Patois (Toronto)


Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 794 Dundas Street West
Website: http://www.patoistoronto.com/
Type of Meal: Dinner


Patois recently opened in the Trinity Bellwoods neighbourhood, just a stone’s throw away from Bent. And like its neighbor, Patois offers Chinese fusion inspired dishes, except in their case, the tastes of the Caribbean (predominantly Jamaica).

According to their website, the restaurant’s philosophy is simple - to offer delicious affordable dishes so customers will return weekly. Although prices aren’t suburban cheap, they are reasonable for its downtown Toronto local. Cocktails cap at $10 when $15 seems to be the new norm. And for $35 you can get a whole teapot of it – a bit fancier than the “cold tea” of the China Town days.

Patois

Patois’ whole vibe is down-to-earth from the simplistic décor, to the top 40 in the background and friendly staff. Despite not being a huge dining room, they were still accommodating taking large group reservations and manipulating tables so we would all fit. Admittedly, I’m not an expert when it comes to Jamaican Chinese cuisine, so luckily I was able to bring a couple of friends who were to sample the creations. One friend’s subject matter expertise (“SME”) has been supplemented with my thoughts below.

To start, “pierogi style” kimchi pot stickers ($11) made with tender ground pork and diced kimchi which is enveloped in a chewy dough before being pan fried crisp. The wrappers are thicker than other Asian dumplings (much more than a gyoza from an izakaya or even the pan-fried variety from a Shanghai restaurant) but then these are modelled after pierogi. Topped with sweet caramelized onions, crispy salty bacon, a spicy sour cream and scallions this was a tasty dish merging many textures and flavours.

Patois pierogies

Between my husband and me, we shared the yard bird special ($32) with a half order of juicy jerk and O.G. fried chicken, dirty rice and coleslaw. Indeed, the juicy jerk was aptly named as moisture just permeated from all pieces (even the often dry white meat). Patois notes that they rotisserie roast the chicken rather than using a BBQ or smoker. The result, is tender succulent pieces of chicken that are even moister than any rotisserie version I’ve ever had.

Patois jerk chicken

However, it lacked the in-your-face boldness of jerk. Perhaps it’s because Patois uses a dry rub rather than a wet marinade. Or maybe it’s because I had it after the strong kimchi pot stickers and fried chicken. In the end, the flavours were too subtle for me. I was expecting that spicy tangy heat with an earthy kick to it. Alas, there was none of that, just a spicy habanero yoghurt on the side.

The SME agrees and compares the spice level to what tourists would be served in Montego Bay. Except there restaurants use similarly spiced sauces which compliments the chicken rather than the disparate habanero. However, he did like the jerk seasoning rubbed on the chicken skin finding it had great authentic tastes.

Interestingly, Chef Craig Wong had told The Grid that “[jerk] has to have flavour that lingers on your palate. It’s definitely not a subtle taste … because jerk just blows your head off. Jerk chicken should be spicy and isn’t mild.” I encourage Chef Wong to go back to that philosophy and not dilute the flavouring to please all palettes. At the very least, offer two levels of spiciness so patrons can experience jerk the way it’s meant to be.

The O.G. (Original Gangster) fried chicken was the hit for me. Although not to the level of Willie Mae’s Scotch House, Patois’ offering was nonetheless delicious - pieces of tender, moist meat surrounded by a crispy crust. I loved the various condiments: cubes of watermelon with Thai basil, a spicy sweet sriracha sauce (like tamarind sauce accompanying samosas) and what I believe were pickled watermelon rind and cucumbers (tart and crunchy).

Patois fried chicken

In the end, it was a satisfying fried chicken meal. But, if I could offer one suggestion, it’s to bring it up to the next level. A lot of Toronto kitchens offer well done fried chicken – with Momofuku selling one that is similarly Chinese inspired. To date, restaurants keep the chicken simple with the cultural twist coming from the condiments. But, why not change the chicken itself? Something simple like dusting the “golden sand” that’s used on Luckee’s spicy squid on top of the batter would be delicious. Or I’m sure there’s other great Caribbean choices available such as a tropical pineapple glaze.

What may keep my husband and I coming back is the dirty fried rice. The menu describes the dish as rice stir fried with the Cajun trinity (onion, celery and bell peppers), sweet cured lap cheong sausage, peas, scrambled eggs and sweet soy sauce. But, there must be something else as the dish had an underlying richness to it. Traditional Cajun dirty rice also mixes in chicken liver so perhaps that was used here as well. Whatever it was, we loved it and polished off every grain.

Patois dirty fried rice

And the last dish of the yard bird special was a creamy coleslaw mixed with carrots and scallions. Made with napa cabbage, this slaw was softer and had a subtler taste than the traditional green cabbage variety.

Patois coleslaw

Other eats that were ordered amongst the table included the Jamaican patty double down ($7) consisting of two mini beef patties sandwiching bacon, melted cheese and a drizzle of sriracha.

Patois beef patty

Another dish ordered by the SME was the ackee n’ saltfish fritters ($14). Unfortunately, it was the shape of the fritters that disappointed – typically like a pancake rather than a ball - so the textures seemed off. Additionally, it lacked the characteristic scotch bonnet pepper flavours often accompanying the dish.

Patois ackee n saltfish fritter

The spaghetti vongole ($14) presented the distinctive pungent black bean aroma mixed with tarragon, little neck clams and sweet cured lap cheong sausage.

Patois spaghetti

As a whole, Patois should successfully accomplish what it’s set out to do – to offer delicious affordable dishes. Certainly, the yard bird special was a great combo with plenty of food; more than enough to satisfy me and my husband. My only hope is that Patois doesn’t try too hard to please the masses and ends up mixing into the melting pot rather than creating a distinct identity. After all, crispy and juicy chicken is fine (and will satisfy) but daring in-you-face flavours is what will wow.  

Overall mark - 7 out of 10



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____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!


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