Goodbye January and hello February! The first month of the year has been a frosty one, but that’s what makes Canadian winters great. It’s also been quite some time since Don and I last dined out (having donated our January eat-out budget for the Pasta 101 fundraiser for Parkdale Food Centre), but that doesn’t mean I can’t go out for a relaxing lunch with friends. Besides, when good friends have lent you a helping hand on numerous occasions, the least you can do is take them out for a hot meal And, if you can treat them at a new restaurant, then all’s the better I say! And, that’s just what I did these past weeks.
Never one to turn down an opportunity to try a new eatery, I decided to meet up with a girlfriend at The Rex on a bitterly cold day. Located just off of Preston and literally around the corner from Atelier, The Rex is the latest addition to the restaurant scene in Little Italy.
Open since November 2013, it seems to have garnered quite a loyal and enthusiastic following.
Previously, The Rex was open only for lunch during the weekdays. Since the start of the new year, it has also introduced dinner services on Fridays and Saturdays.
After a brisk walk in the frigid cold from the O-Train Carling station, The Rex was a welcomed sight. I managed to take a quick snap before my fingers began to lose feeling.
The interior was welcoming and warm with large windows allowing natural sunlight to pour in. Dark wooden floors, dark furniture, cream-coloured walls, and soft light, I was surprised at how spacious the restaurant was … it was bigger on the inside (to quote Doctor Who).
With almost 30 seats in both dining rooms and at the bar, The Rex can easily accommodate large groups.
If you find yourself pressed for time and need to hurry back to the office, take-out is a viable solution. At $10, hungry patrons can choose from a hot sandwich or salad, a drink and house-made chips to go. If you’re up for a casual lunch, choose from either the eat-in or take-out menus.
The menu reads like a dream, especially at this time of year. There’s mac and cheese, shepherd’s pie, grilled cheese and other such hearty sandwiches. All mains, priced at $12, are accompanied with the soup of the day and their in-house made chips. If in need to quench your thirst, there’s a nice selection of reasonably priced beers, including local favourites from Kichesippi, Beaus, Hogsback and Beyond the Pale. Though the wine list is limited, you’ll also find some Ontario reds and whites.
During my firs visit, I opted for the mac and cheese ($12) while my friend ordered the shepherd’s pie ($12).
Both entrees were piping hot, served in cast iron skillets. The mac and cheese was finished with roasted broccoli, four cheeses, and topped with crispy bread crumbs. Though flavourful, I did find the pasta itself too soft, overcooked. On the other hand, the chips were fantastic, well-seasoned, and not greasy. The roasted cauliflower soup with potato and leek and topped with a sweet corn and scallion compote was spot on. I couldn’t have asked for a better bowl of soup.
The shepherd’s pie was devoured quite quickly. It consisted of overnight braised short ribs with sweet corn and topped with a layer of brown butter mashed potatoes. My friend enjoyed the savoury meat filling, but found the mashed potatoes under-seasoned. However, she too enjoyed the chips and soup.
Small portions, we were still feeling hungry after after, so ordered another dish to share: Eggs Our Way ($12).
This dish was easily the best of the three. Two poached eggs on a bed of potatoes with pastrami, sweet corn, leeks and Brussels sprouts, it was a great end to our outing. Each bite was savoury, yet there was also a hint of sweetness with a slight crunch of the Brussels sprouts and creaminess from the egg yolk. The only disappointment was that one egg was thoroughly cooked, not at all runny.
Looking over some minor hiccups, we enjoyed our meal. I decided I would follow up with another outing.
About a week later, I returned for lunch again, this time with my youngest sister and her friend.
Feeling rather famished, we ordered a number of dishes, starting with the poutine ($9). Crispy fingerling wedges with shredded duck confit, St. Albert cheese curds and thyme infused duck gravy, just reading the description on the menu had us salivating.
Despite our table’s love for poutine, we all felt letdown by this dish. Not only did we feel the poutine was in need of much more gravy and lacking in flavour, we also agreed it would have been nice if some of the cheese curds had melted a little. We were surprised that the plate arrived lukewarm.
Disregarding the underwhelming start to our meal, we were looking forward to our mains. While our friend ordered the mac and cheese, I opted for the fried egg sandwich ($12). Myy sister chose the wild boarchetta sandwich ($12).
Have I mentioned my love for eggs? It is a worthy rival to my love for noodles. There’s something about having an open faced sandwich with a fried egg on that with a runny yolk. I enjoyed this much more than the previous week’s mac and cheese. For this sandwich, I had the choice of boarchetta, grilled sausage or double smoked bacon along with cabbage slaw with roasted garlic aioli. Though I was tempted to ask for all three meat options, I settled with the bacon.
My sister’s sandwich consisted of slow roasted boar shoulder and crispy belly, honey fennel slaw and mustard aioli all on a fresh, soft ciabatta bun. Now, with the exception of chicken shawarma, my youngest sister does not like sandwiches. She’s also not a fan of mustard or fennel. Not only was I surprised with her choice, but it disappeared rather quickly. I didn’t get a chance to sample it, but seeing how happy she looked afterwards, I assumed it was good. Guess I’ll have to try it myself sometime!
We had just enough room for dessert, carrot cake ($5).
Moist, yet not overly sweet, with a caramel sauce, it was a delicious end to our meal.
If you’re looking for something comforting, yet fun, give The Rex a try. It’s a welcomed addition to the local dining scene.
40 Adeline Street