Whatever your dinner plans for tonight, reconsider them…seriously, because Portland Variety has everything you’re looking for in a unique dining experience that simply will not disappoint.
As we enter the restaurant located in the King West Fashion District we’re immediately struck by the stunning decor. Slabs of calacatta marble as far as the eye can see, black chalkboard menu and artsy wall murals, gleaming hardwood flooring, mirror and glass and retro Edison bulbs – all of which culminate to provide for a casual bistro vibe and instant relaxing atmosphere.
Founding Chef Jo Castrinos (a.k.a. Greek Silver Fox) has returned to Portland Variety and with him return some of his signature dishes in addition to a new spin on classics. The man is most affable as he greets us warmly and we immediately feel welcome.
The staff is highly knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the menu items and their unique ingredients; very attentive and friendly – even amidst a bustling dinner service.
The moment the cocktails are served you immediately get the sense you’re in for a real treat. The Royal Garden – vodka, lime, basil and cucumber is deftly poured directly onto an iceball encapsulated edible bloom. It was refreshing, crisp and delightful; I’m getting thirsty just thinking about it!
We began with an assortment of pintxos; small, bite-sized snacks which are a huge tradition in Spain. The lighter-than-air crispy croquettes, house-made creamy ricotta topped with fig or savoury smoked trout, soft-boiled quail egg with horseradish cream on baguette bread slices were all intriguing and so flavourful. I’m salivating at the mere memory of the taste. These were beyond delectable and satisfying, yet we had only just scratched the surface of the true depths of the culinary skills of Chef Jo.
The tasting continued with an extensive selection of main menu offerings. Each one more tantalizing and expertly prepared than the next. Like children, I simply can’t pick a favourite. However, I will say that the Striped Bass Crudo with citrus, green mango, chive oil and chilli was bursting with freshness and just the right level of spice with a pleasing flavour profile. The Shrimp Pil Pil with chilli oil and lemon is a spicy little number yet you continue eating it despite the intense heat. The Moorish Chickpeas with saffron, cumin and wilted swiss chard could easily convert me to veganism if it meant I could eat it everyday. The Cornish Game Hen with piri piri was tender, juicy, crispy – everything you want in a proper poussin. The 16oz Ribeye with porcini rub and caramelized onions reminds me why I’m not a vegan; it was succulent and grilled to rare perfection. I could continue but you’ll have to visit Portland Variety and taste for yourself. Did I mention the incredible Beignets filled with vanilla custard that literally melt in your mouth upon contact?
What did all these dishes have in common? Simplicity. The handful of ingredients were allowed to shine; they complement and elevate rather than compete and overwhelm. They also produced a bonding effect among those of us seated around the marble table – virtual strangers, really – sampling dishes family style, tasting, talking, laughing, sharing. Delicious food, fabulous decor and good company are the ingredients of a memorable dining experience. Precisely what you’ll find here at Portland Variety. Your experience awaits.
For more information about Portland Variety visit them on Facebook here
Portland Variety is located at 587 King Street West at Portland Street.
Photos by Nick Lee