Any info. on this new Spanish restaurant on King Street called Patria? It's next to Charles Khabouth's Weslodge and indeed marks the new frontier of his ever expanding empire.
It was supposed to open this weekend, I have yet to try it. Toronto has yet to get the point of Tapas, hopefully this one wont be a disappointment. Based on the preview pictures they seem to have gotten hold of contraband Jamon serrano, the menu from the pop up version was selling a portion (possibly a half racion at most) described as Jamon Iberico de bellota for a hard to believe low price of ~$15, but the leg in the pictures is definitely not jamon iberico.
Ive been to Spice Route a gajillion times (havent been for a while since we noticed an infestation of a certain species of wild cat), but i have never been adventurous enough to try the food itself.
Weslodge makes decent cocktails though, but im probably too easily impressed by the ice cube more than any difference that barrel aging a negroni actually makes.
So me and some friends ended up trying this out.
I tend to lurk only and not actually post any reviews on CH (any prior contributions have always been related to ISO type posts), but here goes (LONG):
So being a huge tapas freak I went to Patria half expecting to be disappointed. At the end of the visit i could best qualify the experience as "Meh". The barometer I am basing my review of this tapas bar are the standard, somewhat modernized but somewhat still classic tascas that litter Madrid (ie, i didnt expect La Venencia recreated, but i was looking forward to more like a bastardized Estado Puro)
Anyways, the atmosphere was good. Loud, frenetic, just as any tapas bar should be. I guess a Canadian tapas place will always have seating, and their bar is practically non existent. Nor were there any standing room only spots. Standard King West nonsense as some have commented, but if you crammed everyone in a smaller place and replaced english with spanish you could somehow convince yourself that you were in La Latina.
Going on to the drinks menu, the pricing is reasonable, with a standard selection of sherries. The staff needed a bit more training with the menu obviously, because even ordering whatever was on the menu was confusing (took the server 20 minutes to find a bottle of Fino). They also didn't have Pedro Ximenez, which was a bit strange because they had Palo Cortado, Manzanilla, and Amontillado.
Being in Canada they of course had sangria, which was being consumed by most tables apart from ours. I didnt bother ordering Clara's, tinto de verano, kalimotxo (yea yea) or any actual spanish mixed drinks.
My biggest beef: NO VERMOUTH ON TAP. And they didnt serve Mahou or cruzcampo (too much to ask)
The food itself, well, it there was a random mishmash of things that people consider spanish. There was no regional focus at all, which is appropriate given the state of Spanish cuisine in Toronto. Im going to try to remember what we had, which is an effort because we ordered half of the menu.
Portion sizes are fairly accurate, but some of their raciones are actually tapas sized.
To start of, the most important (for me) JAMON. They have the standard clipped Fermin legs on sale. The staff do an OK job cutting it, but no one bothered training them to dispose of the first dry cuts and to put some fat back on the top to keep it from drying. Of course the anatomy of the ham was not very well respected either. They sell Jamon Serrano for 10, and Jamon Iberico de Bellota for 30. We ordered both.
When asked for the tag, i was told by my server that this was thrown out. I was then offered to look at the leg itself before we ordered. They showed a Jamon Iberico de Bellota that was very suspect, lacking the black hoof and of course some sort of government ID. At that price for the serving given it was also a bit on the cheap side considering the location. The taste of the Jamon Iberico was more like an aged Jamon serrano, and was definitely NOT de bellota. This was brought up to management, who listened to the explanation and welcomed the suggestion that their supplier must have somehow been fibbing… They were very nice, and no defensive attitude was encountered.
The rest of the food we had was a mix of classic items:
Manchego cheese with membrillo jam - The only way to mess this up is to not give you adequate portions, and they did. You only get a small sliver of membrillo.
Pimentos de padron, which were not actually padron peppers.
A somewhat weird but tasty hybrid of Patatas Bravas and Huevos Estrellados mixed together.
Spanish almonds, drowned in a weird spice mix
Marinated olives - very good for the price
Pulpo Gallego - it was OK but pricey for the portion and had grilled octopus instead of boiled slices.
Stuffed peppers with oxtail - actually very good (im used to this filled with sea urchin roe or crab), but they should label it a tapa and not a racion considering you get two tiny pieces.
Pan con tomate - actually tasty, and better than a lot of versions ive had in Spain.
Fideos Negros - decent, a bit on the salty side, and missing socarrat, or the crust you get at the bottom of the paella pan.
Croquetas de Jamon - ok crust and texture. The shape was a bit on the small side and you get only two. The biggest problem i had with this was it had way too much pimenton mixed in.
We also shared a couple of mains:
the Lomo iberico, which was tasty, but of course was highly unlikely to be made from Iberico pork (kudos to them for not attempting to serve this more than medium rare).
And the Rabbit Paella - Decent portion, but too saucy and missing socarrat. also i didn't like the fact that they used thin slices of Jamon serrano (like you would put in a sandwich) instead of chunks.
We drank a bottle of Garnacha from Navarra, at a decent price of 2-2.5x compared to LCBO
Service was good, and the waitstaff could be better trained in terms of their menu, but they were very keen on learning. The biggest beef I had was with the manager\front of house guy who didn't introduce himself and tried to peddle me a bottle of Rioja when I originally ordered a bottle of Tempranillo from La Mancha, telling me to my face that they were the same thing and after much argument eventually admitted they were out of the other bottle.
All in all a decent try, and for the lack of any good alternative for quick drinks and snack in the area I may end up going back in the future. But if you are a purist consider yourself warned. IMO the best "spanish" restaurant in Toronto is still down the street at Edulis.
I don't typically post reviews until I've been twice (at least) to a place - and the second time will be fairly soon as I was much more impressed than you were
The fact that I was impressed was the major surprise for me as I've not had the greatest experiences at Khabouth restaurants - although the Harji places (e.g. Kultura, Nyood) have been much better. But overall my experience here was extremely impressive.
I was there the first week, but the expected glitches were very few (I agree that some of the raciones are only tapa sized - and some are even larger than expected e.g. the salads (excellent and fresh) and fideos (huge portion - I had the clam, rather than the negros)).
I found the wine list far more extensive than most (?all) others in Toronto - and a selection of 5 sherries is also above average (although they were indeed 'standard' - no manzanilla pasada for example).
I generally don't enjoy the 'tapas experience' as it's usually encountered in Spain - I prefer a more leisurely pace with my dishes 'choreographed in order' rather than randomly delivered as the chef gets around to them - and Patria delivered something more akin to a 'tasting menu' in terms of arranging the dishes. They do have a 'tasting menu' option which the server failed to offer to us (opening glitch) but was ordered by the adjacent table - and theirs DID come substantially together, so I wouldn't order that.
Also ordered the 'bellota' - and although it didn't match the best I've had (in Spain), I don't recall ever having a better 'ham' in Toronto (regardless of origin). It passed the 'fat melts on the tongue' test for me - and my conclusion was that it certainly exceeded the quality of the Fermin (which doesn't do it for me - either in price or quality).
The Iberico Flank (or was it Hangar)Steak was, for me, the standout dish. Of course I tried Manchego - and this was a 12-month -old (not the 60-90 day stuff usually served in Toronto - so kudos here) although it got lost in the stuffed date dish (tapa sized in the racion section) which I found too sweet. This led to a discussion with the server and subsequently the co-owner, where they were super-polite (kudos again) and very knowledgeable about the source of ingredients. They are/were using Medjool dates (probably the most expensive here in Toronto) but are trying to source dates from Spain - not necessarily a good idea as they are 'stringier' but certainly less sweet (and smaller).
I found the wine selection excellent - numerous by the glass options (both 3 and 6 oz servings) and we shared 4 different 6 oz glasses - all of which were excellent.
And you don't mention dessert. The chocolate/olive oil dish is spectacular.
If anything the servers were over-eager (maybe I was there on a slow night) but clearly well-trained. Every dish came with an explanation of the ingredients with their origin.
Sure, it does have a scattershot approach to Spain, and clearly mixes its regions - but commercially you probably need a paella and a few other dishes that customers identify with spain.
My verdict - I'll be back and soon! Tentatively the finest Spanish restaurant in Toronto.
Edited to Add:
The pulpo Gallego I had was DEFINITELY boiled, then finished in the oven (or possibly grill). And a shout out here to the potatoes that each slice was served on - great flavour. I had the pan sin tomate to have with the jamon - just to cleanse the palate between tastes. And the Patatas Bravos were also excellent - although I had the sauce on the side as it sometimes makes them soggy (but did mix in the fried egg).
re: Vinnie Vidimangi
The price (!) and the overbearing sweetness without any compensating characteristics (e.g. acidity, or tannins). It's just 1-dimensional sweetness.
I quite like the texture - but my problem is no evolution of flavour - same from beginning to end.
In contrast, the Iranian dates have less sweetness and the texture also changes as it mixes with saliva, so I end up with some 'subtle' changes in sweetness - particularly if stuffed with cheese, or wrapped in ham, say, which also adds some detectable saltiness - and hence interest to the dish. That gives a more satisfying all-around balance of flavours and textures.
In the Patria dish, the date flavour (although solid) was all-encompassing - just swamped the other components.
And any Spanish dates available (that you know of)?
So am I surprised - their track record didn't suggest such a promising start - so I held back reviewing, pending another visit - however, as the first real review wasn't that flattering, I felt I should at least balance the view.
I really liked the room as well, although admittedly they were restricting the number of patrons the first few nights, in order to work out opening jitters. We could (and did) have a conversation where we could hear each other - a rarity these days!
And after I 'critiqued' a couple of dishes (constructively I hope) the chef himself came out towards the end to understand 'areas for possible improvement'. So the management were certainly on the ball the evening I was there. And, for full disclosure, they comped a couple of dishes where I identified issues (but it was still over $200 for two (including taxes and gratuity)) - but we felt it was absolutely worth it.
I also liked their version of Patatas Bravas. The clam fideos dish was a little gritty.
The portion sizes confused me a little. Cheese croquetas were quite good, but only 3 to an order, despite being part of the Racion part of the menu.
I didn't like their contemporary take of ajo blanco as a shallow dip for broccolini, rather than a traditional bowlful.
I wasn't too impressed by the fried milk dessert our server had encouraged us to order...quite boring.
I do wish our server hadn't pronounced gazpacho gazpaccio (with the stress on the io, so it sounded like gazpachieeeeeo). When I pronounced it the way I believe it is usually pronounced, she seemed to try to correct me by repeating the word, her way. Odd.
Thank you so much for this report back. I have been sitting on the fence about going to Patria, as I am a huge fan of Spanish cuisine and have only had amazing experiences in Spain (also a couple in NYC - Tertulia and hand cut 5 J's Iberico at Despana Fine Foods). The iberico bellota is a HUGE item for me, as well as the paella. You mentioned it was not quite up to standard but would you order it again? I love iberico but of course it is a rare item to find in Toronto. Too bad about the paella, that is quite a difficult dish to get outside of Spain.
As i said in my post i wasnt entirely convinced that the leg they had was actually Jamon iberico, let alone de Bellota (biggest clue being the fact that the pata wasnt actually negra. There are some instances of manchado iberico pigs that can have white "nails" but i doubt thats the case). Both their Jamon Serrano and their Iberico are from Fermin according to their little certificate, which is the biggest producer that is allowed to be imported in North America legally. I too am partial to 5J's, and Patria's jamonero is strangely enough a 5J one, holding a Fermin leg!
Until they actually establish the provenance of the leg i personally dont think its worth the 30 bucks, but the irony is if they actually serve a jamon iberico de bellota it seems to be a substandard one compared to what you may be used to, but fairly cheap for the portion they give. So for Jamon freaks it is actually not too bad of a deal considering you are in Toronto, as long as you dont expect too much from it. I say it is worth trying out at least once.
With that said, i came back recently just to have some predinner drinks with a couple of friends, we had some Jamon Serrano, which was very enjoyable considering the low price for the racion and the leg was at the middle part of the maza, my favourite section.
As for Paella, even in Spain it is hit and miss, i tend to be more of a purist and like the rice to be the star attraction, without the distraction of too much "additives". Ironically if Patria were to add more caldo to the paella they serve that would make a decent arroz caldoso....
This place was such a disappointment. As other posters have noted, huge swaths of Spanish cuisine and wines are not on the menu (i get they have to be selective, but paella? at a +$40 pricepoint to boot?). Service was condescending yet incompetent at the same time, and there were multiple, repeated very hard sells on the most expensive menu items throughout the whole dinner (that we didn't want irrespective of the price) to the point we felt we were buying a used car (our bill was still well over $200 anyway- it wasn't like we ordered one thing and no alcohol, not that that's a reason to push anyway). I've tried Casa Barcelona et.al. and was hoping Patria would be better, but i'm turned off. The seating at the back is next to the service area where people are folding napkins and gossiping, really ruining the ambiance; the chairs are too uncomfortable, tables are too small. The food was just ok (we had an assortment of stuff- fideo, croquetas, sardines, cheeses, jamon) but maybe just because i had such a hankering for Spanish i overlooked stuff like the crappy cutting of the jamon (dry, curled ends as others have noted). Definitely a no-repeat for me.
Just came back from Patria and I would agree with the comments from my fellow Chowhounders. Still I went because I was curious and missed the great food from Barcelona. We were 2 couples and although the food here is tasty, it's not what I had in Barcelona, I am told it encompasses all the regions in Spain. So the comment 'Meh' is right. We spent $280 for 4 including wine ($60, cheapest bottle and good) & tip.
Very important info: Paelle takes 45 minutes to prepare. So order it right at the beginning because you may be hungry if the tapas aren't enough. Beware, the price is $40 (vegetarian version) to $48!
All the dishes are meant to be shared as a group. Waiter said each person should order 3-5 dishes, they are small.
We had the jamon 24 months old (part of the sampler dish - $12) and the 36 months old ($30). It's thinly sliced and doesn't come with bread on tomato sauce (you can order it separately). Also, the ham is in a light colour, not dark red like in Spain. There's no free bread here. Although delicious, it wasn't like the one I had at Con Ravel in Barcelona with the shiny coat of oil and the fat in between. One friend said the ham at Black Hoof was better. Our waiter told us the ham came from Spain.
We also had 3 different cheeses that came with quince jam and two thinly sliced pieces of bread brushed with olive oil. I wish there was more bread. Luckily, my husband doesn't eat cheese so it was enough for 3 people.
Some other tapas we had included jalapenos sauteed in oil and sprinkled with sea salt, just like chips and unhealthy but wonderful. Red pepper stuffed with ox tail (highly recommend. Croquettes with jamon with aioli. Goat cheese with honey and walnut.
Tiny octopus on bits of potatoes - so tender and the best octopus I've had.
3 desserts: chocolate + olive oil, fried milk (dulce leche) + saffron ice cream, and churros with caramel. Only $6 each. Skip the fried milk, no taste and disappointing.
In total, we were full with 12 dishes + 3 desserts. We didn't try the higher end plates at $45. Dishes are $6 - $12
Now our waiter didn't like us and was condescending from beginning to end. He did fill up our water regularly and but was rude. I think it's because I didn't want to order Patria's own distilled water at the beginning and everything went downhill when I said we'll have 'Toronto's finest'. The rest of the evening, he made comments like: 'Did you think I was lying' (when he said the restaurant had to close at 9 for a private function and nobody showed up and he said they had to leave for another place?!). Also, don't let anyone pressure you to order ALL your tapas at once. He tried doing that many times by saying it will be slow in the kitchen and we were analyzing the menu and asked questions and wasn't sure about our decision. The menu is all in Spanish with big letters and in tiny English text next to it. Even if there was English, you're not sure exactly what you were ordering from the description. After the third time the waiter asked us to 'speed up our decision, I looked at him straight in the eye and said: 'We're taking our time like people do in Spain, we're in no rush'. I wasn't going to let this twenty something year old rush us and the restaurant was half empty on a Sunday night! I hope you don't get our waiter, I am sure the other guys are nicer and not pretentious.
Would I go again? No. But if you want to check it out, and try a unique experience, please go. Next time, I going to Cava!
Another tip: this is not a romantic place, and not recommended for first dates, it's very loud :-)
My second visit was much more hectic. The wine list is exceptional (for Toronto) and prices are about par. Food is still good, but servers seem all new and (I think) Spanish.
There is indeed a relentless upsell and 'hurry, hurry' attitude - but I have no problem managing that. A simple(?) "Would it be possible to be assigned another server" cures it immediately (if said with a smile).
Noise is at Buca levels, so conversation is difficult - so looks like it might be a Sunday destination (for me) from now on.
Still the finest Spanish dining in Toronto. Comparisons with Barcelona are meaningless!
Because the climate in Spain is so different that local ingredients are very different.
If one wants to use ingredients imported from Spain, the Canadian rules for bringing in agricultural/dairy products are so restrictive that many (most?) artisinal products are just not legal to import here.For example, until recently, only ONE producer of Jamon Bellota was legal here (I've heard a second one has recently been 'approved for sale' - and that's what Patria uses).
Have you ever seen dates from Spain sold here(another example)? Only citrus fruits are easily obtained - we don't have a domestic citrus industry to protect.
I am probably(definitely?) exaggerating for effect - but how helpful is it, on the Ontario Board, to say that something is better or worse than in Spain? The useful info on this Board is whether a place (or dish) is better/worse than comparable restaurants in this Province.
If we want the best place in Spain - that's a topic for a different Board. And I say that despite my two best meals of 2012 being in Catalunya and over half of my Top 10 lifetime (OK last 10 years) being in Spain. But comparing those with Toronto's finest just isn't useful information.
Comparing Toronto's Spanish food with Spain's Spanish food is certainly useful. It doesn't mean we should expect Toronto's Spanish food to taste the same as Spain's Spanish food, but it's still useful to know how they compare.
With regard to poor service, your advice 'A simple(?) "Would it be possible to be assigned another server" cures it immediately (if said with a smile)' would likely result in a disruption of the evening. You would be responding questions from the server, then probably the manager, and then introduced to the new server. Then you can resume your own conversation. But the disruption may set the tone for the rest of the dinner.