161 Harbord Street
Brunch for two with all taxes, tip and coffee: $50
I’m not much of a patio person. Mosquitoes, smokers, glaring sun, smokers, rain, and smokers all make dining al fresco a bit tedious for a curmudgeon like me, but I can genuinely say that I adore the patio at the Boulevard Café. Fully covered, and on the cold rainy Sunday we dined there, heated for our comfort, the pretty space surrounded by flower boxes and manicured trees and graced with linen tablecloths is the rare type of patio where nothing bothers me. It’s completely charming, right down to the small gang of hobo-like sparrows who scour the area for dropped crumbs.
Also charming is the comprehensive brunch menu of traditional favourites with a Peruvian twist – eggs Florentine ($9.95) comes with spinach and potato – or traditional items such as tortilla rellena ($10.95) or heuvos rancheros ($9.95).
Delighted with a pair of beautiful crema-topped Americanos ($3.50 each), we opt for a pair of dishes that most typify what we know of Peruvian food. The heuvos al maiz ($10.95) is a classic example of the Peruvian love of yellow food. The corn sauce is vibrant next to a serving of sweet and spicy beans. Laced with tumeric and coriander, and studded with sweet kernels of corn, the sauce covers two scrambled egg with jalapeno peppers. The hungry husband debates whether he could get away with licking the plate in such a classy joint.
A side order of debrizini sausage ($4.95) appears at the table looking vaguely like a tire due to the pattern sliced into it before cooking, but all the little bits and corners are crispy and caramelized from the rendered fat, and we wish for a stack of these spicy delights.
While I’m vaguely intrigued by the ceviche ($13.95) on the specials board, it’s the steak I settle on. The churrasco montado ($14.95) is two hefty sirloin “medallions” atop a mound of tacu tacu, which is fried beans and rice redolent with garlic. Topped with a knee-wobbling sauce of onion, tomato and chipotle and a pair of sunnyside up eggs, this dish makes me regret all those years I wasted being a vegetarian. I’m expecting the steak to be medium-well since I didn’t specify when ordering, but it oozes rare pinky goodness when I cut into it and it melts on the tongue. The sauce is sweet, spicy, tart and salty all at the same time – and bring out the same qualities in the rare sirloin. The Peruvian steak and eggs kick every other version of this dish’s ass.
Service throughout is smooth, professional and pleasant. Water glasses are kept topped up, items like the tacu tacu are happily explained. My only regret is in not being able to try more of the menu, which means a return visit for dinner is on the to-do list so we can check out some of the other dishes – like the plentiful seafood – Peru is known for.
Rain or sun, brunch on the patio at Boulevard Café is a truly elegant and charming way to ease into a Sunday.