The owners of Little Sister restaurant, run by Jennifer Gittins and Chef Michael van den Winkel, have revamped and renamed their quaint restaurant, Quince, into a modern Dutch space called, Noorden. It opened Spring 2016 at 2110 Yonge street, north of Davisville in midtown Toronto.
Chef Winkle is of Dutch heritage, and he brings to us a Dutch style bar and street food. Because of Holland’s colonialist past, many dishes have an Indonesian component to them. So here you will find modern Dutch small plates flavoured with Indonesian spices. There are also some traditional Dutch dishes as well. They have transformed Quince into a hipper eatery than Little Sister, with industrial fixtures, graffiti inspired black and white murals of Holland’s iconic townhouses. There is a city coat of arms in neon when you enter. The place has a relaxed and casual vibe. The restaurant is on the dark side so bring your flashlights and readers.
Still being the summer months, we chose to sit on the small terrace where it was bright. Unfortunately, there were some unsavoury smells coming from the street, almost like a smell of sewage, which was not very appealing.
We started with some bar snacks and a cocktail. Gin is the preferred drink on the menu, and I am told they have one of Toronto’s largest selections available, about 45 types. I am not a huge gin fan but when in Rome… I tried the KLM 692 which contained JR’s dry gin, aperol, grapefruit shrub and fernet. It was a little strong for my taste. The gin and tonic was also strong, I guess we are a couple of light weights. Things improved with the food. The crispy deviled eggs with cured sardines, was an original for me and tasted a lot better than it sounded. They come served warm, sat in a pool of chili jam. The war fries, a dish you can find all over Holland, are excellent, served crispy and tossed with chopped scallions, bird’s eye peppers, drizzled with mayo and a peanut sauce, with a hint of soya sauce and lime leaf sauce. The dish has some dynamic flavours and it may be my favourite fries in Toronto. The octopus carpaccio is served with a chili paste, cucumber and black sesame served with a lemon oil. I thought the sauce was a little too subtle on this otherwise lovely plate.
The pork ribs cooked in a spicy sambel cobek sauce, with a garnish of pickled cucumber salad was tasty. The bay scallop tostada with grilled corn salsa and avocado made for a beautiful presentation, but was probably my least favourite dish. The roasted technicolour heirloom carrots on the other hand, may have been my favourite, served with a yogurt sauce and crispy quinoa, yum. Next up, we had the sweet potato glass noodle and vegetable salad with preserved lemon, lime leaf and fresh chili. This is served at room temperature and is very colourful. The seared steelhead trout with green harissa and new potatoes is a light dish and a good alternative if you are not as adventurous. Our last entree was the roasted half Cornish hen in a red pepper chili sauce. An attractive dish, it was cooked to perfection.
For dessert there were only two choices, both which I tried, natch!
There was a milk chocolate mousse, which was good, but on the light side. We also tried the other dessert, which was two small round Dutch style donuts with currants deep fried and in a great sticky sauce.
The service was friendly, but slow in some spots and even forgetful. One of our guests didn’t get her wine and they forgot to bring our desserts. However, they were kind enough to present them on the house after this mishap.
Noorden is the perfect spot for a light snack and drinks, or a full on dinner. If you give them a weeks notice they will prepare a rijsttafel, or in English, a rice table, which is about 19 or so small shareable plates based on the Dutch interpretation of Indonesian cuisine. I have had this in Amsterdam but I must try this tasting event at Noorden. The chef infuses exotic flavours into every dish he creates and I am sure he would do an outstanding job with the rice table.