SalivATE – March 2011

This month’s food porn starts with a meal at Jam Cafe (195 Carlton Street). Never heard of it? It’s a charming neighbourhood bistro just west of Cabbagetown that we happened across about a month ago when we were looking for somewhere to eat before a concert at the Phoenix. Besides the fact that the space is absolutely darling, the food is really great and classic bistro fare. Above is the applewood smoked trout with horseradish crème fraîche and homemade apple & onion soda bread.

Hidden among this jungle of greens is a whole cherry-smoked, sliced duck breast, ruby pink in the centre and absolutely luscious. Served with organic seedlings, pears, glazed walnuts and a maple vinaigrette. Chef Av Atikian buys whole animals and uses everything. Duck leg confit appears elsewhere on the menu.

As with the duck, when chef Atikian buys an elk, he uses the whole thing, even making sausage with it, and using it in pasta, as shown above in this spaghettini with olives, San Marzano tomatoes and crimini mushrooms.

Sometimes a girl just needs a steak. And frites. And a slice of truffle on top. Just because.

Our plan when we hit King & John for brunch on a recent Sunday was to go somewhere else. We walked by the big glass windows at our intended restaurant and saw that there were plenty of free tables. So when they told us that there would be a 15 minute wait (seriously, when you have 8 free tables that we can see?) we walked out and across the street to Paese (333 King Street West), and boy are we glad that we did. Yes, that is indeed a bacon and egg pizza with porchetta, ricotta and eggs.

Other people came into Paese while we were there and left because the Italian restaurant doesn’t serve waffles and pancakes. Silly people, they don’t know what they were missing, like this bowls of eggs poached in tomatoes with chick peas, fontina and rapini.

Spot prawn season isn’t officially for a few more weeks, but they had some as a special at Liberty Belle Bistro (133 Jefferson Avenue) this past weekend, and wow, were they ever amazing, served atop some roasted squash.

The leaning tower of tartare. Is it possible to have too much raw steak? This was really great, nicely balanced; sweet, tangy and salty all at the same time. But we’d have been happy with half the portion. This was a lot of meat.

More meat at Liberty Belle Bistro, in the form of bison short ribs, paired with a cumin-scented fricassee. Complete with cherry tomato bombs.

Rhubarb is already showing  up at markets, and this frangipane tart is filled with rhubarb compote. Housemade sour cream ice cream on top offers a sharp tang to cut the flowery sweetness.

Salted caramel ganache tart. Happy now.

Earlier in March, we checked out Victor (30 Mercer Street) for chef David Chrystian’s Stop For Food Toronto tasting menu. On the menu as the “Social 52”, it changes weekly (52 weeks a year) and features dishes that represent Toronto’s neighbourhoods. Above is a fresh and bright sushi pizza.

Spicy pakoras represent the Gerrard India Bazaar.

A deconstructed lasagna from Little Italy.

Part of Victor’s “sustainable three” fish trio, seared scallops with leek fondant and asparagus relish.

Elk, venison and a scalloped potato tart that reminded us of a Portuguese custard tart, which stole the show.

This post originally appeared on TasteTO.