Introducing: Essen, a new spot on Dundas West for brisket, smoked salmon and matzoh-ball ramen
Contact Info: 1282 Dundas St. W., 416-534-0407, essentoronto.com
Neighbourhood: Little Portugal
Chef/Owner: Leor Zimerman, who closed his Portuguese-French bistro Quinta earlier this year and reopened the restaurant as Essen.
The Food: Essen serves the kind of food you would’ve eaten at home, if you’d been raised in a Jewish household with a French-trained chef for a mom. Ashkenazi and Sephardic dishes are unfussy but prepared with care by Zimerman, who likes to tweak traditional Jewish staples (matzo ball soup gets a ramen makeover, for example). Though à-la-carte options are available, meals are designed to be eaten family style; Zimerman suggests ordering a main (beef brisket, roast Muscovy duck breast), a veg (tsimmis roast carrots, braised cabbage) and a side (duck fat fries, pearl couscous). Essen isn’t strictly kosher, but they don’t serve pork or shellfish, and meat and dairy never mix.
The Drinks: Signature cocktails have quirky names; for instance, the H. Krustofsky (a slivovitz-and-manischewitz number) is named after Krusty the Clown’s father.
The Place: The 17-day reno left much of Quinta intact (same tables, chairs and lights). A fresh coat of paint and a revamped bar are the biggest changes, plus a clutch of adorably awkward bar mitzvah photos hanging on one wall (if you bring your own wall-worthy shot, Zimerman may comp your dinner).