What’s on Madrina’s Menu

The Distillery’s new tapas restaurant

Name: Madrina
Contact: 2 Trinity St., 416-548-8055, madrinatapas.com@madrina.to
Neighbourhood: Distillery District
Owners: Mathew Rosenblatt and John Berman (El Catrin, Cluny)
Chefs: Ramón Simarro (Fábrica Moritz, Pearl Restaurant, 1477 Restaurant, Hotel Camiral)

The Space

Studio Munge has done up this 2,800-square-foot room in various shades of amber: there are terracotta tiles and mahogany arches, as well as a multitude of other wooden details including decorative sculptures and light fixtures.

The Catalonia-inspired design gets a helping hand from the heritage building the restaurant occupies. The exposed stone walls of the old grain mill add some extra European flair to the space.

The 37- foot stone bar is topped with a glass case where the cold plates are displayed. Panels were created by artist Mattea Perrotta.

The Food

Catalan chef Ramón Simarro has worked his way through some of Spain’s top kitchens (many of them Michelin-starred), and for his Canadian debut, he’s created a menu of modern Spanish tapas. “I was inspired by what we cook at home,” says Simarro. “I’m using new techniques, but the flavours are traditional.” Not only is the chef updating old school plates likes patatas bravas and ajoblanco, he’s also interlacing seasonal Canadian produced with ingredients imported directly from Spain.

Half of the menu focuses on cold plates (cheeses, conservas, jamon, gildas, pintxos) prepared at the bar. The plates coming out of the kitchen include tapas classics like Iberico ham croquetas, but there are few by-the-book dishes on this menu. Many of the plates borrow from international flavours. A shrimp croqueta, for example, gets an Asian makeover with kimchi dipping sauce and some nori powder.

Food in review below: Even olives get an update here. To create this El Bulli-inspired dish, green olives are given the spherification treatment (blended, mixed with calcium lactate then dropped into an alginate bath) for intense flavour. $6; ajoblanco, also known as white gazpacho, is a garlic-almond soup popular in the south of Spain that’s often served with dried tuna on top. Here, Simarro has made tuna the star. Citrus-marinated yellowfin is seared, then served over a thickened ajoblanco sauce and garnished with garlic chips. $19; these lemon- and vinegar-marinated anchovies are served with olive oil pearls and fried parsley leaves. $7; these Salt Spring Island cockles are served in a tin with saffron foam and lemon balm leaves. $12; this take on patatas bravas gives the humble potato dish a millefeuille makeover. The many-layered potato cakes are topped with wasabi aïoli and a sriracha-tomato sauce. $7.

The Drinks

Gin and sherry cocktails, an extensive gin selection filled with Spanish imports alongside hard-to-find international bottles, and a strictly Spanish wine selection. Also: sangria pitchers.