Kicking-off Spring at Malena

I recently was invited for a preview/tasting of Malena’s Spring menu. The name Malena was inspired by the movie (starring Monica Belluci) and the cuisine is reflective of the ingredients that surround the Ionian Sea. The Ionian is the body of water that lies between Italy and Greece and hence the concept of the two partners who own Malena: of Italian and Greek descent.

The food at Malena offers an interpretation of the cuisines of Greece and southern Italy using fish from the Mediterranean, local purveyors and offered in an  environment that’s homey (century-old home), immaculate service and able to cater to intimate dinners or groups up to 40.

The evening began up the street from Malena at the sister restaurant, L’Unita for cocktails accompanied by an array of house-made charcuterie mixed in with some offerings from local purveyors.

On this evening, it was my pleasure to bring along my friend Diane Kochilas (chef, Greek cookbook author, columnist), who was in Toronto and I was eager to show her some of Toronto’s vibrant restaurant and entertainment scene. It was also wonderful to see my other friend, chef and TV personality Christine Cushing in attendance and I immediately introduced the two ladies to each other. They immediately hit it off and the evening was off to a great start!

Diane Kochilas and Christine Cushing

 

 

The first item to arrive on our table was the slab of Greek Feta cheese and an array of olives with grilled bread.

The chef introduced a deconstructed Caesar Salad if you will. Vinegar-cured sardines topped with some lettuce, crisp pancetta and a garlic cream.

One of my favourite ingredients from the Mediterranean is sea urchin. Malena gets its sea urchin from B.C. and this crostino with avocado and sea urchin transported me back to a beachside taverna.

Another fave ingredient enjoyed all around the Mediterranean basin is octopus. This octopus was braised then grilled and paired here with root vegetable fregola, Greek yogurt & oranage agro-dolce.

Call it anything you want – it’s fried seafood and a huge platter of fried calamari, prawns, halibut cheeks and even fried gigantes beans!

Our server asked us to choose one of the four main course on offer. Seeing as how I was seated with Christine & Diane, we strategically ordered different dishes so as to sample more of the entrees. Diane ordered the seared branzino (lavraki in Greek) fillet with fennel, rapini and a white anchovy vinaigrette.

There also was a Berkshire pork chop on offer and I believe only one person out of many seated at the table ordered it. It seems many are opting for lighter fare. Myself, I ordered the sheep’s milk gnudi (ricotta gnocchi) with braised rabbit and crisp parsnip. The gnudi were tremendous – light and delicious!

Christine ordered a whole sea bream (tsipoura) that was grilled to perfection and served with tomato-braised gigantes beans, braised horta and Tzatziki.

Throughout the evening, we were drinking Sigalas Assyrtiko from the jewel of the Mediterranean, Santorini. Malena’s sommelier Zinta Steprens was also on hand and it was wonderful to chat with her and see that she was so passionate – especially when it comes to Greek wines.

Up next was dessert: a trio of desserts! We were served a glass of Moscato sweet wine from Limnos and out came the cannoli, Greek Loukoumades and wonderfully refreshing lemon meringue tarts in phyllo cups.

cannoli
Loukoumades are a fried yeast dough topped with syrup/honey and nuts
lemon meringue phyllo tarts

 

L’Unità
134 Avenue Road, Toronto
www.lunita.ca
Twitter: @lunita_enoteca

Maléna
120 Avenue Road, Toronto
www.malena120.ca
Twitter: @malena120

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© 2007-2011 Peter Minakis

© 2011,
Peter Minakis

. All rights reserved.

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11 Comments for “Kicking-off Spring at Malena”

says:

There isn’t one thing that doesn’t look mouth-watering. I want to go to Malena’s. P.S. My husband and I just accidentally walked into a piazza where they were filming Malena in Sicily (Siracusa) years ago and had fun drinking coffee and talking to the actors – all dressed in period costumes. when the director Tornatore ordered everyone back to work, we retreated into a bar to finish our espresso and cannoli and watched from inside.

says:

Wow, that food looks delicious! It’s too bad I don’t live in Toronto. I guess I will have to just settle for the restaurants around New York. Anyways, I just started a blog on the island of Mykonos. We’d love it if you’d do a guest post for us!

says:

It sounds like a wonderfully civilized evening. The food and the company are gorgeous. Add great wine and it has the makings of a perfect evening. I’m sure you had a wonderful time. Blessings…Mary

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