The East Ender last month near Queen and Leslie, in the old Tomi Kro space, the only promotion they did was open the doors. No ads, no flyers and no social media. Within a few days, they had a full house and had to turn people away.

">

First Look: The East Ender, Leslieville’s new spot for globally-inspired comfort food


Published:

When Greg Argent and Hieu Nguyen opened The East Ender last month near Queen and Leslie, in the old Tomi Kro space, the only promotion they did was open the doors. No ads, no flyers and no social media. Within a few days, they had a full house and had to turn people away.

As long-time business partners (their previous ventures include Cru and Forte Bistro and Lounge), Argent and Nguyen’s goal is to create a comfortable restaurant; a neighbourhood hotspot without pretention.

“We don’t do the white linen tablecloth thing here,” says Argent, who also heads up the kitchen.

The space is comfortable, with dark tones, spacious tables and open brick walls. It’s inviting, making us want to take a load off and stay a while. The menu is creative and grabs our attention with global-fusion fare, including Italian, North African and Asian-inspired dishes. 

A popular appetizer is the pork and black truffle dumplings with a citrus ponzu sauce ($11). The dumplings are stuffed with ground pork and veal, tapioca starch, ginger, Chinese rice wine, light and dark soy sauce and black truffle paste. They’re pan-fried to order, and hit with sesame seeds.

Argent gets the black truffle paste from Pasquale Bros., and, at 10 per cent truffle content, it has a much higher concentration than the typical paste. He also adds black truffle oil to give the dumplings a dramatic flavour. The dish comes with house-pickled carrots and daikon in the style typical to Vietnamese banh-mi sandwiches.

Affordability is key to The East Ender’s concept. All entrées are $20 or less. Wines by the bottle are all under $45, except for the reserve selection.

“We wanted to drive prices down, but make the menu exciting,” Argent says.

When we were there, Argent whipped up the popular chili and chocolate-braised beef short rib, with a roast garlic taro croquette ($20).    

The beef is Angus short rib, seared off and then slow braised with dark beer and bittersweet chocolate. The chili is ancho, the sweetest dried chili around, with some chipotle for extra kick. It’s all cooked until the chili and chocolate flavours are thoroughly set in the beef.

“If you say it’s going to be chocolate chili, it better be chocolate chili,” Argent says.

Argent does most of the shopping for The East Ender himself. He goes to Diana’s Seafood, telling us, “I like to pick the fish and see them and look in their eyes.”

Foie gras and game meats such as bison are sourced from La Ferme Black River, and Argent frequents the St. Lawrence Market to search for good produce. Asian ingredients come from community faves T & T Supermarket and Sanko.

“Our philosophy,” Argents says about the menu, “is to under-promise and over deliver.”

The East Ender is currently open for dinner, but this Mother’s Day, it’ll open for brunch (and long-term plans for a regular brunch menu are in the works, too).

The East Ender, 1212 Queen Street East, 647-346-3278

Edit Module

Join the conversation and have your say by commenting below. Our comment system uses a Facebook plugin. Please note that you'll have to turn off some ad-blockers in order to see the comments.

Edit Module

Follow us on Twitter @PostCity for more on what to eat, where to shop and what to do in Toronto.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

You may also like...

Eat this Minute: Chicago-style pizza from Double D’s

Eat this Minute: Chicago-style pizza from Double D’s

Ever since opening Double D’s in early 2017, Yaworski’s Chicago-style deep-dish pizza has been the hot ticket item in the city, with oh-so-eager locals breathing down his neck to get a piece of the pie.
Posted 20 hours ago
Treating canine pain with medical cannabis

Treating canine pain with medical cannabis

Like Ralph’s mom, pet owners throughout the city are turning to both hemp- and cannabis-derived CBD oils to help ease the health symptoms of their loved ones.
Posted 7 days ago
Powerhouse restaurateur Janet Zuccarini dishes on T.O. food scene

Powerhouse restaurateur Janet Zuccarini dishes on T.O. food scene

Since opening Trattoria Nervosa in 1996, Zuccarini has refused to let her Yorkville stalwart go stale.
Posted 1 week ago
First Look: Jen Agg moves into Kensington with Grey Gardens

First Look: Jen Agg moves into Kensington with Grey Gardens

Jen Agg, the well-known restaurateur who won Toronto diners over with the Black Hoof, has added Grey Gardens in Kensington Market to her restaurant empire.
Posted 1 week ago
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleEdit Module