When we stopped by Starlite this past week on the Bistro Tour, it was actually the only place on the tours that I had not yet visited. I had planned to eat there in December when a friend of mine was visiting, but we never made it out of the house. Too much yikkity yak I guess - we hadn't seen each other in almost two years.
When we did the visit, I immediately knew this was the kind of place James would dig - casual but good food, hip but not too cool for us thirty-somethings. So on Saturday, I took him out on a married-people date. You really wouldn't think a date night would be that big a deal for us since we don't have kids, but working full time kind of takes it out of you so we rarely get out during the week. Most weekend nights we have "plans," so we hardly ever go out just the two of us. It was kind of nice.
The first thing I noticed about Starlite's menu is that it's short, and the first thing I noticed about the restaurant is that it's smaller than I thought. Both of those things work for me though. The atmosphere is lively without being oppressive or overly noisy, and the horseshoe bar/counter provides a lot of seating for drinkers. The outdoor back patio - a down to earth, hipster version of those fancy rooftop places downtown - takes care of the overflow.
If you read Chowhound, you've seen me grumbling lately that I'd like to see more casual restaurants that are nonetheless serious about food, a la Portland. Starlite fits that bill nicely, at a very reasonable price point - between $5.00 and $20.00. I had sampled a few of their cocktails and some appetizers at the tasting, so we ordered a few new things. The mixed fry is very good, I can vouch from the tasting, but this time I wanted to try their frites. They are served with a to-die-for aioli (I don't even like mayonnaise, but I could eat this stuff with a spoon.) The fries are delicious - and I can say from experience that it's a dangerous thing to have a large bowl of them set down in front of you while you're hungry. At $5.00 they were a bargain to boot.
We also did the housemade sausage board ($12.00) (the chef who makes the charcuterie learned at Region) and some cocktails - I had the Hemingway Cachaca - like a Caipirinha with Cachaca and lime, ($8.00) and James had a vodka rocks. They also do a nut and olive tray that sounded good for $5.00, and a few other interesting sounding starters, like grilled bread with greens and anchovies. The other entree choices included a jidori chicken served with greens and squash, a "Market Fish" - grouper last night, served with olive tapenade and fennel, and a burger - which I've heard good things about. The menu changes with the seasons and relies on local ingredients, so it will be different by the spring and summer.
For my main course I chose the mussels ($10.00) - actually one of the starters - and James had the Brandt flatiron steak with red flannel hash and blue cheese ($20.00). This seemed to be a popular dish - several people were ordering it. It was an interesting change from the steak frites you see everywhere - the steak sat on a hash of beets, potatoes, onions greens and some sort of root veg - possibly turnips or parsnips. The Brandt meat was delicious and it was perfectly cooked medium rare.
The mussels were excellent - small but plump and served in a chive, white wine and cream broth that was so good soaked up with the bread. The bowl of frites and aioli with a bowl of mussels would be a stellar meal indeed for $15.00 - especially with a glass of white wine.
The wine list was short and sweet, with several offerings unfamiliar to me - we ordered a couple of glasses and liked what we had - James had the cabernet offered by the glass at $10. and I had the pinot grigio. They also serve Zardetto Prosecco, which is a nice moderately priced sparkler.
For dessert they offer a signature ice cream sandwich and a special dessert of the day. The ice cream sandwich features toffee chip cookies and organic vanilla ice cream, rolled in chopped pistachios. The special dessert yesterday was a pannacotta with a kumquat compote, which came in a little glass and looked a bit like pudding. I loved the presentation on the ice cream sandwich - they cut it in quarters (it's huge) and pile them in a bowl. The flavor I wasn't as thrilled with - something about a frozen cookie just doesn't charge my batteries. The coffee I ordered to go with it was some of the best I've ever had in a restaurant though, and hot to boot. I drained my cup, and that's saying something.
3175 India Street