When deciding where to go, my guest asked me if we could visit a restaurant that was located in Chinatown. She checked to see if it was okay, as if it was a deal breaker?
Leafing through the witty humour found in their cyber pages I was immediately sold on “Mamie Taylors”. Their website read, “We promise that the menu on this website is pretty much, most of the time, fairly up to date and accurate, except for when it isn’t.” And “We also have taxidermy.” I was perplexed over the thought of seeing dead animals, while eating others.
Walking up, I wasn’t able to notice the restaurant immediately. The block was as dark, and the surrounding businesses were closed. An all black front and an unmarked awning meant you relied solely on the knee level sandwich board to tell you where you were. A drawing of a bird in flight and their name in print.
Walking in the space was equally dark and the ambience mellow. The decor and design reminded me of the stereotypically manly den. Rich leather seats, glossed wood tables, deep green painted walls, and the smooth sounds of a blusey rock band playing over head. The rest of the decorative pieces matched accordingly, and as promised there was taxidermy present. Heads of bears, bucks, wolves, and elk; and a variety of fowl in flight. Peasants, ducks, and an assortment of other members of the aviary family. The stuffed bob cat balancing a ballon on its head and the bear skin rug caught my attention on top of a cabinet and mounted on the wall.
Seating is done communal style. An accommodating fact for restaurants, in order to maximize space. And a unique way to refine dining and make a new acquaintance or two while you are at it. Though realistically I didn’t make an attempt at the latter, nor did I observe anyone attempting the same. I could have been seating on a Tuesday night was bountiful and parties for their own table corner, a stretch away from others. The rooms were distinguished between the lounge and dining room. One faced the bar and the other the kitchen. Both open spaces that allowed a looked into the working and conversations of the bartender, wait staff, and kitchen hands. The bar was set to the back drop of red bricks and worn mortar. On it, parallel shelves, the home of bottles and curiosities. Statues and figurines of animals, though I can’t be too sure. The flickering of candle light did little to illuminate the area. I was surprised the bartender was able to locate what he needed at such speed. Though I am sure his eyes are adjusted to the darkness. Over a great attention to detail was put into the place.
They don’t allow reservations,though once again, none were needed this Tuesday at 6pm. Menus were recycled paper stamped with their trade mark bird soaring with wings spread. One for wine; another for snacks, smaller plates, and dinner; and one for drinks and desserts. The dinner menu was stamped with the date of its creation, today “January 11, 2014”. So they kept things exciting with a constant revolving and evolving menu. After we ordered, our table was set with the appropriate dishware. We found it different for a bar to offer reusable napkins and patterned plates with a rural country feel.
As I sat, I nursed my recommended cocktail. I asked for something sweet, “Pressed apple flip” was recommend. Made with calvados, pisco, apple cider, port, and a whole egg. It came looking like a coffee drink in colour, foam, drizzle, and glass. I didn’t get much apple essence, but it was on the sweeter side as I had requested. With two pages of American and European whiskey, I assume that was one of their specialties. This fact definitely matched the manly bar feel. And judging by the solo male bodies that trickled in throughout our stay, they deemed it as such themselves.
“Schnitzel salad”, winter greens, pork belly, fried egg, curried pears, and stilton. The abundance in cheese overwhelmed the dish. Though without them the salad would be too bland. It was delicate balance trying to ensure each bite had a Stilton cube, but no more than one, lest it outshine the other, more milder ingredients. The bitter greens were needed to balance out the flavour of the cheese. The pork was surprisingly not the star of the dish. I imagined the meat more fatty and its flavour more pronounced. Instead it resembled flattened and breaded chicken. It was more of an add on, for texture.
“The fried chicken” with buttermilk biscuits, parsnip smashed potatoes, kohlrabi slaw, and gravy. The chicken had a crisp skin and was well seasoned. Though both growing up on the fried chicken from the “Kentucky Fried Chicken” chain, we deemed its processed chicken better. This chicken definitely tasted healthier, it wasn’t overly oily and it came from a fresh cut of meat. The sides offered great textural balance to the chicken. The potatoes had a whipped silky texture to it. The coleslaw, a crunchy pop of freshness The cheesy biscuits were thick to bite into, a little too bready, if that is even a thing. And the candied pecans just seemed out of place, it’s sweetness and hardness and threw off the taste and the plate.
The dinner feature of the night was a chargrilled whole trout. It was deboned, and accompanied with house made gnocchi, sautéed vegetables, roasted potatoes, and a spicy beurre blanc sauce. The white butter sauce was mild, it seamlessly pulled all the elements of the plate together. The fish was a little salty, it paired well with the soft and chewy gnocchi. The vegetables were undercooked, and therefore a little hard. Overall it was a well balanced dish, not at all spicy as our server’s description led us to believe.
“Deep fried apple”. Vanilla ice cream stuffed into a hollowed out Granny Smith apple. The whole apple is then coated in a rice crispy crust and then deep fried. It is served sitting in milk caramel sauce, and sprinkled over with powdered sugar, raisins, and apple chunks. Very unique, this was definitely the most popular dish of the night. It tasted like a cross between a caramel apple and an apple pie. Sweet caramel toppings like a caramel apple; and a warm crust and a la mode taste reminiscent of an apple pie. The raisins were a unique touch and reminded me of oatmeal or an apple cinnamon breakfast cereal. I would come back just for this.
The washroom was quite the attraction. Wallpapered with cut out of animals in red and black for target practice. They certainly matched the taxidermy theme outside.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Located in a quickly developing block of Chinatown, it is a little out of my way, but with plenty of metered street side parking it is easily enough to get to. The decor was lovely and certainly one of a kind. With all the stuffed wildlife posed in striking fashion, I wouldn’t recommend this scene for any vegetarian. The menu is a unique list of original ideas. Items I have not heard of elsewhere and I can see as a pull for return. “Fried olives”, “oyster biscuits”, and “oxtail fondue”. I wasn’t in the mood to get my drink on, but the mezcal, single barrel bourbon, and absinthe flights had me very interested. I would recommend this as a great place to host a large gathering, though without reservations, you run the gamble of not getting a table. Don’t deny your cravings.