Every day in Sidedoor’s subterranean kitchen (technically the back door to its sister restaurants E18hteen and Social), big bunches of fresh herbs and whole spices are pulverized for 1½ hours with a mortar and pestle to create supremely aromatic pastes for deeply layered curries. Lush and fragrant with lemon grass, lime leaf, and basil, they are mixed with coconut milk and served over large chunks of meltingly tender braised beef short ribs, lamb shoulder, or pillows of silky tofu captured in a crisp golden crust.
For all I know, this pales in comparison with the labour required to create the supremely succulent Peking-style chicken. It’s a marvel! These modern takes on authentic Asian dishes impressed me more than the tasty soft-shelled tacos touted by the staff (and for which Sidedoor has become best known in its eight-month tenure).
Judging by the uneven quality of the food from one visit to the next, I sense there may be unrest in this kitchen. Sadly, the service has gone from bad to worse. And while growing pains can be expected, a menu this exciting and unique in a space this beautiful and convivial should be the talk of the town by now. At the helm is chef Matthew Carmichael and his former sous-chef from E18hteen, Jonathan Korecki, the talent now charged with running this kitchen. Sidedoor has all the ingredients for greatness. Here’s hoping it is ready to shine.
20 York St., 613-562-9331, www.sidedoorrestaurant.com.