Who is Mildred, and what is the connection between her temple and kitchen? The answer is as individual as our own dining experience. After much anticipation from its devoted patrons the new Mildred re-opened in Liberty village, with a new philosophy: to move away from meat, potatoes and starch towards a healthy, clean living food style. It is green without being scary.
Like many interesting spaces that dot the perimeter of Old Toronto, the buildings of Liberty village have been revitalized.
"Toronto is a city of neighbourhoods," says proprietor Kevin Gallagher, "And this is a new neighbourhood to be explored."
Our first sight upon entrance is the bar. An inviting place to wait if we had to, but we are immediately greeted and cheerily welcomed. Elevated from the dining room is the kitchen. It's almost like a stage on which the kitchen is the set, and the chefs are performers. Or is this kitchen the temple mount on which culinary rites are executed? Certainly dinner theatre has just been redefined, as we gaze at the ensemble of chefs in action. And there is not a bad seat in the house. Modern and brightly lit, we sit perched at a counter top with panoramic views of the VIA Rail trains silently passing along their tracks.
Still or sparkling water is offered on tap ($2); it is filtered through reverse osmosis to conserve local resources and offer a better quality beverage. It's the Temple's "manifest-eau". Looking at the menu, there is a valiant effort to use, and even inspire the appreciation of local and organic ingredients. It works.
Whereas the menu instructs us to "worship flavour"; one spoonful of the Italian Bread Soup ($9) and we begin to worship the chef, Tyler Cunningham. A large white bowl of toasted chunks of Celtic bread, fried parsley, and two large shavings of pecorino di fossa is presented on its own only to be followed by a lavish decanting of a rich and full Ontario garlic broth. This is done not merely for visual effect, but to keep the bread crunchy. I could just have this soup all winter long. Handmade Ricotta Gnudi ($13) are soft pillowy morsels harmonized with crisp Berkshire bacon, fried sage & caramelized onion. Wholesome with a twist of exotic, there is good reason for its popularity. Large chunks of Wild Georgian Bay smoked whitefish ($10) are lightly battered, topped with a salad of celery and parsley, and set in a refreshing pickled spruce tip remoulade. Be aware of these pickled spruce tips; you might not find them elsewhere.
Following our first course of flavour worshiping, we determine that the growing gathering of devotees in this 207 capacity, open-concept dining room must all, as the preamble to the menu suggests, have a reverence for the "source". We all want to know where our ingredients come from, and how they are grown and prepared. There is comfort here in that trust. There is more than a worship of flavour, there is indeed a reverence for its source.
The variety of options for vegetarians is unique and eclectic. Not being one myself, I wonder if it could be enough for me. Let it be known that a generous and delicious bowl of Barbeque Eggplant and Silken Tofu ($18), intertwined with enoki mushrooms and gai lan (a Chinese bitter broccoli) in a black bean sauce is the cause of my conversion! Having said that, the Braised lamb & root vegetables potted pie ($18) may have won me back. This is back to basics, good, wholesome cooking done very well. Cracking open the layers of crust is like unwrapping a Christmas present, inside of which is an aromatic stew of lamb, carrots, and potatoes that is a clean, and oh so savoury, medley of flavours. A cool endive & frisee salad is a refreshing accompaniment.
In this temple, desert is not a sin, it's $9. Figgy Bread Pudding is smooth, creamy and textured with fresh figs, crusty bread, and slivers of blanched almonds. It's sweet, warm and toasty for a cool evening. The classic Mildred's Profiteroles are also a constant hit. Lindt chocolate ice cream sandwiched between three puff pastry confections, and crowned with a whimsy of caramelized sugar, is draped in caramel & chocolate sauces.
All our expectations are indulged as our devoted practice of culinary prayers are answered.