The modern, minimalist decor and 20-something regulars milling around the bar may seem intimidating at first, but don’t let that stop you from venturing past the scrum into the large main-floor dining room. The staff, as hip as the hipsters they serve, are friendly and accessible. Stained wood and light earth tones play against straight lines and white marble tabletops.
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The menu is decidedly Italian; the palates, both in the composition and presentation, reflect the refinement of the decor. Tomatoes rather than cream serve as the base for a rather bland carrot purée ($4.50), giving the soup a pleasing rust hue; ginger and orange are welcomed accents. Large leaves of arugula tossed in a vinaigrette serve as the bed of a rich insalata di funghi ($7.50), topped with an abundance of sliced mushrooms, shaved parmigiana and tossed walnuts. Unfortunately the linguine– served with grilled tiger shrimp and baby scallops in a spicy, in an uninteresting tomato sauce ($9.50)– is way past al dente. Done to perfection is the thick fillet of grilled halibut ($18), served on a mount of risotto with fava beans, capers and spinach. The fish is golden on the outside, tender and flaky in the middle white wine and cream make the risotto rich and flavourful, while the capers provide tangy bursts complementing the fish. A turbo-charged tirmaisù, sopping with espresso, is devastatingly good, while the chocolate truffle cake has a clay-like texture– and is most safely eaten over several days. The short wine list offers bottles mainly from Italy and France, along with a smattering from more distant locations. $100. 58 College St., 535-3621
Toronto Life, September 2000