Sunday, 29 January 2012

Chiado - Not your Mama's Portuguese Food!!!!

864 College Street
Toronto, Ontario M6H 1A3


We have just had our first Winterlicious, 2012 dinner and well, let's just say it's going to be hard to top this one.  Chiado is a fine dining Portuguese restaurant in Little Italy and it does not disappoint.  It is consistently praised by food critics and given a 3 1/2 star rating by Toronto Life's Eating and Drinking Magazine. What does a 3 1/2 star rating actually mean...well, it means that this restaurant is rated somewhere between "Excellent" and "Extraordinary". I totally agree.

In her opinion:

It was freezing in Toronto.  But inside Chiado it was warm and cozy with the smell of seafood lingering in the air.  This is Portuguese at it's finest.  I was born in Portugal and love all things Portuguese. So, I was so excited about this dinner.  We have been to Chiado before but never for Winterlicious.  This is Chiado first go at Winterlicious and I'm very happy that they entered this realm of this much loved and hated culinary dining program.  As I've explained before, Winterlicious is an opportunity to partake of a 3 course prix fixe menu at a very reasonable price.

We were shown to our table for two by the illustrious Albino Silva himself in the Senhor Antonio side of the restaurant.  This side of the restaurant is a little less formal but just as wonderful with modern art hanging on the walls.  Our attentive waiter was by our side within moments to ask if we wanted still or sparkling water and as he walked away another server was leaving delicious Portuguese corn bread and baguette on the table.  This was accompanied by black olives and little saucers of peppery olive oil for dipping your bread. I ordered a glass of  white CARM by Rui Madeira.  The apricot and tangerine flavours of the wine paired perfectly with what I ordered for dinner.

Once we ordered our meal, a beautiful amuse bouche of "Fresh cheese with balsamic reduction and rosemary honey" was placed in front of us.  This was delicious.  The fresh cheese needed a little salt in my opinion but the flavour of the cheese with the balsamic reduction and honey was unbelievably delicious.

For an appetizer, I ordered the "Stir Fried Salted Cod" or "Bacalhau a Braz".  I have had this before but never like this. They managed to refine a typically homey dish and turn it into the epitome of fine dining.  The flavours were definitely recognizable but the presentation was not.  This was well seasoned and delectable. 

I wish I could have this at least twice, no maybe three times per week.  I never get sick of salted cod and this made me appreciate this fish even more.

As an entree, I ordered the "Grilled squid tossed with fresh garlic, lemon, coriander and olive oil".  Grilled squid is remarkable if it is done right and this was done to perfection.  

It was served with perfectly cooked vegetables (potato, yam, snow peas and carrots).  So good.  I love grilled squid and this did not disappoint.

For dessert, I ordered the "Platter of Various Sweets".  This was a plate of four desserts...a pecan pie square, a Lindt chocolate cake topped with a baked meringue and a square of black cherry ginger spice cake. It was served on a powdered sugar plate with berries.

This did not disappoint at all.  I love dessert and four little treats to end a perfect meal...I was in heaven.  

Overall, I loved this meal.  It is refined Portuguese dining with the familiar flavours of mama's kitchen. 

In his opinion:

Often described as the one restaurant in Toronto that makes gracious hospitality and elegance seem effortless, Chiado is much more than that. It's where simplicity meets refined without breaking a sweat!
Progressive Portuguese cuisine based in tradition is how this gem is labelled, and seafood is it's foundation. It's kind of hard to think that one can be wowed by a seafood restaurant in landlocked Toronto but Sata Express (Portuguese/Azorean airline) takes care of the freshness of the fish, daily!

We visited Chiado for dinner for only the second time ever and the experience started very well. Owner Albino Silva was upfront "streamlining" the guests as they entered in an almost "military" but charming way. We were shown to our table (15 min. before our reservation) and were put in the Senhor Antonio part of the restaurant (this is the adjacent tapas bar by the same owner).
The décor is simple with contemporary art hanging on the walls and the double linen tables have a only a small touch of decoration.

Before we could browse the menu we ordered sparkling water and were served an amuse bouche:
"Fresh white Portuguese cheese served with a balsamic reduction and honey with rosemary". The real silver cutlery felt a bit too much to slice cheese with but it did its job. 

For Appetizer: 
I chose the "Shrimp and Lobster Bisque with Saffron and Cognac". 
Very light and with a very "taste of the sea" flavour, garnished with pieces of shrimp and lobster. I felt like I didn't even have an appetizer, leaving plenty of room for the main course and the yummy breads (baguette and corn bread), that were served with fresh olive oil.

For Entree: 
I chose the "pan seared black cod with porcini mustard glazed". 
Well, I'm in the arguably best Portuguese restaurant outside of Portugal, so of course I'm going to have the cod. Cod is Portugal...after all.
It was served with cinnamon sweet potato, mash potato, white asparagus, and sautéed spinach. The fish was soft and flavourful and the skin was soft yet crispy.

For Dessert : 
I chose the "white chocolate flan". It was served with berries and berry coulis. The citrus based flan was soft and was complemented well by the berries.
I also had my usual espresso but was disappointed. It is hard to believe that a Portuguese restaurant cannot make a good espresso. Then again, I am very particular about my espressos and more often than not, they are below my expectations.

The good: One of the top restaurants in TO and takes Portuguese cuisine to another level. Impeccable service and fresh, flavourful, unpretentious food.
The bad: Has to be the espresso. Almost had to go to Nova Era for one after dinner.
The verdict: Our second visit to this city staple didn't disappoint. The service, food and ambience are great and it's like dining at a bistro, but in one of Toronto's best restaurant. 

I give it a 4 1/2 olives out of 5 as a rating. 

Chiado on Urbanspoon


  1. Totally regretting not going to Chiado for Winterlicious - this looks incredible! Loved hearing your impressions on its authenticity, too. My boyfriend's birthday is coming up so he may be in for some Portuguese food...

    1. We jumped at this opportunity to go to Chiado for Winterlicious and loved loved the whole experience. It is too bad that you didn't go. Definitely take the boyfiend. I think he will enjoy it!