Torontonicity was invited to attend a tasting of the new Pintxos menu at the SkyLounge patio at the InterContinental Toronto Yorkville recently. This stunning patio is in the interior courtyard of the hotel, opening off of the hotel’s Proof Vodka Bar and only steps away from bustling Bloor Street, but protected enough that you can enjoy some tranquil patio time with your friends.
We arrived at 3:30 on a Friday afternoon at this lovely oasis in white. Upon being seated, the bartender enthusiastically mixed us these thirst-quenching virgin cocktails: one citrus-based and the other, a mango-strawberry concoction with fresh fruit. They were perfect for a hot afternoon.
Pintxos, like tapas, are small plates to be shared. We started with an artistically presented Pintxo salad with Heirloom tomatoes, watermelon, sherry vinegar and olive oil ($6). The unexpected combination of tomatoes and super sweet watermelon was pleasing to the palate. My favourite tomatoes, the yellow Heirloom tomatoes, were also ripe and sweet.
The next plate of Chef Joe Rabba’s sampling menu was Garlic Chili Shrimps with avocado puree ($8). I love the spicy marinade coating these crustaceans and the avocado puree was enhanced by the garlic chili sauce. The shrimps were moist and tasty. I definitely recommend ordering this pintxo dish.
Braised beef short ribs on celeriac puree ($10) was next on the menu. If you’re not familiar with celeriac, it’s that odd-looking, turnip-like vegetable in the produce section. Once pureed, celeriac tastes almost like potato. Marina, the restaurant manager, informed us that the ribs were one of the most popular items on the menu and I understand why. These short ribs were so tender and tasted fabulous mixed with the celeriac puree.
Our next Pintxos plate was Chorizo and potato with smoked paprika and buffalo mozzarella ($6). I did not think I would enjoy this dish as I’m not a big fan of sausage, but I must admit the chorizo was deliciously spicy while the buffalo mozzarella and potato accompaniment were divine. The potatoes were perfectly crisp and enhanced by the same spicy sauce while the buffalo mozzarella was soft and fluffy. I now understand why chefs import this delicate cheese from Italy.
These lobster and crab rolls with bacon mayo and cucumber on arugula ($6) were another hit on the Pintxos menu. Being allergic to lobster, I deferred to my dining partner who informed me that the seafood was super fresh and tasted wonderful with the bacon mayo. I love the pairing with fresh arugula to provide a touch of bitterness to the sweet lobster. The freshly-made brioche was similar to a Portuguese-baked bread and was the perfect finishing touch to the sandwich.
Our final plate was the Grilled Lamb Chop with eggplant and artichoke ragout ($12). The lamb chop was well executed; however, it was the eggplant and artichoke ragout that really got my attention. This was a really flavourful accompaniment that could almost be served on its own.
All in all, this was an enjoyable afternoon spent on a sumptuous patio tasting a variety of tempting plates. If you’re looking for a patio to provide respite and indulgence, SkyLounge is it.
SkyLounge at InterContinental Toronto Yorkville, 220 Bloor Street West, 416-960-5200
No no no. Pintxos and tapas are NOT small plates meant to be shared. That is the failure of nearly any Spanish themed restaurant in Canada. Pintxos (the Basque style of tapas) and tapas are single person, small dishes or snack items. They may be intended to snack on with friends but are too small to share realistically. All these Canadian restaurants claiming to sell tapas are usually selling raciones which are closer in size to what we would typically order as appetizers. Not authentic. This is why the prices are ridiculous here. Instead of being able to choose two or three items at 3€ each you get 1 item for $12 or $13. Canadian restaurants just don’t get tapas.
Well, Pintxos may not have been meant to be shared, but the portions are large enough to do so at this restaurant. You were never left wishing there had been more, because each plate was a perfectly-sized taste sensation. I really enjoyed my afternoon, out on the patio in such an elegant but relaxed atmosphere. I will definitely come back to the SkyLounge – excellent food and excellent service! Thanks!
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