First there was Spanish, then French, and now Toronto’s Doug Penfold has opened a Moroccan restaurant at 18 Dupont Street called Atlas. The dishes are inspired by the chef’s travels to Morocco and the Atlas Mountains. The chef must like working in tight spaces, from Cava, to the shoe box Chabrol and now this tiny 28 seat dining room just west of Avenue Road on the north side of the street. They have lined the room with banquettes and tables, and added woodwork, and tapestries and a few Moroccan touches.
The cuisine presents a rich tapestry of spices and herbs, textures and tastes. Penfold is beyond humble. When congratulated on his new venture, he says he wants to give the place at least 18 months of growing pains to reach its full potential. I went on week two. Considering it was brand new, the service and pacing were already pretty sound. I never know how he manages when his kitchens are so minuscule – it must be a challenge.
He took us on a culinary taste adventure starting with small snacks like olives, flatbreads, and a variety of dips. Then he moves on to appetizers like his roasted beets with cinnamon and preserved lemon, his beef kefta and quinoa salad as well as a few other choices. His sardine kefta needs some refining as it was too fishy for our liking. The tagine of roasted goat with okra, chickpeas and squash is good. I would love to see him add a chicken tagine to his menu, although he does serve a leg of chicken with apricots, pine nuts and creamed spinach. There are also a couple of fish preparations as well. Of his four side offerings, I was drawn to the steamed carrots and raisin salad with orange blossom water and arugula. Orange blossom is huge in Morocco and you find it in everything. It’s a nice preparation for carrots. There were four desserts on the menu. We selected the roulade of lavender and sesame with a blackberry purée and poached pears. However, I preferred the pomegranate sorbet, it was light and refreshing. To compliment the food is a small list of house cocktails, most with Moroccan twists, but personally, I wasn’t too fond of them. There is also large format beer, and wines from Austria, Germany, France and Spain.
The restaurant is adorable and in time will become exceedingly more polished.
They are open for dinner only Tuesday through Saturday.