Spadina Avenue in Toronto has a few bright spots to eat. One such place is
the People’s Eatery, on 307 Spadina Avenue. The menu reflects Toronto’s diversity and pays homage to the influx of various immigrant cultures that have moved in and on from the downtown Spadina strip. Our waiter Jack said they are not a fusion restaurant because the dishes don’t fuse flavours and cultures but instead each dish represents a different cuisine, so it is more multicultural. Call it what you will, but partners Adrian Ravinsky, David Stewart with Matt See are doing a bang up job with their diverse eclectic menu by Dustin Gallagher (a former Top Chef contestant).
This 80 seat establishment, with concrete floors, wooden tables, and cool fixtures is packing them in. Downstairs is dark and narrow with a green marble bar and incorporates a front and back room. I prefer upstairs which has more natural light, and the tables are well spaced.
The menu mainly pays respect to the Jewish and Chinese roots of the neighbourhood with Indian, Korean and Israeli thrown in for good measure. This is a very ambitious and casual restaurant, with a cozy, unpretentious vibe. The menu is small consisting of oysters on the half shell, a deluxe fish platter, and some small bites and larger plates.
We were talked into trying the tongue on pretzel bread and our waiter was very wise, as it is delicious. The tongue was gleaming with moisture and capped with ribbons of fat thick slices of juicy, chewy meat with pickles and lots of French’s mustard for added crunch and salt. Another thing we never would normally order is tofu, I am generally not a fan of it, but the tofu here is on another level. Sticky, spicy and crunchy, it is jaw dropping delicious. You rarely see razor clams on a menu in Toronto so we were excited to try them here. They were larger than the ones in Miami but nevertheless very good. They are served with a small spoon because they are in a chowder broth of celery root and pork jowl. It tasted like a good chicken soup broth. The Moroccan eggplant was my least favourite dish. Not that it was bad, but the sprouted lentils, yogurt and preserved lemon was missing something, perhaps more of a kick – I would have preferred hummus to the yogurt as well. The mini latkes with smoked trout and dill are very good, and the latkes are cooked with the perfect crunch. The Peking duck is a steal at $30. You get the consommé course which I found way too salty but it was still a rich broth. The duck breast comes with pancakes, hoisin, slivered pear and cucumbers as well as lettuce leaves. The third dish was a minced duck with green peas and rice noodles that you could place in the lettuce leaves. Was it the best duck I ever had? No, but it was still enjoyable.
For dessert, there were three offerings and we tried two of them. We had the hot chocolate mousse with the banana brûlée and hazelnut brittle. I found the chocolate too runny and difficult to eat. The bread pudding chomeur was a better choice with chocolate meringue pieces on top, plus the bread was soaked in maple, malt and butter.
The wine, beer and cocktail list wasn’t too bad. We tried a Canadian sake which surprisingly was pretty good.
The service and pacing is quite sound, our server Jack could explain each dish in detail. The execution of dishes was mostly successful and I would like to go back and try some other things that looked really interesting, like the decadent challah bread with chicken liver mousse topped with foie gras. Or perhaps I can plan in advance and pre-order a 6-8 course tasting meal.
Every dish we ordered was different and exciting – not bad for a cute little spot on Spadina. The crowd is young, but the music is not too loud (yay!), and the prices are quite reasonable.
People’s Eatery is fun, trendy and delicious! A great place to come with a few people so you can order lots of dishes.