The first thing you may notice about Glas is not its simple, austere decor or how friendly and go-out-of-their-way accommodating the servers are. What most women and quite a few men will definitely notice is how strikingly handsome chef/owner Dan Patano is. And in this tiny unassuming neighbourhood nook, there's really very little else to focus your gaze on. The fact that this talented hottie also happens to be a Michelin-trained chef is simply further proof that the universe is cruel and unjust
. But I digress, sigh.
Despite his low-key personality, his 20-seater in booming Leslieville will blow your mind with a carte of such culinary elegance and refinement you'll feel as if you should be wearing a powdered wig. Yet the modest Patano doesn't seem to have even one diva bone in his, ahem, body - working without any kitchen brigade, let alone a sous chef. It's just him and two servers, one of whom also doubles as a dishwasher. And the fact that he concocts such outstanding plates in a shoebox-sized open kitchen with only two induction burners and a small convection oven is clear evidence that he performs culinary magic without compromise.
And that's kind of a miracle since in his confined space he is sorely limited. Instead of offering many hot dishes, his clever carte is made up mostly of warm plates and even something raw. For Patano, it's not only about what he's going to make, but how; he can't even sautÃ© dishes because he doesn't have a hood. An interesting Food Network Top Chef challenge, maybe, but the results here are nothing short of astonishing.
Something as simple as speck ($14), a distinctive kind of Tyrolean prosciutto, is finally given a well-deserved solo moment. Cut into thick strips instead of the typical sliver-thin slices, every chew is a showcase of the symbiotic relationship between salt-curing meat and smoking. Paired with matchsticks of green apple and tossed with a little garlic oil and a side of crostini, this is the meal hearty Italian peasants intended it to be.
Even working with something as mundane as calamari ($11) elicits a gasp of disbelief. Forget the artistic brush stroke of roasted eggplant and squid ink combined on a white plate. The real achievement of this course are four small white nubbins of baby calamari stuffed with a creamy fingerling potato filling. Rolled in breadcrumbs, paprika and hot peppers, this seafood tapas is not only visually stunning to behold but too easily inhaled. Better opt for two orders from the start as many of the plates are a bit on the dainty side; the only problem you will encounter is wanting manlier portions. But for artistic achievement of this calibre, you won't mind leaving a bit hungry.
A roasted sea bream ($16) is absolute perfection. Bought from Hooked down the street, a supplier who prides itself on selling only sustainable seafood, the fish in a citrus oil screams freshness, but it's the imparting of the curry flavouring of a pairing of both pureed and whole du puy lentils that intrigues most. It's so subtle it's almost as if it was quietly atomized out of an eau de parfum bottle. No curry ever whispered so seductively. And a braised rabbit ($17) with almond puree, crispy boar bacon and black olives is yet just another tongue teaser.
And who would think that a raw summer vegetable salad ($8) could display equal parts of inventiveness with total savoury satisfaction. Patano's attempt to try to do something raw, admittedly not his forte, still reveals the same amount of thought and passion as all his dishes. Just the act of crumbling cauliflower to resemble couscous blows me away. Add to that a mix of shaved carrots marinated in lemon and olive oil, tomatoes and a basil pesto, and, well, this ain't just any old deli counter salad.
Desserts are equal standouts. And since we know there's no pastry chef to rely on, they come courtesy of Patano himself. Like his signature Tuscan red wine cake ($7) (his grandmother's recipe) which has been on every one of Patano's menus during his nine years in Europe, most of which were spent toiling away in Italy. The unusual recipe reserves half of the batter for the sauce, giving the rectangular slab a wetness without being soggy and a completely unique flavour. Fresh Ontario marinated berries ($7) are also treated with kid gloves, macerated in grappa, lemon and sugar before being spritzed table side with more grappa. Just another instance where chef finds the simplest of ways to fascinate with food. He might be classically trained, but Patano's technique and style is anything but old-school. Eye candy aside, this is a man to watch.