Wild Chicory (Toronto)

Do you have a favourite neighbourhood restaurant? It’s that place you head out to for an impromptu meal, somewhere that offers a solid menu with reasonable prices, and you know you can likely score a table without waiting too long. The food may not be Michelin quality, but you’re usually not disappointed, and the menu’s varied enough that you’ll find something to eat. If I lived in the Yonge and Eglinton area, Wild Chicory could be one of those favourite local haunts.

Their menu is extensive, with several starters that would work well as “tapas” or even act as a main with a side dish, for nights when you don’t have a big appetite. The flavours of the Seoul chicken ($16) were decent – a combination of sweet, sour, and spicy – but could use more gochujang for heat and less rice vinegar as it was a tad tart for my taste. Crispy and juicy, these would have been even better if it arrived hotter.

My husband hypothesized that the chicken likely got cold as they were waiting on the rice nuggets in the crispy pork belly ($17). Indeed, they were searingly hot, very crunchy and addicting – the best part of the dish. Disappointingly, the pork belly wasn’t actually crispy. Perhaps it’s because the big chunks of meat are difficult to render and the dish would be better served as slices so there’s a larger surface area. More likely, there could just be too much hoisin sauce covering everything, which I did find overpowering and would have worked better smeared on the plate so diners can adjust the amount they want on the pork.

The problem with such strong-tasting starters is that the mains feel bland in comparison. A special that evening was the beef rib ($28) that was prepared to tender but not too soft. However, a thick piece of beef needs liberal seasoning to permeate into the meat. When I was having it au natural, it tasted plain. Luckily, the dish did come with a creamy sweet corn bisque and barbeque sauce, two things to dunk the beef into. What impressed me most were the sides, a light creamy potato salad that was bursting with flavours and a crispy and fresh coleslaw.

In the coast to coast ($38), only the scallops were seasoned perfectly, the bit of salt enhancing the beautifully crusted seafood that arrive just cooked through. The salmon was okay, not overly flavourful but at least had a lovely crispy skin. If it was done a touch less it’d be even better since the dish doesn’t come with a sauce and the fish tends to dry out quickly. Meanwhile, the leek and pea barley was too mild and so over powered by the lemon foam that it started having a bitter undertone. Perhaps, it could have been saved with salt.

Maybe I was lucky I didn’t finish the barley as it left me room to share Wild Chicory’s tiramisu ($12), it was delicious… the perfect balance of soaked lady fingers and mascarpone laced cream. Shaving chocolate on top was a nice touch, but I’d still add a touch of cocoa powder as its bitterness would better balance the dessert. Consequently, the tiramisu’s sweetness did go particularly well with an espresso martini ($17), which had a slight bitterness that diluted the sugariness.

Ah… an espresso martini, my go-to drink lately for elongating a meal to make it last a little longer. And time is what you have at Wild Chicory: you’re not being rushed to leave or warned about a two-hour seating limit. That’s how neighbourhood spots should be – walk-in, choose something new or order a favourite, and then just sit back and enjoy.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 525 Mt Pleasant Road

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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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