CLOSED: Portland Variety (Toronto)

Portland Variety

Portland Variety is aptly named: serving a menu that well ... has variety. Although mostly dominated with Spanish offerings such as pintxo surtidos there’s also Turkish influences with the baby eggplant byaldi or fusion dishes like the warm mushroom salad with yuzu dressing.  

The mushroom and arugula salad ($15) looks deceptively plain when presented – a mound of barely plain leaves dotted with dressing and pine nuts. But, upon digging into it, there’s a treasure trove of sweet honey mushrooms whose warmth ever so lightly melts the manchego cheese shavings. The yuzu dressing adds a well-balanced acidity but is salty enough to flavour everything despite there not being an abundance covering the arugula.

Portland Variety mushroom salad

Easily edible for brunch, dinner or even dessert is the house-made ricotta cheese ($11) – in fact, I highly recommend it for dessert if you’re a cheese plate fan. The soft creamy ricotta was warmed through to give off a light whiff of the cheese’s essence. Pile on a good helping onto each crostini, since there’s so little bread, then top with a chopped hazelnut, slice of sweet pear and drizzle of honey to make a bite that combines crunch and comfort.

Portland Variety ricotta

After waiting half an hour the 22oz rib eye ($48) arrives. Perhaps a little overcooked for my medium rare tastes and slightly too lean for rib eye (my friend fittingly described it closer to being a strip loin), it was nonetheless still tender. The porcini rub provided great flavouring but started flaking off as you ate it leaving a slightly dusty residue on the tongue – perhaps on account of being cooked too long.

Portland Variety ribeye

The steak is served with a side of caramelized onions providing some sweetness to the dish. Personally, I enjoyed it better with the cassava fries ($8) we ordered which were blisteringly hot and crunchy. However, your liking for the fries will largely depend on what piece you get, as my friends and I soon found out. The ones cut from the outside of the root vegetable are fluffier (really what you want in a fry) while the inside pieces were so hard that even my steak knife had its work cut out for it. Portland Variety should consider only using the less dense pieces for their fries and save the harder ones for something else – perhaps a stew will show up on their menu next?

Portland Variety cassava fries

When our dessert of beignets ($7) arrived my heart sank – who took the large fluffy airy beignets and turned them into hard looking Tim Bits?! Begrudgingly, I cut into one and found it surprisingly airy in the centre. Upon taking a bite, they were actually light and delicious. It was the salted caramel sauce that fell short as it’d be more appropriately described as a ‘spread’ then a dippable sauce. My friend, who does more baking then I, noted it’s likely due to the sugar being cooked too long that it started to crystalize. Who knows, maybe some cream mixed into it would help liquefy it into a smoother dip – as it did have good flavours. And if that doesn’t work, just stick with the more forgiving chocolate ganache instead.

Portland Variety beignets

If you’re looking for shareable plates with variety, Portland’s menu will have you covered. If you’re looking to carry a conversation, it’s likely not the best option. With the tables packed so closely together and the unforgiving acoustics of the back dining room, diners have to shout at each other just to be heard. Of course, it’d help if Portland Variety would just turn down the music and forego some revenue by removing a couple of tables (this should also help servers from having to squish through between chairs causing them to knock purses to the floor). Overall, the food was good and even shows creativity. But, the loud headache inducing atmosphere won’t get me back anytime soon.

Overall mark - 7* out of 10
* Mark purely based on food

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 587 King Street West

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - 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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