Lake Inez (Toronto)

Some restaurants just exude an unexplainable charm, and this is Lake Inez. Maybe it’s their homey dining room that elicits a sense of comfort, the helpful but not over-the-top staff that makes you feel you’re amid seasoned veterans, or the quirky hand drawn menus and wine descriptions that makes you chuckle. Whatever if its, this charm makes you really want to like Lake Inez.  

Their menu features seasonal ingredients along with whatever they pickled/fermented previously that’s now ready-to-eat. Dishes are presented with eccentric names that has a Trader Joe-like feel, such as the Hand Upstream Rolls ($22), which presents the upstream swimming fish, salmon, cured into gravlax form and covers it with cream fraiche and plum sauce. I enjoyed the meaty chunks of fish but wish the chefs weren’t so heavy handed with the sauce, it masked the salmon’s flavours and made it difficult to wrap in the nori.

While pairing tomatoes with bonito seems strange, the Tomato Tonnato ($21) was one of our favorite dishes of the night. Somehow, the fish flakes’ umami essence and the juicy heirlooms just work, bringing out the freshness of the fruit but giving it a bit of je ne sais quoi as well.

In fact, Lake Inez’s most simple sounding dishes were the tastiest. The Humble Potato ($19) featured big chunks of well-fried, roughed up potatoes that have a lovely crispy coating and tosses it in a flavourful Gouda queso. While the dish may sound heavy, the addition of herbs and anise hyssop (an edible flower) added a freshness to the cheesy potatoes.

Along the same vein, the Corn Puddin’ & Baby Shrimp ($23) was a lovely dip of hot gooey Fresno sauce studded with sweet corn and a fair amount of just cooked through shrimp. While it was tasty, it would be even better with more seasoning and salt. Still, the bread plate sized tortillas added a sunniness to the dish that I couldn’t help but smile when seeing it.

The Wham! Bam! Thank You, Ham! ($22) started with promise with slices of lightly cured country ham paired with sweet Korean melon and pears. But then the pickled watermelon rind and pickled peanuts were so pungent that after getting a bite of these that’s all I could taste.

It seems Lake Inez really likes sour flavours as the Cucumber?! I Hardly Know Her! ($19) was also too tart for my taste. The diced crunchy cucumber was tossed with a cashew cream that seems to contain a fair amount of preserved lemon. Aside from the refreshing cucumber and lemon, the other flavours were rather muted as I couldn’t really taste the curry leaves or much salt. This was a divided dish for the table.

The Miami Memory ($28) contained a piece of well-seasoned blackened snapper that had a nice spice but was over cooked. While it was considered a larger “main” dish, there was a scant portion of snapper, and the shredded greens and couscous side didn’t increase it’s substantialness by much.

Mama’s Meatballs ($28 for two; $10 for an additional meatball and bread) was more generous and the better of the two mains if you’re hungry. Mama makes moist and not overly dense meatballs and the peach ragu and mostarda lightens the otherwise hearty dish. Serving these with a large hunk of buttered toast was smart to help mop up the sauce.

While Lake Inez has great vibes, their dishes were hit and miss. Ideally, you should visit with a group of at least four people so you can order the entire menu to find the dishes that stand out. Regardless, the restaurant seems to get such great reviews, perhaps not necessarily for the food, but for their quirky warm charm. Just look at these menus as see if you don’t crack a smile. 

Overall mark - 6 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 1471 Gerrard St East

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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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