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Mama mia

The Parlour
The Parlour

The higher-end, artisanal, wood-fired, thin-crusted pizza joint has seen an uptick in profile around town, if you hadn’t noticed. Alongside the proliferation of homegrown franchise Famoso from downtown to the cardinal points; Brewster’s launched premium pie-and-suds lounge Beer Revolution right across the parking lot from its Oliver Square operation and now, a well-thrown stone away, we have The Parlour brought to you by that purveyor of distinct-yet-linked luxury food and drink-poriums, the Century Hospitality Group. Like its kin, The Parlour commands premium, esthetically pleasing quarters on an open, two-tiered expanse of exposed brick and duct-work, wrought-iron fixtures and, in this case, muted nods to Italian restaurant decor and the odd stab at quirkiness, like the salon dryer chair that inhabits a nook near the upstairs washrooms. Reliably, the bar side has some really big TVs and pulses lightly to old jazz mixed with dance trax.

The Parlour’s marquee item is fancy, organic-crusted, etc. pizza, but you can also have pasta (lobster ravioli, “20-layer” lasagna) or sandwiches or a snappy entrée built around meat (osso buco, chicken, sea bass) and choose from a long roster of prime tipples. You can also take the small-plates approach to the appetizer list and eat a big salad to round things out. Much of the menu is laid out in strings of artisanal and locally sourced buzzwords, from fior de latte and Taleggio to Nefiss Lezizz olives, Spirit View Ranch Angus, and Snake River Farms Wagyu, with plenty of EVOO and truffle oil to wash it down.

Clad in black tee, jeans and a spotless white apron, our bearish, affable server brandished an irreverent Seth Rogen-esque charm, if you believe those words go together. He certainly regaled us with a number of his waggish opinions as he kept the plates flying and the water glasses filled, dismissing the movie we were seeing after our meal as unworthy (though he had not seen it) and questioning the sanity of anyone who would eat beets, which in his view taste like dirt. He did a good job of guiding us through the menu, from which co-diner and I decided to split a couple of appetizers, a salad and a pizza.

We barely had to wait before the food started hitting the table. First came the arancini ($12) and calamari ($13), with the beet and arugala salad ($13). Five arancini—crisp-fried balls of risotto imbued with soft cheese, peas and truffle oil—sat greaselessly on a liberal dusting of grated parm and a smattering of fresh arugula. They were pleasantly salty and crunchy, with a creamy interior, though peas were not a well-expressed part of the ingredient set. The lightly breaded rings of calamari were tossed with slices of fresh jalapeno and decked with charred halves of lemon and lime. The aioli, which appeared to have separated, was spicy and smoky. Aside from the orange sheen of oil over the dip, it was all reasonably well-executed, but I’m not sure what benefit I derived from having my citrus charred.

Despite our server’s compunctions about beets as a foodstuff, we had high hopes for the salad. One of my favourite things at Century’s Delux Burger Bar is the beet salad with candied pecans and goat cheese in white balsamic vinaigrette. The Parlour’s beet and arugula salad didn’t attain to such heights. The beets, for one thing, weren’t super-copious and the pistachios promised on the menu were nowhere in evidence (to be honest, I didn’t know they were missing until I checked the menu later). We were more curious than troubled by the fact that the red beets had been roasted, while the small cubes of golden beet seemed to be uncooked. But most incongruous was the yogurt panna cotta dotted throughout the dish. In the absence of a complementary savoury element, the sweet, gelatinous white dribs didn’t sit well with any part of the meal except, possibly, dessert.

In a stroke of pro timing, our pizza alit just as we finished with the starters, and it was pretty good, though a house signature pie ought to attain to more. The “family jewels” (a coinage I had heretofore associated with genitalia) pizza ($16) was strewn with crumbled Italian sausage, black olives and eggplant topped with Taleggio, bocconcini and smoked gouda, the blending of which effaced the distinctive qualities of each. The wood-fired crust was enjoyably crisp yet pliable, and I always approve of crushed tomatoes as opposed to pizza sauce. The small cubes of roasted eggplant failed to justify their presence, as they didn’t add much taste or texture-wise.

Even though we were rushing up on the start time of our movie, we decided to try dessert anyway, namely the chocolate torta ($9) with vanilla crema, salted Nutella ganache and hazelnuts. I would be hard put to tell you the difference between the torta and a sizable brownie, but the saltiness and toasted hazelnuts definitely elevated the experience. I was more let down by my espresso, which arrived short, lukewarm and bitter (a string of descriptors I prefer to reserve for myself). As we grabbed our bill and coats, the mounting din from the oncoming dinner rush gave credence to the Internet-based criticism that The Parlour can be a bit loud during peak hours.

With a glass of wine each, tax and tip, the tab came to more than $100 and didn’t make the kind of first impression that commands instant loyalty. But it’s still early days for The Parlour, and they may yet engineer a consistent experience where the food lives up to the promise of the menu.

The Parlour
10334 – 108 St,

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