friday night. There is a second floor dining space, which is more quiet and suitable for larger groups.

                    While the seafood at Malena doesn't compare to the seafood served at Milos in Montreal, Malena's prices are also considerably lower than the prices charged at Milos. While the seafood quality at Malena is good, and better quality than what I've usually found at other Greek or Italian restaurants in Toronto, I found the seafood at Starfish or Zee Grill to be slightly better in terms of quality and preparation. Then again, Starfish and Zee have had more practice. I'm certainly looking forward to returning to Malena, and I'm happy there's a new option for seafood in TO.

                    Malena's twitterstream, which mentions daily specials: http://twitter.com/Malena120

                    134 Avenue Rd, Toronto, ON M5R2H6, CA

                    Zee Grill
                    641 Mt Pleasant Rd, Toronto, ON M4S, CA

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: phoenikia

                      Nice review - thanks for the update.

                      I really want to go and check this place out but it'll probably have to wait for the new year.

                    2. I went to Malena on Wed night. It was fantastic. My views echo those of Joanne Kates, who just reviewed the restaurant in today's Globe (see below for link). The restaurant was packed, it was beautifuly designed with a rustic yet elegant Greek type look, and I had no problem hearing my dinner guest, even though I have a slight hearing impairment in one ear.

                      Upon arrival we had a drink called a Mojito. Even though I am not a big drinker, I had 3 of them in total. They were so beautifully done with a huge sprig of mint in them. The sommelier was extremely knowledgable and helped us choose a Greek white wine. Adoli Ghis 2008, which was exactly as she described (kind of like for different varietals in one).

                      Malena's focus is on seafood, which is not easy to do well. Seafood is very perishable and not all choices are the best from a sustainability and health point of view. Malena makes it a point of serving sustainable seafood. The waiters were very attentive and were able to answer my questions about exactly where the fish was harvested and how it was harvested. I pulled out my trusty iPhone with the seachoice.org app on it and, lo and behold, for every item I checked, Malena was always serving the best choice of fish from a sustainability and health point of view. Even one fish, Porgy, which I had never heard of, I ended up googling and it too was a best choice and my partner had it. He said is was superb. I ended up having the swordfish and the one Malena served was the only sustainable one of the five species that are fished. It was simply delicicious and beautifully prepared.

                      For dessert we had a twist on lemon meringue pie. It was done as a tart but in phyllo pastry instead of the more traditional crust. It was delicious. We also had the loukoumades which are balls of dough with cinnamon cream, honey and pistachios that are fried. They were incredible. Even Joanne Kates suggests that Malena does them better than even the Greeks do! I liked them so much I ordered a second plate (even though I am trying to lose 10 lbs).

                      I won't go into more detail, given the reviews already posted and Joanne Kates' review below (she's a much better writer than me!), but I would have to say that this was the best seafood restaurant I have ever been to. Chef Doug Neigel really knows what he is doing and now has two slam dunks in a row with L'Unita and Malena under his belt.

                      Joanne Kates review in the Globe & Mail from May 1st, 2010:


                      I would say run, don't walk, to Malena as there will be a line-up. (They do take reservations, btw).

                      134 Avenue Rd, Toronto, ON M5R2H6, CA

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Flexitarian

                        "Upon arrival we had a drink called a Mojito. .."

                        Sorry Flexitarian, I know you said you're not a big drinker but I had to laugh a bit on this one! Mojito is one of the most popular mixed drink on this side of the pond, though, ironically, probably not well known in Greece since it's a Cuban cocktail. It's like saying... 'we had an Italian dish called a spaghetti and meatballs.' :-)

                        Thanks for the excellent detailed review though!

                      2. I have one new question. Has anyone tried any of the Cervaro della Sala's they have on offer?

                        My original thought was "just keep the Sicilian white flowing". Now I'm intrigued by this bottle. I guess advertising does pay. That said, great reviews and prizes don't mean anything until wine has met lips.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Googs


                          have you been there yet? From a previous post, I thought you would be there within a day or two of them opening.

                          1. re: foodyDudey

                            Oh, I had to go into pre-vacation bikini mode, then proceeded to eat The Bahamas, then back into diet/exercise mode. Now I'm standing in line with the rest of the schlubs. Okay, I have a reservation for soon. I just like to say schlubs.

                            Now about that wine...

                        2. We finally got to try Malena on Saturday night, and while I'm always a bit cautious about over-hyping a new place... we definitely thought the praise it's been earning is well-deserved!

                          The current online menu is a touch out of date, but still gives you a good impression of what Malena offers. We were eating with friends so we shared a lot of dishes and worked our way through a good portion of the menu. Cocktails are nicely executed. The Pimm's cup is a refreshing treat, although we didn't care for the Ouzo in the mojito since the flavour tends to be a bit overpowering. We also had a bottle of the Greek sparkler, which was very tasty and worked well with fish.

                          To start, we shared a lobster and buffalo mozz salad which looked a bit like a Caprese with thin slices of red lobster substituted for the traditional tomato and drizzled with olive oil. It was light, fresh, and a great start. Among the evening's frito misto was a softshell crab, which we could not resist. It was a total treat and came with a well-executed aoli (I think I'm remembering correctly). The grilled octopus with couscous was tender and tasty, but the surprise star was the halibut cakes. These guys had a fantastic smokiness that was unexpected and really delicious.

                          For mains, two of us had the fish specials (which change nightly). Mr. Rab had the mackerel, a huge fish that he finished all by himself, while I had a very clean, snowy white piece of halibut (a titch over-salted for my taste, but still very nicely prepared). The fish specials came with zucchini (the nightly veg). One of our DCs had the pork chop, which he really liked, and the other had the watermelon and feta salad, which worked fine for her since we'd been snacking on apps.

                          Desserts also impressed. The loukomades (Greek "honey ball" donuts) were squishy and delicious, with a fab cinnamon-y crema. The lemon phyllo tart was even better, looking like a meringue-y cupcake and tasting tart, sweet and light in all the right ways. We didn't sample the gelato, but the flavours are very tempting and interesting... original, but not "weird" (i.e. dark chocolate with balsamic and fig).

                          The room is pretty - reminiscent of L'Unita, but with its own character. I especially like the comfortable bar by the front window. And service was excellent. Friendly but not obtrusive, knowledgeable about the menu offerings, and efficient without ever making us feel rushed. Overall, an excellent evening and we'll be both recommending to others and coming back ourselves!

                          134 Avenue Rd, Toronto, ON M5R2H6, CA

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: Rabbit

                            Sounds wonderful. May I ask what the final tally was?

                            1. re: peppermint pate

                              Ah, the financials. The tally was $350 after tax (but before tip)... four cocktails, a bottle of wine, five starters, three mains (including two fish specials), two desserts, coffee for three.

                              And Mr. Rab adds the following:
                              - the crab came with a hot sauce for dipping (something came with aoli, but we can't remember what)
                              - the roasted eggplant and fingering potatoes ordered as sides were both great... totally worthwhile
                              - and the fish specials both came with three sauces for dipping (an olive tapenade, a citrus marmalade, and tzatziki... fun!)

                            2. re: Rabbit

                              was there any spicing to the fish? or was it virtually naked (besides the dipping sauces, of course)?

                              i could do with some great seafood in our city.

                              1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                the fish i had was naked except for some salt, pepper,and olive oil.

                            3. Went with my wife and her parents on the weekend. Overall an excellent experience and I look forward to going back. Sheep's milk feta salad was excellent and interesting in composition and presentation. Frito misto also well done, if not somewhat predictable. Lobster with squid ink pasta was a hit. I didn't order it and wished I had. Wine list is well-thought out, and spans the lower and higher price ranges. Service was professional and and prompt. Roughly $100/person, including wine, app, dessert. Recommended.

                              120 Avenue Rd, Toronto, ON M5R, CA

                              1. Malena has a new chef ( Matthew Sullivan http://twitter.com/#!/GastroMatthew ) and a new menu. The restaurant is now describing itself as Southern Italian, and the new menu appears to be almost completely southern Italian. No traces of the former menu's Greek elements, apart from the Monforte Halloumi. I have to say I am happy that the one Greek/Cypriot element is being made locally, in Perth County. ;-) Go Monforte!

                                Looks like a sign that Yorkville and TO still aren't ready for upscale, contemporary Greek, or even upscale, contemporary Italian/Greek/Ionian fusion.

                                I will give the new Southern Italian Malena a try the next time someone wants to order Italian food in Yorkville, and the next time I'm craving fritto misto. But the next time I'm looking for non-Danforth Greek, I'll be heading to Volos.


                                Estiatorio VOLOS
                                133 Richmond Street West, Toronto, ON M5H 2L3, CA

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: prima

                                  So has anyone else been to Malena with the new menu yet?

                                  1. re: Flexitarian

                                    Yep, about a month ago, and it was really rather disappointing. The previously amazing fritto misto has been reduced to a sad little plate with 4 or 5 calamari rings and a couple of other items. Honestly, it was a total rip off. The rest of the meal (4 or 5 dishes) was ok, but nothing stood out. Nothing was really bad, but most dishes needed "something" (e.g., some acidity in on of the bean dishes). My first meal at Malena last year was wonderful and I had been looking forward to going back. But this last experience was disappointing enough that I don't see myself rushing back anytime soon.

                                      1. re: aser

                                        Yep, my most recent meal was spurred by the change in kitchen -- I wanted to see what Matthew Sullivan would do with the menu.

                                        1. re: TorontoJo

                                          I always say, follow the chef, not the restaurant. As you probably already know, Doug Neigel's executive chefing it up for Mercatto now.

                                          1. re: Googs

                                            Haven't been impressed with the change (decline) in food at the MaRS location of Mercatto since his arrival. Very disappointing unfortunately.

                                          2. re: TorontoJo

                                            Chef Sullivan cakeified the menu, to appeal to the regulars, as far as I can tell. More mainstream, locally sourced meats, less seafood, smaller portions. ;-)

                                        2. re: TorontoJo

                                          The brussel sprouts and the broccoli were good. Everything else was meh.

                                    1. From Twitter:

                                      Malena Restaurant ‏@Malena120

                                      Thank you to all of our guests & staff for their support and years of good times! Malena has been sold & our last service is this Saturday!

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: JennaBean

                                        Yes, apparently they received an offer to purchase from some 'mystery' person who does not want to be identified. I read that the plan is a total revamp.

                                        1. re: millygirl

                                          Its a gorgeous pair of rooms that could stand to have new life breathed into them. Probably good for both parties. Hope it's good for us too.