I used to frequent Mildred number one and like half the city, was disappointed when they closed. After visiting the number two – Mildred’s Temple Kitchen, 85 Hanna Avenue, Suite 104, I remain somewhat disappointed. I know, I should not be harbouring sentiments of the restaurant past nor should I be comparing every detail between the original and the sequel but it is after all, the same place – reincarnated. The Mildred Pierce Group may not subscribe to that notion but when you go by a similar name, open up across the tracks, put two of your old dishes on your new dinner menu and practically repeat the brunch card, it is hard not to compare.
The old space was warm and dramatic. The new is cold, sparse and rather hospital like (in a clean way). It almost seems unfinished. The old had an air of sophistication that the new lacks. Mature servers have been replaced by “handsome” twenty somethings in Levis. The hostess looked like she was thirteen and was dressed like a circus performer. Boy George called and wants his hat back. Mildred, they too need a uniform.
The menu is short and to the point. I like its’ no nonsense approach and more than a few dishes caught my attention. To start, a citrus squid salad with red onion, cucumber and apple ($9). It was a nice twist on a tired classic and GreekTown should be taking notes. The tender squid was spritzed with citrus and laid on top of a bed of extra thick and creamy tzatziki. The apple really only added a tartness that wasn’t pleasant. I ignored it and pretended that it was summer and I was dining on a patio. Mildred doesn’t have one which is too bad because this dish is dying to be served al fresco.
Even better were the smoked Georgian Bay whitefish fritters ($11). The fritter trend of 2008 is still going and although these were served very much in the same way as every other restaurant i.e. with a remoulade of tangy bits, these ones were the most able I have seen. The ratio of fish to potato was bang on. They were dressed up in a batter akin to the chicken ball. It was airy and crispy not doughy or crummy.
A beet salad with goat cheese ($9) was so pretty that no one wanted to touch it. The pureed cheese danced swirls through the dressing. The fresh beets were a beautiful shade of orange. Again, summer can’t come fast enough.
As fabulous as the starters were, the mains were full of mistakes. A chickpea and lentil stew ($16) was healthy and bright but lukewarm and lacking a ‘stewed quality’. It seemed to have been made in five minutes instead of the hours that it should have simmered. It had too much cilantro, not enough goats’ milk yogurt and the bhaji that came on the side was nothing but a clumsy addition.
A burger and frites ($15) looked like it belonged in a magazine. Sweet red onion relish, white cheddar and a tiny pickle finished it off. Someone decided to put it on an egg washed brioche bun that crumbled after two bites. It was simply the wrong kind of bread for a thick and juicy burger.
Another mishap was the pork belly sous vide with potato dumplings ($26). I love pork belly. When it is fried its’ crispiness is heaven. Its’ pig flavour out shines even the best bacon. However, when you do anything but fry it, it is nothing more than pork with large amounts of fat stuck to it. Rendering it gives it that crunch, sous vide makes it almost too unhealthy to want to eat.
The meal ended with a watery rendition of the cappuccino and a trio of way too sour sorbet ($9). The strings of sugar were playful but the grapefruit sorbet almost gave me wrinkles.
Mildred, if it wasn’t broke, why did you fix it?