Four types of local fish *Photo by Sarah Lagan
Four types of local fish *Photo by Sarah Lagan

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” in the words of Leonardo da Vinci. 

And glory to the chef who heeds this advice in his cooking. Harbourfront was the location for lunch last Friday and I was served one of the best starters I’d had in a long time —Pierangelo’s Caprese Salad. It was an assortment of Viking buffalo mozzarella, warmed cherry tomatoes and red olives in thyme and oregano, parma ham, extra virgin olive oil and a few leaves of basil. 

It was the most simple yet sophisticated of creations. The seared tomatoes were bursting with sweetness, the olives, warmed and softened through, brought a saltiness to the plate, and these were all enhanced by the herby oil they came in.

The buffalo mozzarella however, with just a little crack of pepper on top, stole the show. Everything else was complementary to this silky, smooth and delicate ingredient. 

By the end of the dish the white mozzarella juice had mixed with the herbs and oil making a salty, creamy dipping sauce for the bread, bought especially by the restaurant to ensure freshness. This starter is a fantastic new addition to manager Pierangelo Lanfranchi’s menu that is apparently attracting customers back for more. At $22 it is one of the more expensive appetizers on the menu but it is worth it.

Local catch

For mains my dinner guest chose the four types of locally caught fish, wahoo, bonito, amberjack and rockfish served in four different ways while I opted for Pierangelo’s Steak Tartar. 

The steak in this dish was top notch — a soft, tender mince of fresh, raw beef. 

There was the slight stringiness that is difficult to avoid with raw meat. Half way through eating I realised I shouldn’t have ordered this as my main, it was a bit much for me to fill up on — it consisted of an 8oz fillet steak, salt, pepper, anchovies, capers and red onions — an intense concoction of ingredients. It is perfect as a starter though.

Often in restaurants, the capers and other ingredients are served separately from the steak but here, all the components were mixed in together. Capers dominate the flavour but the delicious creamy quail egg yolks helped to temper it down.

On to the fish —  and what a treat. 

The bonito and amberjack portions just came in a simple lemon butter sauce, while the rockfish came in an wasabi, mango and avocado salsa and the wahoo was pan fried with fried banana and almonds on top. 

For me the banana and almond was the winner — the sweetness of the Bermuda banana, golden brown and gooey with the crunchy almonds made a lovely match. All four fishes were cooked well, still moist and packed with flavour. The rockfish had a great play of sweet, tangy and spicy flavours, the wasabi providing the overriding taste. 

There are few better places to eat this dish than within a stone’s throw of the harbour on a sunny day.

Finally, a dessert I won’t forget in a hurry. My rather exuberant dinner guest, a Spaniard, described the dish as “a festival of flavours” — a description that would not naturally spring from my British vocabulary. 

But she hit the nail on the head. Punchy, tart fruit sauces, creamy sweetness of the vanilla ice cream, the zing of the fresh berries and the rich, smooth sweetness of the dark chocolate sauce came together beautifully with the thin crepes. 

A great meal with one particularly considerate waitress and regular visits from Pierangelo himself.