There’s nothing more charming on a summer evening than wandering among Toronto’s Old Town neighbourhood so it was with delight that I accepted the invitation to dine at Pearl Diver Restaurant on Adelaide Street East to sample their new menu, revamped to cater to both seafood and meat lovers.
Pearl Diver Restaurant, formerly Starfish Oyster Bar & Grill, offers a casual dining experience with a varied seafood and meat menu executed by Chefs Milosz “Tom” Malycha and Martin Zechel. In addition to seafood, you’ll find entrees including PEI Rib Eye steak, pork ribs and dry-aged beef burger. Here, you have “supper,” not “dinner.” The menu offers many daily specials and on Tuesday evenings from 6 p.m. onwards, you can order the Seafood Circus Tower for $28 instead of the regular $65. That explained the raucous crowd that was already filling the repurposed church pew benches and bar stools at 6 p.m. that evening.
We were quickly greeted by our server who asked if we wanted to order the Seafood Circus Tower and quickly went to place the order when we confirmed that we did because he informed us the dish takes a while to prepare. In the meantime, we ordered a glass of Pinot Grigio ($10 for 5 oz.) and a cranberry juice. The white wine was crisp and cool while the juice was thirst quenching.
At the suggestion of our server, we ordered an appetizer of Crispy Calamari ($9) to tide us over until the Seafood Circus Tower arrived. What an excellent recommendation! These calamari were cut into small, thin slices and battered in a very light batter so they were not filling at all. While they were served with a sweet sauce, I really preferred just a squeeze of fresh lemon to cut the acidity of the squid. Fortunately, a server passed by and fulfilled our request. I definitely recommend this appetizer if you are a fan of squid.
We watched about seven or eight Seafood Circus Towers get whisked by our table before our server finally served us our very own. Be forewarned: it could take about 30 minutes after ordering to receive your Seafood Circus Tower, especially if it’s busy. The base of the Seafood Circus Tower contained Malpeque oysters, Fanny Bay oysters and clams on ice. The middle of the tower featured mussels in a light curry sauce and Alaskan King Crab on ice. Shrimps sat on the top of the tower.
I love raw oysters although some are better than others. I definitely preferred the Fanny Bay oysters from B.C. over the Malpeque oysters since the former were larger, smoother, denser and less salty. The Malpeque oysters were less smooth and too salty for my liking. I am not fond of clams although I did try one for good measure. I did not care for the strong taste of the clams or the fact that they were quite chewy.
The Alaskan King Crab was really fresh; the crab meat was sweet and tender. The mussels were tasty, dressed in a light, curry sauce. The shrimp, however, disappointed. Perhaps they would have benefited from sitting on ice because they were a little bit mushy.
We were getting a little full so we decided to split an entree. I was eager to try Pearl Diver’s Fish and Chips ($18), which featured fresh Atlantic haddock. We each received a plate with one filet and a good portion of crispy fries. (The regular serving includes two filets of fish and chips.) One look at the batter told me that these were authentic, British-style fish and chips and that we were in for a treat. One bite of the fish confirmed the former. If you’re looking for some of the best fish and chips in Toronto, you’ll have to check out Pearl Diver. These fish and chips featured a super tasty beer batter that kept the enclosed haddock really fresh. Further, the batter was crisp without being too thick or bready. The fries did not let us down either. They were thinly cut and crisp. I also enjoyed the housemade coleslaw, made of cabbage and root slaw, as well as the homemade tartar sauce.
If you sit at the front of the restaurant, you’ll enjoy a lovely view of St. James Park.