The Mitchell Block
Address: 173 McDermot Ave
Nestled in the red brick and wrought iron heart of the Exchange District, a stylish black and white sign beckons passers-by into a restaurant poised to send an electric jolt into the lifeblood of contemporary cuisine.
Chef Sean McKay and his father and business partner Reed McKay purchased the space over a year ago, and re-branded as The Mitchell Block last summer. With a new identity to call their own came a menu of eclectic and energizing dishes founded on McKay’s own whims, tastes and intuitions.
Mediterranean influences held over from the Tre Visi days can be spied in the house made pasta and dishes incorporating shellfish, figs, and chorizo. Other dishes in the wide-ranging menu skip playfully between countries and continents to bring out unexpected flavours, like jambon de bayonne with dates, Morrocan olives, and Camembert cheese.
Classic preparation amped up with unexpected ingredients shows McKay has kitchen prowess that would make Escoffier proud. Chicketta, cooked sous-vide and then pan fried, drips juice and tenderness, and is topped with a smattering of salty chevre and a sweet fig demi glace. Meltingly thin carpaccio, reimagined with bison, caper vierge and preserved egg yolks, is served under crispy deep-fried beef tendons for a study in textural contrasts.
The space lends well to detailed plating that gives every dish masterpiece flair. Crisp white linens signal fine dining, while brightly coloured abstract art gives a mod edge to an industrial warehouse interior that oozes classy cool.
Warm, seasoned focaccia as a prompt first course is accompanied by a whipped butter du jour. A pretty pink spread incorporating cranberries and red wine vinaigrette offers the palate tart and sweet excitement usually reserved for later courses.
Familiar flavour combinations get a reboot as well. Bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin trades applesauce for a drizzle of apple butter. A mound of curly, crispy deep fried spaetzle, kicky sauerkraut, and candied walnuts round out the dish. Caesar salad expounds on a classic with preserved egg yolks adding creamy depth to the tangy dressing.
House made pastas are stellar. Pillow-soft gnocchi is doused in a thick cream sauce that gives garden-fresh taste to a comforting dish with the addition of fresh dill. Saffron-sauced fettuccine with prawns, roasted corn, and chorizo is a Spanish paella with a kick of Italian flair.
A sultry finish to a sensual meal, rich flourless dark chocolate cake set in a swirl of whiskey butterscotch is heavenly, accompanied by a sprinkle of crunchy candied almonds and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.