Friday, May 09, 2014

Not Quite a Taste of Home - Patria Toronto - Spanish "Tapas"

Pimientos de Padron - Patria Toronto - Tapa staple!
My cousin H offered to babysit for us so we could have a real anniversary dinner.  We ventured downtown on a Friday to eat at Patria after I saw them as a venue on Top Chef's Restaurant wars.  Actually, a friend of mine from Valencia's brother in law recently moved to Toronto to escape the Spanish economy and is working here as an architect.  He mentioned Patria and Bar Isabel as the places he thought had heard in his Spanish circles as being the most authentic as well.

First thing's first, it is not easy to find.  I think it's a bit ridiculous if the default way of describing the location of a place is to say it's down the alley from another place.  Several different people refer to Patria being behind West Lodge.  There is no sign on King St indicating where it is and their sign in front of their actual door, which is down a dark driveway that resembles a condo tower entrance, is practically invisible.  On their website, they show a tall wrought iron gate with their name, which we did not notice.  It was raining and dark, mind you and we had an umbrella.

It has a vibrant interior with enormous paintings.  We were sat in the smaller side of the dinning area on the east side of the bar.  It was near the door and though there was a heavy curtain defending from the wind, it was still quite drafty.  This end had mostly bar seating and bistro tables along a bench.  The bench seemed sadistically and purposefully designed to be uncomfortable.  It slanted away from the table and even if we pushed the table right up against the bench, I still felt I was miles away from hubbo and the food.  So I sat perched on the edge of my seat.  It seemed counter to the relaxed Spanish spirit of eating.

I lived in Spain for 2 years.  In a class on operation design, a professor asked me to describe my dinner out from the evening before.  "We arrived and gave our name and waited.  We went to the bar and waited for the bartender.  We ordered drinks at the bar and we waited for the drinks to be made....."  A Spanish classmate laughed and shouted out "it's called eating out".  Whereas in the North American culture, if you watch any restaurant makeover show, if your clients wait for more than 10 minutes for ANYTHING, it's a failure.  Not so in Spanish culture.  It's all part of the enjoyment.  Your friends and conversation are all part of the experience.  So how was I supposed to do that perched like I was in an interview for 2 hours.

The menu was split into cold starters and Raciones.  I am quite bothered when people called what they had in the starter half of the menu as 'Tapas'.  Those were Pinxos or Pinchos.  I.e. one or two bites of something.  For crying out loud, their bread was 6 bucks and you got two slices of a baguette.  Do not call that a Tapa.  Raciones were also misnamed.  We ordered the Croquetas de Manchego which were fabulous.  But they were really a Tapa and not a Racion.  We received 3 tiny Croquetas the size of a man's pinky finger for 8$.  We also had the staple Patatas Bravas.  They are to Tapas what Tamago (Egg Sushi) is to Sushi, a sign of authenticity and skill.  I'm glad they came 3rd because if they had come first, I would have been dreading the rest of the meal.  The Potatoes were tough, cool and over cooked.  While that might be acceptable in an East Coast/ Central Canadian Chippie it is not in a high end Spanish restaurant.  The tomato sauce was bland and flavourless.  The Fried Egg on top was strange and having it chopped up at the table by the server rendered the dish grotesque and unappetizing to look at.  The Porrusalda, or seafood stew was very good as well, though small for the price as well.  I had at least 2 bad Mussels in it.  The Pulpo or Octopus was terrible, well, inconsistently terrible.  Every other piece was like a piece of rubber.  But they were all sat on tiny burnt coins of Potato.  The Artichoke salad was nice and well dressed but the name was laughable because the Artichokes were poorly represented.  There was probably more dressing than Artichoke.  It was spread thinly across a large plate and looked a lot more bountiful than it really was and what I am accustomed to for Spanish salads meant for sharing.   Oh, I almost forgot we started with the Piementos de Padron.  They look like thumb sized Anaheims or Banana peppers.  They are almost never spicy.  They're blasted on high heat, whole and served piping hot with course salt.  I love them and they were done well though a modest portion.  A most for a Tapa dinner to be sure.

Patatas Bravas with Egg - Tough, cold and bland - Patria Toronto 
They do have Paella on the menu but you are warned on arrival that it will take an hour.  I think it would have been wise of the reservationist to make the offer to take a Paella order when I booked.  Anyhoo, I'd been told by 3 separate people that their Paella was not very good so we passed on the 1 hour wait.

The service was spotty.  The server was spread thin across two sections bisected by the bar so we didn't see him often and grabbing his attention whilst near us wasn't easy.  He was helpful and friendly when we saw him.  He did forget my drink order which I cancelled as I'd waited too long and he offered me a compt drink as an apology without question.

The desserts were good.  I had the Mousse of Dulce de Leche and hubbo had the Lemon Mousse.  The mousse on his dish was fabulous but it is described as coming on a piece of cake.  To say the cake was a sliver would have been a gross exaggeration.  To even advertise the presence of the cake was a waste of ink.  Mine was pleasant but reminded me somewhat of a lighter Mars bar.

Lemon Mousse - Patria Toronto
The wine list is extensive though going on the high end of the multiple for restaurants on bottles on the 3 to 4x scale.

If you are not familiar with Tapas the servers offer to select for your to lessen the burden of reading, as they put it.  I was told by others they would offer.  I think I'd rather they offer a prix fixe of types i.e. meatless or seafood only rather than leaving the pricey menu entirely in the hands of the server.

The food was good but far too expense and mean for what I know of Spanish food.  I will try others on my quest to have a taste of my second home.

Price: $$$$$$
Service: spotty and inattentive
Wine: good variety but pricing multiple on high end
Ambience: cool, dark NY vibe, not so much Spanish tapa bar.

478 King St W # 114 
Toronto, ON 

Patria on Urbanspoon


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