It'd been a while since I'd had good sushi, so I was looking forward to the new venture of Antonio Park, a sushi restaurant veteran
His eponymous Park restaurant is a plain space, lots of black with nothing too avant-garde, though some big groovy booths look fun. There’s relentlessly 80s revival music playing, and the waitstaff is unnecessarily dressed à la Lower Main during Grand Prix. Perhaps because the place is still new, the setting and slightly nervous service didn’t quite seem to click. Yet the quality of the food made up for the incongruities.
The short menu listed tempting Korean noodles, a rice bowl, salad, soup (parsnip and Asian pear that day), but you have to ask about the sushi. When we did, a series of confusing exchanges were set off, to the effect of, "You can order sushi, but then we decide entirely what you get." I’m used to that with tasting menus, or if at the bar and chatting with the chef about sushi, but this tableside manner was a clumsy attempt to replicate that dialogue, and it put us off more than primed us.
Nonetheless, we managed to make our preferences known, and decided to follow with the surf ‘n’ turf for two. A long, pretty board showed up, laden with sushi. King clam had great tooth, crunchy almost. Horse mackerel isn’t so strong as regular mackerel, and here it was smooth, topped with ginger. The rich albacore tuna was decorated with bright, popping roe, and a leaf of cleansing shiso. Gorgeous slabs of Irish salmon were lightly flamed on top, and butterfish truly felt like butter in your mouth. All fish were stunningly fresh, subtle, true rarities in this day of cheap take-out sushi. The rice beds they were on were not too packed, not too chilled, not too vinegary, just right.
Park’s take on surf ‘n’ turf is novel. A juicy Blue Point oyster each bring us the ocean. Land arrives in the form of a dish of pulled pork shoulder, another of slivered veg, and a massive roasted marrowbone, along with a series of Boston lettuce leaves. After slurping down the perfectly shucked oysters, we rolled pork and veg in lettuce leaves, dabbing on some sweet hot sauce. Bone marrow was alternatively eaten solo, put in the rolls, and when it started to melt onto the plate, was sopped up with the meat. A dish of small floral pickles accompanied, made by Park as per his mother’s recipe.
Not cheap, all this – the latter dish for two was $65, and the sushi is steep. But the freshness and innovation is far above par. Let’s hope the rest of the elements that make for a great meal fall into place.
378 Victoria, 514-750-7534
Dinner for two: $50-$140