Name: Portland Variety
Neighbourhood: King West
Contact Info: 587 King St. W., 416-368-5151, @PortlandVariety
Owner: Ralf Madi and Milton Nunes of Le Gourmand
Chef: Jo Castrinos, formerly of Patria and Splendido
The Food: For sit-down meals in the restaurant’s dining room, chef Castrinos borrows from French, North African, Spanish and even Greek cuisine to create a menu of not-quite-traditional tapas plates, like grilled octopus with smoked tomatoes and a whole sliced rib eye served with caramelized onions. Casual snackers can pair their cocktails with a rotating selection of pinxtos (small Spanish snacks) in the front café area, where tiny skewered bites are artfully displayed on the marble bar.
The Drinks: The cocktail list is heavy on exotic ingredients—“peach caviar,” for instance, and “orange pekoe foam.” The most unusual drink may be the Tequila Bong—it’s a jug of Tromba tequila infused with hickory-mesquite smoke (using a hand-held food smoker), then blended with pineapple and jalapeño-infused agave. Other options include wine, beer and three types of sangria.
The Place: Like nearby Bar Buca, Portland Variety aims to attract customers at all hours. By day, the space operates as a casual café and lunch counter. At 5 p.m., it transforms into a bustling tapas restaurant. Don’t expect flamboyant decor, though: the dark-walled room is handsome enough to fit right in on the King West strip.