Bairrada Churrasqueira, Toronto

Last Sunday, when we were in Toronto, we followed a tip to go to a Portuguese grillhouse (churrasqueira) for dinner on the patio. The place was Bairrada Churrasquiera at 1000 College Street (there are also 2 other branches). Because I had no idea what to expect at a churrasqueira, I did some Web searching first and learned that Bairrada is known for their roast chicken and roast suckling pig. They also have distinctive little round potatoes.

When we got there the front of the place was rather unassuming, and the indoor part of the restaurant seemed a trifle narrow and cafeteria-like. But the patio in the back was wonderful. The sun was just starting to go down and cast the film-maker's beloved "magic light" across the patio. It felt like the kind of place where we could park ourselves at 4pm and keep ordering food, wine, beer, brandy and coffee until closing. (It seemed like some of the other customers were busy doing just that.)

However, this was our third restaurant in one day, so we weren't really prepared for a huge amount of feasting. (It may also be relevant that I'd stayed up until 3am for the previous 3 days running!) Basically, we were mellow. First off, I ordered a Portuguese cheese appetizer.

It was about the consistency of a soft feta, but with a much milder flavor. It went well with the super-crunchy buns on the table, though I could have gone for some olive oil sluiced all around.

As we ate, my companion proudly showed off his new tattoos.

On the left we have "sexy."On the right, "Canada."

(These seem to be a positive commentary on our visit to "sexy Canada." Less than a week later and the maple leaf is already wearing off though...)

Back to the food, I ordered the house special grilled chicken.

There were round (Parisienne) potatoes just as promised. They seem to have been boiled and then grilled or possibly fried. They were very soft and kind of bland. (I ate them all though.) The chicken was... mouth-watering. Super-crispy skin, super-moist but fully cooked inside. But what really made it for me was the sauce that comes with the meal. It's hard to tell from the photo, but it looks like a chili-tomato paste on the bottom, with a deep layer of red oil on top. (My companion's suckling pig sandwich is in the background.)

This sauce was THE BOMB. It was spicy, but not painfully hot. It was a little sweet, but not like ketchup. It was also a trifle piquant, perhaps from vinegar or just acidic tomato paste. I wanted to buy a whole vat of it to take home! Here's a typical bite from my plate, slathered in sauce.

After dinner my 2 co-diners went to check out the rock garden area at the end of the patio. It looks like they can do large events here, or at least have really crazy parties on weekend nights. While I enjoyed the coming twilight, the adorable waiter brought me a perfect espresso.

I highly recommend this place on a sunny summer day or evening. As one loyal customer at the next table put it, it's one of the best patios in town. (OK, he said it was THE BEST, but I can think of some others... gotta go back to Toronto soon!) Thanks P&R for the suggestion!

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