1. Sparrow: A Fancified Approach to Brunch

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    We saw some scrumptious-looking photos of Sparrow Restaurant (Twitter) on BlogTO’s website and just knew that we had to give it a try. Having just opened mid-May, Sparrow brands itself as an upscale pub with a kitchen that’s open late to satisfy your late-night munchies, but also serves brunch daily from 11 AM - 3 PM. A contradiction? Perhaps, but Sparrow makes sure it’s a very elegant one. So on a chilly, spring Saturday morning, we made our way down to Bloor West Village to see if it can live up to its photos.

    The Food:

    Pulled Pork Hash ($13)
    Hash with Sunny Side Up Egg, Kimchi, Aioli Sauce, and Green Onion

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    Dan: This was one of the dishes featured by BlogTO. It was interesting, which you’ve got to expect when your pulled pork and hash (potatoes, not pot) dish has kimchi and eggs in it. What I liked most about it, was that it had no shortage of flavour depth. Every bite you take introduces you to a different texture and taste. You don’t quite expect the taste combinations that you find in this hearty bowl of hash, but it was still good at the end of the day.

    Anna: Firstly, and I’m sure Dan agrees with me on this: the cast iron plate is the fiery hot plate of death, don’t touch it. (Not that either of us did, of course. *Cough, Dan, Cough* XD) I think “interesting” is a good way to describe the dish. It’s certainly unusual? The mixture of flavours was something that I have never experienced before, especially the sour kick of the pickled cabbage. (I maintain that it’s just pickled cabbage and not kimchi as it is described on the menu since kimchi doesn’t taste like this.) The potato hash was very hearty and I did enjoy the slight sweetness of the pulled pork combined with the almost buttery hash. To me, this dish looks better than it tastes, which is both a shame and a blessing. It was still delicious, but I wish it had been just a little more satisfying.

    Spanish Omelette ($12)
    Omelette with Duck Confit, Potato, Spinach, Pea purée, Crispy Duck Skin, and Crême fraîche

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    Dan: As small as the portion looks, this omelette is surprisingly filling. The omelette itself has solid flavour, but the pea purée and crême fraîche doesn’t seem to do much aside from adding a bit of complexity to the taste palate offered on the plate. The crispy skin chips on top were a bit disappointing, as I expected something with a bit more flavour (ie. saltier), but that could just be me hehe.

    Anna: I think this dish is the exact opposite of the pulled pork hash; it doesn’t look like the most impressive dish especially considering its size, but it was really good and there were no strange flavours competing for my attention. The potatoes and spinach gave the omelette a wonderful texture, while the duck confit added depth of flavour. I was wholly unimpressed with the tiny dots of pureed peas and the crispy duck skin on top had just the tiniest bit of burnt after-taste on my palate. But hey, my palate is probably messed up with all the much more heavily spiced Asian foods I usually gravitate toward. All in all, a fantastic dish that I would come back for again.

    The Price:

    Dan: How I felt after eating the food definitely surpassed what I expected to get value-wise when I first saw our plates. Albeit small in appearance, both the omelette and the hash were very filling- something that I appreciate in a good brunch. That being said, this isn’t the most affordable brunch that you can find in Toronto. You’re getting upscale food in an upscale restaurant with upscale service and as a result, you’re paying an upscale price.

    Anna: On a student’s budget, the prices of the plates are a little extravagant for brunch. I love brunch as much as the next person, and we can go out to brunch all day every day, but I would want to shop around a little more at this pricing tier. I absolutely agree with the fact that the food was a lot more filling than I thought it would be, but at this price point (and being a cheap Asian) I expect to be wowed. I wasn’t wowed. Sorry, Sparrow.

    The Ambiance & Service:

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    Dan: It’s definitely nice in here. It’s got a old-timey feel and the metal-plated ceiling is ever so cool. You can definitely tell that the interior design was done with a refined touch. The waiters and waitresses were polite and don’t hover, our glasses of water were topped up regularly, and the overall ambiance was nice and relaxed.

    Anna: The decor of this place is ah-ma-zing. I don’t think I have ever been as impressed with a pub’s interior (though that’s not saying much). From the beautiful bar with the neatly done chalkboard announcing the specials of the day, to the stained glass windows with the Sparrow logo, to the elegant metal-plated ceiling that gives it an upscale, vintage feel, it’s all fabulous. Even the storefront with its cottage- or townhouse-like façade gives Sparrow a really homey atmosphere. Kudos to the owners of Sparrow for putting so much effort into the layout and design of your restaurant; it’s stunning and it makes me feel really happy.

    The Wrap:

    Dan: I was surprised at the seemingly Asian-inspired takes on the food. As a result, we ended up with a palate of flavours that was both interesting and delicious. At the end of the day, Sparrow pretty much hit the mark when it came to expectations. It was good. Not mind-blowingly good, but definitely good.  Is it fancy for a brunch? Sure. But sometimes it’s nice to treat yourself (and a date hopefully?) to something fancy.

    Anna: Based solely on my experience here and the two items that I had the opportunity to sample, I think Sparrow is a worthy contender of being a good go-to brunch spot if I’m ever in Bloor West Village and not feeling particularly adventurous. The interior is beautiful and that alone will probably prompt me to come back to sample their dinner menu and maybe some drinks. While I wasn’t blown away by the food, I did like both of the dishes that I tried and I’d like to sample their other dishes that will undoubtedly combine flavours in surprising ways.

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    The Location:

    Sparrow is nestled in the cosy neighbourhood of Bloor West Village. High Park is just to the east and makes for a great stroll if you want to work off that brunch or check out the cherry blossoms in the spring. Free parking can be found on the side streets nearby, just off Bloor.

    Sparrow on Urbanspoon