Joanna's take on Mata
“Check your ego at the door” This is the motto of the incredible trio that partner to make up Mata, their Brazilian style restaurant and Made in Brazil, a really hot food truck.
Met the gents; Steve is in the front meeting, greeting and running with a big smile plastered on his face every time I see the guy. The same can be said for Tulio; who works both front and back. Last and certainly not least, Filipe, in the role of full time chef. Tulio and Filipe are both George Brown Grads and have been friends since their college days. They've spent time with each other in a variety of other establishments like Salt and the awesome Chiado. In walks Steve; Steve is Portuguese while the others hail from Brazil. Both countries are integrally connected through history and invasions. Steve is from a hospitality background that adds yet another great balance to the talent pool of these men. They met when Steve was earning a living selling meat for a wholesale butcher. He was, as he is now, so friendly that the butcher shop placed him in sales, which is how he met Filipe and Tulio. The friendship continues until Steve decides to head to Portugal and try his hand at one of the first cool coffee shops there. The shop was successful but just like here the government doesn't make it easy for small business owners having been born in Toronto, Steve decides to pack up shop and move home. Needing a place to stay he decided to Air BnB until he could rent a space. As luck would have it, he ended up renting a room from Filipe! Now if this isn’t bershert (Jewish for meant to be) I don’t know what is.
At this point they were all ready to start their own place and get into the game. Keriwa, the restaurant previous to them, came on the market and it was equipped perfectly for their needs. It needed a little Brazilian flare but that was about it. At exactly the same time they were searching for a space Filipe decided to audition for a show where he could win a fully equipped food truck for a year. Nothing happened with the audition until the week they took over the new restaurant. "When it rains it pours", and these 3 had a monsoon on their hands. They say “give a job to busy people and it will get done”. That was 2 years ago and both the restaurant and food truck are going strong.
I was curious about the name Mata. I like to know the meanings of things and the meaning definitely delivered. Mata has a double meaning; 1. It is a type of rainforest or expanse. In South America there is a huge rainforest that runs almost the entire length of Brazil called Mata Atlantica do Brasil. The better version, 2. Is Mata also stands for Matador or killer that if you look at this heavily meat eating culture also reigns true?
I have known Steve for well over a year and for a variety of stupid reasons have managed to eat Mata food at a great many festivals and the truck, Made in Brasil at many more, but only managed to get my behind in a seat at the restaurant once. Well, last night I changed that and I can promise you it will not be long before I am seated at Table 37 again. Pay attention - that was a tip.
Steve as I said greeted us with that killer smile and a big hug. We looked a the menu for a scant 30 seconds before we were informed that a tasting had been decided for us by the 3 of them and virtually the cocktails as well. I sat back, relaxed after a busy day and left myself in very capable hands. We had 2 of the most famous of Brazilian cocktails; a Caipirinha, made with Cachaca, fresh lime and simple syrup and a Pisco Sour, made with Pisco, egg whites, lemon grass and simple syrup, both beautifully garnished and both very refreshing.
The menu is a Tapas style and it began with a trio of crispy nibbles; Cheese Bread, which is really not anything like its name, a puffy ball that is light as air with a delicate cheesiness to it on a creamy Smoked Catupiry which is as I gather a similar cheese to Philly Cream Cheese. Next up; Coxinha, braised and marinated pulled chicken croquettes with Malagueta Aioli. Malagueta is a hot pepper and the guys do a wicked whole pepper hot sauce out of it and then add creamy mayo. Last on the trio was; Beef Kibe with Smoked Labneh sauce and a drizzle of olive oil. I know, Lebanese but like almost everywhere in the world people migrated and Brazil has a very large Lebanese population. Now, this is My only criticism of the dish, guys, be more generous with the yummy sauces that garnish each bite. They are far to good and we need a little more, please.
I think My favourite course was next; Fresh Cod Tartare with Pineapple, Green Apple, Horseradish Crema and Microgreens. The fish had been tossed in citrus that slightly cooked it and it had the most pleasing texture. The combination of fruits and the creaminess of the crema just took this dish over the top, this is a must order. Seared Pork Belly was perfect with Grilled Pineapple, Cilantro and Acerola Berry Glaze all of which helped cut through that lovely fatty richness.
Next was a dish that I found both highly addictive and familiar but un familiar at the same time; Cassava Gnocchi with Wild Mushrooms, Reggianito Cheese and White Truffle oil. Let’s break this one down; the mushrooms were very cool because there was both finely chopped and sliced mushrooms, giving the dish a cool flavour and texture, cassava is a dry starch and it leant perfectly to the texture of the gnocchi. Reggianito is a cheese out of Argentina obviously based on Parmigiano Reggiano. As most are aware, there have been many occasions where Italians left Italy en masse, many went to South America, primarily Argentina, with their cultures and foods in tow. Lastly, the white truffle oil, thank the stars, was used with a very delicate touch adding a light note of earthiness.
Our last savoury was the one dish I was especially curious about; Mata’s version of Surf and Turf; Octopus and Chorizo with Smoked Tomato and Cassava Puree. This dish did not disappoint, I loved the textures and flavours and especially how the mash sopped up all the meaty, fishy, tasty juices.
Full is not a word I use lightly and at this point, with my third tummy, the one that is reserved for sweets, we dove into Acai Sorbet Rabanada; Milk soaked thick cut baguette fried crispy, drizzle with Dulce de Leche, sprinkled with cinnamon and then sandwiched with Acai Sorbet. Steve was sweet enough to offer us a lovely light glass of White Port that is not nearly as heavy as its red sister and worked wonderfully with dessert. Wow, just wow. You can eat a similar treat at their brunch where if this weren't enough, Mata adds Nutella. Best part of their brunch is that they take reservations. For me, that is the only way to go so do not miss it.
Steve, Tulio and Filipe are expanding their catering end and I personally cannot think of a more fun way to do a little summer entertaining than with a Brazilian Party.
Thank you as always for taking the time to check out my review. Do let me know any thoughts that come to mind, as they are always welcome.
Fresh Cod Tartare
1690 Queen Street West
Toronto, ON M6R 1B3