After two visits, my new favourite weekday lunch spot is Fabarnak (519 Church St., north of Wellesley). The prices are reasonable, the ambiance is clean and casual, and they creatively push their food that much more than most midday meals. The best deal is the Square Peg ($9), a bento-style box with contents that change daily and are announced via twitter. And beware, there’s only a limited number available (usually between 15 to 20) so they sell out quickly.
On this day the Square Peg included blueberry-glazed lamb rump on cucumber salad, beet and edamame salad, wild rice and lentil pilaf with pork belly, and a small mason jar of lemon meringue. The lamb was fantastic, with its fruity outside complimenting the gamey meat. The onslaught of delicious choices seemed to initially overwhelm my lunch pal, editor Kerry Davie (who played the role of Recycling Man #1 in ROM’s Food Studio and Guy Wearing Shades Indoors at Solo Sushi Bekkan). But once Kerry embraced the Peg and dug in, he polished that 4-cornered box clean.
On our first visit, the Square Peg was already sold out and while it was hard to hide my disappointment, I was impressed by the two excellent sandwiches we tried. The Slow-roasted Strip Loin Sandwich ($10) featured truffled mustard aioli, watercress, crispy shallots and a fried egg. The meat was tender and very easy to bite through, a big bonus point since I find most steak in sandwiches too tough. I absolutely loved this simple combination of ingredients, the only thing that would have made it better is a melted slice of brie. But then again I come from the school of thought that cheese makes everything better. The sammies come with a side soup and Kerry chose the daily special which was Gazpacho.
The Smoked Trout Sandwich ($10) included huge flakes of perfectly-cooked rainbow trout, smoked tomato chips, pickles, greens and gribiche sauce, which I learnt is similar to egg salad. This packed a big flavour punch and we loved the combo of fish with hard-boiled egg. I chose the Tomato Bisque soup that was a touch too acidic for my taste.
While a dessert course at lunch is a bit much on most days, do not skip it at Fabarnak. The chocolate pie is rich and decadent with an amazingly crunchy shell and the lemon meringue has a surprise of toasted almonds and cake hidden in the middle.
Fabarnak is located inside the 519 Church Street Community Centre and it definitely gives off a friendly neighbourhood vibe. The menu notes they source locally, make as much as they can themselves (including ketchup), plus they pickle and preserve throughout the year to capture produce when it’s in season. The restaurant fits every criteria I have for a successful lunch. With salads, quiche, risotto, deconstructed chowder and a Peruvian-spiced flank steak on the menu, I know I’ll be back for many more visits. Although I must admit, it’s gonna be hard to pass up that Square Peg.
Fabarnak / 519 Church St., Toronto
416 355 6781 / Hours: Mon-Tues 10am-5pm, Wed-Fri 10am-9pm, Sat 9:30am-3pm