Welcome to The Keating Channel Pub - with the well known vast waterside patio, and that million-dollar view of the city as a backdrop setting, co-owners Shakir Omar and Chef Balan Balavijith have a winning new vision. A fresh outlook and a fantastic new menu successfully establishing themselves as a Premier Steakhouse and Old-Town Toronto Pub.
The crowd is largely made up of film crews and other Portlands workers but with the ever-expanding Distillery District, more and more condo-dwellers a
re venturing south to the channel. And after five years of turning out damn fine pub food, owner Shakir Omar and Chef Balan Balavijith have big plans for the place.
He's rolling out a newly edited menu, encased in one of those fancy menu holders that are so popular with the fine-dining set. He also plans to nix the two pool tables currently occupying territory in the east end of the room and replace them with low tables and sofas, creating a lounge area.
But let me talk about the food for a moment.
Clearly the kitchen cares about the grub it churns out, making many items in-house, including the killer spring rolls ($7.45). Stuffed with tender pieces of roasted chicken and wrapped in flaky phyllo pastry - instead of the dense wonton casing that's usually used - these rolls are truly a signature item and deliciously so.
Wings are a staple on a pub menu - meaty, crispy and tossed in just enough sauce to coat them, not drench them. Keating's wings ($7.95/1 lb.) are all of those things and perhaps more. Bonus points are awarded for the sweet and sticky bourbon sauce Shakir's wings are dressed in.
Bourbon shows up again in a mushroom sauce to accompany a 10 oz. New York striploin ($20.95) but it's less special than the wing sauce, with neither mushroom nor bourbon coming to the flavour forefront. Good thing the kitchen is using certified Angus beef. It's melt-in-your-mouth tender and needs little to help it taste better than the meat naturally does. Served on a mound of buttery mashed potatoes with sautéed fresh veggies, it's a steal at that price.
Other gems include Chef Balan
Balavijith's chicken curry ($11.95) - a fragrant stew of al dente peppers, potato and zucchini in a richly spiced yet wonderfully light tikka masala- although it would be better served on a bed of basmati rice, rather than generic long grain.
Fish and chips ($10.95) arrive quaintly wrapped in yesterday's newspaper and unfurl to reveal two lightly battered pieces of haddock. Perfectly crisp in the house-made beer batter and served with decent frozen fries and homemade tartar sauce. Ideally served with one of 14 beers on tap - a crisp and bitter pint of Harp is a good choice.
Those with a sweet tooth won't be disappointed in the desserts ($5.50). Both the apple crumble and dense and chewy chocolate brownie are made in-house while cakes, like the Super Caramel Crunch are from Woodbridge's La Rocca bakery.
In fact there's little to disappoint at KCP, from the ample draft selection to the better-than-average pub fare. If Shakir can create a little more atmosphere - new tables and chairs, maybe some booths - the Keating Channel Pub will be a true triple threat. Until then there's still that fantastic patio with the million dollar view.