My childhood pal Ren recently moved back to Toronto after a stint in Vancouver. With all the traveling I’ve had to do for work the past 5 months, we simply haven’t had a proper catch-up yet. The worst, right?! So a good ol’ fashioned friend date was top priority last week.
With Ren’s and my respective Caribbean and Chinese backgrounds, we couldn’t have picked a better place to have our hangout than at Chinese-Jamaican chef Craig Wong’s newly opened Patois on Dundas West. I’m so glad we ended up there because guys, the food was SO good.
Being the gentleman that he is, Ren made us reservations. A personal place card held our table and encouraged us to tweet & ‘gram. Miss Manners is probably weeping inconsolably into her hanky knowing our cell phones are active at a dinner table but hey, #hashtags and drool-inducing photos are the lifeblood of a restaurant’s PR (and without which, YYZ Gourmand posts would just be filled with the words, “Trust me, it looked good!”). It certainly made me less self-conscious about (quickly) snapping some food pics!
When we were in Brooklyn last summer, MCyyz created a drink by mixing a house made hot sauce with tamarind juice. It was divine and we affectionately called it a ‘tamarind Caesar’. Well, Patois offers a cocktail called the Island Iced Tea ($10) and it was reminiscent of that drink and, dare I say MCyyz, it was better than yours. (GASP!)
It’s not a fancy cocktail with rim and twisted lemon peels but it is so well balanced and hit the spot. You should all know by now that I love when a consumable is simultaneously sweet, savoury, and spicy and this drink was just that. Made with jerk spice, rum, vodka, gin, tequila and Cointreau…it had 6 of my favourite things in life.
We started off with an order of Ackee ‘n Saltfish ($14). We were too greedy (I blame the super strong cocktail) and we totaled two of the saltfish fritters before I remembered to take a picture. The crispy not-overly-salty dried salted cod croquettes contrasted nicely against the sweetness of the red peppers and the soft buttery ackee. A simple Caribbean staple that was well executed.
Ren and I decided to split their Yardbird Special ($32) which came with 1/2 order of O.G. Fried Chicken, 1/2 order of Juicy Jerk, slaw and dirty rice.
The OG Fried Chicken came out first and was accompanied by sriracha sauce, refreshing basil watermelon and (what we think are) pickled asian pear. The chicken was amazing. Not greasy, fried perfectly, and juicy inside. I normally can’t stomach too much fried chicken skin but yeah, I totally ate all of it. Oh let me give you stomach-growl-inducing closeup.
The slaw side wasn’t particularly memorable but the dirty fried rice was such a treat. They’ve emulated a ‘wok heat’ flavour and the sweet Chinese sausage used gave me childhood flashbacks while the cajun spices made me wish I had beads to throw.
Last but not least, we were presented with churrasco rotisserie roasted jerk chicken. This is the first time I’ve had jerk chicken that wasn’t barbequed. And it certainly lived up to its menu name of Juicy Jerk. So incredibly tender and juicy. I do wish the jerk seasoning was a bit more prevalent but they used a good quality chicken and I agree one shouldn’t distract from quality natural flavour. But to satiate my crazy addiction to spice, we were given a house made habanero sauce. Oh it made my lips burn which meant I was happy.
Patois is a true fusion restaurant with creative ideas but it still manages to satisfy my craving for familiar comfort food. The menu is well thought out, well executed, and definitely an homage to soul food.