Porzia, Bar Isabel and other new Mediterranean, Spanish, Italian, French eats in Toronto
Tried Porzia last night.
Quick review: it's good. could be great. The flavours are definitely there...what they need to work on, in order of importance is 1) service 2) value ...and 3) service (yeah, it was that spotty I'm listing it twice)- I say it twice because the servers should have some idea of how the menu fits together.
We made a reservation for 6:00 pm for 2, arrived at 6:15, they were very accommodating. The place was almost empty- maybe 2 other couples and 1 person at the bar.
Water was poured as soon as we sat down which was nice. The server, however didn't bother to introduce herself or offer any pleasantries. We were HUNGRY- and decided pretty quickly what we wanted- in addition to desperately needing a drink. However, we were left to our own devices for a good 10 minutes...and I was making very obvious looking-around-trying-to-catch-someone's eyes moment...our maybe server was standing near the kitchen talking to the idle kitchen staff.
Look- I know you guys weren't busy right at that moment...but it looks odd and slightly unprofessional to be twiddling your thumbs talking to servers who aren't serving diners who *want* to be served....
finally- I flagged down the hostess(/server?). And ordered. I informed her of some allergies we were working with and she was super accommodating and quite nice.
drinks were prompt- the food took a little longer than we would've liked (maybe 20 min for the first course) which, ok, we had drinks...
1st dish- polpetta ragu
the first course was the polpettes (meatballs)- it was REALLY good...not "blow my mind" good- but solid, tasted fresh...and what was outstanding- the grilled crostini. I don't know who their bread supplier is...but it was great. You got 5 decent sized meatballs. We used that as an appetizer. $16, great value.
2nd- chicken liver agnolotti
Second to come out was the chicken liver agnolotti, first off- let me say this dish was great. the flavours were amazing. it was rich and light at the same time. However, when I googled reviews for Porzia online, I saw what this dish looked like for other diners...and the dish we got last night? Nothing like it. It looked....measly. there 7 agnolotti. and too little sauce/pork reduction. it was great- but we felt gipped...it was $16. It did not seem to match up value wise with the meatballs we just had.
After the agnolotti. we feared we were going to be hungry so we did an addition of the duck to our order...big mistake- i'll explain below.
3rd- Pork Belly with Cannellini beans.
Again- taste wise- it was awesome. value? great...a healthy portion of perfectly cooked pork belly. crackly addictive skin. But the cannellinni beans? the miss here was that they were undercooked....the flavours were great, but they were almost gritty. which let you know they cooked them from dried, but not long enough...if they had just been braised a bit longer- they probably would've been creamy and that dish would've killed. That being said, I'd have this dish again in a heartbeat.
so we were decently full after those 3, but we got a bit panicked at the small agnolotti dish and added the duck dish.
I really wish we hadn't. the duck? biggest miss of the night. It was underseasoned...honestly, the skin was crispy...but the duck tasted kinda like chicken! duck confit shouldn't taste like chicken. The beets were meh. the Pear mostarda- were 2 (small) pieces of well poached pear. the whole dish was underwhelming...and expensive at $22.
The thing about the duck was that it seemed so out of place with the rest of the dishes, which made a nice cohesive menu.
Total- with 1 glass of wine and 2 drinks was $100. plus tip.
If we hadn't had the duck- I think I would've enjoyed it more because I wouldn't feel like I was spending too much?...the value for the food- is fair to decent. I think they should rethink the portion on the agnolotti- or maybe how it's presented.
The staff, while nice to look at (I say this only because they seemed to do a lot of very obvious primping), missed the mark. I compared them to the staff at Chantecler or somewhere like County General- there's no comparison.
Overall, would dine there again. But hopefully they work out some more kinks...cause the food is great.
We were there last night from 7:30-10:30 at the chef's rail overlooking the kitchen. What a fun and tasty night. The restaurant was "half-full" at the start but quickly filled up. They do take reservations online and I was able to get this prime time table for 4 only 24 hours in advance. I then asked for the chef's rail (seats 4) at the "last minute" and they granted it easily.
We didn't have the duck nor the pork belly. The menu changes regularly so we were delighted to see new options like testa fritti. They've only been open about 7 weeks.
Service was indeed spotty but we attributed it to the fact that we were getting it from both directions. The female server behind us wasn't the best server though she did bring clean side plates from time to time. She didn't however keep up with asking us if we wanted drinks nor coffee at any point after the initial cocktail order and still water pour.
Talking to Chef Basilio was informative and interesting. The kitchen looked coordinated and balanced, never frenetic nor chaotic. He suggested several dishes to share, and threw in complimentary cotechino-rapini crostini and chocolate-espresso cookies at the end. We also benefitted financially by getting extra large portions of both the citrus salad and a 7th agnolotti (they normally serve 6 chicken liver stuffed pieces per portion).
Highlights: Esteban cocktail (wow), nebbiolo red by the glass, cotechino-rapini crostini, citrus salad (outstanding spicy kick), testa fritti (head cheese), agnolotti (perfect in every way), horse tagliatelle (you'd never believe it's not beef), polpetta ragu (juicy, 5 balls), and bone marrow with snails and preserved lemon.
All breads and crostini are made in house by the sous.
Low points: tripe, sweetbreads and octopus. Avoid if possible. The cookies were average (hint: would be better if softer, chewier or warmer!)
Total bill for 4 people including tax and 7 alcoholic drinks: $238.00
Wow. Will definitely return. Food not as stunning as Ascari Enoteca but really good for a west end neighbourhood trattoria. By the way, Porzia is pronounced Por-zee-a.
I'm thinking the ones in Torontolife and Postcity...it might be the same # of pieces...it had to do more with presentation...in those pics the reduced stock looked like a sauce. when we had it- it...didn't. we barely got any mushrooms either. it was just poorly presented. and again- I'm not complaining about the taste- cause that was great.
Went to Porzia last weekend, and it was quite good!
Our server was also excellent, very helpful and also fun. We had 7pm reservations and it was quiet at the beginning but it got louder and busier as the night went on. Shamefully there were some groups of girls who just had drinks while waiting for tables at Grand Electric, but lots of dinner-diners by 9pm.
Cocktails were good but pricey, wine list had some interesting Italian stuff but no Ontario by-the-glass.
We started with the insalata which had the neatest "pork rind fluff" on it, but lots of vegetables. The hamachi crudo was insanely good. Like butter. And the eggplant fritti were also really yummy. My husband ordered tagiatelle with pancetta and goat cheese (i think) as his main, and it was good, not too salty but flavourful. I had a halibut served with artichoke, olives and recently foraged mushrooms and it was really great as well. Overall, the dishes were really balanced, none had too much of anything, just enough fresh herb and veg flavours to balance the fattier textures like cheese or pancetta or fish.
I'd definitely return, especially if the menu evolves with seasons.
Good meal at Porzia last night. Took advantage of their Monday night special - $33 for an app, split pasta and entree, half off bottles of wine.
Loved the fried tripe. Nice harmony of flavours with a touch of hot sauce balanced with the slightly citric shredded greens.
Cavallo tonnato and hamachi crudo apps also good but I only had a taste.
Tagliatelle with dandelion pesto and pistachios. Nothing amazing but very solid, well executed pasta.
Bone marrow with snails and gremolata. Had maybe 15 snails on there, no shell. I had a ball with lathering crostini in marrow and peppering it with snails before devouring it.
Two complaints - timing and noise. Wait was too long between courses but service was good. Attentive, refills of water and friendly. Wasn't even that busy and was very noisy inside. Had difficulty hearing a few sentences from my friends on the other side of the table.
Went to Chantecler afterwards to eat a second dinner (not that the portions weren't big enough at Porzia - I just eat a lot) and it had a much more appropriate noise level.