With a chill hanging in the air, Old Man Winter is threatening to shut down patio parties. But don’t despair just yet. The Cool City Oyster Yard has embraced the cold and has launched a Winter Patio.
In case you haven’t heard, this pop-up West end resto scored rave reviews from food critics, and is a hot spot for patio dwellers in the summer. It was so popular that co-owners Marco Petrucci and Chef Michael Pataran have opened “The Yard” year-round. The Winter Patio is equipped with all the essentials to stay warm and cozy: heating lamps, mulled wine, covered seating, and a fully stocked bar.
Standing in the Yard, pork tsukune skewers ($6) sizzle on an open grill. The Chef adds a little drama and whips out a blow torch to melt gruyere cheese onto the skewers. Now I can’t wait to taste this dish. Prize in hand, I rip into the barbequed treat like a wild animal, relishing the ground pork with scallions, sesame seeds, and tare sauce, roasted over a grill. By the end, my fingers and face are sticky with tare sauce, but my rumbling belly is subdued – for the moment.
I fight a crowd of famished bloggers to sample the bite-sized breaded crab cakes ($16). The tray is almost empty within seconds of emerging from the kitchen. I bite into a medley of warm crab, Cajun spice, roasted red pepper, and avocado mash. Well worth the struggle.
The popcorn prawns ($16) are meaty and tender, marinated with grated radish, red chili peppers, chives, and smoked lemon salt. During a surge of hunger, I imagine popping dozens of shrimp into my mouth, one after the other, but decide that wouldn’t be very polite. This appetizer could suffice as a meal – it’s that satisfying.
A day before the launch, the Chefs began preparing a vat of paella ($30 per person) over an open fire pit in the parking lot. We are served heaping plates of “Yard Paella” – a spicy rice dish mixed with seafood, smoked corn, tomatoes, roasted red pepper, and roast jalapeno. A smoky flavour lingers on my tongue, remnants of the open fire. Patrons can choose from five types of paella on Sunday evenings at the Yard’s weekly “Paellapalooza.”
A perfect place to play with your food: delight in its preparation and enjoy every bite like a five year old. Make sure to book a reservation – the Yard is bound for high traffic this winter season.