With the reopening in May, Maple Leaf Tavern settles back in with a relaxing ambiance. The traditional American bar located in Leslieville has a brickwork-surrounded cozy interior, an outdoor patio with beautifully dangling lights, and a welcoming open concept kitchen consisting of a wood-fire oven. Executive Chef Jesse Vallins – formerly at The Saint – heads the kitchen with recipes that have one salivating by simply looking at the menu.
Collectively, the menu’s snacks and starters are upscale dishes of a charcuterie board. The sourness of the pickled meats greatly complement their made-in-house bread served warm, such as cornbread, which bring a unique texture to the palate. Let’s not forget about Chef Vallins signature sausages dish. With up to 5 different meats, and 3 variants of mustard sauces, one can really have fun with this dish. As by the waitress’ recommendation, we ordered what seemed to be a simple Caesar salad, only to be surprised as to how amazing all its ingredients came together. Their anchovy-dressed lettuce is crisp & tangy, parmigiano is flavourful, and the hefty slice of grilled bacon puts other Caesar salads to shame.
Straight from their wood burning grill we started with a whole Sea Bream drizzled with lemon juice and beurre blanc.
This wholesome fish goes well with equally wholesome vegetable sides. Their crunchy & roasted cauliflower is served with an outstanding mousse-like cheddar emulsion and their fork-tender carrots are glazed with honey, Greek parsley yoghurt, and coated with cumin. The plate that I couldn’t get my hands off was the Hassleback Potatoes. Reminiscent of a tornado potato, the butter is tossed in two ingredients that no one would be disappointed with – truffles and foie gras.
Delicately garnished with veal shank, bone marrow, porcini, their take on a lasagna is untraditional; neatly packed in layers of both soft and crusty pasta in a warm tomato sauce. Definitely order fries because a lot of the dishes make great dipping sauces.
Finishing off with the Pineapple Carpaccio was exactly what we needed after having rich, savoury foods. The tart fruit glazed with basil sugar, coconut sorbet was quite an exotic dessert.
Maple Leaf Tavern knows how to give it to you straight; no fancy fluff, no gimmicks; just simply great food. Additionally, they pack in all the flavour with carefully selected ingredients and is garnished with top-notch detail. Maple Leaf Tavern is one of the rare restaurants in Toronto where every single dish you choose from the menu will impress you. The flavours are extremely well thought-out and makes for a memorable casual night out.
Photos by Nick Lee