New in the neighbourhood: Malbec

MALBEC IS A variety of grape used to make wine, and although it is grown around the world, many identify it as an Argentinean classic. Perhaps this was the inspiration for Eduardo Marino, the chef who created the menu at Malbec Restaurant.

Although there’s a clear Argentinean leaning, with offerings such as mixed grill platter and pork ribs marinated in chimichurri, the plates — especially on the lunch menu — touch down all over the globe.

Wine, or at least the colour of tinto, has influenced the decor, too. Window ledges and frames plus the plush, sound-muffling carpeting, are a purply red colour. Fine flowering detail and a hodgepodge of art on the textured, cream-hued wallpaper give the room a comfy feel.

Peas and pieces of beans asparagus, carrots, potato, cauliflower and broccoli sit suspended in a thick vegetable broth in Malbec’s sopa del dia ($4.50), which changes daily. Although the vegetable morsels vary in doneness — the sliced spears of beans and asparagus provide a bit of crunch, while the carrot cubes are just a smidge short of mash —the starter sates as both comforting and filling.

Milanesa de pollo ($10.95) brings a pair of chicken cutlets — pounded, battered and fried, like a schnitzel — placed criss-cross on the plate under a fresh lemon slice. The exteriors are greaseless and crisp, but the inner white meat strips lack succulence. Francisco, our smiling server, suggests the mixed salad from a list of other side dishes. The toss of mixed greens, halved baby tomatoes, shredded carrot and purple cabbage can flaunt its freshness and refreshing temperature, but oily vinaigrette dressing drowns the pleasure.

A grisly, thin cut of grilled beef sits between halves of a white bread loaf in sandwich al Malbec ($8.95). No vegetables, condiments or fixings make the meat a lonesome sight indeed. Homemade, wide-cut fries suffer from an excess of salt, but the wedges’ soft, yielding interiors almost make up for it.

Francisco gives the experience a fine-dining feel without the attitude.

 234 Merton St., 416-489-1488

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO