Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Media Dinner at Maléna

Last Wednesday, I was invited to sample Maléna's (@malena120brand new spring menucreated by Maléna's head chef, Doug Neigel. I felt extremely honoured to have been able to dine with some of Toronto's elite food writers and food critics at this event, so before I dive in any further, I want to say a big "THANK YOU" to Rachelle from rock-it promotions and Maléna for the invite.

To be honest, I have never heard of Maléna nor L'Unità (@lunita_enoteca) before the invite so I quickly looked them up. Maléna, the neighbouring sister restaurant to L'Unità, specializes in Ionian Coastal Cuisine with inspiration from Greece and Southern Italy (whereas L'Unità is an Italian osteria and wine bar). The food at Maléna focuses on seafood and is heavily influenced by ingredients drawn from the bodies of water that surrounds Greece and Southern Italy. Whenever possible, Maléna also incorporates local, seasonal and sustainable ingredients. Maléna was featured as one of the ten restaurant's in James Chatto's top ten restaurants for 2010.

Before dinner at Maléna, everybody met up at L'Unità for cocktails. The first thing I saw was the charcuterie *drools*.





Crostinis.



Not sure what these are but they were so pretty! Not gonna lie but I had quite a few =P


Finally got a chance to sit down and enjoy my plate and Caesar (of course).




I was so busy taking pictures and chatting that I didn't even notice the decor at L'Unità until I sat down. L'Unità was very cozy and warm: the plush sofas along the wall, the dark wooden tables and chairs, the hanging light bulbs, the candles on the tables...I love it all.  



Everybody was mingling and having a great time.


I had the privilege to meet and chat with David Minicucci too, one of the owners of Maléna and L'Unità.

Before long, we all started heading over to Maléna, which was a block or so away from L'Unità.  It was during the walk over that I realized I missed out on the bacon jam that everybody was talking about! I was beyond frustrated *sigh*.

Anyway, I digress...

Maléna is located in a very rustic looking century old home.

Photo credit: www.malena120.ca


It has two floors for dining, with the second floor being a private dining room which can accommodate up to 40 guests - this is where we had our dinner. 


Minutes later, everybody got settled in.


One of the three bottles of wine offered that night: 2009 Sigalas 'assyrtiko' (Santorini, Greece)


The other two bottles were a 2008 Blue mountain estate pinot noir (Okanagan Falls, British Columbia) and a 2008 Feudi di san gregorio 'rubrato' (Campania, Italy).


FIRST

Warm roasted olives & feta - Roasted garlic, fresh herbs, peperoncino & olive oil. This was passed around the table. I love olives and feta cheese so this was perfect.


Sardines 'in scapece' - Pancetta, parmigiano fricco & garlic crema. Beautiful presentation. 


Sea urchin crostino - Avacado & black cyprus sea salt. I was really happy to see sea urchin here because I don't think I've ever had sea urchin other than at a Japanese restaurant. The sea urchin and avacado worked great together - love the buttery-ness of it.


Frito misto - Calamari, prawns & chef's addition crispy gigantes & real pepper conserva. This may look ordinary but it was far from it~ You can't tell from the picture but they had buttermilk-soaked halibut cheeks in there :)  Best thing was that it wasn't greasy and the batter was light and thin.


Grilled octopus - Pancetta & root vegetable fregola, greek yogurt & orange agro dolce. I think I enjoyed the root vegetable fregola and everything else more than the actual octopus - there was nothing wrong with the octopus, just that everything else was so flavourful and tasty ~


Everybody enjoying the appetizers.


Here is Maléna's head chef, Doug Neigel, and L'Unità's head chef, Stephen Gouzopoulos. explaining each of the dishes to us.


I think that night was the only time I've ever had so much seafood for appetizers (not complaining of course). 

SECOND

We were given four choices for mains.

1) Sheep's milk ricotta gnudi - Braised rabbit, spinach & crisp parsnip.


2) Berkshire pork chop - Truffled celery root mash, swiss chard & apple caponta


3) Whole grilled sea bream - Tomato braised gigantes, horta & cucumber tzatziki. 

I had the sea bream and whoa, I was taken back at the size of this fish - it was huge! I only finished the top side of the fish and was already so full that I couldn't eat anymore (I'm pretty sure if I flipped the sea bream over it would be like I've never touched it haha). I liked how the fish was simply grilled so I could really taste the true flavour and freshness of the fish. I forgot to take a picture of the cucumber tzatziki, which was a great compliment to it. 


4) Seared branzino 'in padella' - Confit fennel, rapini & white anchovy lemon vinaigrette (I did not get a picture of this)

What I do have is a picture of myself taking a picture of my sea bream =D And in case you are wondering, yes, that is my phone ^_^

Photo credit: www.foodwithlegs.com

OK, back to the food. 

We also had some side dishes:

CauliflowerBrussels sprouts - chilis & orange, Roasted fingerling potatoes - fresh oregano & sea salt. 

I really liked the Brussels sprouts because they were spicy; I never had spicy Brussels sprouts before. I see Brussel sprouts with a whole new light now - they are no longer "boring" to me.


I was beyond stuffed by that point. I mean, I couldn't even finish my sea bream! I was still excited about the dessert though.

DESSERT

Lemon phyllo tart - With lemon semifreddo. Best lemon phyllo tart ever! It was extremely light, yet creamy, and although you can taste the sourness of the lemon, it was subtle and not overpowering. The phyllo was super thin and crispy as well. And to top it off, it's so beautiful.


Mascarpone cannoli - With candied dates & walnuts. 


Greek honey 'loukoumades' - With pistachios & cinnamon crema. My second favourite dessert. Doughnuts drizzled with honey? Hm...yes please!


OK so forget what I said about being stuffed, I take that back because I still managed to have one of everything ^_^ 

Got a bag of goodies from Maléna containing items such as photo cards, a wine opener, and matches.


Imagine how happy I was when I saw these edible items... BACON JAM! 


I can't wait to try it =D


Check out some other posts on the Maléna Media Dinner: Food With Legs, Spotlight Toronto


Malena on Urbanspoon

10 comments:

kiki's B.F.F said...

Lucky you =D everything look super yummy

always wanted to try Melana but heard some mix reviews... but after this, I'll be going =D

Jann said...

Mmmmm....bacon jam

Great photos!

AC said...

Wow, bacon jam! Let me know how it tastes :)

CARMENHUNGRY said...

this kind of event sounds like a mini dream come true...im imagining everyone hovering over their food with cameras haha

Novella said...

Hi, we're happy to see that you choose our Rubrato Aglianico! Do you know our wines? Let's stay connected on www.feudi.it/community...we are waitings your opinions!
Greetings
Novella
Feudi di San Gregorio Team

The Food Junkie said...

@kiki - Prepare for a night of seafood! =) I guess my dinner was a bit over the top compared to normally since there were sooo many dishes ^_^ I had my favourites

@Jann - Thank you! haha yes I can't wait to try it~

@AC - You will be the first to know~

@CARMENHUNGRY - Haha actually you may be surprised at this but only a handful of us had cameras =)

@Novella - Thanks for the info ^_^

Ronald said...

BRING ME THAT BACON JAMMMMMMMM!

that avacado sea urchin looks intersting...i wanna try that

The Food Junkie said...

@kiki - Prepare for a night of seafood! =) I guess my dinner was a bit over the top compared to normally since there were sooo many dishes ^_^ I had my favourites

@Jann - Thank you! haha yes I can't wait to try it~

@AC - You will be the first to know~

@CARMENHUNGRY - Haha actually you may be surprised at this but only a handful of us had cameras =)

@Novella - Thanks for the info ^_^

Margaret Antkowski said...

Some fantastic photos of your experiences at both Malena and L'Unita. You had me drooling at the charcuterie photos as well.

Joanne said...

Everything looks amazing at this place right down to the Greek honey balls! So how was the bacon jam? Is it sweet? salty? jammy? LoL! Great review :)

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