Toronto’s Best New Restaurants: Leña
When you’re not in the mood for a 14-hour flight to Buenos Aires, you’d do well at this handsome series of art deco rooms on the southeast corner of the Saks-Bay complex. Anthony Walsh, O&B’s top chef, got his inspiration, and his empanada recipe, from his Argentinian mother-in-law, Elena Arevalo. South American cuisine is an experiment for a man synonymous with expense-account tasting menus, though there’s no mistaking the O&B polish: plush banquettes, deep wine list, servers always at your command without hovering.
The cooking, however, is bright and relaxed. Must-haves are a dish of salt cod, pickled red onion, deep-fried cumin-dusted chickpeas, fresh fava beans and cilantro scooped up on toasts (they call it a salad, which undersells the awesome textures), and the roasted rabbit on an extraordinarily flavourful bed of rice cooked with tomatoes and snails. Those empanadas, with sweet pastry encasing peppery ground beef, slices of egg and plump black olives, live up to all the hype.
176 Yonge St., 416-507-3378, lenarestaurante.com