Food + Drink
October 18, 2016
Cava’s decade of Spanish Tapas at Yonge + St. Clair
Toronto has recently become obsessed with the small plates movement, with tapas, antipasti, mezze, and appetizers becoming more and more popular on local menus. There’s something about it that adds a level of sophistication that elevates the traditional dinner experience. For Yonge + St. Clair, hidden in a little courtyard just north of the intersection, sits Cava, which has been serving Spanish Tapas to midtowners long before the rest of city became obsessed. “We’re one the first restaurants in the wave of modern Spanish in the city,” explains Cava head chef and owner Doug Penfold, who just celebrated a decade in business, in the neighbourhood earlier this year.
Doug has more than 27 years professional experience in the food industry and has been with Cava since the beginning, becoming the restaurant’s head chef and owner in 2014. We sat down with him this week to talk Cava and life at Yonge + St. Clair.
Cava is an easy-to-miss restaurant tucked away in the courtyard at 1560 Yonge, and even though they’ve been serving the area for as long as they have, Cava is still considered a hidden gem by many.
“The neighbourhood has been extremely supportive of us,” Doug shares, “You don’t get to ten years without the neighbourhood wanting you to be here, and we’re very thankful for that.”
Doug employs a “nose-to-tail” sensibility in the dishes Cava creates, focusing largely on Spanish cuisine, with flavours and dishes from other Latin countries playing a large roll in the restaurant’s food.
“Spain’s food culture is that of sharing and we’ve brought that to Cava – it’s a large menu that’s meant to be shared,” explains Doug, “typically we’ll suggest a tour of things anywhere from four to six dishes depending on how you and the rest of your table is feeling.”
The frequently changing menu begins with small plates of Spanish Croquettes with a Caper-Sultana Sauce ($4.00) to various Pincho’s ($4.50 to $9.50).
Cava’s Fried Japanese Eggplant ($15.00) has a crisp outer layer gives way to a soft core of eggplant. Sitting atop tangy tomatillo sauce and fresh cheese, the dish is brought into focus with a sweet drizzle of honey and the smoky/saline complement of Japanese bonito flakes.
Supple cubes of skewered venison leg are given a flash-sear atop the hot plancha. Marinated in achiote, roasted garlic, and orange juice, the delicate meat is rested upon earthy sautéed red cabbage and is available for $17.00.
Large pieces of butter-basted sweetbreads sit with slightly bitter shredded radicchio, slivers of poblano chilis, and pieces of crunchy walnut. Cava’s Veal Sweetbread ($26.00) is lifted by a zippy yet subtle walnut vinaigrette.
Finally, Cava’s Cider-broiled Sablefish ($30.00) is marinated in miso and apple cider, and the moist fish is broiled and complemented by nutty Italian black rice, and delicately wilted escarole.
“Cava is very much a progressive kind of dinner when compared to the traditional meal of an appetizer, main course, and dessert.”
Along with their extensive menu, Cava also offers over 40 wines by the glass and over 200 different bottles to aide in your culinary experience.
In regards to the Yonge + St. Clair community, Doug has been very thankful. “The neighbourhood has been fantastic and the people living here are great. This community deserves to see more quality services and businesses come back into the neighbourhood.”
This summer Cava began having Sunday brunch as a thank you to the community. “We’re just trying to do good things for the Yonge + St. Clair neighbourhood because they’ve been so good to us.”
“With all the development, and what the Westons and Slate are doing, there’s a lot of room for growth and quality to come to the area.”
“It’s been a lot of fun – ten years later and we’re still very passionate, we’re still pushing, we’re still well known in the city.” Along with Cava, Doug has a second restaurant in Yorkville called Chabrol, and is “slowly working on some other projects.”
“With everything we do, it’s slow and steady. We like to make things that last, things that are quality, and things that matter.”
Cava is open everyday from 5:00PM to 10:00PM.