We had made a mental note to stop by this neat looking little Portuguese place on Kingsway after seeing it while driving through the neighborhood. There was no info about it online when we checked so we figured it must be new (apparently it’s been there for a while under a different name before being renovated: Cinco Estrelas), and it stood out to us in the sea of Vietnamese restaurants in that area. So tonight we took the plunge…
On the walk up to the restaurant we noticed a couple interesting pieces of machinery, and decided to snap pics even though we had no idea what they are…portable ovens of some sort? To be hauled around on a food cart or something? I still don’t know, but the flames coming out of the red one look pretty cool eh?
Upon stepping into the restaurant we were greeted by a warm and slightly upscale atmosphere; various statues and paintings and odds and ends including a model ship served as decor and the place had a nice vibe to it. We were seated next to the window and given a basket with two Portuguese buns in it and some butter packets…two different brands too, as if they were acquired from different places at different times. Wendy’s was partially opened for some reason… We probably should have taken that as a sign, and I know after seeing the prices on the menu I would have liked to get up and go, but we chose to soldier on since we had already stopped at two restaurants along the way that had wait times for a seat.
Appetizers hovered around the $10 range and mains were $20-25. Not outrageous or anything, but definitely far more than you would be spending anywhere else on that stretch of Kingsway. I will say their breakfast and lunch prices are a little more down to earth, breakfasts start at $6 and you can grab a sandwich at lunch for $7. Our server rattled off a list of specials so lengthy and with such variations in price that we both had to ask to see the sheet he was reading them off of. I think the specials may have outnumbered the mains on the menu itself! We both ended up ordering specials.
I chose the Duck with Papaya Gin Sauce ($25), definitely the most interesting sounding meal on offer. It came with potatoes and veggies as did most, if not all of the special dishes. The duck was cooked right, and the sauce was what I expected, basically a gravy with chunks of papaya and just a hint of the alcohol. I enjoyed soaking it up with the meat, and if our bread was refilled I’m sure it would have been put to good use sopping up the juices. The potatoes were roasted and salted, with the “creamy” texture Wendy likes. I thought they were decent too. The veggies were another matter though. I’m pretty sure the baby carrot sticks were just plain raw, and the cauliflower nearly raw. The peppers were very lightly grilled; I personally enjoyed them that way but Wendy actually bagged hers (along with some meat) to microwave to give it a softer texture.
Wendy went with the Mixed Grill ($26). It consisted of steak, quail, a pork chop and chouriço, a sour (in this case at least) version of chorizo sausage, all drizzled with house piri piri sauce. There was a decent amount of meat on the plate, but it was all dry dry dry. The exception being the steak, which was thin on one end, thick on the other, which translated to extremely well done one bite, practically raw the next. I tried a bite of it and ended up having to spit it out, there was no way I could chew through steak that tough. Even the underwhelming mix grill she had at Eh! Restaurant for less than ten bucks (see our review of Eh! Restaurant) beat this one hands down. And their potatoes were better too!
I should note that no one came to check on our meal or refill our water or even remove or refill our bread basket that had been sitting on the table empty well before our meals arrived, and when it came time to pay the bill I had to get up and go to the till to pay after waiting and waiting on the nonexistent service. There’s absolutely no excuse for lack of service at the prices they’re charging here and we walked out feeling ripped off by the whole experience at the end.
I noticed the bar at the open kitchen was full the entire time we were there, and Chef(e) Daniel seemed to be quite genial, laughing and conversing with the patrons while he did his thing. I think part of the draw for this place is the man himself; I’m sure he has some loyal business from friends in the Portuguese community that make this restaurant a bit of a gathering place. So I’m inclined to compare it to Transylvania Flavour, where the owner shares a similar rapport with his guests and people seem willing to overpay for their food in return. To be fair in Transylvania’s case the food is decent, just overpriced (but worth it when they have their GroupOn deals going).
Daniel’s is definitely not our kind of place though…we’ll be revisiting this neck of the woods for our first two strikes earlier in the evening however: Nine Dishes for their $1 meat skewers and Spicy Beauty for their awesome name, gaudy decor and the delicious aroma when we stepped inside. And maybe El Sol de Acapulco across the street from Chefe for the $2.50 tacos and pupusas (Daniel might want to compare prices with area restaurants…just sayin’). Stay tuned!