In early 2015, Peter Pan Bistro, on Toronto’s Queen Street West, reopened with chef Noah Goldberg at the helm. The restaurant has a storied pedigree, having opened in the 1930s as Peter Pan Lunch, and in 2014, Goldberg bought the business and set about having the space refurbished. The room’s facelift, spearheaded by designer Jessica Ingwersen, evokes 1930s Paris Art Deco via hardwood floors, wood banquettes, dark-wood bar back, tin ceiling, 20-ft. marble-top bar and pendant lights.
Adding abundant charm are three-dimensional wall-mounted tapestries depicting deer, moose and bear heads sheathed in carpet. It’s a beautiful space that honours the restaurant’s past, yet firmly roots the space in the present.
On the plate, chef Goldberg brings strong attention to detail and technique to a menu of unfussy, flavourful dishes anchored by local, seasonal ingredients. A cream-based puree, intensely perfumed by stinging nettle, is one of the most velvety, luxuriously textured soups I’ve had, period. Soft cauliflower florets pair brilliantly with quinoa and red watercress moistened with a bright-tasting sherry vinaigrette.
Thick-cut slices of super-crunchy bread hide intense melted aged cheddar, confit garlic, chive and leek in a deeply satisfying grilled cheese. House-made frites ride shotgun.
Bits of sweet fig stud hearty, country-style hare terrine, while a thick slab of salmon is perfectly pan-seared. And it’s impossible not to love chef’s novel take on lasagna layered with lamb ragout, oven-roasted tomatoes, house-made ricotta and béchamel sauce.
Things end splendidly with rich, not-too-sweet sticky toffee pudding; milk-chocolate mousse with chocolate cigars and praline nougatine; and tiny, tender madeleines, warm from the oven.
A series of second-floor private rooms (with patio) together seat 90 and accommodate 118, cocktail style. Queen Room seats 35; Peter and Soho Rooms each seat 25.
— Don Douloff has been a restaurant critic for over 25 years and, during that time, has critiqued almost 1,000 eateries. In 1988, he studied the fundamentals of French cuisine at Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne in Paris, France. During his time in France, he furthered his gastronomic education by visiting the country’s bistros, brasseries and Michelin-starred temples of haute cuisine. He relishes exploring the edible universe in his native Toronto and on his travels throughout Canada and abroad.