Every time I go to the AGO I wonder, patient “Why are there not more restaurant options near this gallery?” My last visit to the AGO was proceeded by a visit to Mother’s Dumplings for lunch as I couldn’t think of a better option closer by – which if I am completely wrong about this, please let me know. But no longer will I have to trek from College and Spadina before or after the gallery in search of food. I can now go across the street to Provo Foodbar.
I went to Provo last Friday night with my friend Lynsey, to catch up about the drama of life over delicious food and drink. Provo opened earlier this year and has been popping up all over my Instagram feed ever since.
Our reservation was for 5:30 and we were seated at a small table near the front of the restaurant. There were a few people there as the after-work crowd shuffled in but it was relatively quiet for early on a Friday night. I would imagine (and hope) that is gets much busier as the night wears on. The restaurant is deceptively large, with large windows that open at the front of the restaurant onto Dundas Street making the front half of the restaurant seem almost patio-like. There is a long bar anchoring the middle of the restaurant, and more seating at the back of the restaurant up a few steps. It is a huge space that could definitely host an intimate date-night dinner or a large group of friends for any occasion.
We started off with cocktails. Lynsey had the A.G.O.M.G (Smirnoff vodka, prosecco, maraschino, lavender and pomegranate) and I had the Middle Daughter (Bombay sapphire gin, elderflower, vanilla, grapefruit and lemon). The A.G.O.M.G is to be pronounced AGOhmygod and not as “agomg”. The prosecco and maraschino make this cocktail extremely sweet. When the prosecco falls flat the drink becomes almost unbearable to drink. But of course you do because there is alcohol in it. The Middle Daughter on the other hand is a beautifully balanced, strong cocktail. It tastes like spring in a glass – it is fresh, with floral notes and citrus zing to it. I could drink about 30 of these but then I would likely be on the floor. After my one cocktail I switched to beers by Collective Arts Brewing.
We ordered 6 different plates to share. We started with two different types of crostini: the Duck Confit Rillette and the White Anchovy and Oven Dried Tomato.
Both of these were absolutely amazing and captured different seasonal flavours. The Duck Confit Rillette was hearty, smoky and had a richness to it which is perfect for warming up on a cool spring night. It was the right consistency to be spread thickly across the toasted and crispy crostini. It was priced just right – $6.00 for a small pot of rillette and four crostini. The rillettes was more than enough to be spread across four crostini, and we had extra rillette leftover which we obviously spread across other things because you can’t let good food go to waste.
The white anchovy and oven dried tomato crostini tasted like Italian summer nights. The tomato was blistered and slight caramelized, allowing that sweetness to ooze out of the charred skin and onto the crostini. The tomato was dotted with garlic which was slightly peppery. The white anchovy added the saltiness to the crostini that brought out further sweetness of the tomatoes but were not overly fishy. This is definitely a crostini that easily can and will be recreated at home with fresh tomatoes from the garden.
We then had Croquettes.
Croquettes with prosciutto, green onion and parmesan served with Béchamel.
Every since our honeymoon in Portugal and Spain, I have been dreaming about croquettes. They are light, fluffy, with a little bit of cheese and crispy on the outside. This is the way to enjoy potato. These croquettes were delicious. They were all the things the croquettes of our honeymoon were but adding Béchamel for dipping brought these deep fried pockets of potato-cheesy goodness to another level. I could eat these for days.
We followed those with the Boudin Sausage Corn Dogs served with Morroccan mustard sauce.
The sausage was a blood sausage (or at least that’s what a boudin sausage is) but it didn’t taste like a blood sausage. It didn’t have the colour or the chunks of organ meat. The meat was smooth and had a consistent texture throughout the sausage. The meat was a light brown colour, dotted with spices like cumin, pepper and hints of curry.
The mustard sauce was tart and added a bit of heat, the perfect compliment to a sausage with Middle Eastern flavours.
Next we had the Braised Beef Cheek served with green pea and celery root puree.
This is an absolute must order. The meat is so incredibly tender that it falls apart with a fork and a knife isn’t necessary. The meat is caramelized, juicy, flaky and incredibly moist. The gravy is thick without being fatty or greasy. The green pea and celery root puree is a fresh taste of spring smeared on a place and lightens the heaviness of the dish.
Lastly we had the Asian Crab and Shrimp Cakes.
Asian Crab and Shrimp cakes with crab meat, tiger shrimp and cilantro mayo.
These were delicious. The meat was flaky, light with hints of lemon. It’s nice to eat a crab cake that also uses another type of seafood; it creates a different texture inside the cake that reflects that crispy texture outside the cake. The breading was crispy and retained all the juices of the cake. There was no dryness or crumbling. The cilantro mayo added a bit of freshness and reinforced the Asian flavours of the dish.
We both loved our experience at this restaurant. The space is cool and comfortable, having ample space for whatever size your group may be. The menu was perfectly executed and the portions were the right size for sharing, allowing each person to get enough of a taste of each item. There are more items I am looking to try (all the crostini to start) and the brunch menu looks heavenly so it is safe to say I will be going back.