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I got two words for Toronto this week, LISA MARIE. That’s right! Lisa Marie is the restaurant by Matt Basile who’s the man behind Fidel Gastro’s. He’s the guy who has been wowing or should I say, OLE’ING Toronto for well over a year now. Best known for his amazingly good and simple extreme Cuban sandwiches to his flavourful and fresh tacos. But wait Toronto, Matt brings comfort-styled Cicchetti (“kinda like tapas… but not”) that’s just done right.
638 Queen St. W
Now completed with an awesome catering business, food trucking like a veteran… a restaurant only made sense. With a name like Lisa Marie, the inspiration comes from none other than Elvis Presley (Lisa Marie is Elvis Presley’s daughter). It’s a strong continuation of their little mascot/idol that’s found at the bar. Myself and Cindy were super fortunate and honoured to get invited to their soft launch of the restaurant. And it was definitely a small select group that was in attendance for the night. So many thanks for inviting us.
How were our first impressions? We liked it. A simple and modern decor with a huge mural of the king right out front on the wall. We liked the high chairs and if you got a table of 4, yup good’ol bench seating right next to the king. Yeahhh, we’re feeling this.. especially for sharing type of dinners. The layout of the restaurant also includes a “Meat” section out back. It’s market style where you can come in and pick up great pickled vegs or the famous sauces that Matt uses on his sandwiches and tacos. Matt wanted to make this place a little different than others. Matt coming from super humble beginnings wanted people to really enjoy cooking and be creativity in their own kitchens. So he thought, if I can get them started and have them spin it off into another creation.. let’s. As a heads up, pricing is a little more expensive at around $8 a bottle but the quality is there. I got 2 bottles myself.
As we got settled and started to take in the menu, the servers immediately gave us an introduction to the menu items and how the ingredients all came together. To be honest, we were impressed. I mean, this was just a small soft launch right? They knew the menu as if this restaurants been here for a while. The front of the house is run by Chris who offers a great drink menu that will serve you some refreshing drinks to some premium spirits. We tried out a few of them and they’re definitely worth trying. Curious to what the menu’s are like? While the website’s still in development.. no worries, we got you guys. Click below (sorry for some blurriness).
The very first dish that we tried was the Fresh tuna puttanesca roll that’s a fresh light snack. The Ahi tuna is marinated in a puttanesca sauce and you are encouraged to dip it in the sweet and sour mango sauce that’s served with it. It was a good way to start the night. We also got the chance to try both the Duck and Meatball fried pizza. Between the two, I liked the meatball variety better. The meatball was tender and saucy. I think Matt’s roots are starting to show a little here. =P The toppings are served on a freshly made pizza dough that’s been deep fried to give it that slight crunchiness that compliments the whole dish and definitely added a nice texture to the dish. One dish that I really liked was the Pork belly cheese thang. I mean everyone should order this dish when they come. Pork belly that’s been smoked well with a cilantro cherry tomato salsa that’s all served on a melted Havarti cheese crisp. That’s right. Instead of a soft taco shell, it’s cheese. How is this not a win? I really enjoyed this dish. Highly recommended.
We also got the chance to try the Alabama tailgaters which are seasoned smoked bacon wrapped beef carpaccio. It was an interesting take with the bacon being the strongest on the palate. There’s a Mozzarella and marrow sangweech that has two slices of focaccia bread stuffed with buffalo mozzarella cheese with roasted bone marrow. It’s a deep fried grilled cheese that’s done well. Want another deep fried option? There’s the deep fried cheese burger which is served with no bun and a quail egg on top. If you’re still hungry after all this, we saved the biggest for last. The Turkey Wing, which is a massive turkey wing that can be ordered with either hoisin chili sauce or buffalo-style with blue cheese aioli. We tried the buffalo-style and yes despite being turkey, it was moist and flavourful. 2 for $10, it’s worth a try.
On Lisa Marie’s menu, there’s also a sharing menu that has items such as the Sugo and bread and a whole fish sandwich which has caught our attention. We never got the chance to try these items, but will definitely be back to give it a whirl.
Overall, I liked Lisa Marie. It’s comfort-style tapas that’s just simple, done well and great for sharing. It’s for those nights after work to let loose a little and enjoy some good food and company. And let’s not forget, the music here is good. There’s a number of things still up their sleeves like a “Po’boy ain’t got a bun” which is a fennel and purple cabbage slaw served on the half shell with a fried oyster, shrimp and squid. It’s one of Chris’s favourites and it gets released when they open up on Friday, April 19th. The dinner is worth a visit and the service and atmosphere there is OLE worthy. Heck tell them that The Urban Craze sent you and I’m sure a welcome OLE awaits you. I know I can’t wait to see their brunch and lunch menu. I heard it’s very Fidel Gastros inspired. Which to us, we know it’ll be friggin’ OLE’olicious!
The Damage: $5-8 on average per dish