Sunday Brunch – Toba

243 King Street East
Brunch for two including all taxes, tip and coffee: $43

I’m a sucker for a pretty face. While our reviews here at TasteTO generally focus on the food, service and décor always play a part in the overall experience. And while it’s usually the case that the artwork hanging in a restaurant will neither make or break the meal, I’ve got to admit that the wall of 50s pin-up girl paintings at Toba endeared the place to me – just a little. Six paintings line the east wall of the persimmon-coloured room, and all appear to be channeling pin-up artist Gil Elvgren. The works are unsigned and appear to be copies of some of Elvgren’s most well-known images; it’s clear someone is as enamoured of the collection as I am – the series also appears on Toba’s website.

But we didn’t come to Toba for the cheesecake, we came for the brunch, and an impressive brunch it was.

The card, at first read, looks pretty basic; flapjacks, French toast, poached eggs. It’s only after delving into the descriptions that we notice the attention to detail. The flapjacks ($9.75) come in blueberry buttermilk flavour or Nutella macadamia. French toast ($11.50) is brioche topped with caramelized pears and pecan maple reduction. Poached eggs ($10 – $12) are served on chipotle biscuits and come with the standard peameal; tomato and spinach; or smoked trout.

I opt for the duck crepes ($13), a somewhat non-traditional brunch dish, and am not disappointed. Two light and golden crepes are stuffed with Peking duck as well as peppers, mango and nappa cabbage. Drizzled with hoisin sauce, these are reminiscent of a dim sum dumpling and I’m happily impressed. Accompanying greens are a basic organic mixture dressed with a nicely balanced combo of oil and vinegar. Home fries are big and fluffy on the inside, but could use a touch more salt to my taste, although the husband thinks they’re fine.

Across the table, the hungry husband opts for the corned beef hash ($14) and the server warns that it will take about 15 minutes. Executive chef and owner Tony Barone (hence the name ToBa) mixes corned beef with shredded potatoes, caramelized onions and red peppers and bakes it all up in a small single-serving pan with two eggs, topped with hollandaise and chipotle puree. The egg yolks are golden and runny, and the beef and potato mixture compliments them nicely without overpowering. The dish is served with the same green salad as the crepes, but also comes with a mound of wilted buttery spinach.

Both dishes are dressed with some unnecessary slices of cantaloupe, honeydew, strawberry and an orange wedge, all of which have a slight flowery taste.

Coffee ($2.50) is refilled regularly and service is prompt and friendly, with servers who are attentive but not overbearing, giving the room a casual, relaxed feel.

With few missteps and a pair of impressive dishes that we’d definitely come back for again, I need to put Toba on my radar for dinner, and not just so I can sit and admire the restaurant’s artwork in more detail. This restaurant is about more than just a pretty face.