Three starters, three mains, three desserts. A total of nine dishes make up the entire menu at Dandylion. Short and sweet. This is perfect because it has never been about quantity with me; actually the more options there are on a menu the more indecisive I get (I believe this applies to most things in life.) In any case, what's more important is quality and no word of a lie, Dandylion (@DandyLionTO) has completely won me over and in doing so, it has now become one of my favourite restaurants in the city. Yep, it's that good.
Just like its menu, Dandylion on 1198 Queen St. West is small, intimate and comfortable.
The 30-seat restaurant is casual and welcoming. The potted plants are such a lovely touch.
Opened in November of last year, chef / owner Jay Carter - who worked under Susur Lee for 10 years (Susur, Lee, Madeline's) and was exec chef at the now-closed Centro - focuses on vegetables at his restaurant; he treats them not as a complement but rather the star of his dishes. But don't worry, carnivores, Dandylion is not a vegetarian spot...just don't expect huge slabs of meat there anytime soon (or ever).
The bar menu features whites, reds and beer. There's no cocktail program.
MUSCAT OF ALEXANDRIA, TERRA LEMNIA 2012. LIMNOS, GREECE ($48)
STUFFED BACON, POTATO, GREEN POTATO ($15)
RAW TUNA, AVOCADO, CHILLIES ($18)
CITRUS, GOLD BEET, YOGURT ($14)
COD, CHARRED BEANS, BONITO SAUCE ($24)
ROAST STRIPLOIN, CORN, SHRIMP BUTTER ($26)
EGG, MUSHROOM, SAVOURY GRANOLA ($21)
PORK, APPLES, BACON JAM (off-menu special)
CHEESE, SEEDED BROWN RICE CRACKER, DRIED FRUIT ($12)
PLUM TART, ALMOND, BUCKWHEAT ICE ($9)
YOGURT SORBET, RHUBARB, PINK PEPPERCORN ($9)
Dinner at Dandylion is so exhilarating and refreshing. I loved my meal there and I'll do my best to explain why.
Dandylion's menu is not tapas-style, family-style, or "meant for sharing". You can definitely share - we certainly did because all six of us are huge foodies and wanted to try everything - but honestly I could've easily (and be totally content) with ordering one app, one entree, and one dessert for myself, with absolutely no intention or desire to share. Is this selfish of me? Maybe. But seriously am I the only one that's somewhat getting tired of this whole sharing business? I'm not hatin' or anything (after all I'm Chinese and I grew up eating family-style) but nowadays it is so nice to see a restaurant menu in Toronto that actually has "Starters", "Mains" and "Desserts" headings. Classic dining style, you know? Also, I'm sorry, but I'm getting kinda tired of being told by my server that with "X number of people we recommend Y number of dishes to share" (it has gotten to the point where I want to scream when I hear that). And as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the fact that Dandylion's menu is small and concise tells me that there will be way more "hits" than "misses" since the kitchen is concentrating on a small number of dishes (it's simple statistics, guys). Another reason why I enjoyed Dandylion so much is that its menu is casual yet sophisticated but not over-the-top. It's not casual, and it doesn't have your "usual suspects" like fried chicken, pork belly, or cauliflower *yawn* but the spot still offers ingredients that are approachable and familiar to the average diner without serving what every other restaurant in the city is serving. Basically, the plates at Dandylion are not haphazardly executed by throwing together whatever's trendy at-the-moment. Instead, chef Carter uses beautiful, seasonal ingredients and combines them with clean, delicate flavours and textures that are simply delicious and stimulating to the palette. Presentation is kept simple yet elegant with no fuss or anything gimmicky. I do realize that the menu descriptions at Dandylion give diners almost zero clue as to what to expect but I personally like that element of surprise....much more than dishes with descriptions that may read well but end up missing the mark. Last, and certainly not least, I absolutely love the fact that I can have a conversation with a friend sitting across from me at Dandylion without losing my voice. Hallelujah!