Skin and Bones is the newest contribution on the outskirts of the expanding Leslieville dining scene. Quartered in an old warehouse on the outskirts of Queen East restaurant row, the venue is spacious and symmetrical with highlights including a long bar, open kitchen and 16 person communal table. Offering a tiny cocktail list and a few microbrews, the focus of the potent potables is the extensive wine list. Most notable is the array of local and international wines with equal pricing per ounce regardless of whether you order the 3 or 6 oz glass. I was told that this was to encourage the enjoyment of multiple wine pairings throughout the meal. The best I had was the Pinot Gris François Lichtlé 2010, Alsace, France. The menu is meant to be shared, set up in a not so unique three tier fashion; snacks, apps and mains.
The celeriac gnocchi with uni bottarga was simple, delicious and well executed. Straying from the ubiquitous potato pasta topped with the sweet red or rich cream sauce, the earthy taste of the celery root coupled with the salty bottarga was very prevalent but was complimented nicely by the acidic and chunky tomato “preserves”.
I have a bias for sticky pudding and S&B did not disappoint. Moist cake with chunks of dates were smothered in a delicious bone marrow caramel and served with a dollop of Chantilly. It was a smallish portion but was quite reasonably priced and was a fine finish to the meal.
The burrata with crostini ( see picture under pickled quail eggs) was a nice start. The rich cheese atop the crispy bread had good mouth feel and was balanced nicely by sweet and salty toppings.
I asked if the chicken tails were a play on words or actually chicken tails. The waiter clarified the latter so I was quite intrigued. I can best describe the dish as fatty chunks of popcorn chicken served on a bed of seasoned potatoes. They weren’t quite finger-licking good but they were pretty tasty. If anything the perfectly prepared potatoes stole the show. It was quite heavy…so definitely share this one.
The highly touted beef tartare turned out to be a bit forgettable . It was fresh and seasoned well, especially with the addition of the monforte toscano cheese. Call me a traditionalist but maybe I’m a bit biased because it was missing the raw egg I normally adore with this dish.
Growing up in Northern Ontario, I relished smelt season in the spring where I would stand in the cold streams wearing rubber boots in hunt of the tasty critters. Success would mean a plate of crispy, deep-fried salty goodness. Needless to say, I was excited to see the option of this childhood treat on the menu. I loved the taste of the smelts but would of liked them served crispy (more than the scant amount of fried bone) to counter the limp swiss chard below. Braised greens are a bit dangerous since they can be a bit soggy and bitter when cold and I found they were a little of both. That being said, it was a nice balance of salt, sour and bitter flavours.
The chicken and wine main was a potato away from a must. The deconstruction was visually appealing and the chicken was cooked to perfection. My only issue was lack of a supporting cast. The rutabaga puree was delicious velvet and the celery provided an appealing crunch and earthiness but in scarce amounts. Increase the sides and throw a bunch of those potatoes in the mix and you have a winner.
The pickled quail eggs and vegetables were one of my most anticipated items and I was left disappointed. The dish was underpickled and the eggs were inconsistently cooked. The promised vegetables turned out to be a few cucumbers. The accompanying “white fluff” was almost flavourless and although appealing to the eye, added very little to complement the pickles.
Despite a small menu and a less than capacity crowd, we were told they had run out of the beef cheek bourguigon. Worse than that, we were informed after we ordered it. It kind of left a bad taste..actually no taste, in my mouth.
Skin and bones is attempting to take the Queen East experience beyond Carlaw St. I’d summarize it as a introductory lesson for those interested in nose-to-tail dining, offering things like bone marrow hidden in caramel sauce,chicken tails coated in crispy batter and beef cheeks cloaked in a bourguignon sauce. It has a decent wine list and a safe but somewhat edgy menu with a few gems hidden within a bunch of maybes at a decent price point. The bigness of the restaurant itself is a deviation from the quaint quarters of other eateries in the area which will lead to either an astir ambiance with a big buzz or a cloying cavern with a desolate demeanor. Time will tell but special events such as wine tastings possibly coupled with edgy prix fixe menus may be necessary to draw in the large crowds which will be needed to fill the seats of this spacious sit-down.