I lived in the Yonge & St. Clair ‘hood for many years, but at that point in my life (a couple years post university), my wallet and my palate were not sophisticated enough to seek out Cava (1560 Yonge St.). I’d heard about this tapas spot through word-of-mouth, and while I’d passed Bruno’s grocery store and the Second Cup north of St. Clair many times, I never ventured into the hidden alcove of Delisle Court. Tapas certainly aren’t over-popular here in Toronto, and Cava’s offerings are not traditionally Spanish, but that’s exactly what makes them worth discovering.
Tucked in a covered alley off Yonge St., Cava is located right next to its sister chocolate shop, Xoxocava. Inside, the ambience is dark and intimate, with candles being the main source of light at each table. I’d say this is the right spot for a first or second date that’s meant to impress, an upscale night out or an occassion dinner (I came for my best friend Madonna’s birthday).
The menu is printed on large-format paper, and wrapped around your napkin. Our server suggested we order six plates to share, but we went with four, which was the right amount since we ended our meal with two desserts.
First up was one of the highlights: Bruschetta of Edamame, Grilled Green Onions, Moroccan Olives & Sicilian Tomatoes ($8). Visually it’s stunning, with a festive mix of green and red colours topping the baguette and grilled scallions reaching every which way like tentacles. The edamame spread is flavourful on its own, but the green onion and olive complement it well. This was our first indication that some of the tapas would feature a Japanese influence.
Next up was the simple presentation of Smoked Kingfish Ceviche with a Frisée Salad ($13.50). This dish really allowed the fish to standout, with sharp hits from the cilantro and red onion. The ceviche was lovely as a topping to the crisp tortilla chips and on its own.
Many reviews I read beforehand raved about Cava’s Eggplant with Queso Fresco, Honey & Tomatillo Sauce ($8.75). The most surprising element of this isn’t mentioned on the menu — bonito flakes, aka katsuobushi, which is used as a flavouring or topping for many Japanese dishes. This feels like the kind of dish inspired by a trip to Barcelona followed by a visit to Guu Izakaya. The mixture of textures and flavours in this dish are disarming, but not in a bad way. There’s an overall softness thanks to the eggplant and cheese, and then a sweetness, fishiness and sharpness. Crazy, yet tasty.
Our least favourite item was the Three-Minute Flank Steak with White Purée & Chimichurri ($17). Surprisingly, the smooth and silky white purée (made of parsnips, I believe) was the best part of the dish. The meat itself was tough, hard to cut with a steak knife and requiring more than the acceptable amount of chews to get it down.
The desserts included one hit and one miss. I was so excited to try the
Churros Con Chocolate ($8) after I had my first churro a couple summers ago from a booth at Harbourfront. Sadly, Cava’s weren’t as light or delightful. The Milk Chocolate-Bergamot Bombe with Wild Blueberry Coulis ($10) was a circular tower that can best be described as an upscale ice cream cake (and this is not a dis, I love ice cream cake). The whole things is frozen with a crisp layer of chocolate topping. And for lovers of earl grey tea, the hint of bergamot is a terrific touch.
Our softly lit meal started off excellent then tapered off to average by the end. I would definitely visit again for another occasion, substituting the flank steak and churros with a few of the other tantilizingly unique menu items. The cuisine is adventurous and I applaud chef Christopher McDonald for creating dishes and marrying ingredients in a way I’ve never seen done in this city. If I may be so shallow as to recommend a visit, since both humans and food look wonderful by candelight.
Cava / 1560 Yonge St., Toronto
416 979 9918 / 7 days a week, 5-10pm