As the end of the year grows near, we started wondering: what were some of the best meals of the year? It’s no surprise that we struggled to nail down a top list. We’ve eaten at so many places! And a year is a long time! Next year we will be keeping an on-going ranking to prevent this in the future.
I had walked by Lena a few times before and always been intrigued by it. Now I was more intrigued: one of Canada’s best 100 restaurants AND one of Toronto Life’s top 100 restaurants of 2018? My interest was piqued. We had a dinner reservation at the busiest possible hour it seemed, which incidentally did not coincide with happy hour. Why the grumbling? Because it took so long before our drinks arrived. We got our first app before we got our drinks. Brent tried to blame it on my fancy mixed cocktail. I protested that I did not like anything on the wine list. It was also an embarrassing drink to order, the “pink fairy armadillo,” who can say that with a straight face? Brent ordered it for me, stating that I was “too embarrassed” to order it. Only making me more embarrassed in fact.
Our first app was the 24 month aged ham that sat at the bar and we walked by it on our way in. I had to have some of that, they carved it right there! No bread, no side plates, just a small plate with thinly sliced Spanish Serrano ham. I was a teensy bit miffed, no bread? No pickles? At least give us some plates. The drinks arrived soon after we finished off the ham. It had been a last minute impulsive add-on. I couldn’t resist it once we walked by it. We had one more app coming: mini empanadas. First bite, it was ok. Second bite, with the “chiminasty” sauce, it was amazing. The sauce was so good and it was what made the dish.
When I first looked at the menu my eyes alighted on the squid-ink pasta. It sounded so good! Apparently Brent thought so too, that had also been his first pick. He went with his second pick, the 7oz steak. Both dishes were amazing, it was impossible to say which was better. I really liked how black the noodles were from the squid ink. It didn’t alter the taste and it was not off-putting in the least. The sauce was spicy and the squid was delicious. The steak was perfect and the shoe-string fries were an amazing compliment. By now I was on to cocktail number 2: one of their classics, named after the restaurant, the Lena. The service was kind of slow. By the time the server came by to clear our plates, they were empty, making his “are you all done here?” question super awkward.
As we perused the dessert menu I was torn: there was a dessert wine from Provence I wanted to try. The slow service worked to my advantage, I was able to finish my cocktail by the time we ordered our desserts. Brent had the chocolate mousse and I couldn’t resist the burnt cheesecake. The wine was awkwardly named Rinquinquin which I butchered the pronunciation of. It was a delicious peach-y dessert wine. The peach flavour was obvious in retrospect given the second half of the name: a la peche. The desserts were good, but nowhere near as blow-away as the rest of the meal. It was one of the best of the year.