Shout It Out Loud
Branca on Dundas West
The table of six guys beside us is out of hand. They’re drunk and having a great time and they’re yelling. Everyone at Branca is yelling. Except for the servers. They’ve either given up trying to be heard or they’re hoarse from yelling themselves. So they lean in close, out of necessity, to answer questions, talk about the menu and take your order.
So, do not, under any circumstances go to Branca on a date (Although the website states that it has been named “Toronto’s Most Romantic Restaurant” - I presume by those who like to only stare into their partner’s eyes). However, in all other circumstances, you should absolutely try this Argentinian inspired restaurant in Brockton Village ( on Dundas just east of Lansdowne). It’s fun and the food is extremely well prepared and interesting. The small dark room is best described as the basement of your coolest friend from the 80’s. The cocktails are interesting and well made. My Churchill Downs -bourbon, fresh pineapple, lime juice and mint ($16), Branca’s riff on a Mint Julep, shouldn’t work, but it absolutely does. Naomi’s Pisco Sour (cane juice, lime - but hold the egg whites at her request) was also delicious.
On this evening we’re a late addition to an existing group of three other couples. The menu of Argentinian foods cooked over a live fire is meant to be shared, and our seating arrangement meant the four men shared plates and the four women did too, in different permutations. The food at Branca is bold. There are no half-measures. Everything is extremely flavourful.
Our server recommended the Spanish Octopus ($22), grilled and served with lemon, parsley, potato and mustard seed. This was a classically composed dish, heightened by the addition of the mustard seed. Also recommended were the Corn Empanadas ($9) with Provolone and Fresh Herbs - small packets of goodness and the Ancient Grains Salad ($15) with Butternut squash and kale. But the bread-soaking star appetizer had to be the Cast Iron baked homemade Ricotta ($16) with wild mushrooms, garlic and chili. Served in a smoking hot iron ramekin, it was a festival of flavour.
One of the guys went his own way on the mains, so three of us shared the Entrana a la Parrilla ($24), 8 oz. of charcoal grilled inner skirt skate and the Asado de Tira ($27) a fire roasted beef short rib. We ordered the Burnt Eggplant ($8) and the Crispy Potato Strings ($6) to accompany the meat. We could have had the Tomahawk bone-in ribeye for (yikes) $140...but it was $140. So we went for the more reasonably priced mains, both of which utilized “lesser/tougher” cuts of meat, which accordingly require more sophisticated preparation, quick grilling on the skirt, slow roasting on the short rib -and both were cooked to perfection. But the star was the eggplant that seemed to suck in the flavour of the wood and smoke - if you go to Branca, and you’re sharing plates, I nevertheless recommend that you get your own eggplant. It’s that good.
Which brings me to my last point. The prices at Branca are in line with Toronto’s better restaurants. And the execution of the dishes and the bold flavour profile warrants it. But based on sight, the portions seem smallish. You won’t leave Branca feeling hungry, but you also won’t feel “full”. But I do expect that you’ll want to go back. 1718 Dundas Street West. branca.ca