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Jan 1, 2010 09:12 AM


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:

                    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.