Restaurants Reviews and Such

Café Dario 1390 Erin Street: A Best Meal

Café Dario re-opened last night. Initially, Café Dario will be open from 5-11 pm Fridays to Sundays. I caught wind of it through the Loaf and Honey Facebook page (more about them later in the review). I booked my reservation online, and ended up as the first customer through the door yesterday evening.

Cafe Dario Pork Loin
The 5-chili pork loin from Café Dario.

Normally I would pay two visits before writing a review. Technically I have, because I went to Café Dario for a group dinner when a friend was heading out to Quebec to take a job as music director at the Anglican Cathedral there.

That was sever years ago, so I don’t have a detailed memory of the evening. However, yesterday’s meal was so good, I just couldn’t wait to write about it.

Before going into details, I would rate this aa one of my top 10 maybe even top 5 meals. That is on the basis of the food alone. I was dining alone, and as brilliant as my own company is, this sort of meal is best shared with others.

Café Dario Prix Fixe Dinner

The menu at Café Dario is prix fixe. That means you get a set number of courses for a set price. In this case it’s 5 courses for $55.00. While it won’t make it into my daily or even weekly meal list, it is worth every penny.

The five course are: Appetizer, Soup, Salad, Entrée, and dessert. The Appetizer and the Entree are the only two items with choices. I chose the Tuna Ceviche for my appetizer, and the 5-chili pork loin for my Entrée.

I also ordered a glass of white wine to go with the meal. This was a good, light choice to make.

Tuna Ceviche
A nice, vinegary, Tuna Ceviche.
Appetizer: Tuna Ceviche

After ordering, I was brought a basket with a couple of slices of rye bread. The first item to come was the Ceviche. One thing I really enjoy about my meal is that service is nicely paced.

As the picture shows, there is artistry being put into the presentation. There is also artistry being put into the preparation. The soft, fresh tasting chunks of tuna are contrasted nicely with the crunch of the vegetables(also fresh). Then for a little added bonus there are a few chunks of lemon peel that add a nice hint of bitterness that sets off all the other flavours.

Cafe Dario Chef's Choice Soup
A Creamy Spinach and Fennel soup.
Café Dario Chef’s Choice Soup

The soup is listed on the menu as chef’s choice. It’s worth noting that if you check the online menu, the soup in house may differ. Don’t worry, it will still be fantastic. This is a Creamy Spinach and Fennel Soup.

The soup was almost completely opposite to the Ceviche. Where the Ceviche came cold, the soup came hot(unless you’re serving Gazpacho or the like, I hate soup that isn’t hot). Also, the creaminess of the soup was a pleasant change after the slight astringency of the Ceviche.

Café Dario Spinach Salad
My Café Dario salad. A really fresh, and simple Spinach Salad.
Spinach Salad

After the first two courses, the salad course was quite simple. That worked really nice as a change of pace before the entrée.  The spinach is really fresh and there are no droopy leaves. The little bits of red pepper and red onion, added a nice little bit of crunch.

5-Chili Pork Loin

The Café Dario entrée, featured in the top photo has a longer name, but this heading sums it up. The dish is a pork loin rubbed with five different types of chilies. It is spicy, but not overly so. The pork was cooked to the just pink stage, and was moist and tender throughout.

The mashed potatoes are done skin on and I like the contrast between the creamy potato and the slightly crunchy bits of skin. There is a bit of chimichurri, and a wonderful coulis, along with beets and some zucchini. All of these elements come together so that each bite is a little different from the previous.

Café Dario Dessert
An amazing, sweet finish to my meal.

Dessert is where Loaf and Honey come into the story. Dustin Peltier, one of the partners in Loaf and Honey is working with Chef Dario at Café Dario. Between the two of them they created this dessert.

Dustin came out while I was eating the dessert and offered me a bit of the story of how they worked it up.

The dessert contains cheese curds, that at other times would go into Loaf and Honey’s Golden Prairie Cheese (my lunch yesterday, along with some Spicy Pickled Pineapple from Flora and Farmer). These are then surrounded by a caramel made by reducing cane sugar.

The caramel is very sweet, and has a hint of molasses in the flavour. Sort of like a Dundee Marmalade (which has actual molasses in it). The cheese curds absorb the flavour of the caramel while at the same time cutting some of the sweetness.

A good strong coffee topped off my meal at Café Dario.

Despite what the presence of the cheese curds might lead you to believe, it is quite a light dessert. Plus, I enjoyed a good, strong, cup of coffee to drink with it.

Café Dario Summary

For all I’ve talked about how good the food was at Café Dario, the service reach the same level of excellence. My server came round to make sure I was enjoying my meal, re-filled my water, and offered a couple of times to refill my coffee.

I also really appreciated Chef Dario also brining food to the table and taking a couple of brief moments to chat. I reiterate what I said earlier. My meal at Café Dario is one of the best I’ve ever had.

If you want to make your weekend special, a meal at Café Dario will certainly help accomplish that. Make yourself a reservation as soon as possible.

By Donald McKenzie

Anglican priest, and food blogger. This blog is focused on Food. It will feature reviews of places to eat books, and the odd recipe. I also write about what it means to gather together around food.