Playpen 416-907-9761 theplaypen.ca Tues-Sat 5-2am, Sun Brunch 1130-3pm
If walls could talk…
On a nondescript corner of an East Toronto neighborhood hides this colourful gem of a restaurant. Its anchorman meets Pan Am inside a dimly lit cocktail lounge. Not what one would expect at all, but it has a certain charm to it. Unpretentious with a mixture of music, food and décor makes this a great place to relax and unwind. Place yourself at the bar for a drink or pull up a comfortable chair for dinner. The genre of the restaurant is somewhat a mystery to me and even the staff.
My night begins with perfectly seared chicken livers smothered in caramelized onions and a port glaze that was much too heavy and thick for the dish. A tempura egg yolk bleeds over raw Japanese steak tartar tantalizing my taste buds; served with taro chips I scarf it away with reckless abandon. I was not a fan of the duck prosciutto, tempura goat cheese, arugula and green apple salad appetizer. I found the duck to have a texture similar to that of store bought ham.
Out of this world lamb served on a bed of dried-fruit couscous melts in my mouth. The sweet fruit in the couscous balances the savory lamb creating a fantastic dish. Seared Halibut in a citrus butter sauce was desiccated. The only redeeming factor of the dish being the buttery spinach and honey mushrooms. Desserts are oddly intriguing. I tried the flourless chocolate cake and was delighted by the rich texture.
My overall impression was a positive one and I’m already planning another trip back. This place has character, good food and is inviting enough hang about all evening. Prices are tame. Speedy servers forget to remember.