- Frank's Kitchen
- (416) 516-5861
- $120 for dinner for two with wine, tax and tip. Three course prix fixe $28 Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday
Food. Sex. Similar? Different? The former you can do (well) on your own. The latter not so well. The former is fattening. The latter may even burn a few calories. Both require some skill. Both get better with practice. Both are more fun when done with intimates. And both are available in two forms - fast food and minimal investment versus the long slow kind that asks something of the participants.
A person would be a fool to turn down a chance at that, which is why Frank Parhizgar's new restaurant, Frank's Kitchen, is going to be a screaming success. This guy is smoking hot. There he is in the small open kitchen. He's moving fast, he's in the zone, he does everything. Here comes the bread basket - he made it all himself and it's warm! One buttery little brioche, a crispy Epi, and a focaccia smeared with lots of basil and a cherry tomato, with intense dips of olive paste and sun-dried tomato.
Did we order the shot glass of pale green dill-inflected cucumber-zucchini gazpacho with a side spoonful of cucumber-pea salsa under one tiny chevre croquette? Big, bright flavours, lots of veg, not too much fat. Pinch me, are we really on College Street?
After the amuse come apps of a similar standard. Lobster ravioli packs the seafood inside thin, al dente house-made pasta. But the crowning glory of this dish is oil-inflected fresh tomato sauce with barely wilted fresh basil leaves, the sauce so sweet, strong and yet delicate that it demands spooning. Tartare of tuna with avocado and barely dressed frisee is loaded with flavour and seasoned with pizzazz. And what happens when you turn an old tired cliché on its ass? Six oysters Rockefeller for a mere 13 bucks, each perfectly baked oyster snuggling between barely wilted spinach on the underside and just enough ultra-lemony hollandaise on top.
After the appetizers comes another small treat, a spoonful of sweet/tart sangria sorbet topped with a tiny Champagne grape and fresh basil threads. This practice of building sensation out of small components is clever and sensual, and when he gets to mains, Frank keeps the sensation building. One evening he cooks black grouper to a T and serves it with one (perfectly cooked, of course) big fat scallop thermidor (topped with gilded hollandaise sauce). There's one sweet, fresh artichoke on the plate beside one zucchini blossom stuffed with crab and tempura-fried wilted spinach, and saffron-scented seafood nage (enriched seafood stock). Nage on College Street!
Culinary literacy lives here. We ordered the grouper because the server counselled: "You could eat this dish just for the artichoke," and she was right. Frank's servers are the soul of grace; they explain the food without being either pompous or formal, they offer tastings of this Shiraz and that Malbec, they know their menu and they like their customers.
There's a lotta lovin' at Frank's, and seafood is the chef's passion. He grills a small whole lobster to perfect doneness and partners it with his house-made corn tortellini. It's his sole miscalculation: The starchiness of pureed corn makes for a texturally strange filling, corn's sweetness mysteriously MIA. But the lobster (especially for $26) is otherwise unimpeachable, thanks to its fragile lemon-butter sauce, wilted spinach, and clever strew of lightly dressed, shaved fennel with the occasional chorizo fragment.
Meat is his bête noir. Frank's St. Jacob's pork three ways is a noble idea and a gorgeous plate that but it could use some work. Its vegetable content shines - a few stripped Brussels sprout leaves, emerald and al dente; a ribbon of pureed squash with tiny nubbins of yellow squash; piquant braised red cabbage; and one quarter of a baby artichoke, perfectly cooked. With vegetable aristocracy such as this, one expects better-executed meat.
Better to do great pork one way than porcine mediocrity three ways: the belly should be crisper on top and softer underneath. (If you're going to throw arterial caution to the winds and eat pork belly, both taste and texture ought to merit the self-destruction.) The tenderloin ought to be more tender and less cooked. Same for the rack (pork's version of lamb chops). Both rack and loin have been rolled in a heavy combo of parsley and sugar, which overwhelms rather than highlights the pork's flavour.
The three-way approach works better on lamb - pink pretty loin and rack, moist tender shoulder, and a piquant little lamb sausage. But both loin and rack receive that sweet parsley coating, which is far too heavy for Frank's Kitchen.
Of course he makes his own desserts. Peach tart is Frank's tatin, and a valiant effort, thanks to tender crust and still-firm peaches. Less browning would be helpful. Two tiny house-made chocolate truffles arrive atop our bill. Does this guy ever sleep?