For a long time I've been trying to get together with my sister, and our friends Emily and Rebecca, who are also sisters. Sister double date! The potential best! And the venue has always been discussed as Enoteca Sociale (1288 Dundas West). That way, the two Italian sisters can tell the two Dutch sisters whether the food is awesome, or not (hint: it was). Things did not turn out as planned, and it was just Emily and I, a duo of little sisters, who went to Enoteca Sociale. Nearing its two year birthday, the crowd that buzzes inside is full, as are the reservations. Room at the bar is available after an hour, and I don't mind whetting my appetite with a beer down the street while waiting, knowing that the wait is indicative of a restaurant which consistently delivers quality and flavour.
The menu is bursting with intriguing combinations of taste and texture. A lover of dark leafy greens, I'm drawn to a salad of baked kale, persimmon, king mushroom, farro & pine nuts ($13). We're of the same mind and Emily quickly get in cahoots to share everything ordered between us. I will always gladly suffer through the natural bitterness of kale to savour the richness and tang it has. But...what is this? Somehow between blanching and baking, under the buttery olive oil and surprisingly sweet fresh lemon juice, this kale is not bitter at all. I did not think that was possible, especially given that the dish is savoury. This is me, impressed. The persimmons are slice into thin sweet wafers, adding just a pique of contrast to hints of char in a dish which holds its own. Mellow pine nuts are a nice touch, but I could do without the farro, which is strangely tasteless and mushy. I haven't experience farro before mind you, so my tastes may just need maturing.
I'll warn you, our appetites were small that night, and slowed with conversation about the complexities of loving food. We nibbled, and enjoyed ourselves, but did not eat much. I think it warrants a second visit! Emboldened by the bravery of our own company, the next thing we tried was smoked sweetbreads with escarole and romano beans ($17). Sweetbreads are offal, to put it indelicately- the organs most home cooks would never consider trying to turn into something delightful. Unpleasant experiences with kidneys and liver made the choice all the more appealing and trepidating. What to expect? Comfort was lent to the dish by the inclusion of a rich and comforting bed of smooth Romano beans, rehydrated and both firm and creamy. The texture was perfect, piqued with hints of escarole which had melted into the casserole. It added a bit of herb. The sweetbreads themselves were nothing I could have predicted, and were entirely enjoyable. The texture is somewhere between rye bread and liver pate, and the flavor is comparable to chicken, with a brine like flavour underneath a natural fat. Smoking added flavor, but the final treatment was the fryer, and the skins on these nuggets had crackled and bubbled with the flavors of a cracklin skin. Though there is some of that intestinal taste, I couldn't have been more happy with this comforting winter dish meant to warm one coming in from the cold.
Though the portions are modest, their size completely in line with the mastery of their handling, Emily and I only visited ourselves upon one more dish, the house made ravioli, black truffle, ricotta, apple, chestnut ($22). As a pasta, I expected it would be just the right thing to do me in with heaviness. The ravioli were large and flat, with the most delightfully described 'pimple of flavor' that held chestnut and apple puree, and ricotta. You can thank Emily for that wonderful mental picture (you're welcome). there is not a ton of body to these, though they spread out beautifully on a plate. Black truffle makes enticing curlicues, crimped all over the glistening pasta. It's generous, and I can taste the distinct flavor so clearly. At first I didn't realize that the oaky blue cheese taste was from the truffle. It's woody but layered and nuanced. I'm impressed by how all the elements work together. In the bursting bubbles at the heart of the ravioli is a sweet and relaxing taste, the ricotta just nudging the chestnut into a more prominent place. A dash of tiny granny smith cubes are like timpani, banging out with a more aggressive personality than the other components, and refreshing the taste buds to receive another mouthful.
Why am I at home right now when I could behaving dinner, at Enoteca Sociale?