Mike and I came to Malena with another couple, Chris and Jo, one Friday evening. The restaurant is located on Avenue, just south of Davenport. It’s actually just a few doors down from its sister restaurant L’Unita. Upon entering the restaurant, located in an old converted home, I instantly fell in love with its warm and cozy, yet elegant decor.It was pretty busy on a Friday evening and since the space isn’t very large, I’d recommend making a reservation. I wandered upstairs at one point to go to the washroom and noticed that they have what looks like a private dining room up there.
Malena has an extensive wine list and I noticed that they have half off wines every Tuesday. Too bad I wasn’t here on a Tuesday… As for their food, their menu is inspired from Greece and Southern Italy.
We started with the Fritto Misto del Giorno – with house made mostarda & pickled cherry peppers sott’olio ($16). To be honest, simply reading the menu, I had no idea what this dish was. After quickly searching it up on Google, we discovered its translation was “fried mixed day.” Fried? Sold. This turned out to be a great starter – great for sharing!It came with some fried calamari, pieces of fish and smelt. They were all crispy, well seasoned and not too greasy. It came with a side of mustard which complimented the fried seafood perfectly. Highly recommended!
The second appetizer we ordered was the Grilled Ionian Octopus – with braised chickpeas, crispy onions & pancetta brodo ($18). I’m not a huge fan of octopus so I’m not sure I can give an objective opinion about this. I thought the octopus itself was just okay and I thought the one we had at Campagnolo was better. I also wasn’t a huge fan of the chickpeas which I found to be undercooked. They were incredibly hard! I think the others enjoyed this dish more than I did though.The last starter we ordered was the Nduja Sausage & Little Neck Clams – with ouzo & shallot brodo with crispy polenta ($16). The portion of this wasn’t very large as it came with only five or six clams. However, they were well cooked and the sauce (which contained bits of minced sausage) had a nice flavour to it.
My favourite part of this dish was actually the crispy polenta, which came in the form of a fried polenta stick. I don’t normally love polenta, but if it was always served this way, I’d enjoy it a lot more. They should really make it an option to order a side of these fried polenta sticks. Delicious!
For my main, I went with the Squid Ink Tortelloni with Lobster – with mascarpone, heirloom carrot & brown butter sauce ($28). I fell in love with squid ink pasta after going to Babbo in NYC, so there was no doubt I’d order this.This dish came with six little tortelloni packages and the pasta (all of which is made fresh daily) was cooked beautifully. Sure, the portion wasn’t very large (especially for its steep price tag) but it sure made if up for it in flavour. The filling contained large chunks of lobster and the mascarpone filling with the brown butter sauce was incredible. This was my favourite dish of the evening.
Mike and Chris both ordered the Perth Farms Berkshire Pork – Grilled shoulder chop & confit belly with caramelized cauliflower ($29). The shoulder chop was cooked perfectly – still a little pink. It was moist and incredibly flavourful. The dish also came with a large piece of rich, confit belly. I loved the nice crisp top of it which added a little bit of texture to the melt-in-your-mouth belly. The cauliflower puree that was served on the side was also fantastic and went well with the pork. Overall, a fantastic dish! My ony complaint was the caramelized cauliflower, which I found to be oversalted.Lastly, Jo went with the Bucatini with Little Neck Clams ($25). I didn’t try any of it, but she said that while it was good, it wasn’t anything special and it was a tad on the salty side.
So how did we end up at Malena? While looking for a restaurant for the four of us to go to this Friday evening, we decided on Malena through Diningdatenight.com. It’s a great website that’s partnered with many great restaurants (including some of my favourites – Splendido, Marben and Mildred’s Temple Kitchen) which gives you 30% off your bill for only $10. Despite the name of the site, it works for parties of up to 6 people. So, this worked out well for the four of us. A net savings of $40!
Overall, we had a great experience at Malena. Like I mentioned, the atmosphere here is warm and intimate which makes it a great date (or double date) spot. And most importantly, we all really enjoyed the food. I’d definitely come back!At a glance:
• Delicious food inspired by Greece and Southern Italy
• Must-try dishes: Squid ink tortelloni & Berkshire pork
• Warm, intimate atmosphere
• Located on Avenue, just south of Davenport
Ratings (out of 5):
• Food: 4 stars
• Service: 4 stars
• Atmosphere: 4.5 stars