Review: Goodbye Dolly
Loyal readers know what I think about Dave Sidhu. His Playa Cabanas and every new latin-inspired iteration that followed had me agog with awe. So I pretty much expected more of the same experience, even with his first non-Latino venture.
Admittedly, it didn't get off to a great start. One week after opening, I dropped by on a Wednesday only to find out they were closed. In spite of the fact that the lights were on and you could clearly see someone cooking in the back, Dolly's Mojito Bar & Panciteri was indeed closed. Okay, I can accept that. But if you are only going to open Thursday, Friday and Saturday one week, don't you think it might be wise, not to mention courteous, to post that info somewhere? And without a phone number, how are you supposed to know? I am fed up with restaurants who have turned the once simple act of making reservations into an immunity challenge on Survivor. Whew, finally, an Instagram posting with hours of operation. Now how hard was that?
Like Sidhu's other food outlets, no space is left unadorned at Dolly's, decorated to death in retro diner chic, from melamine tops to red vinyl booths. Perhaps the bar area is the most eye-catching, though, with the tall and gracious Gabe Baron mixing mojitos as if he were in a competition. And not just any mojito: his careful muddling for a classic Cubano ($6, $10, $30 for a pitcher) seems to go on for weeks. With white oak rum, fresh pressed cane juice, fresh squeezed lime, mint and a stalk of sugar cane, it is the perfect all-natural cocktail.
Alas, from the heights of that superb crushed ice refresher, Dolly's starts to take a perilous dive, to wit: the sour fried wings ($7, $14). While their sourness piqued my curiosity, I can barely take a bite. Not only is the skin pretty flaccid, the wings are riddled with pinfeathers from improper plucking. Ewww. A lumpia Shanghai ($7, $14) follows and redeems somewhat. Like tightly wrapped cigarillos, these pork spring rolls, fully filled with ground pork and served with bottled banana ketchup do the trick.
What really impresses, though, is the kinilaw ($14), a ceviche-esque dish marinated in a coconut cream and a coconut vinaigrette with house shrimp chips for scooping. Sarap!* And the portion is plentiful, which is surprising since the fresh fish of the day is a very pricey pickerel, a species not oft seen on local menus. But a chicken adobo ($16), a classic Filipino dish, makes me think this kitchen needed to pay more attention to dear old Lola. Three chicken thighs marinated in a soy adobo sauce (made with naturally brewed, gluten-free soy sauce) are soooo salty the juicy, tender meat goes uneaten. As does a pancit miki ($18), a beautiful looking bowl of homemade egg noodles. It has the perfect texture and toothsome quality, but the pasta is way too salty to even attempt to eat; adding further salt to the wound is a topping of tasteless, red wine adobo braised beef short rib and bell pepper. Sure, Filipino fare favours the saline side, but people with high blood pressure better beware. And yet in spite of these meal mishaps, our unflappable server makes it all good again by simply whisking them away, no questions asked. A true professional.
This is by far the most disappointing meal ever eaten at a Dave Sidhu establishment. So this whole experience takes me a bit by surprise. Thankfully, a traditional halo halo ($8) dessert makes it somewhat worth the trip. A superior French vanilla ice cream tops this traditional sundae with a kinda tapioca/rice pudding topping with ube and cubes of colourful sweet gelatin all amid crushed ice. A great palate cleanser to counteract an overly savoury meal.
Despite there being a few noteworthy meal moments, notably the bartender and the ceviche, there are some serious problems with the output. More surprising is finding out that Chef Sidhu is in the kitchen. I am stunned that he allowed these dishes get past his critical eye. In a black cap and sneakers he looks more like he's ready to play ball, but hopefully he will prevent a few foul dishes from exiting the kitchen of Toronto's first Filipino mojito bar and soon score another home run.
All meals are paid for, including all taxes and gratuities. All reservations are made under assumed names. Menu items, prices and individuals mentioned in this review may not be up to date. Dine.TO encourages its users to share their feedback.
|Tuesday||5:00pm - 11:00pm|
|Wednesday||5:00pm - 11:00pm|
|Thursday||5:00pm - 2:00am|
|Friday||5:00pm - 2:00am|
|Saturday||5:00pm - 2:00am|