What's the vibe:
If you didn't visit 59 Ossington Avenue in its past life as Boralia, you might walk straight past Pastiche. There's no signage outside the restaurant, something general manager Marc Lamontagne claims is intentional. "We wanted our customer base to build slowly but surely," he confesses.
Whether that's a wise strategy or not, in Toronto's tumultuous restaurant landscape, there are plenty of reasons to suspect that word-of-mouth will do due diligence in bringing diners here. Gone is the light-filled dining space, replaced by heavy curtains, chandeliers, a wall-sized mural on the back wall, and vintage glassware serving a selection of concept-heavy cocktails.
With music set to low and a relaxed vibe throughout the space, this "noshery" manages to straddle the two worlds on this strip. While awesome food options like Mamakas, Omaw and Tantos right on its doorstep, and clubby vibes never far away with some of Toronto's best dive bars and breweries a stone's throw away, Pastiche has carved out a space between a three-course meal and hook-up spot to keep customers drinking long into the night.
What's to drink:
A sharp wit is seen across the drinks menu, where the concoctions are as clever as they are delicious. The boba, a murky mauve-coloured specimen, is Pastiche's take on Taiwanese bubble tea. The cocktail intentionally creates a disconnect between a London Fog (Earl-Grey gin) and the Asian tea-based drink (rice milk and grass jelly topping). It's bold and interesting, but as Lamontagne suggests, the quirky tipple "might not be everyone's bubble tea."
Their jello flight offers three classic cocktails in wobbly-form – in our case, a corpse reviver, Aperol spritz, and Manhattan. While it might sound a little flighty (we couldn't resist), the jello creations, like everything on the cocktail menu, are thoughtfully executed. The Aperol Spritz needed much more of its namesake to create that bitter taste, plus popping candy has been added to give the jello its sparkling element.
Elsewhere, the drinks menu has a strong selection of wine from around the world, including some natural and biodynamic options. Lamontagne, who is also a sommelier, has handpicked a stellar lineup, all of which can be purchased by the glass.
What to eat:
The menu largely consists of small plates, like their most popular dish, short ribs braised for eight hours ($17), and whole roasted rainbow trout ($17). While there's no unifying cuisine or theme – Stefan Skeene has compiled a programme that draws inspiration from every corner of the globe – there's a modus operandi to the menu.
The saffron chicken mahjouba (an Algerian crepe stuffed with stewed chicken and a baby corn purée) is like an uber-flavorful vol-au-vent – nab one before your dining companions snaffle the bite-sized snack. The herbed mozzarella salad is equal parts presentation and taste bomb, not so much deconstructed as it is plated in neat individual servings that pack a lot of punch for a side dish.
With so many great options to choose from, what began as after-work snacks may very well end up turning into an all-evening affair.
Dinner and drinks for two; around $120
59 Ossington Avenue, 647-508-5959; pasticherestaurant.com